Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

I've had an interesting week.  I have a respiratory infection that has me grounded at home.  This has caused a variety of stresses in my life.  On the other hand, I was able to get to the vet before it closed to collect up more meds for the dogs.  Sam, the vet, just happened to be in the clinic when I showed up.  

The Good

If it involves the dogs, then it is in the good column.  My two little shits, er, darlings will be going to their first competitions to herd sheep.  We're going to Mayerthorpe to compete in the Alberta Stock Dog Association Arena Finals.  We'll be competing in the Ranch category so hopefully it will ease our way into the competitive world.  My mentor Ken is the judge which will likely not work into my favour.  I'm expecting to get a stern talking to after the competition.  That happens Monday of next week.  Immediately following I am entered in the Farm Fair trial.  We'll be competing in the Open category and this is where the big guns compete.  I am fully anticipating these competitions will be a learning experience and will help drive the training that the dogs need.  Ryder is about 95% trained and Diva is about 90%.  We're so close I can feel it, but certainly not at the level needed to be successful at competitions.  

Other great dog news is that I've found a different agility instructor.  We've been diligently working on our homework and the dogs are progressing nicely.  We start classes in November and I'm looking forward to a different teaching approach.  I've learned through the years it's always best to get different perspectives.  I was really pleased to hear her talk about Diva's potential.  Normally Diva is my Black Sheep.  

Speaking of Diva... she has officially started a diet.  Her metabolism doesn't seem to be awesome and she is and always has been on the chunky side.  It doesn't matter how much exercise she gets.  I took the dogs with me when I went to pick up their meds.  I weighed them.  Diva weighs in at 50.6 pounds.  Ryder - the larger dog - at 52.4 pounds.   I'm now feeding on a "time" schedule with separate dishes.  Diva gets less food plus some pumpkin to provide filler.  In December the dogs are due for their vet checks.  My goal is to see how effective the diet was.  We'll weigh her again at that point.  If she hasn't shown much progress I'll ask Sam to investigate possible causes.  

Also in the "Good" column is THIS HORSE!!!

I love her.  She fits me like a soft leather glove.  To be honest she is knocking Whiskey from her number one perch on my favourite horse list.  Her papers have been sent off to be transferred.  Every Saturday in the month of October I hauled her into Gorseline Stable and took a lesson on her.  She is so smart and willing to learn.  We started with ground poles.  Last Saturday she was trotting over cross poles.  My coach thinks she's going to have nice jumping form.  In the spring I'd like to send her for a month jumping training there.  That way I know my inexperience doesn't hinder her ability to learn how to do this.  

I also purchased an English saddle.  It's a Santa Cruz which isn't the top of the line brand, but it fits her and it fits me.  It's a great starter saddle that I can use to ride her in.  Eventually I'll purchase something fancy like a Luc Childeric.  My "new to me" saddle is in excellent condition and was super cheap!  I am notorious for scrolling the Facebook horse and tack pages.  I found a lady who was dispersing 75 pieces of English tack and equipment.  From her I bought two English "flash" bridles, complete with reins, gloves, and a new bit to try on Marnie.  All for $120!  I'm thrilled because they are all quality pieces.  I'm still watching for English pads, a sheepskin pad to fit under the saddle, new leathers, and jumping boots.  (I'll get pictures of my new saddle and post them soon.)  

The Bad

My ankle is seriously messed up.  

I have been going to the physiotherapist once a week.  Realistically I should have taken a lot of time off work.  I am blessed to have good benefits but always feel slightly guilty taking advantage of them.  The knowledge that I worked when I didn't have to is how I'm justifying taking time off next week to compete with the dogs.  My therapist has currently cleared me to begin yoga.  (Except I'm now stupidly sick.)  He also tells me that riding is good.  Go figure.  Walking, not so much... My ankle remains wrapped to help manage the swelling.  When I'm at physio they put me into the icy compression boot.  I'm struggling with remaining positive about this.  I'm frustrated that I can't exercise.  

I'm convinced the lack of exercise and increased work stress is destroying my immune system.  I've gone to a Naturopathic Doctor who has done some blood work to look into food sensitivities.  My guts are notoriously nasty, even with prescription meds.  My regular doctor thinks I may have food allergies, even though I've had clean allergy tests.  (I've been tested six ways to Sunday...)  I'm currently limiting to eliminating milk from my diet with interesting results.  My blood work results are back and I have an appointment next week to find out what they came up with.  

The Ugly

Yesterday I talked to Sam about Whiskey.  I showed her pictures of her standing - with shoes on.  I told her what the farrier thinks.  Basically, it comes down to this.  The vet sees no purpose to do x-rays.  She has said that there is a list of things we can do but to what end?  This is a horse who is now a pasture ornament.  She really feels that Whiskey sustained some sort of suspensory injury while she was gone.  This is causing havoc.  Her suggestion was to leave her be.  As long as she's not being asked to do anything or is not suffering then we maintain her.  She will not be bred again as she can't handle the weight (and the vet would not support a breeding in her condition).  As it is, we're working diligently to pull the weight off of her.  

I'm a bit torn as to what the right thing to do is.  Option A:  leave her to be a companion.  Give her bute on her bad days.  Keep up with maintaining her via vet and farrier care.  Option B:  Euthanize her.  

As her eye is soft and she doesn't appear to be suffering I'm inclined to leave her to be a companion.  When any of her conditions change, or my ability to provide her the care she needs change, then I'll make a different decision.  

It depresses me to see her hobbling around the field.  Last Saturday she actually loped a few strides, with a snort and a buck.  This is so unusual to see in her these days.  I remember when she raced the field for fun.  

I won't lie.  I fully regret selling her baby this summer.  Selfish of me, I know.  

I know she'll be a great nurturing Auntie to any baby that I happen to have on the place.

Friday, October 17, 2014

To Do List

Tonight as I sat idly scrolling though the Horsey Internet World, my mind worked over the various things I need to do or accomplish the next month.  Next week I have the following things booked:

  • Massage Therapy for the dogs.
  • A private agility lesson.
  • Jumping lessons on Marnie at Gorseline. While trying an English saddle.
  • I have two full nights of parent teacher conferences.
  • Add in some physiotherapy for my ankle.
  • Don't forget to get some training time in on the dogs on sheep.
    • I'm entered in the FarmFair and Alberta Arena Finals all the first week of November..
  • A trip to Ken's to work on "penning" the sheep.
Now here's the list of things I need to squeeze in:
  1. Vet - I need to pick up dope for the dogs, dewormer for the dogs, vaccinations for Marnie, and I need to make an appointment to get the horses teeth done.
  2. I have a pending Naturopath Doctor appointment.  Waiting on some blood work results.
  3. I'd like to start back with my Moksha Yoga.  I've been given the go ahead by the physio to do limited activity.
  4. Buy groceries and live life.
On November 3rd, we have our first dog trial in Mayerthrope.  On November 4th and 5th we have our second dog trial in Edmonton.  

Some days I wonder about myself.  

Sunday, October 12, 2014


I really don't know why I try to name my horses, as my father tends to just do it himself.  Marmalade has now become Marnie.  When I told my dad my name ideas he just looked at me and said in his matter of fact way "Well, I've just been calling her Marnie."  And that was that.  Marnie it is.

Marnie has had a stretching couple of weeks.  I've learned a lot about this little horse.

A couple of weeks ago my brother and sister-in-law were up for a few days while my brother worked in a local community.  They brought their brood of 3 kids.  They kidlets are 4, 2, and 4 months.  I had gone to the farm to work the dogs.  Both of the mobile children are animal crazy and I offered to lead them around on the horse.  (They already ride the sheep.)  They were PUMPED!  With no helmet and no boots and no child saddle I decided bareback was the best route.  Dad led the mare around while I walked beside hands on waists to ensure safety and balance.  This was the first time I put a child on Marnie.  She was great!

On Saturday I hauled her to the jumping stable I ride out of.  She was saddled English and rode in my lesson.  She was great!  She handled everything in stride and with grace.  I am so pleased with this horse.

Today my other brother and his brood, a 4 year old boy were out.  The little monkey was keen to ride but scared.  My brother insisted I saddle the horse.  So saddled, with precious cargo aboard we began making circles in the field.  After the first few laps he relaxed and was thrilled to be riding a horse by himself.  The mare was fabulous.  Her ears were almost straight back as she listened to him chatter away.  Her head relaxed and her eye soft she patiently walked endless laps carrying the little guy.

I am thrilled with her kind attitude and her willingness to do this.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Playing with Names

I've been playing with names for little Miss Marm.  She's soooo not a Marm....  sooooo...

I've thought about Brandy.  Does she look like a Brandy to you?

I've thought about Reba (red hair and all).  But I had a dog named Reba...

Then I wonder about Doll, Miss, Chick.  And I just can't decide.  As of right now, Brandy is the front runner name.  I plan to "test" it out when I go ride this afternoon.

Friday, September 26, 2014


I'd been fighting a mild case of the flu.  Telling myself that it was just stress I drove out to the farm, worked the dogs before dragging out the horse.  Deciding against any "real" riding, I tossed on the hackamore.  This is what I want to ride Marm (still unnamed) in for pleasure.  I could feel tension fall out of my shoulders as I worked on having the dogs handle being rode in the field with the horse.

Ryder is terrified of the horse, and Diva is determined to work her.  It took some work to get Ryder to even come into the field.  It took more work to keep Diva from Dive Bombing Marm's heels.  Neither dog have had much exposure to horseback riding but I'd love to ride in the grazing reserve with them.  So I took my crabby tummy as an excuse to sit and train.

Fall is one of my favourite seasons.  I love the colours, the dry ground, and the gorgeous sunsets.

Marm in her hackamore outfit.  She's doing ok with it.  I think with some more riding practice she'll do fine.  My goal is to have her riding steady enough that in the winter I can toss it on, and hop on bareback for a jaunt through the snowy fields.

Looooong sunset shadows.  It's been ages since I've seen my horsey shadow.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Thinking Deep

I've spent a lot of time in the last couple of weeks thinking.  You see, Whiskey is pretty lame.  Gut wrenchingly so.  Her right front is turning in in a bizarre twist.  My farrier and I talked navicular.  We talked about x-rays.  I began to wonder.  When does this become a situation of throwing good money after bad?  When does this become about me and not her?  Mentally and emotionally I held it in my heart to do the right thing and put her down.  I had about made up my mind and I called the vet.

As honey and I sat talking while we ate our evening meal, I spilled out all my fears and worries.  Calmly, not even skipping a beat he told me not to be hasty.  To wait a while and not jump into a decision.  What he didn't do is point out the money I've been pouring into this horse.

The next day I sat with my parents as we ate.  I told them I was worried about Whiskey.  Mom puts a hand on my arm and tells me to give it time.  Dad's brow furrows as we discus the coming winter.  We plan what we can do to make her more comfortable.  The tentative decision becomes one to give her the winter.

I won't lie.  I'm very worried about her handling our tough winters.  I'm the person who has a box with her old faithful dog's ashes.  I can't commit to a place for her to rest.  So she goes where I go.  It would destroy my soul if I couldn't plan Whiskey's final resting place.

I won't lie.  I'd love a baby from her.  A future jumper prospect.  I get it .  It costs more to breed than to buy.  Breeding is a crap shoot.  No guarantee over what you'll end up.  The horse business has no room for sentimental feelings.  Sigh.

No firm decision yet on the breeding front.

Because I sit and I pray that I've made the right decision.  That Whiskey will be okay.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


This July I started taking Jumping lessons.  When I was younger jumping wasn't something that interested me.  I far preferred to do pattern work and dressage type stuff.  In short, I'm a jumping novice.  I've taken a handful of jumping lessons over the years.  My instructor at the stable I'm riding at gave me a very nice compliment.  She said the trainer (a very accomplished jumper) thought I was good and wanted to know where I came from.  Jen told her I'd been everywhere.

I've got to admit, when Jen told me this I rolled my eyes and snorted out a "Ya right."  You see, I'm horrifically out of shape.  I can feel my body flop when it should be solid.  Jen insisted.  She said that they could see through my out of shape flops and see the seat I possessed.  She went on to explain that I'm unique in the fact that I have a well rounded background.  It made me think.

When I was young I learned how to ride bareback.  Farmer style.  My mom didn't believe in saddles.  I didn't ride in a saddle until I was 4-H age.  4-H was my first introduction to riding "proper".  It was somewhat surprising to learn one didn't just kick and pull.  I began taking lessons.  For the most part I rode Arabians and competed in the local shows.  I rode in an English saddle and progressed on to some Arabian "A" shows.  I want to be clear.  My family did not have a lot of money and most of my horses were not the reliable school master type.  I literally learned how to ride in the school of hard knocks.  Sometimes I'm astonished that I stuck with it.

As an adult I decided that showing was horribly boring so I began to branch out.  I bought a school master rope horse and learned how to rope.  For the next ten years I immersed myself in the cowboy and rodeo world.  I moved out into ranch and oil country, well away from the commuter acreage area I grew up in.  There I hooked up with (not in the hook up sense - haha), an old cowboy who ran a small ranch complete with a stable.  He was an alcoholic and full of character.  Back in the day he showed and trained reining horses.  Here I learned how to train a rope horse and began schooling in basic reining maneuvers.  This barn became my home away from home.  I shovelled shit and had my pick of horses to ride.  I began "finishing" ranch horses he owned to pay for my board.  I was in horsey heaven.  I also had some pretty huge wrecks complete with hospital visits during this time of my life.  The final hospital visit would prove to be a blow my confidence would never recover from (3rd degree concussion).   I had learned how to start and finish a horse the cowboy way.  My roping was progressing complete with competitions.  We had even tossed around the idea of me riding a horse in the reining class at the Canadian Supreme.  (There was a glorious Palamino stallion called Yeller that was good enough to go.)

At one point the cowboy lifestyle got to me.  I had had enough and I moved home.  Back to civilization.  From this point on I rode purely for pleasure.  I would do various things like take the odd jumping lesson or spend a summer turning back for cutters.  And I still love going out to Ken's and spending the day doing ranch work off a horse.  Pure joy.

Fast forward to now.  Now I'm slightly bored but still highly pressed for time.  I have a horse to play with - Marm - thank you Jesus.  After Marm arrived I had some serious swings in what I wanted to do with my horsey self.  I could not make up my mind.  I want to cut.  No I want to jump.  No I want to show Arabians.  No I want to... you get the idea.  The problem is reality can be a bugger.  What can I realistically do?  What can Marm realistically do?

The outcome?  With the trainers compliment ringing in my ears, (I really do have an eclectic background.), I think I'm going to focus on riding Marm English.  Rationale?  Marm likes being rode with contact.  Loves it. I have access to high caliber trainers and lesson programs close to my house and dad's farm.  And jumping challenges me.  It's hard for me.  It stretches my abilities.

And FYI: Marm needs a new name.  She's not really a Marm and I have a hard time getting it out.  So even though I hate the idea of renaming a horse, a renaming shall occur.  Once I figure out what name actually works for her.