Friday, December 28, 2012

How to Break Up a Dog Fight

First of all, I want to wish Happy Holidays to all of my readers! May you and your families and fuzzies enjoy this wonderful time of year!

For the most part, my family and I enjoyed a fun and relaxing Christmas weekend. Food was delicious, catching up with family and friends was a real treat, and Santa (embodied by family) was very generous.

However, Christmas dinner came to a screeching halt just before dessert - one of our dogs (Lucy) got into a fight with one of my parents' dogs (Goldie). A serious fight. They've been friends and "cousins" for years and love playing with each other. The rare tizzy has been broken up with a stern word or, at most, a nudge to the ribs with one's shin.

But this was different. It was scary.

Lucy was fetching a ball while Goldie was goading her into playful wrestling. It appears Lucy got territorial about the ball and started the fight.  I'll be honest - it was one of the longest, dreadful moments of my life. Snarling, barking, squealing - they went after each other's necks, then legs, then faces. They literally latched on to each others' faces and I thought they were each going to lose an eye. There was blood all over their faces, necks, chests, legs. My husband jumped to the rescue - first shouting, then a shin kick, then a bigger kick to each dog. Then grabbing by the scruff/collar, then punching and kicking both dogs. It was a horrible sight - watching dogs hurt each other and get hurt by their loving Rick. But neither would let go. I grabbed the other dog - one hand on the scruff/collar, the other around the torso - both dogs were in mine and rick's arms, but we could not get them to detach from each others' faces. Someone from the party shouted "grab 'em by the groins!" so I reached down, but before I could grab down there, the dogs let each other go. We separated them and made them sit to assess the damage.

Goldie on the left, Lucy on the right.
Cute and snuggly 99.9999% of the time.
Both dogs and my husband ended up in the emergency room. Christmas night. (God Bless all the doctors, nurses, and vets who work on holidays!!) The dogs each got a severe cut to a leg that required staples, plus some other punctures and cuts that required cutting the hair back and cleaning. Rick got a puncture to the palm and some bite cuts to both hands and arms. All in all, we feel so lucky that it wasn't worse. But I'm still a bit shaken from the experience. And so is Rick.

Lucy on the ground (Levi on the chair) to show Lucy's size.
These dogs each weigh about 45 lbs. So, not small dogs, but certainly not large. Goldie is a lab mix, and Lucy is a mini German Shepherd. It took all our combined strength to handle them, all pumped with adrenaline. Could you imagine if these were 60, 80, or 100+ lb dogs?  

Having never witnessed, let alone intervene, in a dog fight this serious, we came away realizing that we needed to do some homework on this issue.

So, as a public service announcement, allow me to share some of my research on how to deal with a dog fight.

First of all, I found a great video from dog training demonstrating how to safely break up a dog fight. Click here to go to the YouTube video (it's not letting me embed for some reason). You can also click here for the written article on their website. Here's the cliff notes:

  • If you have two people, each person approach a dog from the rear, and grab their back thighs, lifting their rear legs off the ground. It may take a moment, but this will force them to let go as they have no forward purchase/support. Then, in "wheelbarrow" stance, move backwards and also circle around - this prevents them from sharply turning their body to bite you - it forces them to keep their front legs moving, or else fall on their face.  You can do this move even if one dog is on its back: drag them around.
  • If you are by yourself, get a leash. Get behind the dog, wrap around their torso and loop through the handle (or use a snap if you have the "police" leash), so that there is a "collar" around their rear loin. Then lift the dog by the back legs, walk backwards, and then secure the end of the leash to a post/door/tree/something immovable. Then go around to the other dog, lift by hind legs, and move backwards and circle. 

Some other thoughts from the internet:

  • Spray with high-power water hose nozzle. May shock them out of the fight.
  • A bucket of cold water. Same idea.
  • Use a CO2 fire extinguisher and blow them down. May shock them out of the fight, and also blowing on their faces will impede breathing oxygen and force them to separate.
  • Throw a blanket on them. May shock and "quiet" the dogs, but may not.
  • Citrontella spray or pepper spray. In their faces. Several websites mention this as it keeps the human a few feet away, but that sounds like a very last resort to me. 

Last but not least, do not put your hands anywhere near their faces or necks. Even though that's where their collars are. Sounds like common sense, but when you're witnessing your beloved pooch get eaten alive, you're first instinct might be to get in there and grab what you can! That's what we did - and we've got hundreds of dollars in medical bills to thank for it!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Reflections on 2012

2012 has been a year of many blessings for me, happily summarized with:

New Hubby

New Horse

New House

I'm deeply grateful to have an amazing life filled with kind and loving people and animals, and a comfortable lifestyle where all my needs and many more are taken care of. I love how SprinklerBandit did her Year In Review, and I think its important to occasionally reflect on where you've been and where you're going in life. So here goes.

January I was riding Spirit, who was boarded at RLM in Moorpark (away from Laurie's training operations at Windwalker). I was determined to overcome Spirit's stopping issue, and our goal was to complete a BN horse trials (we'd been eliminated from 2 in 2011).  I did as much as I could to work on myself - reading books, lots of no-stirrup work, etc. I knew in my gut that I needed to do more XC schooling, so we signed up for the January fundraiser clinic at Galway, but the other horses in my group pulled out last minute and so we were stuck at home.

February we had very challenging cross country schooling at Galway Downs. It was clear things were not improving with XC. My confidence tanked. I was worried about Spirit's happiness with her job, and overall felt sad and frustrated. I spent lots of time working on myself and doing my best to help Spirit enjoy our lessons. She had always been a challenging horse, but it was becoming increasingly clear she wasn't enjoying  rides where she had to "work."

March had some positive direction. Spirit got more turn-outs and less "work" rides - she appreciated it and did better in lessons. Meanwhile I rode Elton, Laurie's horse, to help get my confidence back. I married my amazing husband on the 17th and took a 2 week honeymoon - meanwhile, Spirit moved barns to be with Laurie and got lots of training rides in my absence. Laurie was determined to help make sure I had a safe, dependable mount.

April was a pivotal month . I came back from my honeymoon and things hadn't really improved with Spirit - Laurie had been giving her plenty of training rides, but it was still clear that Spirit was not enjoying work. I rode other horses instead of Spirit for lessons, and even signed up to take Elton to the local derby (ended up getting cancelled). Meanwhile I took Spirit on trail rides, casually hopped X-rails, and gave her lots of cuddles - that's what she loves.

Then one afternoon my trainer arrived at the barn, flanked by two barn-mates. They had just returned from checking out the available horses from the recently cancelled "Luck" tv show. I'll never forget the moment when Laurie came over to me, looked me straight in the eye, and said "Sarah, you have to get one of these horses."

As much as I cared for Spirit, the decision to adopt one of the Luck horses just felt right. With the support of my husband, barn friends, and family - I said yes. We brought home Bohemian on April 29th, and Spirit headed to Willow Creek Ranch in Santa Paula.

May was fabulous. Hemie started learning his new job, and took to it amazingly. We started introducing basic concepts slowly, including rhythm, contact, moving off the leg, backing up, cross-tying, corners (ah yes, racetracks are oval). We taught him how to longe. We taught him to jump. We took him on trail rides. We did our first cross country schooling. And we fed him. A lot.

June continued with the training, slowly but surely increasing the level of expectation. We did a schooling outing at a H/J facility, and continued to feed him a lot.

July we did another schooling at Strad Farms and ended the month with our very first show. Let's just say it didn't go quite as planned and I ended up in the dirt with my confidence dribbling out my ears. No one ever said horse training had linear progress.

August we pushed forward, and it paid off. We did another cross country schooling, which went very well. We went back to Strad Farms for another show had a very positive experience. Later we went to another eventing trainer's barn for a schooling day, and again Hemie showed his willingness.

September was very exciting. We did a more formal introduction of dressage to Bohemian, and we did our first eventing derby! We won our first ribbons but more importantly, we got through it as a team. My husband and I also purchased our first home!

October slowed down a little. We continued to take the training up - increasing contact, having Hemie learn to carry himself properly. Lots more flatwork than jumping due to it getting dark earlier. We did a local hunter/jumper show to get Hemie to a new facility and to work on the issues from our derby. It was a great experience. Also, I turned 26.

November was a tough and rainy month. No outings, no schoolings, and significantly reduced number of lessons. Additionally, I fell off twice - both times injuring myself but the second time resulting in a very upset knee tendon which kept me off Hemie for several weeks. I ramped up my saddle search after getting Hemie professionally fitted.

December Hemie is getting ridden by Laurie since my knee is still healing. I have a saddle on trial and it is looking very promising. Most of my evening visits to the barn are spent cuddling and grooming the handsome dirty boy.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Worms! (Viewer Discretion Advised)

CAUTION - There is a photo in this post. Of a worm. That came out of my horse's digestion tract. It's down below - there's still time to close out this webpage and flee.

I wormed my horse on Saturday with pyrantel pamoate, and on Sunday a friend from the barn texted, saying that the stall cleaner says that my horse had worms. Cue freak out session! Code Yellow!! I went out that afternoon and checked all his poop and found one lonesome dead worm, about 2.5 inches long. White. Ugly. Gross. 

The friend at the barn said I should buy the Panacur Powerpac: 5-days of double-strength fenbendazole. She called her vet tech friend who said that's a good plan, but wait for about a week first since I just wormed him. I left a message for my vet's office, and called my trainer. She agreed with the powerpac idea, and said to consider worming every month going forward. My vet's secretary called back on Monday and said the powerpac is a fine idea. When I asked when/if I should do a fecal test, she said yes in a month or so, and they cost $45 each.

So, most of me was freaking out. But a small part of me was wondering if the wormer I just gave him did its job (which is why the worms are dead and being passed through his system). If so, why worm again so soon? And so much?

With the overwhelming consensus to do the powerpac, I went in early to the tack store today and bought the fancy double-dose dewormer package. They graciously opened early for me and even gave me a discount. 

But since my vet had priced out the fecal test at $45, I decided to buy fecal tests through - where I got 3 tests for $45. When you sign up there's a place for you to ask questions, so I explained my situation to see if they would also recommend the powerpac.

A real live vet called me this evening as I was driving to the barn from work. He was from the lab, and called to discuss my situation. He said that passing dead worms in the first 12 to 18 hours after administering wormer is a sign that the wormer worked, and his professional opinion was not to give the powerpac right now, but rather do the fecal test in 2 to 3 weeks to see if there's any lingering issues. If so, then we'd discuss the best wormer to use.

This vet is an expert in equine parasitology whereas that is not my regular vet's specialty. In fact, I'd heard this vet on the Horse Radio Network some months back - he's the founder of the lab. I clearly recall the interview, as it was very interesting. Their philosophy is that instead of horses getting wormed every 2 to 3 months on a rotation, that horses get fecal tested every 2 to 3 months and wormed only if they show worms in their system. The reason to do this is mainly to prevent intolerance buildup in the parasites, which is steadily growing in our country. 

This had sounded like a good idea to me, but since my vet had said we should only worm every 4 to 6 months (I was doing 4) with a rotation of only ivermectin and pyrantel (the 2 cheapest wormers), I had decided to do that instead of paying for fecals so often. With so few dewormings I didn't think I'd be seriously contributing to the intolerance buildup.

But back to our situation. The vet from Horseman's Lab said that worms can stay in their encrusted cyst stage for up to TWO YEARS meaning that he could have gotten them quite some time back, not necessarily at our boarding facility. It also means that I've decided to do that regular fecal testing - the worms may have developed from larvae since Hemie was getting so much healthier and fatter! For now the powerpac is at my house.

All thoughts, opinions, and experiences with worms are very welcome! I've seen worms before in adopted foals from Mexico, but its just different when its your horse.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's the Tendon

Got the knee checked out, and the official diagnosis in an injured tendon with a possible torn meniscus. No issues with ligaments or bones.

I showed all the sings of injured tendon, but only partial signs for a torn meniscus. Even though both issues are 100% recoverable, if its the meniscus then the only way to repair it is through surgery. However, the doctor thinks its likely just the tendon, so the plan is to self-perform some physical therapies to encourage healing and if it isn't 99% better in 3 weeks (New Years!) then I'll go get an MRI to check out the meniscus.

So when do I get to ride? Only after I can get through an entire day at work without any pain. But since I should be 99% better in 3 weeks, we're looking at max 3 more weeks without riding. Hoping my meniscus is fine that is.

To be honest, I'm relieved. I was quite worried it was something more serious that would take months to heal. And I feel empowered by having some PT stretches to do.

But what about Hemie? Well, I guess its time for him to go into training! Laurie will be putting rides on him, and I'll supplement with longing. She'll be giving me a long lesson sometime this week so we can make it more of a training experience rather than just a warm-up for exercise. I see side reins in Hemie's future...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Knee & Saddle Search Update

It's been 18 days since I feel off and hurt my knee and haven't been able to ride. Feels like an eternity.

Last week I realized the healing had plateaud and it was time to make a doctor's appointment. I see an orthopedic specialist tomorrow morning. I'm really hoping there is a magical pill, injection, or electro-zapping machine that can instantly heal me (or at least clear me for riding). At this point I can't straighten my knee all the way, it hurts if I move it wrong, gets achy if I stand or walk around for 10 minutes, and is stiff after sitting for a bit. I'm using a leg brace and Salonpas pain patches (by the way - they work!). It's been a long time since I've had an injury, and I sure hope this is the last one. Ever.

Stubben Roxane
But on to happier things: the saddle search! An old barn mate and friend is the Stubben rep for northern California, and while he was down in the area visiting friends he graciously came out to do a fitting on Hemie. It was quite informative. In short, my current saddle is much too big! And here I thought it was too small!

He showed me that I was looking at the wrong area for correct saddle sizing, and demonstrated with a Stubben tree frame. I had been focusing on the fit at his shoulders, when the proper place to fit is directly behind the shoulder, on either side of the spine. My horse needs a medium tree (size 29 for Stubben).

The Stubben that has caught my eye is the Roxane model. With front and rear blocks, it has a reputation for helping to place the rider in a correct seat. There's a used one from a friend-of-a-friend that I'll be trying out this Thursday, and there's another used one at the local tack shop I'll try if that one doesn't work out.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Embarrassing Blanket Revelation

Allow me to present...

 the Spectrum of Equestrian Spending
Note: not to scale.
As we all know, horse riding is not considered a cheap hobby. But within our world, the spectrum is quite vast. 

At the top are the gajillionaires who buy million dollar horses and have their horses boarded in stalls nicer than my house. This is on my spectrum as Rita Crundwell, the now infamous horsewoman who funded her many prized champion reiners by embezzling money from the municipality she worked for. Some are born with trust funds and some have to steal them.

At the bottom of the spectrum are the Starving Students, such as I myself was just a few years ago in college. They muck their own stalls, which are made of used crappy wood put together by boyfriends who were paid in pizza. Everything is purchased second-hand (or third or fourth), and only if absolutely needed. They are pack-rats who keep everything in case something breaks.

In the middle but maybe towards the higher end are Tack Whores - the equestrians who appreciate quality (read: expensive) tack and other goods. You can tell these people at horse shows - their saddles are custom made, and they are wearing perfectly clean white polo shirts and the oh-so-trendy $600 Dubarry boots. (The secret to white polo shirts? Have a groom clean and tack up your horse. Amazing.)

So what does this have to do with blankets? Well my friends, it is through horse blankets that I have come to realize where I am on the spectrum versus where I have been and where I'd like to be. 

I currently own 4 horse blankets. One I purchased for my first horse approximately 10 years ago. The others  were well-used blankets I got from the "free stuff" pile at the co-op boarding stables in college 5 years ago. Only 1 of the 4 actually fits Hemie. Luckily its the only one that doesn't have holes in it. I had him wearing one of the others, until a kind barn mate tactfully mentioned that it was big enough on him to be a tripping concern when he gets up from lying down. Eeek!

Which begs the question - after having Hemie for 6 months, and these blankets for 5 to 10 years, why am I still hanging on to old, falling apart blankets that don't fit my horse?

Because I hadn't stopped to realize that I was no longer a Starving Student. 

Light bulb: On.

So, I am the gold star on the spectrum - creeping away from Starving Student and towards Tack Whore. I (slowly) have been coming to appreciate quality versus cost. When I bought my saddles for $750 each I thought it was a major financial outlay (I'd gotten all previous saddles for $100 or less), and now I'm shopping for one in the $2k range. When I look at half-chaps, breeches, anything, I realize that I'm asking "how long will this last?" in addition to "how much does this cost?". An important but relatively new question for me.

So, congratulations to me for realizing that I can throw those blankets away. Goodbye, old disintegrating holey blankets! Hello, self who is no longer a silly pack rat for no good reason. And one day, maybe you'll catch me wearing those cute Dubarrys and a white polo shirt. For now its still crusty old t-shirts.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

4 Budget Friendly Barn Buddy Gifts

The holidays are here. Merry music, fattening food, and crazy consumerism.  Its a beautiful time of the year. Especially for credit card companies.

We're all looking to be money-conscious this season, so allow me to present 4 budget-friendly gift ideas for those barn buddies, trainers, managers, et cetera. 

Idea #1 - Homemade Horse Cookies
Everyone loves homemade cookies, and given how outrageous store brand horse cookies are these days, this is a much more economical option. Buy a cute holiday tin from the dollar store or a roll of cellophane wrap and ribbon, and you're good to go! 
Not only are the ingredients inexpensive and readily available at your local grocery store, you can make large batches and check multiple people off your list with one fell swoop. Also work great as dog treats. You can eat them too if you want. I sure have.

Idea #2 - Medical Armband
Perfect for that pony clubber neice you've got, that eventer pal or trainer, or that barn buddy who cares about safety. Also works as an iPod holder. And a saddle bag label. The list goes on. And you can never have too many of these - goodness knows they seem to go missing when you need them. Spend an extra 5 minutes to decorate an insert for the pocket or even decorate the holder itself with fabric paint or stickers, and you've got a cute custom gift. They're $10 at the tack store, or $6 (free shipping) if you buy them from me. 

Idea #3 - Horsey Photo Shoot
There's a few ways you can give this gift. The first way is to surreptitiously go to the barn and take several photos of your friend's horse, and either print and frame the best one (dollar store or thrift store for the frame), or make a disk with the top photos. Bring a santa hat or a bow and ribbon for some extra cute pics. The older generation especially loves this gift because they generally don't think to take photos of their horses except maybe for shows. Having a nice framed headshot to have at work or at home is a nice gift. Another way to do it is to give out a gift certificate for photo shoot of your friend with their horse. They can wear a cute dress, you can help groom their horse, and spend an hour getting some cute shots. It takes 2 people and its a fun, inexpensive way to give someone something they'll treasure for years.

Idea #4 - The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts
This is a book adored by horse people and non horse people alike - a heart warming and historically interesting story about a plow horse who became a national champion jumper. For only $11 at Amazon and widely available at bookstores, this is an affordable and thoughtful gift for anyone on your list.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

5 Rainy Day Horse Activities

For when Mother Nature tells you that you're riding goals are less important than plants needing water.
1. Trick Training
Does your horse know how to give you a kiss? Smile for the camera? Count out 1, 2, 3?  Trick training can be done in the comfort of your stall or paddock, or in the crossties. There's plenty of free materials online as well as books, DVDs, and even trainers. Your horse will think of it as a fun game, and it will help build your communication skills.

2. Mane Pulling
This is what I did tonight. Rings still to sloshy to ride in :[   I don't actually pull his mane in the traditional sense, I use old clipper blades to tease and trim instead.
Before/Part way 
After. So handsome!

3. Emergency & Disaster Prep
Assemble (or double check) your first aid kit's supplies. Thank about your natural disaster preparedness and fill in any gaps you may have (my previous post on the topic here). Not sure if you have a complete first aid kit? Here's a great video:

By SummerWindsDesign on Etsy
4. Horsey Arts & Crafts Projects
Horse hair bracelet. Painted/bejeweled horse shoe paperweight. Decorate your tack box/bag/brushes. Make a horse binder or calendar. Make photo collages or albums. The list goes on!

5. Read a Book or Watch a DVD
I'm not really talking Black Stallion here. More like an equitation book, a horse nutrition book, sports psychology book - something stimulating and that you can apply later. DVDs of clinics can be good. And there's lots of great articles and YouTube videos online of course!

For those with OTTBs like myself, this video of Eric Dierks may be of use to you! From the Retired Racehorse Trainers Challenge of 2012.

If you have more ideas, please feel free to share!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stalled out

I haven't ridden in over a week. I'm still hobbling around, though markedly better than before. And my trainer ride got rained out. My after work trips to see Hemie have involved just feeding him and maybe a quick grooming. And of course cuddling with Journey, the barn cat who really would rather be a house cat.
This weekend was drizzly and grey. 
The fields on the way to and from the barn.

My co-pilot Levi all buckled up!

Bohemian got a turn out. The arenas are still closed and my knee isn't in good enough shape to longe or ride.

 He promptly played and rolled in the mud. But even covered in grossness he is so handsome, isn't he?

Levi and Hemie are buddies, cruising around the mud together.

I've asked Laurie to put a ride on Hemie as soon as weather allows. I thinks its the safest thing to do. I'm hoping to be back in the saddle by the end of the week because...

...there's a local schooling show next weekend, with a cross country schooling with trainer Debbie Rosen the day before!!  Please join me in wishing for (a) no more rain, and (b) quick and final healing for my body!