Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fly Update

And More Sheet Work to Do

Spaulding Labs emailed me with an explanation that their billing/order system had gone completely haywire with orders their customers had placed for the fly predators. Apparently, it was a software error that went, as they said, "from bad to worse."  They sent me a corrected copy of my order which was fine and promised to follow up with a standard confirmation.

Good company, and, as far as I'm concerned, they sell a good product. I'm sure from what I heard from other horse stable owners last year, that I had far fewer flies because of those little predators. They are worth the money.

The Boys are enjoying the nice weather we've been having, but what the heck does Tucker do to his clothes?  I finally got my sewing machine's bobbin straightened out so I brought Tuck's turnout sheet in and sewed up the rip. That's fine.  But, when I went out last night for late feed, I saw that his sheet was lopsided on his back. So I straightened it, only to find that the front surcingle was missing.

I don't see a tear in the sheet, but the darn thing is not there.

Fortunately, I had the foresight to rescue some pieces from sheets and blankets I've had to dispose of over the years, so I have an extra surcingle I can put on. That means I have at least one afternoon project.

When it warms up, I'll  go out, take Tucker's sheet off and bring it inside to repair. I'm beginning to think I need a sewing room right out there at the barn.  Come to think of it, if I had the money to build a gorgeous, full service barn, I would. Or at least I'd have a nice, well appointed tack room with a huge washer and dryer as well as a nice sewing station and a heavy duty machine.

Alas. I do not have the money and probably, my Township would wrap the building permits into so much red tape that even if I did have the funds, it would be years before I'd get the darn thing built.

The New Year is creeping up upon us all. Here's hoping it will bring better things for everyone.

For me. All I need right now is enough thread to sew on that surcingle.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Oopsy! Super Fly.

What in the World?

I ordered my fly predators the other day, taking advantage of the early order form to get the special double shipments twice during the fly season.

For those of you who don't know, fly predators are teeny tiny wasp critters that feed on the stable fly larvae. You get a shipment of little ready to hatch eggs and spread them about the stable areas where it's wet or near the manure pile.  The little bugs hatch and eat, cutting the fly population considerably. They are not a 100% cure for flies, but they surely do help around here.

I just received an email from the company indicating that there had been an error in my order and would I please check it and notify them as to how to remedy.

My goodness!! According to the order on the email. I bought about 10 or more "subscriptions" to fly predators for 2012!  Somehow, my order had multiplied worse than stable flies.

Hopefully, their email shows the company clearly understands this was wrong and it will be easily fixed.

But things like this make me nervous. It's one of those moments when using the Internet as opposed to a face-to-face transaction gets a bit risky.

I do a lot of business and shopping on the Internet myself. As a matter of fact, I find shopping on line a great way to get bargains and save the time of driving all over to find just the right purchase.

And yet, this little incident pulls me up short now and then. It's a good reminder to shop carefully and from reputable sellers all along the way.

Hopefully the Boys and I will not be buried under fly predators this summer. At the size of my erroneous order, we'd have every acre of land covered with them.

Then again, I guess I really would have no flies around here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

'Twas Days After Christmas

And All Through the Farm....

Peace reigns. The Boys are fat and happy and so am I.

Well, not too fat, yet. What is it about the holidays that brings out the appetite? We had my cousin's delicious lasagna Christmas Eve, along with cookies and candy, of course. Then on Christmas Day I went down to my other cousin's house--at Ship Bottom which is on Long Beach Island at the Jersey Shore--for a sumptuous ham dinner. I ate and ate.

But, I also took a three block walk to the beach before dusk.  Not the biggest deal, normally, but with my knee replacements, a potential challenge. Walking in the sand is not the easiest effort for muscles and joints.  New Jersey beach sands tend to be fine so when they are dry, you sink in several inches.  With my own bad knees, it was hard to make it across the top of the beach down to the water. Christmas Day, new knees?  No problem! Again, my knees are still a little stiff and, depending on where the swelling has decided to rest for the day, a little sore, but they are stable and for the first time in years really feel as if they can hold me up just fine.

So, I walked all the way down to the water's edge and dipped my hand in the ocean. Not normally a big deal, but I haven't been down to the ocean in about two years, so it was an "event," for my fingers. I was rather surprised that the water didn't feel a lot colder. It might be that it is salt water, of course, but it was not a feeling of "instant freeze" even though the air was rather chilly--not icy cold, mind you, but hovering around 40F or a bit below with a breeze.

I'm not a big shore goer, even though it's one of "the things" to do in New Jersey. I get sunburned easily and getting thrashed about by waves was kind of hard on my knees. But perhaps this summer I will go down at least once to my cousins' house to take a dip. I much prefer the pool for real swimming, but the ocean does have a unique allure and with new legs, I will probably enjoy it.

Meantime, the Boys have reaped the benefit of the season as well with apples in their feed and the traditional carrots with green tops--I think I noted that before. I did finally manage to stitch the rip in Tucker's sheet so he doesn't quite look like a ragged orphan any more as well.

My friend Stacie was supposed to bring her lovely little mustang mare, Rosie up here to the mustang trainer who lives on the next road over. Stacie has only done the basics with Rosie who is now coming four years old, so it's time to start working on getting her under saddle.

This is Rosie. She was adopted and handled at Rutgers University in their equine program as a baby. They auction the horses off at the and of the school year.  She was two in these pictures and the handler is the student who was her caretaker.

So, back to the story. Around 9AM or so, Stacie called me from the emergency room. She had been sick all night and in pain.  Turned out she is OK--drink plenty of fluids and just wait it out--but the call gave me quite a scare. I was afraid something had happened when she was loading Rosie for the trip up. Whew!!

I just spoke to her on the phone a few minutes ago, and she is doing much better and was even able to do the barn chores this morning. Of course, as we all know too well, that horsewomen, in particular, do not "know the meaning of pain" when it comes to taking care of our horses. I know that I, for one, have dragged myself out to the barn despite a fever, nausea, weakness, and even a non-supporting knee more than once to see to the Boys' care. But, I'll take Stacie at her word and accept that she really is feeling better.

I am ever hopeful that the New Year will bring better things for us all, particularly my friends who've not had the best 2011.

In the meantime, I am doing all I can to enjoy the rest of the holiday season, even if it means a few extra pounds. With my new knees, I should be able to work them off anyhow. *lol*

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas To All

'Tis the Season

I have carrots with tops for the Boys as well as apples for their Christmas feed. I got each one a new flysheet--for the summer, of course--and a new halter.

I plan on doing a little extra barn cleaning to make the manger suitable for the Christ Child and have some extra special wood shavings on store for bedding.

My family presents will be wrapped and ready for Christmas Eve and my outdoor lights will be shining brightly.

So, to all, a very Merry Christmas from all of us here at Follywoods--kitties, horses, and me!

Merry Christmas To All

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rituals and Routines

Just How Do Animals Tell Time?

It was just about 8:30 this morning, the time I've been feeding the horses.  I had just rolled out of bed and was headed towards the kitchen when I looked out the window to see Peppercorn, the barn kitty, heading for the house.  This was not a random stroll, but a direct walk with a mission--to meet me at the door as I was coming out to feed.

The house is too far away for him to have heard me roll out of bed and I hadn't turned on any lights or made any kind of noise he could have heard. And yet, he knew it "WAS TIME" and I would be on my way.  Some internal clock had struck "breakfast" in his brain and he was acting on it.

Feeding the Boys is a routine, of course, but when I see those faces waiting for me to appear, I begin to wonder where the routine ends and the magic begins.

I enter the barn with hay first, open Toby's stall door, put his hay in the corner and go into Tucker's stall from the outside door to put his hay in as well.  Toby is always fed first, in deference to his alpha horse standing in the herd. Then I cross the aisle to put Chance's hay in his stall.

Each horse, in turn has to pee. I'm not at all sure what that is all about, but it's part of the routine--or the ritual.  Sometimes one, or all three will go out to the paddock to do this duty, or stand just inside the stall door looking out as they do.  Wet spots are almost always in exactly the same place in each stall when I muck out, so that too is part of the whole scenario.

If I leave Toby's inside stall door open as I often do, part of his routine/ritual is to come out into the aisle and stand at the feed room door, watching me dole out the feed.  It's apparently important to him to both be out, in charge, and supervising my work.  One quiet reminder "Back in your stall," is enough to send him back in where I dump the feed in his bucket, then Tucker's and finally Chance's.  Same order, every feed time.

Toby a long time cribber, gets caught in another habitual behavior as he eats, stopping after a bunch of bites to windsuck on his stall wall.  If I don't catch him Tucker takes that as his cue to sneak into Toby's stall from outside to grab a few bites of Toby's grain while Toby is lost in the euphoria of his vice.  Most of the time, I see the sneaky Bay Boy and once again, "Own stall," is enough to send him back home unless Toby rouses himself and chases him out with snaky ears and an alpha horse warning.

It's the same every feeding. A routine we all share like clockwork.

And most of the time, Peppercorn joins in, insisting--as cats are wont to do--that I feed him first of all.  Alpha cat--only cat.  He lets me pet him as he eats now and is thinking perhaps it might feel good to get some stroking at other times, although he's not quite sure yet.  

He led the ritual this morning, but was clever enough to wait under the shed roof, nestled in the leftover hay in the wheelbarrow as the rain drizzled down this evening.

Apparently, ritual can be dependent upon the weather here at Follywoods.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


How To Waste Time

I am playing computer games again. I haven't done this with any kind of dedication for years.  Most of the games I've played have been mere diversions, not obsessions.

But, "back when" I played the Sierra adventure games with a serious vengeance--for hours and hours at a time.  These were not "shoot 'em up" arcade games, but legitimate adventure games where your character moved about in a virtual world and had to solve puzzles to move the story along. The avatar would need to find objects along the way to use in various places, interact with various characters, and actually move through life as his/her story unfolded. Sure, there was combat at times, but nothing that I--somewhat "speed challenged" on the mouse or cursor--couldn't handle. I didn't need a game controller or quick fingers. All I really needed was my brain. The games?  Hero's Quest, King's Quest, the old Leisure Suit Larry, and Space Quest.  

Then "adventure" games moved to arcade mode. I had to shoot fast at targets, kill, maim, destroy, all requiring physical skills I just didn't have.  My fine motor skills just don't suit that kind of action.

Time passed. I played FreeCell, a lot. There were a few little short adventure games--mostly Scooby Doo--online.  Then, I discovered Angry Birds and a number of other "physics based" games online.  Basically, you shoot some kind of object--birds, rocks, etc.--to break or move obstacles which then supposedly react as they would in the real world to collapse or knock things about in order to reach a goal.

Fun stuff. I found and played Zombie Drop, All We Need is Brain, and, of course, the Angry Birds series.  I have since spent hours happily smashing zombies or leading them to their deaths and crunching green pigs.

Then, I discovered some more old fashioned adventure games from Big Fish Games.  These are not the "find the hidden object" games with time restraints, but the kind of games where you wander about solving puzzles in order to reach an objective.  I spent a good part of the day finishing up Spirits of Mystery: The Amber Maiden, and have already spent hours working out the puzzles in the Drawn series.

I am sure I could be spending my time more productively. I'm still not quite ready to ride again, so that's out for the time being.  The outside chores beckon to some degree, but the colder weather has put me off a bit. I did do the laundry and I have to wrap my presents.  There is some house cleaning calling to me again--as it so often does--but I'm having fun.

Sometimes there's really nothing wrong with that.

I do need to go shopping to get the Boys their traditional carrots with tops for Christmas. The rest of my shopping is done.

I guess I have a little extra time to waste.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Picture Perfect--Well, Not


My friend Christina has a new Border Collie puppy, Jake. I visited them today at the barn and also met, RC, the new barn kitty. RC was "making moves" to play with Jake and the pair were adorable. So, enjoy a few moments with the cutie pies.
RC batting at Jake.  
 Jake eating his carrot.
Jake, crashed as only a puppy can crash!  He took a nice long nap.
 JC planning his next move.

And, for those of you who need some bad Christmas lights pictures, here is one of my house and one of the barn.

It is almost impossible for me to get good focus on these, but at least you get the idea.

I put up all the lights and garlands. The front fence is done as is the back porch. So, I have completed my decorating once again.

And I wore myself out. I still have feed to unload from the truck, so that will exercise me tomorrow. It is supposed to rain at some point, so I don't have any other big plans for the day.

I guess Christmas has come to Follywoods.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Partially Lit

No Deed Ever Goes Smoothly

What is is about jobs around the house and barn that always makes them filled with drama?

I put the lights up on the front porch--lighted garlands around the pillars, a green spot light, and a lighted wreath on the door. Plugged everything in and...nothing. Checked the switch inside--on. Checked the fuse box in the basement--OK. Something has gone wrong with the outside outlet on the porch.

I will not try to fix electrical stuff.  I can rewire a lamp and do the wiring on my horse trailer, but house wiring repairs--Nope. My Dad was an electrical engineer and did all the electrical work around the house as easy as anything. He did the plumbing work and carpentry work too. I cannot aspire to his heights, although I am willing to tackle a few tasks.

But electrical? Nope!

So, what to do? There is an electrical outlet in the basement by the basement window at the side of the house. I already had the window fixed to things could be pulled through it. So, I hooked up an extension cord from the basement to the front porch where I put a surge protector so I could connect several cords.

That left how to turn the lights on and off. Needless to say, I didn't want to have to hike up and down the basement stairs to unplug things. Nor was I too keen on having to go out to the porch to trip the surge protector all the time. And, while an automatic timer was an option, I'm not too keen on losing control of when the lights go on, especially since I sometimes like them to stay on longer or shorter depending on what's going on here.

Enter the remote control device. I had one here already, but there was another good brand on sale at Target when I visited today--in search of red bows.  I've hooked it up and even from the living room upstairs it seems to work a treat. So I can now turn the outside lights on and off with the touch of a button! Too cool for words.

Tomorrow is going to be another nice day weatherwise, so I hope to finish up the garlands and bows along the fence--probably add the lights, decorate the barn, and put some more lights on my little tree. Then I am all set.

For ideas about wrapping presents. I have, for the second time, come up with what I think's a really good one. I am using the fabric reusable shopping bags they sell in the markets. I had to do a bit of searching, but I found some very pretty green ones and some lovely red ones that don't have huge advertising images on them. instead they have nice, attractive trees.  I simply put the unwrapped present inside, add a bit of tissue paper, some ribbon, and the tag.  They look pretty, they're practical, they save a lot of work wrapping, and they save all that wrapping paper.

Meanwhile, the Boys are just hanging out. I did get a good buy on bagged apples yesterday, so each horse got one for dinner.  When I shop, I count how many apples are in a 5 pound bag and usually it's only 11. Since I have 3 horses, that never divides evenly. However, these apples were a bit smaller and there were more than a dozen in each bag. So, it still might not divide perfectly, but I do get at least three sets of treats out of each bag before I have to start cutting something up to share.

I am a bit obsessive, I fear, about making sure that the treats are always given equally to each horse. Sometimes Toby does get the biggest carrot, but never two if everyone else has only one.  I guess even if my Boys are not altruistic or fair with each other, I can set a good example.

After all, isn't that what a "parent" is supposed to do?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

To Light or Not To Light

How Holiday Should I Be?

OK, the horses are settled all snug in their beds as visions of carrot tops danced in their heads. (I always buy each Boy a bunch of carrots with the green tops still on. Most of the time we get carrots here with the tops trimmed off, so tops on ones are special.)

I am just back from the annual choir Christmas party which began after church this morning--actually about 1 PM. My church has changed the annual tradition of an evening musical vespers service to a morning service of "lessons in carols."  All the musical groups of the church participate, singing and playing songs to illustrate a reading of the Biblical Christmas story.  I do miss the beauty of the evening service with the candles, but this was nice.  And our chorale/choir held an after service brunch/party afterwards.  I hung out longer than the others to chat with our host and hostess--we are good friends--so I was later coming home.

On the drive, I passed dozens of houses all lit up for the holiday.  Colored lights were everywhere.

My house, as I pulled in, was dark and dreary.  I do have my little tree in the bay window, but it was not lit, so there was no sign of holiday spirit anywhere.

So, do I light up or not?  The decorations are in the basement, waiting. I am certainly capable of climbing up and down the stairs to drag them up. But then I need to go outside and put them up.  Once again, I am physically capable, but do I have the will and energy?

I could do a partial version and only put up the basics, but I know myself too well for that. Once I start, I will have to string the garland along the fence, add the red bows and then the lights after I've decorated the front porch with garlands and lights.

And then, how can I leave out the star, garland and lights on the barn? Or the garland and lights on the back porch?

I fear it's another one of those jobs I cannot do half way.

So, to light or not to light, that is the question.

Then's supposed to be a nice day tomorrow.........

Friday, December 09, 2011

Quiet Days at Follywoods

No Snow, Though

We had heavy rain over the last two days and despite predictions that it might change to snow overnight, it didn't. Of that, I am glad.  Snow, in moderation, is OK, although I am not fond of it, but over top of all the water that was already lying about, it's just a mess.  This scenario would have been rather dreadful.

I am, obviously, not yet riding again. My knees are nearly back to how they were before the famous fall, but I think the colder weather is making them a bit more sore than they might be if it were warmer. Not bad, however, so I am not complaining. And most of the time, when I get up to do something, I don't really think much about how I am going to walk. I just walk.

I think the Boys were grateful for their rainsheets the other day. As noted, it was pretty miserable out there and more than once I saw them all gathered under the run in shed. Well, sort of. Chance usually ends out being half in while the other two Boys hog the better part of the protection. There is plenty of room on both sides of the barn for three horses to fit, but it always seems that it's "third man out," and Chance is at the bottom of the pecking order.

It is kind of curious to me as to why that happens. There is no physical reason why the two older horses cannot move a bit further under to let him fit comfortably under the roof.  But herd protocol seems to be that the alpha horses get all the benefits and the omegas must be reminded of their lower status.  You'd think there'd be an urge to support the common welfare.  It's not as if the three of them are not good friends.

When I went out to feed on Monday morning, all three were romping and frolicking in the front paddocks. Tucker was galloping around while Chance and Toby played horse volleyball--or whatever--over the paddock fence. They were rearing and biting at each other, having a grand old time. Once again, my camera was in the house, but I probably wouldn't have gotten any good pictures anyhow. Either they would have been blurry, empty as the horse galloped off just as I pressed the shutter, or I would have ended up with close ups of horse noses which is usually what happens when they see me with the camera. *lol*

If I want good horse pics, I have to sneak around like one of those paparazzi hiding in the bushes to catch shots of celebrities.

Maybe I'll go out later today, since the sun is shining, and try to get a few pictures of my little herd in the orange sheets. Everyone is rather dirty from rolling about in the mud, but they certainly are happy.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Chores and the Escape

Taking Advantage of the Weather

Nice day today, so I decided to get some outside work done.  The big task was getting the big tree branch off the lawn and out to the woods. For this, I needed the tractor. And the tractor needed to get through the gate into the paddock with the branch dragged behind.  And that meant the gate had to be opened for a little bit with me in the tractor seat instead of in control of the gate.

Of course, the Boys thought this was all great entertainment. They were all hanging out in the front paddock, watching my every move. This time it was Toby who took advantage and made for the gate as it was swinging shut after tractor and tree were through.  It was almost closed all the way when my clever boy shoved it with his nose and made his great escape out onto the back lawn. Tucker and Chance were quite miffed about that as there is at least a little nice green grass out there and Toby immediately dropped his head to graze.

Since I do have the gates across the driveway and Toby still respects them--as long as Chance is not taking the lead, I left him to enjoy himself while I dragged the branch out to the field and rolled it into the woods.  At that point, Tucker and Chance galloped out to the front paddock where I'd put some flakes of hay and settled themselves down to eat and keep an eye on Toby.

That left me to make another trip back and forth to get the rest of the tree limbs out to the woods without worrying too much about the gate.  Once I finished that, I cleaned the loose and wet hay out from under the run in shed--only one tractor bucketful and pondered my next move.

I decided to cut it short--stacking the manure pile was one option--and go back out to the lawn to pull the arena drag back into its proper parking spot where the tree branch had been lying.

I was about to park the tractor back under the roof area by the tack room when I realized that the hay had piled up there pretty badly and the whole area needed a cleaning.  Once again, I discovered that baling twine reproduces like rabbits.  Nearly every forkful of old hay had some twine in it, even though I had been putting the twine I'd pulled off the baled I'd fed the horses into the garbage can. I am quite convinced that two strings of twine have a litter of about ten as soon as you allow them to lie about instead of being properly contained.

At any rate, the garbage can is now full of twine, the  hay is pretty much cleaned up, and the tractor is once again parked where it belongs.

Toby was quite willing to come back into the barn for his dinner and all's well with the world.

I have a feeling my knees are going to complain about all this work, but so be it. They need to earn their living too.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Taking Small Steps

Impatience Doesn't Always Pay Off

I am not a patient person about most things. I like to get a job done and I don't like to wait for things to be done. I often take my time starting a task, spending a lot of time thinking and planning on how to tackle it and that often leaves a lot of work never even started. But once I begin, I am driven to "get 'er done, " ASAP.

Riding and training horses has taught me a lot about taking things a bit at a time. But I must admit, through a lot of my training, I would battle out an exercise with my horse in order to accomplish it--often pushing both of us beyond our emotional and sometimes physical limits.  As long as the exercise was something we were both capable of, it was OK, but I'm not sure it was always the best approach.

Over time, I learned from my horses that taking things more slowly and breaking down larger goals into smaller, more easily accomplished steps worked a lot better.  Half pass is considered an upper level exercise at the trot and canter. It's really hard to teach a horse to half pass at first effort if he does not understand first how to move sideways off the leg.  Moving sideways off the leg requires that the horse understand to move away from pressure in the first place and that is an even more basic concept.  Then too, a horse that cannot balance itself well at the trot is going to have trouble balancing sideways, so  that is an even more elementary skill.

That idea is where all the steps on various training scales have developed over the years. While I don't necessarily follow one set pattern of training my horses, I have learned that nearly every goal needs to be reached through a series of steps designed to prepare the horse both physically and mentally.  I'm not always great at it, but at least I've learned.

So, now, I am trying to apply the same thinking to my own life/recovery.  Need a bale of hay?  If you can't carry a full one, open up the bale and carry a few flakes at a time. Cleaning the stalls? Don't fill the wheelbarrow to maximum weight capacity. Better to make two trips you can manage than struggle to push too many pounds through the mud. Fifty pound bags of  grain?  Open the bag, empty a bucket or two out and then dump the much lighter bag into the feed bin.

And then theire's the big tree branch still lying in the back yard. I've been sawing off the limbs a little at a time. Saw until you're tired, put the saw away and save the rest for another day. I am pleased to say the limb is at last ready to be dragged off by the tractor.  The too wide limbs are off, and I should be able to move it out to the woods as soon as I get around to it.

No hurry. I'm just taking this job one step at a time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carrots for All

Back to the Routine

I am back to doing all the feeding and cleaning as of tomorrow. I have to go get some bedding and do a few minor chores as well to keep me busy for the day.

I have a lot of tree branches I need to get off the lawn at some point, but they may just have to wait for a while. The big one in the back yard has some priority and I am sawing parts of it off a little at a time. It is stull currently to wide to drag through the paddock gates to get it out to the woods with the tractor, so I have to trim it down. Since I am not brave enough to try a chainsaw, I am sawing by hand. That does take a bit of time and effort.

I am slowed by my knees, of course, and a cold. Bummer. I went to the doctor this morning just to be sure there was nothing else going on, and according to her, I have a viral respiratory infection, so there's nothing to do except the standard, "Drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest."

OK, so I take natural supplements as well including vitamin C, zinc, ginger, and other herbal formulas. If anyone out there has a brilliant suggestion I haven't tried yet, please let me know. At this point, I need to be able to sing for the church service on December 11, so a cure by then would be good.

The Boys are not neglected. Today they were hanging out in the paddocks near the barn, so I gave each one a nice fat carrot. I  love watching them enjoy treats like that. I the scope of things, a carrot is a very small offering, but to a horse, it is a treasure to be savored.  We should all learn a lesson from how much pleasure and satisfaction our horses can show for simple gifts.

Life for us humans often seems too complicated for us to "stop and smell the roses."  A horse, a cat, a dog, just doesn't see the world in all that complexity. To them, the here and now is what really matters, and they use all their senses to perceive and appreciate the world around them as it happens.

I think that's why I  like feeding time in the barn so much. The bucket of grain and flakes of hay are always anticipated and appreciated with such equine delight. To my horses, every meal is a thanksgiving feast.

It's just something to think about.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Slowly But Surely

Getting Back to Normal As I Can Be

Note the "I can be" part of the title, please. My knees are still not perfect. Both of them still have some stiffness and a bit of soreness in them due to the internal swelling and, of course, all the "stuff" done to them during surgery. I don't want anyone to think that going on three months from my surgery I am 100% free from any discomfort.  I have been told that it will be at least 6 weeks before my left knee is fully recovered--that from my surgeon. But I'm not sure what that means. Already, my knee is nearly where it was before I went off the horse. Does that 6 weeks mean it will be wonderful?

I'm walking a little slowly still, and I'm certainly not ready to run. However, I did push the nearly full wheelbarrow yesterday and it was OK, although my knees complained a bit more last night than I would have liked. But, like exercises in rehab, that is the consequence of using muscles that just aren't in shape. To some degree, the phrase, "No pain, no gain," does apply. But that does not mean you should be feeling pain during the exercises. Pain is a warning that something is being overstressed. But "soreness" after proper exercise is expected. Muscle tissue has to be stressed, and often 24-48 hours after exercise will experience soreness.  (We need to remember this for our horses too, by the way!!)

The good thing about my knees is that, in general, if I start off again slowly and get the blood flowing into the joints, most of the soreness goes away and I am able to continue on my merry way.  I have already noticed that each day, I can do just a little more with each leg. For example: My right knee was always the worst one of the two before surgery. As a result, I became very "left leg dominant."  After surgery, my left leg was the better of my two legs, so the left leggedness continued. Now, however, because I fell on my left leg, my right leg has had to "take over" as the strong leg. At first, depending on my right leg was a challenge. Now, however, my right leg pulls me up the step into the barn just fine, even with a few flakes of hay in my arms. Then too, I caught myself using my left leg to go up one of the steps as well, meaning that my left knee is pretty well recovered from the fall. And all this after being back off the crutches for less than four days.

Another bit of interesting information is that standing up taller and with good posture also helps walking. The same is true when using the crutches, which is why the elbow crutches work so much better for me.
I am much less likely to bend over using them and I have much more mobility than with crutches that go under my armpits. 

And....I have also found that Skechers Shape-Ups are really good shoes for my joints. I discovered this on a shopping trip many months before my surgery when I was so knee sore after walking a lot that I was about to give up on going into the last store I needed to visit. I'd bought a pair of Shape-Ups and decided to give them a try. Suddenly, I was able to walk again with hardly any pain. Amazing. Now, they also seem to make a big difference with my new knees. The rocking/rolling action of the foot really seems to help ease the concussion of walking. 
I have these in several colors at this point and wear them all the time. They are not exactly the most elegant "dress shoes," of course, but for slacks and jeans, they are perfect. I know pointy toes and heels are the fashion, but I'd rather sacrifice in order to be stable on my feet, safe, and comfortable.  Obviously, they are no good for riding--might even be dangerous in the stirrup--but my Ariats work well for that and have built in support too. 

I still have my horsesitter coming in the afternoon to clean the stalls and feed the Boys, but as of today, I am doing both morning and late night feeds again. I'm not sure the Boys missed me, but I'd like to think that my appearance out there means just a little more to them than buckets of grain and hay. *lol*

I brushed everyone off the other day, but it's kind of like trying to hold back the ocean. They looked just as muddy as they'd been by the next day.  I guess rolling in the dirt--fortunately mostly the sandy arena--just feels too good. The problem is that with their winter coats, the dirt gets pretty deep and it's almost impossible to get them really clean. Tucker, the bay, seems to be the easiest to make presentable. Chance is in second place, and Toby is in third tending to look like a "dustball" no matter what I do.  I do have a horse vacuum I can use if need be, but as long as they are happy, what's a little dust?  

Soon we will be into blanket season anyhow and then I stand a chance.  We're not planning on going anywhere formal anyhow, so it's just fine. 

After all, what's a little mud between friends? 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back On Two Feet

And So I Start All Over Again

Right now, both my knees feel about the same, so the left one has pretty much recovered from my fall. I'm not sure how it will be after I go out to feed the Boys, or after a bit of walking around, but so far, so good.

I did find the last couple days rather interesting. Not doing a lot of walking for the two weeks of my recovery was not good for either leg.  My right one had gotten pretty stiff and gave me so pain again. Nothing too terrible, but certainly a setback from where I was before I went off my horse. Just goes to show how quickly our muscles will lose their strength if not properly exercised.

It makes me think of horses...what doesn't?  In particular, of horses kept in the stall for most of the time. I've heard of many situations where perfectly sound horses are in the barn all the time except for the hour or so they are exercised or ridden.  Aside from being incredibly boring for their minds, what does it do to their bodies?

In a natural setting, the horse is a grazing, relatively nomadic animal. Even on the lushest grass, you will see a horse move about from place to place as it eats. You will also see a horse take off an run for no reason at all except to move at speed. I was told my PJ used to walk all the way to the far end of the pasture at one boarding stable and then gallop back several times a day, as if he were engaged in some kind of self-exercise program.

Now, I do understand that some horses need specialized turnout--individual or limited--due to personality or physical issues, but that is most often the exception. Personally, I believe a horse needs to be in a herd situation, or at least with a buddy, turned out for the better part of every day in order to be healthy, sound, and content. Otherwise, it's just not natural.

And here's where the lesson of my knees come into the equation. If two weeks of limited activity made my legs weaker, what would days of confinement in a stable do to a horse's legs/muscles?  Somehow I can't imagine that an hour or so of exercise can quite make up for hours of freedom and movement in turnout.

My Boys have 24/7 turnout here. Sometimes they are muddy messes, sometimes they just hang out in the stalls and run in sheds instead of wandering about the paddocks. Tucker loses shoes, and turnout sheets get ripped.  Now and again we get hoof abscesses (this year was a bad one), and dings and cuts and scrapes. My Boys rarely look acey deucy "show ready," on an average day, but they do seem happy.

I'd rather have that than a perfectly groomed horse any day.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving To All!

No Matter Who You Are, or Where You Are

Thanksgiving is a US holiday, but its wishes should be shared throughout the world.  We need to remember the blessings we have and give thanks for all the good things in our lives.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Only Those Who Never Ride....."

"....Never Fall"

That's an old horseman's saying that always echoes in my head after I've gone off.  And in my riding career, I've gone off a lot of times.

I've been hurt a few times too, with a broken wrist, some kind of damage to my shoulder, back pains, cuts and other bruises, and the worst injury of all, bruised pride.  I've had some embarrassing moments on the ground for sure, most of the time with only my horse as witness. One of those moments came when Toby pulled one of his fast sideways spooks. I rode with it, but when he slid back into place I simply slid out of the saddle to end up landing softly in the briars with Toby looking at me as if to say, "What the heck did you do that for?"

More spectacular moments included having my horse fall with me, leaving me not much more option than an unplanned dismount. I've gone off over fences, gone off because my horse has bucked me off, gone off due to spooks and bolts, and just generally for no reason at all.

The key to riding is keeping the horse between you and the ground. Generally, keeping one leg on either side of the horse works well. (Something I should have remembered this last time when I decided instead to swing off Chance's back instead of trying to ride out his reaction to the minibike.)  I did ride sidesaddle for a while and never did go off that way, although I didn't really try too much exciting riding and stayed in the arena on my "hunter on the flat."  Some people claim it's really easier to stay on a horse sidesaddle, but I'm not so sure, unless being kind of "hooked in" by the upper and leaping pommels really does give you a more secure seat. (Never got the hang of jumping sidesaddle myself.)

The fact is, once you climb on the back of a horse, seating yourself five or so feet above the ground and then decide to move the both of you, falling off is always an option.  My trainer used to tell me not to think of falling or getting bucked off when I rode Tucker. He felt the power of negative thinking was not going to help either of us get any training done. When I really focus on my training and riding, I don't think about falling, actually.  And, for the most part, I don't ride with fear as my companion.

But as I've gotten older, I also know I don't bounce quite as well as I did as a youngster. As much as I loved jumping, that's one of the reasons I gave it up. Now, I try to avoid the situations that might get my horse and me into situations where one or both of us might run into more than we can handle.

That's why I was out riding on a Wednesday afternoon. The woods should have been quiet and free from the scary weekend, after school and holiday ATV/Minibike riders.

But alas. The best laid plans.....

I'm off my crutches in the house and will soon be walking outside on two functional legs with no added support--I'm a little cautious of my balance and muscle security on my left let still.  That means I'll be back in the saddle in a few weeks.

This time I plan on staying there once I mount up. *G*

Monday, November 21, 2011

Getting Around on Crutches

And I Can Drive Just Fine

I went to church on Sunday and sang Bach's "Gloria" from his "Heiligemesse," (Joyful mass...sort of.). At any rate I love singing it and didn't want to miss the chance. It turned out to be perfect for the service as the minister's sermon was about singing LOUD to God. And, the our choir did a beautiful job of singing it.

We are a relatively small group--fewer than 20 voices (Often many fewer) but everyone is a good vocalist and we have a pretty full sound for so few. I'm glad I managed to get there to join in.

The big breakthrough was that a managed the whole trip using my crutches. My left knee is finally able to support my weight with minimal pain. I wouldn't want to have to move suddenly on it, or twist it too much, but it's working again.  I know people manage to get around on crutches all the time on only one good leg, but it was a rather daunting challenge for me. Part of the problem was that my injured leg did not want to stay behind me, but rather seemed to "have a mind of its own" to swing ahead of me with every step. This throws off my balance so that I am in constant danger of falling backwards--scary.  I don't know if I needed more practice or whether there was something about the knee pain itself that was causing the problem.  That's why the wheelchair was such a lifesaver.

I figure I will be out feeding the horses again, at least in the morning, before the end of this week--maybe tomorrow. I still will not be able to push the wheelbarrow--probably by next week, though--so I will need help with the afternoon chores. And, at some point, I need to get some hay to hold me over for the weekend. Again, I can get the hay loaded into either the car or the truck, but getting it unloaded when I get back home is an issue.

Ah, well. There is always a solution to a problem. You just need to look for it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Right On!!

The Knee is Just Fine

My doctor looked at my Xrays, looked at my knee, and declared me just fine.  "Go ahead and do anything you want and get back to riding," he said....with only my pain to stop me. He figured I might want to wait a while to ride again, but there was no physical reason I couldn't if it didn't hurt too much.

I love this guy.

His intern thought the boss would tell me to get out of the wheelchair, but the doctor himself said that if the chair helped, it was perfectly OK. He also said I wouldn't do any damage by walking on my leg either, so it was all up to me.

On the downside, he did say it would be probably six weeks before the knee would be fully healed. No biggie on that either because "Good" is rather relative at this point. I will definitely be walking on it with no crutches much sooner than that and then we'll be back to just stiff and sometimes a little sore like the right knee is now.

As to the ligaments...I was 100% right. The anterior and posterior cruciate ligaments are gone (my ACL was gone anyhow, so that's no loss) but the medial collateral and collateral ligaments are there and I probably strained the medial collateral (Inside of the knee) in the fall. Everything else is perfectly funtional and my knee bends and straightens just fine.  The rest of the pain is either from bruising or interior swelling, as I figured.

I was easily able to get down the two steps out of my house on my crutches and can walk pretty well on them, so I now feel able to get out and about on my own. Since it's my left knee and my car is an automatic, I can drive with no problem.  I did have a friend go with me today since the drive was very long and I wanted the option of the wheelchair.  Mark was a big help and we had a lot of laughs on the trip. Fortunately I had a minimal wait at the doctor's office and it took less than an hour for Xrays and the consult.

More later about my discoveries traveling about in a wheelchair. Despite claims to the contrary, "Fully handicapped accessible" is not exactly an accurate term.  I have a lot more to say about this, but I will save it for a later post.

For now, I have the "all clear" to get into more trouble. (I'll try to be good, Muriel. *S*)

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Maybe I Understand

OK, so I have new knees. While I will wait for my doctor to confirm, I may well still have some ligaments left--collateral ligaments. These are the ones on the side that help stabilize the knee side to side. If I do, that explains the pain I have now after my fall.

I am quite puzzled otherwise, because my knee feels almost exactly as it would have felt before the replacement if I had fallen and twisted it. Of course, added to that feeling is the extra soreness from some already damaged and not quite healed soft tissue there and "voila!" I have an explanation  for what I feel.

Now, of course, I am going to the doctor who will confirm or deny my assessment.

I can now put weight on the leg and step a bit with the crutches, although I don't feel sure about pushing off with the hurt knee or any kind of sideways motion. Still, slow progress is better than none at all, so I am hopeful the next week will bring some noticeable improvement.

While I could navigate about without the wheelchair, I still think it's a good idea, mostly because ligament and soft tissue injuries do not improve by being overused, so the less I stress them, the better--for now. My doctor may have another view.

More when I find out what's going on.

I catch glimpses of the Boys outside now and then. They look fine and happy. Have to wonder sometimes if they miss me--I mean as long as there is plenty of food. *G*

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Barrier Free???


Well, I suppose now is as good a time as any to learn about how well my house is set up to be barrier free. If I am to stay here into my old age, this is a lesson well-learned.

Area rugs can pose an obstruction to wheelchairs. My larger ones are OK, but if I were stuck in a chair for a long time, I might want to get rid of them.

Furniture is in the way.  Passages from one place to another are made difficult by chairs or other pieces of furniture in the way.

Other "stuff" on the floor is a barrier. Anything set on the floor that might get in the line of a wheel poses a problem.

Narrow halls and doorways at angles are a challenge. I have a narrow hall to the back bedrooms. The bathroom and one bedroom are at the side of the hall. It is very hard to turn the chair in the hall to get into these doors.

My bathroom is not accessible. A very narrow space, my bathroom is not wide enough for the wheelchair.
Now, I can use my crutches at the door to get in. I have no idea what I would do if I were stuck with just the chair.  A remodel would be the only option.

Stairs are problematic. My house is one floor of living space, so that's good. But the furnace is i the basement as is the washer/dryer. Obviously, I cannot get to either. The furnace needs water every couple weeks in the heating system. I need to get someone else to fill if for me if I cannot get downstairs.

The house is on one level, but there are two small steps up to the back porch so I can get in. I haven't tried to go outside since the day I fell. I'm not sure just how well I will be able to go down them to get to my doctor's appointment. (Yes, I am going to see the doctor just to be sure everything is OK.)  I will have a friend here to lean on. My head is roiling with ideas. I may come up with some method to get down the stairs without walking, but I will see. I don't think getting back up them with the crutches will be an issue, but "down" is a bigger challenge.

So, I am gradually understanding the challenges of mobility in an unfriendly world.....

I got a call back from the doctor today. We decided an X-ray would be worth the effort just to be sure I didn't wreck anything in my knee. Actually, it's a tiny bit better each day, so it's probably fine, but having an expert look at it is a good idea.

Stay tuned for that adventure, currently scheduled for the end of the week.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I Have A Wheelchair

Need a GPS

I bought a wheelchair on eBay for $40 US.  It is virtually brand new and I have it already.

How?  The seller lives about 3 miles from me. I plugged in an eBay search for sellers within 50 miles and the first listing was the next town over. They had a low starting price and since it was local pickup only--no shipping--no bids other than mine. The auction closed at just after 4 PM today. I paid by PayPal and my friend picked up the chair two hours later.

A regular wheelchair is much better than an office chair on casters! However, navigating around my little house is a challenge. There are a lot of sharp turns, doorways, and narrow passages. I am learning how to manage the driving, but it does take some skill. Maybe an indoor GPS would help!! (Turn right....NOW!)

I'm pretty sure most of the problem with my knee is soft tissue strain/trauma, so resting rather than trying to limp around on it is probably better.

I did call the doctor today but no one was in--I think Monday is one of his surgery days.  I am mostly interested in how long I should expect having trouble walking before I really need to have someone look at it for me. Every day it has gotten a bit better, but it's hard to assess what kind of recovery I should expect.

Meantime, the weather has been gorgeous and I am stuck inside. I catch little glimpses of the Boys when they are near the barn, but that's about it.

Frustrating, but part of the whole mess.

One more test of patience.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reviewing the Situation

A Disability Is an Interesting Thing

Nothing like an injury to remind you of how hard it is to face the world with a disability.

Getting around on one "sort of good" leg is not easy. Actually, it's proof positive that doing both knees at the same time was wise as neither one of my natural knees could ever have done the job my new right knee is doing now while my left leg is essentially non-functional.

I can put some weight on the left leg, but as soon as I try to move with the weight on it, it hurts like h---l.
But I can bend it just fine and there is minimal swelling, whatever that means. If I don't see significant improvement tomorrow, I will probably call the doctor again, just to see if I might need to have it looked at.  Since I don't quite completely understand what tendons, muscles, or bones might have been traumatized, it's hard to tell what might be wrong.

Meantime, I have eased my getting around the house a little by using a wheeled office chair for transport. A Small wheelchair would be perfect about now, but I don't have one. The elbow crutches work much better than the under the arm ones, so I use them to navigate the narrow way into the bathroom. For the kitchen, my office chair works great.  All I've been doing it traveling from couch to kitchen to bathroom to computer and hardly anywhere else.

The biggest challenge of the day was when I went out to the kitchen, still on the crutches, to find the floor covered in water. A bucket I'd left by the door during the power outage---leave it to me not to empty it out--was spilled all over the floor. (Kitty adventure, I presume.)  Trouble was, my crutches slipped like crazy on the wet floor. Fortunately, I discovered that potential disaster way before I fell into it.

The water sort of mopped up with a dishtowel and some paper towels, but not dry enough to make the crutches safe, so there I was, banned from the kitchen until it dried. That was what inspired the office chair.

Hopefully, it will only be a few more days before I can actually get around with enough weight on the left leg to move at a pace even a snail would consider slow.

Heck, I can even type faster than that!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bummer. I am Cursed

I Take a Tumble and Land...on my Knee!

I took Chance out on a trail ride yesterday. It was perfect weather and all was well until I hear the sound of an engine from somewhere behind us on the trail home. My brain went into survival mode and I decided to get off, not at all sure what Chance would do if confronted by an ATV and equally not as sure my seat in the saddle was up to par to ride out a big spook or buck or whatever.

Mistake. The motorcyle appeared around the bend, Chance bolted, and I fell off.  Of all the body parts I could have landed on, fate chose my left knee.  OK, there I lay, there went Chance galloping off for home, and there came the totally distraught cyclist, full of apologies.

Note here. The cyclist did not do anything wrong, except that riding on State property is illegal...He shut off his bike as soon as he saw us and was really upset about what had happened.

I bent my leg a few times--the knee still worked just fine--and managed by kind of doing a "plank" (for you Muriel) managed to get back to my feet. But as soon as I was upright, I knew I was in trouble. It hurt like the devil to put weight on my left leg.

With the cyclist's support, I managed the what seemed a really long walk home and sent him on his way after he let hysterical Chance back into the arena from the woods where he'd been locked out.  The bridle was broken, but he looked none the less for wear.  I took the broken tack off, leaving the saddle on only because all I really wanted to do at that moment was get into the house to call my doctor.

My surgeon's lovely nurse was pretty confident I hadn't done any major damage.  As long as my knee was bending OK and there was no huge swelling, it was probably OK, but I'd be "Seeing stars " for a few days from the pain.

With my crutches, I managed to get back out to the barn where I took the saddle off and then took nearly 20 minutes to get it safely inside as carrying something while on two crutches and only one functional leg was nearly impossible.  I fed the Boys rather painfully, and dragged myself back inside.

My night was misery.  I resorted to the full crutches as my left leg would not bear any weight at that point.  It wasn't and isn't easy. As a matter of fact, just to add insult to injury, at one point as I was turning to leave the bathroom, I fell down.

Cute. I had to scoot myself out to the living room so I could plank myself back up onto the couch where I ended up spending the night.

Curses.  I simply cannot do anything right now except hobble precariously about the house.

I have called the horsesitter to come back to take care of the Boys for a few more days and my neighbor will be doing the late feed until I recover.

Hopefully, I will get better and not need to go to the doctor. My leg is a tiny bit better tonight, so it just might be OK.

Nothing like a major setback to ruin a lovely recovery. *sigh*

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tucker Wants to Hold Hands

Rode the Big Horse

It was a stunningly beautiful day, with temperatures in the upper 60's F. and plenty of sunshine.

I had to be careful not to be captured by the lure of all kinds of outdoor stuff. It was Election Day, so I went to vote in the late morning.  Before that, the electric company guys came to trim some branches off my wires.  

As much as the residents and I have complained about their customer service communications during the storm's power outages, I must admit that when they are not in emergency mode, they are really responsive. I was afraid I was going to have to hire a tree surgeon to get rid of the branches, but a call to PSEG (my electric company), brought a same day response. A workman came by to look the situation over. He then called the central office and was told they would send tree trimmers to take care of my problem.  That was yesterday. Today, the trimmers were here and sure enough, they took down the offending branches and trimmed a few more that might be a problem later on.  I am delighted and it takes a big worry off my mind for the time being.

Voting done, I decided to hold in my enthusiasm and limit my riding to one horse.  Yesterday, my knees were rather sore and "tight,"  probably as a result of my trail ride on Chance. No biggie, but definitely some protest from the joints.  As much as I might like to ride more, I am trying hard to be conservative here. The exercise of wrapping my leg around a horse, flexing and using my muscles to either post or absorb the horse's movement, and just the general exercise of riding is surprisingly taxing.  I've never quite stopped riding and stopped some kind of vigorous exercise (such as swimming) for so long before. I have to face the fact that I need to build my overall fitness back up gradually. (Speaking of swimming, I think I may go this week. Have to be careful not to overdo there too!!)

So, today I decided to get on Tucker. Interesting. My knees are not quite as comfortable on him as on Chance. They have to work a little more to shape themselves around him.  But I didn't have any major seat or balance issues.

I was a little less confident on him, mostly because of our long history of rather "explosive" rides.  He's been a good boy for quite a while, with just minor protests about cantering due to his chronic hock issues, but those bad moments are never quite erased from my memory.  I just take a deep breath when I get on, focus on relaxing so I can ride the horse I am on today instead of worrying about yesterday.  As usual, it worked out just fine and Tucker was well behaved.

We worked quite a bit at the walk, and I added some leg yield and half pass to the mix to keep it interesting. Then we began to trot.

Tucker wanted to "hold my hand."  He was not at all content to go around on a loose rein, but pushed out into the bit looking for contact.  Once again, interesting.  I took the rein, with some fairly heavy contact, and he pushed forward with some energy in the trot.

He was using my hand for balance to some degree, so I would not give him high marks as a properly working second level dressage horse, but his wanting to be on the bit was a positive. In the trot, we did a little leg yield, and shoulder-in on each rein. He was very willing to give me lateral movement off my leg in both directions.

After about 15 minutes or so, I dismounted unsaddled him, gave him his obligatory carrot, fed everyone, and then went out to do some chores.  I set two goals: to poo pick the arena, and to trim some of the weeds and branches away from the interior of the arena fence.  I guess I spent an hour or so trimming and picking.

The falling sun reminded me of how much I dislike that change back to Standard Time.  When I was still working, I'd have to rush home from school to catch the last of the daylight for a quick trail ride every fall. Now, of course, I can ride almost any time of the day I choose. But, like the memories of naughty Tucker, the memories of racing to beat quick sunsets lingers still.

Sometimes it's not so easy to forget.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Happy Trails to Me

And Chance, Of Course

I took Chance out for a short trail ride (hack) today. The weather was nearly perfect and he was quite a happy camper. He'd made it quite clear yesterday that he really wanted to go out of the arena on an adventure, so I decided to indulge him.

We walked the whole way except for a little bit of trouble in the cornfield. A huge tree had fallen at the edge of the woods,blocking the dirt road. I had two choices: to go around it from the woods side through the underbrush, or go around it through the uncut corn stalks.  I decided on the corn. Maybe that wasn't the better choice since the darn stuff flapped and wrapped itself around Chance's legs and body, riling him up a bit. He wanted to run, but held back to a bouncy trot as he hurried along. He settled back down as soon as we were out of the corn, so no big deal.

There were a number of trees down in the woods as well, but they were not hard to get around. Chance was totally calm about them, even though they changed the landscape quite a bit. He just moved along at a nice forward walk and enjoyed himself.

When I got back home, Tucker had knocked down a rail to get into the arena and was working on getting through the gate out into the woods himself. Toby was on the other side of the arena fence, running back and forth, whinnying hysterically. He was sure he was forever separated from Tucker and that Chance had simply vanished into the trees. He is very herd oriented and really worries if he doesn't know where the other Boys are. He could have easily stepped over the low rail where Tucker had gone into the arena, but apparently, it never occurred to him. To him it was "fence" and "barrier" not to be crossed.

Once I was back, and he was able to join up with his pals, everything was again quiet and calm at Follywoods.

My trail ride was lovely, but strangely enough, I was really tired afterwards. I certainly didn't think I was doing very much, just sitting on a horse for 20 minutes or so, but I guess riding, by nature, requires a lot more physical effort than I think it does.

Good ride. Good day, and once again, a good horse.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Chance, the Nearly Perfect Horse

I rode. That is nearly enough to say. I am so delighted.

The weather was nearly perfect, and I decided today was the day. I did not have someone else here to help, but I did take my cell phone out in my jacket pocket, so in case I needed help, I could call someone.

I picked the nearly perfect Chance as my mount of choice. He is by far the quietest of my Boys and hardly every gets too excited about things.  I fit him well too, which makes a difference to my knees. When they were still bad, I was most comfortable on him.

He was a little fussy about standing next to the high mounting platform, so I had to work him just a bit to get him where I needed him to stand. That platform is really a little high for mounting him as I almost have to go down to get on--not quite but it's definitely not up.  Next time, I will do some thigh stretching before I get on as I had a little trouble swinging my right leg over his back.  Bless his heart that when my foot brushed his rump, he didn't even flinch.

Once in the saddle, I had to find the stirrups and that too took a few seconds. But Chance's motion massaged my legs just enough and by the time we were on the other side of the arena I had both feet in the stirrups and felt just fine. I've ridden enough without stirrups that it's usually no big deal, but I didn't want to risk too much of that first time out in a while.

I did not feel any pain in my knees beyond the little ache from their stiffness--still a little swelling in there. My surgeon had told me I might feel pain on the inside of each knee, but it just wasn't there.  I fact, I felt pretty darn good.

We walked a few times around in each direction and then I decided to try some posting trot. Wonderful! My knees worked perfectly and it felt like just the right kind of exercise for them. We only went around in a large circle twice in each direction, but it was just right for a first time out.

I worried a bit about dismounting, but the little bit of riding had loosened me up and I was able to take Chance to the center of the arena and do a proper dismount with no problem whatsoever.

I gave him a huge "Thank you" hug and a second later, burst into tears. The enormity of the whole thing--bad knees, the decision for surgery, surgery, recovery, and now riding again--hit me all at once. And here was this sweet, gentle horse, unridden for perhaps five months, behaving like a perfect angel for me. (Well, I fib here. Twice Chance slowed WAY down when we got to the gate to the woods. He wanted to go on a trail ride, and I had to persuade him we were only going to stay in the arena today....maybe a short one tomorrow??)

After I finished up with Chance and gave him his first carrot, I captured Tucker and gave him a very short lunge session. I'm sure he will be fine to ride as well, but he is a little more unpredictable than Chance so I will wait a bit until I feel a little more certain about my physical abilities.

After the lunge session, everyone, including Chance, got a carrot.  I told Tucker his was for being such a good boy, and I told Toby his was just for being himself. Chance?  Well, one more "thank you" seemed appropriate.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Snowstorm Helps Out!

Early Farrier Visit

Since the storm knocked out power to so many places and so many tree branches were still down, Scott, my farrier had open time yesterday (Tuesday). He was planning on coming on the weekend but when he called me and found out I had both power and a clear span to the barn, he came right over.

Perfect timing. It was exactly what Dr. Klayman had hoped for. That meant Tucker's hoof would get a good going over, trim, and treatment.  Sure enough, Scott worked on the hole in Tucker's sole, trimmed much of it and medicated it. He then said turning Tucker out was fine. I should wrap the hoof first--even knowing a wrap would not stay on--then clean and wrap it again when I brought him back in.

Then Scott pulled Toby's shoes so he'll be barefoot again, especially for the winter. I will have to watch him for any signs of laminitis or soreness, but he was fine before, so I am not really expecting any problems. I'll just pay special attention to him.

That left Chance. Scott was half way through the trim when he called me over to show me a hole in Chance's sole--near the front hoof wall--in almost exactly the same spot as Tucker's abscess. Chance was fine for the hoof testers, but the hoof was decidedly "squishy" there and now we think his lameness was indeed caused by a hoof abscess--just like Tucker.

I am now theorizing that I have a magic hoof boring parasite on my property who has a taste for right hind feet only!  I will be on the alert in case it makes another assault. *VBWG*

Since I'm pretty sure the hoof issue was the cause of Chance's lameness, and he was already allowed some turnout, I surrendered and put him out with the other two for the bulk of the day. I've closed them off in the riding arena and pasture so they will stay out of the mud.  They have both water and shelter, so it's a good situation.

There hasn't really been any running about either. I spent about three hours out there doing some chores----and no horse even so much as galloped a stride. It is a lovely, sunny day and I think they were just enjoying the freedom.

Kubota and I

My tractor and I spent the afternoon working. First order of business was to remove the huge tree limbs that had fallen on, around, and in front of the horse trailer.  I am ever impressed with Kubota's power and, if I attach the tow line just right, how efficiently it can move some pretty big objects.  I dragged the limbs out to the west paddock and pushed them into the briars and bushes that have overgrown my fence. I can't clean the undergrowth out as it starts on my neighbor's property line and is an extension of his heavy undergrowth. In this case, the tree limbs will serve as additional fencing along that side. *sigh*

I then decided to put some sand around the water trough in hopes of getting rid of some of the mud there. I also scooped a drainage path so water would run away from the trough instead of just in front of it.  I'm not sure if the sand will do the trick, but I made it pretty deep so if the mud does dry up without water to "feed" it, the sand might work. I really need some gritty quarry screenings for places like this, but at the moment, I can't afford them.

Then, I used the front end loader to clean out under the east run in shed.  It wasn't bad yet so if I keep cleaning it maybe I can keep it from becoming a huge job the way is usually does.

On the way to and fro from the manure pile, I began pushing the more spread out sections of the pile into the center. I didn't do as much as I need to in order to satisfy myself, but it was a start and I was having fun tackling a bunch of different chores rather than sticking to just one.

Which then led me to hook up the arena drag to groom my riding surface.  I had moderate success here because in a number of places grass and weeds have grown up since I hadn't used the arena all summer. But, if I keep at it, especially as winter ticks on, I should be able to clean the bulk of that out.

So, my little farm looks a bit tidier, my arena is ready for me to finally ride, and apparently, I have at least two horses sound enough to ride.  (Toby's back seems OK, but I don't want to push it.)


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Power's On

Twenty Four Hours Later

Thank goodness the traffic lights were out on my road's major intersections, because I am not at all sure there was any other incentive for the power company to get us up and running before Wednesday.  Apparently, there are a lot of homeowners still waiting for electricity while we are finally back on the grid.

I had already called the police to ask if there was any way I might be able to get water for my horses if the outage continued into the week.  I figured I could make it through Tuesday morning, but that might have been it. As it was, the Boys were drinking rainwater stored over the last month or so--not exactly the freshest.

I used part of my household emergency stock to wash my hair and take a sponge bath so I'd be presentable for church this morning. Blessedly, I have a gas stove, so I was able to heat the water first.  I also have the gas fireplace in the living room and took good advantage of it to stay warm through the long night.

Of course, non of my animals had any idea we were in an energy crisis. I do think the horses are a bit put off by my headlamp--my nighttime chores' illumination--but other than that,  they all expected total care on my part.

But I did skip part of the job.  Tucker has an abscess in his right hind hoof and should have been soaked in hot water and rewrapped with Icthamol.  Since his wrap from Friday was still intact, and he was nearly sound, the darkness, cold, snow, and miserable conditions put me off on that task.  Fortunately, he was quite sound today when I heated some water up on the stove--before the power was back on--soaked him while I cleaned his stall, and then wrapped his foot up again. One missed day didn't seem to cause any problem for him. Could be that my vet got the abscess opened up enough that it burst out through the hole relieving the pain.  Since I am a little limited in how much thorough hoof examination I can do--the knees don't quite last too long holding up a hoof--I did not really explore the bottom of his hoof before I wrapped it back up.

Poor Chance is desperate to get out. Dr. Klayman says he looks fine but wanted him on limited turnout for the week.  I don't have a small paddock for that at the moment, so the compromise was for me to start lunging him.  One day was fine, but then came the snow.  It is now sloppy, wet, and slippery out there. I think in a day or so the afternoon temperatures will warm enough to melt the horrid white stuff and all I'll be left with is wet, so I'll probably be able to get Chance out soon. In the meantime, he is just going to have to be content with strolls in the rather short aisle of the barn (30 or so feet) as I don't want to risk him out in the yucky mess outside.

Toby has a sore spot on his back and I have some DMSO/Cortisone to rub on it. Dr. Klayman thinks it's from some kind of trauma. Either he rolled on something or....somebody's hoof might have hit him there.  X-rays are an option but for now "wait and see" is a far better approach.

It was such a relief when the power came back on. Out here, when I lose electricity, I lose water as my pumps do not work. How nice it was to fill the Boys' buckets with fresh, clean water!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Power's Out


Much to report, actually, but it will have to wait until I have proper power. I need to conserve energy.

Chance is recovered on limited exercise and Tucker has a hoof abscess,

Snow has downed power lines somewhere and we can't get any info from the power company. The roads are quite slippery and a number of cars have ended up in the ditches.

Not a pretty prelude to winter, I fear.

Back when electricity and perhaps Internet is on again??????? Working on not very charged batteries.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rollicking Good Time

Not Exactly What the Doctor Ordered

I was supposed to walk Chance in had for a while every day.  I've done so, but not as long as would be ideal.  He'd been in his stall for about two weeks now and, on the surface, appears quite settled about it.

So, I took him out on the lunge line yesterday just to let him graze and walk a bit.


Something set him off and before I knew it, he bolted.  Now, my knees are pretty good, but not yet good enough to either set against the power of a bolting horse or to run with a bolting horse in hopes of being able to stop him.  The line slid through my gloved hands and off he went, galloping through the arena gate and out to the pasture.

Then he came galloping back through the paddocks, around, back out to the pasture, around....well, you get the picture. I'm not sure which was more appalling; waiting for the trailing lunge line to trip him, or wondering what kind of damage he might be doing to his possibly injured ankle.

There was no way to either corner or capture my wild man until he decided to settle down a bit and munch some grass.  At that point, I got a bucket of feed. managed to get a hold of the line and walk him back into the barn.

He was quite pleased with himself.  Fortunately, his leg looked none the worse for wear and shows no sign of any real heat or swelling.  I can only hope the exercise didn't do him any harm.

Dr. Klayman is coming tomorrow morning and I will let Chance wander around in the barn aisle for his exercise session. No point in repeating the same mistake. *sigh*

Meanwhile, Tucker is back out and so far looks OK.  He stayed in for about three days with his foot wrapped and seems to be OK. Toby looks OK too, but I haven't done much testing of his back to see how that is. I'd really rather have the vet look at it.

So much for my "bedside manner."  Not exactly what the doctor ordered. *G*

Friday, October 21, 2011

Time to Buy a Lottery Ticket

What are the Odds?

I own three horses. You'd think, on a day when everything else was just right to try a short ride with my new knees, that the odds would be with me.  Stacie was on her way home from a saddle fitting and my house was in between, so she arrived to help supervise.  The weather was lovely with a slight breeze and cool, perfect riding temperatures.  There were essentially no flies.

Chance was, of course, out of the equation as he is still not quite sound from whatever lameness he has.  That left two options: Toby and Tucker.

I opted first for Toby as he is the best trained of the three and usually pretty reliable. We brought him in but as we groomed him, Stacie found a bit of a bump on his back. At first that's all it seemed to be, but as we tested around it, he flinched and sank down.  Since the saddle could put some pressure there, I decided not to take a chance.

That left Tucker. We brought him in and as he came through the barn door, he was a little hesitant stepping along.  There was some mud there, so at first I thought he may have slipped a little. But as we were grooming him on the crossties, Stacie told me he just didn't look right in one hind leg when he moved.  We took him out to walk him and, sure enough, he was "off" on his right hind.  The lameness was slight, but definitely there. That ended his riding afternoon, and mine.

I've called the vet--no emergency in this case.  Dr. Klayman will be coming back on Thursday anyhow to look at Chance, so unless something more severe shows up in the other two, I will just wait and see.  I did notice some bit of ragged frog in Tucker's foot and Debbie, my horsesitter, thinks there was heat there. So I have put some Icthamol on it and a light wrap.

Toby is on his own for now. He looks just fine on all four legs and was leaping and bucking quite happily when I took Chance out to hand walk him so he certainly isn't in any significant pain. It could be just a skin thing or something simple.  No biggie as long as he's happy.

So, I did not manage to get into the saddle.  I am a bit disappointed as I really did want to see how it felt, but it's OK.  Fate was not smiling on me this time.

However, my horsesitter had far better luck. She has been looking for a driving pony for her son for a while now.  Just the other day, I was able to talk to a good friend who has driving ponies and from her, got the name and address of a reliable pony guy out in Pennsylvania.  Debbie was preparing to get in touch with him when.....

An adorable little Haflinger gelding showed up at the local horse sale: Camelot Sales (They are involved with dozens of rescues around the country and save dozens of horses each week from the "kill pens")  Bob, the Haffie, was advertised to ride and drive and had even been used to mow lawns by pulling a mower.  I saw him on the Camelot Facebook page and figured he'd be a super prospect for Debbie. Fortunately, Debbie happened to go on the Facebook page early Thursday morning herself and, in short order, called in, staked a claim on Bob and withing a few hours had him trailered home with her!!

From all the evidence, Bob--renamed Blazer by her son--is going to be a star! She long lined him yesterday and said he was a good as gold. I should think if he was pulling a lawnmower for the Mennonites that he is a solid driving pony with a good mind--perfect for a young driver who hopes someday to do combined driving.

Fate is a strange lady.  The stars lined up just perfectly for Bob, that's for sure.

Maybe Fate had an ulterior motive in  mind for me too. I just wasn't supposed to ride today.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

An Answer for Stephanie and Everyone

When to "Do" the Knees

I hurt my right knee when I was about 14 and my left knee some 40 years later.  I did not know until I hurt the left knee that my ACL was blown in the right knee.  That fact made my doctor and I decide I could cope with no ACL in my left knee as well since my right knee had been pretty functional for all those years.

So, I ended up having arthroscopic surgery on both knees within the last 10 years and various alternative treatments--prolotherapy and PRP (platelet rich plasma injections) that allowed me to continue on at a pretty good functional level.

My knees ached and there were many things I could not do. Climbing stairs could be hard on a bad day, and walking long distances was not always comfortable. I could not do anything that required movements similar to running or jumping, but I could ride my horses. I might be sore afterwards, but I was able to ride and train three horses in dressage, managing to train two of them to the FEI level.

But last year, a PRP treatment had minimal effect, and I was finding myself riding less and less.  Finally, this Spring, I took a short trail ride and the next day, I could hardly walk. My knees hurt and I was miserable.

THAT was my benchmark moment. I had long ago decided that when I could no longer ride, it would be time to consider knee replacements. I am now 62, so my age suits the profile as well. Generally knee replacements do have a lifespan themselves and it's better to wait until you are a little older to have one in hopes you will not have to repeat the surgery in the future. (I may be on the borderline there....)  However, I would not discourage anyone younger as long as they had reached the moment in their lives when coping with the pain, discomfort, and general disability of bad knees was no longer tolerable.

I had already evaluated the situation and knew what was going to trigger my decision. So, looking back and saying, "Gee, I should have done this sooner," as many people do, is not part of my thinking. Once my knees are 100% better--still in recovery phase--I may think that, but I honestly will have no regrets about waiting. My surgical decision was planned out well in advance and, as I noted, I did have treatment options that were keeping me relatively sound despite everything.

All that being said, my surgeon told me my knees were "really bad," which does add to the equation. Perhaps I am more tolerant of pain or better able to cope with physical problems and limits than other people.

As you all know, I also spent the summer swimming nearly every day, building up my cardio system and body fitness in preparation for the surgery.  Since I could not do much in the way of good leg exercises on land, being in the water allowed me to use my leg muscles to build them up as well.  Swimming also helped build my upper body strength, which was also a plus in my recovery, as I was easily able to push or lift myself with my hands and arms to get out of chairs or use walking assist devices.

I will not tell anyone that my recovery was pain free. The surgical incisions cut through muscles as well as skin and the new joints are inserted into my bones.  For the first couple weeks, my thigh muscles ached and burned in various places and with varied intensity.  Again, I may be more tolerant then some people are regarding pain.  Pain meds in the hospital certainly helped but they did not make me pain free.  My level rarely went below a 4-5 on my pain scale.  However, to be honest, most of the time, it was no worse than the aches and pains I suffered in my old knees after a day of too much exercise.

I was determined to have a fast recovery.  According to all the professional around me, I have.  I spent four days in the hospital immediately after surgery--the standard for two knees--and then less than a week in the rehab center.  In rehab, I only had four days of physical therapy before they decided I was well able to cope at home on my own.

The key? I was fit before the surgery. I already had learned skills to "coddle" my bad knees, so sore new ones were not a problem. And, above all, I kept a positive, cheerful attitude about the whole thing. So many people in rehab were depressed and obvious about their pain. I found that laughing and trying to lighten everyone's spirits was some of the best medicine I could take--and offer.

If you need replacement surgery yourself, here's my advice:  First, set some kind of benchmark for yourself so you will know when it's truly time. Second, DO NOT wait until you can't walk or function anymore. That will only make recovery much harder. Third, research to find the right doctor. I ended up with only two consultations but was so blown away with the attitude and approach of the surgeon I selected that there was no question in my mind at all. Fourth, prepare yourself. Get your body into as good shape as possible. Eat right and exercise as well as you can within your limits. Do not neglect cardio vascular fitness either as heart and lungs are an important part of a good recovery. And do upper body exercise to build strength there. Fifth, plan ahead as much as possible for your hospital time so you will not be worried about what is going on at home with family and pets while you are gone. You will need to be selfish while you are recovering and totally consumed with yourself and not other problems. Sixth, learn all you can about your own care, medications, etc. so that while you are in the hospital, you can watch out for yourself. If you have a close family member who will be your care advocate, that's great, but if not, you will need to be ready to speak out on your own behalf if there are any issues regarding your care or treatment. Seventh, keep a positive attitude. The whole idea of replacement surgery is to make your life better. The road to recovery may have a lot of potholes and rough spots, but the end is well worth the struggle. Keep that in mind and learn to smile through the difficulties.

Yesterday, as I was walking in from the barn, for about five strides, all the stiffness in my knees vanished and I felt what it's going to be like an a few more months when I am further along in my recovery. All I can say is "Wow! That's what good knees feel like!!"  It was more than enough to put a brand new smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Slow Go, But Soon

Now, The Weather

I hope to get on a horse before the end of the week but two things have to come together.

First is the weather. Rain is predicted on Wednesday, which was the first choice day on my list.

Second is that I need a fellow horseperson here to help out. I'm pretty confident all will go well, but one more person here to hold my horse and just be there "in case," is important.

Chris who has been helping me with Chance's hoof will be going on an endurance ride at the end of the week, so she will not be here. Stacie, is, thankfully, pretty busy with her saddle fittings and sales, so I am not sure she can help out.  I have another option left, but I'll wait to see how the weather changes play out.

My right knee is still moderately swollen and does get more stiff after I exercise, so I am not quite ready to leap into the saddle, but at the same time I am eager to see how it all feels after so long.

Chance is still a bit lame but so much better. We've had no clear evidence that an abscess has popped, but as I recall from the last time he had a sore hoof--front one--it was never quite clear where it finally resolved itself.  I was hoping to ride him first, but Toby may get the questionable "honor."  Tucker would actually be the easiest to get on as the new mounting block suits his height--kind of just a "step into the saddle on a 17 h horse."  But he is not the most reliable mount for "beginners" like me. *lol*

Chris's wonderful husband, Larry, put new fence rails at the end of my riding arena where Tucker smashed everything.  Now, I have to go out and poo pick, cut the grass that's grown up in there since I haven't ridden in so long, and then drag the sand.  I discovered that the Kubota tractor is not quite as high a step up as I thought and with just a little extra effort, I'm pretty sure I can get on and off it enough to do some quality work with it.  To tell the truth, that tractor has turned out to be one the best investments I ever made for my little farm.

My car? Two bad ignition coils and many hundreds of dollars later cleared one of the "check engine codes."  The other one, a bad thermostat, needs to wait. The bank account could not handle the full repair estimate.

Then, in a fit of genius, I headed over to the school where I taught to see the auto mechanics teacher about the whole situation. Good news, bad news. His students can and will change the thermostat and flush my cooling system. It will only cost the price of parts. The bad? They could have changed the coils as well, saving me at least half of what I paid--no labor charge, just parts. *sigh*

The only reason I went to the professional garage first is that last time I had a "check engine" light the school shop tried to fix it, but their diagnostics found an issue too complex for them to deal with at that point. Now, I'm kind of kicking myself for not going there first.

Then again, there is the plus that the coil work has a warranty on it and it's kind of a big ignition deal, so that might be worth it.  I will drive the truck for now for most of my errands, just to be safe since the car might overheat, and take the car to school next week.

Strange how after being retired for just over two years now, I had already forgotten the huge benefits of working in a vocational school where I could get so many jobs done for so little money. I have to reconnect my brain to the whole situation.

I did have a nice visit at the school with a few old friends, but already, most of the rooms I passed had new teachers and I only saw one student who knew who I was.  That ties the school with the shopping mall across the ball field where I ran into another graduation student who is getting married and was helping her mother select a "mother of the bride" dress.

One for one. Fun day, even if it was more expensive than it could have been.