Hi, I'm Ev. I'm training to become a horsewoman. These are my adventures and misadventures. I'm green as hell, but so far, so good. I'm now learning from Bo (and sometimes his wife DeDe) at D&D Ranch in Pope Valley. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity, I feel quite blessed, and I feel that they, and horses, have really turned my life around.
Solomon is my baby- a big old flea bitten grey Appendix gelding who is very kind and way too smart! I love him so very much. He is a rescue and was meant to be co-owned rehabbed, and maybe rehomed to a good home. He turned out to be over 25 years old with injuries that ultimately do not make him riding sound, so he is retired.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Hills and colic.

The next day I went to the ranch was quite intense.

It was only a couple of days away from my one year anniversary there.

When I first arrived, I was at my wit's end. Guesswork and random advice from random people had gotten me only so far, and I'm pretty amazed, really, that I didn't get myself killed at some point. My health was also very poor. I was wheezing with asthma just walking out to the pasture. I was the heaviest I had been in my life. I told Bo that I wasn't really going to lose weight and that I would never be able to climb a hill again in my life without help. I pointed to the ridge and told him I'd never be able to get to the top of it under my own power.

So that day, to celebrate our year on the ranch, Solomon and I walked to the top of the ridge.

I was really regretting having not brought my camera along. The grass was green, the lupines had burst forth from the soil in great abundance, and Solomon looked so lovely against the backdrop of the hillside.

On the other hand, I was glad I hadn't taken my camera along, as Solomon was feeling pretty, uh, energetic.

Going up the ridge was going someplace new. This was exciting. It was not as upsetting as being lead down the road, which he would always plant his feet on, refusing to move every 3 feet or so. It was fun and interesting enough that Solomon was pretty willing to go along. But it was also clear that I hadn't asked him to do anything new and different for a while, and that while he had become really soft with me, he was used to having things done a certain way. There was a heck of a lot of jigging on his part going up that hill. Let me tell you, it's a little exciting to have a horse jigging around you when you're leading him up a steep hill. Circling is a bit scary, because you know if he slips and falls on you, it's going to be really bad news. Thankfully, Solomon was careful around me and did not knock into me at all. Also thankfully, Solomon spent half a year or so at Hossmoor, in a 90 acre pasture full of hills as steep as this one, so he's pretty sure-footed.

I was glad his rear hooves were barefoot though. Shoes are kind of slippery, I think.

Anyway, I would have probably been a lot safer had I been riding him, but that's not an option with Solomon, and I figured I could handle him, which I did. We went all the way up to the top of the ridge where the water tanks are. I was amazed at the gorgeous view, and very happy that we had made it up there. I was so proud! Solomon was really interested in everything, wanting to explore the whole top of the hill, gazing out at the view from all sides.

After we hung out there for a bit, I looked back down that steep, steep hill, and I did a bit of risk assessment. "Well shoot Solly," I said to my horse, who was busy munching on fresh spring greens, "how am I going to get us both down this hill again?"

I decided an executive decision was in order. Solomon had spent months on steep hills. Solomon is fairly predictable. He knows how to keep his balance well on steep surfaces. I knew exactly where he'd go. So I unhooked him.

Horses are very good at memorizing landmarks, and it wasn't a long walk. One could see the familiar parts of the ranch from the top of the hill, and the trail back down was very clear.

Solomon stood by my side, eating and keeping an eye on me. The moment I started to walk down the path, though, he just couldn't contain himself any longer.

He eased past me, and once he was clear of me, he took off at a run. There I stood, jaw gaping, watching my broken down old horse with a ton of nasty scars and a big bump on his back go flying down a steep hillside like he'd sprouted wings. Solomon tends to canter kind of slowly with the herd these days, and I don't think I'd seen him gallop like that since Hossmoor. His floor-length tail flagged behind him as he soared, hooves seeming to only occasionally kiss the ground. His tall white form streaked between the trees until he was just about out of sight.

I wished I could have joined him running down that hill, but I wasn't too keen on a broken hip and a couple of snapped ankles.

Sure enough, when I got down the hill he was grazing under his favorite tree. He gave me this look as if to say "mom, why didn't you run down with me???" I really think he expected me to somehow charge down right along with him. He ducked his head and snorfled me.

Something interesting was happening nearby though, and I went and watched as DeDe administered spring vaccinations to a number of horses. Some got pretty jiggy and upset about getting their shots, and some took them in stride. Each horse got two shots- I think a 4-way and a West Nile.

After Sol got to graze a bit more, and after he got his feed pan and grooming, I put him away in his pasture and went on a little adventure with Bo and D___, who boards Magic the Arab and who helps out at the ranch. She was taking Magic to a vet to get her shots. I hopped in the back of the truck and we headed off to town.

The first thing I noticed upon entering the truck was the squirrel head on a plaque. It was peering up at me from the pouch on the back of the passenger side seat.

"Uh hey Bo, I see you have a mounted squirrel head back here."

"Oh yeah, a friend of mine decided I needed that for my home, what with me being a mighty hunter and all," Bo replied, "plus that way people in the back seat don't feel so lonely."

Never a dull moment, I tell you.

So Magic loaded fine, and we drove to town with her to this vet's establishment. I'm not going to say where it was or what the business was called, but we ended up not being too pleased.

Magic was calm as could be. She's a sweet old mare, and she approached the adventure like the average person would approach a visit to Wal-Mart, or maybe a brunch at Denny's. She was nice and chill. Which was a good thing, since the place, as it turned out, wanted to charge over a hundred bucks for two shots, and then had us standing in this gravel parking lot for 45 minutes after our appointment was supposed to be. With a horse.

There were two parrots out front. I went over to say hi, and they both started dancing for me, bobbing their heads and hanging upside down. One parrot started saying "meow! meow meow meow!" He sounded just like a cat. This got me laughing, and then the other parrot, who was right behind me, started laughing... exactly like me. I mean he got my laugh down perfectly. This set me off even more. So then there was a parrot meowing at me, and a parrot laughing at me with my own voice, and I was sitting on the ground just losing it... then I looked over at Bo, who thought that my being made to laugh so easily by those parrots was hilarious, and that set me off all over again. I ended up having to walk away from the birds, 'cos otherwise I think I would have just stopped breathing.

I sat down on a rock, and a cat came over and started loving all over me. Bo was rolling his eyes a little and chuckling to himself at this point. Heh. I've always been a big animal person. Even when I was a baby I had random animals climbing all over me. Cats. Rabbits. Owls. Deer. Whatever. My man calls me "the druid." I don't know, it's just a thing I guess?

Magic, for her part, took everything in stride. Parrots, random people, cars, motorcycles, cats, a dog, everything. She just picked acorns out of the gravel and munched on them.

So after 45 minutes, we just loaded Magic back up and went home. D____ and I decided to go to the vet clinic the next weekend and buy the shots, to administer ourselves. They were intra-muscular, which I'd done once before with Solomon when I aced him for the trailer ride up to the ranch.

When we pulled the trailer up, however, there was a scary surprise waiting for us.

DeDe, who is a great horsewoman and very observant, was walking Vinnie. "Vinnie's not feeling well," she said.

Turns out she found him down and groaning.

Sometimes a horse will just have a bad reaction to being vaccinated. Horses have delicate systems, and some horses are more delicate than others. Sometimes a batch might be a tiny bit off. In this case, a few of the 17 horses who got shots were lethargic, but Vinnie ended up with colic.

Colic is a scary scary thing, and bad news for a horse. It is, in horses, intestinal distress with blockage. There are many causes of colic, and many kinds of colic. There's sand-colic, which is why it's good to feed any horse that is on dirt or sand some sand-clear (psyllium) one every couple months, there's spasming, parasite overload, other solid obstructions, and one of the more common forms of colic, which is gas-colic. It is painful, it causes a lot of cramping, and it is the leading cause of premature death in horses.

There are a couple of schools of thought on colic. Some folks say it's best to leave it alone. Others say walking it out is the best thing to do. Most people, I think, subscribe to the latter idea. There is also banamine, which is a drug that helps treat colic. DeDe gave Vinnie some banamine, and then asked me if I would be willing to walk him out. I knew someone would do it if I didn't, but I also knew it was a big responsibility, and I was honored that in a way she put Vinnie's life in my hands. And I wanted to help him. I wanted to be useful.

So we started walking. He pooped a tiny bit. But then when we went a bit further, he went down. He fell on his knees and sort of face-planted. I'd never had a horse do that before while I was leading him. He was groaning. It was scary. If they are colicking and they roll, they can twist up their gut, which can kill them. I knew I had to get him back up. I pulled and pleaded and he wouldn't stand. I got behind his back and started spinning the rope, yelling at him to get up. If he still hadn't, I was ready to do whatever it took to get him up. It was just too risky to let him stay down. When I spun the rope and yelled, though, he got up, thank the gods.

I don't know how long we walked. I know my sunblock sweated off and I got sunburn. My ankle started acting up a bit. It had been a while since my tendinosis flared up. I asked D___ to walk him a bit, because I had to run to the loo at one point. When I came back he was down again, but she got him up as I was crossing the field, thankfully.

Then I took him back and walked more, and more, and more. He pooped a little bit four more times. He kept wanting to go down, and I kept moving him. I told him "come on boy, please keep going, you have to keep going." He couldn't understand the words but I think he understood, and he kept trying, even though he was hurting so bad.

Vinnie is the kind of horse who goes through life with his head and tail held high. He runs and bucks when you fill his water trough. That day, his nose was just about dragging on the ground, he was bracing, and groaning. There aren't a lot of things more haunting to me than the sound of a horse groaning in pain. They are such stoic, quiet creatures most of the time. Sometimes they snort, or whinny, or nicker. But that pain-wracked groan, it's a terrible sound.

He kept following me though, putting one white-socked foot in front of the other. They are so strong, horses are. They are masters at enduring.

We had gone around behind the house, mostly because I was sick of going around the track in the field with the barrels, when he let loose a whole bunch of gas. I had never been so happy to hear an epic, thunderous fart before in my life.

We made our way to the big tree by the big pasture that Solomon loves so much, and Bo was there. When we reached him, Vinnie dropped his head to graze. Vinnie had tried to graze a number of times before when I was walking him, but the grass just fell out of his mouth. This time, however, he was relaxed, and eating normally. I was so exhausted. Keeping a careful eye on my charge to make sure he wasn't going down again, I stopped and talked to Bo.

"Hey, he's eating! That's good, that green grass'll blow through him, clear him out," Bo said.

And after that, Vinnie was just fine.

It was scary, but I was glad to be able to help out. Most of all though, I was just glad he was okay.

1 comment:

Willow said...

I'm glad you are back. I missed reading about your adventures!