Found That Yellow Jacket Nest

Holy smokes! I managed to unearth the yellow jackets… the ones that must`ve stung poor Ares in the head.

There is a spot beside my barn that the horses use as a bathroom. They back up to it and deposit big piles of manure, which in winter can actually cause flooding in the barn when it blocks the runoff during periodic melts and cause water to flow over the edge of the foundation. So, I took the tractor out today to clean it all up and perhaps prevent another swimming pool in the end stall this year.

Using the bucket, I was scraping along the edge of the foundation when something odd turned up. It took me a minute to process what exactly that moving mass was (being phobic about snakes, that`s always my first thought of course). Yikes! Yellow jackets. About a million of `em. Now boiling out of a nest the size of a basketball and attacking the growling beast that threatened them. I had a confused moment of what the heck to turn off, but eventually just yanked the tractor out of gear and ran for my life.

Got some wasp spray and eventually managed to reduce the numbers enough to get back and shut it off. But that tractor is going to have to sit there until dusk so I can kill the rest of them. Luckily no stings on me so far. Pretty sure I set a personal best speed record getting out of the paddock though.

I sure am hearing a LOT of stories this year about yellow jacket stings.



Handy Harold Won!

Handy Harold, our big crazy chestnut won his race in style today. From last to first in a 1 1/8 mile race at Woodbine. Here is the video replay…

Harry is out of our big handsome mare, Annie. She was euthanized last summer after having foundered a couple of years earlier. She was a fast but crazy racehorse herself, and a better broodmare even than she was a racehorse. She had a miscarriage with one of her pregnancies and went septic which is what caused the founder. We babied her along for a few years, but last summer the coffin bone dropped through her sole again and we had to let her go.

Because we had a horse racing tonight, Linda and I did the evening feed. The last couple of nights, when the boss was bringing in Al (Bernice’s foal who was weaned a week and a half ago), there were some chaotic moments. One night I watched, trying not to laugh hysterically, as Big Al towed the boss (who is taller than a jockey… but not by a lot) so fast that he looked like he was taking giant moon steps. And last night, Al escaped completely and went cavorting wildly around the courtyard with his little baby tail flipped over his back. Linda was here for that display. Sadly, I missed it. Anyway, we were a bit concerned that Al might repeat that performance tonight. So I put his little lead rope on him and had a few words with him before we went out the gate. And kept his little head cranked around in front of me with an elbow braced into the side of his neck. He did walk all the way to the arena reasonably politely. Though I definitely was using a bit of leverage to maintain his position. I don’t think we were halfway to the arena before I realized that Linda was already chortling with victory. She was planning out the text message she was going to send down to the crew at the track about how “the girls” had no trouble at all with the little hellion colt that the boss can’t hold on to. I am pretty sure that he is going to endure a bit of good-natured ribbing in the morning. Certainly Linda will be taking no pity on him.

Al (also a big, crazy, chestnut) reminds me a great deal of big crazy Harry. Which will be no bad thing as long as he can run like Harry too!


Backing Ares

I’ve been very careful with Ares, because when I picked him up from his trainer, he came with a warning to be careful. I was a bit confused about exactly what I was to be careful about, but I got the impression that the trainer had some sort of vision of turning him into a riding horse and had tried to back him in a stall. Nothing wrong with that. If you are actually a rider. Which I doubt a Standardbred trainer actually is. Anyway, it seems that he got on Ares and was alarmed at the feeling, so got right back off again.

As a result, I’ve been dutifully putting Ares through a more rigorous round of ground training than I normally do with the Standardbreds that I retrain. He’s learned to lunge in tack, with side reins. Made sure that his voice commands are solid (they usually are in driving horses anyway). And have tried to make sure that heย  is really confident with me and whatever I ask of him.

The whole allergic reaction to the yellowjackets episode really worked in my favour as it happens. Ares has been extremely friendly since that happened. I think he perceived my intervention as a rescue (which it was). And since then he’s always happy to see me and pleased with any attention. I’ve gotten to quite like him. He’s very willing and cooperative. Pays attention to me and has energy.

Today I put the tack on him and took him into a big box stall. Brought in a small plastic step stool. First I tied him to the wall and just got up and down on the stool beside him. That was no big deal as I have done some of that before while grooming him on the cross ties. I flapped my arms over his back and leaned over him, patting him all over the opposite side. Then rewarded him with a cookie and a great deal of praise. He likes cookies but I think he likes praise even more. He visibly relaxes when he knows he’s doing well.

After a bit of that, I unclipped him from the wall. Put weight in the stirrup with my hands. Put my foot in the stirrup. Jumped around. All the usual stuff. Put my foot in the stirrup. Lay across his back. And finally just got up. Throughout the entire process, Ares never moved. The only thing he did was shift his weight once to square up and balance himself under the weight when I finally committed all my weight to his back.

After getting on and off him a few times without any flinches or difficulties, I finally picked up the reins and asked him to move a step. First put a tiny bit of leg on him, then clucked. His first step was a bit of a lurch. But then he figured it out and did a calm circle right around the stall.

That was all I was trying to accomplish for today, so I stopped and got off. Much praise, patting, and even a kiss on the nose (he’s getting to really like sappy stuff like that). He looked very pleased with himself and his world.


A Moderately Good Day

King was a little flat today. But to be honest, I would have considered this quite a good day a month ago. He was willing to trot along some. And cantered a bit here and there. Not enthusiastically, but reasonably willing. No stopping, and no obvious cramping.

We are only doing a couple of miles a day (3.5 today). So he’s not doing a lot. But I’m being really careful about riding him daily. If I can’t ride, I lunge him. Or get someone (Misha or Jen) to do it for me if I’m away. Mostly though, I ride, because we are both bored unto death by going around in circles.

I’m pretty happy with the progress in the last week. He had five really good days in a row. Most of his hind end muscles are starting to feel more pliable. I thought his gracilis muscles on both sides (the insides of his thighs) were tight, but all the outer muscles were still feeling softer today.

Overall, I’m starting to have some hope. Whether or not he actually has EPSM (which is rare in Arabs), the EPSM diet seems to be making a real difference to his symptoms.

Say Good-Bye to That Snaffle, Boyo

I have a little trail here at home. It’s just across my driveway and winds through a stand of mixed pine and spruce that was planted in the late 1950s by my Great Aunt (all by hand with a little garden spade). As the trees have grown up, the lower branches died off naturally due to lack of sunlight. So they are rather wicked-looking spikes. I’ve gone through with a pole saw and cleared the trail up to about 12 feet high. But you do have to stay on the trail to stay safe. Crashing through the underbrush would likely take out an eye or two. We try to avoid that.

King is staying in for the day to eat his flake of hay. He finishes that pretty early and then has to stand, sadly starving, for the rest of the day. It’s his diet plan. Sort of combined with his melanoma protection plan of staying out of the afternoon sun. By the time I get around to riding him in mid-afternoon, he thinks he’s going to pass out from hunger. It makes him a tiny bit attitudinal sometimes. Of course I myself get a bit attitudinal when I’m hungry so I feel his pain.

Today I could tell that he was particularly starving. He kept diving for branches and odd weeds. So I took him into the spruce trail where there is absolutely nothing tempting to eat. It winds quite tightly back and forth between the trees, but there is a section of it that is a bit more open and he can usually trot nicely through that. So I let him pick up the trot. It turned into a canter one stride later. And as he wound through the trees he used each lead change to power up. The push off seems to give him some sort of turbo boost. It took about five strides before we were screaming out of control, King snorting happily with every speed boost. He was having a grand time. I was having visions of impalement. “Whoa! WHOA! God DAMN it! KING! Whoa!” He stopped at the end of the stretch where he usually stops. And politely walked down the little hill at the end. “See? I stopped. What’s the problem?”



There was much pathetic crying at work today. The foals were weaned last night. Twister is in with the three of them in the arena. Al and Esmerelda have been calling to their mothers. Reno is a bit confused by all the chaos (being an orphan already). But he’s is also a little indignant that the other two have been nudging at him to see if he might make a good surrogate milk bar. He thinks that’s very rude and has taken to kicking to defend his honour.

I rode King and Dressy both this afternoon. King was very energetic again today. That makes three days in a row. Which is a hopeful sign. It is likely that he will still have bad days even if the diet does work… at least until the full six months is up. But I’m very cautiously starting to think there might be some actual improvement happening. His muscles feel a bit less tight in his hindquarters too.

Dressy has had a few days off since Seoul’s Corners. Today we did 7 miles at a moderately slow pace. We are working on slow/steady trotting. In the hopes that we can find a gear she can maintain all day. She’s naturally very fast. But she cannot maintain that speed over long distances without blowing herself out.

Her back was sore on Monday. I used King’s aussie saddle at Seoul’s. It’s really not the right fit for her. I can use the Barefoot, but that also gives her some problems (pressure points from the stirrup hangers – she has permanent white hairs from them). So I think for now I’m going to have to resort to alternating saddles again. Until I can find something that does fit her correctly anyway.

I also need to do some work on her feet. I think she has some deep seated thrush still going on. She’s been a bit tender footed lately. And the right front has some raggedy, grungy looking bits. I treated her last week with White Lightning and it looks a little better. But I think maybe that’s why her heels have been growing so fast lately.

Just Dump the Safety Equipment

Considering the lack of energy lately on King’s part, I have been getting a bit lax about his tack. Today I left off the breast collar and the running martingale when I took him out. Just the plain snaffle bridle too, instead of the kimberwicke.

And of course… he was pretty darned sprightly. I even made a joke about it to Misha before I got on him. Something to the effect of “maybe this will give him some energy”. Sort of like washing your car to make it rain. He was snorting softly from the first step. Snort, snort, SNORT. I always know he’s happy when he starts that. His trots all turned into canters, and he had one fair sized spook (no idea what triggered it either). He’d have broken into a very joyous gallop if I’d given him a quarter inch of rein.

Usually I curse him when he’s like that. But today it was just nice to see a trace of my old wickedly happy Arab, instead of the flat, depressed horse he’s been all season. He was actually pretty energetic yesterday too when I took him out. He’s very up and down, but since the diet started, he does seem to be having more ups than downs. And this was probably the best day we’ve had in a couple of months. Hopefully they will start to happen a bit more often.

I also noticed that all his various lumps (most likely melanomas) have subsided some. This does seem to happen from time to time. The lumps all grow, then after a few weeks or months, they shrink a bit.


Dressy Beat the Heat

Got back from the Seoul’s Corners ride late last night. I left before the 75 and 100 mile horses finished. But I hear that Patti Stedman won the 75. Elaine Steele won the 100. Michelle Bignell and Allieena won the 50. Pat St. Jean and Black Bart’s Perfect won Best Condition. Ron Savard won High Vet Score.

Chrystal’s mare, Grace had a little mishap on a slippery bit of rock and fell just after the start of the fifty. Grace was a bit sore at first, then sorted herself out. But by the end of the second loop she was stiffening up a little, so they were pulled. She was well-behaved and reasonably steady and fast. So I think Chrystal was pleased with that at least, despite the bad luck.

Dressy was wonderful. We did the 25 miles. I had hoped that this ride would be cooler and more to Dressy’s taste. But that was not to be. The high was 27C, but the humidity averaged 83%, with a high of 100%. I had sweat running in my eyes even before I got on her for an 8am start. Luckily, the humidity went down a little bit on the second loop. Otherwise it would have been a lot tougher on Dressy.

She put on a bit of a show for the spectators before the start. We were waiting for Savanah (the junior who rode with me) to finish tacking up her arab, Merlin. Dressy was going around and around in circles, so I decided to trot her up towards the start and back. But she thought it would be better to thunder up there at a gallop. Then she thought it’d be great fun to crowhop back down again. All of this in front of spectators with cameras. Of course.ย  I growled at her and she stopped. She’s not generally bad, but the start is a very exciting time for her. She did settle though and managed to walk out fairly politely once we hooked up with our junior and went out on trail.

Although I was wilting (and by later in the ride… stupid) from the heat, Dressy was forward and alert for the entire first loop. Her first vet check was perfect. All A’s and a 10/10 CRI (cardiac recovery index). She didn’t even seem all that hot at that point. Just hungry and thirsty.

She went along very well for most of the second loop too. (If you look at the video, most of it was taken on the second loop, and you can see her perky ears.) Until I got lost. Though of course I didn’t know I was lost. Dressy sure did. She suddenly went flat and refused to trot. I thought the heat was getting to her. But no… her rider’s idiocy was getting to her. We walked for a while before I realized something was wrong. Then backtracked. And went past the elusive turn the other way. Walked some more (Dressy was NOT going to trot in the wrong direction – she’s no fool). I finally resorted to looking at my GPS and turning on the “Return to Home” function. That worked. Of course. Made the correct turn (the red turn ribbon had wrapped around the tree branch so I couldn’t see it), and Dressy miraculously recovered enough to want to gallop. She was very pleased to get to the water trough. Not nearly so pleased when I made her go back out of camp for the final five mile loop. I had to send Savanah ahead with Merlin. He trotted along, dragging a reluctant and increasingly hot Dressy to another water trough about 3 miles from the finish. I cooled her rather frantically and she did look a lot better after that. Then we turned back for camp and Dressy perked up a little. Still hot, but she was still willing to trot. And in the last mile, she was back to alternating trot and gallop. Good thing too… we crossed the finish line 2 minutes before the cutoff time.

Took the full 30 minutes to get her temperature and heart rate down. Chrystal and a very nice and very helpful boy whose name I cannot remember were a great help sponging Dressy. I was not all that functional by then. I think I drank about three iced teas out of my cooler without stopping. Then stood in a bit of a stupor for a while. Chrys said I looked way worse than my horse.

Her pulse was 16 (in 15 seconds… so 64 bpm which was the parameter she needed to meet) when I took her in. The vet (Stan) said her heart sounded nice and steady. When they are tired, their heart rate speeds up and slows down, so that was a good sign. Cap refill, etc were good. She had to come back for a gut sound check (so did Merlin… and quite a few other horses) as she was down in two quadrants. As soon as she ate though, she was completely fine. Merlin was also fine once he was rechecked.

This was Merlin and Savanah’s first 25 miler. He looked great all the way through. They had a little boot issue in the first mile and elected to go barefoot the rest of the way. It didn’t look to me as though he had any problem at all with the footing. He must have very good feet. Nice little horse. They both looked good at the end. Savanah should be very proud. Especially considering that they probably actually went 30+ miles due to their sponsor getting lost and leading them astray.

It was WAY too hot and humid. Given the conditions, I cannot believe Dressy did so well. She actually looked good at the end. Hot, but still bright-eyed and alert. Still spooking at things. Jumping around
when water went on her. Looking to eat other horses’ dinners. She ate three meals out at the first check (Grace’s, her own, and Harley’s). Ate two meals at the end. Plus a bunch of hay. Some carrots. A bucket
of water. More hay. Treats. The vaccuum that ate the world…

The drive home was fairly awful. It started raining shortly after I pulled onto the highway. It came and went all the way home. Sometimes quite torrential, which made driving difficult between the dark and the water on the road, and the stupid drivers who think nothing of cutting off vehicles with limited stopping power. I got home safely four hours later and unloaded a very bright-eyed and bouncing Dressy. Then did a relieved face plant in my bed.

Little Boys, Big Boys, Playing in the Field

This morning at work, we put the yearling boys in with the two year old boys in order to make room for the upcoming weaning event with this year’s babies. So I took a few pictures of the joyful chaos.

Freeman and Winchester are our yearlings. Freeman is a bay with crooked (though noticeably less crooked lately) legs and lovely floating movement. Hopefully the movement will make up for the crookedness. Winchester is a gorgeous chestnut with a narrow blaze. He’s going to be a looker… like his mama.

Monster and William are the two year olds. They are both bays. Monster is a “plain” bay. Though plain is not the word that comes to mind looking at him. He’s a beauty. A very very tall beauty. 16.2hh at the withers. 16.3hh behind. William is somewhere between 15.2 and 16hh I imagine. He’s very nicely built, but has a bit of his mama’s head. Which is… well a bit oddly shaped. Some call it… “exotic”. But I kinda think it’s just… bumpy ๐Ÿ™‚ย  Never mind though, if he can move like his mama. And at the speed his mama moved on the track… He’ll be quite sufficiently beautiful ๐Ÿ™‚