Thursday, April 25, 2013

The dentist

Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Spring always seems to increase the spring in my step as I am sure it does for many people.  I love winter, and autumn is truly my favorite season, but there is something about a bright spring day that makes me smile.  That also means spending more time at the barn.  Manes shortened, extra grooming cleaning out the tack room (and my garage) and FINALLY packing away the heavy winter blankets.  I sent Suki and Nikki's heaviest blankets out for cleaning and they will be returned to me tied in a neat little package (I don't know how Donna manages that!) to be stacked in the "clean" bin.  Mid weight blankets will go next, but there have been some cold nights necessitating their use, so I must hold off on that for now.

The girls are getting back into shape with some work, and L got on Nikki for me for the first time yesterday.  She will work with her daily for a week or so then I will take over the main part of the riding.  L will still get on her once a week because of my schedule.  I decided to go this route because I know that I cannot guarantee enough days in a row to really get Nikki back under saddle.  Once she is going again it will be fine.  This takes pressure and anxiety off of me for now!

Now that the grass is becoming more lush the girls show increased reluctance to come in from the field.  I usually arrive at the barn about an hour before they would be coming in to eat and they stay in once I am finished with them.  So bribery with a bucket of grain is usually required.  Even then they have no sense of urgency to come to the gate.  Today Nikki was facing away from Suki grazing and apparently did not notice big sis making her way to the gate (at  leisurely pace I might ad!).  When she finally noticed, Suki was almost to the gate and Nikki let out a near hysterical whinny then galloped to the gate!

I am going to be writing an article about Suki for Warmbloods Today magazine.  I'm not sure how I want to balance the piece.  While I will emphasize the extent of Suki's injuries, I also want to show how far she has come and the way in which she inspires so many people.  Hard to do in 2100 words, but easier than the last piece that was under 1400 words!  Obviously the book is a much more in depth view, but I want this to give people a feel for what has transpired and hopefully they will want to read the book!

Thursday, April 25, 2013
L has ridden Nikki four days in a row now, and all appears to be going well.  Nikki was a little rebellious today apparently (tail swishing and head fussiness) like she suddenly realized that this work thing was going to return as a part of her normal activities!  L said that she settled eventually and was fine.  Time to grow up baby Nikki!  We have some goals to accomplish together.  I am so looking forward to riding again.  This cannot happen next winter so I will have to find some kind of solution.  There are several dressage barns 30-40 minutes away, but unfortunately with my schedule that would be impossible.  Over the next few months I will actively search fro something.  Perhaps I will have to move her a little farther away just for 3 months of winter and just have someone ride her when I can't.  Not ideal, but some riding would be better than none, and at least Nikki could continue with her work. 

The dentist is coming this afternoon.  Nikki will be fine, and so will Suki once she realizes that the goal is not to kill her!  Then she usually relaxes and cooperates.  I am hopeful for an uneventful visit. 

So.... This was a new dentist.  I don't like dentists that sedate every horse because it is not always necessary for routine floating.  There is a time and place for it though.  We started with Suki because if she does not go first and observes what is going on she can be impossible to catch in the stall.  I had prepped S for Suki's issues and explained what had transpired.  I already had a lead rope on Suki when he walked in because I knew she would be nervous.  When S walked in Suki lifted her head and would not let him hook his lead to her halter.  He asked many questions about the scarring behind her ears and if it would cause discomfort with the speculum halter.  That impressed me. He said that was fine that she would not allow him to touch her and turned his back to her.  Suki of course, walked toward him and started to nibble on his shirt and rest her chin on his shoulder.  Quietly he turned around and speaking to her softly clipped the lead.  She was a little nervous when he went to put on the halter with the speculum on her because it had to go around her ears.  S wasquiet and deliberate speaking softly the entire time, telling Suki how beautiful she is.  I was grateful for his kindness.  When he finished he kissed her on the nose and told her she was beautiful.  Suki nuzzled against him as he left her stall.

In spite of how nervous Suki and I look it was all fine!


Nikki, on the other hand, was very nervous.  She did not really settle and had a furrowed brow the whole time.  S was very patient with her as well, speaking softly and taking frequent breaks to help her relax.  He patted her and told her what a good girl she was. I loved this dentist.  He was kind, patient and thorough, explaining everything and taking his time.    The girls were in good hands. 

Now I am having a glass of wine....

Friday, April 19, 2013

A Hero's Welcome

Thursday, April11, 2013
Being away from home for six days is stressful on many levels.  I always marvel at my husband's ability to travel for business....he packs his suitcase (after I have made sure that all necessary clothing is clean and ready to be packed) and walks out the door.  There are no extra chores for him to perform.  Prior to travel I have to make sure that he and Isaiah have all of the necessary clothing available and instructions on how to wash certain items (like school uniforms, rding clothes,etc) just in case it is.  I do all of the laundry in the house pretty much by choice.  It is because I am truly anal about how it should be done...gentle, low dry, hang in the laundry room.  There are notes about school, activities, etc.  I have to arrange for Suki and Nikki to be groomed/ get the picture.  Reminders are texted from me when I worry that something will be forgotten, and I am sure that Deb just LOVES getting my blanket texts for the girls!  When I am attending a conference I don't have very much down time so there is not a lot of time for me to worry about things.  I realize that this must sound like I am a total control freak, which I probably am, but just a little!  But I know that things typically run pretty smoothly in my absence, so there is actually very little to worry about!

This time when I left for DC it had been chilly, with winter hanging on for its last hurrah.  While I  was away temperatures soared and the foliage began to show the first signs of life.  The cherry blossoms were at their peak when I was in Washington but there was no time for me to see them in person.  The photos on the news were truly lovely though!  Arriving home I was welcomed by buds on most trees, forsythias in full bloom and rows of daffodils.  The grass also started to change from brownish to spring green.  As I walked in the door Ripley practically turned himself inside out saying hello with welcoming whines and barking (he is a Weimaraner and VERY vocal!).  The cats ran into the kitchen and I felt surrounded by love (and as if I had been gone for years!).  Since I made it home in time to pick up Isaiah from school I decided to go instead of my husband (oh yeah....he was happy that I was home as well).  Clearly Isaiah was not expecting me because as he came through the door his beautiful brown eyes widened with excitement as he ran to me and threw himself into my arms.  A hero's welcome.....there is  nothing better!

Deb and Toby took care of the girls that day but just before dinner I ran over to see them and pick up yet another sheet that needs to be sent out for repairs/cleaning.  As always, I walked into the barn and said "Hi Girls!"  At once both Suki and Nikki nickered loudly, stomping and calling to me.  I stopped at Nikki's stall giving her hugs and treats while Suki vocalized and banged her stall door impatiently.  Nikki snuffled my my hair then proceeded to search for treats.  As typical of Suki, she practically threw herself at me when I opened her door (kind of like Isaiah, but at 1400 lbs!).  She too looked for treats while her nostrils silently nickered.  Another hero's welcome....the best part of coming home.

Another milestone was achieved while I was away.  Last year during the warm weather months Suki needed to wear a padded bandage under her fly sheet or the fly sheet with a foam pad velcroed to it.  The graft area, although healed, was still quite sensitive.  Several attempts had been made to eliminate the extra protection but sections of the graft became irritated from rolling.  Once Suki started to wear heavier sheets then blankets I eliminated the bandage successfuly.  But a fly sheet offers much less protection.  When I left for the conference Suki was still wearing a heavy sheet.  But I knew that while I was away Nikki would be going naked and Suki would wear a fly sheet.  Needless to say I was nervous.  A full supply of bandage material was ready just in case....

All appeared to go well, although I do think there was slight pinkness to the area.  Probably not, though I tend to overanalyze when it comes to Suki's skin!

Wednesday April 17, 2013
My goodness this post is taking me forever to write!  But in addition to the hero's welcome when I return from a trip there are also many responsibilities.
Since my return I have started to lunge the girls regularly.  Because I am preparing Nikki for getting back to work she is being lunged more frequently than Suki.  Both horses are doing well so I am really looking forward to advancing their training. 

Prior to my trip both girls had begun to really shed out, so their coats are looking beautiful again.  I noticed a change in Suki's coat this winter, especially as she began to shed it this spring.  Her coat grew in thicker this year.  The temperatures weren't any colder than normal and she certainly did not get a coat as thick as Nikki's, but she never has.  Suki never had to be body clipped for winter work, because although it grew thicker, the hair was never got to the point requiring clipping.  So now, of course I am left to wonder as to the cause.  Is it because now, nearly 4 years after the fire, she is becoming physiologically more "normal"?  Her reproductive physiology is certainly fine, as she returned to normal heat cycles less than a year after the fire. Or is it due to aging?  Perhaps I will never know, but I think I will speak with some of the burn specialists for their thoughts on the matter.

Friday April 19, 2013
Storms are beginning to roll in.  I had entertained lunging Nikki, but by the time I got to the barn tonight the wind was really beginning to kick up pulling dirt and leaves with it.  Suki and Nikki came right to the gate which is always helpful.  We are going to be doing the blanket dance over the next few days.  80's today, but tomorrow night down to the freezing mark. 
To top off the day Ripley, my Weimaraner rolled in fox poop requiring an immediate bath.....

The weekend is supposed to be pretty nice after this line of wicked storms so I look forward to getting in some training.  I would say relaxation, too, but that is usually not an option!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Do horses have flashbacks??

It has been said that horses remember people who have been kind to them and people who have been unkind....long after they last met.  I certainly believe that.  There was a story recently about a family who had sold a horse and requested first refusal if the new owner decided to sell her.  The original owner had taught the horse tricks, including how to bow.  A few years later the original family was alerted that this pony was in the kill pen at an auction, and the photo that the family saw made them fairly certain that this was their beloved pony.  Attempting to get information from the people they had sold her to proved fruitless.  A rescue took the pony and the original family went to see/retrieve her.  When the pony saw the girl and heard her voice, she bowed.

The other night Deb and Toby took care of the girls as they always do on Wednesdays.  A farrier was working inside the barn, which was filled with smoke.  Suki refused to go in the barn.  So I am left to wonder....was this due to her nervousnous around farriers, or this time did it have to do with her experience in the fire.  As I thought about this (and now as I write about it) I can feel my chest tighten and my eyes fill with tears.  It physically hurts me to imagine what she went through that night.  The amount of fear as smoke filled the barn knowing she was trapped.  The pain of firey debris falling on her as she was rescued from the burning barn.  The fear that sent her and Whisby running from the paddock to get as far away from the chaos as possible!  I know from several accounts that Suki's back was literally on fire, and no amount of time will ever heal the emotional wounds that cut deep into my heart and how must Suki feel?

Suki has come along way physically and from everything I can tell as I take care of her daily, she has recovered mentally as well.  At least that is how it appears.  From what I understand military dogs can experience post traumatic stress disorder, and for mny abused animals it takes them a long to time to trust again.  I think that non-animal people don't get that....

So now I am away at a conference.  I left on Friday (5 April)  and will return Wednesday night.  Deb and Toby are taking care of the girls.  The weather is perfect for riding so I am really anxious to get home to get Nikki back to work and start getting Suki fit for our long lining adventures.  My show season will start late, but I intend to get cranking by summer!  I can't wait to get beautiful Nikki out in front of the judges again! 

With Suki I will make sure that she is sound and happy.  As we progress I will decide what the next direction will be and which trainer I will seek assistance from.  One thing that may turn up as I start to increase Suki's work is her respiration.  Although it does not appear that she has lung damage from the smoke inhalation, her veterinarians warned that perhaps if she were to ever go back to work we would discover that there is indeed some damage.  This could surface as an inability to work past a certain point, but it is all a mystery at this point.  I have never pushed her to a true fitness level other than lunging for 15 minutes or so at a time.  She seemed okay with that but time will tell.  So this spring/summer and fall will be one of discovery and milestones. 

Speaking of milestones!!!!  As I said, I am away at a conference.  Of course the temperatures have soared and Nikki is now naked.  I am sure she will have some good back-scratching rolls with all of that shedding!  Suki cannot be naked, so she is wearing a fly sheet for the first time since last September.  At that time she was wearing that stiff fly sheet with the foam padding to protect the graft area on her back.  When she wore a regular fly sheet I used a small padded bandage to protect it from the trauma of rolling.  In her stall she was allowed to be naked or wear a fly sheet without a bandage, but not outside.  Today, for the first time, Suki was out in a regular fly sheet.  No bandage, no padding.  Deb said that after a full day of turnout, all is good!  Fingers crossed that this continues......I was nervous being away and not able to monitor it but I trust Deb, and know that she takes good care of the girls.  I cried when I read the text that said Suki's back looks great!  Yes, I am a sap.  I have become a crier since the fire as well ( much for that tough exterior that took a lifetime to perfect!).  That's okay.  I am just so thrilled that Suki continues to progress.  Is there a saddle in her future......???

However.....both girls' manes are a mess!  Suki will get hers razored (pulling requires sedation or she body slams me off the stool).  Nikki is perfect about it and even dozes sometimes while I am pulling her mane!  Silly girl.  So this weekend there will be a lot of cleaning and beautifying going on so that the girls can be their stunning selves!