Friday, April 30, 2010

Less, and More

Maisie and I had another visit from the vet this morning. Her left front is still very sore, although slightly better than last visit. As a precaution, the vet took x-rays of the left front and fortunately we didn't have to remove her shoes. No rotation, which is very good news, but to avoid any more micro-tears in the laminae, she's on 7 days of complete stall rest - no hand-walking and when her stall is cleaned she's going in another stall instead of standing in the concrete aisle. Bute 2x day for 5 days. And then the vet's going to come back and see her again. She does have significant ringbone between the P1 and P2 pastern joints, and that could be part of the inflammation. The likelihood is, looking at our experience last year and this year, that she develops some mild laminitis in reaction to the excessive grass and this is then aggravated by concussion due to her thin soles and her somewhat odd way of going - she was a terrible "paddler" in front when I got her but her movement has straightened out somewhat. The x-rays also indicated that she's tending to overweight the outside edge of her foot, perhaps in response to soreness.

In looking at all this, and thinking more about what I really want out of my relationship with horses, I'm coming to the conclusion that I both want less, and more. Some of you may have read my earlier post about losing the thread. Less heavy work involving horse care - I'm not really physically up to a lot of the work now - stall shoveling, dealing with frozen water tanks, and doing the morning job which involves a fair amount of hard work. Our barn is not my barn and never will be, and I really don't want to find another place to live so I can keep my horses at home, although this might have been ideal when I was younger. I also find that all the heavy labor leaves me without the energy to do what I really want to do, which is work consistently with my horses, year-round. But I'd also like to have the chance to take a break now and then and know my horses are cared for. I've decided to give up my morning job no later than September 1 - Scout and Joe's owner may be interested in filling in some over the summer and might even take the job in the fall.

Our barn has no indoor, which is one of its biggest deficiencies. There are a number of months every winter, and days when it rains (and days thereafter for our arena with its poor footing) when I can't really ride, and the winter care at our barn is brutal. There is no way to keep horses in consistent work, which makes it difficult to work with Maisie and almost impossible to work with Dawn. And I'm increasingly of a mind that our lush pastures aren't necessarily the advantage they seem to be. Due to Maisie's condition, she probably shouldn't be on grass pastures like ours, and we have none that are skimpy other than one very small paddock occupied by Charisma. We need to do a lot more mowing, but have neither the equipment nor the money to do it when we should. Due to the length of our grass, grazing muzzles just don't work very well.

So I've pretty much decided that, if Maisie recovers well, which I expect she will, I will move her to a nearby barn - the same one my older daughter works at now - it's about a 10-15 minute drive from my house. The barn manager is pretty accommodating and easy-going. There are good points and bad points about this barn - it's considerably more expensive, but has much, much larger stalls - 14'x14' (ours are 10'x12'), nicely bedded. The stalls don't have outside windows, but the ventilation is very good - nice high ceilings and big screens on the ends of the aisles. There are decent sized paddocks, but the horses don't go out all day - usually about 5 hours, but there's an indoor to lunge in if the weather is bad. There is a lovely large indoor, and two outdoors - one with jumps and one without. The rings are dragged and watered daily! The facility is well-maintained. The barn and indoor are somewhat heated in the winter, which I don't prefer but it does have the advantage that horses can be body-clipped and can then work hard without getting excessively chilled if they sweat. There are automatic waterers in the stalls, and the manager watches water consumption closely. There are indoor wash stalls with running hot and cold water. Grass hay is fed 3x a day, and they grow some of their own - the quality is acceptable. They will feed supplements you provide. There are no trails, although there's a big field to ride in and there are nearby trails that are easy to trailer to, and I have my own rig. There are two safety features I really like - hay and equipment are stored in a separate building a good distance from the barn, and the barn has a fire sprinkler system. The guy who supervises the barn labor lives on the property right next to the barn.

It's quiet - there are two trainers with small groups of clients, and some Standardbreds kept for racing by the barn owner. Although it's a pretty traditional hunter/jumper facility, and they undoubtedly do training in ways that might not jibe completely with what I do, there's enough quiet times that I can work in my own way. I might have a chance to actually make some good progress with Maisie, and Dawn if I move her over in the fall after my daughter goes back to college. Working with Dawn everyday, she could be a great riding horse. I will lose some degree of control over my horses' care, but I think they will be well-cared for - and I can ride consistently, devoting my horses hours to working and being with my horses and not just doing heavy labor. The extra hours that will be freed up in the early mornings can be used for other things - reading, writing, photographing and studying nature, all of which I've been short-changing. And the long-suffering husband will no longer have to do any barn work!

It's not perfect, but it'll do, I think. Noble will stay right where he is for the moment - he's the hard-keeper retiree who is the type of horse who benefits from our lush pastures, and I no longer ride him. He won't even miss Maisie (or Dawn), since they aren't in his herd. I think this rearrangement will allow me perhaps to take up the threads of my horse life in a different, and I hope more effective, way.


  1. I think it sounds like you've come to a great decision and a workable solution for you and your horses. (And the long-suffering husband!) No setup is ever going to be perfect, but I think it sounds like the new barn will meet your and Maisie's needs much better, and perhaps Dawn's, too.

  2. Seems to me the new barn situation might be just what you need to inspire you back into work. A good boarding facility can make life a lot easier. I wish you well on the move.

  3. I think if it was me, I'd be packing my horses bags for the move!! The indoor arena would be a BIG plus for you. Sounds like it good will be for you to have some free time to do things you like. And spending more time riding and working with your horses instead of doing hard barn labor....HUGE PLUS!!!
    Do what makes YOU happy! :-D

  4. Kate, wow, I really can feel your decision. These are difficult time and I so feel for you and Maisie mare..she does need something quite different.. and by the diligent consideration all written out= so do you!
    And the +s really ARE there.
    I think it does sound very good. Moving is never really easy and the honeymoon does not last long, but you have well researched this.
    Be pullin' for you and your mares Kate!
    XO KK

  5. Except for the increase in board, that new barn sounds very nice. It is hard to give up control but if the trade off is that you can ride all winter long, that might be a good thing!

    I am sorry that Maise is still having a rough time. To say it sucks just doesn't even cover it.

  6. Kate...sounds like a great plan. Giving up the morning chores is also a good idea. Sometimes luscious pastures are just too much.

  7. Sounds like a good idea...sometimes when we are spending money on our horses, we work more with them to justify the expense. Nice not to do the chores!:-) Hoping for good news as she heals.

  8. There's always a trade-off, isn't there? But the pluses are definitely weighty ones. Man, I'd love access to an indoor (or at least covered) arena.

  9. Sounds like a great barn! While it's nice to take care of your horses yourself, it's also nice to be in an environment that encourages training, too. In your situation, I'd probably jump at the chance to be in such a nice facility, too. Good Luck!

  10. This is why I go back and forth about having my own place - I'm not likely to have much of a facility on my own and having someone do all the chores is very appealing when time is such a premium...

    I hope this brings you what you need with Maisie.

  11. This post clarified your situation for me. All along I have misunderstood and thought the barn WAS yours and that you boarded horses for other folks on your own property.

    My comments have been made from that perspective, so I'm sorry for any that didn't quite make sense given your true situation.

    I hope the new barn and the break from caring for the bigger group both give you more time to enjoy your horses and explore the other things you want to do!

  12. Kate, I felt like I could hear the relief in your voice as I read your post. I think you've made an excellent decision for you. No situation is ever perfect (even having them at home), and it sounds like you can focus more on the relationships with your horses and less on the daily hard work of caring for ALL of the horses at the barn.

  13. Sounds like some wonderful new changes for you and your horses. And here all along I've been jealous of folks like you who have access to lush green pastures. We're lucky to have grass at all, and if that does happen it's usually grows sporadically throughout the year, usually peaking in August during our monsoon weather.

    Best wishes in your decisions. I hope everything works out just the way you're hoping for.


  14. I'm a little envious of your plan--no cleaning stalls!! What a dream that would be. ;)

  15. I can sympathize with the frustration of this recurring lameness, plus the issues of dealing with the barn you're currently boarding at.

    Maybe some of the following links will provide some further guidance as to the Insulin Resistance possibility. There are many good resources for information on management and diet now: (this group is also for IR horses)

    For the Yahoo group, Dr. Eleanor Kellon is one of the main contributors, and she has an excellent grasp of equine nutrition. I have taken a couple of her on-line nutrition courses and have learned so much!

    Best wishes, and love your Blog and your observations of Mark Rashids clinics!


  16. To me it sounds like you have decided that your time is worth more than the extra board money. I completely agree with your decision, and know that I would make the same decision if in your shoes. Horse care is incredibly time consuming, leaving little time to actually enjoy the horses. This is why I've stuck to just one horse!


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