Saturday, January 31, 2009

Safety First

Someone on the local horse forum posted this link today and I wanted to share it with FFF readers. Looks like a fine idea for anyone who rides on the road. I think I will be getting one in yellow.

Photic Sneeze Reflex

Does sunlight make you sneeze? If so you are in the ~20% of the population carrying this dominant genetic trait. The biomechanics aren't totally clear, but scientists hypothesize that overstimulation of the optic nerve somehow triggers the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for the sneeze reflex.

I inherited my photic sneeze reflex from my father. He started his career as a navigator in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Nowadays it would preclude any career as a fighter pilot, but I'm not sure whether he and his flying buddies were tested back then.

When I first met David he didn't believe my claims about the sun making me sneeze, and he finally looked it up on the internet. That's how I learned that it's a known and documented phenomenon. Normally I hardly notice it, but over the past few days I have been suffering from a sinus infection and looking into the sunlight (we've actually had some) is painful rather than pleasurable. In addition all the bones in face are tender and my teeth ache like crazy -- no riding for me. I'm lucky to enjoy excellent health overall, but today I'm off to the doctor.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Work Horses

The horses didn't get worked yesterday afternoon because wet snow made the footing too dicey. When I took the dogs out around 16:00 Tonka and Raven came to the pasture gate to watch us play, and after I put the dogs away they were both waiting expectantly at the main gate. As I approached Raven gave the low nicker she reserves for those times when she's especially happy to see me, and when I stood by the gate she put her lip on my forehead and nuzzled it back and forth like crazy on my face and in my hair. That moment of tenderness left me breathless, and I was very sorry to disappoint her by breaking our routine. The weather is supposed to be wet and warm over the coming days, so I will try ponying Raven around the paddock (good footing) on a lead line. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tacky Anniversary

Yesterday marked the 1-year anniversary of my decision to buy Tonka despite his founder diagnosis, and today marks the 1-year anniversary of the blog.

We celebrated yesterday with another ride in the pasture. Both horses were fantastic -- Raven stayed calm throughout the whole 45 minutes (still at liberty) and Tonka worked hard at his bending and straightening exercises. Instead of riding in the Wintec 2000 AP I tried him in the old Wintec stock saddle I bought last spring. What a difference for both of us! The closer contact really helped Tonka to understand my leg aids, and the long panels with the set-back stirrups are reminiscent of a dressage saddle, which is where I feel most comfortable. I had always intended to change the gullet in that saddle for Raven, but now I am keeping it for Tonka. With composite stirrups (which I love) the whole thing will weigh less than 10 pounds. I have been riding Raven quite happily in a cordura Wintec 100 Sport of the same era (and weight), so she really doesn't need another saddle.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New Faces at Farcical Farm

One is a permanent addition to the cast of characters, and one is temporary. Pipsqueak (formerly known as Ginger) was rescued from a dairy farm some years ago by my hay-finding friend Shelagh. After being spayed and vetted she proceeded to beat down any other cat she could find -- weighing in at 7 pounds she has enough attitude for a full-grown tiger. When Shelagh heard that we needed a barn cat she offered Pipsqueak to us -- a compliment if you know how seriously this lady takes the welfare of her furry friends. This mouser extraordinaire is now firmly ensconced in the rafters of our garage with a deep, cozy bed and a heat lamp for comfort. And she does seem quite comfortable, especially when you love her up a little. Let's hope the rats are feeling uncomfortable.

For almost seven years I have been working with The Food Lady to help rescue border collies in need. On the weekend I collected Pepper from a local SPCA, where he had been relinquished by an elderly owner who could no longer care for him. At 10 years old Pepper is getting elderly himself, but he didn't get the memo -- if he wasn't 15-20 pounds overweight he would still be a dynamo. Even in his over-fatted and under-muscled condition his is all border collie all the time. Show this dog a ball and he can barely contain his enthusiasm. If you don't have a ball he will fetch whatever you do have. A pencil? Yes. Lid from a milk jug? Yes. Dead leaf from a house plant? Yes. Pepper will toss it at your feet and proceed to crouch and stare as only a border collie can. He has quickly endeared himself to us and some adopter is going to be very lucky to share his remaining years.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Five on Five

Sweet Kacy was kind enough to pass three awards my way the other day. Without delving into the details I do want to share five addictions and five online inspirations with FFF readers.

Addiction #1: When I was little I had a friend who lived in a house that was always full of animals (and children and plants and LIFE in general). They had three cats and two dogs and bunnies and hamsters and a beautiful aquarium. When they moved to a hobby farm and expanded their menagerie I was simultaneously jealous and heartbroken. That home environment was totally discordant with my own, but it suited me so much better. And now here I am with multiple dogs, cats, goats and horses of my own. LIFE!

Inspiration #1: All Horse Stuff. Kacy gets out and works her crazy thoroughbred mare almost every day. They ride the trails, they do dressage in the arena, they take jumping lessons, they go to the beach, they try new things and they are always improving. Washashe is similar to Raven in many ways, and Kacy's "just get out there and do it" attitude really rubs off on her readers.

Addiction #2: I've never smoked, I hardly drink at all (David calls me "Sarah Half Glass" because that's how much wine it takes to get me tipsy), and most recreational drug use is long behind me. My only physical addiction is to good caffeine -- swill need not apply. I can skip a day if I must, but why would I want to?

Inspiration #2: Bikes, Birds and Beasts. Carol and I are kindred spirits when it comes to coffee, and Carol is an inspiration to me because she lives like I want to be living in another ~30 years. Joyful, thoughtful, curious, engaged, caring, honest, independent, active...all these adjectives that come to mind.

Addition #3: David and I started doing crossword puzzles together last year and I am hooked. Both my parents were crossword fiends and I disdained them (crosswords, not my parents) for years as a result -- it seemed like an intensely uncool way to pass the time. But now that I've stopped caring about being cool it turns out that crosswords are awesome!

Inspiration #3: Rex Parker Does the NYT. Almost every day Rex Parker does the New York Times crossword puzzle and then blogs about it. David and I discovered this several months back when we were looking for answers to a very tricky (medium-challenging according to Rex) puzzle. I had never thought about the art of making crossword puzzles before reading this blog, but now I find myself formulating well-reasoned opinions about them.

Addiction #4: My primary function in my professional life is problem solving. The other things (writing papers, applying for grants, attending conferences) tend to drain me, but when I am on the edge of getting an answer that I have working towards I literally start to vibrate. Sometimes I get so excited that I can barely type, and coworkers have noticed that I get very flushed. You know you're a total nerd when computer output gives you an adrenaline rush.

Inspiration #4: Funder's Good Idea. From her blog I gather that Funder is another problem solver and she makes me want to try new things. Driving a horse trailer? She can do that. Trimming her own horses' feet? She can do that too. Shooting a pop can from 100 yards with a hand gun? You betcha. Being a lawyer? Sure thing!

Addiction #5: Although I am codependent with the internet in general, I rely heavily on Facebook for updates about my friends and their doings. Most of my high school peeps still live in Ontario, but Facebook allows me to feel like I haven't lost touch with them. Long time FFF readers might remember that I hate to talk on the phone, so I am horrible about maintaining long-distance relationships that way.

Inspiration #5: Those Who Wander. I have only met Erica and Jamie once or twice, but they are close friends of some close friends. Sometime last year Jamie quit his high-paying job, they sold their Vancouver home, bought a fixer-upper motor home and hit the road with Kea (8), Tiegan (5) and Ryland (2). They don't know how long they will be on the road or exactly where they will end up, but right now they seem to be having fun in California.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Ponying Progress

It was greyer and colder this afternoon when we repeated Thursday's exercise, but Raven was MUCH better. She threw a couple of half-hearted temper tantrums, but mostly walked along beside Tonka and I, or slightly ahead of us. After 30 minutes I felt that she was relaxed enough to try some trotting, and that went well for both horses. Then Tonka walked over a tarp that was on the ground near to our burn pile without a moment of hesitation. What a good boy! David came out when we were done to get some pictures.

No stirrups, one hand on the buckle, slumped in the saddle -- now that's my kind of riding!

I sense a hissy fit coming on. Tonka either doesn't notice or doesn't care.

I was feeding her treats off of Tonka when she was behaving sanely. Here she is checking to see if I have any more and Tonka is wondering why she gets all the treats when he's doing all the work. David took pity on him and I know that you will too.

I often call Raven "muleface" or "donkeydonk" because she has such long ears for a thoroughbred. She has turned a dark brown in the sun over the past week and now she looks more like a moose. A good-looking moose, but a moose all the same.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Three for One

Yesterday was another beauty in Deroche. I gave Tonka a cursory grooming, saddled him up and rode him at a walk in the pasture with Raven at liberty so that all three of us could get our workout for the day. Raven was stressed about the whole thing, but between bouts of bucking and farting and kicking and rearing she did manage to walk calmly alongside us for several 200+ foot stretches. This is my very first step towards ponying Raven off of Tonka, and he was absolutely fantastic. Raven's biggest problem was that she couldn't push him around with me on his back, and every single time she tried to dominate his movement he listened calmly to me, always trusting my judgment.

Beyond racing I doubt that Tonka has ever been more than a recreational trail horse, so we worked on straightness at the walk and bending a little through the corners. He kept his mind on his job and mostly ignored Raven's antics. My workout came from keeping my leg on Tonka, who rides like some of the warmbloods I used to know -- capable of huge movement, but not without huge input. Under normal circumstances I would have a dressage whip at the ready, but I didn't want to introduce that into the general chaos. No pictures from yesterday, but I was wearing exactly the same outfit as shown in the one above (taken last March, obviously before I had adjusted my right stirrup) if that gives you the idea. We'll do it again tomorrow to see whether Miss Thing can settle down faster than yesterday.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Terra Incognita

Yesterday before I put Tonka and Raven through their paces I grabbed a tarp from the garage. Getting horses to walk over tarps seems to be a common training goal so I thought we should give it a try. First I folded it down to 1/8 of its size and gave Raven a treat every time she touched it. Within a few minutes she had both front feet on it, but she was avoiding it with the hinds. Within 10 minutes I had completely unfolded it (12X16) and she was all over the darned thing mugging me for treats. After that I walked her with very short trot intervals (a few of them over the tarp) for about 20 minutes. Before Tonka had his longing session he walked all over the already-unfolded tarp without seeming to notice that it was there -- show that horse a treat and he becomes admirably tunnel-visioned.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Five Pillar Plan

On Sunday I very carefully watched and heard Raven moving. When she fully articulates the right hock joint it clicks, but she is not articulating it as much as the left. As a result she is pushing herself up high on the left fetlock to accommodate the slightly straighter right leg. This might explain why she looks sore on both hinds. I previously thought that the hock injury had somehow precipitated further degradation of the suspensory ligaments, but now I wonder if it is simply mechanical exacerbation of that weakness. Based on these observations I have formulated a plan.

Pillar 1: Joint Maintenance
This needs to happen with support from Kerstin, but I would like to try nutritional supplementation with MSM or glucosamine before jumping straight to something like Adequan or Legend. Any recommendations on good supplements are welcome -- there are about a million to choose from.

Pillar 2: Consistent Work
Joints are supported by the muscles around them, so we need to work on building up her legs and her quarters. On days when the footing in the pasture is good I will probably lunge her (she was fine after Sunday's session) to encourage more flexing of the joint by working in a circle. On days when it's wet I will hand walk her through some of the uneven parts of the pasture to encourage use of the leg under more varied conditions than she gets in the paddock. We'll do something every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (when I am not in the office).

Pillar 3: Weight Loss
Thanks to everyone who commented on how good Raven looks. Because she came to me in such poor condition I take pride in keeping weight on her, but this isn't about my ego. Leaner is always better when it comes to joint injuries, and it wouldn't be unhealthy for Raven to lose 50lbs. I have started by dropping the high-fat pelleted feed from her diet, which accounts for about 1000 calories daily.

Pillar 4: Pain Management
No pain, no gain? More work might mean more pain for Raven, and I need to accept that using bute might be a short-term evil necessary for achieving our long term goal. Bute is dangerous because it can mask a real problem, but half a gram after a lunging session can also offer real relief.

Pillar 5: Attitude Adjustment
Mine, not Raven's. When I'm honest with myself I can admit that I have been pessismistic about Raven's recovery, which is unusual because I am hopelessly optimistic about most things. Am I just lazy? Or looking for a reason to feel sorry for myself? Or an excuse to avoid ever riding my crazy horse again because I'm skeered? Whatever. It ends here and now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Superlative Sunday

0730 - 1030: Making money
Although I enjoy sleeping in on occasion, my brain works best in the morning and I hate to let it slip away. Most days (weekdays and weekends alike) start with me grabbing Obsidian (my laptop, a black MacBook) out of his bedside holster and remotely logging onto Pyxidis (my desktop, quad core blah blah RAM out the ying yang blah blah) who lives in my office on campus. Pyxidis runs all kinds of models for me at night, and I like to see what he's accomplished while I've been sleeping. This morning I started tinkering with some troublesome code, and it was 10:30 by the time I got it sorted out. A professionally productive start to a warm and sunny January Sunday.

1030 - 1100: Food machine
David often refers to me as "the food machine" because he thinks that's how the animals see me. Each of the dogs got half a cow's knee, the goats got their flake of alfalfa and the horses got their morning rations. Still lots of hay in the feeders from Saturday.

1100 - 1200: Late breakfast
Thick plain yogurt with crunchy sunflower granola, into which I mixed tiny and potent chocolate chips. Yummy! And one of David's magnificent mochas, care of Mr. Giotto. Enjoyed at the sun-flooded kitchen table with David, chatting about nothing in particular.

1200 - 1430: Moving muck
I mucked out the paddock and then David helped me to move all that manure lying in the pasture (where it got dumped on the snow days) up into the compost bin. We worked slowly in t-shirts, chatting and goofing around with the dogs between bouts of shoveling. Probably more fun than having a front-end loader.

1430 - 1530: Grooming
The horses have been naked for the past week of sunshine, and they have been rolling around in the muddy parts of the paddock. I groomed them both while they stood and ate at one of the feeders and then I turned my attention on Titan. With daily practice he is becoming more tolerant of brushing, and yesterday he lay quiet on his side for 10 minutes while I work on his undercoat with The FURminator.

1530 - 1600: Late lunch
David makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches ever, and I was lucky enough to get one for lunch. Enjoyed with a Vietnamese coffee and David's good company.

1600 - 1630: Working Raven
While I know that hand walking and trotting are the best exercises for Raven right now, I can't actually watch her move when I am moving alongside her. With some trepidation I put her on the 25 foot longe line to take a better look. Trepidation because (1) moving in a circle can be hard on an already-painful joint and (2) longing thoughtfully can be hard for Raven. It's obvious that people have used longing as a method of tiring her out in the past, and she tends to start cantering in mindless circles when she hits the end of the line. I found long ago that she is more comfortable without a whip, which is fine because her upward voice transitions are instantaneous and sustained. The downward transitions only work smoothly if I keep my voice and my body as quiet as possible. Today I managed to get her from a frantic canter into a walk within three circles, which is a record. We did lots of walking and a bit of trotting in both directions, followed by some hand walking up and down the pasture. Based on what I saw and heard I formulated a plan for moving forward, which will be the subject of another post.

1630 - 1700: Working Tonka
Where Raven hits the end of the longe at a canter, Tonka sees no reason to do anything other than stand around unless there is a whip actively involved. Once he got moving he was great with a big steady trot that makes my heart glad. Like many standardbreds Tonka doesn't canter too good, so we just did lots of walking and trotting. His downward transitions are instantaneous, which I attribute to sheer laziness rather than good training (though he does hold his pace admirably when he gets going). After that I took him down to the end of the pasture for some hand grazing. Raven does not like being separated from Tonka, and I need to start working on this if I want to ride him out and leave her behind. Every time she settled down and stood quietly I would bring him 50 feet closer to her. Hopefully with time and patience she will get the message that he only comes home when she keeps her head.

1700 - 1830: Phoning mom
A long conversation with my mother in Toronto. We talked about books, politics, family, pets, airplanes, travel plans.

1830 - 2000: Crazy casserole
I enjoy cooking when I have the time for it. A few weeks ago Roger gave me the recipe for a tasty caserole he made, and I have been wanting to try it ever since. We didn't have a lot of the ingredients in the house, but I substituted liberally (my modus operandi for all cooking). Scallions instead of yellow onion, some carrots to make up for the lack of crunch, some squishy tomotoes from the fridge instead canned, the ends of three different types of salsa instead of tomato sauce, and some really old Kraft Parmesan cheese I found in the cupboard a few weeks ago. It turned out great!

2000 - 2100: Chores
Another round of feeding followed by a shower. Our water was off all day and I was wrapping my head around the reality of showering at work before my morning meeting (sitting on the commuter train after a day like this would not make me any friends) when it came back on. Delightful!

2100 - 2400: Strict machine
You know that Goldfrapp song? I make my living using computers and sometimes I feel like a slave to Obsidian and Pyxidis. One of the best things about Farcical Farm is that it forces me to spend a lot of time away from my machines each and every day (have you guessed that I am a workaholic?). And on sunny days it gives me a good excuse to delay computer-dependent work until the sun goes down. Today was productive and pleasurable both personally and professionally. Who could ask for a better Sunday?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

False Spring

It is analogous to false labour in my mind, and it has been happening in Deroche over the past four days. We have had sun (while most of the Lower Mainland is shrouded in fog), blue skies and daytime temperatures of 10 °C. I have been working outside in a t-shirt, Raven appears to be coming into her first heat and the trees are covered in tiny buds. I suspect that it will come to a tragic end quite soon, but we are all enjoying it while it lasts. Unfortunately I didn't bring the camera out with me today, but here's a shot from last year's false spring, which occurred in early February.

At Long Last

When I started this blog I did all the things necessary to be indexed by Google. I submitted the URL for crawling, I specified the feed as the sitemap in my webmaster account, and I waited. And waited some more. A couple of months later I submitted the URL again and waited again. And submitted again. The last time I resubmitted the URL was on Monday morning, so imagine my surprise this afternoon when people started popping onto the blog as the result of their Google searches. Sure enough, FFF finally got indexed! The technical trappings of the intertubes aren't as mysterious to me as they my mother, but I can't think of any good reason why this took most of a year to happen. Maybe all the talk of Tonka's swollen member got me flagged?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tin Soldiers

Galvanized steel, actually. But they are soldiers in the ongoing war between me and the fat gray rats in our garage. After a catastrophic breach of the whole oats container I caved and invested $125 in five vermin-proof garbage cans. So far the tricky lids are also proving to be penguin-proof, but I feel confident that I will eventually master them with the help of my opposable thumbs.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feet for Funder

The last time that Christina Cline came to trim the horses I promised Funder that I would post some pictures. I finally got around to snapping them today while Christina was working away. The angles aren't ideal (I didn't want to neglect my horse-holding duties entirely) but the pictures below show (left) Tonka's front right in January of last year just after being trimmed by a local farrier and (right) the same hoof just after Christina finished trimming it today (click on it to see a larger version). This foot was more affected by the founder, with greater rotation and more remodeling of the coffin bone.

Sure his toes are shorter and his heels (naturally a bit high on this side) are under, but what I like most is the quality of the new growth. The ridges on the left indicate periods of disrupted growth, probably due to acute laminitic episodes, but the smoothness on the right is indicative of a more metabolically balanced horse. Now the front left:

Here you can clearly see how the plane of hoof growth used to break about halfway down with the angle (as measured with respect to the ground) getting smaller. This occurs due to weak laminar connection between the hoof and coffin bone, and you can see how stretched the white line (connection between hoof and sole) was in this picture:

Unfortunately I didn't take the matching pictures for this today, but the white lines on both fronts had tightened completely after six months of care. Also unfortunately I cannot find the pictures I took of Raven's hooves after Christina pulled her shoes, but the two pictures below show them today (you can see how a scar on her right coronet causes a seam to grow down the quarter).

Being a thoroughbred Raven doesn't have the toughest hooves, but we are very pleased by how much they have improved in shape and substance. All four used to flare like crazy between 4-week trims and the soles were like pancakes, but now they stay compact and there is real concavity around the frogs. She will probably never ride out comfortably without boots (assuming that she will be sound enough to ride out at all) but overall I feel that she is a much healthier horse without shoes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It Seems Like Yesterday

Today is the 1-year anniversary of the first time I met Tonka (then Kelly). I clearly remember listening to this horrific story on the radio as I drove out to the barn. David had given me $300 for riding lessons on my birthday, but after falling in love with a picture of Tonka online I decided that it would be better spent on a 1-month trial lease*.

When I arrived Tonka was in a panic because Star (his companion of the previous seven years) was screaming for him from the pasture. He had ditched his handler after being tacked up, and he made a break through the barn where he got trapped by the sliding door at the far end. It is only time I have seen him truly undone by a situation. When they caught him I asked the girls in the barn to untack him -- I had no intention of taking a first ride on a horse in that state of distress. Instead I took him out in-hand and quickly learned that he had impeccable ground manners, even through fear. He turned gingerly on the forehand and the quarters in both directions. He reversed for 20 steps with agility and attention. No one knew that he had been a race horse, but I now assume this level of cooperation came from his early training. I fell for him completely on that first day and the founder diagnoses three weeks later was just a bump along the road of inevitability.

In the meantime my friend Sheena was having her dog Briggs laid to rest after a long, hard battle. January 12th 2008 was a sad day in many ways, but it was also the start of my life's longest dream coming true.

*In case it's not clear to FFF readers, David is my very best friend, my partner and my lover -- not always the easiest role to play in the life of a woman who is independent to a fault. The indirect conversion of a $300 cheque into a 1200 lb horse was something that he accepted with more humour and grace than I deserved. I do promise that this year's cheque will be spent on nothing more than vet bills.

Friday, January 9, 2009

All Will be Revealed

I was looking forward to yesterday with anticipation and trepidation. Not because it was my 33rd birthday (thanks to David and my mother for cash infusions against my vet bills), but because the snow finally melted. For the first time in three weeks I mucked the paddock with a manure fork and a wheelbarrow instead of a spade and a make-shift sled. And for the first time in three weeks I could see all the manure that had been hiding.

It took three hours and eight or nine (I lost count) runs to the manure pile, but the paddock is almost back to normal. Now all I have to do is move the stuff that I have been piling in the pasture up into the manure bins. Have I mentioned how badly I want Henry to grow a front-end loader?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hell in a Handbasket

You need to understand that it has been pouring in Deroche for the last 36 hours. The batteries are dead in our rain gauge, but I would estimate that at least 15 cm of rain have melted at least 30 cm of snow. Everything I am about to describe takes place under ridiculously wet conditions.

David left for work around 3 this afternoon and I got home around 8 this evening. I was met at the door by two piles of dog manure that appeared to be nothing more than redigested horse manure. Willow is the definite culprit, and she must have eaten A LOT if she was desperate enough to relieve herself in the house.

After cleaning that up and feeding the dogs I suited up to feed Titan and the livestock. David had called earlier to say that Titan was moping under the goat van and, sure enough, he was still under there. He greeted me with a pathetic whine and abject refusal to move. I was so worried about him that I crawled in with his dinner, which he proceeded to eat with gusto. Under the van is his go-to place when something scares him, so I assume that he was weirded out by the endless rain. He followed me when I crawled out, and I lay an ex-pen under there to make it uncomfortable. Hopefully he will choose his dog house or the inside of the van tonight.

Onto the horses. When Tonka's sheath first flared up I removed the leg straps from his rain sheet to prevent any rubbing. It has stayed in place all week without them, but this evening he was wearing it like a bib, swinging his forelegs to the sides to avoid walking in it. Miraculously both he and the sheet are undamaged -- have I mentioned how much I love the Schneiders products? Poor Raven was moving very stiffly on both hinds. I suspect it's because she has spent most of the day just standing in the shelter -- there is no heat or swelling in either.

We'll see what tomorrow brings, but I am very happy to be in bed now. I would be even happier if the rain died down.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Great Escape

We have had at least six inches of snow on the ground for three weeks now, which is unprecendented in my 13 years in the Lower Mainland. Tonka and Raven have mostly been confined to the paddock, but I am opening up the pasture on days when they seem energetic. They usually bounce around for a bit, dig for some grass and head back into the paddock when they have tired themselves out.

Raven was in one of her thoroughbred moods yesterday morning, throwing little hissy fits and being a royal wench. I opened the horse gate to the back pasture hoping that she would blow off some steam, but I completely forgot to check that the human gate into our back yard was closed. Sure enough both horses trotted out, made two sharp turns to the right, and were stampeding past David's office window before I could say "ah, shit".

When David came out to help wrangle them back into the paddock they broke west around to the front porch -- thankfully Tonka wimped out before they got caught up in the rock garden or the drainage pit. Then they broke north, down the driveway and onto the road before striking out towards the highway (a good 500 meters away, but I would have preferred them to head towards the dead end in the other direction) at a trot. Somewhere at the back of my mind I was thrilled to see Tonka trotting big and sound on the freshly-plowed asphalt.

Horses on the loose don't worry me much, but I hate to see them on the road where an unpredictable spook in conjunction with a passing car can have horrific consequences. Fortunately Tonka soon lost his nerve, turned around and trotted back down the road, past our driveway and into the next one, where they got shooed home again by our neighbours. The whole thing took about five minutes and Tonka had the decency to look contrite when I caught up with him. Raven, on the other hand, looked ready for more.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tonka Update

Seven weeks ago I mentioned that Tonka seemed desperate for the kind of medical attention that Raven was receiving at the time. Could I have brought this upon myself?

On Friday morning Kerstin came out to check on Tonka and she feels 95% sure that we are dealing with a contact allergy -- either a continuation from the original itchiness, or something that was on my hands while I was treating him (i.e. obsessively poking and prodding him) for that. At this stage he is slightly less swollen and all of the outer skin is peeling off in sheets. His temperature is normal, but we are keeping him on the antibiotics as a precaution against infection of the torn skin. His appetite is somewhat diminished, probably due to the antibiotics and the pain so he is getting a gram of bute with each meal. His urine is an alarming shade of orange, but I assume that is from the drugs (I am waiting for a call from Kerstin to confirm). Otherwise he seems comfortable, and he *really* enjoys his zinc oxide treatments in the mornings. Horn dog.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A Family Affair

My sister, my brother-in-law and my two nephews have been visiting Farcical Farm for the past week -- the first time we have hosted my side of the family tree. Although I get to Toronto a few times each year it was nice to have the tables turned by an encounter on my own turf. We frolicked in the snow, ate a lot, didn't drink too too much, played Wii, watched silly TV shows and had a great time. The Ruddy Beast is plenty big for six people, our little dishwasher didn't mind doing triple duty, and Mister Giotto was worshiped by all. The Callaghan clan is thinking of buying property in Ontario this summer (they have two avid dirt-bikers on their hands) so I hope their time at Farcical Farm was both fun and encouraging.

They spoiled us in several ways while they were here, but primarily by helping with the farm chores each morning. Everyone would suit up and head out to feed, water, muck and exercise the dogs. Concern for the warfarin-tainted curs and the swollen-sheathed nag was shared by all, with the five-year-old Rory keeping astute mental record of their progress. The only thing I dislike about living in BC is being so far from my family -- the house seems quiet and surprisingly lonely without them.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Turgid Tonka

Tonka's sheath was so swollen this morning that the skin was beginning to split up the middle and along the sides. An emergency call to Kerstin got him an antibiotic prescription from the human pharmacist, and he seems happy to down 15 crushed pills in his feed when a little molasses is added. It would never work for Raven, so I will count my blessings wherever I can find them.

I didn't have the heart to take pictures, but imagine this about 3 times worse. He looked like this yesterday, so something is raging away in there. The outside is totally slathered with 37% zinc oxide in hopes of preventing any secondary infection along the torn skin. All the men around the house seem to get uncomfortable when I talk about this.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I Resolve to Resolve My Vet Bills

Welcome to 2009. We managed to keep the kids awake with back-to-back episodes of Most Extreme Elimination (one of my many guilty pleasures in life) and some rousing rounds of Stamp Stamp Revolution (thanks Daun -- that one is going to stick). It was all very pleasant.

I'm sad to report that 2008 went out with another big vet bill. Yesterday morning David was playing in the crunchy snow with the dogs and Willow started to bleed from abrasions on all of her legs. She is thin-skinned and I didn't worry too much about it until one of her forelegs swelled up like a baseball bat. I feared that something was broken and called the vet who was able to see us in the afternoon.

We stopped at the beach en route to the vet so that my sister, brother-in-law and nephews could do some eagle watching. Willow was waiting in a crate in the truck, but Tilley and Watson were out with us. We noticed that Watson's urine appeared bloody, so I just phoned the vet and asked if she could test him for a urinary infection while I was there.

When I got to the vet she looked at Willow's swelling and abrasions and asked me almost immediately if she had been into any kind of blood thinning agent -- aspirin, ibuprofen or warfarin. Then we brought Watson in and she drew a urine sample with a catheter. It was not blood in his urine but bilirubin, indicating a problem with his liver function. When I got Willow home she immediately took a big, red pee.

Much brain-wracking and discussion ensued. The vet is quite sure that Willow and Watsom must have eaten something killed by warfarin, which is possible as our neighbor across the street has a rat problem and they like to explore in her field. Tilley is fine, but she doesn't eat unusual things off the ground. This morning's test results indicated that liver function is fine in both cases so they have managed to detoxify the poison and dodge the bullet. We did not dodge the $400+ bill.

In horse news Tonka's sheath took a turn for the worse two days ago, and this morning the tips were swollen up like a couple of baseballs. I could have knocked them around a little with Willow's leg. Kerstin is on holiday now, but some online research suggest that this problem is semi-common for older geldings in winter. Others suggested that a gram of bute would go a long way, so he got that with his dinner. Keep your fingers crossed for the poor guy.

And in goat news we trimmed hooves again this afternoon. It went pretty well, except that I cut too much off of Roland McNugget's hind right and he bled like a stuck pig (sorry Jean). A sock full of corn starch staunched the bleeding, but he is limping quite badly. I'm hoping that he will heal up before we have to get another vet involved...