Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Last night was my last night at the barn, and stupid Sandy ruined it.

There was no power, hence no lessons, hence hardly anyone around. I saw and said goodbye to a few people, but am missing many more. I had to pack all Tristan's things in the dark, consolidating everything and making sure his foot wrapping supplies were handy, packing all my saddle pads away. I wanted both to keep clutter out of the barn aisle in my absence (not that I am ever messy, but sometimes things fell off my trunk, and I wanted to avoid that) and to make sure that everything was snug and secure so that when I return to pick him up, I'll just be able to hitch and go with a minimum of fuss.

It took about an hour and a half, all told; it would've been less if I hadn't had to keep picking up and putting down a flashlight to check on zippers and comb the floor for anything I might've dropped. It was also pouring rain, such that it made every trip from trailer to barn to car a misery. Figures. I battened down the trailer, closing all the windows tight, making sure nothing was leaking and everything was packed in a tupperware or trunk.

Finally, I put my flashlight in my pocket, grabbed a brush, and groomed Tristan in the pitch dark. I'm not sure I could have done that with just any horse, but I kept one hand on him and one hand on the brush, and talked or sang softly to let him know I was still there. I ran my hands over every bit of him, the swoop of his withers, the scar on his left hind, the bit where his mane falls on both sides of his neck. He paused eating his hay every so often and stood quietly and tucked his head in toward me, letting me trace his blaze and kiss the softness of his nose and fuss with his ears the way I used to when I was teaching him not to be head shy.

Then I gave him some peppermints in his feed pan, and latched the door, and sobbed for the first 15 minutes of my drive home, great big wracking sobs that hurt my throat and that I just couldn't stop. Leaving good places is never easy, no matter how good the next step will be.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


I realized recently that I have good progressive photos of Tristan's feet throughout this whole debacle. Things at least are continuing well - no sign of re-infection, he's comfortable and happy, and the foot is clearly growing out just fine, with no weakness or scarring in the new hoof from the coronet band. It still looks awful, but it's more cosmetic than anything else.

He'll get a vet check before we move to Vermont, and I'm on the fence about getting more rads done at that time. We'll see. The good news is there are excellent farriers at the barn in Vermont, so we'll continue to get great care going forward.

Without further ado, here are the pictures.

8/16/12: Abscess bursts. Note the crack at the toe.
9/13/12: Second abscess holes below the first, which was dug out. Crack still at the toe.
10/18/12: Growing down quite nicely - new growth from the coronet band, toe crack almost gone.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Vermont or bust!

So I can finally announce my exciting news: Tristan and I are moving back to Vermont!

I've been saying for years now that my life goal is to move back to Vermont and buy a horse farm, and now I have half of that goal accomplished. I've accepted a new job with a history organization up there, and my last day in the Boston area will be November 2.

I'll be going up next weekend to find a barn for Tris, but our tentative plan is to put him out to pasture for the winter, let the foot grow out, and then re-condition with lots and lots of trail riding in time to get back in action for the spring.

The good news for me is that board will be significantly less expensive in Vermont, so I may finally be able to start to rebuild the finances that have been wrecked by this summer's vet bills!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All the Wild Horses

This article from Pro Publica is one of the most depressing things I've read in a long time. It exposes precisely what wild horse advocates have been saying for years: the current round up system is overloaded and broken, and thousands of wild horses are simply being taken from the wild with no clear end goal in sight.

It's bad enough that there are now more mustangs in holding pens than in the wild, but this article offers incotrovertible proof that the BLM is turning a deliberate blind eye to at least one man who is buying horses wholesale and selling them to slaughter.

Here's the thing: I have no fundamental problem with horse slaughter as a concept. They are livestock animals that are difficult and expensive to keep, and ending their lives in a quick manner is far kinder than letting them waste away in pain for years. However, the way slaughter is often done - shipping on overcrowded trailers, using the captive bolt system which has been proven inhumane for horses - is not okay.

What's even worse, however, is the logic of the current wildlife management system the BLM is pursuing. Think about it: does the federal government round up deer and put them in holding pens? Is a sensible wildlife management policy one that simply rounds up wild animals and holds them en masse? The argument is that they'd die in the wild; well, yes, they would. That's what happens to wild animals, sometimes horribly. It's life. It makes me sad, but it's a reality that the BLM would be better to go along with rather than thwart.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

In which I provide pictures, finally

Nothing really new on the Tristan front. Flushing and wrapping. He is sound as a bell to the left, even on a tight circle, but still a smidge off to the right at the trot and canter. It looks clearly like a concussion sting, as the farrier and the vet both predicted, from the foot just moving a bit. He looks fine at the walk and is obviously comfortable enough to bear full weight and go for turnout. I could probably walk him on the trails without consequence but I have discovered over the last few weeks just how fragile feet can be, so I am erring on the side of caution and giving him time to grow and get more stable before I stress things.

In the meantime: the vet emailed me the rads of Tristan's feet, hooray!

First, from June 7: clean foot for comparison.
And now, with holes. You can see the top hole, and the bottom hole, and the track all the way down to the sole.
And the top-down view of the hole, showing its width as well. Eek.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lesson Notes: Sea Changes

So I finally sucked it up and put in a request to ride a school horse in my lessons going forward. I was worried and maybe a bit scared - I haven't ridden any horse but my own (other than to hack out at the walk!) - in years. Close to three years, I think. I can't actually remember the last time I did. I can make a decent guess, but that's it.

That's not exactly the way to get good as a rider, and certainly even five years ago I got on other horses with regularity, but my role has never been the get-on-and-ride-anything type of rider. I want to do well by the horse I have, and form a partnership with him, and I'm happy with him.

But I digress. I got to the barn and flushed Tris's foot and rewrapped it; all is proceeding as planned, and he behaved well. Then I checked in with T. and got a little Appaloosa lesson horse named Charlie.

I had a ridiculous amount of fun. There were a few moments when I felt guilty, actually, I was having so much fun. I had...maybe not forgotten, but I had been so out of touch with the idea that a properly trained horse, who has the buttons installed, who has a willingness and a base of athleticism, is magic.

First things first: Charlie, though he looks a bit on the stocky side, is surprisingly narrow to sit on, especially for someone with longer legs. The effect of this was to seriously unbalance my seat for the first 20 minutes or so as I tried to figure out the geometry of it all, which pleased T. to no end as one of my bigger flaws is my tendency to let my leg swing. Tris has such a large barrel that it took up leg even when I didn't have it right where it needed to be. Take away that barrel and I was floundering.

Then he got on me and worked hard on me for about 10 minutes on a circle and about halfway through it clicked: oh yeah. I can do this after all. And then I was deep in the saddle and keeping my leg on and connecting to the bit through my core. Not all at once, and T. nagged me for another 10 minutes or so when I started slipping, but by the end of the lesson - as he told me afterward - I was snapping back on my own.

I hadn't ridden a horse on the bit in the canter in years. Which is depressing as hell to admit out loud, but I didn't even realize it until after I'd gotten Charlie warmed up, and I asked for a canter, and all of a sudden he was soft in the mouth and I could half-halt and hey, there were his hind legs, and I could adjust the canter, and it was awesome. Sigh.

I admit to feeling a bit smug, maybe? I have watched this horse in lessons for years and years, and I had formed the idea that he would feel a lot like Tristan. I couldn't have been much more wrong. He put up only token resistance to the ideas of bending and going round, and then tried to cross his jaw - which T. said was, for him, a sign of the next level of resistance, but once I learned the feel it was easy enough to wiggle him out of - but when I put leg on properly, he was there, and when I stabilized with the outside rein, he went into it. We were looking and feeling terrific by the end of it, and he looked in the mirrors as good as I've ever seen anyone ride him, and I felt awesome and then I realized I was feeling superior to 10 year old lesson kids and adult re-riders so I should get the hell over myself already. But it was still a nice boost in confidence.