Sunday, March 28, 2010

Five Months Later

Tomorrow is my horse's birthday. He would have been nineteen and we would have had one more summer together had he lived to see it. Four years ago, in consultation with the vet, we switched to pain management for my horse. There was nothing else that could be done. Driving home that day I knew, somehow, that he would not reach his twentieth birthday.

In the last couple of days I have spent hours going through the digital photos I've taken in the last few years. There are so many photos, and so few really good ones. I want only the best or those that spark specific memories for the memory album I'm creating. Now I have to go through the older photographs. Unfortunately I will probably have to scan those old pictures as it is just about impossible to get film printed properly now - these days the negatives are scanned before the scan is projected onto the photo paper. They all seem to turn out like bad digital photos.

There is a recurring image of my horse, one taken again and again over the years. The way he would look at me when I went out to the field, ears up, eyes bright, poll slightly below wither level - this look is my horse to me. The most familiar image to be treasured.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Horsecare 101

Our vet of many years first met my QH when he was four. It was spring and time for the annual vaccinations. I had phoned around to the local clinics and asked about prices for the basics and ended up making an appointment with Dr. KB. The visit was uneventful, and Dr. KB had time to sit and answer some general questions.

One year later Dr. KB couldn't believe he was seeing the same horse I'd had the year before. Between the ages of four and five my QH grew up and matured. Between five and seven he muscled up and got wider. In full fit competition weight (ie. very slightly ribby) he hit 1343 lbs on the height/weight tape. Proportionally he was built like a classic working QH, but on a larger scale both taller and wider.

Over the years Dr. KB looked after my boys I learned a lot from him. I'd gone for several years with my first horse without needing much in the way of veterinary care, but my QH had a knack for finding new and unusual ways to injure himself. At first I called the vet for every bump and slice, but over time I grew comfortable with treating the problem and waiting for a day or three to see if it would improve. Dr. KB. almost always had some tidbit of information to share with me, some of which became useful later on. Something as simple as sugar for wounds, or as complex as the effects of various joint supplements, or as subtle as the results of a complete blood count.
Accident prone horses can be frustrating to deal with, but they (and their vets) can teach us a lot in a short period of time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Student, My Teacher

He was my first green horse. Pretty forgiving of my mistakes - and I'm sure I made a lot of them. When I bought him he could walk, trot, canter, steer, whoa, and stand for mounting - provided I didn't touch his butt when swinging my leg over. I did find that one out the hard way. He started bucking before my butt hit the saddle and I came off a few hops later. I was more careful when I mounted up after catching him again, but within a few days I had arranged for a helper to hold him still while I crawled all over his back and dragged my feet and legs all over his sides. After that the odd bump was of no concern to either of us - except that I always apologized for my clumsiness, and I always teach the babies I start that they must allow that kind of bumping without fuss.

He frustrated me many times, but it was all a part of the learning process. Young, green horses don't move in a straight line either in real life or along the training level. They wobble, the backslide, they leap forward, they forget everything they ever knew. Through it all he taught me that if I focused on the end result, on what I wanted to happen right now we could get there.

He showed me how horses tend to lose their finer control over their bodies when those bodies go through a growth spurt, and that he needed my understanding, encouragement and support to help him work out how everything worked together again. The up and down path of training helped me develop the mindset that allows me to think of and try various approaches to break down activities for a green horse to find understanding and success. I learned that sometimes we teach a response that is unexpected. Somewhere along the way my horse decided that "Good boy!" meant he'd done what was asked and so he could stop doing whatever it was. Most often on the longe after I asked him to "Trot up!" (meaning push more and go forward) he would trot on and I would approve with a "Good boy!" and then immediately have to get on his case again as he dropped back into his lazy trot.

Even as I taught him, trained him, he was teaching me. Those lessons are an integral part of my horse sense now. One lesson in particular carried over into the rest of my life - a story that deserves a post of it's own.