Monday, January 28, 2008

My Dictionary O' Terms

As further proof that I do indeed read all of your comments, I decided to jot down a few terms and bits of lingo that I occasionally use so that we're all clear on their definitions. It was Gina, a faithful reader here, who brought to my attention that I used a term that confused her. A while back I wrote that I was thrilled that the x-rays taken of Lexi (my palomino mare) were unremarkable and basically clear. Despite a sore foot (which turned out to be a bruised heel), there wasn't any evidence of ringbone, sidebone or "galloping navicular."

Gina read "galloping navicular" and dutifully googled it. Of course, nothing came up that satisfied her curiosity. That's because I sort of/kind of made it up years ago. It's now become a familiar phrase among my barn buddies and riding pals. Galloping navicular-- at least in my perverse mind-- refers to a case of navicular that seems to develop almost overnight, without much warning. Sort of, "Now you don't see it on x-rays, and now you do."

We can all credit a lovely dapple-gray Thoroughbred hunter my sister owned years ago. During his pre-purchase exam he had glorious, clean x-rays of his front feet. Fast forward about six months later, the gelding comes up lame in both front feet, new films are shot and his navicular bones look like Swiss cheese. And thus the term, "galloping navicular" was born!

Another term I didn't create but one which I embrace fondly is, "hinky in the hind end." A horse befitting this description isn't dead lame in a hind leg; it's just, well, NQR.

I'll get to NQR in a second.

Usually a sensitive, intuitive rider can feel that the horse they're riding is not tracking or pushing equally with both hind legs. It's not obviously limping; but something's... hinky. Yet the animal behaves as if it's perfectly sound, limber and comfortable. In my experience a horse that's a little hinky in the hind end often has trouble brewing in a hock or stifle. Fortunately, there is hope for hinkiness, as you can read here:

Options for Horses that are "Hinky" in Their Hind End

Mild unsoundness in either the front half or hind end of the horse is referred to as NQR. Those letters stand for Not Quite Right. I have to give props to my friend Denice, who lives and rides on the east coast, for introducing me to that term. To qualify for the diagnosis of NQR, a horse must display a slight yet noticeable unsoundness that perplexes both you and your vet. This is not to be confused with DFL, which is the acronym for Dead Freakin' Lame, and symbolizes a horse that's sore enough that even my husband can see it.

DFL is unfortunately a term we're all probably familiar with in one way or another. And once we think about how much we dote on our horses-- emotionally and financially-- that fact just seems NQR.

See how your comments give me ideas to write about? You can add your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below or emailing me at:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Torrential Rain, Thunderstorms and Mudslides... Details on the 11 o'clock News!"

I don't know about the network newscasters in your area, but here in the Los Angeles market we're held hostage by reporters and weathermen who are, I believe, frustrated actors who never got that plum soap opera role that rocketed them to sitcom stardom. So they fill their soundbytes and teaser commercials with all sorts of hyperbole so that we're sure to watch the late night news lest we end up being swept into oblivion by Mother Nature.

That was the scenario once again on Saturday evening. We were given dramatic, dire predictions of doom and gloom. Being a vigilant (okay, neurotic) horseowner,I stockpiled stall bedding and feed. I played that undeniably fun game of "put the waterproof blankets on the horses/take the waterproof blankets off the horses." Then, in fear that Wally and Lexi would be sequestered in their pens for a couple of days while they endured the oncoming series of storms, I decided to exercise them both. I took Wally on a lengthy trail ride and left Lexi turned out all day so she could rip around the big paddock with glee.

I even cancelled plans to take my lesson kids to a schooling show on Sunday. I knew they were disappointed, because it was merely partly cloudy when I called them on Saturday night, but how could the weather reports be wrong?

Once I'd battened down the hatches, and Wally and Lexi were snug as bugs in rugs (waterproof rugs, mind you), I went to sleep, figuring when I awoke my horse property would be awash in runoff rainwater.

It wasn't.

I don't want to give you the impression that it didn't rain. It did. But we did not get anywhere near the apocalyptic weather that was given top billing as part of Storm Watch: 2008.

Of course, you know what will happen. Next time the Giganto Doppler Deluxe Rain-o-Meter and its human counterpart, Thor Sterling, predict a deluge, I'll ignore them and blissfully continue with my regular schedule.

And then it'll pour.

Friday, January 25, 2008

So, Like, How Cold is It?

No, this isn't a photo of my house. It's from my friend Wendy, who lives in Idaho. Wendy and I went to junior high and high school together. We were a couple of horse crazy teens who shunned the football games, the cheerleading and the school dances and instead coveted every hardcover book in the school library that dealt with horses. Though Wendy and I both grew up in Southern California, she now lives in Idaho with her Quarter horses while I'm firmly rooted in Southern California with my two Paints. And while I feel right now like I'm freezing (I've been wearing my down jacket all day) I can't honestly feel sorry for myself because look at this recent photo of Wendy's ranch. Now that is freezing cold! Lovely and serene in its winter beauty, but freezing nonetheless.

Wendy emailed me that she's wearing her ski suit to muck the stalls in her barn.

I also got an email from Nancy, a reader from New Hampshire, who just discovered my blog. After missing my Life with Horses column in Horse Illustrated, she just found my new online home and caught up with all of my posts. Apparently all the reading gave her something to do on what she described as "a cold, freezing winter night."

So I suppose when I rush outside in a couple of hours to hastily toss Wally and Lexi their dinners before I get chilled, I'll console myself by thinking of Wendy and Nancy. I may be in a down jacket, but at least I'm not wearing a ski suit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Blog Where I Respond to a Comment About Horse Tripping

Thanks to this blog, I get some interesting comments and emails. The most recent email that really got me thinking was prompted by my rant about the so-called "sport" of horse tripping. It's an event held at some Mexican-style rodeos. Though horse tripping is against the law here in California, it's still legal-- though not enthusiastically supported-- in some other states. In Arizona the noose may soon tighten around those who continue to indulge in horse tripping. To refresh your memory, here's a quick link to the Horse Channel article:

The Article About Banning Horse Tripping in Arizona

And then here's my blog about that article:

Yes, I go Off on a Rant

Pretty much all of the comments and emails I received agreed with me that horse tripping was neither a humane activity nor a particularly admirable one. However, one person broke from the herd and wrote: "I've actually heard that the horses seem to enjoy it, as it is a challenge to them."

Now, I'm not one to quash the opinions of individuals. A difference of opinions is what makes the horse world forever interesting. But since this is, after all, MY blog, I have three points to make in response to this person's comments:

1. Just who is telling this person that the horses being "tripped" (as in having their legs roped while they're on a dead run so that they're literally flipped to the ground) are enjoying it? Hmmmm.... Let me guess. Could it be someone who regularly does the tripping? I mean, what better way to justify your guilty pleasure than by asserting that the poor animals are actually having a blast?

2. Next, how does one measure that the horses are "enjoying" being tripped? I can tell when my horse enjoys having its back scratched or when it enjoys being fed a bucket of carrots. But I'm not sure how one tells that a horse enjoys being flung to the ground.

3. Finally, this person says he's heard that the horses subjected to the tripping enjoy it because it's a "challenge to them." Would that be in the same way that a horse perceives evading a wolf or other predator as a challenge? Because struggling to outwit a predator and survive is indeed a challenge, but that does not automatically imply that it's enjoyable.

I guess you can tell I'm anti-horse tripping.

See? I told you I read all of your emails and comments! You can share your thoughts by clicking on "comments" below or emailing me at:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Wally Goes to the Dentist

Okay, so maybe the dentist came to Wally in the form of my vet, Jennifer and her able assistant, Mark. Wally got his teeth floated yesterday and, judging by his reaction, it apparently was not the Number 1 thing on Wally's wish list for Things To Do on a Monday. He was not happy with the whole idea, so he had to be tranquilized. But he desperately needed to have his teeth floated, so it became a case of, "We know you don't like this, but it's good for you, so let's get this over."

I've owned Wally less than a year, and I began to notice signs that his teeth needed attention.

Wally has an overbite, so that alone makes his teeth wear unevenly. But he also salivates a lot, so I figured he needed Jennifer to look at his teeth. They were in pretty sad shape: ulcers (Jennifer called them "erosions") lined the inside of his mouth and he had sharp edges and hooks on several teeth. It was apparent he hadn't had any dental work done in a while. While Jennifer said she could do a cursory job and take care of the erosions in his mouth, Wally will need a follow-up visit with an equine dentist later this spring. That person has the full assortment of dental equipment necessary for a patient like Wally.

Wally says he's in no big hurry to make that appointment.

While Wally was in la-la-land, Jennifer also cleaned his sheath. I know that non-horse people run in horror at the thought of cleaning a gelding's sheath. My husband heard what was about to take place and he sort of shivered, wrinkled his face and took refuge in the house. But just like his teeth, Wally's sheath needed attention. I'd tried in vain to do the deed myself, but I'd been unsuccessful. But with Wally sedated and Mark holding the stud chain, Jennifer went to work and got the job done.

I'll spare you any photos of Jennifer up to her elbows-- literally-- in her work.

Besides Wally getting some much needed veterinary attention, Lexi also got her foot inspected and x-rayed. The good news? It's a bruised heel. So much for my catastrophizing that it was something much more malicious. I should've known, because in reality Lexi is much, much better. That fits, because according to Jennifer the x-rays showed, "nothing remarkable." In fact, since Jennifer had done the pre-purchase exam on Lexi a year-and-a-half ago, she had the old films for comparison. These recent x-rays were virtually unchanged: no ringbone, no sidebone, no "galloping navicular" as I call it.

Color me greatly relieved!

So now I just have to spend MORE MONEY to put Lexi's front shoes back on. Because, as you know, it's a rule that horse owners are never permitted to accumulate any amount of wealth. Any excess funds will be immediately re-distributed to the four-legged beasts in some form, dental, sheath-cleaning or otherwise.

If you'd like to share a comment, just click "comments" below or email me at:

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm Baaaaaack!!!

I'm sure I'm like many of you in that I have this on-going love/hate relationship with computers, the Internet and technology. Suffice it to say that I wanted to post new entries on this blog, but I couldn't. And yet, I'd stare at the screen, see my blog, have things that I wanted to type and... it just wouldn't let me! You know, kind of like standing at the bottom of the trailer ramp with your horse. You want to go for a ride. Your tack is packed. You made yourself a little snack. You're supposed to link up with your friends on the trail. But your horse just stares at you as if to say, "Nah, I'm not feeling much like hopping up in there right now. Check back with me in a few minutes."

Or perhaps the horse could be saying, "I'll climb inside the trailer when you tell me the secret password!"

By now you understand the problems I was having. *sigh*

At any rate, here I am... finally... and I can update you on a few things. My farrier pulled off Lexi's shoe and discovered a small hoof wall separation that he feels could be the problem. So it was pared out and then packed with cotton soaked in this solution that can only be described as something used for pickling specimens in Dr. Frankenstein's laboratory. Then Lexi's foot was wrapped and bound up like a mummy. The vet-- who still stands by her previous diagnosis of a bruised heel-- will be out later today to re-inspect and take a few xrays. I must admit, Lexi is remarkably better this morning. Perhaps she overheard me telling my husband that if she cannot stand up to the amount of trail riding I want to do with her, I may have to find her a new home as a broodmare. I'm sure she fears that the carrot-to-hay ratio won't be quite as high in the broodmare profession as it is here.

The comments and emails I got were very nice and, in fact, funny! Many of you are so clever! When I mentioned how a support group for people with sore horses might be nice, I got several other suggestions for support groups. One was the Why Does Everyone Have a Horse But Me support group. Since I can still recall being horseless when I was (much) younger, I can sympathize with wanting a horse desperately. Then there was a plea for a gathering of the No One Else is a Horse Person group. Ah, now that can be a sticky situation, where you're passionate about horses and there isn't anyone in your family or close circle of friends that understands you. They all think you're stricken with some sort of undiagnosed mental illness.

You know, when I think of how much I fret and worry about my horses, and how much money I spend on their care and upkeep, perhaps they're right...

You can always leave comments on my blog by clicking on "comments" below. I enjoy reading them!

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Sore Horse Support Group

It has certainly helped me a lot to hear from readers who commiserate with Lexi being lame. The consensus seems to be that just as, "eventually, all horses go lame at some point," eventually the majority of horses become sound again. Misery does indeed love company, even in the horse world.

There's a certain amount of comfort that comes from hearing other horse people tell me, "Hey, I've been in your (horse) shoes myself."

That got me to thinking. There are all sorts of support groups out there, where people gather to share their tales, their struggles, and gain strength and insight from others who are facing the same challenges. I'm beginning to think that horse lovers could also form some support groups. First on the list? The Sore Horse Support Group. We could all sit in a circle, atop bales of hay, and trade stories about our lame beasties. Then again, there's always the virtual world... anyone in the Horse Talk Forums?

As for my lame beastie, Lexi was walking a little better today. But the bulb of her heel is exquisitely sore, so much so that she doesn't even want me to press on it. (Because, of course you know that I have to investigate her foot 19 times a day to see if anything looks different). Following my vet's advice, I slathered icthamol all over her heel in hopes that the tarry goo will draw an abscess to a head.

In the meantime, I have little to do but wait. Wait for my vet to come back on Friday to re-assess Lexi's foot and perhaps take x-rays. Wait for the farrier appointment on Saturday. Wait for my husband to say, finally, "Wow, horses are expensive! And man, how can such a big, strong animal be so fragile?"

Comments are always welcome! Just click on "comments" below.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Why do I Have to be Right?

Have I just experienced the power of a self-fulfilling prophecy? In my last post, where I moaned about being ill (I'm much better now), I wrote that:
"Eventually, we all get sick at some point. I have as much vested faith in that statement as my belief that, 'Eventually, all horses go lame at some point'."

So, guess what? My palomino mare, Lexi is lame.

Like many lamenesses, the cause of the unsoundness remains an unsolved mystery at this point. I've had my vet out. I've spoken with my farrier. I've whined to my sister and my best barn buddies. So far all we can come up with is a horsey version of the old board game, "Clue." But instead of comments being, "I think it's Colonel Mustard in the hallway with the shotgun," it's more like, "I think it's an abcess on her left front with a tiny piece of gravel up a hoof crack."

It probably is an abcess. The symptoms seem to fit: I rode her on back-to-back long trail rides last week, and she was totally sound. She was her usual Energizer Bunny self. The next day it was raining, but she spent an hour or so in the turnout paddock and looked fine. The next day I lunged her and noticed, "Hmmm... Is she a nickel's worth off on that left front... Or not?"

The next day, she did nothing but mosey around her paddock, but she was definitely a little worse. A day later she was L.A.M.E.

Now, keep in mind that when I bought Lexi, both her owner and her trainer told me repeatedly, "Lexi is a prissy princess when it comes to pain. She's a real drama queen."

Nonetheless, when I failed to locate any bump, scratch, heat or swelling anywhere that would indicate an acute injury, I called my vet. She poked and probed and used the hoof testers. Conclusion? An abcess that's forming somewhere near Lexi's heel.

Naturally, being a neurotic horsewoman (oh, you don't know anyone else like this, do you?), I immediately catastrophized. "But what if it isn't an abcess? What if it's _______________!" I filled in the blank with every doomsday diagnosis ranging from a fractured navicular bone to laminitis.

Fortunately, my vet is both calm and laconic. "I don't think that's the problem. However," she added (I hate those 'howevers'), "if Lexi isn't noticeably better in a week, I'll come back and take some radiographs. But let's not go there yet. I think it's an abcess."

I must admit, when I rode off on Wally today to go on a ride with one of my friends, Lexi trotted and cantered several strides in protestation of being left behind. That's definitely an improvement. And I think I can see a shiny, almost translucent area on the bulb of her heel that looks suspiciously like an abcess about to form. Right now I'm heading out to buy some icthamol in hopes that slathering on the black, smelly gunk will help draw the abcess to a head. Or it could be futile and I could just end up with the tarry substance stuck under my fingernails for a week.

I share this saga with you because I know that as horse lovers and horse owners it pains all of us to see our horses in pain. Like a horse "mom" I want to just hug Lexi and give her a smooch and make it all better. Instead, I fret and worry, even though I was fully aware that eventually, all horses go lame at some point.

Want to share a comment or a tale of lameness woe? Just click on "comments" below.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

So, Like, How Sick Are You?

Eventually, we all get sick at some point. I have as much vested faith in that statement as my belief that, "Eventually, all horses go lame at some point." But while a sore horse is allowed a few days off until it's sound again the horse's human caretaker (that would be me) doesn't get to enjoy such luxuries. I may be sick with what I can only imagine is the flu but darn if my horses don't continue to eat, poop and require some sort of exercise. That means that after Night Number 3 of coughing til dawn and wondering if my head would explode if I blew my nose one more time, I still had to stuff my feet in my boots, trudge outside and feed, muck and turn out my two horses.

I have to admit, once I do get moving, I feel a little bit better. Nothing unstuffs nasal passages like a brisk whiff of soiled horse bedding being forked into a wheelbarrow.

Then there's the sneeze trade-off: I sneeze and Wally obliges by wrinkling his muzzle and blowing horse boogies all over my parka.

When I'm not feeling well, I try to decide just how sick I am. The Illness Threat Level escalates depending on how much or how little I'm willing to do. It goes something like this:

Too Sick to Browse at Tack Store
Too Sick to Surf Internet Horse Sites
Too Sick to Buy Feed; Call for Delivery
Too Sick to Ride!!!!

If I'm too sick to ride then I've probably also contacted my doctor and am gulping antibiotics like my mare chomps down carrots.

To me, there's nothing much worse than being so ill that the mere idea of riding makes me groan. What's worse is being in a haze thanks to antihistamines or cold remedies. That's when it's unsafe to ride. It may even be unsafe to handle horses, depending on what sort of horse you have. For example, I'm not sure I can dodge Wally's playful antics if I've taken Benadryl. The horse and I seem to be existing on separate levels of the space-time continuum. Because of this altered state of existence, I believe that some medications need to come with warning labels for horse people. In addition to the ton of labels already plastered on prescription bottles and over-the-counter cold relief products, there should be one that reads: WARNING: Do not attempt to handle or ride horses while taking this medication.

Aren't horses as liable to cause us damage as working with heavy machinery? We get those labels all the time: WARNING: Do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication. Uh, I hate to tell the pharmaceutical companies this, but when I'm sick enough to be consuming medications, I'd much rather wield a gas-powered chain saw than attempt to blanket Wally in a thunderstorm.

Between sipping bowls of chicken soup and cups of hot apple cider I'd love to read your comments. Click on "comments" below or email me at:

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Praise for the Older Horse

Why do so many horse lovers shy away from buying an older horse? This is a photo of Mary, a non-descript bay mare we owned for years. We all rode her: me, my sister, our nieces, visiting friends and relatives, even my husband. My sister and I knew that Mary would babysit our mother,too, so we'd toss a western saddle onto Old Mary's back and our mom would climb aboard and ride Mary in our arena and on the trails. Mary was at least 15 when we bought her, and at least 20-s0mething when things in our family changed and Mary needed to go to a new home. She became a well-loved babysitter in a neighbor's family.

There are lots of older horses out there, just like Mary. Though they may sprout gray hair on their faces, and their teeth may grow long and yellowed, they are valued, reliable horses for beginning and novice riders. In fact, many an older horse-- providing it's still sound and spry-- makes an excellent mount for more experienced riders. The older horse is often blessed with a decade or more of training, making them a suitable team mate for a skilled rider.

Two of the best horses I ever competed were well into their 20's while I was winning hunter championships and hunt seat medal classes on them. They knew their job and they seemed to live for the atmosphere of the showgrounds.

I guess I'm bringing up the topic of older horses because it seems that more and more often I'm crossing paths with horse lovers who are in the market for their first horse-- or they're saving for their dream horse-- and it's usually a horse that's really, really young and really, really green. I'm talking even yearlings. Not that there's anything wrong with buying a baby and starting it yourself, but... It's undeniably a long, unsure process and you might not end up with the horse you thought you were going to have.

I just wish more riders would consider an older horse. These old souls have much to offer. And though they may sometimes be a little creaky in the joints, or exhibit other signs of age-related wear and tear, their character, charm and training often make up for the extra TLC they need.

If you have any comments about older horses, you can share them by clicking on "comments" below.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

My Take on Horse Tripping

Often I feel like I've gotten to an age where I've seen and heard just about everything to do with horses. Not much surprises me. But the so-called "sport" of horse tripping still does. I happen to live in an area of Southern California that's home to a lot of horses. And, like much of Southern California, there are quite a few people with ties to the Mexican community. Both of those statistics are all well and good, however, when they converge together what sometimes results is a clash of cultures. That's how I first discovered horse tripping. A couple of years ago there was a small, impromptu sort of Mexican rodeo-- and I use that term loosely-- held at a dusty regional park on the fringe of my county. What brought the event to my attention was that the sheriff busted the gathering for including horse tripping in its events. What stuck with me was a comment from one of the spectators that they didn't understand all the hoopla because the horses used in the tripping contests were on their way to the slaughterhouse, anyway.

Well, but fortunately horse tripping has been illegal in California for several years.

Phoenix, Arizona, is currently wrangling with the issue of horse tripping. You can read about one city official's attempt to ban it on Horse Channel by clicking here:

An Attempt to Put the Drop on Horse Tripping

If you're like me you probably cannot fathom what the heck motivates someone of any cultural or ethnic background to perceive horse tripping as a "sport," especially not one worthy of a human being in today's (allegedly) enlightened society. However, if you'd like to get some background on horse tripping, I suggest starting here:

A Look at Horse Tripping

It might not make you feel any better about what can happen in a Mexican charreada, but you'll be better informed.

Please feel free to add your comments about horse tripping to the Horse Channel article. Or you can comment here by clicking on "comments" below.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

My Comments on Your Comments

I enjoy reading feedback on my blog, which is one of the reasons I decided to make a change from writing a monthly column in Horse Illustrated. The Internet affords me a certain feeling of being connected to readers that I didn't have with a print magazine. Many of you have shared funny, emotional or downright scary tales in response to some of my blog topics. Here are just a few that have stuck with me:

When I wrote about my fall off of my mare, Lexi, just before Christmas, I received some sympathetic support from others who'd endured a face plant or worse. There was the tale of the gal who was riding her brave green pony around a cross country course. The second time through the water complex, the pony lost much of its bravado, shied, and sent her face first into the water. She was drenched. Of course, she had to be wearing a white shirt and an orange bra.

Several readers told how their horses had succeeded in scraping them off thanks to low-lying tree branches. Got to watch out for those trees! And there was the case of the rider whose horse took off in a bucking frenzy, figuring it was playtime, as it galloped off toward its four-legged friends. She, too, came off in a most unglamorous fashion.

As could be expected, I've gotten lots of comments every time I rant about our weather. Honestly, it makes me feel a little guilty about wintertime in Southern California when readers tell me what they're enduring. I may have horrendous wind, but at least I'm not like a reader in Minnesota, who considers it to be "warm" when she can ride in only 3 layers of winter clothing. And when I described my dilemma of worrying about what to do with my horses while the wind was howling like a freight train, another horse owner offered that she had fantasized about building a basement specifically for her horses. You know, just for inclement weather. She shouldn't feel silly about that idea. On one particularly windy night I almost brought my horses into the garage!

But the most impassioned responses that I received were inspired by the blog I wrote about the group of young riders I teach. I explained that I often feel conflicted and discouraged about the sport of competitive riding: that to really accomplish much in the show ring costs a small fortune, and it's simply out of the reach of most families. I encouraged riders who are nonetheless determined to compete to find a level of showing that they can afford, and to be the best they and their horse can be in that arena. That sentiment struck a chord with many readers, all of whom loved their horses, enjoyed pursuing the art of horsemanship, but had to struggle to find the time and the money to compete.

On a slightly different topic, one adult rider who earns extra money giving beginner lessons to local riders described her predicament. The only way she can afford to compete is to supplement her "horse fund" with the money she earns giving these entry-level lessons. But doing that strips her of her amateur status, forcing her to compete against professionals. "I don't want to break the rules," she said in an email, "but it doesn't seem fair that my dinky lessons suddenly put me and my cheapy backyard horse in the same division as full-time professional trainers who are riding their clients' imported, six-figure horses. Maybe you should write about that in your blog."

Maybe I will someday.

In the meantime, if you'd ever like to share a comment or respond to a topic you can always click on the word "comments" below or email me at: I try to respond to every comment or email that I receive... providing the winter weather or my horses haven't driven me temporarily insane.