Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Heat Continues

Monday, May 28, 2012
Having made the decision to keep Suki in last night, I admit, I was happy to see that it had rained over night. The morning air was cool, but it reminded me of waking up by the beach;coolness with the slight hint of humidity and a warm day ahead. Before 7 AM I went to Suki's barn to put her and Banker out until Christine came to bring the rest of the horses in for the day. That would give them a couple of hours outside grazing before spending the rest of the day inside. Suki first, I decided to throw her fly sheet over the shell because the bugs were somewhat aggressive and the temperature was still cool. Turning her around and uncoupling the lead rope, Suki was off in a flash! Banker followed suit and the two did a short lap then settled in to graze.

I set to work cleaning the two stalls and prepared them for the horses to come in. Then it was a quick trip home to get ready to watch Isaiah march in the Memorial Day parade. He had decided to walk with Little League instead of Tai Kwon Do, which surprised me. He later changed his mind, but had already committed, and accepted that decision. Michael decided to walk with the team as did some of the other parents, so I found a place to watch them walk by. The Exeter Township firefighters walked past first, and I started to applaud. Others joined in and we began to cheer. I admit that I became a bit teary-eyed....this was the first responding fire company to the Pink Star fire and some of these brave firefighters rescued Suki.

It was starting to get hot by 11 AM, so midday I went to see Suki. She doesn't sweat properly over her back where the most severe burns were, so I am always a bit more concerned. When Christine arrived at 9:30 Suki was sweaty under the fly sheet, so both that and the shell were removed. She seemed reasonably comfortable midday but I hosed her off anyway just to be safe. At 4:00 I hosed her off again, and Christine was planning to put the shell on right before turnout. I wanted to wait until the last possible moment to dress her.

Nikki is handling the heat fairly well, but I still try to ride early in the morning to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
MORE HEAT! Suki managed to twist the shell, and the protective, saddle-shaped armor had fallen out. That is something that has never before happened! I will make some repairs/adjustments before putting it on her for the night. Today is actually more hot and humid than it was yesterday. With thunderstorms predicted for overnight, Suki may be staying in anyway. If that should happen I think I will let her be naked over night in her stall.

My original plan was to ride Nikki at lunch today, but with temperatures close to 90 and a heat index in the 90's that was not going to happen. She was fairly comfortable in her stall but I decided to hose her off anyway. Suki was a bit sweaty so I hosed her off as well. When I took her out behind the barn she kept spooking and dancing around and I didn't know what her problem was until I saw...three glittery mylar balloons had escaped from their owner and were tangled in the trees that line one of the pastures. Definitely cause for alarm!

Storms moving through so Suki is in for the night. The temperature has already dropped by 15 degrees! Feels much better! Even with all of the excess rolling and slipping of the shell, the graft site looks fine. I was a little concerned, but maybe I just need to have a little faith!

I LOVE this picture from last weekend! I had Suki trot and canter over a ground pole and she just seemed to have so much fun. Spark in her eyes and a spring in her step. She takes my breath away...

And I will end with this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Riding a horse is not a gentle hobby, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire. It is a grand passion. It seizes a person whole, and once it has done so, he will have to accept that his life will be radically changed."

I realized this the first time I put my foot in the stirrup for my very first riding lesson. Thank you Louie, the bay horse that allowed me to learn to ride, and to Rima, who didn't let me have reins or stirrups until I had an independent seat. But most of all, thank you Daddy (RIP) for understanding how much I wanted to ride, and standing in the cold, the heat and the rain so that I could make my dream come true.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hot, hot, hot

Wow! This weather has been brutal! Suki has been staying in during the day and going out over night. With heat and humidity at an all time high and unusual for May, I worry about the girls even more than usual! The threat of thunderstorms over night certainly complicates matters. Last night it looked like the storms had finished coming through by around 8 PM, so the horses went out. Of course, at 4 AM I awoke to a raging rain and thunderstorm! Tossing and turning for another hour or so, I finally just got out of bed in my Nyquil fog. The rain had stopped by 6, so I decided to go to Suki on my way to ride Nikki.
It has been a bit of a tough week for me. This flu has gotten the best of me and Michael was out of town from Monday until late Thursday evening didn't help! We made it through and I believe that I am close to the end of its course, although it feels as if I have been run over by a truck!

Yesterday I checked on Suki midday and late afternoon. She was a little sweaty in the middle of the day so I hosed her off and left the shell off while she was in her stall for the rest of the day. Later in the afternoon all was good so I put the shell back on and asked Christine to put the fly sheet over top if it was cool enough prior to turnout. I was a little surprised that the bandage was fine, but Suki rolls less aggressively in her stall....most of the time! My concern was that if there should be a shower over night the fly sheet would help a little after the muddy disaster of being caught in the rain the day before.

This morning I was expecting a wet horse, but when I arrived at the barn Suki and Banker were happily grazing. I called to Suki and she cantered to the gate with Banker close behind. Dry. What a relief. It was already quite buggy so I brought the two horses in and removed Suki's fly sheet. Next stop Nikki. The sky threatened rain again and the Oley Valley was off to a steamy start. Not having been to Valley Mist in a week, I was happy to take in the sights during my drive. Because I stopped by Suki I missed a couple of the usual dairy farms, but passed instead farmer's markets displaying their wares and the occasional Mennonite buggy heading to church. When I pulled into the parking lot at Valley Mist I could hardly contain my excitement. Nikki nickered in response to my greeting and I offered a granola bar.

Grooming and tacking up zapped a bit of my energy, and the distant rumbling of thunder threatened my ride. I knew that I at the very least would lunge Nikki for exercise with the hope of a short ride after. The thunder subsided and I felt a sense of peace as I swung my leg over the saddle. Aaaah....all was good in the world! Nikki was lovely, so tired and sweaty I finished my ride, grateful to have such a wonderful mare. The barn was busier when I finished, and it was nice to be a part of that world again.

Tonight there is another threat of storms so I decided to have Suki stay in. Late afternoon she was comfortable under the shell, but I hosed her off quickly to offer a little refreshment. Suki's skin looked good today and she enjoyed the spa treatment. Fortunately she and Banker did get out for about an hour while the barn was being cleaned, and I will put them out again in the morning for an hour or so. The horses will be in again during the day tomorrow with more heat and humidity expected.

I LOVE the photos of Suki's eye. There is such a calm intelligence in her look. The face of a survivor. The look that says "I have stared down death, and conquered." Suki has been through so much and yet accepts each new day with courage and happiness. I feel like I have learned so much from her and continue to learn each day that we share. My relationship with Suki has helped to shape the one that I have with Nikki, and helps me to appreciate and understand the relationship that I had with Jenny. Me and my girls.

Friday, May 25, 2012


Some days are certainly easier than others. While Suki's recovery has been nothing short of a miracle, some days I find myself wanting more. This week has been a difficult one for me. My husband was traveling from Monday to late Thursday, and by Monday evening my scratchy throat developed into an extremely painful sore throat accompanied by a fever. By Tuesday night I decided that I had not felt this bad since we had H1N1 in September 2009! The soles of my feet hurt when I walked. Fortunately Isaiah was sensitive to all of this and "took care of me", even offering to call 911 should I become nonresponsive! It is impossible to be nonfunctional with a 6 year old, 2 cats and a dog underfoot, but in the evenings I just shivered under an afghan on the couch. But, somehow we all made it through the week!
This picture made me smile though!

The weather has also been a bit crazy as well. Hot days followed by unsettled rainy and stormy nights make it difficult to time turnout. Some of the difficulties lie with managing the sheet situation. I don't think that Suki will ever be able to be turned out completely naked, although it has been tried in the past. I worry about sunburn, even on the darkened skin, and sunscreen seems to dry it out. The custom shell that was made for Suki last summer is really showing wear and tear. I have repaired it in a few places, and honestly, it is pretty amazing that it has even lasted this long. Perhaps I expected that by this time it would no longer be necessary and just a light fly sheet would work. Maybe that is where some of my frustration is coming from. Last night it wasn't supposed to rain very much but it did. The other nights, Suki had spent time in the run in off of her pasture, but last night she apparently had a party in the rain. Wearing only the shell (which I thought would be fine) she somehow managed to twist it and muck up the straps. The bandage remained intact so there was not any damage to the graft area, but I fear the shell is on its last legs. I may just have to bite the bullet and have another one made. The Wunderwear sheet that was fitted with a pocket is not quite the right size, so I am not confident about its effectiveness outside, over night. Tonight no rain is expected, so I am trying the shell again. With the heat and humidity still an issue at turnout time, adding a fly sheet was not an option. So fingers crossed! The thinner, mesh Saratoga fly sheet might be an option over the shell because it is very light weight but would probably be enough protection for it. The one that I have is too small so I will have to order a larger one.
But enough of the pity party! We will get through it because we are tough and strong! Suki's strength inspires me, and her zest for life is unmatched.
To me, this photo shows her intelligent, kind eye. I look into them and see the courage and stength that I wish I had,and do really try to demonstrate.

It seems so long ago when we left New Bolton, arriving at Kelly's farm fragile and broken. She made us whole again, and we left healed, with the courage to push on. Who thought we could come this far? Who knew that it would take such a tragedy to find the true meaning of friendship, courage and survival?

Soon it will be the 3 year anniversary of the fire, and we will once again, celebrate life. Lori and Vinny taught us that, and we will embrace it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just a normal horse

Sunday: May 20, 2012
What a beautiful morning for a ride! Nikki was in a happy mood, and was even snuggly during pre-ride preparations. Most of th time she is slightly grumpy during that part of our day, especially when her breakfast is sitting outside of her stall! The few handfuls of grain and a couple of treats seemed to satisfy her. She does drive me crazy when I wrap her legs. If she isn't snuffling my hair (I am okay with that part), she likes to pick up whatever leg I am in the process of wrapping. Not stomping, or anything, just demonstrating some rudeness....That is improving, as we continually address her "patience", or lack of patience while getting ready. Other than a little stickiness off of my right leg during a leg yield, she was very cooperative, responding nicely to all commands. Nicely forward, I achieved some pretty correct shoulder-in, which I finished with a 10 meter circle, followed by a canter transition upon return to the track. Nikki enjoys bits of change in her lateral work and it is fun to shake things up a bit. One of the other boarders who has never actually seen me ride Nikki because of the timing of our arrivals was surprised that I was actually still riding when she arrived at the barn. It's funny how amazed L was that I don't look really small on Nikki. Since I am 5'4", and Nikki is 17.1, I look rather short standing next to her. But because my legs are long for my height, we fit perfectly! People always said that about me and Suki also. My big girls! Gotta love them!

After my ride I was in such a giddy mood that the beautiful day inspired me to put the top down on my car. This takes quite a bit of maneuvering on my part. Because I have a lot of stuff in my car (horse clothes, several different weights of jackets, books, supplies....) I have to make sure everything is secured. I have a hard top convertible so the roof goes into the trunk, complicating matters further! Even with the top down there is quite a bit of room in the trunk, but it all must fit in a certain area. Logistics resolved, off I went into the late morning sunshine and my cruise through the beautiful Oley Valley! Soaking in every bit of the scenery, I greeted the cows as I drove by and cranked up Mozart on my radio. The mountains are beginning to turn a deep broccoli green pushed up against the bright blue sky. Newly planted fields are beginning to spring to life, with the promise of fresh local produce not so far away.

Isaiah had a riding lesson at 5, so I detoured to Suki's barn instead of going directly home. Suki didn't hear me when I first walked into the barn. When I got to her stall she was standing, dozin with her eyes closed, startling when I called her name, and embarrassed to be caught sleeping! In during the day because of the high temperatures anticipated, I was able to perform a thorough spa treatment. I am a big fan of the Aquafor petroleum based moisturizer which seems to be keeping the dryness at bay. With the sun still shining when the horses go out for the night Suki wears sunscreen on her face now instead of the Aquafor. We finished with a wrapping of the hind legs, because a bit of humidity was also expected and I wanted to prevent swelling. Several other horses were also in the barn so Suki was content with standing quietly on cross ties while being groomed. I was even able to brush the inside of her ears and apply sunscreen to the tips, without bribery! I planned to return on my way to take Isaiah for his lesson to put the full fly sheet on over the shell and unwrap Suki's legs before nightly turnout. That timing worked well. Some days just require a bit more finesse in scheduling! Isaiah enjoyed his lesson and even walked the tree line afterwards. I sat on the hill beside the dressage arena where there was a beautiful breeze! The mountains were the back drop for the barn and silo and I felt a moment of peacefullness as the busy weekend came to a close. The highlight for Isaiah was removing a lovely brown chicken egg from its nest, which Miss L allowed him to take home. He was delighted to have it for dinner that night.

Monday, May 21, 2012
This morning I woke to rain hitting the skylights, thinking about my soggy horse. Under normal circumstances a wet horse is fine, but the shell and fly sheet would be soaked, and I would have to change them. Wisely I dressed in barn clothes, anticipating a soggy retrieval of Suki and Banker from the pasture. The rain stopped as I arrived and I called to Suki. Much to my surprise she had been in the run in part of the bank barn which has an entrance from her field. And she was completely dry! Usually she prefers to stand in the rain. I was relieved to be able to bring the two horses in and wrap Suki's legs. The rain is expected to continue for the next day or so. Of course if I had been dressed in clothes for work it would have been raining, and Suki would have been soaking wet!

It is so wonderful to see that Suki is just a "normal" horse now. She will always have special needs that require extra care, but these needs are no longer so daunting and it is nice to be able to skip a day of grooming occassionally when pressed for time. Unless I am away I physically see her each day, but once a week it is just to give her treats and hugs.....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Extra Time Outside!

The weather has been really beautiful the past couple of days, a nice relief from the rain (although we certainly needed it). As a result I have allowed Suki to be outside during the day and over night, coming in only for meals and grooming/spa treatment. She seems to be enjoying the freedom. The weekend is expected to be warmer which means she will be out over night and in during the day. Suki has probably not been outside this much since she left Canada to come to me as a 3 year old! It's good for her physically and mentally, and it is refreshing to not always have to treat her like a hot house flower! The long road of treatment and extra care has paid off for her and I marvel at her survival whenever I look into her eyes.

The padding seems to be staying on the blister over her withers, and when I can get the sheet home I will sew something into it for when the blister heals. Today the blister looks much improved, and I re-dressed it. The sheet may be rubbing it, which had not been a problem in the past. It is not in area that would be affected by a surcingle, but it is obviously an issue with rolling. Today Suki seemed very anxious to come in and be pampered today, and I was happy to oblige! She wanted to have her face scratched and ears rubbed.

As I write this, I can see 4 pair of doves and 4 pair of cardinals at the bird feeder. The Blue Jays are swooping in to grab the peanuts, and gold finches are at the finch feeder. What a lovely display!

Tomorrow I plan to address Suki's mane, and Jennifer is going to take some photos. One of the planned fundraiser items (for horse rescues) is a limited addition Suki photograph, personalized with a hoofprint. Plus bookmarks and magnets. I am also considering T shirts, but will have to contemplate a design. Tomorrow will also be a lunging day and possibly a surcingle added on Sunday, if I can pick one up on Saturday.

Saturday, May 19
Unsuccessful with finding a surcingle, so I will have to order one. I razored Suki's mane, so it is now a little shorter, but we still have some finishing to do! Jennifer came out to take some photos. At first it seemed like Suki was going to be a bit nervous, but she relaxed nicely. I have some really cool feathers to clip in her mane and tail, but need practice in securing them! Suki lunged very nicely today. She seemed less winded, even with the higher temperatures. I can't wait to see the photos!

Suki really does enjoy working. I thought she seemed slightly off at first, but she was a bit stocked up behind becuase of being in during the day today and the humidity. Always on top of her game, Suki responds to commands quickly. Once she start to work potential distractions are forgotten and she keeps one ear cocked toward me waiting for the next command. Some days I feel intimidated by her confidence, like she is the cool girl and I am the geek...Her attitude also makes me want to do more with my life. Suki was given a second chance and together we need to make a difference in the world!
The blister is certainly improving, so I just need to stay on top of it. It is only about 1/4 of the size that it was the other day.

I spotted a family of foxes during my walk around the field with Nikki....They startled me, but Nikki did not seem to mind. It was a beautiful sight. Right now I am watching the deer pass through on the hill behind my house. It is dusk, and they are on their nightly walk. Soon it will be dark, and the animals will be settling in for the evening.....

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A bruise and a blister

Rain again today. That means a cranky Suki. This morning before going into the office I unwrapped Suki's legs. I don't like to keep wraps on for 24 consecutive hours. Her legs looked great. Tomorrow's rain will be intermittent so there is a chance that Suki will get out in a paddock while her stall is being cleaned, since the fields will be too wet. After giving everyone a treat, I headed off to work.

During lunch today I decide to treat myself to a visit with Suki and take my time grooming her and giving the spa treatment. Sometimes on Tuesdays and Thursdays I ride Nikki at lunch, but there was not enough time today. There was enough time for a lengthy Suki visit though. While she was still a bit cranky, I think she was relieved to get out of her stall, even if it was only to stand in the aisle on cross ties!

Removing the protective shell and fly sheet, Suki's skin looked pretty good. There was some flakiness in the graft area, but it was much improved after two days of moisturizing and no bandage. Suki takes exfoliation VERY seriously!
I don't always stand on a stool when I exfoliate, but today I did. In the past there has been a small amount of bruising at the point of the withers. Today I noticed a large blister. When I say large, I mean 1.0cm long and 0.5cm wide. It was sensitive to the touch. I don't think it was there yesterday, but it is more visible from one side than the other.....So today I added a small padded bandage with an antibiotic ointment. Without hair on the withers it is very sensitive and I feel like maybe I was not paying enough attention to it.....Perhaps I should sew padding into the shell where it touches the withers. All of that ambitious rolling gets her into trouble at times!

The rain had stopped so I took Suki out for some hand grazing time. We both enjoyed the solitude and peaceful Oley Valley views.

It was nearly 5 AM when my cell phone rang. I looked at the unfamiliar number, knowing that the call was coming from New Bolton Center. Fear gripped my heart. Before the call I could pretend that everything was okay, but answering this call could confirm my worst fears. After speaking with Bobbi and Dr. X, I knew that Suki was not in good condition. Answering the phone could ease or confirm those fears. Being alone made it worse, because I just wanted someone to be there with me and tell me that everything would be okay. I was tired of being the strong person who could handle anything thrown my way. Why couldn't I just throw myself on the floor and cry, and not be strong? I wanted to just give in to every emotion that ran through my body. But I had a toddler asleep in the next room, and a horse that needed my strength along with her own to get through this.

I just wanted to share another small excerpt....

Monday, May 14, 2012

If only one more ride....

While driving to my office this morning I started to think about the Suki memoir that I am writing. It occurred to me that I had ommitted the events leading up to the fire, and think that perhaps it should be a prologue.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009: Before heading to north Jersey for a business meeting, I threw my riding bag in the trunk of my car. During the three hour drive I thought about my return home the next day, and riding Suki. The day before I had the most wonderful ride, realizing how far we had come since Suki had her back injected and we had returned home from Heather's farm just two months earlier. The riding connection between us had become stronger once again and we were dancing together with a renewed energy and confidence. I was smiling during my rides and believe Suki was also!
Heading home from New Jersey on Thursday, July 9 I couldn't wait to get to the barn to ride. My plans changed quickly though, as my husband was called to an emergency in Maryland, and I was needed at home to care for our 3 year old son, Isaiah. Michael wouldn't be home until Friday, so riding was out of the question until then. Driving past Pink Star Equestrian, the barn where I boarded Suki, I made a quick stop to say hello and give Suki some treats. "See you tomorrow, Princess," I said to her as she rooted my hands for gummy bears. After making arrangements to have Suki lunged that day, I said one more goodbye, gave her some hugs and headed home, eight hours before Suki's life would change forever.

Riding that day would not have changed Suki's fate that night. It would simply have given us one last dance together. Life changes so quickly whether positive or negative. We can make plans, and in an instant life is on a different course. Last Tuesday evening I volunteered at Shady Hollow to assist with children's lessons. The horse that I was working with, Nikki, (no, not my Nikki)is an adorable Haflinger gelding who is patient but can be pushy, although not in a mean or dangerous way....just in a pony way! I have worked with him on a number of occasions. Thursday I received an email that he had died from colic complications on Wednesday night. My heart felt heavy when I heard this news, but my immediate thought was about the many children that ride him regularly and how they will be affected by his passing. Nikki was 23 years old and had been part of the Shady Hollow program for 12 years. I hated explaining to Isaiah when we lost our cat Jeremy (Isaiah was 3), but it was even harder when we lost Rugby a few short months ago. At age 6, Isaiah has more questions which made it more difficult. Some of the children at Shady Hollow are young, some have physical or mental disabilities. All will be heartbroken by the loss of Nikki the Haflinger.

I am also gaining a better understanding of the physical rewards of therapeutic riding. The emotional rewards are obvious: a sense of freedom while on horseback, the bonding between horse and human, the emotional rewards of a horse nuzzling you...I could go on forever...The physical aspects are related to developing strength, fitness and coordination. The motion experienced while sitting upon a walking horse mimics the actions of the hips when a human walks. That helps stengthen muscles and joints for walking. There are so many benefits to riding and spending time with our noble and majestic friends.....

Suki was in today because of the rain. I wrapped her legs because she tends to stock up behind when she is in for extended periods. Tonight, tomorrow and tomorrow night promise additional rain so I will be dealing with EXTREME crankiness tomorrow! Thankfully she out grew that nasty habit of chewing off her wraps. I am hopeful that Nikki will out grow that habit, but for now, no wraps for Nikki while unattended!
Suki was a little cranky tonight but not too bad. I know that she wants out, but it can't be helped. The GOOD news is, that she is not wearing a bandage so the graft area and surrounding skin is being moisturized.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Long time between posts!

I can't believe that I haven't posted since May 7! I really thought that I had posted during the week....where did the week go? My husband was traveling for most of the week which left me to do all of the school drop offs and pick ups plus the after school activities and my horses. Oh yeah, and my job. So needless to say it was a bit hectic. I checked Facebook a few times and responded to posts but did not do much else with status updates or commenting on the posts of others. I like to read about what's going on with the other animal pages and rescue organizations and post my support. Everyone has been so supportive of Suki, and there are so many wonderful people performing amazing work. The rescues and foster homes need financial support as well as supplies, so I think it is important to share information when possible. I am still planning to hold some fundraisers, with the first one for Rainbow K horse rescue. I hope that I can do it by the end of the month, but June is more likely.

With so much going on my visits with Suki were shortened on occasion, but I did squeeze in a lunging session. The main objective right now is to improve strength and fitness. The graft continues to improve, but the toughening of that skin is a slow process and we just have to let nature do its thing without the nature of Suki destroying Dr. Fugaro's work! So the bandaging continues, although it is certainly not a big deal. I hate that the skin is dry where the elasticon is, but that actually seems to be improving a bit. It is supposed to rain tomorrow which means Suki will be in, so I may leave her bandage off. She does far less damage rolling in her stall than she does when she gets a good, hardy roll out in the field. I believe that Suki is ready to try a surcingle, but without side reins or long lines. Just a pad with extra padding and the surcingle itself. We will try a regular lunging session to test the movement of the surcingle. It's possible that there will be more movement without side reins. Testing time. One session will tell me if I need to wait. Next weekend I will head to the tack store to see if they have any surcingles in stock. Otherwise I will order from Dover, Smart Pak, Dressage Essentials or State Line. I lost both of my surcingles and all of my lunging equipment in the fire....several sets of side reins, 2 sets of long lines, etc.

Suki and Banker have switched to a different pasture. The one that they had been using is being rested. The farm owner does an excellent job of pasture managment. I have never seen them over-grazed. The new pasture has a stream in it but I doubt that princess Suki will venture in. Although I had thought the same thing about Jenny, and shortly after retirement she was splashing through streams...and rolling in the shallow part! Jenny had appaloosa blood in addition to her fine Dutch Warmblood lines. I always said that the app blood made her hardy! When she strated splashing in the water we joked that it was her "inner appaloosa" coming to the surface!

Suki looking over the fence from her new field

With the higher temperatures over the past few days Suki was in during the day and out on Saturday night. Tonight and tomorrow will bring rain, so I fear there will be a grumpy girl to greet me on Monday. That's okay though. She will still make me smile!

Late this afternoon when I went to see Suki she was slightly sweaty so I decided to hose her off. As I started to spray her side, Suki stepped side ways and kicked the hose with her front foot, knocking it out of my hand. As it landed the hose sprayed me directly in the face. I tried to grab it and turn it off. As I turned it off I looked at Suki. She looked straight at me and nickered....clearly, she was laughoing at me!

On Monday, Nikki twisted a shoe and the farrier did not get out to fix it until Friday! So Saturday morning at a chilly 45 degrees, I approached my big 5 year old mare, who had not been ridden or turned out for 5 days, with a realistic view of our session. My plan was to lunge her for 20 minutes then ride her the next day. As I was grooming her I decided to put her in full tack, because if she seemed sensible enough then I would get on after lunging. Five minutes into lunging Nikki seemed perfectly sane and happy. I let her warm up for a few minutes then mounted. Ten seconds in the saddle and I was reminded again about why I love this horse so much! She was delightful to ride. Yes, she had energy, but it was good energy and she was focused and listening to everything I asked from her and I found myself smiling from ear to ear. The canter was a little umm, forward! But I used that energy to work on shortenings and lengthenings. I drove home with the top down and the radio up, singing at the top of my lungs and soaking up the Oley Vally countryside!

Today's ride on Nikki was equally as wonderful and I included lateral work and trot poles. A second day of ear to ear smiles for me and the usual hugs and snuggles with Nikki. When I got home I was greeted with the smell of bacon cooking as Isaiah and Michael were preparing a Mother's Day brunch for me. Yumm!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Busy Weekend

Weekends always seem to fly by, especially when you are running from one activity to another.

Saturday, of course, was Suki's birthday. First thing in the morning I rode Nikki. Her breakfast sat in a bucket outside of her stall, so I threw a couple of handfuls of grain to her while I set out all of my supplies to prepare for our ride. Tobey always gives her a little bit when she feeds the barn, but I knew that she would start banging on her stall in protest if I didn't offer just a bit more. Every so often Nikki decides to be a bit difficult about mounting, and Saturday was one of those days. Just as I would put my foot in the stirrup she would quietly take a step to the side. Now I could certainly mount from that position, but this is not a practice I wish to encourage. So we started our session with a few mounts and dismounts until she sighed in resignation and stood quietly. First point: Fran. Fortunately it was not an indication of our ride! Slightly heavy in the hand at first, but within just a few minutes Nikki softened into the bit and was relaxed and happy. We did a bit of leg yielding and shoulder-in, trying to maintain the impulsion and softness. Nikki is getting stronger, so is able to perform these movements for longer periods. I am always careful not to over do, and to not allow boredom to creep in. She always seems quite happy to work. Always impatient during pre-ride preparation, post ride always warms my heart like a kitchen warmed by cookies in the oven. The satisfaction of the ride, the special bond with my horse and the aroma that I inhale when I wrap my arms around Nikki's neck makes all of the hard work worth it.

From there I ran home, picked up Isaiah and off we went to his riding lesson. It is a new instructor and barn for him, but I think that he is enjoying the lessons. L has a different method of teaching from what he has experienced, and it is more in line with my riding/training philosophy. We shall see what happens. If Isaiah wants to ride, he will ride. If not then he can stop.

After the lesson I volunteered at Shady Hollow for therapeutic riding for a couple of hours, which was somewhat hectic, but worthwhile. The reasons for the lessons vary among parents and caregivers. But the students all seem to experience the same thing....a bit of independence and bonding with the horses. I love how at the end of the lessons the student often offers the horse a kiss on the nose and an affectionate pat. And the smile says it all....

I spent some extra time with Suki on Saturday for her birthday and made a few attempts to get the birthday hat on her head. She was not going to fall for it the way she did with the Easter Bunny ears! Extended spa treatment including a lot of snuggles and special treats completed Suki's birthday. The birthday that almost wasn't....On my way past the former Pink Star Equestrian I stared at the site where Suki's barn once stood as if I was staring down death. "You can't hurt me anymore'" I thought, "Because we have won. We have survived and thrived!"

Sunday I started a bit later than i had hoped. This was evident as I passed the first dairy farm and the girls had already been milked and were ambling in a line out to their pasture! But, I had another very nice ride on Nikki. Following a review of the previous day's work, we moved on to transitions within the gaits. Nikki's adjustability within the trot is quite good, but she is still developing the strength in her hind end to collect in the canter. We are not working on full collection, but a shortening of stride with slight collection. She broke back to the trot a few times but then seemed to understand more of what I was asking. After 3 strides of shortening I allowed her to lengthen again. Of course Nikki's initial reaction is to flatten the stride a little, but again, once she understood what was being asked, she gave it willingly. A big sigh from the big girl when we were finished....

Suki came to me pretty readily when I called to her. Perhaps she is getting used to a routine where she is returned to her field following spa treatment! Sunday seemed like a good day for a lunging session, and with rain predicted for a good portion of the week it was likely one of my few opportunities. I even wrapped Suki's leg with polo wraps to give her a reminder of how she used to work. She seemed to enjoy it as she proudly walked next to me out to the arena. Maybe it was my imagination, but I think she extended that trot a bit more with those sparkling white polos on her legs! I found an old bridle of Jenny's in a trunk and will clean and oil it for Suki. Next trip to the tack store and I will buy a new bit (I lost my entire collection of bits in the fire). It's time to get down to business!
The graft looks great, and Suki's skin seemed not too dry as I applied moisturizer. Life is good.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Birthday Suki!

Saturday, May 5th has many meanings in 2012. Of course it is always Cinco de Mayo, and this year it also happens to be Kentucky Derby day. For me, May 5th has one outstanding sentiment. It is Suki's birthday. The big girl turns 12 this year, and I am reminded about how close I came to losing her. When I look into those intelligent brown eyes I see the spark and light that never left, in spite of her terrifying experience and near fatal injuries from the fire. Suki continues to enjoy life as she gallops across the field, shows off her lovely extended trot and demands treats with the attitude of an entitled diva.

Today I gave Suki special treats, and many hugs in addition to our usual routine. I am reminded of how precious life is. Although Suki was against wearing a birthday hat....I think that she knew today was her day. My arms wrapped around her neck, I breathed in that wonderful horse aroma....

I am completely overwhelmed by the response on Facebook....hundreds of comments and birthday wishes. Suki continues to touch the lives of so many people, and it warms my heart to know that she can help inspire and encourage people to overcome and push on. I am grateful to everyone who has come into our lives since that tragic day. Life is what we make of it. We are all handed a variety of circumstances and must make the most of what life sends our way.

Today I volunteered for therapeutic riding again. A young man who was terrified during his evaluation, and nervous during his first lesson, SMILED today while riding in his second lesson. Horses....isn't it amazing what they can do for us?

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pleasant ride and a new kitten

Thursday was a humid, somewhat dreary day that started with a bit of rain. By the time I escaped the office the threat of rain still hung in the air, but I looked forward to my ride on Nikki. The barn was dark and quiet when I arrived with just the occasional shuffling of a dozing horse. I called to Nikki and she nickered in response, which was, of course, followed by a few bangs on her stall door. Wow, is that girl turning into a diva! Shavings in her mane and tail gave away that my baby had been sleeping. Like Suki, Nikki enjoys a flat out snooze in her stall. Nikki paused for an arabesque stretch on her wya out of the stall, then snuffled my pockets in search of treats. I know it's not advisable to feed horses treats from your hands and allow them to dig around in your pockets but......

Nikki seemed a bit sleepy when I led her to the arena, but perked up once I was in the saddle. She was soft and light in my hands and nicely responsive off the leg. My time was short, so the ride was light and I focused on adjusting within the stride. Overall a lovely ride. I felt completely rejuvenated as I drove home, dreary, gray sky forgotten. Passing the napping kitties on the porch swing I smiled at them in acknowledgement. I startled two dozing horses as I passed them causing a slight burst of energy to erupt. It didn't last long, as they resumed their nap on the other side of the field. The quilting store parking lot was full when I passed and I imagined a room full of women quilting and sharing stories.....

Suki was in the furthest point of her field, putting her as far from the agte as possible. As usual I called to her as I passed and she raised her head in response. I only had time for a quick check because I had Isaiah in the car and there was a baseball game that night. My place when slower than usual, though because Michael was coming home with a new kitten and we wanted it secured in the guest room before Isaiah went in the house. One look at that kitten and there would be no way to convince Isaiah to go to the game!

Suki and Banker remained in their grazing positions with no plan to move as I first called then marched across the field. Stopping every few feet to give Suki the opportunity to come to me was unsuccessful! Suki raised her head and nickeredas I approached. She seemed comfortable under her fly sheet and enjoyed some head scratches and treats. I offered a carrot to Banker and headed back to the gate. Halfway across the field and I heard the thundering hooves behind me. Suki tossed her head as she casually cantered to the gate, with Banker at her side. She couldn't have done that a few minutes earlier??

After the game we brought Isaiah up to see the surprise...his eyes told the story as he sat down next to the newest addition to our family...

Isaiah named him Bentley (I am 95% certain it is a boy!). Cecil (our 2 1/2 year old cat) and Ripley the Weimaraner will be introduced gradually....

Suki was a bit itchy tonight, but I suspect the warm day had something to do with that. The horses were in during the day because of the bugs so Suki was happy to come out of her stall for her spa treatment. It was one of those days when I held the exfoliating mitt up to her face and she scatched where she needed to. Because it was quite warm I decided to leave the fly sheet off with only the shell for coverage. That is how she spent most of last summer, so I think she will be most comfortable wearing just that, at least for the next day or so,when the weather changes yet again! Tomorrow I will change the padding on the graft and moisturize it well. After a busy week it was nice to spend the time relaxing and grooming Suki. We both enjoyed our time together.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Spring Rain

Awakening to fog and rain this morning I knew the girls would not get outside today. Nikki was to be groomed and ridden so at least she would get out of her stall and have something to do. Miss Suki, on the other hand, would probably have to stay in which always makes her cranky. To add insult to injury, I would only be able to have a quick visit on my way home from picking up Isaiah....double cranky!

Yesterday turned into a much warmer day than I had expected so Suki was a little sweaty under her sheet when I brought her into the barn for spa treatment last night. I had skipped Sunday's treatment because I was tired from the 3 AM start to Sunday, but it was more likely due to the stomach flu that developed over Sunday night. I had asked Deb to change her into the lighter sheet on Monday because I was completely incapacitated, so that was two days without moisturizing. Yesterday I was surprised that Suki's skin was not as dry as I had expected. Maybe the Aquafor is actually helping! I held the exfoliating mitt up to her face and Suki pushe roughly against it moving her head up and down, savoring the contact and the removal of dry skin. Days of abundant sunshine the Aquafor petroleum cannot be applied to Suki's face, so sunscreen is applied in its place. Hmmmm does Lancome make a horse moisturizer with SPF 50? A full spa treatment made Suki VERY happy, especially after two days of what I am sure Suki considers "neglect"! All was forgiven once I hit all of Suki's favorite itchy spots and spoiled her with gummy bears. Because it was so warm last night I switched Suki from the light sheet to a fly sheet. Because she has to wear the extra layer of her shell the light weight sheet was to warm in the unexpected 80 degree temperature. Today was supposed to be in the seventies so I thought the fly sheet would work....Today was damp and rainy with temperatures in the low fifties.... Yes, I always over think what the girls are wearing!

Midday the rain stopped, but I expected the fields to be too muddy for the horses to be out. With the dry winter and early spring, however, even the heavy rain over night was not enough to make the fields too muddy for turnout. As I Isaiah and I turned down the driveway, there were Suki and Banker grazing happily. Calling to her as I drove by, Suki lifted her head in acknowledgement, nickered softly then went back to grazing. When I reached the gate I made one half-hearted call to Suki, knowing that she had no intention of coming to me. Banker greeted me first as I wlaked across the field, a strip of mud down the center of his gray face like a blaze. Greedily he sucked a peppermint out of hand and I continued out to the furthest part of the field to check Suki. She at least humored me by lifting her head, watching my approach. As I straightened that stubborn fly sheet, I felt underneath to see if Suki was warm enough, which she was. After a few pats and peppermints I turned to leave. When I was about 3 feet away I heard Suki behind me slowing to a passage behind me and following me down to the gate. I stopped and scratched her head while she dug around in my pockets in search of treats. Realizing that my pockets were empty, Suki trotted circles around me as I walked. Suddenly she stopped, nickered to me and lowered her head to graze again.