Sunday, January 30, 2011

First Ride!

Last Saturday was beautiful! Temps in the upper forties (F), sunshine and no wind!
But the ride that Pat tried to put together was thwarted by all the things folks (including yours truly) had to catch up on. (And then I blew that plan by taking the girls for their "fitting.") But it looked like Sunday would work for a few folks, so we made tentative plans to meet up in Kittitas--not even knowing for sure where we would head.

The day dawned gray and blustery and only about 39 degrees, and I had some hesitation about the venture...but Hey! The trailer was still hitched, so let's go!

View Larger Map
It's always a bit warmer over Ryegrass Pass and down by the Columbia River, so we headed east from Kittitas, turned south at Vantage, wound along the river past the Wanapum dam to the trailhead known as "Army East"--the eastern end of the section of the John Wayne Trail (set on the old Milwaukee Railroad bed) that runs through the Yakima National Guard Firing Range. From here, the railroad bed gains altitude with a wide sweep through the old town of Doris, then climbs slowly but steadily to the Boyleston Tunnel, where it then drops down to the "Army West" trailhead outside of Kittitas. (I have always been fascinated by railroads--if you are too, you can click on the above map, zoom in, and follow the RR grade from where it crosses the Columbia at Beverly, up over the pass.)
(By the way, see that finger of farmland at the left side of the map? That's where EvenSong Farm is!)

View Larger Map

By the time we got to the parking area, the clouds had cleared and it was pushing 53F!
Pat had expected to ride part of the trail to the west, but instead, seeing as how most of the horses and riders are in winter [lack of] fitness, we instead rode the sandy flats between the road and the river. A couple of intrepid souls even braved the shallows!
Although it wasn't an "official" Kittitas Valley Trail Riders outing, all eight of us that rode are members.
Here we are under the abutment of the trestle that you see in the distance, above.
We found this little "rock hut" at the base of a rock face above the river. Michelle lived right nearby as a kid, and doesn't remember it from then, and the group has ridden in this area many times, and no one remembers seeing it before. But the fact is that the dirt is well-settled between the rocks, and the "lintel" rock over the doorway has cracked due to freezing weather, it seems that it's been here at least a little while. There's another man-made rock structure to the right of the photo, in front of Keith that had fallen in, but we could see two distinct "rooms."

Heading back to the trailhead, we were walking directly into the wind which had now come up. Kate wasn't too happy with this, but she hunkered down and trudged along like a champ.

We were out about two hours, but maybe did only 5-6 miles, 'cause we just poked along.
It was a great first ride of the year, especially considering that it's still January!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Adventures in Saddle Fitting

We had a busy weekend last week (and this week's been so busy at school that I'm just getting to posting about last weekend!).
Saturday dawned bright and warmish--up to the low forties--and I got a lot of catching up done on chores around the place.
Here, I'm unloading some sections of used telephone poles the power company was selling cheap--I plan to use them to construct a couple of trail obstacles this summer.

Then I got to looking at saddles on-line.You may remember that I sold my big heavy duty Hereford roping saddle last summer for two reasons: first, it was pinching Kate across the withers, and I was starting to see a few white hairs at the top of her shoulders. With further investigation of sweat patterns, it became evident that this was true with Maddie as well--I just couldn't see it on her white shoulders. So I needed a wider tree saddle. Secondly, at close to 40 pounds, the Hereford was getting too darn heavy for me to throw over the girls' backs, especially with my shoulder acting up the last year or so.
I've been trying various light weight trail saddles, including the treeless "Bob Marshall" style, and a Tucker brand "Plantation" endurance model. I researched others, including the Cashel "Trail Blazer", the Circle Y flex-tree "Park and Trail" and a few other more obscure brands. I pretty much decided that Tucker was the way to go for the horse's comfort (and the rider's is a fringe benefit).
I've been watching for Tucker trail saddles on Tack Trader, eBay, and a few other sites, hoping to find one I liked in my price range. The tree size and seat size were "have-to-haves," but I had a few "wants" that made it hard to find the exact saddle I was hoping for. I was about to settle for slight style deficits (I like a more traditional style, and Tucker's newer "golden" leather, plus I'd really like a Cheyenne roll-style cantle), when I got our taxes figured out last week, and we have a bigger refund coming than expected. Plus, we only have three more payments on the tractor.
Lovin' hubby Al suggested that I go ahead and treat myself to new, and order exactly what I wanted. (He said it could be my Christmas/anniversary/birthday present for the next couple of years--I didn't have the heart to remind him that we are still "paying off" the horse trailer for the next several years of celebrations!)
So I called the almost-local dealer, George Michels, of Midee Stitch Saddlery (in Yakima, 50 miles south), and started asking about deposits and time-lines for custom ordered Tuckers and such. He felt strongly that the only way to make sure we were getting the right size tree for the girls was to try the various sizes on them. He also wanted to judge which cinching system would be best, as the "Generation II" Tuckers have a more adjustable rigging than the originals.
Well, since there could be a month's delay from ordering to delivery (depending on choices made) and there was no guarantee that the roads would be as good next weekend, I loaded the girls up, and we were off to the big city!
Both Kate and Maddie loaded and traveled well, and were perfect ladies in the tiny parking lot of the store.
George brought out a couple of different models he had on hand, to show me where the latigo should fall, not too close to the elbow. The older models only have one position, and if it had put the cinch too far forward, he would have recommended the more expensive Gen II models.
But it was fine on both girls, as were the bars of the wide tree.

I was able to sit the 16 1/2 inch seat, but it was clear that the next size up would be more appropriate.
So the saddle was ordered!
A Tucker Cheyenne Springs in golden, like this one, but with border tooling and "trail glide" stirrups.
It should be here in three to four weeks--just about the same time I'm scheduled for gall bladder surgery! But in plenty of time for spring riding.

It's past my bedtime, so I'll save our Sunday adventure for a later post.

Monday, January 17, 2011

It Was Twenty Years Ago, Today...

[Actually, it's just been two years since I started the blog.
Twenty would have been me and Corky, outside of Spokane, below...]
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play...
[and play hard!][Actually, I think it was dangerous (not desperate) penguin, over at Food for Founder, whose blog I first happened upon, while researching, via Google, slow feeding methods. After a bit of following FfF, and visits to a few of her favorite blogs, I decided I could probably do that, too!]

They've been going in and out of style...
[Maddie wanted to just DIE of shame.]But they're guaranteed to raise a smile...
[Sandy wanted the girls to play fetch with her.]So may I introduce to you...
[Zoe, pregnant with Kate, and Kate's big brother out of Misty, Adagio.]The act you've known for all these years...
[The current herd, plus Lindy Hop, back in the summer of '06.]Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
[And again in the summer of 2007.]Happy blogiversy to us!
167 posts, over 8,000 visits (tho many were mere drive-bys.)

No fancy contest, here--I've been too weird with digestive issues all weekend to come up with anything better than this!
Thanks to all of my regular readers (all two of you--you know who you are),
from all of us here at EvenSong Farm!"Eddie"
registered name: EvenSong
Our first foal, all grown up at four, 2004.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quick Update

Thanks, everybody, for your comments and concern for Kate. She seems to be doing just fine. She doesn't believe me when I tell her that she didn't want to eat!
A couple of you commented about my choosing to drive to the vet clinic, as opposed to him coming out here. Dr. Mark would have come if I had asked him to. (Particularly if I hadn't been able to get the trailer out, if the roads had been worse, or especially if Kate had been too sick for the trip.) But he has far better facilities at the clinic, it's cheaper (I had JUST finished paying them off for last year!), and sometimes a trailer trip will actually relieve some of the symptoms of gas colic. So going in worked on this particular occasion.

After that night we had another cold snap, then two inches or so of snow, then a warm spell. On Wednesday, we saw a night of freezing rain--school was actually delayed three hours, which has only happened a handful of times since we moved here to E-burg, twelve years ago. This weekend is supposed to be in the 40s!
Unfortunately, I didn't get to take advantage of the extra non-work hours yesterday, as I decided to show my sympathy for Kate with a late night trip to the Emergency Room myself, with a gall-bladder attack! Spent the day in hospital, but am home today, as it is only a half day at school, so I figured I'd take it easy and start my long weekend early.
What's interesting to me is that my symptoms were exactly the same as my supposed "cardiac event" that wasn't, back in the summer of 2008. But this time they didn't focus so exclusively on my heart, so the other diagnosis (gall stones) was easily confirmed with some tests. In 2008, by the time they had ruled out heart attack (after two ambulance trips and two hospitals), the symptoms had subsided, so no one ever came up with an alternative explanation. The best my doctor seemed to be able to do, after the fact, was "GERD"--gastro-esophageal reflux disease--and that was what we went with for all the subsequent, minor episodes. But this week changed all that, and it looks like I'll be scheduling a little surgery soon--get it over with before riding season gets under way!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Another Close Call

We had another close call this week.
A more scary situation involving an animal, instead of a machine.

Al and I got home rather late on Thursday: I had a late meeting, and then we still had groceries to pick up. So I asked Al to feed while I got a quicky frozen dinner going. I had barely gotten stroganof in the microwave and noodles in the pan boiling when the intercom from the barn rang. (I love that non-horsey-hubby is attuned enough that if something doesn't look right, he will immediately check in with me. Al was the one who found Corky down two winters ago.)

Tonight, it was Kate.
"She was down when I came out, then got up, but is down again."
"Is she rolling when she's down?"
"A little, but not really."
"I'll be right out."

By the time I got out there, Kate had been up and down again one more time. I put her halter on her and started walking around the paddock. After ten minutes or so, for a break, I led her into the stall and tried taking her temperature--she stomped and made a slightly more serious threat to kick--not usual Kate behavior--so I could tell she was definitely uncomfortable. Thermometer went up quickly to the mid-90s, then slowed, then as it gradually topped 100, she pulled away; but I was pretty sure it wasn't going much higher--100 is okay. If anything, she seemed a little chilled from lying on the snow, so I threw a turnout on her. Timed her respirations, but they were pretty relaxed and within normal range. I can never get heart rate, not find a pulse anywhere or using a stethoscope (not even when I was doing P&Rs for competitive trail rides). Tried listening for gut sounds, but every time I put my one "good" ear to her side, the hearing aid that makes that ear good would squawk. Without the hearing aid, I couldn't hear anything, but I wasn't sure if that was her stomach that was silent, or my ear just not hearing.
I gave her a gram of bute, and we went back to walking.

I gave the bute a half hour or so to ease things up a bit, but she was still not interested in eating (not normal for Kate!) or drinking. She did drop one fairly normal looking pile o' poop, when I stopped at the trough to offer her a drink. She also continued wanting to go down. The one time she managed to hit the ground, she did just lay there for a minute or two. When she started to roll, it was only halfheartedly, but I used the motion to get her back up again. It was now 8:30. I decided it was time to call the vet. (In the meantime, Al had finished feeding and started mucking--first in the foaling stall, so I could put Kate in the roomier environs for the night, if need be.)

I lucked out and got Dr. Mark Hayden, of Valley Vet Clinic--we've worked with him since we moved to the valley 12 years ago. Dr. Mark would be my first choice of who I'd ask to work with from the two clinics that share after hours on-call duties.
We both know that winter is prime time for impaction colic. He worked with me for three days to try to save Corky, and we had a mild scare with Misty one winter (when she was heavy in foal with Maddie).
Dr. Mark asked if she had been passing gas, and I realized I hadn't noticed that she had. He wondered about maybe gas colic, as opposed to impaction. Her low level of pain seemed to rule out a twisted intestine.
He felt like I should bring her in, just to be cautious. It would take me a few minutes to hook up the trailer and a while to see if I could get it out of the spot it was in--I hadn't plowed it out after the last snowstorm. Then it would take 30-40 minutes to get to town. I was to call him when we got about 10 miles out. (I ended up stopping at a convenience store at the freeway--my emergency-only cell phone was dead as a door knob when I tried to use it!)

Now, Kate picked a relatively good evening to get sick: The deep freeze we were having last week had finally broken, and Wednesday the temps actually got above freezing, so the roads were fairly passable--just some icy patches in the shaded areas. And even as we got hooked up, the temps were a balmy 28F, so I could feel my hands, and my brain was actually functioning.
First glitch with the trailer: it was sitting in a "hole" of bare ground, and the backing-up truck was on 3-4 inches of packed snow--the hitch was too low for the receiver. Pull the truck forward and bring out the now-warmer-weather-happy tractor and scrape the snowpack outta the way. I decided not to plow the 150 feet or so of barn driveway, but once hitched up, we put the Jimmy in low-low 4 wheel drive, and the rig chugged it's way to the house driveway.
Al ran in the house for my pocketbook and glasses, while I loaded Kate.
I debated leaving her loose in the back, in case she needed to go down, but didn't want to take the chance of her getting stuck in there. Besides, she already seemed to be feeling a bit better--the pawing she did while we were hooking up the trailer was more an impatient, pay attention to me pawing, than pain. So I closed the divider, and we were on our way.

There are some that say that a trailer ride will sometimes relieve a mild case of colic (it worked for my son when he was a baby--car ride, not horse trailer), and whether it was that or the bute, by the time we got to the clinic, Kate was visibly more comfortable. She hadn't pooped in the trailer on the way in (as we all know they always do as soon as they're in), but temp was 100.2, respiration and heart rate well within normal range (that's why Dr. Mark went to vet school!). Gut sounds were good in all quadrants, so he decided it was indeed a bad case of gas.
As a precaution, he went ahead and gave her a bit of sedative and tubed her with 5-6 gallons of water and a little mineral oil. He was going to send some Banamine home with me, as it is easier on their stomachs than the bute (which makes sense, since it's their tummies that are upset, why add an irritant to that?), but by the time we got done it was close to 11:00 PM, and he had just gotten another emergency call, so we both spaced it (I did pick some up the next day, to have on hand). I loaded the slightly groggy Kate into the trailer and we headed home.

Prescription: no hay for tonight, but a little soggy senior mush (Thanks, RT!). If she's feeling better in the morning, a little bit more mush and a little hay. I am monitoring her water intake, which is fairly easy because Kate doesn't share her trough with anyone else--it would be harder at the back of the barn, where Maddie, Beth and RT all share a 100 gallon tank. Continue making salt available, both in block form, and I always add a generous pinch of loose white salt to everybody's supplements in the evening. Check her in the morning and call, if needed.

I left the trailer hooked up, in case we needed to go back in the morning, but Kate appeared to be much better! She wanted to know:
That's a good sign that she's back to normal.
My trail-riding friend Pat from just down the road agreed to give her a little more food at lunch time (the other horses were feeling neglected when that happened), and reported that again, Kate was ravenous and looked fine.

So, all-in-all, it was a very long evening, and a very short night, but things worked out okay. We had the stroganof Friday night. I slept in 'til 8:00 this morning.

Lessons I learned:
  • Keep Banamine on hand.
  • Always have your trailer where you can get to it, and get it out.
  • Keep your cell phone charged.
  • Appreciate your dedicated and experienced vet.
  • Appreciate all the help your non-horsey significant other is willing to extend to you out of love.
For all his tolerance of me and my horsies, I have no problems with Al's chosen pastime: photography. He got a new Nikon for Christmas, and he's been carting it around with him everywhere (including shooting out the window this morning in his birthday suit). He caught this hawk over the valley on his way home yesterday.

A couple of cropped shots.
Thank you, Dr. Mark.
Thank you, weather gods.
Thank you, and I love you, Al.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dodging Bullets...and Taking Things for Granted

After a five or six inch snowfall just before Christmas, this week the temperatures have fallen in to the single digits, hovering around zero during the nights and sneaking into the teens during the bright-sun-shiny days.
It's the kind of cold that settles in to your bones so quickly that you do only the minimum chores absolutely necessary, so you can get back into the house and thaw out. It's so cold that Hank's cows huddle next to our leafless poplar trees for the illusion of shelter. It's so cold that even my manure pile that I've bragged on has nearly shut down. It's so cold, I've let everybody in the barn for the last several nights. It's so cold, that urine and damp poop piles are freezing down the the stall mats overnight; and the manure buckets, and the tractor bucket...
The first night of the cold snap, I had left my little blue New Holland tractor parked next to the car, as Al had brought home a couple of bags of grain to replenish my bins. Sitting outside in the frigid temps, "Babe" (think, the Blue Ox) was reluctant to start up the next morning when it was time to go to the barn for chores. But start she did, and we got grain delivered and stalls mucked. Then I parked her in the barn aisle, and even threw an old turnout blanket over the engine compartment, to retain a bit of residual heat.
Yesterday morning she started up much easier, though still a bit hesitantly.

This morning was different:
Babe turned over on the second or third attempt, initially running on three cylinders as is her habit in the cold. I left her to work into all four while I went to throw hay to the girls (RT had already gotten his senior mush). I heard the fourth cylinder kick in, then the engine revved slowly faster and faster. Thinking I had left the accelerator handle too high the previous night, I went over to back it down.
It was already at a very low setting, and the engine continued to rev faster and faster, up towards its max!
I turned the key off as quick as I could, though the "momentum" gathered took a few moments to subside.
I started the engine again, and after a moments hesitation, the RPMs gathered excessive speed again! Shut 'er down again.
Near as I can figure, the accelerator cable must have contracted somehow, and then frozen. Or perhaps the valve on the carburetor.

At any rate, I was having visions of mucking into a wheelbarrow for the duration of the cold snap, perhaps the rest of the winter! How absolutely primitive!
"You never know what you have, 'til you lose it."

As I mucked Kate's stall, I contemplated my next move. Perhaps, if I could get the tractor out in the sunshine, and slightly warmer temperatures of the afternoon (teens, maybe 20s if we're lucky), it would thaw out the works enough to free up the accelerator. Could I back Babe up the 20 feet or so to the spare paddock (where the manure pile lives) in the 30 seconds or so before she red-lined without straining things too bad, or permanently fouling up my little blue workhorse? Thinking it might take a few shorter "trips," I climbed on board and carefully started the engine. She started on all four cylinders and I put her in gear and started slowly moving towards the sun at my back, expecting to have to discontinue the trip momentarily.
But Babe just eased her way back out the door.
Thinking that putting a load on the engine might have made a difference, I reluctantly decided I needed to check what happened in neutral.
I let her idle for a few minutes, with no further problems, so into the aisle she went, and I finished mucking.

It's supposed to warm up slightly this week, and, because I'm back to school tomorrow (GACK! I've been in denial!), I did a very thorough stall cleaning yesterday and today. There is no snow in the near forecast, so hopefully Babe can have a few days, if not the whole week, off.
I have to check with the farm co-op about the diesel additive that prevents gelling in cold weather--it's not clear whether they add it to their supply tanks or if I need to pick a quart up myself for a winter treat for Babe. I'll also check with Hank's foreman on what it might have been (and how to prevent it in the future). The best idea might be to invest in a block heater for the old girl. We'll see.
Here's hoping you and your critters and your machinery stay warm.