Friday, October 24, 2008

Equestrian roadside assistance

I'm not talking about one of the companies who do this for a fee, like US Rider. (Great company, by the way). I am speaking of the unwritten law in the horse community that we all seem to follow.

Traveling through the hinterlands of PA recently on our way to pick up a couple of horses, we broke down with a busted hose. We were on the side of the road next to a convenience store, when a smiling lady pulled up in a pick up truck, and asked if we needed help. She explained she also had horses, and a trailer if we needed to unload and put them somewhere while we repaired the truck.

It's a funny thing, once you have horses, if you see someone with a horse trailer, on the side of the road or in an accident, you have to stop. I have done this many times, a horse trailer pulled over on the hwy, stopping to see if they needed help. In the news, these trailer accidents where horses are involved, horse people seem to appear out of nowhere to assist with the horses.

Recently in Calgary Canada, a trailer bound for a feedlot overturned, and staff from Spruce Meadows came over to help. Here are people who daily handle 100k horses, coming out to help auction horses who went for 50 cents a pound. But they were still horses, and they needed help. That's all that mattered.

It's one thing that gives me hope for the horse community. While we may argue and sling mud at each other, malign each others chosen riding discipline and techniques, when it comes down to horses scattered across the hwy, we are of the same mind.

See you guys out on the road, I've got your back.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

'The Perils of Pauline' aka: horse ownership

On one of my favorite blogs there is a discussion of how horses can hurt themselves (see whole discussion here) I was going to post my experiences, but I realized that would be pages of stories! So here they are:

The first horse I owned was a black TWH mare, Senator's Rebel Lady (Neysa). I had owned her a year when some kids went into her pasture, and started shooting horses with BB guns. Of course they ran through a barb wire fence, of course my horse was leading the way. The damage? Splints in both fronts from running on the road, but the worst was the loss of pretty much her entire top left leg muscle (can't remember now what it was called)ripped out by the barb wire fence. The vet actually told me to put her down, because she would never be ridable, but I refused. The gaping hole in her shoulder eventually filled in, and all that was left was a small scar and the little flip to her gait with that leg. She developed new muscle, and learned a way to use her leg around her disability.

Same mare, years later on a trail ride, we were riding up the power lines, and there was an old fence. Walking the in tall grass next to the fence, she suddenly stopped, and refused to move. One of the other riders hopped off to come look, and both front feet were tangled in wire. She stood there, until someone lifted each foot out of the wire, then we went on our way. Notice, neither of these were HER fault!

Her daughter, Shadow (another black TWH), whom I still have, had her own collection of incidents. The first time I rode her, I didn't have a girth that really fit, but as long as I kept my balance, I was fine. So we head out, with a friend ponying her, leadline hooked to a halter under her bridle, me on her back. She was doing great, when suddenly she put on the brakes. I look down, and my friend had let the leadline sag enough so it was now tangled in her front feet. I couldn't get down, the saddle would slip. My friend couldn't mount with out help. So I leaned forward, unhooked the leadline from the halter, unwound the line from around her legs, then clipped it back and on we went. In all of this she was perfectly calm, waiting for me to fix it for her. Another time she got tangled up, we had moved to a new place with high tensile fencing. The charge box was broken, which Shadow figured out pretty quick. She was grazing over the fence, pushing on it when she stepped through and caught her hoof and shoe on the fence. She stood there patiently for who knows how long until the barn owner came home, saw her there, and untangled her foot. The barn owner, who hadn't even met Shadow yet said she was amazed. Shadow just stood there, looking at her, saying 'It's about time to came and helped me.' Then she just went back to grazing. (Charge box was fixed the next day, LOL)

Lets see, falling into rivers. I was on a trail ride with Shadow and we came to a water crossing. None of the other horses would cross. The leader of the ride assured me it was a safe crossing, so I led the way on Shadow. We got close to the other back, and Shadow slipped in to a hole. I rolled off onto the bank, and Shadow (who is 16 hands) had her front legs folded under her on the bank, and she hung straight down into the hole. The hole was so deep, her back legs didn't touch the bottom. She couldn't climb up on the bank, so we eventually got a bunch of riders to help, and grabbed her front legs and rolled her over and out of the hole. She was fine, I had a wet seat for the ride home. She stayed calm all though this, just waiting on us to figure it out and save her.

Next time it was worse. We were trail riding after a fall storm The trails were wet, bridges were slippery with wet leaves. My friend crossed a bridge made of I-beams with railroad ties. Very sturdy, used for cars. Her little Arab trotted across, but when Shadow followed, one of the rail road ties was rotted, and both her back legs fell through. I rolled off, and when I saw what had happened, I yelled "Whoa Shadow!" and she stopped scrambling and was still. There we were, two women miles from anyone, without even a leadline to help. My friend tied her Arab to a tree (he was a saint through the whole thing, just stood and watched us) and as she was taller, she went under the bridge to see if she could push her feet back up. They were in the gap just past the fetlock.We got one foot up, braced the other, and I asked Shadow to get up. She scrambled, got up, but both back legs slipped again, and went in the hole even further this time. Now Shadow was lying on her belly, both back legs in the gap up to her hip, with one stifle caught on the bridge. I pushed on her neck and said 'lay down.' This isn't something I have ever asked Shadow to do, but she did, groaning as she did. I realized she was groaning because her front left leg was curled up to the side, so I pulled both front legs out straight. I took the reins off her bridle, and as my friend pushed her back legs back up the gap I looped the reins around them and pulled. Once we had them out, I put all my weight on pulling the reins around her back feet, and told Shadow to get up. She got up, and with me bracing her back legs was able to get away from the gap in the bridge. It was a long walk back to the trailer. She tore ligaments in her hip, and was off for a year, but I still ride her today. She's just a bit stiffer on that lead at the canter.

I have had a few trailering incidents, but the best was a young QH gelding I trailered for student of mine. First they decided to help me out by loading him into the trailer before I got to the barn. Into a trailer.... parked in a field... not hitched to anything and right next to the pasture where all the horses were out. I went out there, no horse in the trailer. They had tied him to the chest bar ring, instead of the tie ring above the door. He had pulled up, realized he was loose, turned around in the 2 horse straight load and jumped out the back. He was calmly grazing on the other side of the fence from his buddies. I then properly hitched up the trailer, we loaded him, being sure to tie him correctly this time. I was about to pull out of the driveway when I looked in the mirror, and saw the gelding's face was pushed up against the window of the trailer. Thinking he had knocked the breast bar loose again, I stopped and went back. No, this time he had jumped the breast bar, and was hanging on it from his hips (was only 14.1) with his face smashed into the front of the trailer. As the owners ran around in circles screaming their horse was going to die, I got a hammer and screw driver, went under the horse's dangling back legs, and took the breast bar pins out. I then pulled his tail until the bar came off. I slid the bar out, closed the trailer and got on the road before he did anything else stupid. Yes, he was a palomino, and so were his owners. :-D

I've had two incidents with horses getting their feet caught in a hay net in the trailer. Both times they were tied short, the net was way above their chest, they had to reach up to get hay. Still don't know how they did it. They both managed to trailer to our destination on 3 legs without problem.

I've only had one Stallion incident, but it was funny in retrospect. I was boarding a supposed Arab gelding. (who it turns out was a cryptorchid) He was in a stall, as he was new, my mares were out. I got down to the barn in the am to find my spotless cement barn aisle looking like the aftermath of a teenager party. Brushes and boxes everywhere, coated in manure (the mares had wiggled the door open and came in) and the gelding/stallion hanging off his stall door looking very miserable. He was 15 hands, but the stalls were lower than the aisle, so his back legs were danging. He was very sweet, just kept looking at me with pleading eyes as I took his stall door off the hinges. Once I had the bolts out, I grabbed his halter and pulled. The door fell down, and almost immediately he peed for about 5 minutes with a sigh of relief. Seems his 'parts' had been pinched on the door all night. He was pretty uninterested in the hussy mares for a while after that.

My daughter was untacking her first horse after a ride, and as she was in the pasture, just turned her buckskin Paint Willow loose. She went in the tack/feed room with her brush box, halter and lead, and turned around to find Willow calmly standing right behind her. She thought my daughter still had her on the leadline, and followed her through the small doorway and into the room. We had the center of the room filled with four flats of hay, so Willow was standing curled around the corner of the hay, looking at my daughter rather puzzled. She then proceeded to calmly eat hay until we backed her around the corner and out. No damage except for my daughter's nerves, LOL!

This is just a sampling, horses always manage to hurt themselves, no matter what you do.