Saturday, August 24, 2013

My turn to be brave

I arrived at the barn Monday morning expecting to drop the feed and head to work. As I drove up the road, I saw Harley standing down in the pasture; unusual for him. The gang tends to wait for breakfast at the top of the hill by the gate. I grabbed the buckets and whistled for him, but he didn't move. I ran back to the barn, grabbed my phone, a halter and lead, and returned to the field, talking to Harley, but still seeing no apparent reason for his behavior. When I got closer, I saw contusions on his head, and he was shivering. "Oh God", I thought, and called John, then the vet. She said it sounded like he'd colicked and hurt his head thrashing about on the ground. She was on her way. My poor boy.

Harley followed my up to the barn where I put a sheet on him and slowly walked up and down the aisle until the vet arrived. She did a rectal exam and removed a bit of manure, but nothing that indicated an impaction. Then she intubated him and drained a lot of bile. I held Harley's head while the vet discussed my options. She recommended he go to one of the nearby clinics where he would most likely need surgery, or euthanasia. He was in a lot of pain, but his vitals were strong and good still, if we wanted to try surgery. My heart clenched and I held back a sob. John and I had always said surgery was not in the books, but with euthanasia the only option, I swallowed my tears and asked what the process would be and about how much it would cost. Hell, it's only money--I could pay the penalty and cash in a small CD/IRA. The bank isn't paying squat, but Harley has brought me so much joy he deserved the chance to pull through. I felt it was worth a try.

We have no truck or trailer and needed find a setup to borrow pronto. Our wonderful vet offered up her rig at home. Her husband drove it over and sent us on our way to the clinic, after helping us load Eeyore (doped up, he still hates trailers as you may remember). At the clinic he was immediately set up for surgery while the vets ultrasounded him, did another rectal, and pulled more liquid through the tube. I stood there, holding Harley's head in my arms, whispering "You're going to be ok, my boy"
During the ultrasound his stomach began to rumble and gurgle. This was good and we all hoped Harley would rally round and keep improving. It was hard to leave him that day and go into work for the evening. My mind kept drifting off--I was pretty useless. No calls meant good news, so I assumed.

When I called the clinic Tuesday morning, he was much better. They wanted to keep him another day to get his fluids back on track and be sure he could eat without issue. I went to see him on my lunch break, and again, got all teary eyed telling him he'd dodged the big one. We brought him back home Wednesday (after another go-round of hauling Harley onto the trailer), but he's on light turnout for a few days until he's back to eating full rations. My poor boy has contusions under his eye, his elbow, and his stifle. I keep imagining what he must have been going through down in the pasture and wish I'd been there much sooner. This is convincing me all the more that we need to have a place where the horses are in the back yard--where I can keep tabs on things more closely.

Thankfully all turned out fine and I haven't had to close out the CD fund. I'm giving him a few days to settle back at home before resuming exercise. He was quite happy to see his girls again!

The 2 patients in a small enclosure

Harley and Rolex are the two patients now. Amidst all this, Rolex cracked a rear hoof badly and needs time to grow it out. St. Butch tried to put on a special shoe to hold in the edges, but she promptly threw it out in the pasture. So it's back to the Easyboots for her until we can get a shoe to stay on and the hoof grows. Harley has recovered, but he dropped some weight, so I'm trying to put the pounds back on him. Nobody likes a skinny Thoroughbred with winter approaching! I rode Harley for about an hour today--just a walk up the road and in the woods. He was feeling good and pranced a bit, spooking at silly things, just to show me he's A-ok!

Last weekend we took Ruffy and Harley for a jaunt together. Here's Ruffy looking dashing in her white fly bonnet! She was very good today, a lot less stressed about footing and branches touching her. Although I still think she prefers open fields, close to home!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Harley puts on a brave face

We had gorgeous weather this weekend with low humidity, cool breezes and a temperature in the low 80's. Who could ask for anything better in August, especially after Friday's deluge. Saturday morning saw me up and at the barn by 8:00 planning my ride. I so enjoyed our "new trail" down in the Orris Falls Preserve that I decided to go ride it again, but in reverse.

Saturday also featured an MS "Ride for the Cure" bicycle ride. The cyclists had to ride up Thurrell Rd. and then enjoyed a downhill coast the other way. Of course this meant the road was full of cyclists going past the barn.  I thought this might be a nice challenge for Harley--turkeys, lots of bicycles, and a solo ride!

This trail has such marvelous footing and I love they way it winds through the trees, past stone walls, and even an ancient cemetery. I think it may be part of the original settlement when the Littlefields farmed this area. When riding through copses early or late in the day, I'm always on the watch for deer that may be hiding among the trees. I think Harley expects it too, judging by the alert ears!

This is the old cemetery with a few old broken stones tipping to the side. a couple of stakes and pole branches demarcate the edges to keep people (and horses) from treading through the site. There's a sign placed down by the brook that shows the layout of the Littlefield settlement. One of these days, when I can get Harley close enough to the sign, I may get a chance to read it! Or I may just have to get off and sidle up closer acting as the buffer between Harley and the scary sign!
I planned to ride home the trail through the Savage's property, but discovered another "new trail" worth exploring. How is it we've missed these? In the winter, we tried riding down one, but it seemed to peter out. Maybe we didn't realize we had wandered off the trail and thought it was just some dead end old logging cut?

At any rate, it proved to be an interesting little jaunt that takes one right down beside the beaver pond--so close you can hear the water rushing over the dam after our big storm on Friday. Harley was doing fine until he came to a quaggy spot with a channel of running water. He thought it was a bog and backed up refusing to go forward. Remember, we have had our moments in the mud! I had to finally dismount and lead him over the muck. But like the good boy he is, he stood still while I clambered back on from a rather slippery stump!

On Sunday, I took John on the same route so he could see the "2nd New Trail" we found. Harley was happy for a jaunt with his Rolex Girl leading the way. But I made him go out front a few times, especially when we had to cross the quaggy spot. He slogged through like a good boy, with little to no hesitation this time.  But when we reached the pond above the falls, John suggested I ride out there for a photo shoot--uh, uh. He was having no part of that when Rolex was on the other side, off in the woods!  He can be a dithering wreck if asked to part ways with his trail pal. And although we work on this, he can be quite the stubborn guy!

Once Rolex joined us at the water, he obligingly waded in and stopped for a big drink. As long as Rolex waited, he would be a good trail horse and slurp up some water. John was able to snap off some shots of a now relaxed Harley quenching his thirst.

John continued carrying the camera and got a quick shot of Rolex on the trail bordering the falls. She and Harley both look askance at the chasm when they pass here. John was trying to do a little trail maintenance with his loppers on this ride, cutting away overhead branches that continually smack us in the face. Rolex is pretty good about standing still, but I think the biting bugs were making both of them a little crazy when asked to "whoa". I think the bugs are always the worst in the deep hemlocks, especially near the water.

Rolex leading the way by Orris Falls chasm

It was another lovely cool evening once the sun went down. Everyone was happy to be outside after sunset, even the little grey tree frogs who seem to enjoy life at the barn. I keep seeing this guy (of one of many) sitting along the fence with his or her little bum tucked into the fence post hole. I love the way they tuck their front legs in too. I think the camera flash blinded this little guy for a moment.  And what did I find in Harley's outdoor feed bucket this morning? Yup, a little grey tree frog!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fresh hay and a new trail

This is the chore I faced on Monday afternoon--unloading and stacking 145 bales of hay into the barn loft. I wanted to get going on this project before riding, especially since it was after three o'clock.  But when I got to the barn--no John, no Rolex, no Harley, and no saddle! I called John. He had the two horses down at Orris Falls and was "warming them up" so I needed to get ready to ride--the hay would have to wait. It was a perfect summer day, and we didn't want to miss out riding in such splendid weather. With low humidity, a cool breeze, and temperatures only in the 70's, my saddle beckoned and John had me convinced to ride. He didn't think unloading the hay would take too long...

Here's Harley, "worn out" from trying to keep up with Rolex. She's got a swinging step and my little guy (he's only 15.2) has to jog constantly when tagging behind Rolex.

There's nothing like arriving at the barn and having your horse brushed, tacked, warmed up, and ready to go.
And no, he wasn't worn out, just warmed up and , as it turns out, feeling good! We rode up the power line and then hooked up onto a rather new trail we just discovered (without snow cover) on Sunday. The terrain only looked familiar in some places; where a stonewall intersected the land, a familiar slope or grove of trees. But it was different enough for me to call it a new "discovery". The trail loops off the Big Bump Trail in the Orris Falls preserve, and thus far, offers excellent footing for speed!

John took Ruffy up this same trail earlier in the day and had a nice canter. She likes open trails, which this one is--not a lot of close brush clipping her hind end and making her panic. And the openness allows the breezes to penetrate the woods, thus reducing the number of bugs!

I hope this trail remains less traveled by hikers and bikers, ensuring good footing for a time. Once the traffic picks up, the trails erode and become rocky.

Harley took the lead for a time, only because Rolex wanted to rub her sweaty head against his flank. But once out there, and headed in the direction of home, he put on his brave face. This trail would be the perfect place to come across deer--a guaranteed spook in our future. We had a close encounter with a deer on Saturday's ride. Harley wheeled left, then stopped. But by the time we turned around, the deer was long gone, blending into the dappled woodland.
I didn't dally too long taking pictures since my day was far from over. 145 bales were waiting...

New woodland trail
After we bathed and turned out the horses, it was time to tackle the hay conveyor. This behemoth must have weighed 200+ pounds. With only the two of us to get it out of the 2nd story loft (yes, not the lower loft, the upper loft), it took nearly an hour to push, pull, and rig up a rope Z-drag to get it down. With John on the hay wagon and loading the conveyor, and me upstairs stacking, we finally got the whole load done and cleaned up around 8:30 p.m. We were both bushed, but happy to have the first load stacked and stored for winter.

My portion of the work--stacked bales
By the time we rolled out of the barnyard, the horses had moved down into the field, happily munching in belly-deep grass. Goodnight gang--see you in the morning.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Harley made it at last!

We finally got past the goats without stopping, backing up, or whirling. On our last attempt,  he had one spin for home, although his spin wasn't near as fast as it used to be. Or maybe I'm just ready for it now! The bugs were ghastly, but the whole point of the ride was to make it past the goats.

Strong winds gusted up the hill this morning, so I thought the bugs wouldn't be too bad. Plus the temperature was still only in the 70's--downright cool compared to many days we've had this summer. I decided we needed to get a perfect score passing the goat house before I can ride Harley some place different. With the wind tossing the branches and tickling his tail, Harley was in fine form! Mr. Spookypants was ready to jump at critters in the woods, branches casting strange shadows on the road, a small puddle, you name it. And this was before we'd even reached the goats! As we approached, I felt him doing the sideways prance and heard a truck lumbering up the hill behind us. For once, a driver heeded my hand signals to please slow down and give us room. Once we pranced past the goats, the driver proceeded with caution and got a big "Thank you!' from me. Harley got some "Good brave boy" pats as well.

Since the wind didn't penetrate the woods, the deer flies found us immediately. Poor Harley took the brunt of their assault while I got just one welt on my arm. On days like this, I long for September. We had a few nice trots, but I didn't want him to get to speedy, clip his heels and rip off his shoes--like a particular dark bay mare back at the barn. St. Butch is coming tomorrow for trims and new shoes.

Harley was feeling sparky and moving along at a good pace, especially when I let him pick our turns and he headed for home. I couldn't fault him on that, given the insidious insect assault! And of course, as I'm ambling along on a loose rein, a deer gave Harley a good start--and me too. That made him wheel left, but we pulled up and pranced back in the direction of the deer, just for fun.

 Back in the barnyard, Harley peered around, looking for his girls. Home safe at last!

He walked right into the barn--I know, I know, shouldn't ride in the barn--as if asking me to get off and let him go see his friends.  But first, Mr. Moon, you need a washing off and some carrots!

While I was cleaning up the barn, I saw this colorful spider. It appears to have "thorns" on its abdomen.
 Last night, I was turning the horses out after dinner around 8:30. It was pretty dim, but I saw this grey lump move, right under Rolex's nose on the fence. A grey tree frog had emerged from his little cave in the fence post, the space where the board fits into the slot. He sat there while I turned out 3 horses, but by the time I put Vance out, he had found a new home with less vibration!

John ordered a special map for us made up from a number of USGS quadrangles. It's fun to be able to see all the surrounding terrain and plot our next ride! And underneath it, is a very comfortable wooden bench;  a great spot for relaxing, post-ride.  Down in the far right hand corner, is the Atlantic Ocean. That purple mark in the center is North Berwick (the Pratt-Whitney complex) As the crow flies, we are about one quarter of the distance between North Berwick and the ocean in a southeast direction--right on the west side of that brown set of contour lines delineating part of the Tatnic Hills. Yup, I'm kind of old-fashioned--no GPS in my dumb phone, just a map tacked on the wall and it's image imprinted in my mind. Although there have been times when I wished I'd had the paper map with me!