Category Archives: Barn Culture

Plagues and Curses Upon the House of Hudson

The Forces of Evil Begin Smiting 

My text chimes. My email chimes. My cell phone rings. As I read the text on the way to answering the cell, our land line begins to ring.  I know.  It’s The Barn Emergency Alert System.

Bella texted:  Jim says Leo says Hudson is colicking. 

Jim says in my ear: Leo says Hudson is colicking.

Jim’s expertise is in How to Fix Things Horses Continuously Break. Which is why he’s reporting what Leo said, and calls Bella first.  He’s not sure whose horse Leo is worried about.

God bless ALL these people.

I’m 15 minutes out if I pull sweats over my pj’s, and break the speed limit.

For those not familiar with horse digestive systems: these big strong animals have the  digestive sensitivity of a cranky octogenarian. Change the pudding flavor, and cranky Octo could be bedridden for days, hammering her cane on the railing. Change her Jeopardy channel, and she could go into shock, burst a gut, and die.

Horses are that terrifyingly fragile.

While I try to focus on stopping at stop signs. Siri reads Bella’s email to me: H colicking. Can use Mo.

Mo is Hudson’s roommate, and Bella’s back up rope horse. You would LOVE him. He’s a Humvee-slash-Monster Truck in a world of sports cars. He’s so wide and bulked up, he looks like he’s been abusing steroids for years. (He hasn’t.) Despite his massive width and body-builder muscling, he has the heart of Ferdinand the Bull. Mo would very much like to find a tree to sit beneath, and smell a flower.

I tack up Mo, pry a bright and non-colicky looking Hudson away from banging on his feeder (Hellooooo…hungry…), and we pony. If I hadn’t listened to his gut sounds, I’d think he was fine: freight train moving through his bowels on his right side. Acute  and terrifying silence on the left.

we walk

Mo worries.  Hudson calculates if he can get grass out of this.

Hudson is nonchalantly relaxed while walking. A mild gas colic? No sign of pain. Twenty minutes in, he stops, lifts his tail, and produces one phenomenally long and sonically impressive Super Fart.  He poops regally, a gloriously giant deposit.

Hudson is cured! Ha. Take THAT, Forces of Evil.

I do the normal thing and take a poop photo, and text it to Bella: THANK YOUUUUUUU.

Better than flowers.

It’s gratifying to know Forces of Evil can be thwarted by farting.

Gravity Stealth Attacks 

On Hudson’s 26th birthday.  I make sure he’s thoroughly warmed up before I turn him out for play time in the arena with The Monster Truck.

I’m ridiculously proud of how good he looks and how young he acts. Ridiculous, because I have nothing to do with how good he looks. Good genetics, a sense of entitlement, and a stubborn attitude apparently help one age well.

A lot can change in 7 seconds.

Immediately after the video above, Hudson rocks back on his haunches, drops low, and rips flat-out into a dead gallop. He’s doing a speed drill. This is all wrong. My heart is pounding in my throat.  There are claws in my stomach.  He hasn’t done a speed drill in a loooong time.

Gravity hurls itself across the arena at the last second, and Hudson trips.

It devolves into the kind of crash about which horse people have nightmares. Hudson falls hard on both bad knees, his neck twists and whumps, the pipe fence is ringing bell-like from (I’m guessing) the impact of his skull. He’s all the way down, and against the fence. This is bad.  Horses need room to get up.  I’m terrified he might have broken a leg.

I ran to him as if I could scoop up 1200 lbs and carry it gently to a stall.  (Actually, it might have been possible in that moment.)  With great effort, he manages to untangle his front legs and get up. He looks bewildered and is trembling slightly. I can see this thought in his brain, though it means something different to him: this is all wrong.

I have so much compassion for believing you are still a Superhero.

I do a complete body scan, check his pupils, poll, and knees. He takes a couple of tentative, careful steps. Not lame. Fully weight-bearing on all four.  It takes awhile for his adrenaline to recede. I ask him to walk it out, so the acid doesn’t settle in his muscle.  Bute and Ice are our friends.

I work on his sore neck over the next week.  Better? But not okay. bizarrely, he is not lame. Sore as heck, but not limping. He needs the chiropractor. I set up an appointment for the next week. I want the acute phase over before he gets any body manipulation.

While we are waiting for the appointment day:

Locusts…? More Smiting…? WTH…?

Hives. Every. Where

One mild soap/glycerin bath later, he looks like he’s getting over the measles. The hives go down. Contact allergy? Can’t hurt to do the cowboy baking-soda purge to clean out toxins. Check. Pick up baking soda.

DETERMINED Forces of Evil.

The next day, he still has hives, but he’s better. I slather Caladryl on the big ones. Check between his front legs to see if I missed any.

I find loose, droopy, saggy skin on the inside of one leg. Mysterious lump near his breast.

Oh. No.

PIGEON FEVER? Are you kidding me?!?!?

I hit Nurse Jane mode like a stock car driver revving into a turn. No fever. No drainage. Check. He’s not contagious. Yet. I know this is too small for the vet to try to drain. I call Jamie anyway, and ask when I should call him, since calling him now is too soon.  (I’m sure he loves me for being so proactive.)

I scare the crap out of everyone at the barn.

I tell the barn manager we might have a case of Pigeon Fever.  We discuss protocol. She knows I’m onboard with strict measures.

Honestly, I’m completely panicked.  A 26-year-old mildly immunocompromised horse has a bad crash, develops weird mass hives, and then gets Pigeon Fever?  Is this the big IT? Are we there? Any one of these things alone would not rattle me (much) but all in a row, I’m beginning to wonder if something bigger is compromising his immune system.  Something more than an on-again, off-again low-grade sinus infection.

Yep. Right to: HE’S GOING TO DIE.

Carlos found me panicking. He very gently introduced me to this totally novel idea: deal with what is actually presenting: an unidentified lump, some edema.

Oh.  How…normal.

I stop being (mostly) an idiot.  We’ll stick to the default: all horses will be safe as long as we treat it as if it’s Pidgeon Fever.

Deep breath.

Day four: just a lump covered in ichthamal. Not bigger. Not softer. Not open. Not hot. No fever.

Bella remembers Hudson caught himself there once ten years ago, and developed a shoe boil. I’ve been around horses since I was twelve.  Maybe I saw a shoe boil 30 years ago.  Not on my radar.  I begin shoe boil protocol. Order a donut. Turns out, it IS a shoe boil. In a weird spot.

Forces of Evil Get to Giggle 

Hudson is convinced the donut is an ankle monitor, and he’s under house arrest. He looks surreptitiously for the orange jumpsuit. When holding the donut-encased ankle in the air doesn’t cause Jane to instantly repent and cut him free, he sighs. Walks off normally, and points his head into a far corner, his big rump angled accurately in my direction.

I guess donuts are the horse equivalent of The Cone of Shame for dogs.

Day Five:

The barn manager has a moment of panic: the old horse next to Hudson wakes up with a shoe boil AND a capped elbow, already getting infected. What are the chances…? She looks at me, then shakes her head. We both know shoe boils are not contagious.

Day six:

I’m filling in for Carlos, holding Clooney for the vet. His sheath is swollen on one side. After some examining: it’s a spider bite, on the inside of the sheath. Jamie says, “Not usual.  But it does happen.”  He looks down at Clooney’s front leg: “How long has he had this shoe boil?”

What shoe boil?

I don’t know…about an hour?

These three horses have paddocks all in a line. It has to be a coincidence, but how bizarre.

It’s a coincidence like this: I bang my elbow hard enough to leave a lump, and the next day, so does my neighbor, and the neighbor after that.

I searched the internet for ways to keep Hudson safe that didn’t involve sacrificing chickens or wearing funky clothing from the 1980’s. (Hey, shoulder pads and spandex are right up there with sacrificing a chicken.)

The internet giveth!

The following video has received Jane’s Good Horsekeeping Seal of Approval:

Hudson nixed this idea.  He’s  positive bubble wrap is a distant cousin of the shotgun.

His rump is still angled pointedly in my direction.

Murphy Monday: Four Years Old!

On May 5th, Murphy will be four years old!

Daisy and I went to see him on Friday.  He’s so huge I can barely get a grip on all that giagantic-ness.  I’m guessing he’s over 16hh.  He’s still the same sweet, easy going boy that plopped out on Day One.

One hour...

One hour…

1 week

One week

One Year

One Year

Murphy is THREE!

Two Years

Murphy is THREE

Four years!

We love you Daisy and Murphy!  Happy third birthday together.

We love you Daisy and Murphy!  (He’s huge. Daisy is 5’11”)

Happy fourth birthday together!

Back to Reality…Oops There Goes Gravity (The Super Model, Part Two)

If only our horse lives could stay in a sort of rosy, carrot and alfalfa scented fog of perfect bliss and connection.

Really Jane? What is my photo doing on a horse blog?

Our Reality and Gravity expert: Eminem

While my ideal state for relationships is All Bliss, All the Time, there’s a problem. That rosy, foggy, carrot and alfalfa scented state is strictly imaginary.

As anyone in any relationship anywhere is well aware.

This is partly why those incredible moments of connection are so sweet. BECAUSE THEY GO AWAY.  

Sorry.  Didn’t realize I was shouting.

Stand still so I can Disney-fy our relationships, dang it!

Why, Walt, WHY…?

Back to Reality:

The Super Model went back to being an ordinary horse.

I’ve learned this at the training barn: a surprising number of mares have “Blanket Issues”.  Even if they like blankets.  

The Super Model is more or less decent about having her blankets removed.  She is more or less psycho about having them put back on.  Often, a stud chain has to be involved, to keep all four hooves on the ground, and so we don’t end up pinned beneath her.  She would like the blanket to be put on very, very fast.

RIGHT NOW. HELLLOOOO. CHOP CHOP. MOVE. I’LL DO IT.  YOU’RE IN MY WAY.

She wants to charge me down and swan dive into the head opening, her ears pinned, her lips curled, her eyes small and glaring.

I was lucky.  I got a two-day “You’re back! You’re back!” grace period.  Soft eyes and sweetness while I gently pulled blankets off and on again. She’d been on the road.  I assumed she’d finally given in to trainers requirement that We Stand Still For Blankets.

Day three: she had a change of heart about many things: mowing me down seemed like a decent option when a butterfly gently fluttered down onto a pretty flower. 

Rats. My job is to make her more afraid of ME than random nunchuk-wielding butterflies.  

xx

Seeking World Domination and Arch Nemesis status.  Horrifying.

That unfair, totally wrong thing that our mother said? This hurts me more than it hurts you? It’s that hard to wallop The Super Model. I want to sob because she had been so sweet, and now I’m beating the crap out of her. More or less.

The good thing about horses…as long as we are fair and not acting out of anger, it doesn’t change how they feel about us. Once past the evil butterfly and in the barn, she nuzzles my hair.  

Awwwww. She still loves me.  

Later, she’d like to kill me when I’m putting her blanket back on.  Nothing like being in a 12×12 box with a 16.3 hot horse that is trying to climb up your body because you are not blanketing her fast enough. Note: this is not fear. She is impatient, and wants me to hurry up, preferably by making the blankets magically appear on her body, without all the annoying buckling, tweaking, and head insertion. I’m somewhat familiar with Reality.  I have the chain ready.  We work on standing still, quiet, and relaxed for blanketing.  Four times.

Oops There Goes Gravity:

I started laughing: it’s love. We don’t get to cherry-pick the warm fuzzy stuff and avoid the random bitchiness. (Shaun would verify this.) Love is all-inclusive. 

Damn it.

 

 

 

Recovery, Hudson, and The Supermodel

I started back at the training barn last week.

It feels like I’ve been gone a month, not two weeks. I’m sure it did to Trainer also. She had back to back class A shows, minus a helper, while I twiddled my thumbs in a darkened room, and strong-armed my thinking away from butter cream frosting. (My brain came up with an interesting combo. Horses made of Frosting.  Nice.)

Bella took care of Hudson for me while I alternated between whining and imagining horses made of sugar. Hudson probably didn’t notice I was gone. As far as he’s concerned, Bella belongs to him. As long as one of us shows up, he’s good.

First day I see Hudson, the conversation goes like this:

Hudson: FOOD. Finally. I’m starving.

Jane: Nice to see you too.  Did you even notice I was gone?

Hudson: What? Why is the bucket still outside the fence?

This makes me happy. Thank God for Bella. He feels so cared for and secure it didn’t register that I was gone. Friends like Bella are GOLD.  I’m testing my stamina (for upcoming return to training barn) by currying the crap out of him.  Note to self: it’s Hair Season.  No lip gloss. Hairy lips. Blech.

Hudson’s one concession to noticing I’m back: he swings his butt toward me and backs steadily in my direction, angling his hip just so. While this would be cause to beat the crap out of other horses, I know what Hudson is doing:

I need you to rub my butt.  No no. Not there. Jane! Just stand still while I back into your hand. Stick your elbow in…harder…no softer…no no…you missed it….yeah…yeah..right about….ahhhhhhhhhhh. 

His eyes glaze, he stops chewing, and his ears soften and flop sideways.  Hudson can always count on me for a butt rub. But as far as he’s concerned, he’s pretty sure he saw me yesterday.

That’s okay. I have enough “I missed you” for both of us.

At the training barn, it’s the same.  In fact, I have to remind a few horses they DO know me.  I go along, from horse to horse, doing what needs to be done.  Don’t think much about it, and neither do they.

There is a horse at the training barn I call The Super Model.  She is tall, has beautiful bones, long legs, amazing face, body, and her coloring….I don’t even know what it’s called, officially.  In the summer her coat is a chocolatey color.  Her mane and tail are flaxen with streaks of white.  She is beyond stunning. I first met her when she came in off the halter circuit to begin her under saddle training.

For reasons I do not understand, I love this mare.  It’s not about how she looks.  I don’t want to ride her (frankly, I don’t have what it takes to ride her). I don’t want to buy her and take her home.  I just…love her. I want to know how she is, check her, “listen” to her feelings.

It’s going to kill me when she is sold.

I have that feeling frequently at the training barn. So I assume this is a one-sided, Jane has an attachment and is probably over-dramatic thing.

When it comes time to go get The Super Model for her workout, I’m not thinking about much of anything.  My expectations are low.  I’ll say hello, listen, and off we’ll go to the grooming bay, while she’s thinking of other things.

It doesn’t happen like that.  I have her halter in one hand, and move to go in her stall. She’s come up and hung her head over the door, looking at me with surprise and…happiness? Huh. She does that quiet, breathy, horse murmur.  She leans against the door.  It’s so clear she wants to take me in that I stop, and let her greet me the way she wants. Very gentle muzzle touches and inhaling of scent. She inhales deeply close to my nose….and waits.  Does it again.  Waits.

Oh whoops.  Bad manners on my part.  I put my nose close to her muzzle and inhale the sweet scent of alfalfa breath, and softly blow my breath back at her: it’s me...I missed you too.

I didn’t know the connected feeling was mutual.

I have to ask her to back up, so I can go in the stall.  She does immediately, with a big question mark over her head.

Is this far enough? Did I do it right? Can I say hello again?

I’m flummoxed. I actually say out loud, “Sure…?”

She takes a step forward and inhales nearly every inch of my body. Her muzzle touches my legs, my hands, my face, my hair, my baseball cap.  She reaches around behind me and touches my back and shoulders, my hip and behind my knee.

You’re BACK. I missed you. I missed you!  I’m so so happy to see you.  What happened? Where were you? You were gone a long time. Ohhhhh…just say hello some more…please?

I feel like crying.  I’m so touched by her sweetness. She likes softness, so I whisper my hello back to her. Her muzzle gently inhales and exhales, touching me here and there.  She comes back to my hat often.  Funny that the hat interests her.

I take her down, groom her up, and it turns out she is getting a “recess” workout. She was at the shows, it’s new and difficult for her to be showing under saddle.  She’s a hot horse, and anxiety can come out for her as ratcheting up in the high-strung department. Trainer feels mare needs a mental break, and some relaxing joy time. Safe-play exercise.

I’m free lunging her when a client walks up with question.  The mare had a blast, and is done with her workout. I ask for a whoa and walk over to the fence to answer the client.  A minute later, I feel the mare’s presence behind me, at a respectful distance.

Client laughs, says “how funny!” She motions with her hand, “turn around Jane, you need to see this.”

I turn, and the mare looks at me with a question mark over her head.

Um. Can I come closer, or am I supposed to stay here?

“Oh, she stopped…”, says client.  “That’s too bad. She was being so cute!”

I feel a little twilight zone-y about the mare’s level of interest. The question mark is still over the her head.

“It’s okay”, I say to the mare.

Immediately she walks up to me. I turn back to talk to client, and I feel the mare’s warm, sweet breath doing the full inspection again.  From my boots all the way up to my baseball cap.  I reach back and rub her poll.  She lingers on my hat, whuffling intently.  She keeps checking me out while client and I talk, but I notice she is coming back to my hat more often.  I notice she touched the front of my hat, but her muzzle is hovering just above the back of it.  What the heck is so interesting about one side of the back of my hat?

“That’s what she was doing!”, client says.

Client leaves.  I rub mare affectionately.  She looks at me with a puzzled expression. Moves her muzzle to the back of my hat, and hovers over a spot.  She’ll touch all around it, but won’t touch the actual spot she is interested in.  Did I touch food and touch my head?  Hudson doesn’t get cookies.  No left over scent from that. Weird. I shrug it off.  Clip the lead on, and begin to walk out. She hesitates. Touches my shoulder with her muzzle, and then back up to the hovering over my hat.  Stops. Looks at me. Touches my shoulder, and hovers her muzzle over the spot.

I feel stupid.  She has a giant question mark over her head, and all I can think is, “Lassie, did Timmy fall down the well?” What does she want?

Oh. My. God.

It hits me like a brick: this mare is whuffling her sweet breath over the exact spot on which my head hit the pipe. My eyes fill with tears. I reach up and touch it with my fingers, and look at her. “I hit my head here. It doesn’t hurt anymore”, I say.

I add, “And yes, I feel completely nuts telling you this.”  I remove my fingers.  She very softly and gently lowers her muzzle to rest incredibly lightly on my head.  On the spot.

She moves her muzzle to touch my cheek.  Then she steps into leading position.

Thank you. I noticed…something.  It worried me. I’m happy you’re okay.

I had no idea she cared about me like I cared about her.

It was just one moment. Fleeting, beautiful, connected. I am so touched.

I have never, EVER had anything like this happen with a horse. Have you?

I still feel kinda twilight zone-y about this…I’d love to hear your experiences…

 

The Unusual Fruit Tree

This is no ordinary willow tree.

We’ve ridden past this tree every single day without incident.  But I know now that was because it’s fruit take a loooong time to ripen. A year maybe.

The Goat Tree

The horrific sound of ripe fruit falling to the ground is enough to scare the boldest horse into an early grave.

The reason we have the tilty, blurry photo of the sinister tree: I was taking the picture while Hudson was in the first phase of a cow horse one-foot spin and bolt. Or, if we prefer in dressage lingo, a pirouette at the hand-gallop.

Hudson warns of tree danger

Jane. Something is Wrong with that tree. I’m SO outta here. You are taking a PICTURE?!? HANG ON.

Something WAS wrong. The tree looked like one half was attacking the other half.  There were a lot of branches bending, bobbing, whipping up, wildly thrashing…this was one heck of a freaked out tree.

I got off Hudson and we walked cautiously back. The tree stopped moving.

Uh, trees do not stop thrashing around when they hear hooves. I suddenly realized no breeze had made it thrash around in the first place. The air was utterly still.  

Cue spooky music. Forget Hudson. I was ready to jump out of my skin.

I get back on, we tiptoe past the tree, which remains perfectly still. Hudson’s ears swivel back questioningly: What the heck was that all about? 

I pat him on the shoulder: Don’t know.  You sure were good though, thanks.

I can feel his mental shrug, and we go to work in the arena.  Once he’s done for the day, and settled back into his paddock with The Worlds Largest Happy Meal, I walk back to the access road. I want to see if I was part of a mass hallucination, or the tree is perfectly ordinary.

It’s not. The willow is wildly attacking itself.  Is there a gap in the time/space continuum here? Did we fall through a worm hole?  Other than tree noises, there are no sounds.  No children are playing in the greenery.

Suddenly, a large roundish white thing falls out of the tree with a loud thud. Bizarre fruit? Branches tremble above where it landed. The tall grass rustles and I hear the unmistakable sound of tiny hooves scrambling as a small white goat launches itself back into the branches.  A second later, a gray round thing falls out, scrambles, and leaps back into the tree to continue play fighting.

An hour later, I see a herd of little goats quietly grazing in the tall grass near the tree. The willow was able to completely camouflage 15  tumbling, rambunctious goats.

A Goat Tree. I love my life.

I told Hudson goats grow on trees.  And that our Goat Tree had fruit just about ripe enough to start falling to the ground, and goats being goats, they thrash.

He gave me a dubious look.

“Could be worse?”, I say. “They could have planted llamas.”