CHF

Forgot to mention this last night.

I went out and fed my horses yesterday! YAAAAAY! I was so busy with moving, working, and housepets that I didn’t go feed the horses since Friday. My friends were feeding for me so the herd wasn’t actually neglected… but I really missed them. I was really glad to see them last night.

Champ whinneyed when he saw me, came up and got a big deep sniff of my face, then turned and ignored me. He’s mad, of course. Champ hates to be neglected. Quinn and Poppy were much more interested in eating than anything else. And sweet old Silky was delighted to see me.

My friend-in-nursing-school was out feeding her horses, and she happened to have her stethoscope. We decided to listen to Silky’s heart.

Back in late July 07, Silky choked on her pelleted feed and had to stay for two days at the vet’s. One of the examining vets said that he thought her heart sounded a bit muffled, like she was in the early stages of congestive heart failure. It was unrelated to the choke and there’s very little to be done for it anyway, so I didn’t worry too much about it at the time. But my friend has a nice stethoscope, so we thought we’d see if we could hear a difference in her heart last night.

Yeah, I think the vet was right. Her heartbeat is very very quiet and it sounds … watery? It sounds like waves crashing. I can’t describe it very well, but it’s definitely muffled.

Anyway, I stayed for an extra 30 minutes brushing and loving on Silky. I’m always amazed at how loving she is. She’s had such a long horrible life, but for some reason she trusts me and she’d rather be brushed and loved on than eat food. I’m so glad she’s happy, and I’m really going to miss her one of these days.

I’m looking around for possible treatment options, although I probably won’t treat her with drugs. I will figure out what changes I should make in my management – probably a little more light exercise, but nothing too hard.

The fuzzies are all reunited!

So I moved into a new apartment over the weekend. I boarded the dogs and left the kitten with my parents. It made for a quiet move, but damn, I missed them!

Yesterday I rescued my parents and their old fart dogs from Curtis. Their dogs couldn’t understand why the strange new cat kept attacking them and wanting to curl up and sleep with them, and my parents were totally unused to having a wild monster kitten hooked on to their feet at all times. I was *really* glad to see the little bastard, and he seemed at least somewhat glad to see me.

Curtis is definitely shaping up to be a dog-cat. He comes when he’s called, at least part of the time, and he loves Jaime and Cersei. He’ll sleep with them and play with them, and he seems to enjoy getting slobbered on. What a wonderful weirdo :)

My parents figured out pretty quickly that they could bribe Curtis to leave them alone by feeding him canned Whiskas. For two and a half days, he didn’t have to eat the much less desirable yet much higher quality Natural Balance dry food. He was pretty pissed when I dragged him to the new place and refused to break out the Whiskas, but when he got hungry enough that NB looked good enough to eat. I’m not real bright (or I wouldn’t keep ending up with all these strays and castoffs) but I did manage to outsmart a kitten!

And today – tonight, actually – I got the dogs out of jail. Well, I picked them up from where they were boarded at the vet’s, but same difference in their minds. They had an enclosed outdoor run which they shared, for $28/night. It’s slightly cheaper to share a run, but mainly I wanted them to have each other. They’ve been through a lot lately, and I hated boarding them, but at least they had each other. And it was a lot less stressful for them to be locked up together than to have to do the moving with me. Anyway, all three of us were just stupidly glad to see each other. God, I missed them! At least til we got to the apartment complex…

Jaime hasn’t had to walk nicely on a leash for two months. Two months is, like, an entire lifetime to a dog! Obviously he’d completely forgotten that I’m supposed to be in charge of the human-dog-rope contraption. He tried for a good 15 minutes to yank me around.

I’m not a very good dog trainer. I am, however, a surprisingly good horse trainer. That’s not to say I’m a bona fide horse whisperer or something, just that *I* am surprised at my (not objectively very high) level of horse training skills. So I’ve decided to pretend like the dogs are just very small carnivorous horses, and maybe I’ll have better luck with them.

Well, it worked out pretty well tonight. I thought of what I’d do if I had a horse on a lead rope that wanted to bull past me and yank me around, and I tried to that with Jaime. Horses, to me, are actually easier to physically manipulate than dogs. I think it’s a combination of their size and their jumpy prey-animal nature. But anyway, I pretty much waited Jaime out and eventually he realized that yanking wasn’t getting him anywhere. Then he started listening to me, and listening to the leash, and all of a sudden he was a decent dog on a leash. And again – it’s not like I taught him to walk nicely on a leash in 15 minutes. It took the stubborn bastard 15 minutes to *remember how* to walk on a leash.

The Internet versus Reality

It’s funny how what you read – in books or on the Internet – can be so different from reality.

Last night I rode Quinn in her new snaffle bit. It’s a French link, supposed to be very comfy for the horse. Now, I’ve always heard that you’ve got no brakes in a snaffle, but hell, I had no breaks in a double twisted wire curb last time I rode her, so I figured it couldn’t be much worse. And I’ve always read (and it makes sense to me) that a snaffle is a better tool to teach a horse to bend correctly in turns. That’s why I wanted to put her in a snaffle – poor girl doesn’t turn well at all. Honestly, she gaits naturally and she doesn’t buck, but other than that, she doesn’t know anything.

I’m no trainer, but I’m taking good care of her and I’m trying to teach her kindly, which is better than most people around here do. So she’s stuck with me.

First, we went through the mounting block dance again. This time I moved up to a slightly higher level of correction to get her to stand still. Last time was strictly positive – I let her move away from me and the block as much as she wanted. I just kept moving with her, and when she stopped moving I’d reward her by scritching her neck. This time I got frustrated with her and stepped it up one notch. Instead of letting her dance all over the place, I made her move where I wanted. I’d ask her to stand, and if she moved off I’d back her up, walk her forward, back her up, etc, and finally ask her to stand again. My idea is to make standing still more appealing than endlessly backing up in circles.

Eventually, I got a good stand out of Quinn and mounted up. Wow. They’re serious when they say you have no brakes in a snaffle. I steered her into the arena, barely, at a fast RW, then we galloped top speed in circles for 10 minutes. I had a serious “what the fuck have I done” moment, then I decided that either I’d fall off in the mud or she’d get tired. And I didn’t fall off, and she eventually got tired. I tried to get her used to the snaffle and work on turns a bit, but I don’t know if she learned anything.

She’s very spooky. I suspect she got whacked upside the head a great deal when her first owners broke her. If I move my hands at all from their default position, she LEAPS and tries to run away. I think more riding time will cure that – she’s spent a great deal more time with me on the ground than in the saddle, and she’s already calmed down a lot on the ground.

Anyway, I rode and didn’t fall off. Cooled her down and brushed her off again, and picked all four feet. I’d read about some calming acupressure point located just above the chestnut on a horse’s leg, and I tried that. Definitely something there – as soon as I started massaging above her chestnuts, she started licking and relaxed a bit. Neat.

I’m hoping to brush her tail this week. She actually likes me just fine when I’m up by her head, but she gets more nervous the further back I go. I’ve gotten to where I can touch up and down her back legs and not spook her – hopefully she’ll let me start untangling that awful tail soon!

And I need to ride somebody else! Poppy, maybe, or Silky for a turn around the arena anyway. Sunday I’m planning on a big trail ride on Champ, then a second ride probably on Quinn. But I’ve got a little time in the evenings to ride around the property, and I should quit focusing exclusively on Quinn.

The lady who sold me Quinn wants me to ride her foxtrotter again this weekend. That’ll be fun.

I’m going to the barn while it’s still light so I can actually take some pictures of the herd.

Progress!

Yesterday I got to the barn about 4, after a big thunderstorm and cold front had moved in. (Cold = 50s instead of 70s. Love our climate.) I was determined to work with Quinn, so I spent three hours down there, mostly messing with her.

I’d gone by Home Depot and gotten some rope and clips, and I installed my very own set of crossties in front of my tack room. There’s three other sets of crossties in my barn, but neither the horses nor I like them. Our aisle is maaaaybe six feet wide – a cooperative horse can turn around in the aisle, but just barely. And the other crossties are all in front of other horses’ stalls, who can make nasty faces and lean out and try to bite my horses. So I wanted my very own crossties.

Anyway, I put Quinn in the new crossties and brushed her down. Then I brutally attacked her sprayed Show Sheen in her mane. But she was very clear that it was a brutal and unjustified attack. I got a good 2/3ds of her amazingly long silky mane very gently untangled and combed out, and she calmed down and seemed to enjoy it. Eventually, we were both bored with the mane thing and moved on to saddle work.

I tried about half of my amazing collection of random bits, but none of them seemed to suit her as well as the bit she’s used to (double twisted wire curb wrapped in vetwrap). So I put the normal tack on and led her out into the dark and windy night to practice being calm. We spent about 15 frustrating minutes getting her to stand still for me to stand on my milk crate and mount up, then we did one lap around the arena and one lap up and down the driveway. Then I got back off, scritched her mane for a minute, and started trying to get her to stand again.

Eventually (I’m slow sometimes) I realized that Quinn did not know what I wanted. No one had ever taught her to stand to be mounted. She was most comfortable with me at her head, and not very happy about letting me stand at the stirrup – she wanted to turn and face me, or back up to put me near her head. But once I realize she just didn’t know, things got a lot easier. I rewarded every little half-second of being still by scritching her mane, and immediately stopped scritching as soon as she moved. She was still very nervous about the whole thing, but she started displaying the nervousness by trying to stick her face between my arm and my torso, instead of trying to back away. I spent a while getting her to stand with me at her stirrup, then a while longer getting her to stand with me on my milk crate by her stirrup. Eventually, I mounted up and we did one more lap around the arena and then called it a night. It wasn’t much of a workout, but we both learned a lot and we seemed to bond quite well.

This evening I spent three hours mucking two stalls. I proclaim the Stall Experiment to be finished. It’s just way too much trouble for me to lock them up and ruin their feet. Tomorrow I’ll get the other two stalls stripped and re-bedded, and I’ll go back to only stalling them when it’s very cold and raining.

This weekend I need to pick a horse and touch up its feet. I’m planning on getting back on the “one horse every Sunday” trimming schedule. Going to keep working with Quinn, both on the ground and in the saddle. I hope she calms down about me touching her soon so I can start trying to untangle her amazingly long silky tail. It’s kind of fun having a beautiful horse with that picturesque flowing mane and tail, but it’s kind of an awful lot of work too.

I am completely exhausted, and the kitten just knocked over a houseplant. Dirt everywhere in the kitchen. The poor plant (a pineapple plant that I grew from a fruit top) was half-dead from neglect anyway, so I suppose I’ll just vacuum up the dirt and throw the plant out. Sigh. He has come to apologize by laying on my chest and purring, so I’m not too mad at him.