So, How Sick Is Too Sick For You?

So, yesterday morning, I woke up about five sick to my stomach. Not the worst stomach bug I’ve ever had, but not great, either. After ten or fifteen minutes of sitting by the toilet, which couldn’t have sounded too bad as the dog who sleeps in my room didn’t come to check on me, I decided it was safe to go back to bed until my alarm.

Is this the face of a dog who wouldn't be concerned? I don't think so.

After a few snooze alarms, while I debated whether or not to call in sick to work and see if sleeping a few extra hours would mean I’d be able to handle my dance lesson that afternoon (those I lose if I cancel on short notice, meaning it would need to be a raging fever and ER trip for that, whereas I’ve got hours to use up at work plus a boss who practically sets up a quarantine if anyone has the sniffles), I had to get up anyway to take the dogs out and feed the cats, and decided I was functional enough to go in. Dry toast and no coffee later, I did make it in, not that I got a huge amount done. I felt better enough by the time I got to the studio to make it through the lesson more or less as normal, besides a little jive fatigue. Brian even commented, “I almost hate to say it, but everything seems pretty good today.” I suggested I was just too tired to ‘argue’ (resist leads, overthink things, etc.) After a stop for ‘sick-day food’ (cream of wheat, vanilla ice cream, yogurt, and of course Vernors, a must for a sensitive stomach) I fed the in-house creatures, got the dogs out and in, took a nap, pretended to be productive, gave up, took an ibuprofen for the splitting headache, and went to bed.

After sleeping until almost ten (with a break at nine to see what dog outside bedroom was destroying–as it was Time Magazine, I left her to it)

She finds the Wall Street Journal and The Economist a bit too heavy.

I felt better enough to putz with housecleaning, and as that didn’t bring back the headache of doom or a visit to the bathroom floor, and it was nice out, if freezing cold, I figured a trip to the barn couldn’t hurt. Lucky required some bribery to come from the far end of the pasture (a little peppermint bribe never hurts) and the spring molt is in full force. He’s now in the funny fur-coat stage, where there are a few clinging ‘guard hairs’, and a silky medium-weight undercoat that’s going to grow out before he turns back into a sleek shiny blood bay again (right now he’s more brownie-brown). He’s also in the ‘fatty fat fat’ stage, and as the weather warms up there may need to be some cutting back on the grain, as the girth that used to go up three holes on the left now barely reaches two if I walk him long enough he has to exhale.

As such, he really does need to work, but while I wasn’t feeling as ‘run over by a truck’ as I was yesterday, I didn’t quite feel like making him. Not least because while I wasn’t feeling dead, I wasn’t exactly sharp, and in the event he bounced over a fence or decided to adopt an entirely new personality and bolt I wasn’t entirely sure I’d stay with him. We did get some trotting and circling done, but I came out of it far more sore than I really ought to be. Which has me wondering–obviously, if you have your horse at home, or if like me you have a house full of creatures that have to be tended, rain, shine, or splitting headache, you have to get up and do the basics. But as far as going out to the barn (if you board), taking the dogs on more than a perfunctory walk, when are you too sick? What’s the line between functionality and more harm than good? I’m notoriously bad at drawing it anyway, and when it’s the first decent weather of the year, it’s even harder to make the call.

Is One Week Without Something Breaking Too Much To Ask?

I’m fortunate as far as horses go. I know some people have animals who are constantly on layup for one thing or another. Lucky may not be the fittest horse on Earth, but he doesn’t need a vet out twice a month.

Now, is a house that doesn’t need a plumber, a furnace installer, and a well driller out in less than two months too much to ask? I was late to the barn this morning because I was waiting for an emergency visit from the well-drilling guy, because in the middle of last night my running water stopped running. Luckily for me, there was a well company answering their phone on a Sunday morning, but it did mean an hour of waiting for him and replacing the part. The furnace (which was twenty years old and really did have to go) was replaced last week. Before that, the plumbing backed up. How am I supposed to get anything done if nothing in the house works?

At least Lucky works. Grudgingly. But now the snow’s melted and the ground’s thawed so actual riding could occur! I unlocked the gate to the track and we tried for a little jog around the track. It was cold, overcast, and windy enough that Lucky wasn’t much for keeping his mind on things. We went halfway one way, and halfway back, and then went to the arena. Cantering is going to take some work again, and I think he definitely needs a visit from the massage therapist. That, and/or lots of round pen work with bending whether he likes it or not! Someone is more out of shape than I am. (Though I’m sure he’d say round is a shape.) I might even have to buy a 48″ girth!

Someone left an X up and ground poles, so I figured, why not. Lucky actually managed to more or less jump the crossrail three times without knocking it over. I called that good. It was starting to rain anyway. Of course, Saturday, when I had to work, was gorgeous. Lucky got his peppermints either way, though, so I think he was happy, and we did finish before the downpour started, which wasn’t long! By the time I got to the stores in Three Rivers is was a torrential downpour and of course the poor kid at Tractor Supply had to run across the parking lot to unlock the shed where the straw bales were. My trunk fits exactly one straw bale, which I’m going to use to try straw-bale gardening. It can’t possibly do any worse than I do with dirt!

And as far as Tucker the Corgi is concerned, I am the BEST OWNER EVER. I finally figured out that she wanted a BIG fuzzy squeaky toy (all the destroyed kitty mice were a clue.) And (since Meijer’s has buy one get one for $1 this week) I got her TWO. It’s better than biscuits! Definitely better than long walks like the one they had yesterday. Tucker feels about long walks the way Lucky feels about jogging a half mile–really better for someone else.

Room For One More?

So there’s an empty stall at the barn. And the B.O. asks me on occasion, “Found your second horse yet?” In the winter time, when weather and lack of daylight make it hard to deal with one horse in any detail, it’s easy to brush it off. The days are getting longer, though, and the snow’s melting enough to make riding faster than a walk feasible, and there is that empty stall, which is of course begging to be filled. And when it’s Sunday, and there’s really no need to rush, and Lucky’s only fit enough for twenty minutes (that grass verge in the big ring is on an incline, so we’re doing some incline training–he should just be happy it’s not any steeper) it feels like there’s plenty of time. Though I’m not sure I could survive being buried in that much more horse hair. The yak is shedding out, and his mane is getting long, though I gave him a racing clip for the bridle path last week. (Yes, I like the look when it’s half down the neck, so sue me.) Though looking at Clancy’s horse in “The Man From Snowy River” tonight I still keep thinking I ought to just roach the whole thing. He won’t care and if I don’t like it, it will grow back. Plenty of time for that.

There’s also plenty of horses for window-shopping. For some reason (probably the price), I found myself looking at this one last night. Someone, please tell me I have not been drinking the racing Kool-Aid and that horse actually is fat? I mean, I opened the link and my reaction was “Fattie fattie two-by-four, can’t get through the feed room door.” Yet, I find him oddly appealing. Partially, I”m sure because he’s a chestnut. No more bays, really. I swear. At least no more totally unmarked bays with no white on them.

And of course, there is always craigslist. Though I have to admit, some of the people around here have somewhat optimistic appraisals of what their “could be finished for anything you want!” horse. Not a lot of total freebies, though there are some that tug at you. Like this guy, who at twenty might still have get up and go, but really, people. Or, up near my parents you have the could-be-worses, the reasonably-priced, and the…what now?

Gold star, though to this ad. I think that is first craigslist ad I’ve ever seen that references HYPP status (and N/N to boot.)

And on craigslist, there’s also the ducks. I’m trying to keep myself out of Tractor Supply until chicks-and-ducks-time is over, but the prices on craigslist always seem so reasonable . . . and the fat corgi does need something to herd. Besides the cats, anyway.

Red-Headed Mare!

I cannot decide if my headache is from the weather constantly changing today, or from feminine issues–probably a bit of both. This morning was bright, clear, cold, and VERY windy, and by the end of the day we’d gone through at least two cloud fronts. So either this is my monthly migraine starting, sinus-pressure changes, or both. Huzzah.

Probably with some allergies contributing. It took more than a half-hour to groom today before a ride. Lucky wasn’t dirty, he’s just shedding out. And shedding out. And shedding out. At least one other purchaser of a Finger Lakes’ Finest has mentioned her mare having a downy-soft coat, almost like a baby coat, and that does seem to be what Lucky’s feels like. And it’s coming out in clumps. He was especially happy today to stand and let me scrub his face up between his ears.

It was, as I mentioned, extremely windy, enough that I wasn’t so much worried about spooking as my own discomfort. This was hard enough my car was getting pushed around a bit on the drive over, and it was just as bad on the horse. Every time I turned into the wind I got a facefull of hair (his and mine) and dirt blown up from the footing. Yech. We did have one butt-scooting spook, but I’m honestly not sure if that was the wind, the BO’s daughter coming up to the ring behind us, or something else. Whatever it was, he stood while I talked with her and went on after that and seemed largely disinterested in the kids running around. We stuck with W/T today, and he was back to protest-by-stopping, and I am starting to wonder if the tooth the specialist is coming for is really bothering him. The head-up and stopping don’t seem to be spookiness or related to actual attempts to run. He responds to the bit and leg when asked. There’s no heat in his legs or back and the masseuse didn’t find any hypersensitive points on his back. It’s happened with both saddles (very different shapes) and he’s generally going well in the PDN, so I don’t think it’s a matter of saddle fit. The tooth is a known issue, so possibly it bothers him more some days. If that doesn’t fix the problem then I will see about getting the vet back out to watch him go and see if they can spot anything (I say they because the practice has four and I’m not sure who’d be out.) Chiro is an option if it is alignment, but as the only one I know of locally requires you to haul to him, he’s not an option so I would have to go looking.

Two other possibilities: He’s a morning glory (as he’s gone quite well mornings and this was an afternoon ride), and his feet may have been tender as the farrier was out this week. His feet continue to improve and the front angles are looking better.

The wind was annoying to the point I had a short ride (and my lips are now chapped–it was also cold wind!) Lucky once again was happy to be curried for as long as I cared to stand there doing it. He got another candy cane (he has the most entertaining way of smacking his lips when he gets peppermints) and went back out. The BO, her daughter, and a couple of the kids were working with Trudy–“lessons” for the kids, work for Trudy! Trudy is a Tennessee Walker and a stereotypical redheaded mare. She likes to pin her ears at any horse who walks by, and she loves the fact that she is the only mare on the property and therefore (in her mind) in charge of everyone else. BO asked if I wanted to ride her, so I put my helmet back on and got up. The saddle was a synthetic western and the stirrups were just too short, especially with my dress boots on, so I sat back and went without. Trudy does not neck rein, but she will obey leg, if you can convince her of your intent. She’s also the type of TWH who does not trot, she paces, which isn’t something I’ve experienced before. It’s a weird feeling! A little like cantering, or trying for a canter and not quite getting into one. Her canter is also fast but smooth. She was not especially thrilled to have someone riding her whose legs were long enough to stay on her so she couldn’t ignore them. She also was a prima donna–I ended up having a close encounter with the pommel (though fortunately not the horn) when she abruptly decided to put on the brakes rather than step in the only pile of manure in the round pen. Since that pile was not there when I was riding Lucky in there not long before, I know for a fact she put it there! So not only a red-headed mare but a finicky one, too!

Kitten update: My other two cats, Jet and Marcus, seem to be resigning themselves to the notion of a ‘little sister’ in the house. The dogs continue to view the kitten as their responsibility and are tolerant to the point of letting her stick her nose in their dinners (though poor Tucker was highly agitated by this as she’s on a diet and every crumb is precious!) The kitten’s biggest disappointment is that she is apparently a night person (or a Jellicle Cat!) and when she is up and ready to play, everyone else is ready for bed.

And yes, she’ll get a name eventually. Nothing has really suggested itself so far.

Kitten update

Kitten went to the vet today along with the dogs. (It’s mosquito, flea and tick season; do you know where your Heartgard and Frontline are? The good news: she is FIV and Fe-leuk negative, and got her first kitten shots. She needs a booster in a month, so she can go back with the big boys who are due for rabies and other shots.

Unbelievable news: they looked at her teeth. She is AT LEAST six months old. The vet says she undoubtedly got a ‘rough start’ and will probably never get very big. This doesn’t seem to bother her. Hopefully she’ll be able to hold her own with the boys. I put her back in the mud room and will introduce her this evening when I’m home to supervise. At the vet, the techs said she was so concerned with clinging to the table when they took her back to draw blood that she never even noticed the needle! When the vet looked her over, she did the same thing, clinging to the table and hanging over the side watching Puff. The vet asked her if her ‘big protector’ was down there. Puff as usual was very concerned.

Tucker spent her time in the waiting room sitting with other people. She wants to meet EVERYONE. Except other dogs. Though once they went nose to nose she seemed okay with a very exciteable West Highland White.

Stylin’….

New tack! Oh, new tack. The nice leather smell, the fitting it to the horse, the first ride . . . .

Okay, so they’re not NEW. In fact God knows how old the bridle is–it came with a nickle full cheek that doesn’t look or feel like anything I’ve seen in bits in a while, and it IS a flat hunter-style English leather bridle. It’s also in a cob size. He’s now wearing it with the caveson on the second hole, the cheek pieces on the second hole, and the throatlatch just barely reaches, while in the raised (yuck) horse-size everything is on the very shortest hole possible and the cheek pieces are still too long. You can only punch so many extra holes before you run out of leather. I may take it down to this man in Shipsie who does leather work and have him make the throatlatch longer, but the rest fits pretty well. He just has this very teacup muzzle, dished short face, and then a regular old horse-style throatlatch. (Also, anyone know where to get a set of Havana brown snaffle and curb reins? Because my reins do not match.)

The saddle, meanwhile, is a Crosby Prix des Nations that has obviously been VERY well cared for. The flaps are like butter and the seat is beautiful. The tree, obviously, is fine and he does seem to take a medium comfortably. Even with a 17.5″ seat it’s still not GREAT for me. Still like sitting on a board. But he seemed to like it better, and it’s definitely lighter than the Stubben. He was okay with that, but lightening the load a bit can’t hurt.

He is still suffering from horsey ADHD. Anything a half-mile away is more interesting than what is going on, sometimes enough to get bouncey. And Trudy being ridden in the woods was downright mystifying and scary. (Apparently Trudy wasn’t thrilled to pieces with the idea, either.) We also had serious issues with standing still while dismounted and NOT using owner as a scratching post. We had a good amount of trotting in the round pen, and I realized very quickly why I have to shorten the stirrups about two holes from where I had them on the AP. Ow. Hi, knees. Sorry about that. Between this and the dance shoes this was not a good week for you. Something in the woods got scary and we had a minor spook, and finally a stop with complete ignoring of the bit. I got off and we walked over to the big ring and had a couple walks around to the far end where the scary things live. I got back up and again we had the inverting and the horsey ADHD. The BO’s daughter (mother of T., who rode Lucky a few weeks ago) hopped up and decided to take him around the ring, spooks or no. (I meanwhile was starting to consider the virtues of acepromazine as horsie Ritalin.)

It was VERY nice to not only stand back and watch him go under saddle but to have someone on him who had ridden an OTTB a lot. The BO didn’t quite get why I was not entirely thrilled with his brain, saying that he doesn’t have a vicious bone in his body, which of course he doesn’t. Her daughter got what I meant about ADD. He’s a looker. He is paying attention to everything everywhere all the time. She also agreed that there’s something just a bit funky with his right back leg. I watched her trot him, and she watched me trot him (and then we stopped as he had been ridden for almost forty-five minutes, the longest yet!) and while he’s not in any pain that we can see, he’s just kind of unbalanced. Not in a wobbly way, just in the sense that his right side is not as developed as his left and it shows particularly in his right stifle. When the ground’s uneven (there’s a bit of a slope to the big ring) it seems to work him harder. So nice to know I was not imagining that! We both agreed that the saddle is also a great ride. He seems to like it, too.

Back at the barn, we talked about our respective OTTBs, her old one and mine. Both were much more ‘hot’ than Lucky (who is not so much hot as very easily distracted) and yet both seemed to have a knack for knowing when their rider was not someone who knew how to deal. You could put a little kid on either of them (and I suspect Lucky, too) and they became the blandest lead-line pony imaginable. They were just smart like that.

Lucky, by the way, saw the vet and equine dentist while I was away (I had a ballroom competition on the east side of the state, which was a ton of fun and went extremely well for my not having danced in six months.) The vet gave him his vaccines and checked out the two hairless patched on his left shoulder. In her opinion, they are a benign sarcoid (yay, not mange, fungus or fleas) and I can treat it with an iodine wash and/or bag balm, and they will not bother him. They don’t seem to, certainly, not the way Old OTTB went mildly nuts with a fungal infection that made him itch. The equine dentist, meanwhile, was yet another ho-hum moment for Lucky (he was the only horse who did NOT need sedating) but his teeth are worse than mine. His funky double tooth in front is a baby tooth that never fell out. And there is one tooth in back the dentist could not reach and he is recommending having someone who uses power tools get it. Rather than call the vet back out, I’m first going to check with my friend B., who had mentioned having someone who uses drill grinders do her two Arabs and she was quite pleased with the result. She is an older lady whose family bred Arabs and she’s quite picky about caring for her two, so I would trust her recommendation.

And I came home from the barn with a, hopefully temporary, souvenir. While I was putting the iodine and Bigeloil away (iodine for the hairless patch, Bigeloil for his legs) I heard a loud kitten meow behind me. I turned around and saw a black and white kitten prowling the tack room. Now, the BO does not have a black and white kitten. However, her daughter is the source of Pest and Pest’s brother (who went home with another boarder) so I thought, okay, maybe she brought another one. I scooped the kitten up and called BO and daughter back to the barn. By then I’d seen the goopy eyes and figured that this was probably not a new resident-at least not a planned one. I held on to her while I gave Lucky his treats and put him away (he was very tolerant of the strange snuffly thing in my other arm, probably because everyone else was getting dinner and he just wanted to get to his stall) and the BO’s daughter (vet tech) took a look. Kitten is dehydrated, lungs sound clear but the eyes and nose as goopy, and kitten obviously is cold and tired.

Long story short, the BO’s dog would eat it if they took it in, daughter has a pregnant cat at home and can’t take a cat with an infection in, while I have a mud room where I can keep her isolated. BO had some leftover pink liquid (tetracycline–they make the same nasty pink stuff for animals as humans) from one of the other cats, loaned me a carrier and a big towel, and off she went with me. Right now, she’s curled in the cubby beneath my deacon’s bench, and has had her first dose of tetra, eaten a bit, and has a full water bowl, rugs and towels, and a small litter box. Hopefully she can get some rest and get in shape to be a barn cat. She’s probably eight or so weeks old-barely enough to be on her own. She did eat the little bit of food I gave her, and I think she drank some, so now I’m leaving her alone for the night. Pictures tomorrow, when hopefully she’ll be feeling more social. Tucker sniffed, Puff kind of glanced at her, and I don’t think that my cats (who don’t go in the mud room) even realize she’s here.

Round and round and round….

It was insanely windy today. No rain, fortunately, but wind, meaning everyone had a case of the zooeys. And of course Lucky saw me coming and immediately pretended he didn’t. Rolling at the far end of the pasture was much more important. Fortunately it was just sand, and after an offering of a TicTac (yes, he likes them, too. Wintergreen) he decided he’d come in.

In the big ring, I’m not sure if it was because my Barn Owner was riding Dino (we’ve never had another horse in the ring before) or the wind (probably the wind) but we were having a horsey ADD day. Head up, and when I asked for a trot the head came WAY up and we had bouncy and inverted. Very inverted; that feeling of their back just dropping out from under you, so inverted you think you’re going backwards. So when it was apparent we weren’t going to get any focus, I got off and we went to the round pen. There are several advantages to riding in the round pen–it limits his options; because of where it is, the barn blocks his view of the hay field and the houses beyond that he likes to stare at because it’s more interesting than the monkey on his back; and if he wants to move (or I make him) he has to bend. So if we’re having attention issues, we go to the round pen.

And once the distractions were minimized, he did reasonably well. I am not looking forward to trying to sit that trot! Lucky is not looking forward to having to do two times around the round pen at a trot again. But he does go, at least with some strong, strong leg encouragement and a bit of contact. And he is having to work to balance on the relatively small circle of the round pen, which also means he’s concentrating on that and not what’s going on half a mile across the field.

I am going to have forty-eight hours now for my legs and back to stop hurting and to get my muscles back to being used to dancing. Tanning tomorrow, and driving to the comp the day after. The dogs met their dog-sitter today, and I think they will get along just fine.

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