Saturday, March 27, 2010

Springing Ahead...or Not

Not quite yet, but soon...
So it's not spring yet.  The calendar lies.  The time change has us all frazzled.  Horses line up at the gate for dinner starting around 3:30 in the afternoon just in case the sun might be in the wrong position for unknown reasons.  It's 70 degrees one afternoon and 21 the next morning.  This can't be right.

But spring has definitely sprung in the horse catalogs!  I'm already dog-earing all the pages I won't actually order from because I have so much stuff now I don't know where I'd put one more bit or another hot-pink waterproof sheet (though I must say that Dakota looks stunning in his despite Zip's refusal to look at him for fear of being blinded).  I've already ordered and received the cool-as-poop vibrating de-fuzzer from Andis.  It works!  Duke looks a little less dirty carpet and a little more furry pony, and the vibrating action made him back up against my leg and sigh.  I'm going to count that as a positive response, though one can never be too sure with mini's.    

I also bought the first jar of Tri-Hist of the season.  Pokey's pasture heaves are in full bloom even if the pasture isn't.  Mold comes first before flowers.  It's the law.  But before I digress too far, I want to point out that I have a wonderful vet who actually writes prescriptions and doesn't charge me for the effort.  If yours doesn't, if your vet insists you buy all of your script meds at jacked-up prices out of his or her private stash, you might want to have a discussion.  My last vet kept me on the hook for three jars of Tri-Hist a season at double the catalog price.  When pressed, he kindly offered to send off scripts, but at a charge of $25 per and for only one jar at a time.  

[ASIDE]  Vets, I know you need to make money.  No one resents you for that.  But if you're going to run a sideline business as a pharmacy, you need to put that right out there on your business card.  I expect to buy emergency drugs--oral antibiotics, eye drops, procaine penicillin and syringes--from you.  But the bulk stuff that I use year after year on your recommendation....  C'mon now!  [END ASIDE]

Back to spring, it's time to check out all of your stuff that's been sitting rotting and collecting dust all winter.  Make sure that that pile of strap goods and harness, saddles and boots, also contains your attitude and your basic horse skills.  You don't think you let any of that dust over and get crunchy this winter?  Then you're not really thinking.

Since the last time you checked, have you aged?  How about your trusty horse(s)?  Has there been some news on the wire about studies on subjects like equine vision, treatments for various ills like arthritis (yours and his), or training methods?  Have you read a magazine or a book lately about anything horse-related?  

Duke stands wherever there's a cookie
Now's the time, while you're between seasons and your back is aching too much from spring cleaning to allow for much riding, for you to really assess where you and your horse stand.  Get that winter blanket off, check for boo-boos, get those feet done and make sure he's wormed, then spend some time flipping through the equine news before you leap right back into whatever you were doing when winter befell you.  

For me, this means deciding whether or not I want to continue to pretend that 1) I enjoy driving, 2) I'm still balanced enough to consider jumping anything higher than a ground pole, 3) that I truly "get" dressage and have the ambition to work with that, and 4) that Zip will one day just go back to being the cool horse he used to be without further drama.  I will (I swear!) read all of the training books I bought during the first blizzard, and I'll use (faithfully!) the hints contained therein.  I will stop trying to get Cliff to learn to ride "the right way" and let him have fun on Dakota just meandering around free of head-sets and seat position parameters.     
Cliff and Dakota...meandering
 I'm swearing off even considering rescuing a horse, or adopting the three free ferrets (plus cage) I found on Freecycle, or getting a puppy or a bunch of goats or a llama.  Instead I'll figure out what the best way is to make use of my horses.  There's got to be some way to put Pokey to work as a therapy horse.  It's her calling, and I need to give her a job before her little tumor grows into a big one and the point becomes moot.

Four "Green" Myths Debunked

It being sort of spring and all, a person's fancy has to turn to the environment.  There's something very attractive about freshly-greening grass and trees in bud, and this seems to bring ecological issues to the forefront in minds, even as poorly-focused as mine.  So it seems like a good idea to grab a few pointers from Fortune Magazine and CNN which recently debunked a total of 25 environmental myths.  In an effort not to confuse and confound, I'm only going to deal with the first four, which are pertinent and which shocked the hell out of me, personally.

1.  Bottled water is NOT safer than tap water!  Nope.  Not at all.  Of course those of us in the twigs who have wells ought to occasionally have our water tested, but for the rest of the country, tap water is far more closely regulated than is bottled water.  So if you're keeping a fridge full of the latter (mea culpa!) for yourself and your friends and family, you might consider just putting a paper cup dispenser in the tack room and making sure there's a working faucet or hydrant nearby.

2.  Locally grown produce is NOT better for the environment!  It seems that in reality, if the local produce is trucked to your store or farm market using smoke-belching vehicles or was grown in greenhouses that were high-carbon-footprint facilities, you're no better off buying the local stuff than you are picking up the  items that are grown in areas that don't require green-housing or an over-abundance of fertilizer degrading the soil.   It's up to you to find out how your food is being produced and transported.

3.  Not all organic foods are created equal!  The organic food industry is still largely unregulated, especially on the local level.  To assume that no pesticides were used in the production of that bunch of carrots you're stuffing into your equine pets is to make a very dubious assumption.  

4.  Meat (that's cattle, you know) accounts for 18% of the greenhouse gases produced in this country!  Want to see things a little greener?  Try eating more green stuff.

5.  Don't put plastic in the microwave no matter what you've heard unless the label specifies "microwave safe"!  It's tempting.  You bought that little nuke unit for the tack room so you could reheat that cup of tea or soup or desperately-needed coffee.  If you stick to ceramic containers, you'll be a lot safer from leaching bisphenol A.  Not a proven cancer-producer, but BPA will disrupt your hormonal system.  The last thing we horse women need is hormones more disrupted than necessary.

If you want to see the other 20 debunkings, you can check them out in the original article:  Green Myths Debunked.  I, for one, am done with serious concerns and off to Tractor Supply for a new tractor seat so that my spring cleaning will be just a tad less injurious to my...uh...dignity.

Lest we forget....order my new book today!


Friday, March 05, 2010

Checking In To the Moment

There are two wars. There's media output that's nearly inescapable. There are people in pain in Haiti, in Chile, and still trying to regain their lives in New Orleans. There are personal issues in everyone's life causing stress and worry.

And there are horses. Many, many horses. Horses, dogs, cats, gerbils, ferrets...all of the creatures we humans have chosen to bring into our lives. We've not done the best job in most cases, but we're trying.

I, for one, think we need to take a step inward. Confusion isn't productive. Checking In is.

I happened to wind up with an audio copy of The Power of Now, by Eckhardt Tolle, and it could not have come at a more opportune moment. As I struggled with feelings of frustration at not being able to do more (and of guilt at not wanting to do more), I heard Tolle explain that there is no future and no past. There is only the now, the present moment. Memories of the past are mere ghosts of days that were once "now", and the future cannot become real until it The present. Whoa! What a concept!

Sure, I know this sounds like some New Age whackadoodle nonsense, but the next thing I heard him say really had some punch to it, so bear with me. He reminded me that for animals, the current moment is all there is. They are far more grounded, far closer to reality than we humans. They get that the only time that matters is feeding time. The only worry that matters is whether or not they will be on time for dinner. The only fear is that another animal will steal their food. They wonder sometimes where their herd might have gone and if there's food there that they're missing. Sure, that's simplistic, but not by much.

Watch the horses. Some of them may look worried, but in reality they're feeling lost. Horses at a show, at a sale barn, at an auction, in the kill pen, in the BLM holding pens are not in their element. Their herd, their home is missing, and they've noticed. Without their familiar herd and their familiar surroundings, these creatures of indelible habit feel vulnerable. That doesn't mean that they are standing around imagining horrors about to befall them. It means they literally don't know how to act. It takes an individual animal time to read and interpret the body language of the others in close proximity and find his place among them. So before you project your own feelings onto his poor, confused head, remember that he is living in the moment. He's figuring out second by second what his best move would be. He's in the Now and letting it wash over and through him while he waits for the next moment, the next thought, the next thing that will happen.

Notice as well that some of the horses seem at peace. They aren't sporting "worry lines" or looking depressed. Some are eating, drinking, and handling it all with grace and good nature. They are also in the Moment but have a different set of responses to it. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse. It all just is.

The same applies to us. Some of us get it. Some of us never will. So it goes.

My point is this: in the frenzy of trying to re-home every poor, homeless animal of whatever species (this applies to the dogs, cats, gerbils, ferrets, and so on as well) we are being unrealistic in our approach. We are projecting our stress levels, our human tendency to try to see the future and panic in plenty of time to greet it with our brains turned to tapioca, onto animals that don't share our craziness. We are attracted, therefore, to the weakest and the least capable of the animals because they are so much like us. And in our awesome self-centeredness, we are unrealistic. We are making mistakes and doing damage where we most need to exercise caution and intelligence.

Consider this. Consider that a time will come when we will not be able to find a home for every animal currently in need (or soon to be, as the source is a miraculous and eternal fountain). Consider that this wouldn't even be an issue if we didn't persist in trying to engineer lives that aren't ours to begin with. Consider that we might better serve the cause by trying to be in the moment the way the animals are and saving the ones most likely to survive our ministrations. We've not proved to be outstanding shepherds to this point, so to presume that doing something is always better than doing nothing is egotistical and simply inaccurate.

Soon the frenzy will devour itself and the present will assert its power to teach us reality. We'll learn, hopefully, that there are things worse than death and plans better than random, unguided passion. When that moment arrives, we may actually begin to make some headway into solving the problem facing us and the animals we husband: Us.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

YouTube Video and What Not to Do With a Rescue Horse

Laughter is the best medicine, and nothing screams "Medicate me!" like this long, miserable winter.

As my regular readers know, I've got a bone to pick with folks who have horses and probably shouldn't. So I'm revisiting this topic briefly today.

What's happening right now in the horse world is difficult to interpret and even harder to deal with, but the bottom line is that there are tons (literally) of horses winding up heading to slaughter. Horses are being shipped will-he nil-he around the country and are being unceremoniously dumped at auction houses. Some are there with the knowledge and aforethought of their owners. Some not so much.

So let's say you're a soft touch and have felt the Call to Rescue. There are a few caveats that need to be addressed...again, and again, and again.

  • The horse you just rescued needs a nap. He may need a very loooong nap. He may need a week or two, or he may, like my favorite rescued horse, Sues Native, need a year out at pasture to regain his sanity. You are not going to necessarily be out trail riding him this weekend, so get that thought out of your head. This rescue business isn't about you and your equestrian dream. It's about an animal in danger of death or other bad endings.
  • The horse you're rescuing may be a fine animal with all sorts of good training credentials. But he's just been through hell and isn't really in the mood to remember all that John Lyons stuff someone once taught him. He's upset, angry, and probably needs some reminders. Retraining isn't for the faint-hearted. If you can't do it yourself, bite the bullet and hire someone. Deal with it.
  • Your new best friend is likely to have some health issues. That comes with the territory of having been hauled from state to state and stuffed in unclean living quarters. Deal with it. If you can't quarantine a horse, if you don't have a cement-walled barn separate from the other horses on your property, if you don't know what diseases he's sporting, find a pro or walk away before you hurt yourself.
  • He may be grateful to you. He may like you. He may not. He may be so upset and angry that he's going to do things that will upset you. He may not stand at the mounting block the first time you try to ride him. He may buck you into next week. He may bite or kick you. Deal with it.
What you do NOT do is send him back to the auction next week.

You do NOT send your new guy OR your existing horse to a rescue to free yourself and your checkbook up for future insanity.

You do NOT get angry and beat on or neglect the new guy.

You do NOT give him away to someone else without making sure you're not breaking your legal contract and that he's going to a better home than the one you mistakenly tried to give him.

Most of all, you do NOT complain.

Do your homework. Learn the ropes. Make the commitment with your eyes and ears open and your mouth closed. Do the work. If you're lucky and persistent, you'll wind up with a really good friend for a long time to come, but how this goes is up to you, not him. He didn't ask for anything that's happened to him. Don't blame him if you didn't read the manual before you opened this package.