Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Barefoot Horse: A New Tool

Back in December, I told my husband that I could use a new rasp for Christmas.  I waited a week or so expecting him to ask me where to purchase the kind that I like (the ladies rasp on the left in the photo), but when he didn't ask, I just figured he had already bought too many presents.  He is really good at picking out surprises, so I rarely ask for specific items.  Then the holiday rolled around and there was a rasp-shaped gift under the Christmas tree.  Hmmmm.  When I opened the gift I was delighted to find a dual-handled rasp with nifty orange covers on the ends.  My husband found it on Amazon.  I should have guessed!

So now I own "rasps" and I have started to specialize my use of them.  The new large rasp is good for taking down excess hoof wall and using two hands.  That baby is sharp and I can work pretty quickly, moving from one foot to the next.  The shorter Ladies' rasp is still the best for working the bevel.  I need a rasp that is light and maneuverable for that job.  Those magnets on the Hoof Jack come in mighty handy when you have multiple tools.  I am also used to the Hoof Jack now.  It took a while, but I finally have the same feel and control that I had when I rested Harley's foot on my knee and he seems more agreeable about keeping his foot in the cradle.  I tend not to bother with the pedestal attachment unless there is noticeable flare to take off from the top.

Believe it or not, this is five weeks of growth.  I could never get away with this in the summer.  He can grow this much hoof in two weeks (Right front).

Right hind

Even the bars haven't done much since the last trim.  I got really lucky and it was almost sixty degrees on trim day (Left front).

Left hind

Right front: I actually trimmed some cruddy frog on this foot.  That is a very rare event for me.

Right hind

Left front: Pretty, pretty heels

Left hind

Left hind: This was the only sign of separation on any of his feet.  His quarters would have been separated like crazy if I waited five weeks in the summer and he would have had lots of flare.

What a good boy

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Blanket Weather

It's that time of year: Harley's full water bucket with a thick layer of ice.

The cold finally set in this week.  I say "finally" because we have been having a very mild winter down here in southern New Jersey.  Last year's winter was unseasonably warm and this year has been the same, maybe even a little warmer.  Last weekend, I had two glorious days with my horse in the high 50's.  The thermometer in my new Subaru (a feature which I really appreciate) even read 60 degrees at one point on Sunday.  Wow!  I trimmed Harley's feet last Saturday and had to remove my coat and insulated vest, because I was starting to sweat.  On Sunday we had a great ride, Harley barely coughed, and he even worked up a little sweat under his girth.  There was not a cloud in the sky and it was a glorious blue.

(By the way, he is eating the Cough-Free and I think it is helping!  Yay!)

By Monday, the temperatures had started to drop with some wind and by Tuesday there was a dusting of snow and Harley's water bucket needed some special attention from the butt of a shovel.  Believe it or not, this is the very first time this winter that his water bucket has frozen and we are at the end of January.  I know that other parts of New Jersey have been colder with some snow, but since I live pretty close to the coast, the ocean buffers our weather (unless it is a hurricane).  Sometimes this protects us from snow storms and extremely low temperatures.  A couple years ago, however, we did have several feet of snow, so there are no guarantees.

Harley has a thick coat and he did not seem cold, but this blanket should help him keep his weight, which is looking lovely this winter.  Hay cubes help, too.  :)

Doesn't he look cozy?  I have smiled to myself more than once this week, just feeling happy that my horse is bundled up in a blanket.  That may sound silly to those who blanket as common practice, but this is only the second winter that Harley has worn a blanket.  My vet recommended waiting until the temps were below twenty since he is not clipped.

The temperatures were scheduled to plummet for the remainder of the week, so I finally took out Harley's freshly cleaned (thanks to a local service) and repaired blanket (it had a little tear) and placed it on his back for the first time since last winter.  I am really glad that I did, because the night temperatures dove down into the low teens and did not rise above 25 during the day.  On Thursday, I was driving to work and my car told me that it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit.  I started to wonder if my car's thermometer is calibrated properly, because that is insane.

By Friday, we had some more snow.  Thankfully, it was just enough to be pretty and not enough to be much trouble.  We took my new snow-worthy vehicle out for a hair appointment after work, but it was more ceremonial than necessary as the snow barely creeped past an inch of accumulation.  Saturday morning was beautiful, even to someone who does not like snow.

Bunny tracks below our front steps

And the bunny: Can you see the tip of his ear?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Not A Truck Yet

I have always had it in my horse-centric mind that I would own a truck when I grow up.  "Normal" women and girls do not usually dream of owning a truck, but horse girls do.  Having a truck is crucial if you own a farm and horses.  I have owned a handful of cars in my life, but none of them have been trucks.  My tried and true car for the last decade has been a 2001 Honda Civic coupe, which is a far cry from a farm vehicle.  Despite this, I loved that car and planned to drive it until it would no longer run (Did I mention that I also loved high MPG and not having a car payment?).  Unfortunately, the old girl was getting on in years and it became clear that we were in need of a larger vehicle.  Maybe now was the time for my truck?!  I had secretly hoped that my next car would be just that...

...however, I am a practical gal and I consulted my checklist before going to test-drive trucks.

Do I own a horse?
YES (Horray!)

Do I own a horse trailer?

Do I own a farm?

Do I haul feed, hay, or other large items for my beloved pet?

Do I need to drive in inclement weather to tend to my horse throughout the year?

Do I need to haul stuff home for home repairs or projects?
YES, but we have a van that already does the trick.


Hmmm.  It appears that I do not really need a truck yet.  Trucks are pretty reasonably priced compared to cars, but if part of your reason for purchasing a new car is to upgrade from two doors to four, then you must buy an extended cab in your truck and that starts to become pricey.


Also, trucks have atrocious gas mileage.  Besides always having wanted a truck, I have also always been an environmentally conscious gal and I cannot stand the difference between the MPG of my civic and the MPG of a truck sans trailer.  Add the trailer and, of course, things get a whole lot worse.  I know this, because every time that I haul my horse somewhere (which isn't often) I have to pay someone else.  It adds up quick and makes me kind of sick.  I can get just about 40 MPG on the highway in my Civic (What a good car she was!).  Of course, the only way I could have brought Harley along was if I held his leadline out the window and let him run beside the car.  I am pretty sure that would be ill-advised.

My husband always comes through in these types of dilemmas.  He did some (extensive) research and found a car that, although not a truck, seems to fit the bill.

Four doors with plenty of cabin space.
A raised frame and all-wheel drive.
Decent gas mileage and the best for this type of car.
Not an SUV (I strongly dislike SUV's, especially their gas mileage and the false sense of security they seem to give their drivers.  Those things can roll.).
A driver's seat that raises up high enough for me to see out the windshield!  Double-win!  (This is a consistent problem for me.  The Civic was one of the few cars that fit me.)
Plus, all-weather mats all around and an all-weather tray in the trunk (because I make a huge mess).

And the best part?  The car comes in ORANGE!
Tangerine Orange Pearl to be exact.
My civic was "metallic mustard" (called Inca Pearl by Honda), which was loved by me and despised by many.  I think that I kind of liked it more, because so many crinkled their nose at it.  I guess that says something about me as a person.  I will leave that open to interpretation.  ;)

So without further ado, I present to you my new not-a-truck, the Subaru Crosstrek:

If it decides to snow this winter, I will no longer be prevented from visiting my horse.  In the past I had a hard time driving out of the neighborhood, because Civic's are not exactly ice-worthy and our neighborhood was not being plowed when we first moved into our house.  Once the plowing situation was taken care of, I still had trouble with the back roads leading to the farm and even more trouble with the long driveway to the barn.  My car did not have ground clearance, so any bumps or snow drifts were a serious threat.  I would rather stay home then have to make an embarrassing call requesting the tractor come pull out my vehicle.  Those days are gone, because my new crossover vehicle has excellent ground clearance and all-wheel drive.

Maybe one day a truck will be a practical vehicle for me, but, until then, I am very happy with the alternative.  It is fun and easy to drive and I no longer have to steer around big (and little) dips and divots in the driveway to my horse.  I have heard and read that Subaru owners are very satisfied customers and keep their cars for a long, long time.

I do want to make sure that Mother Nature knows that despite my new wheels, no snow is still fine with me.  ;)

My previous car.  I like color in my horses and my cars!

I love my new car, but Harley is still my favorite ride.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter Health Report: Cough Free (Please)

I have never been a fan of winter and, apparently, neither is my horse.  As I am writing this, there is really little to complain about weatherwise, as it is about 50 degrees today and we have rain instead of snow.  However, I still dislike the lack of sun we experience in the winter and the havoc it is reaping on my horse's airways. 

Unfortunately, Harley has been coughing since the New Year.  He just can't seem to shake it.  I am in communication with my vet and I have already treated him with a round of medication.  This did help, but his problem is persistent and sporadic.  One day I go to visit him and he barely coughs at all, the next day he is coughing before I pull him from the paddock.  It doesn't matter if he is in the barn or outside.  His cough does not seem to be brought on by hay or exercise.  His airway is definitely on high alert right now.  Needless to say, this has made riding difficult, but wouldn't you know, he still wants to get up and go.  I am sure that an allergy-induced cough presents itself in different ways in each patient (FYI: My horse is on immunotherapy shots for his condition).  Harley's case is interesting, if not perplexing.  I tried to ride him on New Year's Day, because it is my tradition to always ride on New Year's Day, and we never made it out of the walk.  He had one coughing fit after another, so I called it quits.  Between coughs, he had this beautiful, forward walk and was stretching into the bridle.  I did not force him to work.  He wanted to work.  I think he would have continued if I hadn't been the one to say, "stop".

Once he was on medication and the cough seemed to be going away, I decided to ride him again.  Please understand that I am not trying to make an uncomfortable horse work.  I wouldn't even describe him as uncomfortable or unhappy, except when he is coughing.  He loves activity and wants to go out and ride.  In between coughs, he is his normal self.  He doesn't weeze, sputter, or sound like he is out of breath.  He just has a dry, annoying cough.  Poor boy. 

When we ride, he only does as much as he wants to, which surprisingly includes trotting and cantering.  After walking for ten minutes and sitting through a coughing fit, I decided that we might as well give up for the day, but then Harley told me otherwise.  He did this little hop and ear flick that means he wants to trot.  I told him to go ahead if that was what he really wanted, fully expecting him to cough again.  He did cough a couple more times, but nothing like the fit he had at the walk.  Within a few minutes I could hardly believe my own sighs of relief, Harley was moving out, stretching his neck and back and making circuit after circuit around the ring without a cough.  He was feeling so good that I almost didn't want to stop him for a walk break.

Next he asked to canter with another signature Harley move (a head raise and a different ear flick).  I gave him the go ahead and he went off immediately.  He coughed a few times and then found his rhythm.  I could actually hear his breathing, regular and clear.  He was so energetic and thrilled to be cantering that, again, I had to be the one to tell him we should probably end on a high note.  Since then I have ridden him a few times with the same horse-centered approach.  This makes him happy, which makes me happy, of course.  I am still the one who cries "uncle".

Despite his good attitude and work ethic, I told my vet that he was still experiencing issues with the cough, even though we finished the medication.  I asked her to recommend something that he could take daily and she said to try "Cough-Free".  He is currently on MSM pellets, which I guess are not doing much for his cough.  I have also tried SmartBreathe pellets, but I do not know if they worked.  It is so difficult to tell, unless you remove the supplement and the symptoms reappear.  The Cough-Free is priced between the MSM and SmartBreathe, so I am giving it a try; I just wish it came in a pellet.  I read online that some horses reject the herbal scent and flavor.  Cross your fingers that Harley eats it and it leaves him "free"!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Keeping Promises

I have been trying to keep my end of the bargain and visit Harley more often even if there is not enough time left before dinner to ride.  Yesterday, I went to visit him after work with about fifteen minutes of daylight to spare.  His buddy was already in the barn, so Harley was waiting at the gate of his paddock incredulous that he was still outside (my horse lives out 24/7 but eats meals in his stall).  Like most horses, Harley has a very strong internal clock.  He usually hangs by the gate when meal time grows near and raises his head to full height in order to see up the driveway, looking for movement at the house.  The sound of the gator starting up alerts the entire farm and is usually followed by a chorus of whinnies and nickering.  Meal truck!

The "meal truck" hadn't moved yet, but Harley saw me walking out of the barn and greeted me with enthusiastic neighing.  I am not naive about my horse's priorities.  I know that he is really excited about dinner and the possibility that I might be giving serving it to him, but I still like to think that he also happy to see me.  As excited as he was, when I approached the gate, Harley backed up politely, allowing me to enter and they dropped his head so I could slip his halter over his ears.  These are the behaviors that make me think my horse is a smart guy.  His stomach is telling him dinner, but he doesn't forget his manners or the fact that dinner will come faster if he makes the gate-opening and haltering process easier.  I appreciate these little things about him.

Once through the gate, Harley's enthusiasm was bubbling over.  He walked next to me, but he had so much pep in his step that his back muscles rippled on either side of his spine and his long, uncombed mane bounced against his neck.  I love how he walks straight and not on top of me, like some horses when they forget that their human is there.  I know that he would have also loved to walk even faster to the barn, but he stayed next to me even with a drape in the lead line.  His spunk made me laugh out loud.  Someone was very happy to be coming inside.

Once in the barn, I prepared his snack of hay cubes.  His actual dinner was fast approaching, but the nice thing about forage is that you can give it anytime and it helps keep horses warm in the winter.  I broke the cubes into small sections and poured them into his trough.  Then I added Harley to the stall and joined him with the my brush.

Harley was in complete heaven.  He munched his cubes industriously as I knocked the dry mud from his coat.  I fluffed and preened his thick, winter fur and worked at the mud stuck to the long hairs on his legs.  I marveled at how gentle my giant pet can be.  While I was brushing a foot that had some stubborn dirt at the hair line of his hoof, he wanted to move over to reach some food at the far end of his trough.  Rather then raise the foot I was working on, he leaned over to the food and kept the toe of the foot I was working on touching the ground like a dancer.  He did not want to move it away from me until I was finished.  Was this an act of respect?  Obedience?  Was it in appreciation for the cleaning I was doing?  Either way it was very sweet.  His gentleness was contrasted by his obvious strength and power when he shoved his feed trough over with a push of his nose.  That trough is pretty heavy as I have trouble carrying it by myself.  Apparently my horse can be careful with the position of his foot at the same time that he violently shoves his foot bin.  This was interesting to me.

Needless to say, I was very happy that I made the time to visit Harley yesterday, even if riding was not possible.  I enjoyed spending the time with him and in that short time he managed to make me laugh and to make me think.