Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sorry it's been so long

I keep forgetting about this blog!

Anyway, I guess I'll pick up from where the last entry left off. Basically, the owner of the stable where my horse was living decided he didn't like me, and was an asshole. So I moved my horse closer to home. That fall, he suffered a bout of laminitis, and made a full recovery, although I learned an awful lot about insulin resistance, how grass makes sugar, laminitis, hoof structures, and corrective shoeing in the meantime. As an aside, if your horse gets laminitis, GET THE DAMN SHOES AND PADS. Shoeing isn't cruel, and my horse went from "barely walking" to "trotting and shoving me around" in the length of time it took to put them on his feet. He wasn't trotting sound, but he felt WAY better. It takes a full year for the hoof damage to grow out. Just shoe the horse. Don't make him suffer.

Anyways, remember the blog about when he slipped and I fell off? Turns out, that wasn't his hip, it was his stifle. It was ok for a long time, I was riding him again after he was comfortable and mostly over the laminitis, and all seemed well. Then he slipped again, not badly, but I'm no dummy! I wasn't taking any chances, and of course this also means he must have a problem.

I called an equine chiropractor, and she said that the problem was in his stifle (sort of like the knee on the back leg, but the joint looks closer to the hip if you're not familiar with equine body structure). She said that due to his age and muscle structure, adjusting him would be a waste of money, because he wouldn't hold the adjustment. She advised to retire him, as it wasn't safe to ride him, and could cause injury to him or his rider.

Now, around this same time, I noticed he was getting a little thin. He was getting plenty of good hay to eat, so this was a concern. The most common, and easiest to fix, reason a horse with otherwise good management loses weight is that his dewormer program has missed something and he's got some worms. So I took a fecal sample to my veterinarian, and they said the sample was clean and my deworming program was very good.

The next reason is usually uneven wear in the teeth. He was about due to have his teeth checked by an equine dentist so I scheduled an appointment. His teeth had a few points on them, a little bit of uneven wear. They needed some attention, but the dentist said the teeth were in no way bad enough to cause weight loss.

At this point I decided he must not be getting enough to eat after all, so I requested the barn owner to bring him in his stall at night so we would know how much hay he was eating, and to ensure that he wasn't spending too much time bossing the other horses around and not enough time eating. I also started him on soaked hay cubes (compressed hay cubes soaked in hot water until they are mushy) for extra food and also to increase his winter time water intake to help prevent colic. When the temps got around freezing, I started putting a heavy winter blanket on him to keep him warm and consere his calories. A warm horse isn't going to have to expend energy like a cold horse does in trying to warm up.

He seemed to hold steady on his weight for a while. I wasn't happy with his weight, but he didn't seem to be losing and I figured he would pick up again in the spring.

Well, the last bit of winter, he started losing again, and I noticed the muscle over his hindquarters was very quicky disappearing. I started him on Senior Feed, which is a horse feed developed for old horses who have trouble chewing enough hay to take in enough calories. It is a complete food, sort of like how we feed dogs and cats, where they can eat only that food and have everything they need for their health.

After going through a bag of the food, he was still slowly but steadily losing weight, muscle, and condition. He was also starting to sometimes seem unsure of where his hind feet were. I feared he may have a neurological condition, so for these two issues together, I called the vet.

My vet came out and in his examination ruled out a neurological condition, but was much more worried about the muscle loss. He was very frank with me, and said that between my horse's age (nearly 22) and other physical issues (the stifle problem), there probably wasn't much we could do. He said we could do some expensive blood tests to get a diagnosis, but most likely, old age was catching up with him, and his intestines were probably not working as efficiently as they used to. Even though he was being fed plenty of the proper foods, and the nutrition was there, his body simply wasn't extracting it from the food. And to make up for this, his body was using the fat and muscle for energy. His advice was to let him enjoy life for as long as he could, and then humanely euthanize him when the time came. He told me that I have taken excellent care of him, and that he was a lucky horse to have someone like me in his life.

That horse has been the center of my life for 3 years. He's been my best buddy. We've explored together, goofed around and had fun together. He's listened when I've needed someone to talk to, and let me cry on his mane when I needed someone to cry with. And that's what I did after the vet left. I went in his stall, put my arms around his neck, buried my face in his mane, and I cried.

But, when we love an animal, we have to do right by them. We have to put their needs in front of our wants. It's hard, it hurts, but it's what we do.

So, in the following couple of months, I just watched him. Is he still enjoying life? Does he seem to be hurting? He seemed fine. Aside from being thin, he was happy. He still bossed the other horses around (he's always been the boss). He still came to the gate and demanded his cookies and treats. He trotted across the pasture with his tail in the air.

But in May, he started slowing down. Rather abruptly, he stopped trotting and just slowly walked. He still had his great personality, but his body was definitely giving out. I started to worry that he may lie down at night and be unable to stand again. So, I made the decision to schedule the vet for the final visit.

I went to the barn every day (I'd moved him from the closer barn the previous summer, this one was further from my house) and spent time with him. The appointment was set for a Wednesday morning. On Tuesday, I was there in the evening. I brushed him, filled his water bucket, and fed him dinner.

The next morning I went with my family to the barn. When I went in his stall, the first thing I noticed was that he was still clean. He ALWAYS would lie down for a bit at night (it's a myth that horses "always sleep standing up." They do doze standing up, but must lie down in order to get REM sleep, deprivation of this sleep has the same effect on horses that it has on people), and in the process get dirt and shavings on his coat. So, he didn't lie down that night. I can only think that he had reached the point that he knew if he did lie down, he wouldn't have been able to stand again. So, I'd made the right choice at exactly the right time.

I'm going to describe the process of what happened now. So if that will bother you, don't read any further. However, everything went smoothly and as it is supposed to, so nothing bad happened.

We led him out to where the hole to bury him had been dug the previous day. There was knee-deep red clover growing there, and all he cared about was eating it. I also had a bunch of his favorite oatmeal cookies in my pocket and was giving them to him. The vet injected a tranquilizer to relax him. We waited until that had taken effect, and the vet injected the euthanasia solution. Immediately following the injection, he grabbed another bite of clover. Then, quickly, he staggered backward a bit, and fell over. His legs kicked out twice, and he was still.

I went to his head and was petting, talking to him, and crying. The vet checked for a heartbeat and there was none, and there was also no breathing. He checked for an eye reflex (touching the eyeball and seeing if there is a relexive blink) and there was a slight response. The vet said this doesn't necessarily indicate that there's any sort of consciousness from the horse. When the heart stops, there is oxygenated blood in the brain, which sustains reflexes for a short period of time. Within a minute, there was no longer a blink reflex. The vet helped me remove his halter (a horse's head is surprisingly heavy) and we left him, as the barn owner said he'd be by later to bury him.

So, my horse, my friend, is gone. He never won a ribbon or entered in a horse show, that wasn't his thing. He was a trail horse. He loved going out for trail rides. And he loved me. I came along when he needed a person to make him the #1 horse in her life. I loved him, I took care of him, and we were a team. Partners. I'm glad I could make his last 3 years happy. And while I didn't want him to go, I'm glad I could do it for him. I gave him the greatest gift a person can give an animal. I gave him a good life, and I helped him leave this world at the time that his body was going to start turning on him. At just the right time, I gave him a peaceful and dignified end. He passed away while chewing sweet clover and oatmeal cookies, his favorite thing. Goodbye, Old Man. I miss you already.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bad things can sometimes become good things

All I can really say is that sometimes things can look bad and can turn out good. And if I'm paying you and you don't like me, you can keep you opinions to yourself, or dislike me WITHOUT the benefit of my money. Makes no difference to me. More to come in a month or so.

Monday, July 20, 2009

I got kicked out of the circus

For the moment, I'm not making public the name of the circus, but after I've gotten everything done, you can bet I'll be telling anyone who will listen.

Let me start off by saying I have NO problem with animals in a circus as long as they are treated humanely and properly cared for. I'm not a Peta whackjob. I don't think animals have *rights* but that it's our responsibility to see to their welfare.

Anyways. There was a circus in town. We've gone to another one, and it was nice. The animals were clean and had shade and access to water, and the handlers seemed kind and they appeared to be well treated.

This circus, I wasn't happy. When I got there, the area where we were to wait for the earlier performance to end was next to a trailer. The trailer had a fence around it, and a llama, young camel, mini donk, mini horse, and two young minis (one was nursing on the mare) were tied to the trailer, with the exception of the nursing baby who was loose. There was NO shade, and none of the animals had water.

The camel was weaving back and forth, and the llama looked like he was going to pass out. He was laying down, panting, with drool literally streaming from his mouth. The foal was laying down and his respiration was very high.

I saw a guy cleaning up after the ponies on the pony ride (who had shade) and I told him, nicely, that the llama looked like it needed a drink very badly.

He hollered at someone in Spanish and in a minute they appeared with a bucket of water. Gave the llama a drink, but ignored the donkey who was pulling at his rope to get to the water.

I decided that was rather unacceptable. If the llama was thirsty I'm sure all of the animals, with maybe the exception of the camel, were thirsty as well.I said (loudly) that the rest of the animals needed water as well. I asked why they weren't in shade, and one of the performers who happened to be there yelled for a guy and said he would answer my questions.

He came over with an immediate attitude, and asked what my problem was. I told him that the animals were thirsty, and they needed shade. He said that he gives them water three times a day. I told him that they need shade, and he said "Horses in a field don't have shade." No, but they DO have water!

So he waves his arms and tells me to come around the other side of the trailer where the llama had been taken. I go around and see the llama who has had a drink and is now lying in the shade. He's no longer panting or drooling. So I asked him "Why was the llama drooling?" He said it was from the sweet feed. I said "The llama isn't drooling that from the sweet feed too?" He didn't answer but picked up a matted, dirty fllece lined halter and said "See this halter? I use this halter because I love the animals!"

We're both shouting at this point, and I told him if he loved the animals he'd give them water. I wish I'd gotten a picture of the zedonk (who happened to be a gorgeous animal, a cross between a donkey and a zebra) who stuck his head out of the trailer at this point. He had a lovely groove across his nose from that wonderful halter. I was pretty sure the guy wasn't going to stand for me taking pictures at this point (I do have pictures and video of the animlas without water).

He yells back "I give them water three times a day!" I asked him how many times a day he drinks. He stopped, shrugged, and said "Two times." I told him he must be better at being hydrated than I am because I need more than that.

At that point I asked for his USDA license number because I would like to file a complaint. He asked to see my "plate" which i think he was referring to a badge. I think he thought at this point that I was undercover or something. I told him "I'm just a citizen here and I want to file a complaint with the USDA." He told me "Without the police I don't have to tell you anything! And we reserve the right to refuse admission so you leave now!"

I told him I wasn't planning on giving any money to his circus if that's how they treat their animals anyways, and that I was going to the police. Unfortunately, the other people who had been standing there agreeing with me had no guts, and went in anyways.

I did go to the police. The officer said he'd go check it out and get back with me. I haven't heard from him yet but I'll go on Monday and follow up on it, and I'm also going to find out who issued the permit and I'm calling the USDA. The animals have basic welfare that wasn't being provided for. There was no excuse for especially that llama to be drooling and panting like that.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I had a wreck

Thursday, I came off Nib. This was probably my worst fall to date. Here it is Sunday and I'm still very sore.

I was riding in the indoor arena, and we were trotting. Nib decided to turn left on his own, and I wanted him to continue going straight. So I picked up the right rein to put him back on the course I wanted, and he argued, pulling to the left. I asked with the right rein again, and at that point all I can do is guess that his left hind leg somehow collapsed.

I felt him starting to go down, and realized I was probably going for a not-very-fun ride. However, at the last second, he lurched in a last-ditch effort to keep on his feet, and I came off the side and hit the ground.

My left leg was still in the stirrup for part of the time I was falling, so I landed on the left side of my lower back, right in the kidney area. My upper body fell back and the back of my head hit the ground pretty hard. Luckily, I was wearing a helmet. At some point my left foot came out of the stirrup, wrenching my knee in the process. My elbow was also scraped and sore.

My first instinct was to get up, but the searing, screaming pain in my back stopped that. I leaned back on my right hand and rubbed my back, waiting for the pain to subside. It took about 3 minutes before I was able to get up. Nib stood quietly a few feet away the whole time.

I slowly got to my feet and led him outside to have someone watch him move to make sure he wasn't injured. He appeared to be moving ok so I got back on and trotted a bit in the arena, but his hip slipped again.

So I went out in the flat, freshly mown hay field and trotted a couple of circles there. He didn't take any bad steps, but was extremely stiff to the right side.

Video taken today shows that he's striding short on the left hind, and it doesn't look like his pelvis is straight. I'm trying to get a chiropractor out this week to see him.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Children's TV as torture!

Usually if I want to use the computer, the trade off with my 7 year old is "Noggin." Those of you who have NO idea what "Noggin" is, are very lucky. Let me enlighten you. Noggin is a 24 hour children's television station. I remember having the choice of Sesame Street, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, and Warner Bros cartoons when I was a kid. But now there's tons and tons of such shows. I do have to say that in my many hours of being exposed to these shows, I haven't seen the least bit of questionable content. I feel absolutely comfortable letting her watch an episode I haven't seen (the episodes, like their content, repeat ad nauseum) when I'm not in the room. And they teach about things like science, math, recycling, etc, and values, like how to be a good friend (Yo Gabba Gabba! "Don't bite your friends! Don't bite your friends! Don't bite your friends!).

But OMG are they ever OBNOXIOUS. Can I just say, that I think Dora the Explorer is a bossy little thing? And that show where they teach Chinese, I cringe every time they refer to the character named Yeh-Yeh. It just sounds wierd and out of place. And the repetition! OMG the repetition. I know that repetition is the way little kids learn, but wow. It just seems SOOOOO excessive.

The other day, I wasn't in a great mood anyways, and Yo Gabba Gabba wasn't doing much to help it. I swear it was a YGG marathon or something. I reached a point where I decided that if I had to hear about giving a flower a swig of water ONE MORE TIME I was going to go in the kitchen and end it all! And only becuase it wasn't going to be possible to jump in the TV and slap DJ Lance and tell him to SHUT YOUR LITTLE FRIENDS UP! Like I said, I wasn't in a great mood that day.

But anyways, that's when the revelation came. They talk about how the detainees are being tortured with dubious techiniques like waterboarding to make them give up intel on terrorist activities. Nah, not necessary. And takes way too much effort. Just lock them in a room with a big TV on full blast, set to Noggin. They'll be crying like babies at the end of an hour, and offereing whatever information we want, just please MAKE IT STOP!

Seriously, are the people who come up with these shows, and the bands, on something? And will they share? Maybe I won't care so much when I'm having a bad day...

Message board:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Carriage horses & Animal Rights

I love animals, anyone who has known me for 5 minutes knows that. so, most people automatically assume that I am a member of "Peta" and am for "animal rights." NOTHING could be further from the truth.

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is nothing more than a terrorist organization. They'd just as soon shoot my horse out from under me as look at me. they don't believe we should "exploit" animals in any way. This means they don't want us riding or driving horses, keeping dogs and cats as pets, eating meat, or anything else involving an animal being kept confined or killed, REGARDLESS of the conditions.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't want animals abused. I hate animal abuse. I feel that as long as we are using animals in any way, or keeping them, we owe it to the animal to care for it's needs. They need proper and adequate food (you do NOT want to see my monthly pet food bill!), veterinary care (you don't want to know what I pay for that either, trust me!), a clean and comfortable environment suited to the needs of the particular species (meaning, my social rats enjoy living all together in a single cage, but my bearded dragon prefers to live alone, etc), etc. I don't hit them, or starve them, or make them work excessively hard (my horse, specifically).

So, why don't I believe in "animal rights" and what DO I believe in?

The very concept of "rights" is a human thing. As Americans, we have a document that lists our rights. Not every person in the world has the rights that I am guaranteed by that document. I, as a human, know about these rights. I know what they are, what they mean, and if they are being violated. If my rights are violated, I can take steps to do something about it.

So, if animals have "rights," do they know if they've been violated? If a carriage horse has the "right" to only work in temperatures below 85 degrees, and it's 88 degrees, does he know his rights have been violated? No, he's a horse. And 88 degrees really isn't that hot.

So, I don't believe in "animal rights." What do I believe in? ANIMAL WELFARE. this is something that doesn't require a human's thought. Animal Welfare means providing for an animals NEEDS, not his perceived (usually by people who know nothing about the animal) wants. My horse knows if he's hungry, and not getting enough to eat. He knows if he's thirsty and being denied water. He knows if he's too hot and being made to work and not having shade to rest in. These are things a horse knows.

A person who loves animals watches out for the animals' welfare. My horse is an Arabian. His breed was created in the desert. I can ride him for a couple of hours in hot (90*+) temperatures and while he may sweat some, he's not feeling abused. Quite the opposite, his head is up, his ears are forward, and he's rarin' to go.

Now, if I had, say, a draft cross (such as is used by the carriage drivers in NYC), I might not work that horse quite so hard in the same conditions. They are larger horses, not as efficient with cooling as my desert-bred Arabian. While I may trot and canter my Arabian in the 90* weather, a draft cross I would probably mostly walk, with some brief trotting.

This is called, looking out for the welfare of my animal. The conditions are the same, but differences in breed, and even physical fitness, would determine how much work I asked my horse to do. Why? Because over-exertion and discomfort are things a horse knows. He doesn't know about some arbitrary law made by people. He knows about how he feels, physically.

"Exploiting" generally means making an animal do something to make money for people. But again, does the horse know or care about this? As long as the horse's needs are being met, and things he cares about (like his physical comfort) are good, does he really care if he's making money? The carriage horses in NYC are paying for their food, shelter, and veterinary/hoof care when they work. If they knew about things like this, I don't think they'd mind any more than my husband minds going to work to pay for our food, shelter, and medical care!

What sparked this blog is another blog, and the YouTube videos I found from there, about carriage horses in NYC. Now, I've been to NYC. I've seen the horses. I pet them, I chatted with their drivers. These horses' welfare is definitely being looked out for. They obviously get plenty to eat, because none of them are skinny, and a few are actually a bit overweight. They see a competent farrier (person trained in the fine art of trimming and shoeing horses) as needed. Their harness fits properly, because there are no harness sores. In listening to them walk by on the pavement, you can hear a steady 1-2-3-4 beat with no hesitations or off beats. This means their legs and feet are sound and without pain, or the gait wouldn't be so steady.

I've never been in an NYC carriage horse stable, but videos shot by the carriage drivers show stalls with plenty of space and bedding, good ventilation, and automatic waterers. It definitely appears that the horses' welfare is kept foremost, and is definitely attended to.

I decided to watch videos from the "animal rights" people, and I was appauled. It was paifully obvious in watching the video that the people who made them know NOTHING about horses. NOTHING. One video shows the horses being driven during a snow storm. I'm still trying to figure out what the person's point was. Horses don't mind the cold. I've actually seen horses refuse to come into the warm, dry barn during a blizzard. They grow extremely thick coats in the winter (especially in NYC!) and enjoy cold weather. Those horses were not the least bit "abused" by working in the cold and snow. If I wasn't such a wimp myself about the weather, I'd ride my horse in the same conditions! I did, when I was a teenager.

I just wish that these "animal rights" people would figure out that they'd get a lot more done for the animals if they weren't such extremists about it. No, Peta, you will never get the world to become vegans. Instead of that, why not try to get better conditions on the factory farms where animals ARE kept in inhumane conditions? Help the animals. Instead of going "Oh those poor horsies!" why not educate yourself about the horses, and then see that they aren't actually abused. When you spout off about things you don't know about, it makes you look like a moron.

My hat is off to the NYC carriage drivers and their horses. They have been a fixture in NYC since the city began, and may they remain there til the end of time!

Photos taken November 2007

Friday, January 30, 2009

A few more pics

My beautiful Zoey Bug.

I love this one. There's a bee in the middle of the sunflower. I like the unopened sunflower in the corner, too.

I have more that need uploaded.....