Archive of ‘The Horses’ category

Riding Coco

It has been about 15 years since I broke a horse to ride myself. I never had a “job” during high school, instead I would break the 2 year olds my parents were raising to ride in preparation to be sold later on. Breaking a warmblood is a bit different from breaking Quarter Horses, but the fundamentals are the same. The. Hardest. Part. is knowing when to push them and when to just let them be a mess. I’ve got about 20 rides on Coco and she is very much at that precipice of needing to be pushed, but also not needing to be fried. She has a reasonable amount of steering and a decent “whoa”, but she often forgets where her feet are and gets pretty dang determined to go where SHE wants to go (which is always towards Jaguar).

Baby Coco.

Baby Coco.

I took her to my horsey bestie’s to ride off the farm for the first time last weekend and she was a dream. I was skeptical when we first arrived because she was a bit of a fire-breathing dragon, but once she was under tack and I was in the irons she was really really good. My horsey bestie rode her OTTB around while we mostly just walked and trotted. I couldn’t have been prouder of Miss Coco Chanel!

Last night she bucked for the first time. Not hard, but she was MAD! I like that she doesn’t want to run around the property like a hooligan, but she’s rather lazy about cantering and that was our disagreement. I kicked to canter and she said “heck no!” I didn’t come off and she didn’t buck very hard. In retrospect it was mostly funny, but I did get kind of mad at her attitude. Mares! I’m hoping to take her to a couple trail rides while the weather is still pretty warm. I find the horrible heat of Texas can be great for riding young, fresh horses. It takes off a bit of the edge so more progress is made and when the weather gets cooler she will have well over 45 rides.

Pats after a good ride, even if it did include her first buck!

Pats after a good ride, even if it did include her first buck!

Jaguar’s Retirement Celebration

I’m absolutely terrible at taking photos at my own parties. Terrible! We had a lovely gathering of horsey and not-so-horsey friends over to celebrate Jaguar’s retirement. This year has been so hard, I needed something happy to happen at the farm and this was just the ticket. I’m sure many of my friends and family think I’m a little bit nuts because I tend to mostly have parties for my animals. Not birthday parties like normal people with animals and not kids have, but Sip and Sees  and horse retirement parties. However I’m beyond grateful that they indulge me and attend said parties.

Jaguar in his Retirement Party stall decorations

Jaguar in his Retirement Party stall decorations

I attempted to decorate his stall in my hunts colors, but last minute planning and the lack of the correct hunter green at the local Dollar General resulted in a shamrock green, but it still looked festive and Jaguar was very interested in his balloons!

Checking out his loot and eating carrots

Checking out his loot and eating carrots

Jaguar was showered with lots and lots of fantastic gifts and there were even a few for his assistant (me)! He got mostly carrots and horsey treats plus a bottle of Stella Artois to indulge his taste for beer and a Jolly Ball for his stall. I got bottles of champagne, vino and a couple lovely home accessories.

 

Very well packaged horsey and horsey assistant gifts.

Very well packaged horsey and horsey assistant gifts.

I am still pretty sad about not being able to ride the old man any more, but I look forward to a new kind of bonding with him. He’s got so many treat bags as gifts that he should be able to do every trick in the book you can teach a horse using treats. We have already been working on bowing and making great progress. He’s very careful with his hurt leg, but is still game to try most anything it takes to get a cookie.

All of Jaguar's goodies

All of Jaguar’s goodies

How I do Stuff: Tail Maintenance

Here is a little secret.

Beautiful hunters lined up waiting to be pinned. Photo from Pinterest.

Beautiful hunters lined up waiting to be pinned. Photo from Pinterest.

Most of those beautiful tails are not real. All horse events at horse shows that I have ever shown in from AQHA to reining to hunter shows have all had a very longstanding trend of long and thick tails. When I was a kid showing Quarter Horses I would spend hours upon hours grooming my horse’s tail so that by show season it would be long and thick. Quite frankly I got to be quite the horse stylist! Until I started showing Jaguar, that is. His tail tended more towards the thin and wispy style. This was also at a time when fake tails were becoming more common than not. People were figuring out that rather than leaving tails braided and protected by tail bags or socks (yes, we used tube socks to protect our horse’s tails. My Dad thought it was beyond ridiculous) year round they could just braid or tie in a fake tail and call it a day. Jaguar’s tail was so pathetic that I succumbed to the trend and made my own fake tail to tie into his real tail at shows giving it some volume and a little bit of length.

Alas that trend continues today in the hunter world and I’m reverting back to my kid self with fierce determination that my horses are going to grow their own damn tails. This may be due partially to my desire to prove that I can do it and partially to the fact that I have a grey horse and their fake tails cost twice as much as one for a bay or chestnut because the colors have to match just right. Regardless, I’ve challenged myself to help Coco grow a respectable tail in time for her first horse show. I anticipate we have about a year for this endeavour. This post will be photographic evidence of what we started with.

Coco's tail. Not terrible, but also not show quality. Plus it appears she pulled out a large chunk of hair at the top.

Coco’s tail. Not terrible, but also not show quality. Plus it appears she pulled out a large chunk of hair at the top.

Based on interwebs research I’m going to use Shapley’s M-T-G to help Coco’s tail grow. I also subscribe to the philosophy of brushing the hair with a brush as little as possible, however I also need it to remain tangle free so if it gets caught on a tree branch or fence the hair won’t get pulled out because of a tangle. So I will pick it out with my fingers most of the time, but will brush it every once in a while. Plus she LOVES having her tail brushed.

The tools of the trade. A tail brush and some Shapley's M-T-G

The tools of the trade. A tail brush and some Shapley’s M-T-G

When I brush hair; mine or a horse’s; I always start at the very bottom and move slowly closer to the roots. This allows the tangles to get picked out without pulling out giant wads of hair.

Start brushing at the very bottom of the tail

Start brushing at the very bottom of the tail

Once the tail is fully brushed out I start applying the M-T-G at the very top of the tail by parting it horizontally like so:

IMG_6932Then squirting some M-T-G as close to the hairline as possible. M-T-G works at the root of the hair, not as a conditioner. It encourages hair growth.

IMG_6931I’ll do about three of these spots slowly working down the tailbone. After each application of M-T-G I work it into the roots of the hair to get it spread throughout. Once I get about 1/3 to 1/2 way down the tailbone I’ll part the hair vertically:

IMG_6934I’ll part it all the way to the end of the tail bone then apply a very liberal amount of M-T-G and work it into the roots of the hair. The goal here is to get as much on the tail as possible and as little on the floor as possible.

IMG_6933Once I’ve gotten the tailbone hair as saturated as possible without dripping I’ll put some on the length of the tail just to protect that hair. Plus it acts as a detangler.

IMG_6936One thing about M-T-G is that it smells absolutely horrible. Like a cross between animal lard and barbecue. It is terribly odd scent, but it is supposed to work really well. The bottle says to apply it once per week to encourage hair growth for manes and tails. We don’t really care about the mane, so we’ll only be applying it to Coco’s tail. The directions also state to not put it on a horse’s tail and then turn them out in the sunshine. M-T-G causes photo sensitivity. Good thing that during the summer months my horses get turned out at night! I’ll report back in a few months to see how Coco’s tail growth progress is going. I’ve been sporadically putting M-T-G in Sterling’s tail for about 6 months and his looks pretty good. I’ll add him to the weekly application program and maybe they will both have to die for tails by next summer!

Sterling in a Classic!

After Sterling’s abominable behaviour on the recent trail ride attempt, I had to make it up to him and brag on him a bit. Just a few short days after the trail riding debacle we made our way to Waco, Texas for the Blue Ribbon Summer Festival I. I was a bit concerned that I had fried his brain by attempting to go on a trail ride, but Sterling proved pretty quickly that horse show horse he truly wants to be and is where he has the most success.

I’m not going to dissect each trip, mostly because it has been a few weeks since the show and they have all run together in my head, but I did want to mention the highlights. I don’t have a photo of Sterling with his ribbon, but I’m absolutely delighted to share that we won our first ever blue ribbon over fences at a rated USEF show! We won the Modified Child/Adult over fences trip on Thursday with a very respectable 16 entries! We also got third in our Limit over fences class and third in the Limit under saddle class, both with about 16 or 17 entries. I’m finally learning to stay out of Sterling’s face going up to jumps and not getting ahead of his momentum with my body by leaning forward. By riding more correctly we are getting much better spots to the fences so his form is more elegant and true to the hunter type. We (I) still have a lot of progress to make in keeping a consistent canter rhythm, but progress is pretty exciting, especially when rewarded with blue ribbons!

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

Our photo op from my sister-in-law on our blue ribbon day at the Summer Festival I in Waco

The second day my rounds in the Limit division over fences trips left a bit to be desired. A consistently inconsistent canter stride separated the men from the boys in the placings. I got a seventh in one group and no placing in the other. We made up for it, though, in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic. The course is a tiny bit longer in a Classic than in a regular round over fences and there are potentially two trips. Everyone goes around once and the top 12 scores are invited back for another round and the combined overall high score wins. Our first trip was arguably the absolute best trip we have ever had over fences and was rewarded with a very respectable score of 78 out of a possible 100. We were in the lead until the very last rider went and scored an 81, but we still had the second round to go. Our second round had a few bobbles and I never did hear our score, but we ended up 4th overall out of 20 or so entries! And we won money! I’m SO proud of Sterling and I can’t brag on him enough. The ring at Waco is known to be rather spooky and he went around nearly like he was at home.

Fourth place in the 2'6" Hunter Classic!

Fourth place in the 2’6″ Hunter Classic!

The icing on the cake for this horse show was that we had a pretty significant cheering section, which we have never had before! Many of Boot City’s family live in or near Waco and some even drove up from Austin to watch. It was extra fun to have them at the show and for us to do well with an audience.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Photo by Holly Ridge Photography.

Giddyup Go!

On my first ride on Coco I failed to secure resources for photographic evidence of the event. I did not have this failure on the second event! I’ve spent the past month and a half gradually working her up to the big event of her first ride. Jaguar was the first ever horse I broke to ride all by myself. The method I used with him was based on a series of videos done by Roy Yates, an old cowboy. He did copious amounts of ground work with his young horses so by the time he rode them it was no big deal. I believe his methods to be sound, humane and effective and continue to weave them into my own.

I start by teaching the young horse to lunge, then add a surcingle which teaches them to accept the girth, then a bridle, then side reins, then a saddle with the bridle, and finally I ride them. You can tell a lot about a youngster by how they respond to the first time you tighten the surcingle. A highly sensitive horse will have a much stronger reaction than a more laid back animal. Sterling was very sensitive. Jaguar was kind of in the middle. Coco was VERY laid back. She has jumped up a little bit with the surcingle on and the saddle, but she’s never full on bucked. I hope this is a good thing!

Happy girl under saddle

Happy girl under saddle

The first time getting on a horse is always the scariest part for me. You have NO idea if they are going to jump out from under you, run away, start bucking, or just stand there. Never before had I done the first ride with an English saddle, either. Both of the western saddles I have are huge and it just didn’t feel right to ride her western. She was a perfect princess. She didn’t bat an eye lash when I put weight in the left stirrup and swung my right leg over. I had to sit for a minute and take deep breaths because I was so nervous. She, on the other hand, just stood chewing the bit.

When I work with the youngsters on the lunge line I teach them verbal commands to walk, trot, canter and stop. This helps them to make sense of what I want them to do on the first few rides when they have no idea what my legs are telling them. I clucked Coco forward on our second ride and just just walked on. I use my legs, too to teach them that pressure from my legs means go forward or faster. By the first few rides she will have figured out that leg pressure means go forward. A few more after that and she will trot from my leg instead of clucking. Cantering usually takes a bit longer, but it depends on the horse.

Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie

Learning to go forward among the goat menagerie

During our second ride we trotted in addition to walking. She was a bit confused and the pen I rode her in has a lot of trees so the lack of steering was kind of an issue! I have to be mindful to reward her every time she gives to the pressure of the bit to turn or stop, but not getting knocked off by a tree limb was important also!

Learning steering

Learning steering

All in all I’m absolutely tickled with how well our first two rides have gone. One can’t get overly complacent that the young horse is going to be easy peasy during every ride. I’m sure the first time we canter will be interesting, but I’m so grateful it is going as well as it is so far. It is exciting to have something to look forward to with Coco after the bad news about Jaguar. She won’t be ready to fox hunt for at least a year, but I hope to take her on some trail rides before the summer is over.

Awkward baby horse steering

Awkward baby horse steering

 

 

Unplanned Retirement

Last Sunday was an eventful day for me, one with a LOT of happiness. I rode Coco for the first time and she was a dream! I also rode Sterling that morning, after a failed attempt at a trail ride the day before, and I rode Jaguar that evening. Since Sterling was now 100% a failed trail rider I would need to get Jaguar legged up for the remaining trail rides with my hunt friends for the summer. Riding an old horse cold turkey on long trail rides is not nice. They need many more rides to be fit enough to work on an ongoing basis. When I rode Jaguar something was off. He wasn’t lame, but there was a hitch in his gitalong that didn’t feel right. We only walked and trotted and I took him over a few low cavallettis, but I could feel something weird with his hind end movement. The right side had a bigger jerk to the movement and the left side was much softer. Had I been a betting person I would have guessed he was off on his right leg.

Fast forward to Tuesday. Sterling needed a shot so I thought I would have my vet look over Jaguar while he was there. I made an appointment for Tuesday afternoon when I was returning from a work trip. My thought was that Jaguar was going to start needing some kind of joint injections, a pain management regimen for arthritis, or something similar to one of those options. He’s no spring chicken being 23 years young. He definitely is showing his age more than he had a year or two ago, but he had a fantastic hunt season and I love riding him on trail rides because he’ll do most anything I ask of him. My vet called early in the afternoon that he was already near my house so I told him to just go ahead and stop over even though I wouldn’t be home. He’d call me when he was finishing up.

This phone call has affected me far more than I would have dreamed it would. There isn’t really a name for what is wrong with Jaguar’s left hind leg, but there is something decidedly wrong with it. My vet thought for sure I would be able to tell him of a very specific event in which Jaguar had injured his left hind gaskin a few years ago and it was just now showing the full symptoms of what age and injuries combined will do to an animal’s mobility. The thing is, Jaguar has never ever been lame. Ever. Never had a hoof abcess. Never a pulled shoe that caused an issue. And never an acute injury requiring him to come out of work at all. Until now. My vet has diagnosed Jaguar with an injury to his left hind gaskin where it meets his hamstring and his stifle that will most likely not respond to any type of treatment and will require him to be in full retirement. No more riding Jaguar.

Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining

Jaguar and I at the Summer Slide in Denver in July of 1998. Just before we showed at the AQHYA World Championships in Reining

We are going to try a bute regimen for a few days to see if that might cut the pain a little bit. It will be promising if it does, but my vet sounded pretty skeptical of it working. The reality of it is that I will probably never be able to ride Jaguar again. He will now get his 100% deserved retirement.

Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998

Showing in reining at the MetraPark in Billings, Montana sometime between 1996 and 1998

I always thought that I’d know when I had my last ride on Jaguar. There would be some episode. Some illness. Some tangible reason when I would know that this was it. Not some vague nondescript injury that really isn’t that bad, but bad enough that it can’t be fixed and he can’t be ridden. I’m grateful that he’s otherwise healthy and I still have him, but I’m absolutely heartbroken that our partnership under saddle is done. No more fox hunts. No more trail rides. No more torturing him while I post without irons. As much of a mess as I am about this news I can’t even imagine how bad I’ll be when he dies. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every second we have together. He’s going to embark on his retirement with a weight loss program and focus on being the best damn pasture ornament there ever was.

Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).

Riding at a family reunion with my youngest cousin (who is in college now, this photo makes me feel really old).

The Foal That Wasn’t

I’ve been M.I.A. for a VERY long time! I’ve felt for months that my next post needed to be the final update on Coco’s foaling event and all who follow me on Facebook or Instagram already know that it went horribly wrong. I rely so much on reading and learning from other people on blogs that I feel like I need to share our story. I don’t think we could have done much, or really anything differently that would have resulted in a live foal, but I knew enough from my research that a competent vet was needed the moment I saw Coco with that darling bay filly’s nose and no feet presented.

Coco about one week before she foaled.

Coco about one week before she foaled.

So here is what happened;

The vet had come over about four weeks before Coco’s “due” date to give her her final foaling vaccinations. He made the comment that she looked like she was carrying a REALLY big foal. I asked him if he thought it was better for us to take her in somewhere to foal her out and he thought that if we were comfortable with her doing it at home, then we should just foal her out at home. MOST horses don’t have any issues foaling, it really is the one health thing they are kind of good at. The thing is that when there are issues, there are usually very serious issues. At least 30 foals were born at my parent’s place during my childhood and only one time was there a problem. The mare delivered twins and both died, but that isn’t unusual. Experience told me it would be better to have her foal at home. It would also save mare and foal a dangerous trip on a horse trailer home. I don’t regret this decision for a moment and I’ll better explain why towards the end.

Beginning when Coco was at about 300 days I started checking on her at 2a every night. Boot City would check on her around midnight and I feed at around 5a so that gave her a maximum of about 3 hours unchecked. There were a few nights she gave us a good scare by lying down in her stall and groaning pitifully but no foal! Fast forward to the night of March 1 (technically the morning of March 2). Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She had been expressing milk for nearly a month. I had pH and calcium tested her milk for about 2 weeks and the result of every single test indicated she would foal in less than 12 hours. This wasn’t the case until it was so I just quit doing the tests the few days before she foaled. I don’t even really remember anything before my 2:30a check. I got out there at 2:32a and could hear her groaning and sounding very distressed. I flipped on the lights to find her standing with a dark bay foal’s face out of her vulva about to it’s eyes. Immediately I knew we needed help. Proper foaling position has the foal presented with one foot in front of the other followed by the nose.

Correct Foaling Position

I RAN back to the house to get Boot City to assist. If we could push the foal back in and get it’s legs out we should be good to go. Now Boot City has never been around a foal, much less a mare having a foal so this was a lot to ask. He graciously tried as hard as he could, but it was just too stuck and Coco was getting more and more distressed. I called the vet. Waiting the 30 or so minutes for the vet to arrive may be the worst 30 minutes of my life so far. Hearing Coco groan and slam her body down on the ground, get up and do it all over again is something I can never forget. Even now when she lies down and groans it makes my stomach turn. The vet, with Boot City’s help, tried also to push the foal back in and get the legs straightened out. He worked on her for about 20 minutes and while he was doing that I hooked the truck up to the trailer. I had a bad feeling about how this was going and needed to be ready. I was right. The vet told Boot City, not me, that the foal was dead. We needed to get Coco to a surgery facility as quickly as possible.

Coco had an unfortunate incident on the horse trailer last spring and had become very hesitant to get on the trailer so I had been working with her for a few weeks just in case something went awry and she needed emergency transport. I’m so glad I had done that because when, pardon my language, the shit hit the fan she got right on the trailer with not a moment’s hesitation. I was petrified with fear that now we were also going to lose Coco. When a mare gets in the situation of difficulty foaling time is of the essence. Every second the dead foal is inside her puts her nearly exponentially closer to death.

We got the ESMS in Weatherford around 4:30a. My vet had called so they knew we were coming and were ready and waiting for us. Coco got safely off the trailer, walked inside the clinic and almost immediately collapsed. You could see it in her eyes that she knew she was in a place where they would help her. The vets on call always seem to be super young and inexperienced, and this was the case that morning. They were very kind and assured me that Coco would be fine. Most likely they would just sedate her, pull the foal out and all would be well. They did need to tell me that there was a possibility of needing more drastic action requiring Coco to be completely anaesthetised, the foal pushed all the way back in and removed by being cut apart, but they had never seen it done and were sure that wouldn’t be the case. The surgical vet was coming in around 6 or 7 so they were going to make her comfortable until then. It seemed terribly odd to me that they were just going to leave her like that for HOURS, but they were the experts so we headed home to fret.

While driving home the clinic called and said that Coco was taking a turn for the worse so the surgeon was coming in immediately and they would let me know what was going to happen next. After a horrible couple of hours fretting and praying and worrying the surgical vet called with an update. They had gotten the foal out and Coco was in recovery. Good news so far. Removing the foal required a fetotomy. It really was the worst case scenario. Coco had an uncommonly high white blood cell count and had become septic and toxic while she was anaesthetised (and upside down while the removed the foal) so was requiring pretty serious meds to improve her condition. She had gotten up on her own which was good news. I was both relieved and horrified. What had I done to this poor horse?! By now it was early Wednesday morning and the vet thought that Coco might be able to come home by Friday, but it depended on how her white cell count was and how she was responding to her meds.

I spent the rest of that day mostly crying and loving on my other two horses. I was grateful Coco was still alive and showed a good prognosis, but I was emotionally spent. Later that afternoon I went to visit her and take her some treats.

Getting some hay in her ICU stall

Getting some hay in her ICU stall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with humans, the clinic wouldn’t let her leave until she had eaten and had a couple bowel movements and all her counts looked good. She was eating her hay like a champ and behaving amazingly well for a young mare attached to four gallon sized IVs after having an extremely traumatic medical event.

Mouthful of hay with the IV tied into her mane

Mouthful of hay with the IV tied into her mane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her story does have a moderately happy ending. She responded so well to her meds that she was released to come home early on Thursday, which happened to coincide with my last day at my job so I got a long weekend just spoiling her at home. When I picked her up I asked the ICU vet how often they see mares with this situation and he estimated one or two per year. This is a very large and well respected clinic with thousands of foaling mare patients and we happened into the minuscule percentage of deliveries ending in a fetotomy. Coco was on stall rest for a week, then released to being in her paddock for about 10 days before she could be back on turnout with the boys. She also continued a very heavy dose of antibiotics and banamine for any residual pain.

Coco happy at home in her barn with her besties

Coco happy at home in her barn with her besties

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know how we knew she was pretty much fully recovered from the ordeal? When she got so upset being locked in her paddock while Jaguar and Sterling were turned out that she JUMPED out! True to her jumping bloodlines she cleared a 4′ fence with nary a scratch. We kept her in her stall for a day after that shenanigan and got the go ahead from the vet to put her back out with the boys.

Lastly, this is why I don’t regret having made the decision to have her foal at home. When all was said and done every vet who saw her and her foal that day confirmed that it was in fact a very large foal, but making matters worse is that Coco has an exceptionally narrow birth canal. We have been advised to NEVER let her carry her own foal again. She can be bred, but the foal needs to be carried and delivered by a surrogate mare. Most mares’ bodies regulate the size of the foal to something that they can successfully deliver. If you breed a 15hh mare to a Clydesdale, she’s most likely going to have a foal she can deliver. Coco’s body seems to have missed that memo. My vets also assured me that this was not something the repro vet could have determined prior to her getting bred so was essentially an unavoidable lesson. Had she been at a clinic when she foaled they would have figured out pretty quickly that she couldn’t deliver the foal and I would have been faced with an extremely expensive and difficult decision to pursue a caesarean section. Horses don’t do well with abdominal surgery of any kind and a c-section is not a common surgery for horses. It is awkward, in a difficult location and there are no guarantees that the mare or foal will survive. Coco probably wouldn’t have been able to nurse her own foal had she delivered via c-section so we may have needed a nurse mare or to bottle feed the foal, had it survived. I wouldn’t repeat any of this experience for anything, but I am grateful I didn’t have to make the call on a c-section and that I still have a beautiful, healthy mare in my barn who I hope to be riding within the next 30 days.

Run, baby run

I’ve been on an inadvertent blog hiatus. I had the past couple months all planned out for posting then the bottom fell out of my schedule. For reals. One morning the week after the Fourth of July Coco came in from turnout very lame. I hoped for the best and that it was merely a sole bruise and gave her a week to show improvement by just treating it as a sole bruise. I couldn’t quite bring myself to keep her locked up and after 5 days of no improvement I called the vet. He diagnosed her as having injured the ligament she had surgery on about a year and a half ago. Come to find out I hadn’t been given the best recovery instructions after that surgery which made her more susceptible to injuring the scar tissue. The vet indicated that she showed signs of having been favouring this leg for quite some time and that this injury was bound to happen. The main sign being that her hoof growth was imbalanced. The good news was that she isn’t in work and being pregnant gave her body extra production of things good for healing. The bad news was that she would be confined to her stall for at least four and up to eight weeks requiring wrapping, poulticing and icing twice daily and hand walking for 30-40 minutes every day.

It's hard being a pretty princess trapped in a stall all day long.

It’s hard being a pretty princess trapped in a stall all day long.

The first 10 days went as well as can be expected. My social life was gone and spending 30-40 minutes walking in Texas summer is not my idea of a good time. She was a fantastic patient for wrapping, poulticing and icing. The hand walking was quite exciting a few times and I have the bruises to show for it. When you keep an 1,100 pound animal confined to a 14×12 box all day long they develop some pent up energy and frustrations that they take out on you during their 30 minutes of “freedom”. The vet returned to check her after 10 days and gave the go ahead to only wrap and poultice until it had been 14 days then move to only icing twice a day and continuing the hand walking. He also advised we consider building our stall runs so she could get some exercise on her own, but in a confined space.

My bruise a few days after an altercation with Coco during one of our afternoon walking dates.

My bruise a few days after an altercation with Coco during one of our afternoon walking dates.

This guidance really gave us the push we needed to get to work on the stall runs that have been in the plan since we built the new barn in 2012. The barn my parents had when I was growing up had runs on all the stalls and it made a huge difference in keeping stalls clean and allowing the horses to stretch their legs, not to mention how much better it is for their minds to not be confined to a stall all day long. We researched designs for height, spacing of bars, and different pipe materials. We knew we would build out of oil field pipe because we already had some and it is easy to acquire being in Texas. So stay tuned for a step-by-step pictorial of the building process!

Stopping for a water break on one of our sunset walks.

Stopping for a water break on one of our sunset walks.

Bug off!

I have three horses. Three lovely horses with significantly different conformation and dispositions. With all the rain that we have had this year the bugs are horrific. There is a tremendous amount of standing water around which is a mosquito breeding haven. Therefore my horses all need fly sheets like they have never needed fly sheets ever before! Jaguar always gets one because his big ol’ belly gets crusty every summer from flies and such making a meal of his poor defenceless underparts. Sterling is the luckiest because he’s less desirable to the blood suckers due to his light coloured coat. This summer has been an exception so I’m using it as an opportunity to try some different types and brands of fly sheets. This is going to be a summer-long review of sorts. By the end of the summer I’ll know if I’m going to buy the same brand again for the same horse, if I need to replace any due to fit and durability issues, and finally if any of them are just too hot for Texas summers.

Jaguar got a brand new Weather beta Airflow fly sheet at the end of last summer because his old one was super stretched out and nasty after he wore it for two summers. He has to have the belly band option and it seemed to fit him just fine. He doesn’t have too much of an issue getting welts from bites so I didn’t think he needed a neck cover. I’m already a little worried about the fit of this one, though. As he ages his back drops and his withers become more prominent. His Weatherbeeta seems to be rubbing his wither area more than the same brand sheet did last summer. He doesn’t have any sores or show discomfort when he wears it so only time will tell. He’s also not too terribly hard on his clothing, but Coco likes to chew and tug on parts so it needs to be durable.

Jaguar modelling his Weatherbeeta Airflow

Jaguar modelling his Weatherbeeta Airflow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sterling has a lovely traditional plaid Baker fly sheet. I’ve had a couple of these in the past and they have always been incredibly durable and fit well. Sterling is narrow, but not exceptionally so. His sheet doesn’t have any fancy options like neck covers or belly bands, but like I mentioned before he has the advantage of being a light color so less appetising to the bugs. He doesn’t get welts or runny eyes from bugs congregating on him. He’s good with his basic fly sheet and some fly spray most days. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I just love the classic look of all the Baker horse clothing. Sterling always ALWAYS rolls at least twice while he’s turned out, so his clothing needs to be secure enough to stay put during and after he rolls. Other than that, just the usual Coco munching.

Sterling's dapper Baker fly sheet

Sterling’s dapper Baker fly sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coco has already ruined one fly sheet this “summer”. It wasn’t her fault really. I got her a 76″ Baker fly sheet and it was just too big. It ended up tearing just behind her withers, at the same spot where the surcingle around her belly connects. Rather than replace hers with a Baker I got her a 74″ Fly Turtle. I’m always hesitant about buying her sheets and blankets that fit just right. She’s only three and I know she’s going to grow and change shape for the next couple years so tend to want to buy ones that give her room to grow into. However with the Baker fly sheet that was a bad ide. The reviews of the Fly Turtle are spot on for her needs. They are supposed to be super cool, super durable and provide excellent protection from all bugs. It also has a removable neck cover which I think she needs. She tends to come in at night with her exposed parts covered in hives from bug bites.  I’ve only put her out in the sheet so far. I wanted to be sure it fit well and didn’t shift too much before putting on the neck cover. The Fly Turtle has a stretchy neck opening with a huge velcro closure as well as two straps on the front, two stretchy belly surcingle straps and stretchy hind leg straps plus a removable faux sheepskin wither protection pad. I’m quite impressed with it so far. It even came with an extra wither pad, surcingle strap and leg strap. Color me impressed!  Coco is the easiest on her clothing because she chews on everyone else’s. I have noticed her being quite itchy this summer so she may test the durability more than usual.

Coco doing a terrible job of showcasing her Fly Turtle.

Coco doing a terrible job of showcasing her Fly Turtle.

Heartbeat

After our last visit to the repro vet I was advised to bring Coco back in two weeks to check for a heartbeat and confirm the pregnancy. This was my first weekend at home with nothing to do in WEEKS. Maybe even MONTHS! I hemmed and hawed a few times then texted my vet asking if today or May 30 was best. His sage advice was if she’d absorbed the embryo we could re-breed, so earlier was probably better. Le sigh. Out I went to hook up the trailer etc.

After some slight, but could have been major, trailer drama we were all loaded up (Jaguar, too!) and headed to the vet . Part of me was nervous. Coco had been backing up to Sterling a few times recently, which can be an indication of a cycle. She shouldn’t be having any cycles. She never lifted her tail or exhibited any other horsey-hussy behaviour, but after my last experience breeding I am not taking anything for granted.

I got Coco and her safety blanket (Jaguar) unloaded and in the stocks. I joked with Skeet (my vet) that Jaguar needed his teeth floated so maybe he could get that done while he was there. The backstory is that Jaguar has to be nearly dead to get his teeth floated (horse dentistry) and Skeet only does repro these days so has NO interest in Jaguar’s horrible behaviour and bad teeth! Skeet got Coco prepped with some slight sedation and inserted the ultrasound machine. This time I watched. It was easy to find the larger black dot. Yay! She is still preggers!

Coco's Black Dot at 28 days

Coco’s Black Dot at 28 days

The large black dot is the inside of the placenta. The smaller white spot inside the black dot and to the right side of the black dot with the white string coming off is the embryo. I didn’t video, but inside the white dot you could see the heartbeat. This is a horse baby and I get that, but it was SO moving to see that teeny tiny heartbeat on the monitor. Nature really has a way of taking your breath away! Coco is safely pregnant with what appears to be a perfect, healthy foal.

Hopefully the rest of Coco’s gestation goes smoothly. We don’t have to go back to the vet for any more checkups, but I think we will go back one more time before they shut down for a few months. They are currently operating basically 24/7. Skeet responds to any and  all of my texts almost immediately and the poor guy and his staff will get a much deserved break mid-July. Skeet has been my vet since 2008 when he started with ESMS and hadn’t yet specialized so having this experience with him as our vet has been fantastic. He’s known my horses and me for as long as I’ve had them, with the exception of Jaguar, and I truly believe that has been hugely beneficial in this process with Coco.

Coco’s official due date is March 19. My birthday. Her birthday is March 20 so it would be extra fun if the foal is born on one of those dates. This is assuming a 342 day gestation, which isn’t an exact science with horses. She could really foal anytime between 330 and 370 days and it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary. Soon we will start posting belly pics!

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