Thursday, October 25, 2012

Bad Luck

What a week we've been having here...I'm hoping that the bad luck fairy has finally finished up and has vacated the premises. Someone once told me that bad luck happens in groups of threes, and I am inclined to think that said person was actually right.

First of all, I've been dealing with all sorts of nonsense with my car's exhaust system...tomorrow will be the FOURTH time that it has gone back into the shop to get re-adjusted. Why can no one seem to get this right? I'm seriously getting fed up.

This past weekend I spent grooming at a local A circuit hunter/jumper show for a trainer, M, that I used to work with at the "Big Show Barn." Back then, she was the assistant trainer but she has since branched out and started (or maybe re-started? I'm not really sure...) her own barn. I've worked for her a couple of times since then and I've always really enjoyed it. It's much nicer to only have 5 horses to deal with and prep in the morning verses 17 of them! Anyway, I had a good weekend at the show, but (as always) it just made me want to show my own horses really bad! Maybe once Cool gets going a well I can stall with her at some of the local A circuit shows? It sounds like fun to me. I had a pretty easy weekend grooming, although on Sunday I did end up having to re-hang one of our ponies fake tails. One of the professional braiders hung it originally, but it really looked terrible (which is not typical of this braiders quality of work...) so anyway, I asked M who had hung it and she told me with the comment "I don't know what's going on with it, but the braid is sticking out and you can see her name sticker through her hair!" In defense of the professional braider, let me mention that this is a SMALL tiny...with a medium pony length tail, so hanging it the correct height so that it's not dragging on the ground is difficult. Said pony also has a really terrible top to her tail, so the hair is thin and hard to hid things in it. Anyway, I asked M if she wanted me to cut the tail out and re-hang it myself? I've always hung my own horses fake tails and I did one for a friend once, but I've never done one at a show where it really mattered, like a rated show. She gave me the green light and said to go ahead. So there I was, stopped on the ground behind this pony re-hanging the tail when the trainer from the Big Show Barn walks down the barn aisle and sees me. She stopped to look at what I was doing and was like "Oh wow, I didn't know you could do that!" I did feel a pretty proud at the moment, but I told her "Well, I'm trying at least!" She said that the tail looked good and then carried on her way to the show office. I've braided forelocks for Big Show Barn before (usually on the ponies if we leave their braids in overnight) and they have always looked good. When the pony went out to show, I asked M if she thought the tail was alright (it took 2 tries to get it at the right height, but in the end I thought it looked stellar) and she was like "Wow! It looks great!" I was pretty excited...I guess I do have a few more talents than I thought?

That was pretty much the end of the excitement though because Emmy decided to puncture her hind leg over the weekend also. I have NO idea what she could have hurt it on...our stalls and paddocks are totally Emmy-proof and there is literally nothing for her to catch it on or hit it against. Ugh. I cleaned it up and was bandaging it while she was stalled until tonight. The swelling is down so I want to see what it does with the bandage off. She seems to be sound on it so far and the wound is drying up and starting to close. I hit her with some SMZs just to be safe.

This morning I open the barn door to find Cool standing in the aisle surrounded by a mess of, what used to be, the horse grain buckets. Every night I make up the next day's feed and supplements, that way it can easily just be dumped into the horses buckets, regardless of who is around to feed. Normally, I keep the buckets stacked inside the big tote where I keep the rest of the grain, since our barn has no feed room. Of course though, I recently just got grain, and the buckets don't fit inside when the bin is totally full. So, I mixed them up as usual, and left them sitting on top of the bin with a towel over them to keep flies out. The horse's stall doors are impossible for them to open from the inside, unless the latch is not fastened all the way...which of course, only ever happens with Cool's stall door. Occasionally, if you don't push the latch all the way through, it will "latch" but not really be seated all the way to be secure. A couple of pushes with wiggle it right out, and I must have accidentally left his door like that last night. It's totally my fault...for the door and for leaving the grain out in a place where he could get to it. I was so mad at myself when I found him standing there surrounded by empty buckets this morning. All day I was have been watching him for signs of colic or founder. I put ice on his feet right away and kept checking his pulses, then pumped him full of mineral oil and walked him at half hour intervals. He pooped this morning and then again early this afternoon, so I think (knock on wood) that he's alright as far as impaction goes...but I'm still concerned and his feet still worry me. I opened his dutch door this afternoon and let him go out in the run pen behind his stall. It was muddy but there's no grass and I figure that standing in mud is kind of like standing in poultice and would help draw any heat. Finally, in the evening I put Emmy's grazing muzzle on him and sent them both out into the paddock. Poor Emmy had to be cooped up all day because I can't separate them without Cool throwing a fit, and I really didn't want him working himself into a tizzy today. OH MAN was he mad about the muzzle. He tried to rub it off a few times before realizing that he was stuck and after I turned him out he just stood by the gate and stared at me as if to say "you're kidding right? like seriously, this is a joke..." to which I told him that this is what happens when he decided to eat more than his fair share of grain. They were out for maybe 2-3 hours and I don't think he moved more than 10 feet from the gate the entire time. When I brought them back in, I checked his feet and pulses again. So far (knock on some more wood) everything seems alright, but I'm going to definitely keep monitoring him and if he thinks that he's getting grain tomorrow he's kidding himself. I have him just a little hay tonight to keep his digestive system going...and to keep him from throwing a fit...and made sure that he had lots of fresh water to drink. Hopefully he will be was so stupid of me to leave feed out.

So, like I said, I'm really hoping that the bad luck has passed. I've really, really had my fair share I think.


**EDIT: A little aside of good news that I forgot...I finally picked out my birthday present! I celebrated a birthday at the beginning of the month and the bf told me to pick out something that I really wanted as a gift and he would buy it. Some people might think that this is kind of the "cheating" way out of him having to pick something for me...but honestly, I don't mind it. It means that I get exactly what I really want :)

And so, here is what I chose:

It's a new wool cooler for Emmy! Very fancy and nice (and it was on sale!) I have always had fleece coolers for my horses, but this summer I let another horse borrow it at the county fair and he ripped a huge hole in it. Cool has a fleece one, but its WAY too big for tiny little Emmy. So, we got a wool one! I'm also getting it monogrammed...I can't wait!! I kind of wish it was in grey, but black is nice too...and for the price, I'm not complaining!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I haven't updated about this yet because I wasn't exactly sure (and am still not exactly sure) what to do about the situation.

Last weekend Johnny's current owner called me and told me that she is thinking about retiring Johnny from her lesson program. Not because he isn't working out, but simply because she has run out of kids who are capable of riding him...and the ones who are capable are wanting to start attending schooling shows in the hunter divisions, a place where Johnny unfortunately does not win ribbons. I completely understand where she is coming from and I honestly figured that this might happen sometime soon. I know that Johnny has barely been ridden at her barn all summer...and in a lesson business, a horse that is not paying his bills generally doesn't get to stay.

She's taken wonderful care of Johnny over the past year...she's put money into him in vet bills that she knew she would never get back out of him all in the name of being a good horsewoman who takes care of her horses. It breaks my heart a little bit that she really has no use for him anymore...I was really hoping that this could be a forever home for him.

So, this is the third time now that Johnny has been offered back to me. It seems like every person who takes him keeps him for about a year and then decides that they can't use him anymore. It's frustrating really...not because I don't want him back, but because each time I think that I find him a suitable home (although the second one was NOT suitable and I was happy to take him back) something falls through. This was probably one of the best situations/places for him...why does this have to fall through also?

And of course, it's the time of the year where the bf and I are getting ready to move Cool and Emmy back to a boarding barn for the winter, which means that we now have to pay board each month. While the boarding barn we are going to is reasonably priced, it still is more money that it would cost to keep the horses at home, plus with them at home we can spread out costs over the course of the month versus having to pay a lump sum all at once.

Needless to say, my big dilemma is: what do I do now? I know that its my fault that I keep ending up in this situation...rather than selling Johnny I have continued to send him out under contract that I get the first right of refusal to take him back in the event that he can no longer be kept by the current owner. I have no obligation to take him back, just the option. I refused to sell him years ago because I was worried about where he might end up...he's the worlds sweetest horse, and since he was given to me by someone who knew I had his best interest in mind, I could never live with myself knowing that he ended up in the wrong hands or at some cheap auction somewhere. I feel like I chose to take on this horse as a project and take him out of the barn where he could have lived peacefully for the rest of his life...and now I feel responsible for where he ends up. Of course, each time this has happened before I have contacted the woman who gave him to me and asked if she would like him back...each time the answer has been "not really." I suppose than, it's not totally my fault, but I still feel like it is. If I would have just left him alone to begin with I would have never put him in a situation of an uncertain future.

So here is where I'm at right now: without a steady, substantial weekly paycheck from a reliable job, I absolutely cannot afford him. Honestly, I can barely afford Emmy. She is going to be paying for half of herself this winter by being a lesson horse to a teenage girl whether she likes it or not and she is advertised everywhere as being available for a half lease as well. I've been putting in applications and calling places all summer. Short of going to work at Walmart or a freaking fast food restaurant, there just aren't many jobs to be had. A few of the equine jobs that came my way earlier in the summer I turned down a) because the bf didn't like me working weekends and b) because I thought I had something worked out with the barn of my previous 6 year employment...which of course, also ended up falling through. Since then, I have been putting in non-horse job applications and working every part time horse job that I can get...a few days a week for one trainer, teaching a couple lessons at one barn during the week, a day of lesson on the weekend at another, and grooming at horse shows whenever I can, but that's not enough to support two horses and the weekend job is going to go away in early November as that barn shuts down its lesson program for the winter. This past weekend I emailed my resume to another small animal vet clinic out of desperation...and would you know that they actual emailed me back and asked me to stop in and fill out an application because they were hiring? Of course, I did this first thing Monday. I'm still waiting to hear back about an interview (if I don't hear anything by the end of the week I am going to go make another appearance and follow up with them). I am praying to God that his one pans out...someone out there please align some stars for me? The bf is furious with me for even considering taking Johnny back again. He thinks that he's old and worn out and a pile of vet bills just waiting to happen. This has caused numerous fights between us already...sometimes I even think that I'm ready to call quits on the whole relationship, but I know that he's just trying to put the big picture in perspective. Johnny is 19 going on 20 years old. He has uveitis in one eye and the beginnings of navicular in one foot which requires maintenance (although I want to see the xrays myself and get a second opinion on that). It would be one thing if we had a huge field with a run in shed and three stalls. He could come back and live at our house no problem, but we don't. We have two stalls with a small run pen attached to them, one 100x200 grass paddock and 25 acres of untamed wilderness with no substantial money available right now to add another field (that was supposed to be the plan this summer until my full time job fell through). As the bf told me "It's not that I don't want you to have would be one thing if we had a big field that he could go live in with a shelter and that would be that, but I know that you can't do that. You're problem isn't that you can't take care of all of them, its that you can't not take care of them. You do it too well, you can't ever just leave them alone to be horses. They always have to be sound and ride-able and show worthy  no matter what. For god sakes...look at Emmy. She's 25."

Honestly, he's probably right. It's not that I lock my horses in stalls and never let them be horses, but I take pride in them...I want them looking their best and feeling their best no matter what; don't we owe that to them as their owners? I'm proud that I can still jump and show Emmy, that at 25 years old she doesn't look a day over 10. I tried to argue with him, telling him that if we had those things (a big field and a shelter) it would be a different story and I would let them be more "like horses" as he says and maybe not be so control freakish over them. In reality though, even if we did, I don't know how much I could really "let go." All I grew up with was horse who was already 16 years old when my parents bought her for my 13th birthday. She was already old, she already had problems but I had to make it work and make her work for me because she was all I got. There wasn't going to be another one or a better one or a younger one, it was just her...and she liked to get hurt...a lot. So, I got crazy about her legs, crazy about keeping her sound and healthy...I had to. I had to preserve what I was given and make sure that she felt the best that she could feel all the time. It's the only way I know how. And if that's the case, than all logic points me in the direction of helping to find him another place to live, other than with me...but can I be honest here? I MISS HIM. I miss the crap out of him and for some reason he just keeps finding his way back to me no matter where I send him. Does that count for anything?

Here is the good new though: I already have someone who is very interest in leasing Johnny should I decide to take him back. This of course, is pending his trial ride on the horse, but he's interested none-the-less. The other good news: we have a WONDERFUL boarding barn owner who just so happens to love Johnny from when he lived there previously. I contacted her about the situation and she offered me a slight discount on his board, which is very sweet of her to do, especially since she is reasonably priced to being with and doesn't generally offer multiple horse discounts. The discount, plus the half lease would mean that Johnny could potentially pay for more than half of himself (as long as we don't lose the lease....this is another one of my worries and fears.) A fellow STB friend of mine also has a kid who has been bombing around on her horse and is interested in moving up to taking some lessons. She said she would be more than willing to send him my way (she's already sent me two lesson kids). I've done the math and with a half lease and 1 lesson a week, Johnny would literally cost me $5 a month to board. The shoeing expenses I know I can deal with, but its the unexpected bills that worry me; the vet, the loss of a lease or of a lesson student. Of course, none of this is happening if I don't get that job...and then his current owner and I will be stuck trying to find him yet another home.

So what do I do? There isn't a huge rush to get him out of his current barn, so I am exploring all of my options at this point, asking friends to keep their ear out for anyone interested in a pasture buddy, trail horse or low level jumper (his right lead canter problems don't matter there!) I also contacted the woman that I got him from (again) to see if she wanted him or knew of anyone who far I've gotten no response and I'm honestly not sure that I will. Any STB friends out you want or know of anyone who wants a 19 year old Standie? Or would you like to contribute to the Johnny fund? I'm taking donations as we speak.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Big Dreams

As many of you may or may not know, the All American Quarter Horse Congress is currently underway here in Ohio. Saturday started the over fences events, which I have been watching like crazy on the live internet feed provided by the Ohio Quarter Horse Association. You can view the live feeds by clicking here.

Since purchasing Cool (who is actually a registered and well bred from halter horse bloodlines) I have transferred his AQHA registration into my name and joined the Association as well. While there are some aspects/practices within the Quarter Horse industry that I will never agree with or understand the exact logic behind, the over fences and equitation divisions really do interest me.

For a little while, I was wanting to show Cool western as that was the style that he was started (and by "started" I mean someone threw a western saddle on him and w/t/c around a round pen...kind of haha) but since I come from a hunter jumper background with a few years in 4-H as a child, the extent of my pleasure riding knowledge is a) outdated and b) not at the level needed to actually train a horse into a discipline. So, as usual, I went about learning all that I could. I watched videos, attended some clinics, took a couple lessons on a broke western pleasure horse and asked about the training techniques and opinions of people that I knew within the AQHA industry who showed western. I had two friends (one who shows western pleasure and one who shows in the trail classes) ride Cool a few times. I even took a job working part time for a local QH trainer so that I could see what all went into prepping a locally/nationally competitive horse. It has been a very interesting experience. There are plenty of different ways to train and prep a western pleasure horse, but the same basic principles seem to appear in just about everyone's training programs. There are just as many good trainers and good ways to do it, just as there are bad and I have been lucky enough to work for a trainer and have friends to give input who seem to do it more of the right way. In all honesty though, the more I learned about the western riding, the more I knew that it just wasn't for me. Not the western pleasure part anyway. The horsemanship (western equitation) classes are something that still interest me, but the rest of it is out as far as I am concerned. Not only do I think that Cool won't hold up to do western pleasure (he has a longish back making it really hard for him to collect and go slow at the lope) but I just don't think that his type A personality would tolerate what goes into making a competitive western pleasure horse, plus the prepping of these types of horses is just such a far deviation from the world that I know and what I've grown up doing that I don't know that I could bring myself to do it. Let's just say I'm like an old lady who's set in her ways!

Basically, I took into account Cool's strengths and weaknesses (mentally and physically) and my strengths and weaknesses and decided that the western pleasure events wasn't the route that would showcase either of our talents properly. Why try to smash a round peg into a square hole right?

So one night just recently, I had turned out Emmy and Cool into the field and was organizing some things in the horse trailer when I heard farting and pounding of hooves. I looked over to see Cool galloping around the pasture, leaping into the air and bucking. Holy crap does that horse get air...thank goodness he doesn't buck like that when I ride him (knock on wood) because I would be TOAST. I mean, that horse gets vertical! Anyway, after a few galloping laps, he slowed down and and was actually loping roll backs and figure 8s in the pasture...complete with lead changes and sliding stops at the gate when he felt it necessary...then he would wheel around on his haunches and take off galloping up the fence line again, only to slow in the corner, do an lead change and come back the direction that he just came. It was breath-taking and beautiful. (Emmy this whole time was standing in the middle of the field grazing...completely oblivious to Cool...I think she's getting selectively blind and deaf in her old age ha!) And right there I made the decision to never make him do anything that stifled his natural movement. He's not a very graceful or fancy horse like Emmy...he doesn't flick his toes or seem to float in mid-air when he gets that big trot and he doesn't snap his knees to his eyeballs over jumps, but what he does have is consistent control of his body all the time, something that, despite all of Emmy's fanciness, she always had a hard time maintaining. Despite her AMAZING jump and her gorgeous movement, I had to hold her hand all the time in the show ring. And maybe part of that is just their personalities as horses? Emmy absolutely NEEDS me to survive...when I first went to college she worked herself into such a fit that she colicked once a week until I finally took her to school with me. You can look at her the wrong way and she flattens herself into the corner of her stall because she knows she's in trouble. Cool doesn't really need anyone. He's independent, he couldn't give a crap if you brushed him or petted him. When we first got him I had to carry a crop all the time when I went into his stall or was walking him because he was just so pushy and rude. A slap of your hand when he was bad or dragging you around got you no where with him. He barely even blinked. He and Emmy were raised so differently and in such different environments and I think that it really shows in their personalities and interactions with people. It is both a good and a bad thing respectively. While Cool can be an absolute PITA on the ground, I can sit on his back and canter him around with no reins and he just never changes. He doesn't need me to ride him. He just needs me to sit on him.

This is the reason that I think his forte is going to be in the equitation (flat and fences) and maybe the hunter hack. I took him to a local A circuit trainer last winter for a lesson and she had some really good things to say about him, including the fact that she thought he would be competitive on the local A circuit in the low hunters, mainly because he's so bold and just so consistent, and let's face it, the hunters are all about consistency. I think that the equitation divisions will let him shine since he doesn't jump ultra round. His longish back actually is an asset there because it makes for an incredibly smooth ride on him. I mean, you just can't look bad on that horse. Plus, equitation is my forte too. Remember what I said about combining our strengths? I was placed in the top 5 nationally in intercollegiate equitation as a freshman at my college...something that hadn't been done in 13 years. And so, with all of this in mind, my goal is to get him to the Congress in two years. It's going to be a long road with plenty of set backs I'm sure. But if I can maintain his soundness and his breathing, I don't see any reason why he can't do it.

If you're free tonight check out that live feed from the Congress, the hunter hack classes (2 fences + a flat class) are going on tonight. Someday, we will be in them!


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Vet Visit

Good news! The vet came out this afternoon to check out Cool. While it looks like he does have a little bit of an infection maybe going on, he doesn't have any lung noise (no crackling, no wheezing etc.) and the vet thinks that his illness is actually part of his allergy problem.

We used a different vet than our usual because she is out of town until tomorrow, but I think it was actually good to get a fresh opinion, and the vet that did come out is one that I've had some experience with and I do respect his opinions. He checked Cool all over and listened to his lungs, like I said, no lung noise, no swollen glands, no pain anywhere and his temperature was 99.8 so back within the normal range, even if it is still slightly high for Cool's "normal." This vet went a little more in depth with me about the allergen process. He said that he would prefer to call Cool's condition "airway inflammation" versus just "allergies" as allergies is such a broad term. While it's not technically COPD, Cool could potentially develop it in the future. Horses  with allergies can occasionally go through phases of airway inflammation, which is what Cool has been dealing with lately. Apparently it is not uncommon for these horses to have a mild cough, some nasal discharge and a low grade fever (102 is considered "low grade") especially with the crazy up and down weather that we have been having lately. A 10 day round of antibiotics should help to clear up his airways but the vet doesn't believe that he has anything contagious like influenza or anything. I'm going to continue to take Emmy's temperature just to be safe, but he vet thinks that everything should be alright. The vet also told me that I had beautiful, clean stalls and to keep up the great work with managing Cool's environment (ammonia is REALLY bad for horses, especially those with allergy/airway problems; it keeps the respiratory system from being able to clear itself) so yay for that!

I'll keep you all posted, but it seems like Cool should be just fine and that this is just going to be something that we have to manage carefully from now on.


Sunday, October 14, 2012

The good, the bad and the ugly

Well folks, it looks like Cool really is sick.

I started to get suspicious on Friday when I went to feed him in the morning. I had mixed some Anihist that I picked up at the store with his feed. He had eaten it Thursday night, but Friday morning he turned his nose up at it. Thinking that maybe it was the new breathing/cough supplement, I gave hims some fresh grain. This he ate, but not with his usual excitement and vigor. Cool has never really "attacked" his food like Emmy or Johnny, but he is still a horse that never misses a meal. Later, I was taking him out to the pasture. when he started jogging next to me in anticipation of going outside. His little prancy-jog only lasted for a few steps, but as soon as he went back to walking he let out a cough...a big, wet cough. I had still been taking his temperature, and on that particular day it was up a little from his clockwork 99.2 to 99.3. So, I called the our veterinary office to see if I could leave a message for our vet to call me. Our veterinary office has four vets that work out of it, but my favorite (and the one we always use) is a wonderful woman who also owns a young Warmblood and is competitive on the dressage circuit. Not only is she very calm and down to earth in even the most dire of situations, but since she is also a competitive rider, she tends to bring a different perspective to the table when it comes to dealing with equine athletes and it's a perspective that I appreciate. I also really love her because she understand that different people are in different financial situations. If your on the fence about an expensive treatment or a diagnostic procedure, she will literally sit down with you and cost out exactly what the vet bill will be. If there is a less expensive solution, she brings it to light and she will never sell you something that your horse doesn't really need. She's the first person to tell you  "well, you could put him on such-and-such, but honestly, I don't really think that it does anything more than make you feel better." When Emmy was lame last winter she walked me step by step through the cost of x-rays versus nerve blocks and which one would be a better diagnostic procedure for my money and cost me less while still giving me answers.

So anyway, I called up the vet's office to talk to her and of course, she is on vacation this week!!! The receptionist told me that she would be back in the office on Tuesday and connected me to her voicemail so that I could leave a message for her about Cool. At the time, I was just wanting to discuss his symptoms with her and get her opinion on what to do next. I told the bf my concerns and and that I had made the phone call to chat with our vet and he kind of just rolled his eyes (he always thinks that I'm over reacting) "You know where my checkbook is" he told me.

Friday night I started feeling really sick as well. I gave Cool his wet evening hay and grain (which he ate willingly) and then decided to skip taking his temperature in favor of resting since I had to work all day Saturday, outside in the cold.

Saturday I went to work and left the horses in the hands of the bf. It was seriously cold that morning with an overnight frost. Everything was ice when I went out to start my car and head to work. I was feeling like death again that morning so I had slept until the last possible minute before getting out of bed, leaving the feeding and tending to of the horses to the bf. When I got home Saturday evening, I took Cool's temperature again. 99.4...another decimal up from normal. He seemed to be eating alright though and he was snotting a little less I thought. I put the horses outside while I limped through cleaning their stalls. In the meantime, it started to sprinkle outside. The temperature had warmed up considerably though and the horses had blankets on so I wasn't worried about them getting a little was a warm drizzle anyway. I brought everyone in, changed them out of their damp blankets into dry sheets and tucked them away for the night.

This morning was a totally different story. While Cool seemed interested in his wet hay, he turned up his nose at his wet grain. I had been soaking his grain with the Anihist, making it into a mush which he seemed to eat readily. Today, he didn't even look at me when I dumped the feed in his bucket. Instead, he stood motionless in his stall picking small bites and slowly chewing his wet hay. Thinking he was again, tired of the Anihist, I gave him some fresh dry grain, which he did eat, but again, very slowly. While he ate I took his temperature...100.6!! Still within "normal" horse range but high for his usual body temperature. I pulled off both horses sheets (since it was now warm outside) thinking that maybe he was just over blanketed and hot? While I cleaned his stall though I knew that something was definitely wrong with him. Usually, he is a P.I.T.A to work around...he tried to walk over the wheel barrow, he hits you with his tail...all just an annoyance. Today, he stood like a rock, just picking at that wet hay. I cleaned both stalls and took his temperature again. 100.8...what the ---! It just kept going up. By 10:30, he was up to 101.9 and I mixed him up some bute to try and bring his temperature back down. He actually ate the bute/grain mix, but by that time he was just standing in his stall...and he looked sick. I walked him outside for a little grass and he barely picked at the blades. Cool doesn't want grass? This IS a sick horse.

2pm today his temperature was at 102.2 but he seemed to be much more interested in the grass and so I took him out to graze. Emmy, I'm sure has already been exposed to whatever this is, but I bleach washed the pasture water trough and all of their buckets anyway just to be safe. While out grazing, Cool actually started coughing...multiple wet coughs in a row now with some snot blowing intermixed. He is now blowing chunks of white/yellow snot out of his nose and is no doubt, sick. I'm about to head out again to check on him and take his temperature for a fourth time today to see where we are at. Needless to say, the vet is getting a phone call tomorrow. I hate to not have our regular vet come see him, but I'm not sure that I should wait until Tuesday for her to even be back in the office and possibly Wednesday for him to get an appointment. Until tomorrow, I will keep Buting him and monitoring him with supportive care. Fingers crossed that he feels better soon and that Emmy doesn't get really sick also! If there is a bright side to this situation (which I believe there always is) it would be that he's got some time to recover before having to make the move to a boarding barn, and at least with a veterinarian diagnosis, we can determine what he has and if he and Emmy should wait a few more weeks past November 1st to move. I would much rather have this happen now than at a boarding barn where it puts other horses at risk. The other good news is that my horses have been isolated for months, so whatever they have is just between them. My primary concern is obviously for the health of my horses, but I am deeply concerned for the health of others horses too. Having once had Emmy be the victim of a lack of respect for the well being of others horses and the spread of illness, I know how it made me feel and I would NEVER want to put that on anyone else and risk the health or safety of their horse.

More updates to come.


**EDIT: Took Cool's temperature at 6pm tonight and he was down to 102...not really the progress I was hoping for but he's eating, drinking and pooping. I will check on him a little later and give another update.

**EDIT (again): Between 6 and 9pm Cool's fever broke! By 9pm he was back down to 99.5 (yay!) and even pinned his ears back when I gave him some wet hay (yay normal Cool!) when I checked him at 5:30 in the morning he was actually a little low and down to 98.6. The outside temperature has dropped some and its pretty windy, so I blanketed him with a stable sheet and gave him some warm mash. I'll check him again later this morning. Bf and I decided that I will call the vet today and see if someone can come out and look at him as he still has the snotty nose (and probably the cough but I didn't hear him at all this morning) and we want to get him checked out to see if he needs an antibiotic and what the recovery period for him should be. Emmy seems alright still (knock on wood) but who knows if she will end up with it, so I will continue to monitor her also.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Boot and Bandage Debate

As promised, here is a little insight into a small internal debate that I've been having with myself. I'm curious to get some other opinions on the matter, as I know that almost everyone has something to say about this topic.

Let's be honest, I've never owned a horse as young as Cool. Emmy was 16 when we bought her and likewise, Johnny was 15 when I started riding him and 16 when I took him into my ownership. Needless to say, I was still concerned with Emmy and Johnny's longevity, but they were already older, so my main concern was just maintaining their soundness, which I like to think that I did pretty darn well. Emmy is 25 and still jumping 2'9" like a champ (although I don't hardly ask her to jump that high anymore) and Johnny was at his soundest when I owned him I think. He's going to be 20 this year and was jumping 3ft when I owned him.

Cool, on the other hand, is 8 years old and has barely been ridden until we got him last April. His conformation is not stellar (neither was Johnny's though) but not terrible. He is a little over at the knee in his left front and a little too steep in his pastern (similar to Johnny). Luckily, Cool has much better shaped feet than Johnny did! When we first got him, I didn't ride him or work him with any boots or polos because I wanted him to "toughen up" a bit and not be reliant on leg protection all the time, especially since he can't show while wearing it. My internal debate lately has been how to boot/polo (or not) him during work this winter to prolong his soundness without making him "soft." I don't really know that riding in polos or boots all the time does make horses "soft" but I know that it is a topic of great debate. I don't know that there is enough research in either direction to argue for a middle-aged horse like Cool.

This summer, Cool went lame for the first time. He wasn't even getting ridden at the time, but boy was he LAME. I mean head bobbing, grade 4 unsound in his right front leg. I also thought that maybe I could see something in his left hind in occasion, but that could just be me looking for something. I do know that Cool doesn't track evenly behind. He has a nasty scar on his RH pastern/heel that almost looks like he got caught in a wire fence as a baby. It's just a scar, but he doesn't quite track up as far in that hind leg. When watching him go in real life, its very hard to see it, but if you take a video of him and slow it down you can see it more clearly. I honestly never noticed until I was freeze framing a video of him to get photos.

ANYWAY, he went mysteriously lame this summer. We had the farrier out to pull his shoe and check for an abscess but he came up with nothing. The only physical thing that we could find on him was some slight puffiness near his fetlock joint, almost like windpuffs. I iced his leg and hoof twice a day and bandaged him when he was stalled and 3 weeks later he was sound. Who knows if he tweaked it in the pasture or maybe mildly strained a ligament. So, my debate has been how to we keep him sound? I want to start jumping him and really training him more this winter, but his conformation does worry me.

Coming from a hunter/jumper background, I am in the general practice of poloing or booting horses. I try to give the horse only what they need in most cases...for example: Emmy interferes behind and therefore she always gets ridden in hind ankle boots. She has to be ridden in them; as she's gotten older her hocks have gotten worse and she knocks her ankles sometimes. Being 25 years old with a racing career, she's had injuries in just about every limb on her body. LH was a suspensory, RH was a fractured splint bone, RF is the one that she randomly goes lame in every year or two (vet and I think that its a deep ligament strain within the hoof) and the LF gets fluid in the tendon sheath every now and then (no lameness though). Needless to say, she usually gets either 4 boots or polos up front and boots behind. Having said that though, I try to keep her from being dependent on such wraps by only bandaging her with stable bandages after a hard horse show or a lot of jumping.

Up until this point, I've been generally riding Cool with front boots or polos and occasionally back ankle boots just because he doesn't like them and I want to get him used to them. Being over at the knee causes extra strain on the sesamoid bones, superficial flexor tendon, extensor carpi radialis and the suspensory, which does concern me. Thinking that he should probably always wear polos for jumping, but what about on the flat? What does everyone think? My next concern is with bandaging him after jumping. I would probably just follow my usual protocal, which is only to put on stable bandages when he has worked especially hard or jumped higher than usual.

How do you boot or polo your horses for work? Obviously I want to prevent strike injury and maintain soundness. What are your standard procedures for stable bandages?

 Oh Coolio. So typical.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Really Cool?

It's continued to rain here all week with temperatures dropping significantly during the night. Yesterday morning I went to let the dogs out around 6am and almost killed myself slipping on the deck; the entire thing was coated with a thin sheet of ice! I finally broke down and pulled out some medium weight stable blankets for the horses to wear at night. Poor Cool's hair was actually standing up when I took his sheet off to groom him. My big, bad Quarter Horse is finally turning into a wimp! When we first got him, he hated being handled, now his lips go crazy when you groom him and he practically jumped into his stable blanket tonight. Now if only we could get him to like baths...

So an update on Cool's allergies: I have yet to call the vet because I wanted to take a week or so to try some things and see what make a difference and what doesn't. I really hate calling the vet out unless it's an emergency or unless I have multiple things for them to do all at once. I know it sounds kind of silly, but I always want to make sure that I have plenty of information if I'm going to call her out just to look at one thing (like Cool's sneezy/cough which he only does when eating hay) so that I can give her the best run down possible as to what has been going on, what I've already tried and haven't tried and what has/has not worked. I wouldn't want to call the vet out just to have her tell me "wet his hay" and then find out that wetting his hay doesn't make it better. After graduating from an Equine Studies program, I try to sit down and think of everything that a vet would tell me to do. Then, I systematically start trying these different things and noting the changes, or lack there of. I keep all of this information with dates written down in my "horse notebook" (yes, I am a freak who keeps a horse notebook) and when I have finally run out of typical or classic approaches to the situation without any improvement, then I call the vet to get some professional input.

My first test was to wet Cool's hay, which made probably at least a 90% improvement in his situation. We got a new batch of hay in so after a day of wetting his hay, I had to switch him to the new bales, which are very fine hay strands. This I also continued to wet for another day and he showed maybe a 95% improvement. This took us to the weekend and I had a CRAZY work schedule. Not only was it my birthday, but I had to work Saturday and Sunday. Sunday turned into a marathon day as I was grooming professionally at a horse show. UGH. My bf took care of the horses all weekend and I have to say that Cool certainly did not get wet hay for at least one day. Monday he was right back to square one, despite the fact that I wet it on Monday. I've soaked it every day since and he's shown a little improvement but nothing as drastic as the first time. He's maybe 70% better this time and still holding steady with a 99.2 temperature. The only thing that did change in the whole situation (other than the dry hay for one day) was that Cool decided to DESTROY his muck tub on Saturday. I left it in his stall for him to eat his hay out of when I left for work (bf was home and was going to let him finish eating and then take it back out) and apparently it didn't get taken out soon enough because Cool thought it would be a phenomenal play toy and literally tore it into a million pieces. Really Cool?

Since then, I've been letting him eat out of it while I supervise (aka while I clean his stall in the morning) but once I get ready to leave the barn, I take the hay out and put it on the floor. I've been trying to keep the corner where I put the wet hay swept and clean of shavings, but Cool inevitably stall walks and kicks sawdust into it. Tomorrow I am going to go get him a hay net so that I can hang it instead...I'm sure that kicking sawdust onto his wet hay is not helping. So, my next thing is to see if the hay net makes him go back to that 90-95% that he was at before. If it does, than my next step is to get him back on some type of allergy or breathing supplement. If that doesn't work, that I will have the vet come out and check him over so that we can make a plan for the winter. Luckily, the owner of the boarding barn that we will being going to in November owns a horse there in the barn (its actually related to Cool...freaky) with COPD so she is pretty understanding of the situation. She already told me that she would clear a stall out for Cool down at the end of the barn next to her COPD horse so that he can get fresh air. They also don't keep any hay in the loft above that stall. The barn is set up with a loft over the aisle so that hay can be dropped from the loft directly down into the horse's stalls, so not having any hay above Cool should help with ventilation also! She's a really nice barn owner who has been very accommodating to us in the past. I'll keep you guys posted! Heading out tomorrow to get the hay net...

Another little side note, it seriously needs to stop raining here. At this rate, I won't be able to ride my horses for the rest of the month until we move! The ground is SO saturated with water...they haven't even been able to go out in their field because it's a swamp. I've literally been letting them loose in the back yard with their lead ropes thrown over their backs just to get them outside. Thank goodness they have dutch doors so they can at least get sunshine and fresh air, even when they are cooped up inside.

Any more suggestions or comments on the allergy/breathing thing are always welcome.

My next post (don't let me forget) is going to tackle some debate that I've been having in my head over boots, bandages and wraps. You guys are going to love this one ;)

Oh! And did I mention that I went and saw Johnny last week? He's looking good! Just hanging out and enjoying life. His mane is suppeerrrr long but I guess the lesson kids think that it's pretty so whatever :) He came right up to the fence when I called his name. He still knows his mommy! Above is a photo of him.


Friday, October 5, 2012


Another rainy day here, so not much to update. Thinking about calling the vet out to look at Cool again (ugh.) He has been coughing and blowing some snot out of his nose the past couple days, but literally only while eating his hay. Otherwise, his nose is clear and he's acting and eating just fine. I've been taking his temperature twice a day just to be sure and he's held steady at 99.2 (he's literally always right on the dot of 99.1-99.2) I did notice, that these past two bales of hay (which he has been eating the past two days since this all started) were a little dustier than usual and not as "fresh" smelling. Over the winter we had him looked at by the vet because he was coughing terribly when I rode him (he is actually quite dramatic...Emmy is sooo stoic about everything, but Cool is a HUGE wimp.) She checked him out and listened to his lungs (he seriously acted like he was dying when she pinched his nose to make him take a deep breath I said, dramatic) and diagnosed him with dust allergies. This didn't really surprise me at all since we bought Cool out of a field where he had lived for 6 years of his life and had never been stalled, therefore he was never really exposed to much dust. Earlier this summer, I had her out again to look at him for a similar reason and once again, she diagnosed him with more allergies. As far as I can tell, Cool is allergic to everything on the planet. I started soaking his hay today and so far, he seemed to be a little better when eating. I've never had a horse with so many allergy problems before and I'm wondering if it's time to get him scoped or really looked at in depth and make sure that there isn't some underlying problem? He seems to cough much more in the winter when he doesn't spend as much time outside. At home in the summer he is either outside all day or all night (depending on the temperature) and his stall is large (12x12) with a high ceiling and a dutch door which opens to a run pen. Basically, unless it's raining he has outdoor access and fresh air all day long. In the winter though, when we move to a boarding barn, he doesn't quite get those luxuries. Last winter we put him on Cough Free and it seemed to help a little. Does anyone have any suggestions for winter/general maintenance? I will probably have the vet out anyway to make a definite rule-out of any illness if it persists into next week, especially since we are moving back to the boarding barn at the end of the month.

For all of you out there who own horses with allergies or breathing problems: how did you get your horse diagnosed and what were your horses symptoms? How have you maintained your horse since then? Cool is so young...only 8 years old and I don't want this to turn into something that could potentially restrict his life long usefulness...especially if we can do something now to help it and make him better in the long run!

Please leave your thoughts!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Food (and photos!) for thought

After a drought of a summer here in Ohio, Mother Nature has graced us with a pretty rainy fall...which is great for the plants, but bad for my riding! I managed to get Emmy and Cool both out for light walk/trot hack yesterday despite the rain. Cool was a ball of energy since the pasture was under water and he didn't get his usual 8 hour turnout...I really can't wait to have an arena to ride them in again! Emmy was perfect (as usual) although I have noticed that she's getting a bit sulky in her old age. I wish I had the money to inject her hocks and fetlocks so that she could feel young again! As soon as I get myself pinned down with a "real job" that's making decent money that's one of the first things on my list of "horse spoiling." She's never had any work done on her in the past 10 years that I've owned her, save for a massage once, and I can't even imagine how amazing she would be with some maintenance. I mean, come on. The horse can still easily jump a 2'9" oxer...can you imagine what she would do with new hocks? Buck me off that's probably what!

I'm seriously itching to get started working on Cool this winter. He puzzles me so much with his movement, body type and mindset. When you first look at him you instantly think "good gracious...that is the most nonathletic horse known to man kind." He's at inch too short in his legs and his back is 8 miles too long. He's over at the knee and his pasterns are too upright. Riding him only confirms that first impression...he walks so stiffly that there is zero swing in his back. World's best equitation horse right? Haha! But seriously...he's got no shoulder movement, no sweep to his walk and no swing. It's really weird to sit on. But then you turn him out and watch him let loose and play in the pasture and you go "holy crap! why can't he do that under saddle!?!" It's all a big ploy...that horse can go from a stand still to a dead gallop, barrel race through the corner and come back to a lope, LOPE across the paddock and do a perfect flying change, then run full speed again down the long side for a sliding stop right up to the pasture gate, where he will stand for a moment, then roll back 180 on his haunches and take off in a medium canter and let out a buck that could clear a working hunter fence. I'm not joking...that horse gets vertical (thank god he doesn't do THAT under saddle...) It's breath taking to watch.

Last winter, when I did get him going a little bit, I took him for an over fences lesson with a local A circuit hunter trainer who really liked him (despite his laziness). He's not ultra correct in his jump, but my absolute favorite things about him are that a) he's not scared and b) his canter is SUPER consistent. He had only jumped maybe 3 times ever and we did canter bounce poles, bounce cross rails and then made a little course of 4 jumps (bounce on the long side to a diagonal vertical, roll back to the opposite diagonal vertical) and he never even blinked. I have a feeling that there is greatness deeeeeeeeep down inside him...we just need to fight his halter Quarter Horse breeding and figure out how to unlock it! He's tough like Johnny was, but in a totally different way. Cool is bullheaded and belligerent, but in a strange, sweet kind of way. Johnny tried his heart out but just didn't always understand.

Probably the best that I ever got him to look under saddle last winter...and this was inconsistent at best.

The one time that we free jumped him...this was his first time really jumping anything. He's not naturally very tight up front, but neither was Johnny at first - I had to teach him to pick his legs up. At some point in my life I am just going to have to accept that Emmy is a freak and 99% of all other horses do not jump like her! Not too bad for (literally) a first attempt though.

 One of Johnny's first "real" jumps. No, I am not riding him and no, I do not advocate jumping without a helmet. This was a friend of mine who wanted to jump him. I remember watching him jump and thinking that he was dangerous with his front legs.

Johnny - Six months later (yes this one is me)
Johnny - 1 year later (also me) He always had a hard time getting that right ankle to tuck. He's got a big osselet or something on the outside of that fetlock...never really had it check out, but it limited his mobility in that ankle.
Johnny - Two years later. These legs are a little more "tucked" and not quite so "up" as I would have liked, but if I remember correctly, the height of this jump caught him off guard a little and I got jumped out of the tack a little (Johnny is the only horse to this day that has literally almost jumped me off his back. He was like pogo stick sometimes!)

Recent photo of Johnny giving a lesson in his new home. See? His front legs got better! There IS hope for Coolio! On a side note: check out that right ankle? His new owner injected his right navicular bursae and suddenly he jumps square...apparently that was what he really needed all along!

...compared with Emmy's freak jump. This was taken in June, so yes, she is 25 years old in this picture and the jump is 2'6". Not too shabby for an old lady!

More tomorrow.

Monday, October 1, 2012

10 Things I've Learned in 10 Years

Happy October 1st everyone! Today marks my 10 year anniversary of owning Emmy! I can't believe that a whole decade has gone by since I sat with my parents in a small barn office and watched Emmy's previous owner scrawl out a bill of sale on a sheet of computer paper. We got her a week before my birthday, and what a birthday present that was! My best friend at the time was a majorette in the marching band and it was a Friday night. I was so excited about finally having Emmy to call my own that I made my dad drive me up to the football game after we finished at the barn. I really do wish that someone would have gotten that scene on video; a thirteen year old girl jumping over the chain link fence from the bleachers and streaking across the track into the arms of her best friend who was covered in sparkles and hairspray, jumping up and down hugging each other and screaming "WE GOT HER! WE GOT HER!" while the school security chased behind.

Emmy has been the best of best friends to me over these past 10 years. She's stood by me through every life event to this point, whether it has been a soft neck for me to cry into when things go wrong, a whinny or a nicker when she knows that I've missed her. People who say that animals can't feel emotions are crazy. I know that my mare not only feels emotion, but reads human emotion as well. She has been with me through my first job, first date and first kiss. We've watched each other learn and grow, we've lived through a high school graduation and went to college together. We sat together as we watched Johnny drive away in a horse trailer, headed for his new home and a new life teaching children. We gathered our nerves and walked into the ring together for both of our first Prix de Villes of North American in our first hunter derby. We lived through another graduation, this time college, and then moved again to a new home up by Lake Erie with a new horse friend named Cool. In ten years, I've stood by Emmy just as much as she's stood along side me. I nursed her through a suspensory injury and then years later, a broken hind leg. I sat in the pasture with her head in my lap on the night that she colicked so bad that I thought for sure she would never get up again. She has been an inspiration to so many people over the years, she's captured the heart of my teachers and friends and people who have never even met her in person. I think it's safe to say that Emmy, the 25 year old Thoroughbred who just keeps on truckin', has a fan club.

So in celebration of our 10 year anniversary, I would like to share 10 things that I have learned from Emmy over the last decade.

1) When in doubt, fake it. The best part of "believe" is the "lie." I would have never gotten through a single jumping course with Emmy at a show if I hadn't faked confidence. Emmy is a nervous horse by nature. She over analyses everything and she's got a nasty stop in her to the jumps sometimes. The good news, is that she jumps like a FREAK because she's a little afraid of the fences. Tractors? Semi trucks? 4 wheelers? Honking horns and fire trucks? All totally not scary and cool with her. Flowers and rocks? Definitely out to get her. I had to really ride that horse to every single jump and not let her think that I was ever doubting our ability to make it to the other side of it. I took this lesson into the "real world" too. Sometimes our job is to simply make others believe that we aren't terrified to stand in front of them and make a business proposal or a product presentation. It's not unlike cantering to that 3 foot oxer.

2) Everyone deserves a second chance, but not all second chances are worth taking. I especially believe in this because Emmy got her second (or maybe third) chance at a better life when we bought her. I really do think that everyone deserves a second chance to prove themselves, however, just because you deserve it doesn't mean you should always take it. Prime example: this spring I sold one of my saddles so that I could take Emmy to Lake Erie's annual Prix de Villes horse show. It's a huge show for the college and I've never gotten a chance to compete in it. All of my previous three years of college had been spent on the sidelines watching my friends compete because I didn't have a horse that could still jump the lowest height (a VERY solid 3'3" with maximum spreads). My senior year, the school added a Low Hunter Derby with heights at 2'6"-2'9". I went for it with Emmy (who by the way, is 25 years old) and sold one of my saddles to pay for it. In the first round of the Derby Emmy was jumping phenomenal but was usually spooky in the ring and it rocked my confidence (see #1). The course didn't have a single straight line in it; it was all roll backs and bending lines and in my nervous state, I pointed poor Emmy at the wrong fence. It was a beautiful jump, but it was the wrong jump and we were eliminated. I have only ever cried twice at a horse show, and that was one of the times. (The first being when I didn't make the top 4 rider cut at IHSA Nationals my freshman year and was called 5th, only to watch the top 4 riders do the exact same ride test that I had been practicing for months. I cried just a few tears that time because I was upset over a missed opportunity). This time, I cried because it seemed like such a waste of effort and money and time. Not only my horses time, but my parents and my friends who had come to watch and a waste of the trainers time who had given me a few lessons and come to help me school. The trainer who helped me out that week was a complete angel and as we headed back to the barn said, "Your horse has so much jump still left in was beautiful to watch and there is always next year." My friends told me the same thing and I entertained the thought for about an hour until I took Emmy's braids out and looked in her eyes and knew that it was over. We might have a second chance at doing this right and proving that we could master the course, but it wasn't worth it. It wasn't fair to ask my horse to jump those fences again and I had promised her with a whisper in her ear prior to walking into the ring that if she got me through this class I would never ask her to do it again. She held up her end of the bargain, I didn't hold up mine.

3) Follow your gut. If it feels wrong, it is. The day that Emmy hurt her suspensory I knew that something was wrong. We were at a horse show almost 6 years ago cantering to a jump and she just wasn't jumping right. I was young and dumb and getting mad because the distances to the fences were coming out all wrong. Deep down, I knew that something was not right but I pushed it aside and told myself that it was cold outside and she just wasn't listening to me. The next jump she landed off, she really didn't feel right behind for a few strides and then she seemed to be alright. I had to make a split second decision to either pull her up or keep going. but we were leading our division in points, so I put my leg on and pointed her at the next fence. We never made it over that oxer because she split the two rails with her front legs and flipped over (see #6 below.) In the aftermath, it was my poor decision making that cost me horse's Children's Hunter career. It was my inability to follow what my gut instinct was telling me. From then on, I've always stuck by what my gut feeling is telling me. Generally speaking, if it's a bad idea you already know it.

4) There is always time for a trail ride. After Emmy's injury, I took some time to figure out what was really important in life and what was just extra. The horse shows and the ribbons and the crowds? That stuff doesn't really matter in the long run, what does matter are those times that you left all of the extra stuff behind. This doesn't always have to literally apply to horses, but seriously, when was the last time you put all of the superficial out of your life and went for a walk? Looked at the stars? Smelled the fall leaves? Yeah. That's what I thought.

5) It's only a horse show. In the grand scheme of life, what does this one horse show really matter? This goes a little bit with #4 above. George Morris once said that "if riding were all bright lights and blue ribbons I'd have quit a long time ago" and I don't think anyone could have said it better. So what if you chipped the last fence in a perfect round? Yes, it sucks right now, but in a year will you really still be kicking yourself over it? And if you are still kicking yourself over it, are you sure that your life priorities are in the correct order? in general is so much more than just the weekend show.

6) Be a gracious winner and an even more gracious loser. The moment you believe you are unsinkable is the exact moment that you will be knocked from your pedestal of greatness. If you win, congratulate those who did not and say something nice about them. If you lose, congratulate those who won and say something nice about them. Life is too short to be petty.

7) Be open minded, try something new. This past summer, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to ride Emmy in a parade with her and her horse. I think I've really only ever seen two parades in my life, let alone participated in one, but I figured that Emmy was good with traffic and good with crowds so I said why not. We were lined up in that parade in front of a tow truck that was blasting its horn and we were surrounded on all sides by people and children waving flags and throwing candy...I was seriously nervous about what Emmy would do (see #1) but Emmy marched through that parade like a champion and we ended up winning third place overall for our patriotic themed entry. I would have never participated in a parade on my own accord, but I'm glad that I did! Even though it was something we had never done before, I weighed it against my horses strengths and weaknesses and decided that we had a decent shot of not killing ourselves, so we went for it. Apply this lesson to your every day life too. Go ahead, live a little.

8) Don't take anything for granted. Four years ago, I almost lost Emmy to colic (Geez louise, this post is making my horse sound like a walking time bomb...she's really not that bad I swear.) I was in my first semester of college and Emmy was living at home until I got situated at school. I went home every weekend to see her and I will never forget seeing the barn owner's name pop up on my cell phone that fateful day. At the time, I was dating her son, so it wasn't extremely out of the ordinary for her to call. Remember that gut feeling we talked about a few numbers ago? I will never forget picking up that phone call and just knowing that something wasn't right. I didn't have a car at school and I had to wait for my Dad to come pick me up from his work (luckily my college was a little less than an hour from home). In the meantime, I sent a trusted friend over to the barn to check out the situation and give me an honest run down of exactly what was going on. I was sitting on the bed in my dorm room almost hyperventilating when she called me, "You need to come" she had said. My dad and I were pulling around the barn drive an hour and a half later when I caught sight of Emmy, my friend, the barn owner and her husband out in the paddock behind the barn. There was one person holding the lead rope and two people on either side of Emmy literally holding her on her feet. She was sweating and staggering like every step was agony. I was out of the car before it even came to a stop and up over the paddock fence when it was as if someone had pulled a rug out from under her feet and she collapsed into a heap on the ground like a million pieces of broken glass. I sat with her head in my lap for two hours while we waited for a vet, watching the sun sink down behind the trees and remembering the last ride that we'd had together. We had gone out for a hack in the woods, cantering along the path and jumping any obstacle that got in our way, it had been a perfect ride. Now, Emmy's eyes were closed and every breath that she took was shallow and ragged. I literally thought that she would never get up again. I sat there with her and cried and told her that I was sorry and that she wouldn't have to suffer anymore once the vet got there, and that if she wanted to let go now it would be alright and I wouldn't be upset with her for leaving me. Ten minutes before the vet came bursting out of the barn she let out one deep breath and then went silent and I really thought she was gone, then her eyes suddenly snapped open and she sat up. After a few more minutes, she shoved me out of the way with her nose, took a deep breath, flung her legs out and stood up, then looked at me with those big brown eyes and just blew softly into my hair. My dad was there the entire time, watching quietly in the shadows of the barn and he told me later that he'd never seen anything like that before. I think of that day often...mainly when I feel as though I haven't spent enough time with Emmy because of work, chores, etc. You never know what life will throw at you and I don't want to get to the end of my time with anyone (Emmy, my family, my friends) and not be able to look back and say "it's alright for you to go, we ended on a good note." I think one of the reasons that I made peace with the thought of losing her that night is because I knew that we had lived those potential last days together to the absolute fullest. Don't get to the end of your life only to find out that you have regrets. Call you mother/father/brother/sister/boyfriend/girlfriend and tell them that you love them. Life is too short and too precious to assume that it will always be there tomorrow.

9) Don't hold grudges. Fairly self explanatory I think and I believe that all horses can help teach us this. Emmy is one of the most forgiving horses that I have ever met. Missed every single distance thus far in the jumping course? Whatever. As long as you keep riding forward it's fine. Catch her in the mouth? Whatever. Catch her in the back? Whatever. She forgives and forgets all day long. I wish people could be more like that.

10) You're only as old as you feel. This is a lesson that Emmy teaches me every single glorious day that I get to spend with her. She is 25 years old but (most of the time) you would never know it. She runs around like a crazy horse in the pasture, she jumps 2'9" like a freak still, and she will rip your arms off galloping cross country if you let her. She's an amazing horse and I'm so blessed to have her in my life.

Here's to many more years with my fabulous girl!