Monday, January 31, 2011

Best mustang ever

Every other weekend, a group of 4H kids comes to ride in our arena. They bring 6-8 horses and ride as a group for a few hours. When this first happened, Sage was quite put out by the number of people and all of the activity. Now, the girls get really excited and Sage and Brandy spend a lot of time with their heads hanging over the arena wall trying to see what's going on--and likely figuring out a way to cause trouble! I am very much enjoying seeing her interact with new people, which is really the point of this post.

My friend Dee Dee from class (who has met Sage several times now) came over and we spent some time brushing the girls. Now, Sage has lost almost all of her fear of being approached and handled by new people. We brushed her all over--she's starting to shed out like crazy--and then moved on to her feet. Though she was a tiny bit touchy with her back feet, she let Dee Dee pick up and clean out all of them. It may not sound like a big deal, but to me it's pretty cool.

Now if only this little baby mustang would pop out healthy and happy. I don't like the uncertainty of all this...but alas, there's no way to know anything more. We'll just have to wait and see!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Change of scenery

Okay, not really scenery, but little miss Sage did get to do a little bit of work tonight in her English saddle!

So yes, it really IS possible to ride a moose English!

I didn't actually ride, just did a little bit of roundpen work. It's been a long week and I'm exhausted. But, I still want her to remember what her job with the saddle is all about, so we went to work.

As we were coming out of the aisle, she caught the saddle on the panel and it scared her, so we worked on that for a bit before getting down to some trotting in the arena, neck reining, flexing, and other regular ground work. She was very well behaved. I practiced what it would be like if I were about to jump into the saddle from the ground, and she wasn't phased.

She did get a little bit sweaty, which isn't too hard to do considering it's pretty warm out (45 degrees or so) and she's got a winter coat fit for Yellowknife (though it's starting to shed):

Sage would like to tell all of her blog readers that she's cute and that she's absolutely tortured:

To get all the kinks out, she had a good roll. Then she got tied to the "post of knowledge" for about 15 minutes while I cleaned stalls. They get concentrates twice a day, and I don't want her thinking that she can get done with her work and go straight to eating in her stall.

I have to share the pictures of her rolling because they are extremely adorable:

Also, for those interested, this is what Sage's daily menu currently consists of:

~30 lbs orchardgrass hay
5 lbs Safe Choice (Nutrena)
1 lb alfalfa pellets
1/2 lb beet pulp

As you can see, that baby mustang takes a lot of fuel!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Foggy days

Since it's foggy and dark outside, and I haven't done anything but study this week, I thought I'd share some more photos from this weekend, when the sun decided to grace us with its presence! (Not very common around these parts in the winter!)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Even more...

Lots of blog updates this weekend, mostly because the weekends are when I have time. :)

Today was not quite as nice a day as yesterday, but Brandy and Sage had a grand, sweaty time running up the gravel path in their pasture to the other barn, into the arena, around the roundpen, and back up to the other barn. (Because Sage living with Gabby didn't work out so well, the two bay troublemakers were back together after a day). She definitely can still run with that belly, though afterwards looked a bit uncomfortable for a few minutes--I imagine that baby got to kicking!

She also got her EHV vaccine before dinner tonight, and she was a very good girl. Same technique as the wormer, and it was done in a few minutes with no stress. I'm so proud of my little girl. She continues to amaze me. I was watching her canter, and even though she's a bit of a moose, she's so effortless and graceful. I can't wait to ride that lovely canter! Someday, after the baby and after we've done a lot more work...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sage turns 3

I forgot to mention the other night that I checked on the progress of Sage's little incisors. They are currently in wear (all the way erupted), making Sage three years old.

It's hard to be believe that she could have been born so early in the season (I'm guessing roughly February), but then again, I don't know what the season was like that year or when mares in her herd normally foal. I've seen mustangs born in November, so stranger things have happened, I guess.

The reason why I'm paying so much attention to this is because I want to try to guess as to when she was mature enough to first have been bred. Obviously, we know that June is the last possible month she could foal because of when she was rounded up. But it would be nice to know what the earliest month is. It's difficult because she's a maiden, and because of this, she may not look "as pregnant" as mares who've foaled before. But at the moment, everything's just a guess.

With my luck, she'll foal during finals week. "Sorry Dr. Schlipf, but I can't make it to the large animal neonatology final because my mare is foaling..." Talk about real life studying!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Things are heating up!

Well, not literally...

I just mean at school. Exam season is starting again, and I've had enough already. But instead of studying, I took some time to work with Sage tonight. So I saddled her up. Neither of us seemed up for a ride, but that was okay, because we needed to work on the ground a lot more. After all, the horse you ride is the horse you lead, so things should be good on the ground.

One thing I really wanted to work on was teaching her to neck rein from the ground. We've done this several times, but I really wanted to to be second nature, so we did quite a bit of that. We also worked on moving off "leg" (hand) pressure at the girth, backing, and bending her neck. All of these things she is quite good at, but a little stiff to the right. So practice was good.

I begrudgingly got her to trot a bit around the roundpen, but this was a lot of work for me (kicking at the dirt, snapping the lunge whip, ANYTHING to get her motivated). Still, she was better than she usually is, and I don't blame her for not wanting to move out with a big baby in her belly. (Although, yesterday she was content to run around the arena with Brandy all on her own--which is something she doesn't usually do. I know they are feeling excited because it's been so wet lately and they've mostly in been standing in the barn. So there has to be energy in there somewhere, right??

Afterwards I tied her up to one of the arena posts, and she stood tied for 25 minutes or so while I cleaned stalls. She was excellent--despite me looking away twice only to find her untied when I turned back around. She was quite the patient girl, and I can tell she gets the concept. We'll work on this more. Usually I don't need to tie her for anything at home, but of course she has to learn if we're going to go places.

In other news, I was able to find some beautiful, locally grown orchardgrass hay--it's still expensive when you have to have it delivered, but it's really nice looking and they love it. It's nice not to have to worry about hay anymore!

Here's a picture of the girls from an afternoon outside yesterday:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thank goodness for long weekends :)

Rode Sage today in the roundpen. She was much better about moving forward off my leg--at first, at least. Then she got lazy and decided to just stand there. But I was persistent, and eventually she got going again. Also, we've been going to the left for the most part, because that's just how we start out, and today I tried to turn (unsuccessfully) back around to the right. This is something we have to work on. I was satisfied with just getting her going a bit. After working inside, Patrick and I led her on a walk up the road (a couple of miles total, much farther than she's ever gone). Despite a rash of heavy laziness at the beginning where she hung back at the end of the rope, she picked up the pace eventually and had a good walk. Here are some photos Patrick took of us:

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Busy day, but yesterday I forgot to mention that I found a large ascarid worm (dead)in a pile of manure--needless to say, this likely came from Sage. I'm sure the BLM corrals are teeming with ascarid eggs, not because it's a horrible place, but just because anywhere you have a lot of young horses together like that is going to be. I have been watching carefully and have not seen any yet until yesterday (and believe me, I see a LOT of poop every day), nor have I seen any more.

Well, she got de-wormed. She wasn't incredibly thrilled, but she let me do it without a fuss. Usually what I do when I deworm or vaccinate is get everyone in their stalls with their halters on, get their grain ready, set it outside the door, quickly do the deed, and immediately give them their grain. Of course they figure this out, and it really improves their behavior. I will use the same technique when I give her the EHV vaccine in a few days.

Sage also learned to stand tied in the aisleway all by herself tonight while I cleaned her stall. I usually keep the rope around the post loose while I groom her. I have never "taught" her to tie. I don't think you really teach a horse to teach them what they're supposed to do when they feel pressure on the rope, and then you wait for them to put it together when you're sure they will do the right thing. It's like vet school, kind of. They don't teach us everything, but they give us the tools to figure things out in new situations using what we already know.

Anyway, more updates soon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It takes a village to raise a mustang

To start off the day with some pretty exciting news, Sage was featured on the BLM facebook page today! I am so grateful for all the wonderful comments from people and the support of everyone who loves mustangs. Here's a link:

I was definitely surprised to see it appear, and it made my day!

Even though we have a midterm tomorrow in small animal emergency medicine, I got home early enough today to really seriously consider riding. Of course it's a blustery mess outside, but I have been itching to do more work in the round pen. I started by saddling her and moving her around like I did before (had to use the feed bag to get her moving, but she really understands the idea now and continues to get better). After a few circuits of trotting, we worked in hand on the old stuff. I feel like there's never a time when it's bad to work on "simple" things that you already know. It helps to make those things an easy response when you are in the saddle and things are just a little more nervous in general.

Of course it is always a little terrifying to step into the saddle, especially after our little gallop last time. This time we were in the roundpen, but no one was around to help me (I told my dad to check out the window of the house every so often to make sure we were okay). And it's not like she couldn't do some damage in the roundpen!

She was great for me getting on, standing still unlike the last time. She was also a dream to ride. And by dream, I mean super green and we maybe got in a few circuits of walking, but it was nothing short of amazing. It's nice to feel a horse underneath you that just feels so right. She got the hang of "leg squeezes means go forward" without anyone there to lead her around. It took her a few minutes, but she definitely got it. She even got "whoa" quite well, and remained quite relaxed. The only spot where I thought we might have some trouble was dismounting. She tensed up as I leaned forward and shifted my weight. Finally, I swung my leg back over, but she walked away as I was standing in one stirrup. I hung on, and I thought she would try to get away. But she responded to my whoa, and when I got off, I think she figured out that I have to kind of move funny in order to get off her back. I think I've always had someone hold her while I dismount, so it was all a new experience!

Here's a picture of her in the roundpen trying to make me feel sorry for her:

And the part about it taking a village to raise a mustang? Well, it's certainly true. Let's just say that theriogenology (reproduction) is not my best subject when it comes to medicine. Today I chatted with my therio professor about vaccines, fetal movement, feed, and was a little bit of a nervous mother asking about things going wrong with young mares. He was very positive. He agreed that in a horse with a frame like hers, seeing fetal movement is most likely starting at seven and a half to eight months. We also discussed fescue toxicity, which is an issue around here where there is a lot of fescue in local grass hay. He said that even though traditional recommendations are to switch off of fescue a month before the birth, he likes to switch them about 3 months beforehand. (This is to prevent low birth weight, prolonged gestation, and agalactia--lack of milk production.)

So that means my bank account will be crying as I switch her to orchard grass hay from eastern Oregon right now. It also means that I had to switch out Brandy and Gabby (because Brandy would vacuum that stuff up like nobody's business). Now Gabby and Sage are together, which makes more sense from a feeding standpoint but is a pairing that I like less--as well, I dislike having a big horse like Brandy in with my little Luna, who can't get away as quickly due to her hind leg problems. However, after a little scuffle it will all work out. There will be lots of rotation over the next few months and as her due date approaches!

Monday, January 10, 2011

So what's next?

Yes, what's next? Well, our neighbors were kind enough to lend us a roundpen, which we set up in the arena. I am so grateful because this is going to make my life a lot easier and safer.

And I guess the answer to the above is that I'm going to continue training Sage until she gets really pregnant. It's hard not knowing what month she was bred, but at the same time, our training schedule is not what you would call rigorous. So, I'm going to keep riding her. This will be (at most) once a week, and (at most) just walk-trot. We're also going to keep working on trailering, just in case we need to take her or the foal to the vet, and I've been having lots of people come meet her and pet her belly. She's been very good.

Today I got to use the roundpen for the first time, which was pretty exciting. I tended to shy away from roundpens because my image was always of some trainer running a horse into the ground--but I can fully appreciate the utility of one. I still say that a lot of people use them wrong, but I have been trying to teach her to move away and have free forward motion while listening to me, which is pretty much impossible on a lunge line or in a large arena.

In the pen today, I tried using just the lunge whip at first, but I couldn't get her to trot. She is lazy and not afraid of anything! She'll move off at a walk and listen, but she won't go any faster. Finally I tied a feed bag on the end of the whip and we got the message across. Not that she's afraid of the feed bag, either...actually, she tried to take it on with a snort...but the crinkling does get her a little more excited. After a few minutes of trotting, whoa, and turning around on cue, she knew what I wanted and I was able to just use the lunge whip. It's so exciting to see her trotting. She rarely moves quickly, and when she does it's just galloping across the pasture. I can't wait to get on her back again! Unfortunately, school likes to have other midterms! So I hope the next ride is going to be Wednesday or Friday, but it's hard to say right now.

Sage also got her feet done tonight. As usual she's a bit nervous with my farrier, but he likes to scratch their bellies and udders and none of my horses really like that. He just laughs about it, and it IS really good for her. She was obviously a little bit annoyed, but you could tell she was trying not to enjoy it. And she never offered to do anything bad. He even wiggled her belly up and down to get the foal to move, which it definitely did. It's certainly an active little bugger. There's a mustang in there, that's for sure!!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's official!!!

We're having a foal!!!

Sage's estrone sulfate levels came back today and were quite high--2400 ng/ml. Over 6 is supposed to indicate pregnancy. Well, she's definitely pregnant!

It's hard to say how I feel about this. I mean, of course it's exciting. How could it not be? But it will definitely be challenging. I think we're ready for that, though. I actually feel a little bit lucky to be in this situation, because I would never/will never breed any of my mares on purpose. I feel like there are so many horses out there that I could always adopt one. Still, it's going to be nice to experience this: my very own baby!

I've been careful to treat her like she's pregnant so she's been getting enough food. She's definitely going to be vaccinated, and we may try to ultrasound her. If she isn't tractable to this idea, then I'm just going to hope that there aren't twins. Twins are highly unlikely, anyway. It would be nice to know how far along she is, but here's what we do know for sure: she is at the very very least 6 months along. I suspect she is more like 8. Of course I'm around them every day, so I will constantly be checking up on her. I'm hoping it will be obvious when she is nearer to term, but being a maiden mare it may not be. I have not felt the foal kicking nearly as strongly as the other night, but I am lucky enough to catch a few kicks here and there. I know some people never feel their foal from the outside.

Thankfully, we are covering equine neonatology in school this term. What good timing!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

16 and Pregnant much?

I'm pretty sure I felt a foal kicking from inside Sage's belly last night. The feeling was amazingly distinct. Patrick is in denial--he says, "That's just a tapeworm, honey." Estrone sulfate is still not in, but...I think we're having a baby!!!

(P.S., Most people say you can start to feel the foal on the outside of the mare at about 8 months or later, but it varies by mare)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunny walks!

It was quite cold but amazingly beautiful and sunny today, and Sage (and Laura, and my dad) and I had an excellent trail walk. We did a great little mile or so loop, and she was perfect. We even met the garbage truck twice on the road, and all she did was snort at at like, "Well, THAT was a rude vehicle!" She has her moments, but she definitely is the kind of horse that weighs nothing in your hand, which I love. I'm not yanking on her and she's not yanking on me. It' awesome and I love it!

And while I ran some errands this afternoon, the girls got to enjoy the pasture (probably for the last time for at least a few days). They are always allowed outside, but the grass is limited to the summer and dry, sunny winter days--which are not that common here in western Oregon.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Time to set up the round pen again!

This week I didn't ride because I wanted someone to be there, and today Patrick and Laura were around so I had some excellent help for our third ride. And a good thing, because it was a wild one!

No, she didn't buck, but we did have a good little gallop--unintentional, of course! But it's been crisp and cold and I could tell that she was somewhat wired when we were feeding this morning (though it's hard to tell, because she's so rock solid on the ground).

I did a little bit of ground work with her before getting on, and because she's so good on the ground, it's hard to pick on anything. So, while Patrick was preparing to take pictures, I hopped into the saddle. About halfway up, she started to get antsy, so I swung aboard.

She was definitely dancing around, but she was listening reasonably well to flexing her head side to side. What she really wanted was for Patrick to save her, so she kept following him and would get nervous and start to circle toward him. Since our steering is still a little poor in the saddle, I was just trying to keep her from running to him.

The problem is that the arena is too large of a space to work in; however, I don't have any panels that I'm not using for something else (especially because she broke the gate). Though I'll have to figure something out, because at one point she decided she'd rather go be with the other horses if she couldn't be with Patrick--and off she went, galloping across the arena towards the far wall by the pasture. For a few breakneck moments, I thought we might try to clear the wall. But she stopped in the corner, which was both good and bad. I wanted to get off and work with her on the ground, but I also didn't want to reward her by getting off over by the other horses, and I didn't want another repeat gallop.

So I had Patrick come help me, because as long as she thinks she's on the lead rope, she's the most responsive horse ever. He led us over to the other side of the arena, and I got off and chased her around a bit. The goal: to move her without letting her push me around and go towards the corner. She was insistent and pushy, but I think I finally got the message across. She's such a sweetheart on the ground that it's hard to find something to work on.

Since our brakes are obviously something we need to work on, and since I've been working on "whoa" on the ground as much as possible, I had Patrick hold onto her and worked on bending her head/neck left and right (for the "one-rein" stop) and backing. Then I had him walk forward to teach her how to move forward to my leg squeeze (which she picked up quite well) and to stop in response to the rein pressure (which we may still have to work on a bit).

Overall, at the end I felt quite comfortable on her. What makes me happy is that despite not listening, she COULD have dumped me quite easily and didn't. What I just need is my round-pen back so I can just ride her in circles and stop and go. Once she knows how to listen to me, she will. Though there were definitely a few scary moments today, it's making me a more confident rider. Yes, she may freak out, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm doing to fall off. And now she's definitely used to me bouncing around in the saddle.

After I rode, Laura rode Brandy around the arena a bit and we made Sage stick with us to think about what she'd learned. She was a good girl and so patient, enjoying hanging out in the sun. On the ground, she's not herd bound at all, which I really like. I just need to make her just as confident with me in the saddle as on the ground. So, we were really quite successful in the end, and this was a great way to start the New Year!

Patrick is amazing and took some awesome pictures of us, while trying to save me at the same time:

Getting ready to get on -

This was where we started--

Then after a gallop this is where we ended up--

Learning to whoa--

Me saying that yeah, I think I'll be fine--

Learning to go and not be so pushy--

Much better!--

All smiles while watching Laura ride Brandy--

Laura walking Brandy around the arena--

Gotta itch: isn't she cute?--

Mustang dragon--it was cold outside!--