Archive for December, 2007

Muckin’ it Up!

Farm Diva’s, let me tell you about a little gift I received.  They’re called Muck Boots.


What?  You’ve already got a pair?  Figures that I’d be the last to own them.

For the rest of city dwellers who’ve not a clue what I’m talking about, Muck Boots are just the Cadillac of barn boots.  Thick rubber that does not leak, insulation to keep your tootsies nice and warm, and well fitted so that they don’t get sucked off into the mud during morning chores.

Yes, that’s right.  No more farm diva foot spa…no more mud between the toes while trekking out in the early morning to feed impatient horses who could care less that your toes are now wiggling through what you’re hoping is only mud.  My feet are now warm, dry, and clean.

 I love my Muck Boots…


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The rehab horse, who’s been renamed Frisco, was picked up and moved to his new home yesterday. After struggling with the flu for a couple of days, the last thing I wanted to do was play wild horse catcher outside in the freezing rain, and yet that’s what I did. Frisco did not want to be caught. And really, in such a tiny space as he had, how hard could it be, right? Oh, but trust me, it was hard! The poor horse is horribly head shy and frightened of ropes of any sort. I suspect he had a bad experience at the hands of his original owners. Hopefully, his new home will provide him with some good recovery time, love and discipline. But yesterday, he forced me to play games in the mud and rain by eluding the lead rope whenever I tried to attach it to his halter.
Catching wasn’t the only thing Frisco didn’t seem interested in. Climbing into the horse trailer also proved challenging. Not that he was frightened of it, he just wasn’t interested in climging in. He stood at the threshold for a good long time, me sweating up a storm inside my winter wool coat waiting for him to make up his mind.
Someone who didn’t have a hard time making up their mind, however, was Barron the ram lamb. Barron spotted that trailer pull into the drive and waited patiently for the doors to open wide. Then he jumped inside and refused to come out. “There’s spilled alfalfa on the floor!” he exclaimed with delight, and went about doing his best impression of a Hoover vacuum in an effort to clean every last leaf of it up.
You’d have thought, or at least I had hoped, that this would be an encouragement to Frisco to climb on in, but still he stood for what seemed like hours (probably 20 minutes, but who’s counting when you’ve got the flu?) outside that trailer as the lamb went about sucking up the good stuff from the floor. The driver of the truck was laughing, “Look, I’ve got a lamb!” Which of course perked my sick little ears right up. “I hope you’re not joking…because I’ll send him home with you,” I replied. She wasn’t joking, and by the time Frisco climbed in, Barron was still happily munching and made no effort to climb out.
And so down the road they went, an unlikely pair of mates inside that horse trailer. Won’t Barron be in for a surprise when they open those doors and he’s been transported to another farm? Something tells me that as long as food is involved and he’s got a dog to chase, he won’t really care.

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the flu

Darling and I are down with the flu.  It’s a nasty bug and I’m barely able to sit and type.

Hope everyone had a merry Christmas, and I’ll be back once this bug has left me.

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Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, except that dad-gummed crazy cat.

She ran through the packages with little regard
to the money that had been spent or put on the charge card

Up and down the tree she went in a dash
Sending ornaments flying and landing with a crash

And City Boy and I, all snug in our bed,
couldn’t sleep for the noise, sneaking out with dread

To find packages strewn and paper torn
“Death to the Kitten, And No  One Shall Mourn!”

Shouted City Boy as looked in disgust at the mess
But the kitten trotted off with a smug feeling of success

Children soon up, the tree sat around
And with glee on their faces our sorrows did drown

A new saddle for Darling and guitar for the Wii
While the Geek Boy  sat happily in his new stash of tea

For City Boy new gadgets and me a new hat
Christmas wasn’t half bad, in spite of that cat!

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Christmas Eve

It’s another dark and dreary day, and I’m decidedly not in the Christmas spirit.  Both the washer and dry quit on me yesterday morning, meaning I’ll be spending today at the laundromat.  Jolly jolly.  I’ve got pies to bake and a few more gifts to wrap.  Darling needs her hair done and really, something ought to be done about mine, too.

And then there’s Firecracker.  She’s still needing attention.  A chute was fashioned again yesterday in an attempt to get some anti-bacterial salve onto her wound.  She didn’t have any objection to walking in and getting her hay, but she wasn’t about to let me touch the top of her head.  She slammed around a great deal more than she had when I’d taken off the halter, and to be honest I was concerned that she’d hurt herself in the panels and I’d have an even bigger problem on my hands.

Waiting patiently in my makeshift chute, she doesn’t even mind me standing behind her (probably stupid, but it was the best place to get the shot!) 

I had someone throw a sufficient scare into me when they mentioned that her wound looked like Poll Evil.  I’d heard the term growing up, but couldn’t remember what it was.  Thanks to google, I was able to do a bit of online searching.  Poll Evil, it would seem, is a disease closely linked to Brucellosis.  Now, that word threw fear into me, as that is a disease you most definitely do not want around your dairy animals as it can then be passed on to the humans who consume the milk.  Poll Evil, some of the websites were saying, could be brought on by trauma to the head or ill fitting halters.  Brucellosis, other sites said, may cause abortion in horses, although it’s more likely in cattle.

As you can imagine, with the recent foal loss, this news wasn’t what I’d wanted to be reading.  But the more I dug into it, the more I realized that Brucellosis has been nearly eradicated, she’d had to have been exposed to cattle or wildlife that was suffering from it, and that folks who grew up in the 40’s and 50’s had begun to blur the lines between an injury to the poll and actual Poll Evil.  Meaning…Firecracker has an injury on her poll (the top of the head), and that’s all it is.  But at some point in past generations, any injury was automatically plunked down with the potential to harbor brucellosis, and there’s very little information on the internet today that explains the difference.

Dried, crusty drainage can be seen, but I can’t quite get to the injury itself.

So…back to Christmas.  My son is still feeling sick.  Grandpa Wayne is on a respirator these days, so I’m not sure it’s going to be good for the two fo them to be in the same house.  Yet another reason for Christmas Joy… Did I mention I still have baking to do?  And now that I think about it, I’m still short a gift.  And I really don’t want to be in the laundromat today today… I think the Grinch may have stolen my Christmas.

Oh well.  Such is life.  Out to feed the horses; that should cheer me up! Hope each of you has a blessed Christmas!


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Let There Be LIGHT!

Here it is, the 22nd of December.  Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, which means we are now climbing out of our dark, dreary, abysmal hole and headed into the light.  Sure, it’ll be colder these next couple of months, but it will also be lighter!  And light is good…

Right now at this very minute (8:40 am) it doesn’t appear very light.  That’s because we’ve got a cloud cover about 17 miles thick and it’s raining cats and dogs outside.  You can tell a native Washingtonian by the fact that they don’t seem to recognize that it’s raining until they’ve been out in it for a half hour or so.  Because they don’t recognize the rain, they’re out there without umbrellas (those are for wimps) and hats (smarter people put them on.)  After 30 minutes of chores, I was drenched.  My hair had soaked up a gallon of rain water and  it was dripping down my face and neck.  At least I’d put on gloves and Darling’s boots (they’re the only rubber boots without holes.)

Last night my body ached like it hadn’t in a long time.  My shoulders and arms were sore right down to the very core after moving and shuffling panels around in the paddock in an effort to create a chute from which to handle Firecracker.  I’d started out in the morning by calling the vet, who called into the clinic to get a prescription  for acepromozine, which is a relaxant.  He gave me two doses, actually, in case the first didn’t work.  “Give it to her orally, on some grain, and wait 5 minutes then see if you can get to the buckle on the halter.  If it doesn’t work, then wait a couple of hours and use your best judgment in giving her a second dose.  It doesn’t come without risks, so it’s your call on whether or not you want to do it.”

The risks are slowing the heart rate down, and of course if it goes too slow, the risk becomes death.  Fun, eh?

The first dose went down the happy throat of a horse who normally doesn’t get a treat of alfalfa pellets at 1 in the afternoon.  Five to ten minutes later I was trying to get to the buckle, but with no luck.  Although I really couldn’t tell if she had slown down at all with the drug, I could tell when she perked back up as she was suddenly a bit more adamant that I wasn’t going to touch her near her face.


Round pen panels are six feet high and can be moved about easily by people stronger than me.

Rather than give the drug again later, I began setting up panels and made myself a narrow chute.  My assistant photographer (aka Darling) wasn’t around, so I’m afraid the whole thing went undocumented.   The chute, however, was wide enough at the front for the hay manger.  Firecracker then fit neatly between the panels (she went in willingly enough with food as an offering) and I pulled them as close together as I could in the back so she couldn’t escape.

The first attempt didn’t work.  She let me touch her all over, but when it came time to work at the buckle, she backed up as far as the panels would allow, and unfortunately there were 20 feet of panels which made it difficult to stay with her as she did this.  After 30 or so minutes, I let her loose and decided to try again at dinner time.  The second time around, things went better.  I managed to figure out a way to make the back end of the chute narrower which prevented her from backing up more than a couple of feet.  Since she couldn’t get out of my way by going backwards, she had the option of rearing and trying to go over the top.

Which she didn’t do.

Instead, she stood and ate her dinner while I got the buckle undone.  As suspected, it was stuck to the wound on the other side of her head.  It dropped off her nose, but was left dangling.  I let her out of the chute and put the remainder of her dinner into her stall.  I had two options: Grab hold of the halter and pull, or leave it like it was.  I opted to leave it dangling, not wanting her to associate me with the pain that would no doubt accompany the pulling.  I did go inside to grab the camera at that point so you could see what she looked like after the ordeal.  I was amazed when I put the photo up on the computer screen, as in the dim evening light I hadn’t really been able to see the wound.  The halter had rubbed right down to the flesh.

So today, in the dripping, dreary rain, I’ll be out there again, this time trying to get some anti-bacterial salve onto the wound.  I’ll undoubtedly forget my hat and finish the job looking like a drowned rat.

The halter fell off overnight.  Today I’ll need to doctor up the wound.

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Darling’s Firecracker 

About a week after Firecracker aborted her foal, I started to smell something.  It wasn’t a good smell, and the only thing I could associate it with was thrush.

Thrush is a bacteria that grows in a horse’s hoof, usually in damp conditions, and can eat away to the point of lameness.  A horse who’s had proper hoof care, as in having it picked up and the mud cleaned out on a regular basis, won’t have this problem.  For a person to be able to actually smell it without lifting the hoof would mean a horrific case.  I really couldn’t see FC as having it since she’d come from a dry climate, but there was definitely a faint little odor that came to my nose only while I was with her.

Although it’d been just over a week since she’d aborted, the first thing going through my mind was that perhaps she’d not expelled all the placenta.  Seemed unlikely again, as mares become very ill, very quickly, when that happens, and she was feeling just fine.  But it’s the only thing I could think of.  So I called the vet, who agreed it was unlikely, but said I could put her on some feed through antibiotics to be on the safe side if I was concerned that we were dealing with an infection.  So a trip to the vet clinic I did make.

The smell wasn’t always there.  Just a whiff here, whiff there.  And sometimes it seemed as if it was more towards her face.  I wondered if she had an abcessed tooth, but of course you don’t go opening the mouth of a wild horse to find out.  I put her on the feed through for three days.

A couple days ago I noticed her standing with a droopy head out in her paddock.  It was pouring down rain and I didn’t spend any time with the horses.  Just fed, watered, and hid indoors.  The following day, she again was standing as though she were uncomfortable.  Again, it was pouring down rain, but this time I made an effort to try to determine what was wrong.  First thing through my mind was colic, which in a horse can be deadly.  But nothing really pointed to that.  She was still eating and drinking and pooping up a storm.  Maybe she was just depressed over our wet weather?  I sure couldn’t blame her for that!  And she perked right up anytime the probability of food came into question.  If she was still eating with such gusto, it couldn’t be too serious.  At least not life threatening.  Of course, I did call the vet so that I could hear the same thing from his lips just to reassure myself.

But then yesterday…yesterday I went out and again could smell the smell.  And this time I could see where it was coming from.  Behind her right ear there was some dried up drainage of a wound that had broken open undoubtedly during the rain.  When her halter had been put on last month at loading, the top that goes over her ears had been twisted.  It was now cutting into the top of her head.

Unbuckling a halter on a horse who doesn’t want you touching their face can be a challenge.

Firecracker has let me slip my fingers up there a time or two, but I haven’t pressed the issue at all.  I hadn’t felt anything before, but obviously there had been the beginnings of a cut.  At this point I have no idea how bad it is, as it sits right behind her ears, under the halter and beneath her mane.  I’ll be making a trip out to the vet to pick up a product called ACE, which will help her relax a bit as I try to remove the halter today.  Hopefully it’ll be enough to get the job done.  If not, I’ll be building a squeeze chute out of my round pen panels to keep her contained as I try to get it undone.  This is not going to be easy, by any means.  Wish me luck and say a prayer that all goes well!

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