Monday, June 30, 2008

Dirty Girl

My mother will attest to the fact that I have never tried hard to stay clean. Jeans and dresses were soiled with equal abandon, despite all admonishment from parents and older siblings. Now that I pay for my own clothes I try to be more careful by having a drawer full of farm rags while preserving everything else for my interactions with the real world. This distinction doesn't come naturally to me, however, and the voice in my head that says "you're wearing the wrong clothes for this" is barely audible. Today I installed a new pump in our fish pond and went into the shop for some WD40 when the waterfall hose resisted its inevitable attachment to the pump nozzle . I sprayed a couple of drops into the hose, spread it around with my finger and was just about to wipe that finger on my pants when the little voice screamed "YOU JUST BOUGHT THESE LAST WEEK!!!" and then passed out from the effort. It sounded a bit like my mom.

Today's other chores included the purchase of a full-face fly mask for Raven (it does not have pink ears), which does seem to keep her a little calmer when the mosquitoes come out. We also bought a 1-acre bug zapper, which is going nuts as I type. It's hanging between the goat and horse paddocks, striking terror into the hearts of both Tonka and Raven. I'm not sure whether the mask or the fear has quelled her pacing for the night, but I don't really care either way.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Trail Blazing

Or maybe trail smoldering. This morning David and I took our visiting nephews Cameron and Keigan for a 2-hour trail ride at Mustang Riding Stables. I was attracted to this facility because (1) all their horses look healthy in the pictures and (2) it's located in Miracle Valley, where David and I tried long and hard to buy property. This region lies slightly northeast of Deroche and is surrounded by mountain backdrops on three sides with the lovely Stave Lake to the north. Many mountain-fed streams make for some incredible trails, and I think that everyone enjoyed their ride. I was on a 20-year-old Arab gelding named TC, who was eerily similar to Raven under saddle. I felt right at home!

Cowboy Cameron riding Pal

Cowboy Keigan riding Kenoa

The whole posse, with thanks to our guide.

Water everywhere!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Get a Round?

For the past few weeks I have been considering the construction of a 60' round pen. With two acres in pasture we have plenty of space. Raven might benefit from some training in a confined environment, which really puts her on edge. And I would also like to have a softer surface for Tonka now that he's up to lunging a few times a week. Maybe I should create a 60' crop circle to test the idea when our not-so-trusty mower comes home from the shop this week.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cast of Characters

Inspired by another blogger I want to give you a quick summary of who lives on Farcical Farm. First and foremost we have the horses. Tonka is a 12-year-old grade gelding who foundered sometime before I fell in love with him. We are doing our damnedest to rehabilitate him, and I originally started this blog to keep track of his progress. Raven is a 15-year-old thoroughbred mare who is perfectly sound and happy to be my partner on the trails. Her primary function is to keep Tonka company and her secondary function seems to be keeping me on my toes.

Morsel, Timbit and Roland McNugget are 6-month-old African pygmy goat wethers. Their greatest joys include complaining vociferously and attempting escape. We use them to lure our city-dwelling friends with small children out to Deroche (with limited success to date). They also like to eat blackberry brambles, of which we have an endless supply.

Tilley, Watson and Willow are our pet dogs. Tilley is an Australian shepherd who was adopted through STAAR in 2001. Everyone (herself included) is shocked to find out that she will be 11 in November -- she still goes after tennis balls and strange men with equal enthusiasm. Watson is some kind of Australian shepherd mix adopted as a juvenile delinquent from the Moses Lake Animal Shelter last fall, after Rueben succumbed to old age. Most nights Watson spends at least 10 minutes at war with his tail, which is pretty much all you need to know. Willow is a funny-looking border collie who found me through TDBCR (an organization for which we have fostered many dogs) in the summer of 2003. When she was a wild child pup I often consoled myself by telling people "she's going to be a fantastic dog when she's 5" and I was right.

Spike and Hazel are our indoor cats. After Alley disappeared last April we vowed to keep our cats safe by keeping them confined. Spike was adopted as a very feisty 6-week-old kitten from the Vancouver SPCA in 2003. He grew up into a "steaming puddle of a cat" according to David. Hazel joined the farce from the Fraser Valley Humane Society last summer, once all hope of Alley's return had faded. Her attitude matches her very orange eyes.

Last and least, there's us humans. My name is Sarah, but friends call me 'dp' which is short for 'dangerouspenguin' which is a long story. I go by the motto "if I can't do it online, I won't do it at all" and that's how David and I met almost nine years ago. Ever since I was a little kid I have dreamed of living surrounded by animals so I feel very lucky right now, though I might change my tune when winter rolls around.

With the exception of some chickens, our final addition is scheduled to arrive next week. So far we've been calling him Jumbo because he already outweighs Tilley. Jumbo (name suggestions welcome -- we are thinking of something viking-themed) is a purebred working Maremma who will be tasked with keeping the pygmy goats safe while looking out for the rest of the property. His breeder describes him as "always into trouble" so he should fit in perfectly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Surgical Intervention

This morning a very pregnant doctor froze the ball of my foot and removed the offending splinter. I would not have been able to see it at the end of her digging tool (I'm sure there's a more technical term) without my glasses. Nevertheless she seemed to believe that it was causing me distress, and she claimed it would be her most interesting visit all day. Things must get quite dull at the student medical center during the summer term.

The mosquitoes were insane when I got home this evening. The Deep Woods Off certainly helps, but Raven is a pacing, miserable freak between 7 and 10 each night. Someone on the forums has recently purchased a mosquito magnet machine that it supposed to cover 1 acre -- I am intrigued to find out how it works.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My Left Foot

I usually ride in the LaCrosse Hawthorne paddock boots I bought for $30 three years ago -- one of my best shoe purchases to date (and there have been many) . They are light and comfortable, but the sole is rigid enough to make good contact with the stirrups. When I was escorting Raven home the other day something (living or otherwise) in the left boot pricked the ball of my foot, just to the inside of my big toe. It hurt for the rest of the walk, but all I could see under closer inspection was a tiny black dot. Over the past two days the area around this dot has started to throb, and any pressure on the ball of the foot can lead to jolts of pain that leaves me feeling nauseous. Tomorrow I will try to explain this phenomenon to one of the doctors at the university medical clinic, but I have a hard time believing that they will take me seriously.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Thing Leads to Another

1) Things probably started to go downhill when I made the decision to try a new and challenging ride after three hours of hard labor in our garden. And after giving Raven four weeks off due to copious rain and my travel schedule. As they say: common sense isn't all that common.

2) We crossed the railroad tracks, the bridge and the highway without incident. Raven scooted up and down the gully to get onto the dike like a pro, listening to my aids and responding beautifully. After warming her up I let her loose and hunkered down like a jockey while she blew off some steam. About 30 seconds later I saw one of her hoof boots fly off, but she was still raring to run when I pulled her up. Only the gaiter from her front right EasyBoot Epic remained wrapped around her pastern.

3) Raven jigged back the way we had come, not best pleased to be going so slowly. The boot was in the middle of the dike so I hopped off and tucked it into my shirt. She continued to jig around as I remounted, and she took two unfortunate steps backwards just as I was settling into the saddle. Panic struck when she started to slide down the slope of the dike, and she reared and twisted when I grabbed too hard at the reins to keep my precarious balance. I attribute the fact that I kept my seat to recent review of this video (and to a pear-shaped physique contributed by the maternal half of my genetic equation). It wasn't that extreme, but I was able to handle it in much the same way.

4) We crossed back over the highway and the bridge under more control, and I dismounted again when Raven started to limp on the unprotected foot. Then she started jigging around in-hand on the the long walk home, so I did some Clinton Anderson exercises to keep her working and thinking. At one point I was asking her to flex her neck and yield her quarters (obviously from the wrong position) and Miss Thing reached forward with her hind left to nail me on the right thigh. We had a brief, intense and unambiguous exchange of opinions about this, and the rest of the walk went smooth as silk.

On a more positive note:

1) I think we lost the boot because the shape of that hoof has improved so much. I will replace it with a #1 instead of another #2.

2) Without the bitless bridle I would have been a goner during the rearing episode. She will never ride out in anything else.

3) Raven's "whoa" is getting more solid. She hardly attempted to break it at all today, and was much less fidgety.

4) Despite the rocky ride I feel closer to Raven than ever. Her strengths and weaknesses are crystallizing in my mind, which leaves me feeling more confident about anticipating her reactions under saddle. When she is thinking clearly she tries so hard to please -- it is hard not to love her (even after she almost rears you off and then kicks you).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Flea Fly Mosquito

Lots of rain leads to lots of mosquitoes here in Deroche. Tonka seems mostly untroubled by them, but poor Raven is covered in welts down her neck and under her belly despite our attempts to protect her with repellents and clothing. David finally suggested that we try Deep Woods Off, which works very well on us humans. I posted a question about this to the Health & Welfare section of the BC Horse Council forums and it turns out that lots of people do it. Everyone agrees that it might not be healthy, but they also agree that it keeps sensitive horses sane when nothing else seems to work. One respondent also suggested adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to her feed, which I have also started to do. The welts are already subsiding and Raven is looking much more relaxed. Hurray for deet!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Give Me Five

The Henneke scale is widely used to measure the body condition of horses, with a 1 being "emaciated" and a 9 being "extremely fat". Neither extreme is desirable, and the average pet horse should maintain a 5 with adequate food and exercise.

The score is based on the fleshiness around the neck, withers, shoulders, ribs, loins and tailhead. Tonka would have scored a 7 when he arrived and Raven would have scored a 3 -- as of today I would say that both score a 5, with just a bit of rib visible under their summer coats. For me these changes are most noticeable in their rumps. Tonka's used to be heart-shaped, with hills of fat rising from either side of his spine. Raven's used to be spade-shaped, with valleys between her spine and hips. Now both are perfectly plump and round and shiny -- is it wrong to spend so much time ogling your horses' bums?

Know Your Limit, Eat Within It

Whenever I visit Toronto my sister and go to the casino. I have never left with more money than I had upon arrival, but I enjoy the thrill of losing it to the cheap slot machines. Each one reads "know your limit, play within it" and my limit is $100 at the outside.

David reports that Raven has been switching herself from pasture grass to paddock hay over the past week. Maybe she too has concluded that the grazing is responsible for the colicing? Wouldn't that be nice!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No News is Good News

I am headed back to Farcical Farm tomorrow and I'm relieved to announce that David has had no equine problems in my absence (unless you count one escape to the front lawn and a twice-daily battle for Raven's respect at meal time). No colics, no unexpected lamenesses (Tonka is limping a little -- what else is new?), no reason for me to panic when his number shows up on my call display. If it's this bad with horses, what is it like with kids? I am very much looking forward to reuniting with the whole famdamily tomorrow evening.

One from the archives: my favourite fellas before we brought Tonka home. Look at that mud! No wonder it took almost four months for his feet to dry out (Tonka's, not David's).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bareback Blues

Another blogger I follow recently mentioned that she finds it challenging to ride bareback. I quite like puttering around without a saddle, but when Raven arrived it hurt to ride her bareback because she was so thin. Once bruised twice shy, and I haven't tried since. Inspired by the Out of Shape Rider I purchased a well-cushioned bareback pad on eBay last night. It should get a lot of use once Raven's brakes have been tuned up.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Earning Their Keep

For those interested in the progress of our goats, David took them out to the blackberry brambles in our back pasture yesterday to put them to work. Lazy as they are, Morsel and Roland McNugget look pretty keen about this particular brand of employment.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To Add Perspective

Raven's former owner contacted me last night. Jenn reads the blog, and news about another colic sent her searching through 12 years of Raven's medical records to check for evidence of prior episodes -- she found none. Jenn did make me aware of a disparity between the quality of pasture on Vancouver Island and that in the Lower Mainland. We have richer soil, which produces richer grass and richer hay -- this is the most persistent theory thus far. It's also the most favourable in my estimation, so I hope not to disprove it! Here's one of Raven with last year's colt (Exactly Midnight) from Jenn's archives:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Oh Happy Day!

Shadow arrived at his new home yesterday afternoon and my friends are smitten with him. Tia (a real greenie) has already been out for a safe and enjoyable ride. I hope she'll send me pictures of his progress so I can post them here for you to see.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Dare to Compare

I am away from Farcical Farm for the next little while, so posts might be intermittent and/or completely unrelated to the ostensible theme of this blog. To start the new trend we have a more recent photo of The Blue Beast (which will be painted red this summer, and may be called The Ruddy Beast thereafter) from a similar angle.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Neverending Story

It's been a quiet few days around here except for the rain on the roof. Both horses looked tender after their trim on Friday, and the weather has not inspired me to do much training. Obviously I need get building that 70 X 140 indoor arena, but my ambitions were more humble this weekend.

David and I bought Farcical Farm in January 2007, and we officially moved in April. The house, known fondly as "The Blue Beast" was in a sad state due to years of severe neglect (see above). In August 2007 we enthusiastically entered Reno Hell, and by December we were stuck in Reno Limbo -- that familiar state where everything is functional but nothing is finished. Phase II (of two) starts sometime next month, and the threat of a visit from our contractor inspired us to finish some lingering Phase I projects indoors while it poured with rain outdoors. We now have two nice coat racks in the mud room (made from leftover oak countertop) and a shelf around the half wall in the kitchen (see below). At this rate we will enter Reno Heaven sometime in 2019.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Don't Drink the Water

A recent post on the BC Horse Council forum highlighted the importance of water quality in cases of chronic colic. The posters (who strike me as knowledgeable and sane) had their well water tested after one of their horses coliced three times. The results were vastly different from those of the previous test (two years earlier) and the water could no longer be classified as potable. They installed a high-end filtration system and they have had no further colics. They changed other management practices at the same time, so it is impossible to wholly (or even partially) attribute the colics to the water. Still, it did get me thinking about the variability of our water supply. Much of Deroche relies on a gravity-fed water system driven by a stream (know as Crazy Creek) that originates in the Garabaldi region of the Coast Mountain range. Therefore the water composition is affected by the spring runoff, possibly changing its flavour -- I haven't noticed a difference, but maybe Raven has? Her first episode did coincide with the beginning of the freshet.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Tighty Whiteys

White lines, that is. Christina Cline was here today to trim both monsters, and she reports that the white line (where hoof meets sole) on Tonka's front left is now as tight as she would expect to see on a healthy horse. The front right is still a bit stretched -- unsurprising, as rotation of that coffin bone was more severe. Overall we are making excellent progress.

Christina also reports that all the flares on Raven's hooves are growing out nicely, and we can expect to see more concavity in the coming months. I did mention Dr. Stouffer's concern about Raven's soft soles, but we agreed to stick with the status quo as she doesn't seem to be in great pain. Let's hope they get tougher when (if) the weather gets drier.

Christina states that she is quite accustomed to having her bum photographed, but I also got this nice one of her legs as she gave (the very appreciate) Tonka a belly scratch.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Hungry Boots and Surrender Socks

The vet called this morning to say that Raven's blood and fecal samples were normal. I confess to being disappointed, but only because I'm fond of easy answers. Miss Thing seems fine today, though very wet -- the weather remains exactly as predicted.

My older sister always called underwear wedgies "hungry bum" when we were kids and this evocative image has stuck with me for decades. Today I am reinventing it to describe the rubber wellies I wear for farm chores as "hungry boots". Unlike the pair I retired several months ago, these boots relentlessly try to tug my socks down over my heels. This morning I realized that I have unconsciously classified my sock collection into pairs that do and do not surrender to the hungry boots. Due to a laundry shortage I was forced to wear surrender socks today, and had to pull them up (balancing on one foot) three times while mucking the paddock. Do other people have this problem? If not, what type of socks and/or wellies do you wear?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Medical Marathon

Dr. Stouffer and her assistant were here for almost two hours this afternoon getting some insight into Raven's episodic colic. Here's a review of their observations in their order of importance (as ranked by me):

  • Rectal examination revealed a buildup of manure around the pelvic flexure, which is apparently typical in tapeworm infestations. A fecal sample will be sent for analysis and Raven was wormed with Equimax after the examination.
  • Raven's manure was a little dry. This suggests that her colics may be due to small impactions rather than gas buildup. To keep things moving along I will start supplementing her feed with corn oil and electrolytes (to encourage more drinking) as of tonight.
  • Examination of her manure reveals that Raven is not fully digesting her feed. She was sedated and floated, but it appears that she has been over-floated in the past and her teeth do not grind together properly. I will also start supplementing her feed with a probiotic tonight to assist digestion.
  • Raven has several swollen bug bites down her neck and on her belly. This is new over the past week, but the histamine in her system might also be causing some internal swelling.
  • Apparently Raven's vulva is a Intake of air through the vulva can cause the reproductive region to swell up, thereby leaving less room for the intestines. I'm told it's common to have the top half sewn shut to prevent this -- a procedure I should consider for her.
  • Raven's soles remain soft after having her shoes pulled, and pain in her feet might be leading to endemic stress which might, in turn, be precipitating the colic. I'm not very concerned about this, but I appreciate the holistic approach and I will discuss it with Christina Cline on Friday.

Overall I am happy to have some avenues to pursue -- I did not expect any smoking guns. Dr. Stouffer took blood and fecal samples away with her and left behind some Banamine and some Buscopam in case of emergencies. She also recommended keeping milk of magnesia or PeptoBismol on hand. Either would help to ease the pain of ulcers, providing good evidence that we should progress to an endoscopic examination.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

May Showers Bring June Rain

I invite everyone living in the lower mainland of British Columbia to join me in shouting "ENOUGH ALREADY!!!" at the relentless sky. Today in Deroche we got 25mm of rain and a daytime high of 14 degrees. Here's the forecast for the coming week. Do you see a trend?

The weather on the wet coast doesn't normally affect my spirits, but this is June and I think it's time to start having some summer fun with my horses. Judging by their droopy demeanor today they are feeling much the same (or I am anthropomorphizing).

Monday, June 2, 2008

Another Day, Another Distress

Raven had another colic episode this afternoon, though not severe enough to require Banamine. Dr. Schwichtenberg and I agreed by phone to let her tough it out, and she settled right down after twenty minutes of acute distress. The only commonality between both colics is their occurrence immediately following Raven's return from the pasture to the paddock. I let the horses graze for an extra hour this morning (it has been cloudy for the past few days, meaning less sugar in the grass), which may have been a factor. David also cut the pasture on Saturday, exposing all of the young growth -- another possible factor. We have a locum vet coming on Wednesday to take a closer look at what might be happening here, and there are many possibilities. Fermentation of fresh grass in the gut? Sand buildup? Parasites? Gastric ulcers? A side effect of her heat cycle? Some or all of the above?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Good News!

Sounds like my friends have decided to add Shadow to their little hobby farm on Vancouver Island (which is probably more farcical than our own). I can't wait to see how he looks and behaves after six months of good food and good care. Hooray for Shadow!