Monday, July 24, 2017

A Rose By Any Other Name

Most of my friends know my Tennessee Walking Horse, Mallory, gave birth to a healthy filly on Thursday, July 13.  Mallory is 15 years old, This is her first foal. Mine, too.

Although I had been watching Mallory carefully, the birth caught me off guard. I didn’t think it was imminent. Never mind that she was five weeks overdue. She hadn’t been leaking milk, nor had her teats waxed over. Both are signs that the birth will be within 48 hours. Imagine my surprise when I walked to the barn that morning.

Major, one of my dogs, ran ahead of me. When I got to the back, he was lying on the ground facing the barn, barking at something. That’s unusual. He doesn’t normally bark at Mallory. By the time that thought had registered, I saw Mallory. A split second later, it was, ‘Well, hello there, little one!” 


That was at 7:30 a.m. She couldn’t have been more than an hour or two old. She was still having trouble standing. Her legs are long and spindly. She doesn’t look anything like her mother. Mallory is black, with a white snip on her forehead. The filly is a very light reddish brown (sorrel?), like her errant father. She has an unusual white blaze across her forehead. Her mane is the same color as her coat, and her tail is red on top but flaxen underneath. She flicks it like a deer. She’s wearing a white stocking on her right rear leg.

I began handling her immediately. It has paid off. She’s friendly, coming right up to me when I go to the barn. She enjoys a head or body rub and having her tummy scratched. It’s getting easier every day to put a halter on her. She doesn’t mind my touching her ears any more. I can pick up her feet, too.



Problem was, I couldn’t come up with a name. I had been hoping for a black colt that I could name, “Paladin.” It’s from that 1950s TV show, “Have Gun, Will Travel.” l would have called him, “Pal.”

Alas, Paladin wasn’t in the cards. 

I had not settled on a girl’s name. I had several in my head and on my list. I liked “Cheyenne,” another old TV western, but what would I call her? Annie? Nope. Still another western came to mind, “Sugarfoot.” Hmm. Could call her Sugar.
Had she been born on July 4th, I would have named her Independence and called her Indy. My oldest grandson favored that one. I also liked Firecracker. I tried Indy and Cracker on her. Neither seemed quite right.

Facebook friends offered a dozen suggestions, but none suited her.

I decided to give her a few days to see whether something would pop up.

The way she flits and darts about, Mariposa (Spanish for butterfly) came to mind. I really like the idea behind that name, but it’s a mouthful. My youngest daughter suggested Luna, which is Spanish for “moon.” Her blaze does look something like a crescent, albeit with a hook on it. I tried both Luna and Mari (for Mariposa) on her for a couple of days. Mari didn’t appeal to me.

Luna it is.



Welcome to the world, Luna. We’re going to have lots of fun together.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Progress




Chance let me hang a small rope around his neck earlier this week. Yesterday and today, he let me scratch his belly. That's the one place a horse can't get to. 

I can rub his back, his sides. He lets me pick up his front feet. That's essential for the farrier to trim/shoe them.

My goal is to have him accepting a halter and lead rope by the time Mallory foals. She's due around June 8. When the vet comes to check the foal, he can examine Chance and give him his shots. 

I showed Chance's photo to a fellow horsewoman. She has raised sevens foals from birth. She believes his straight spine indicates that he's young. If so, perhaps his skittishness is because he was never really handled. In person, however, his spine doesn't always look so straight. The vet can tell more by looking at his teeth.

He still won't let me approach him outright. He walks away, stops, turns, snorts, looks back at me. Or looks sideways. Then, if I have his food, he approaches cautiously to within a few feet. With outstretched hand, I walk up to him. I pet him. I talk softly to him. I try not to make any sudden moves that might scare him.

I wonder how someone got him into a trailer to haul him to my neighbor's farm. That scenario makes me shudder.

He's fattening up. His hip bones are less prominent. You can still see his ribs, but not so much as when I got him. He's quite handsome, too. 

Will he make a good trail horse?

Time, and a good trainer, will tell.



Friday, May 12, 2017

A Second Chance

Chance. That's the name I gave my new gelding. With me, he has another chance. A chance for trusting and bonding with humans again, a chance to eat enough to stop his ribs from showing.

We've made great progress over the past two weeks.

 He follows me to wherever I take his food. I started holding it at arm's length, forcing him to eat with the smell of my fingers so near. Now I can hold the bowl against my body. Sometimes, he'll even take food from my hand.

It took a couple of days for him to allow me to stroke his head and cheeks while he eats. Now he lets me rub his neck, too.

He still won't let me approach him. I have to wait for him to come to me. He won't let me touch him until the food is profered. Even then, he usually snorts and turns his head a time or two before accepting my touch.

It's not much, but when you're trying to gain the trust of a skittish horse that has been abused by humans, it's a great start.

Friday, May 5, 2017

R.I.P. Betsy


My barnyard menagerie is smaller now by one. Betsy, my goat, died yesterday. My handyman, Floyd, and I spent two and a half hours burying her. Floyd dug. I shoveled some. Mostly, I just watched, in shock at the turn of events. 

I had taken her to the vet for a mastectomy. Dr. Jason Coe at Animal Hospital P.C. in Oneonta said she had balloon teats (common name). Wacky hormones caused them to fill with milk. They were dragging the ground when I got her in late 2013. Dr. Coe drained them, and said a mastectomy might be in her future.

Gradually, one of them filled again. Dr. Coe drained it February 14, the day he preg-checked my mare. He said if it filled up within a few weeks, surgery would be on the docket. 

This time, it filled more rapidly.

It hurt me to watch her walk. The enlarged teat obviously got in her way. She had to spread her back legs to run. She had dragged the bag over something, because she developed a wound on it. 

Floyd had come up Thursday morning to help me load her. I had a wire dog crate on the back of my dually. She was so scared inside that she was shaking. (Despite appearances in photo above, she wasn't tied to the crate.)

We arrived at the clinic 45 minutes early. I sat in the bed of the truck next to her. Rubbing her. Making soothing small talk. I assured her she would be okay, that she would feel so much better when this was over.

She came through the surgery fine. Dr. Coe heard her gasp. Cardiac arrest. They got her heart started again, placed an oxygen mask on her face. She would not take a breath. Respiratory failure. Coe and staff did all they could. It wasn’t their fault. These things happen in animals and humans. We do not always know why.

I’m already missing this goat who thought she was a dog. When I would bend over to clean my mare’s hooves, she would lick my face and nibble my hair. If I were standing up, she might put her hooves on my chest and look me in the eyes to get my attention. Her hooves were like rough concrete. Dr. Coe was going to trim them after the operation.

I had to lock her or the llamas up during feeding times. She gobbled her ration faster than they did. If I didn’t separate them, she’d shove them out of the way and finish their food. It never dawned on the llamas or bothered Betsy that she was a third their size.

As Johnny Cash once sang about a lost love,  “I don’t like it, but I guess things happen that way.”


Yeah, they do.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rescuing The Rescue


He doesn’t have a name yet. I have no idea how old he is. Not sure of his breed, either. My farrier thinks he’s a racking horse, claims he watched him rack across my pasture. 

He has long legs, and a long forelock that hangs in his eyes and makes him look like a wild stallion. He’s a gelding, though. He is still shedding his winter coat, or else he has Cushing’s Disease. Cant get close enough to tell.

He’s very skittish, distrustful to say the least. Somewhere in his past, a human must have caused him pain. He accepts the food I give him, but won’t let me touch him.

He was one of three horses and three miniature donkeys that a neighbor rescued a couple of  years ago. Two of the donkeys were pregnant. Now there are five. The mare died. My registered TWH mare, Mallory, is carrying the stud’s foal. Big Red, the neighbor called him. He’s gone, though. The neighbor got rid of him. He wants some cows.

I borrowed the gelding, with my neighbor’s blessing, to keep Mallory company. When I asked the neighbor about shots, he said the only thing he had done was to worm him. How do you worm a horse you can’t catch? My vet said not to worry, because my mare is up-to-date on her shots. Meanwhile, the gelding’s feet are in bad need of trimming. His hip bones are too prominent. 

So when my neighbor offered to gift him, I accepted.

I’m trying to win his trust. It will take time. Time spent feeding him, talking to him. Time just sitting in the pasture watching him graze as he watches me sit. 


I’m not normally a patient person, but I see something in his eyes that makes me want to be. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Bee Season

Carpenter bees love the two bottom steps.

It’s that time of year again. It’s carpenter bee season. It starts in early March and extends to the end of September. My annual spring battle is on.

I first wrote about these pesky insects two years ago.The problem hasn’t gone away. It hasn’t gotten better.

I had my azalea bushes cut down to the ground. I was hoping that without sustenance, the worrisome winged varmints would go away. Not a chance. They draw on wildflowers, like my oak leaf hydrangeas and soon, my dogwood trees. 

Last spring, or maybe it was fall, I called Battle Creek Log Homes about how to prevent squirrels from chewing on my log home. They had never heard of such a thing. In our conversation, they mentioned something about sealing the logs. It was the first time in the 15 years I had lived here that I knew sealing was necessary.

My handyman pressure-washed my log house, then sprayed a clear sealant on it. It looked great until the sealant was totally absorbed. In other words, about two or three months. He used a brand meant for decks and porches. It doesn’t work well for log homes. Now it’s got to be done again. I’m willing to pay a little more and use a product meant for logs homes. Also, there’s an additive I’ve read about that will deter the bees for two years. Gotta get me some of that!

I don’t know about squirrels, but carpenter bees aren’t bothered much by sealants. Paint keeps them out, but I don’t want to paint my logs. The bees won’t bore through fine-mesh, wire screens, either. So a few years ago I bought a roll of wire screen material and had my tenant put pieces under each step of my front porch. The bees prefer drilling holes under steps and porch rails, because they’re protected from the rain. Trouble is, my tenant  didn’t install the screen all the way to the front edge at the two bottom steps, and that’s where I have the biggest problem. The 6.5-inch long nozzle of my dust sprayer isn’t flexible, so I can’t spray Drione dust into the holes under those two steps. Their bottoms are too close to the ground.

I’m getting desperate. I think about having my wooden steps ripped out and replaced with stone or concrete. I may do just the two bottom steps. We’ll see.

Every year, I say I’m going to start spraying the logs early. I have a liquid chemical that needs to be sprayed once a month during peak bee season (early Spring). As I’ve written here before, March is the time to start. March is a windy month. That means the spray flies back into my face. So I procrastinate. 

Sometimes, I don’t do anything except hang more bee traps. I like swatting  bees with my flyswatter, too. I have to find where one lands, though, and step on it. Swatting only stuns it.

I know that their numbers are legion. Swatting a few is like pulling weeds. There are always more to take their place.  Nevertheless, I find it immensely satisfying.


I just wish I were as resilient as those $%*#+@ bees!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

PREGNANT

I’m going to be a grandmother again. Neither of my daughters is pregnant, though. This will be a four-legged addition to my family. It’s coming with a tail and a mane. 

My TWH mare, Mallory, is pregnant. I found out Valentine’s Day. How romantic.

As best I can calculate, she’s due the first week of June. Horses gestate 11 months. When the vet preg-checked her February 14, he said she was about seven-and-a-half to eight months along. Flashback to my July 8, 2016, blog about her getting hung up on my fence, with her back half in my neighbor’s pasture, her front half in mine. Picture my neighbor’s stud munching contentedly as we worked to free her. Yep, that must have been the day.

“He took advantage of her while she was in a vulnerable position,” my youngest daughter said, when I told her the news.

“Are you kidding? “ I replied. “The shameless hussy backed up to him. How do you think she got into that position in the first place?”

My feelings are mixed. Yes, I’m excited. I’ve thought about getting a foal out of Mallory. I’ve thought about the fun of raising one. Foals are cute from Day One. They come out all legs. They stand on wobbly stilts within an hour of birth. 

Someone told me it would be difficult for her to get pregnant for the first time at her age. (She’ll be 15 in April.) So much for that argument.

Raising a foal is a lot of work. You have to handle it from Day One. You have to gentle it. You have to feed it. You have to train it. All of that takes time and money. I know nothing about the daddy’s side of the family — he was a rescue with no papers. Even when you know the lineage, you can’t be sure you’ll get a good horse out of the deal. 

Mixed emotions aside, I’ve been thinking about names. Ever since I watched Richard Boone in the 1950s television show, “Have Gun, Will Travel,” I’ve wanted a black horse named Paladin. If Mallory’s foal is a black colt, that will be his name. It might be even if he isn’t black. His daddy was red, so who knows? I’m contemplating “Cheyanne” if it’s a philly. I’m not set on that one.


Any suggestions?