Tuesday, July 5, 2016

My Two Faces

Out for a ride on my OTTB Halawa Moon
I was a late arrival on the Facebook scene,  joining to catch up with classmates and long lost friends. Most of the world seemed "connected"; so I figured I'd wade into the world of social media. Along the way I discovered the vibrant horse community, and only realized later that two equestrian worlds existed in Facebook-land.

One world consisted of horse people of many levels and disciplines, but most of the posts were idle chatter regarding  training tips, what to feed your hard keeper, and distorted selfies of owners and horses faces. Some posts were interesting and many quite humorous.  I was awed by the number of Thoroughbred enthusiasts out there, especially those promoting and sharing OTTBs, or off-track Thoroughbreds. Then a post crossed my radar and I discovered a darker world, the world of horse rescues, auctions, kill pens, and kill buyers. All-breed and Thoroughbred rescue groups posted daily and weekly pictures of horses in peril, on the brink of heading to slaughter.

After joining a number of off-track Thoroughbred groups, I was drawn to the OTTBs at the feedlots and auctions. I joined the rescue groups working every day to get these horses to safety. With little money to spare for donations to rescue groups, I try to stay on top of horses needing networking. I've helped "bail" a few horses when I could afford to, but spend most of my Facebook time doing my damned best to network horses needing new homes through the numerous successful rescue groups out in cyberspace. And I am still amazed weekly by the "horse warriors" who rise to the occasion, saving so many horses, week after week, day after day. My hat (or helmet) goes off to their perseverance.

At the end of a day, home from the barn, I log on to Facebook and check the status on "my horses"; the horses that are still needing a safe place to land. I now know the schedule of auctions from Pennsylvania to California to Mississippi. A lovely bay Thoroughbred gelding, with panic in his eyes, ran loose through the notorious Sugar Creek Auction in Ohio. Susie Gordon's photographs stunned me and brought home the plight of horses at auction. Hip number 465's face haunted me. I saw him in my sleep. A group of amazing people worked through the day and into the night to save a group of horses. Number 465, a nine year old Thoroughbred gelding, was safe. I sobbed with relief and made a vow to become more involved and work harder to rescue horses stuck in the slaughter pipeline.

So now I have two Facebook faces; one with happy pictures of me and Harley, sharing our fun times together. And then there's my other, grim, serious, desperate face; the "horse warrior" trying to save horses in immediate need of help--slaughter bound, auction bound, Craigslist freebies, and our wild mustangs being systemically eradicated by our government agency, the Bureau of Land Management and the welfare ranchers they are beholden to for the beef on your table.

John sees me sitting at the computer with tears in my eyes. "Someone need rescuing?", he says. "No, they're safe", I tell him. He replies, "Just remember, Harley is safe. He would have eventually been heading north on a truck. And Ruffy? She too would have headed that way. We saved them."

I urge fellow Facebook and equine friends to become involved, take a stand, take action, email or call your legislators to pass the SAFE food export act. Over 140,000 U.S. horses went to Mexico and Canada last year, headed to slaughter. Put the available social media to work doing some good for our animals. After you finish posting happy horse thoughts, post some horses needing help. If you have the spare change, donate to a 501c that attends auctions weekly. There are so many to choose from, too many to post here. If you want more information, message me on FB--the happy chick with the happy OTTBs will gladly get you started in the world of social media rescue.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April snow showers?

Harley, Ruffy, and Rolex

I can't believe I'm using winter blankets in April. But since the horses are all blowing their winter coats and we're having a snow storm, I feel obliged to give them some shelter from this weather. By five p.m. they had seen enough of the white stuff and were ready to come inside for a warm dinner.

Vance, our octogenarian resident Standardbred who would prefer to be outside in most weather, even wanted to come into the barn. In fact, he was waiting at the top of the hill!

This crazy weather has wreaked havoc with some horses leading to many colic cases. Fortunately, knock on wood, ours seem to be doing fine and drinking enough water. But of course, I obsess about their diet and well being as poor John can attest.

I found the first few ticks, one on me, one on Rolex. Maybe this snow will keep them at bay for another week or so. I always enjoy those first few warm rides when the sun is shining, the leaf buds add a spatter of color into our world, and the biting insects have not yet arrived. Here's to spring--let's hope it's right around the corner.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Only ride out as far as you are willing to walk!

Everyone was overcome with spring fever. Harley and Rolex seem to have experienced some role reversal over the winter. Now she is Miss Spookypants while Harley is (relatively) the staid old hand. Well, at least that was the case for the first half of the ride...

We needed to detour from our planned loop due to the amount of ice on the trail in some cool, protected areas. Rather than risk someone slipping and being injured, we decided to head back via the road. Harley was leading the way, albeit like a giraffe, craning his head in the air, and with a springy walk bordering on a a prance. But he and Rolex seemed to be doing fine until some kids playing behind a house sent Rolex into a tailspin. Before anyone could get tossed to the pavement, we jumped off. But I'm not so sure we were any safer with both horses spinning around in circles. And the worst part is the lack of courtesy and caution on the part of drivers. Some barely slow down, and some hardly leave enough room should one of the horses wheel into the road. Isn't it common sense if you see an animal, the size of a moose, prancing in the street to slow down? Where is the common sense in these drivers? How did they manage to pass their drivers' test if they have no clue about driving near horses?

Harley and Rolex faced other demons as we made our way home: barking dogs running along a fence, donkeys, chickens, and the piece de resistance, a flock of guinea fowl that emerged, squawking up a storm. Unlike the chickens and turkeys our horses are used to, guinea fowl tend to screech, unnerving both Harley and Rolex. Mr. and Mrs. Prancypants had worked themselves into a dither where every little thing had them wheeling in circles.

Our horses were in a lather, our arms were soaked from walking alongside with our sweating steeds. My feet were beginning to get damp and slide around in my Mountain Horse insulated boots. I could feel blisters starting to form on the bottoms of my toes. If I'd known I'd be walking three miles, I would definitely have worn different boots. So word of warning to all you trail riders out there: only ride out as far as you are willing to walk!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

And our vacation begins!

The snow is melting and the horses are shedding. March is almost here and we've tapped the maple trees. Another winter under the belt.

We're off to a lazy start for vacation. After last year's constant hammering of snow, we're glad to be not be shoveling through knee deep drifts to the manure pile!

The horses have wintered nicely--good coats, nice condition, and sassy! Our feeding regimen seems to work well; lots of high quality hay, a forage balancer, rice bran, and beet pulp. Granted, they have not done a lot except play in the pasture, but spring is just around the corner. So Harley and Rolex, get ready to hit the trails! And Ruffy, there's a driving harness heading your way!

We took Harley and Rolex out for their first trail ride together in weeks. Starting out, things were a little dicey as noise from next door had their attention. But once we hit the woods, the pair settled down and took turns leading the way. A quick turn up the power line eliminated balking and backing at ABC Farm with its menagerie of chickens, goats, and a dog. Better to pass them on the way home! Although I have to commend Harley for walking past their tractor, running with the bucket in the air, a few weeks ago. He gave it a good look, but no silly stuff.

With most of the snow melted, and only icy patches, the trail riding should be really nice soon. Of course, then we'll be dealing with muck, but soft muck is nicer than frozen hard ground.

Now is the time to start looking for some replacement winter boots. I've tried to Shoe-Goo my Mountain Horse Active Riders, but it didn't seem to work. Nothing like walking down to get your horse and having icy cold water seep in around your feet. Ugh!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Harley's vacation ends

Harley thinks he's on vacation, and he might be right. The longer he goes without work, the more of a challenge he can be to ride, especially if we go solo. After three weeks off, I needed to end said vacation!

The last few weeks of January consisted of ice and rain followed by beautiful spring-like weather. I had to keep reminding myself that winter was far from over!

The long warm days convinced me I'd better take advantage of the weather and throw a leg over my horse. Except I admit to being a bit worried how he would be with so much time off. I chickened out riding and opted for a walk down the road instead. This would allow me to "take the lead" and should he be a whirling beast, I wouldn't have to bail off. He stopped almost immediately after we left the barn, but with urging, we made it all the way to the bottom of the hill where he could see, "Ack! Cars!"
After having a good long gander down the road, we resumed walking and made it down to Orris Falls. Not bad for starters. And we ended on a good note.

The next day I decided to ride him. Of course, the wind was howling when I left work. "Oh God, this will be fun" I thought. "Well, worse case scenario, I walk him--again."

While I tacked him up, he had a little lunch and only whinnied once for his girls. And even with the blowing leaves, we managed to reach Orris Falls without a stop. Oh, I watched him think about it as he slyly peered to the left and swiveled his left ear, but lots of leg and reminder tap, kept him moving forward. Unfortunately, the trail under the hemlocks was still quite dicey with lots of pooled water over ice. So we didn't go too far, but it was a trip away from home, all on his own. He only did his racehorse jig a couple of times but came back to a walk nicely. I was proud of him. Heck, I was proud of me! After waffling over whether to ride or not, I was glad of my decision--it boosted my confidence, and Harley's!

The gang being silly

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A little bit of winter--morning mayhem

We finally got a little snow, but only six inches or so, enough to make the horses happy. They love being turned out in the morning to a fresh snowfall. Hi--ooo Ruffy, away! Yes, they are crazy OTTB's and no matter what anyone says, there's nothing like a cold winter morning to bring out the freshness in them.

Harley rear, bucked and kicked until all the kinks were worked out while Vance, stood sedately, observing the mayhem around him. They see me coming with the hay sled signalling it's time to be silly!

I had to keep an eye on their antics to be sure I didn't get clocked. Having my hood up put me at a disadvantage, limiting my visibility. I told John, "You know, it might not be a bad idea to wear a helmet when I deliver hay on days like this!"

And since I haven't ridden this fuzzy beast in weeks, I'm sure the first ride should prove interesting. Lucky for me, and them, lots of turnout gives Harley a chance to burn off some extra energy before I get on him.

Lucky for me, Harley would never make it on the bronc circuit--his bucks just aren't that big. There's Ruffy, in the top right corner after tearing back up the hill for fun.

Ah, things finally slowed down a bit. But Harley and Rolex still want to get Vance into the game.

Winter can't be over yet, although this snow is now nearly all gone except for spots under the trees. Spring-like weather is teasing us and tempting me to go for a ride.