Friday, November 14, 2014


I've always believed that love is not enough.  You can love as much as you want but you still need to be reasonable, thoughtful and respectful.  I'm someone who loves animals with a capital L.  They feed my soul and bring serenity and balance to my life.

Today, love is not enough.  I can love Whiskey to the moon and back.  I do love her to the moon and back.  The simple truth is there is not enough love in the world to fix what is wrong with her.  On this cold and blustery day, Sam - the vet came out.  She wanted to rule out an easy fix.  Something like an abscess.  We stood in the cold wind and talked.  I'm not going to lie.  I've been around horses for a long time.  I know, deeply and intrinsically, when something is wrong.  And something is wrong with my beloved mare.  The vet thinks it's likely a broken bone in her foot or a torn suspensory.  We can do x-rays.  We can "de-nerve" her.  We can put on corrective shoeing.  But to what end?  I asked if x-rays would help.  Sam shrugged helplessly.  She said they would just tell us definitively what's wrong, not fix her.  Basically there is no fix.  I trust my vet.  She is skilled, experienced and maintains up to date practice.  She is a life long learner.  I trust my vet with my horses life.  All of the options presented don't change the outcome.  They just change the timeline.

We are looking at quality of life here.  My hope had been that she could manage to be a companion for Marnie.  The reality is that's not going to happen.  We're going to hobble through the next couple of weeks.  Feeding her bute, carrying her water, and leaving her snuggled up to a round straw bale.

I need the time to line up things.  My first choice is to get a back hoe in to dig a hole so Whiskey can rest at the farm.  The back hoe will be significantly more expensive but will bring me peace of mind.  Less desirable but possibly necessary will be to "book" the rendering truck.  Once I have the after care in place, I'll make an appointment to have Sam come put her down.

I love her enough to do the right thing, even though it's the hard thing for us humans.  Some days it sucks being responsible.  

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


As I opened up Blogger and scrolled down through my reading list I saw Liz's Setback post.  It was perfect timing for me to read and for the thoughts swirling around my head.

My dad called tonight.

This has been the first week of winter.  No one is acclimatized.  Not me.  Not the dogs.  Not the horses.  Dad called to tell me he's been taking buckets of water out to Whiskey who is now refusing to enter the corral area.  He said she's having a hard time walking.

Dad can be funny about stuff.  The neighbour never did water his horses.  Snow is fine and all that hooey.  He also never did feed unless it was a particularly deep snow winter.  I won't comment on what I think of his horse care practices... Anyhow, said neighbour and dad are buddies.

Big sigh.

Our conversation tonight centred around why water is necessary to maintain a healthy horse.  (There is an automatic waterer the horses have access to - Whiskey is just not walking to it.)  It then shifted to my dad telling me that Whiskey needs shoes.

Huge sigh.

Go figure.  They guy who wonders if it's necessary to provide fresh water wants to put $120+ shoes on a pasture horse.  That's plain shoes and pads, without the necessary borium for winter traction.

This thought led me to Liz's post.  Which was perfectly aligned with what I was thinking.

The horse shoes.  Are they for the horse?  Or for my father?

I won't lie.  I'm really worried.  Is this just a blip?  A rough transition to our frozen world?  Or a forecast of the future?  Can Whiskey realistically handle our rough winters?

What I do know is I'll be driving out tomorrow to see how she's doing.  I'll bring another can of Venice Turpentine.  We'll start there and see if it helps her tender toes.  I've also placed the farrier "on alert".  Bottom line - is the right call to the vet or the farrier?  Because if I can't keep her sound enough to survive then I'll do what's right.  Regardless of how it'll hurt my father who loves this horse with every fibre.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Win Some, Lose Some.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we competed at FarmFair International.  There were a total of 42 dogs entered in the competition.  On Tuesday I kept both dogs with me in the waiting area.  I wanted them to get used to the noises of people, announcers and to realize that there were sheep and herding to be had.  Diva was up first at the 12th dog in the running order.

Diva, apparently, is deaf.  Who knew?

What a little rotter.  It was the longest four minutes of my life.  Little shit refused to take any of her commands.  She was there for a good time, not a long time.  So, on the Wednesday and second day of competition, I ran down the arena the moment she showed me she was going to ignore me.  I sent her on her flanks, and made her lie down.  I needed to show her that working somewhere different did not mean she could do what she wanted.

Ryder was a surprise.

I fully and completely expected him to melt down.  He is such a wimpy soul.  He freaks out all the time over sounds and strange stimuli.

But he didn't.  Who knew?

His first "go" was ok.  He was a bit sticky which isn't like him.  He got a bit stuck on the sheep at the top of the arena.  He did come around and was moving the very heavy and tough to move sheep.  However, he got in too close and made some chasing and "gripped" or bit the sheep.  The second day I don't think he bit but we still got called off for biting.  Such is the game.  It's a lot of skill, and a bit of luck.

Overall, I'm happy with the experience.  I wanted to know how the dogs would perform.  Now I know exactly what I need to work on to help them reach competition levels.  Quite frankly, Diva may not be the calibre needed.  I'll work with her over the winter and try again in the spring.

Sorry, no pictures or video.  I was a bit distracted with nerves to set anything up.

Monday, November 3, 2014

One Down, Two to Go

Today I was up at what felt like the crack of dawn.  It wasn't but I hate time change and was a bit jacked about the upcoming day.  I loaded the truck with dog crates, and other dog things.  Like toys.  I'm weird in that I never travel without toys.  It was a two hour drive to the arena that the stock dog trial was being held.  The whole time leading up to this trial I had done a lot of self talk.  I have approached the dogs first trial as a learning experience.  I will learn.  They will learn.  It's all I can ask.  After all, the dogs have not had the most optimal training experiences.  It's sporadic.  It's taken me three years to do something that should have taken 3-6 months.  My dogs are four. (!!)

The first thing I did when I pulled in was look for the washroom.  I looked.  I looked some more.  It was to my dismay that there was only an outhouse.  Annnnd....

No. Running. Water.  Ick.

I reevaluated my strategy and began operation liquid intake limitation.  You can imagine the relief I felt - literally - at stopping for diesel.

The thing with stock dog trials is it's a hurry up and wait kinda situation.  So I hurried.  And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited some more.  I ended up scribing (marking down scores and timing) for the open runs - all 42 of them.

Finally our turn arrived.  Even though I was committed to this being a learning enterprise, I was still nervous.  Funny how that works.

Diva was up first.  She was the dog I was confident in.  The dog I thought would be my "chance".  Ooops....  not so much.  The little bugger wouldn't take her flanks, got stuck on the sheep.  I ended up leaving the post and helping her get moving.  Her second run showed improvements but also major areas I need to work on.  She may end up having too much "eye" to make a good trial dog.  Time will tell.

Ryder was the second of my dogs to run.  After Diva, my nerves were ramped right up.  Legs tremoring I walked him to the post.  He started a little rough but settled down and worked pretty good.  He was a bit sticky on his flanks but started smoothing out as the run went on.  I was stunned to find out he was the fast time of the first go.  His second run I went into with more confidence.  And then the sheep wouldn't move.  They faced him.  Stomped their feet.  Shook their heads.  And he bit them.  An automatic disqualification.  Ryder is not a "gripper".  He never does it at home.  In fact, I've been encouraging him to engage the sheep.  He is not very interested in it.  I guess he does bite.

All in all, an interesting day was had.

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.