Sunday, July 29, 2012

Today I felt like a dressage rider!

Saturday, July 28, 2012, 7:00 AM
Pulling out of my garage I felt the stress of the week, melt away as I started my drive to Valley Mist Farm to ride Nikki. In spite of the lack of rain the corridors of corn appear tall and healthy so I knew a farm stand stop would be on my agenda for the drive home. In spite of the humidity I kept the windows down for the entire drive (but declined to put down the top!). My typical routine on hot days is to start my drive with windows closed and AC on. Then I open the windows but continue to run the AC. For the last leg of my journey I turn off the AC to acclimate to the heat before riding. I know it seems silly but it works for me. I have never quite recovered from the heat of the year we lived near Dallas! When I arrived at the barn I immediately regretted the decision to wear a short sleeved polo shirt instead of a sleeveless one....the humidity was thick. Lauren and Caity were getting ready to leave for a show, so the barn was buzzing with activity at that early hour. Nikki greeted me happily as she had been able to eat her entire breakfast before my arrival. She still usually tries to convince me that she has not had her entire breakfast after our ride.

Nikki was a little sluggish to start , but at least we did not have a repeat of the mounting issue! Within 5 minutes she was motoring along and I was able to work on some leg yield, shoulder in and simple changes. I gave her a nice soapy sudsy bath afterwards and I did not mind in the least that I was just as wet as she was! We were both happy and relaxed after the ride. I even rode without stirrups for a bit. Oh, my aching abs! The best feeling in the world!

Off to Leid's for elasticon, shampoo and some other supplies, rushing a bit because Isaiah was scheduled for a Tai Kwon Do belt promotion test by noon. Next stop Oley Valley Feed for bird seed. They make a nice local mix, and the birds at my house devour it! I love that when I go in there the staff knows me just as they do at Leid's. I think that is one of the best parts of living in (or near) "the country". Casually driving home and right on schedule I passed a handmade sign for fresh corn and fresh eggs with an arrow.....quick turn off and I had some lovely local food! Yummm! It was just a small stand, but wow! I bought two pies, sugar plums, blueberries, heirloom potatoes, corn, eggs and beautiful bread. Never send the hungry girl to the farm stand!!! Oh, and oatmeal cookies for my boys.

Green belt achieved, on to the rest of my day. The threat of storms in the forecast always effects my decision about Suki's night. Suki was not really sweaty, maybe just a little sticky when I arrived. I think Suki seemed a little stiff today, but not anything major. A 10 minute lunge seemed to loosen up her joints, and I know that she enjoys the work.

Sunday, July 29.
Another seemingly humid day. Running slightly behind schedule due to the Olympics, the cows at the first dairy farm that I pass were JUST headed out to pasture. The Menonite boys on the back of the family wagon on their way to church waved a hearty hello as did their parents. It was quite dark this morning, with a threat of storms. Nikki wiggled her lips when he saw me, waiting for that first taste of sugary gummy bears! Aaaah my spoiled girls!!

Today I REALLY felt like the dressage rider that I need to be. Working on shortening and lengthening within strides, Nikki was incredibly responsive. We worked hard in spite of the humidity, and finished with a stretchy trot.....FABULOUS!!! I could feel the movement in my back with each change....some days it just feels right!
Nikki received the beauty treatment today. Her mane needed to be pulled so after her bath I decided to do it. Nikki cracks me up. As I started to pull her mane she started to doze, lower lip protruding. I have honestly never encountered a horse who SLEPT during mane pulling! With the threat of thunderstorms once again, Nikki would not have an opportunity for turnout so I took her out for a hand graze. Within 15 minutes the bugs were killing us so I brought her in so that she could relax in front of her fan while nibbling hay. After a ride filled with shortenings and lengthenings within gaits and spirals, we were both happily spent. I FINALLY had a day where I felt like the dressage rider that I used to be. Physically and mentally I felt a feeling of accomplishment.....

Suki was restless and impatient Sunday afternoon. Heavy clouds blanketed the sky and while it was humid, that oppressive feeling was not present. Walking out of her stall I thought that Suki seemed a bit stiff, so I thought a lunging session was in order. What started off in stiffness, finished in an amazing extended trot, and forward canter. When suddenly extreme darkness clouded the arena, we finished and went into the barn for a spa treatment. One brief storm and Suki is out for the night. For me, a glass of wine and several hours of Olympic competition are in order....

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Fever

I must confess.....I absolutely love the Olympics From the moment I saw Nadia Comaneci score the first perfect "10" in gymnastics as a child, I was completely hooked. Although my favorite sport (dressage)is in the summer games, the atmosphere of the winter games really captures my heart because of the snow (okay, and the clothes!). I managed to score the highly sought after red mittens from Vancouver and wear them proudly with my 2006 Torino scarf and my 2002 beret! During the Olympic games I get no sleep, because I watch whatever is available regardless of time. So I am set up for live streaming on the NBC Olympics website. Eventing dressage at 5 AM on Saturday! I can watch for two hours before I ride Nikki!

When I was riding with JR, she had already ridden on 3 Olympic dressage teams and was Chef d'equippe for the dressage team while I was under her tutelage. I marvelled at her Olympic ring and loved to hear her stories. The training was intense at her barn, and I miss that level of intensity in my daily training. Most days when I rode, J was either riding or sitting in the arena, so it was essential to be on top of your game at all times.

Here are a couple of links that I have been enjoying.

I especially enjoy reading the rider blogs that are on the Equisearch website:

For the past few days I have been having some issues with Suki's bandage. It seems to fall off daily. I'm not sure what the cause is. The weather has been warm and humid, so maybe there has been some aggressive rolling each night during turnout. or perhaps I have moisturized a bit to close to where the bandage needs to stick. Fortunately the foam velcroed to the sheet seems to be protecting the graft area, although yesterday there was a small amount of bruising. And the Wunderwear sheet has yet to come back from my blanket lady....

So far Suki has been eating the 45 tablets of doxycycline per feeding without issue. My friend Katie found a pharmacy to make the meds into a paste, but at this point I will reserve that option for when Suki stops eating the tablets. We have 30 days of this so I believe at some point she will stop eating them! Currently I have not seen much stiffness, but that is the way the symptoms have been. I can see a little bit when I start to lunge her, but 2-3 times around and the gaits appear normal. Now that the heat and humidity have returned there won't be too much lunging for now. Nightly turnout for 10 hours certainly helps, although last night the horses were in because of storms. In spite of that I did not observe any extreme lameness when I took Suki out of her stall for her nightly spa treatment. Deb sponged her off in the middle of the day because of the heat. I am grateful that I have help with some of the responsibility, because at times it can be a bit overwhelming. Not that I am complaining, because I am thankful that I have her! Tonight I was reminded of Suki's silly side....when I went back into her stall one final time to check the fly sheet I was rewarded with a spurt of water! Silly girl!

Today I enetered Suki in the Sidelines Magazine Super Model contest. Once again, I was overwhelmed with the response. When Sidelines posted the entry on their FB page there were more than 20 shares and many likes and comments. Every day I am amazed by the effect that Suki has on people. Her dressage career may have been cut short, but I honestly feels that she has a greater purpose now. And it really suits her!

I love this photo that Jennifer took....

When I look into Suki's eyes I see her soul. It is a beautiful place to be.

Time to take the champagne off ice and prepare to watch opening ceremonies....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Barbie and her wardrobe and mystery lameness resolved

Friday, July 20: Once again, the crazy weather with the threat of storms wreaked havoc on Suki's turnout schedule. Thursday night was threatening storms so Suki and Banker went out for a few hours in the late afternoon. I dressed Suki in the re-worked fly sheet which now has a foam pad velcroed over the graft area. This fly sheet is stiff, but does not hold water if it gets rained upon and is more breathable so doesn't make Suki sweat. I son't know who makes it because there is no label, and I have had it for probably 10 years. Looks like I have some googling to do....
I turned Suki out first and she ran across the field, followed by Banker. But when Banker finished his sprint to the top of the field, Suki kept going! The other horses were not out so that could have been the cause of her unrest. Eventually she relaxed and Christine was planning to bring her in around 8. The revised sheet passed the leap, buck, roll, gallop test. It didn't even shift!

Friday was to include a visit from the farrier with AGAIN the threat of rain for Friday night. I went over to the barn before work to check Suki's bandage (Christine said that it was in place but a little rumpled). The bandage had not moved over night so I dressed Suki in the shell, since she would be in for the day. The shell seems to work as long as running and rolling is not part of the day's repertoire! Christine texted me mid morning and said that the shell was moving back, and seemed to be pulling tight across my shoulders and chest. So next wardrobe change was into the regular fly sheet. The day was cool, and that bandage needed at least some protection. After having her feet trimmed, Suki was going to go out for a bit because Friday night was going to be rainy, and I would have to leave Suki in again. It was such a bonus that the day time weather was pleasant enough to enable Suki to have some turnout! Next wardrobe change into the revised fly sheet! because there was a chance for light showers, that would be the best choice. It was like Barbie and her suitaces full of clothing! Suki doesn't mind the clothing change as it fits her diva/super model personality!

Saturday, July 21.
Because of a family gathering at my home, riding was not possible. But I did receive a telephone call from Dr. R gave me the news that Suki is positive for Lyme. So she will be starting on a 30 day course of doxycycline. It seems that so many dogs and horses that I know have contracted this disease. In a way it is a relief, because it explains the intermittent lameness, but I hate that Suki has any discomfort. But it's treatable, and we will deal with it.However, I also feel like perhaps I under-reacted....maybe it's because Lyme seems so minor compared to having burns over 70% of your body! Let's hope thatthe dosing goes smoothly....Suki is clever about avoiding meds, and gavaging typically leaves me wearing more of the medicine than Suki ingests....Nikki, on the other hand, just eats pills out of my hand! aaah, the naive baby!

Sunday, July 22
FINALLY I was able to ride. I think I smiled during my entire drive to the barn! Nikki was as happy to see me as I was to see her. It was a cool morning to start, although it seemed like the humidity might creep up. The barn was more quiet than usual since a number of horses were at a show, and many had competed the day before. Mornings like that always give me time to relax, spoil my horse and meditate.
All seemed to be going so well.....then I went to get on Nikki and she walked away....not once but 3 times. We worked on some mounting exercises then proceeded. Nikki seemed a bit lazy at first, and I wanted to work on that mounting issue. So after 10 minutes I got off and re-mounted. Still some difficulty but slightly better. I repeated the exercise, and the next time she gave a big sigh then stood quietly for me to mount. After that the light, forward, response Nikki showed up for the ride. So like last week we did a lot of lateral work, adding shortenings and lengthenings within each gait. Nikki rose to the occasion, and we were both tired at the end. I was able to spend quite a bit of time to play with Nikki a bit more and thoroughly clean my tack!

On my way home I went to see Suki. It was still cloudy and cool so I brought her out for a short lunging session. Suki walked out of her stall without any sign of stiffness and we headed out to the arena. After squealing and tossing her head she set to work. I was thrilled to see a bit of sass, and it didn't last long or cause her to remain unfocused. We worked for about ten minutes, then I snuck in a few steps of in-hand piaffe....and yes, I was smiling from ear to ear after that. Suki was quite pleased with herself and strutted her super model walk back to the barn....

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Catching Fireflies

Some days I feel as though I have been so busy that I did not take the time to actually experience or enjoy any of the individual events. This is especially true on the days that Michael travels and I have to take care of all of Isaiah's needs on top of my other responsibilities. I am fortunate that I have a husband who truly does split the child care, etc 50/50, because I don't think I would be able to half of what I do otherwise! Single are my heroes! I always think of those really rushed days as "bad" days. I was reading a blog the other day by someone who was thinking about the 3rd anniversary of the death of a special horse. She said that whenever someone tells her that they have had a bad day she asks them: "will you remember this day a year from now? NO? Then it's not a bad day." She went on to say that thinking about something a year later means that it was indeed a bad day. When you still remember it 3 years later it was a REALLY, REALLY bad day. It made me think of the recent 3 year mark of the barn fire, and I realized that no matter how hard I try I will always think of the fire on July 9. How many really's can I put in front of bad day? On the other hand, it happened, and that's that. I don't think that I dwell on the incident itself (at least I try not to!), but instead now I am learning and growing as a result of that experience. Look at this beautiful can you not smile when you look at this face!

Sometimes when I am going through Suki's routine care, I find that I am going through the motions because I am pressed for time to get home and make dinner or some other household chore. Then I am not in the correct frame of mind to write or relax and find myself frazzled instead of fulfilled. I have Suki's routine down to a science, but I am trying to, even on those rushed evenings, to make sure that I speak to her the entire time rather than just think quietly to myself. My thinking is done aloud, so that Suki and I can "converse". It helps me to relax, and I watch her ears twitch as she listens. I love when I get just the right itchy spot and she turns herself inside out to ask for more. The twitch of a lip and twist of the neck and I know she is enjoying every moment. I find that if I don't speak enough while I am grooming she swishes her tail more an nudges me. Once the conversation picks up she seems to relax again. She's not too obvious is she?

One of the reasons I ride early in the morning on the weekends is so that I can do the same thing with Nikki. Weekday rides are a little more rushed, but I always make sure that I take the time to let Nikki know how special she is. Early morning on the weekends enables me to slow it down a notch (Saturdays can be a little more rushed if I start later than I mean to) and really groom and massage Nikki. It is nice down time after our ride, and on days when it is not too buggy I take her out to hand graze. That too, is relaxing, until the impatient 5 year old in her comes out and she motors around looking for the perfect spot! She usually settles down again, and I lean against her big bay shoulder taking in the wonderful horse scent. No wonder my hair smells like horses when I leave! But that's okay too, because it is part of spending time with horses....and I LOVE that smell!

When Isaiah and I returned home after taking care of Suki last night, I tried to rush him into the house for his bath. Isaiah had a different plan in mind. He had brought his bug vacuum to the barn (it collects bugs safely and humanely, allowing for observation then release)and wanted to continue this at home. My initial reaction was "let's just get in the house. It's hot, you need a bath, and I have a million things to do." But then I took a step back and remembered that he would only be six once, and I remembered how much I loved to catch fireflies as a child. So instead of rushing inside, I let Ripley out and Isaiah and I set about to catch fireflies. We had a wonderful time running across the lawn, laughing, and collecting the little "light-ups". After observing them in the container, we released all of them, counting them as they floated up lighting the night sky. Once they had flown away we looked up and counted the stars, trying to identify the constellations. There were no arguments then about the bath, and after Isaiah was squeaky clean I made popcorn in the Whirlypop and we read "The Adventures of Frog and Toad". All of the other chores can wait. Being six cannot wait and won't last forever. Take time to catch fireflies and count the stars.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Stormy weather and a request from readers

The hot days and unsettled/stormy nights have made turnout difficult to maneuver. But the barn owner has been great and accomodate Suki's special needs (although I am certain he thinks that I am crazy!). Friday night possible showers were predicted, but I decided to let Suki go out, because thunder storms were not expected. It did rain, so I ran over Saturday at 6 AM (so, yeah, maybe J is right and I AM crazy!)and brought Suki and Banker in. My concern was that she would roll and even with the fly sheet (because it was wet)the bandage would likely come off. Surprisingly the bandage was fine so I just had to change her clothing.

I was so excited to get to VMF to ride Nikki, since I had not ridden all week. Nikki was wonderful, and because all of the jumps had been removed from the indoor to be painted, I had a full arena to do lateral work! And baby, did we work it! I snuck in some half pass at the trot. Okay...I confess...I snuck a few steps of canter half pass in as well! Nikki TOTALLY went with it! Maybe I have been inspired by the upcoming Olympics, but maybe....Nikki and I are out to prove we can do it! I didn't over face her, it was just a few steps. I think she was smiling after that ride.
Saturday is a busy day for me, because after my early morning ride, I rush home to pick up Isaiah for his riding lesson. He was disappointed that he had to miss last week because he had a conflict. This week he was very engaged, and Miss L does a great job keeping him focused. The fact that she has two teenage boys makes a huge difference in her teaching because she understands the mind and attention span of the 6 year old boy! Following exercises in the dressage arena, they took a walk around the big field.
After the lesson we headed to the farmer's market to grab some local produce for a few meals, and ideas for my new "Farm to Table" blog...... First post will be within the next few days.....
Of course, never send two hungry people to a farmer's market.....but we did get the first local corn, picked that morning!

Saturday night. Storms likely, so I decided to keep Suki in. She needs to and loves to be out, so I always hate to make that decision, but sometimes it is necessary. And poor Banker has to stay in with her....
Aren't they cute together?
Storms were expected later, so they were out until about 10 PM, which is certainly better than no turn out. I really appreciate the extra effort to get Suki out!

Sunday morning it was humid already at 7 AM. Nikki was less than thrilled to have to work, but she was very good. Both of us were soaking wet after that workout! Once again I took advantage of the indoor devoid of jumps, so I went through a few dressage tests.... love that baby girl! After her bath Nikki enjoyed a face massage and some gummies. I love how she licks her lips after she eats them!

Sunday evening, AGAIN potential storms, but J put Suki out at 11:30 PM once they were over. I would have been okay with her staying in overnight, but thrilled that she was able to get out.

Today I changed the bandage and the graft is looking normal. One of the fly sheets has a few velcro straps on the under side, so I am going to adapt it with some foam.... Suki really enjoyed exfoliation tonight. When I removed the bandage everything looked great, but there was a bit of dry skin. Three times Suki pushed me off the stool, while she leaned into me enjoying having that itch scratched! While I was standing on the stool Suki turned to me and rested her chin on my shoulder. We have a bond that is difficult to describe. I work daily on the book, hoping that I can convey that.
Too hot to do any work, so just pampering for Miss Suki this evening. Now she is out for the night. And we are both smiling.

So I have noticed that there are readers from all over the world. I would love it if each of you would post where you are from, and how you found this blog. I appreciate the support and readership. You can post anonymously. I am just really curious about the people who read about my beloved girls every day. Peaceful evening.....

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A visit from the veterinarian

Enjoying a scratch under the chin:

Now that I am down to one suitable garment for Suki to wear I am even more paranoid than usual about the bandage covering the graft. The fly sheet is more loose fitting than the specialized garments, and it does not contain a pocket for the hard protective insert. I honestly don't know what to do with the shell, but the way it is right now Suki gets it all shifted and twisted. I am going to play with it a bit this weekend to see what I can do with it. The Wunderwear is out for repairs (well, I am still waiting for it to be picked up)and I will use a foam insert for the pocket when I get it back. I am going to add my own pocket to another fly sheet to see how that works. The warm temperatures really make it necessary to have the least amount of clothing as possible.....So far (knock on wood) the bandage is staying in place under the fly sheet, and when I changed it last night the graft looked fine.

A few weeks ago Suki showed the weird right front lameness that I saw only once last year. It was gone the next day, but I have observed the lameness again several times over the last few weeks. Each time I saw it I tried to correlate it with some event; high humidity, so more stocking up behind, in for extended periods, such as a stormy night, etc. Nothing. I was unable to find any consistency or factors that appeared to cause the lameness. So I decided to consult with my veterinarian, who was just as baffled last year as I was!

Today, Suki walked out of her stall sound, for Dr. X (of course). But that's okay. He saw it last year and knew what I was referring to. We took her out to the ring to do some flexion tests (during which last year Suki showed nothing except one slightly stiff hock that worked out in a few strides). When I first lunged her she looked slightly stiff, then fine. So Dr. X flexed the right front first. She trotted off slightly lame then worked out of it. To the left she also showed a response but it was not as obvious. In both directions it looks more like slight stiffness rather than obvious lameness. Dr. X said that because of the transient nature all of the usual suspicions are likely ruled out. We are going to run a Lyme titer and if that is negative we will do some xrays. He aslo suggested that with the hard ground she could be foot sore (she tested sensitive in both front feet with hoof testers), so we may have to go with front shoes, or possibly boots or sneakers.

Suki hates needles. This is not due to her extensive treatments at New Bolton, although I am sure that added to her anxiety! Several years ago a veterinarian who was vaccinating her was absolutely terrified because of her size. Suki picked up on that of course, and became very nervous. Needless to say it became quite the battle, and Suki has been difficult about injections ever since. For IM injections we scratch her withers and give the injections in the great. Drawing blood and IV injections, of course are a bit more difficult. The past few times have been much improved, and today she was a star! I suspect she was caught off guard because of having her feet and legs checked, but she went with it anyway.

I anticipate having the xrays done, just to rule out boney issues. But as I watched her trot across the field sound......well, who knows?

Monday, July 9, 2012

The three year anniversary

Three years. It is so hard to believe that so much time has passed since that fateful day. An emotional rollercoaster ride to say the least. I will never forget receiving the midnight phone call from Bobbi alerting me to the fire and the fact that our horses were missing. So many stories came out of that night. The worst for me was the report of a running horse "on fire". People tried to tell me later that it wasn't true, but when you see Suki's back, it is obvious what happened. The agony of the wait for a telephone call that I hoped would tell me that Suki had been found and was fine. Then the realization that yes, Suki had been found, but critically burned. So many people helped that night, and are heroes to me and Suki. My friend Bobbi, left her own horse at a strange barn to take Suki to New Bolton because I was at home alone with my 3 year old son.

I remember staring at the ruins of the barn that had once housed my beloved girl, and feeling my heart ache, when I thought of the terror and agony she must have experienced that night.

It seems like just yesterday that I walked into ICU, and upon seeing my beautiful girl, feeling like someone had reached in and ripped my heart from my chest....wondering if she would survive. But survive, she most certainly did. And not only that, THRIVED! The amazing staff at New Bolton saved Suki and gave her back to me and her diva personality never faltered. Kelly took over from there, faithfully nursing Suki back to health healing both of us emotionally as well. When we left Kelly's rehab farm daily care was still required and Lori helped me with that. I could never have done it alone. It took a village to save Suki and make her whole again. We are eternally grateful.

Suki demonstrated courage and strength that few can imagine and became an inspiration to people around the world. She has stolen the heart of everyone who meets or reads about her, because Suki has shown us that in spite of physical limitations or imperfections we all have a purpose in life, and we are all special in some way. My beautiful horse has shown me how to appreciate life and those I am fortunate to have in it. We have met so many wonderful people with whom we have shared stories. They have inspired us, just as we have inspired them.

Tonight I toasted Suki's survival with friends.....people I would never have known otherwise, but came into my life because of Suki. I raise my glass to all of you around the globe who read Suki's stories here and on Facebook, and say "thank you" for all of your support.

Suki and I sharing a glass of champagne:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Memory of the last ride

Leaving the house at 7:20 this morning to ride Nikki, I could already feel the start of the heat that was going to take over the day.  As I made the brief drive through my development, there was already a flurry of activity as everyone got out to run, bike, walk dogs, etc. before it became too hot to do so.  I have always been against living in suburbia, but this development worked for me for a number of reasons.  The lot was near the end of  a cul de sac, where the houses were spaced nicley apart, there are trees, and it is on a hill.  Behind our house is a nice wooded area which is part of our property, and our view from the front of our house is of the mountains.  A two minute drive and I am amidst cornfields and dairy farms.  Rural Berks county is just outside my door.  The number of cyclists increases exponentially as I get further out on the country roads.  This morning I noticed that the tallest corn now sports corn!  I can see the tassles and the husks....YAY!  local corn is coming soon!  I love how different cornfields have plants at varying heights so that corn will be available to us into early September.  I can now begin my Farm to Table cooking.... more about THAT tomorrow.

My drive to Valley Mist from my house always includes me driving past the former Pink Star, site of the fire.  Most days I don't react, but as I have mentioned in previous posts, there are days where I am brought to tears.  With two days until the 3 year anniversary of the fire, I started to get teary-eyed as I approached the farm, and had a hard time even looking at the baby standardbreds in the field.  But I forced myself to look at the spot where Suki's barn had stood....yes, I DO like to torture myself!  Then it occurred to me the significance of today's date.  Tuesday, July 7, 2009, was the last time that I rode Suki. 

That memory is as fresh as if it happened yesterday.  Suki was light, forward and happy that day, as I had continued to increase the difficulty of her daily work.  She performed lovely half passes at the trot, and our previous issues seemed to have melted away.  Since her back injection that March, and our move to Pink Star in April, we had been building on the lateral work and working the way Heather had taught us.  Together we were dancing once more, and I was beginning to clearly see our future.  I even dared to try a canter half pass, which she performed with minimal effort and maximum response.  I was elated!  When I dismounted, I wrapped my arms around her neck and gave her a big hug, telling her just how special she was.  That night when I left her I told her that I would see her Thursday for our next ride.  Leaving the next morning for a meeting in New Jersey, the plan was that I would ride on my way back on Thursday afternoon.  Of course, that did not happen, since my husband was called away on emergency business on July 9, and the fire occurred later that evening.  Life can change in an instant, and I was reminded of that today.

Feeling a little melancholy when I arrived at VMF, I was instantly cheered by the sound of Nikki nickering in response to my voice.  With temperatures already in the 80's, I prepped quickly for my ride.  Surprisingly, Nikki was light and forward, responsive to every request.  That, of course, raised my spirits even more! Shoulder in is becoming consistent, and I did a bit on the quarter line to make sure that I was not becoming "rail-dependent" with it.  After the ride I gave her a nice shower and a Vetrolin rinse.  Doesn't everyone love the smell of Vetrolin??  Nikki does not like to have her head hosed off, so I always use a sponge, which she is not exceptionally fond of either, but tolerates it.  Her favorite part is when I towel dry her face, which is much like getting a massage.  Then she grabs the towel and we have a tug of war, like with a large dog!  On my way home i stopped to check Suki, who seemed fine, but I wrapped her hind legs (because of her tendency to stock up) and give her a cool water sponge down.  At 10:30 AM the temperature had already hit the low 90's.....

Two more checks for Suki and one for Nikki.  I gave Nikki a shower, even though she seemed fairly comfortable.  Suki received two more sponge downs.  She will remain naked over night since she is staying in due to storms.  The bandage looks good, so I am hoping that Suki does not do a big roll over night!  The Storm passing through right now is a little scary!  I hope that we don't lose power! 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Back to the heat

Such a peaceful evening.  I am sitting on the deck with a glass of wine as I write this.  It is still rather warm, but there is a SLIGHT breeze, so it is not uncomfortable.  I am watching the birds in the feeders as they jockey for position to taste the gourmet mix.  Because of the variety of birds I like to mix feeds geared towards the various species, which includes nuts and fruits.  The result is a very busy cafe outside my window!

Today's photo of the day by Jennifer show's Suki's sassy side.  She is flirting with the camera as usual, without looking at it directly.  She simply knows it is all about her!  I admire her confidence!

The heat seems to be returning, so Suki is naked (with a bandage) during the day while in her stall, and is now wearing the customized Wunderwear sheet at night while she is turned out.  I have to do something with the shell.  It keeps twisting and shifting, at times ending up around her neck.  Not good.  The Wunderwear sheet is a little small, because it was given to me by someone who no longer needed it.  Wunderwear is no longer in business, whhich is really a shame.  I like that the lower half is mesh.  The part across the back is lycra, so it stays in place.  It doesnt keep Suki as cool as the shell, but I try to dress her just before she goes out so we have been okay so far.  Tomorrow temperatures are supposed to reach 100, so I am planning on doing something to that shell so she can wear it outside tomorrow night.

Thursday was hot but I was determined to ride.  The time that I was available was in the afternoon, and although it was hot, the humidity did not seem too oppressive.  Nikki was very happy to see me, talking to me the way she usually does when she hears my voice.  I admit, that she seemed less than thrilled when I brought the saddle out and placed it on the rack!  The sun was hot, and at that time of day the outdoor ring was baking in the sun.  While this is wonderful on colder days, summer days, not so much!  I decided to ride in the indoor without the sun on us, but sacrificing some ventilation.  The end doors were open, so that helped, but there wasn't much of a breeze outside anyway.  Nikki hadn't been ridden since Monday so I decided to lunge her for a few minutes.  This was incredibly laughable.  Nikki looked at me like I was crazy, which craked me up. I hopped on, and in spite of the heat she was willing and responsive.  It was a light ride, but we both benefited from it.

Friday, July 6, 2012
Today seemed to be not quite as hot, and certainly not as humid.  But all of a sudden at around 3 PM, the temperature just seemed to spike!  Because of that I waited until almost 6 to take care of Suki.  She enjoyed sour apple gummy rings from Ruby, a Facebook fan and was in a generally good mood.  The mystery lameness appeared again today so I am going to have the vet look at her this week.  She walks it off pretty quickly, and does not happen every day, but I need to know what's going on.  Once again, Suki was without a sheet in her stall during the day, and midday and early evening she was comfortable in front of her fan.  The graft really looks great, so the setback was temporary, but I still need to be careful.  The dark pigment is obviously more superficial than what I had thought.

But I am pleased with the progress and not quite as freaked out as I had been!
Tomorrow will be brutal with the heat, so it will require a a few Suki checks.  I am looking forward to my early morning ride on Nikki......

Monday, July 2, 2012

Horses make me sane...or crazy

Some days I feel like my life revolves around horses and that's just fine.  I feel most at home when I am surrounded by horses, yet I have never wanted to make it my career.  I admire those who do.  When I am spending time with my girls I feel a sense of peace that I don't have at any other time.  Yet, there are days when they make me seem like an obsessed crazy person!  But their safety and well-being is of the utmost importance.  Certainly the barn fire has made me more safety-obsessed, as Suki heals. 

The July issue of Practical Horseman has an article about barn fires.  It raised some valid points, but to me, missed the mark.  The good points were to "design for disaster" and build for safety.  It also discussed how one should determine when it is past the point where lives can be saved.  They never mentioned the box fans that everyone uses, but are not designed for the way we use them.  That I am sure is difficult indeed.  It is wonderful that Maplewood Farms in Reno, Nevada was able to evacuate their horses as the forest fires approached.  But that is certainly different from a fire that starts in the middle of the night.  My favorite part was how we should make sure that our horses are well trained to accept having a halter put on by a stranger, quickly.  Suki was well trained to have her halter put on.  However, with flames all around, smoke, etc, even the calmest horse will be panicked and uncertain about being handled by a stranger in full fire gear!  And now I will step down from my soap box....

The other article was about Heather Mason.  One of the things I have always admired about Heather is her ability to train horses from the ground up.  She helped me so much with Suki, and brought Nikki into my life.  One of her other students, Amy, commented how Heather is always there for her students.  No truer words have ever been said.  The night of the fire I texted Heather in the middle of the night telling her what happened, assuming that she would see it in the morning.  Instead I received a text immediately, and she maintained that contact with me throughout the night.  Heather was the first person to call me when I left New Bolton after seeing Suki that first time after the fire.  She supported me throughout the entire recovery period.  When I asked her why she was responding to a text in the middle of the night she said "I always have my phone nearby.  I need to know what is going on with the horses".  Read the article if you get a chance.  It speaks volumes about her ability and dedication.

I finally got to ride Nikki Saturday, after 2 weeks!  I hate conferences.  They keep me from my family and my horses.  Driving to Valley Mist I was amazed at how tall some of the corn hade grown!  Corridors of it down country roads, with the promise of fresh local corn very soon!  Once again I practically ran into the barn to see baby Nikki!  It was already warm at 7:30, so I was anxious to get started.  She was very snuggly....she missed me!  I had first gone to bring in Suki, because I was worried about the state of her shell. We had another brief storm over night....(crazy). Everything was in order and with the bugs biting at that early hour she and Banker were happy to come in!

Nikki was wonderful, and although it had been two weeks for me, she had been ridden in my absence.  After a short warm up I went right to the lateral work, with Nikki happily obliging.  This is when horses keep me sane!  I rushed back home to take Isaiah to his riding lesson which he also seemed to enjoy.  We stopped to do a midday Suki check because of the heat, and I could hear her calling to me as I got out of the car.  Another moment of sanity.

Sunday was more humid than Saturday, but my early morning ride was pleasant and productive.  Nikki seemed a little tired toward the end of the ride, but was willing and responsive.  I added a little shortening/lengthening within the strides to make her sharper, and this time I felt a nice response at the canter as well.  When I dismounted Nikki let out a sigh, then turned and rested her chin on my shoulder while I loosened the girth.  Sweet girl....The barn was quite busy by 8:30, with everyone trying to beat the heat.  I was glad I had an early ride!

Suki's shell is really struggling to stay together at this point, even with my repairs.  She wore the Wunderwear last night which has had a pocket added for the protective shield.  It is removed first thing in the morning when she comes in, and so far the bandage has kept her graft site safe while she is in during the day.  It was a minor set back, and seems to be healing well.

Tonight Suki was a bit grumpy.  With the heat I have not been lunging her, and I think she misses the work.  I will have to try to do an early evening lunge on the days with lower humidity.  She brightened during her spa treatment, and scratched the front of her head fiercly on the exfoliation mitt.  When we were finished she leaned her head on me.  I think that the girls keep me sane more than they make me crazy....