If You’re Happy and You Know it Clop Your Hooves

Hudson developed a slight problem.

His right knee got a bit bigger, with  arthritic changes normal for an older horse. His soundness level didn’t change.

I’m seriously over qualified for two careers:

  1. Master Obsesser
  2. Professional Annoyer

If I had either of these careers, we’d all be boarding at Jane’s Fabulous Barn of Many Horse Wonders, for $50 a month. Because I could afford the tax write off, and I would love to see you all every day.

Hudson tried to launch my new careers.  He banged the arthritic knee on the one lonely 6′ section of pipe fencing, while messing around with his pasture mate.

No heat, no swelling, not lame.  Slightly bruised.  Fine to the touch in three days. The bump on the knee began to grow, in a “Hey. Is that bigger today? Nah.” sort of way. He’s still sound.

Exhibit A: The problem knee.  Attached to the problem leg he likes to stick through fences.  Because the dirt on the other side is softer.

Weird, huh. He looks like his normal, big-boned self.

Hudson yesterday: poised to swan dive into his Happy Meal.
Hudson yesterday: poised to swan dive into his Happy Meal.

Then his knee went all Pinocchio on me.

Problem? What problem?
Jane’s successful career launch.

How can he be SOUND?!?

Two things happened:

  1. I couldn’t handle the stress I was creating.  I was annoying myself.
  2. Hudson’s chiropractor, a competitive roper and fantastic chiro, sighed compassionately at my anxiety, picked up Hudson’s leg and bent that knee to full flexion. Hudson didn’t blink. It didn’t hurt.

The joint is that mobile?? I instantly saw the possibility of an obsessionless future.  One in which I wouldn’t be afraid to hand walk, ride, pony or touch Hudson.

I called our vet, Jamie Kerr, and made an appointment for lameness exam and possible x-rays. (If you’re going to do it, use the best, right?) Jamie spent most of his life preparing and riding in the Tevis, or vetting the Tevis. He’s seen every possible lameness on the planet.  Hopefully even non-lame lameness.

I worried (surprise!) that it would be a little tricky to explain why I wanted a lameness exam on a sound horse.  Meghan, the clinic’s office manager, was also wonderfully compassionate.

Oh good.  They’re familiar with nut cases.

If it looks like an arthritic calcium deposit, walks like an arthritic calcium deposit, and creaks like an arthritic calcium deposit, it should BE an arthritic calcium deposit, even if we don’t want one, right?

This is the good part of finding oneself in the middle of Chaos Theory.

It didn’t walk or creak properly. He DID have Pinocchio Knee.

Copyright: Disney
Copyright: Disney

Jimminey Cricket. The knee was lying.

Jamie has to be the kindest vet in existence. Before the physical exam, he asked me Hudson’s age and history, explained it looked like an injury common in older race horses, cow horses, and over-used brood mares. I think he expected what we all expected: calcification of an arthritic joint.

After the physical exam, it seemed to me that Jamie was cautiously excited.  He had me press my finger on the point. I’d been afraid to press it hard. Hudson had no pain reaction, and my finger went in about half an inch.


Bone doesn’t give.

Jamie x-rayed.  I don’t think either of us could believe the image that came up on the laptop. A nearly perfect knee-joint, with tons of fluid padding between the bones, and only very minor arthritic changes that Jamie had to point out to me.

No flashing arrow that said “Your Horse Has Arthritis, Stupid”.

The Pinocchio Protrusion didn’t show up on any of the x-rays.

It’s chronic soft tissue inflammation.  With no heat.

My older horse, who spent all his life in hard work, has the joints of a nine-year-old.

Jamie said, “How old did you say he was, again?”

Hudson is going to be 24 in seventeen days.

I had to break the bad news to Hudson: “Jamie says no more galloping, no fast starts or stops, and no dressage circles. Nothing with sharp turns. You get to do trail rides, walk, trot and lope. But only in big arcs or straight aways”

I think all he heard was “no circles”, as he raced off into his paddock, bucking and joyful.

Running Water, Chaos Theory, and Sparrows!

There are two ways to look at this:

  1. I’ve been riding Ginger for Laurie.
  2. Laurie has graciously indulged me by allowing me to ride Ginger.

I think the photo below shows that #2 is the correct pick. They’re beautiful together:

Copyright: Centerline Photography
Copyright: Centerline Photography

Ginger is an orange ball of fire: opinionated, believes “forward” is an understatement, and is…impatient…with the idea of anything approaching what she would call ‘sedate’. Anything less than Mach 10 is sedate to Ginger.  Slowing down takes far too much time and energy. She’s also a total glamor girl. Think Lucy before her comedic talent was discovered.

Lucille Ball famously said: "I'm not funny.  I'm brave." I think Ginger would say the same thing.
Lucille Ball famously said: “I’m not funny. I’m brave.” I think Ginger would say the same thing.

She’s also a mare’s mare. She reminds me what it feels like to be a hormonal teenager: out-of-sorts and crampy, making a benign issue a problem because we girls just feel like THERE IS A PROBLEM. THAT THING I JUST SPOTTED MUST BE IT. FIX IT, dang it.

I so get this.

During a recent ride, Ginger decided the wash rack that butts up to the arena was The Problem. There was a hose.  Water was coming out of it.  WATER. Do I understand what she’s saying?!?  WATER at one o’clock!

This is a horse that loves her baths.

We went backward, forward, skittered sideways, bounced up and down, and in general showed our displeasure at having to pass near running water at a speed below Mach 90.  I identify. When hormones are involved, I do NOT back down once I’ve staked out an issue, true or not.

Fairly soon, we’re standing quietly opposite the wash rack, while the water is running, talking to a friend. (We know it’s still going to kill us, but we’re very brave.) We try to focus on the conversation.  Sparrows are flitting in and out of the arena, picking up hair for their nests.  All the horses are shedding.

A bit later, we quietly go to work, and it’s awesome. We are cantering nicely in our least favorite direction when it happens.

Two sparrows come tumbling over each other into the arena, straight at us.  I don’t know if they’re fighting, or it’s spring baby making time.  I feel a wing hit Ginger’s belly. Birds whapping near one’s privates are definitely an allowable meltdown issue.  Ginger pays no attention to the birds. Not even a blip on her radar. We keep cantering.

This is where Chaos Theory comes in.

A plot of the Lorenz attractor for values r = 28, σ = 10, b = 8/3.
Whatever. It’s a butterfly! If they flap their wings in Australia, we WILL have a tsunami in California. Who knew?

The birds should have tumbled out, right?

No. Because we hit a Chaos loop.  Running water scared us, therefore the universe hurled us squalling feathers. Her hooves gathering upward in the canter pushed the rolling ball of birds up and in between her front legs.  I feel them tumbling and richocheting between her legs, their little heads whapping like ping-pong balls.  I feel a wing hit a stirrup, feel the Ball ‘O Birds being gathered back up and into the churning cycle of her front legs. They tumble and flap and toss.

I gauge Ginger, wondering if she is going to go all “Today is a good day to die” on me.

Calm cantering.

Except for the sparrows bouncing and rolling and flapping between her front legs, just another day in paradise.

If I stop her, it’s likely the birds will crash to the ground and get pulverized in the process.  If I don’t, she might notice at some point BIRDS are pinging around between her front legs. My slow thought process takes a couple more canter strides to come up with a solution.  (Hey. How often do birds get caught in our horse’s legs?! It’s not like I’ve had to practice this!)

Down into the trot. Hopefully, that will give the birds time to get out sideways. We trot, the birds shoot out of the spin cycle (they’re fine), and Ginger politely asks to canter again.

As if a downward transition to release frantic, trapped sparrows was a normal part of any workout.

And she thought the hose was the problem?

Note to self: next time I decide THAT THING OVER THERE is the problem, check for sparrows.

Would You Like Some Fries with That?

My entrance into helping at the training barn caused a disturbance in the force.

The former helper was male. The training barn is heavily weighted to mares at the moment. Apparently, they looked forward to their cabana boy.

They were not exactly unhappy with me. Ears swiveled at each other: “It’s not cabana boy! Is this good or bad?”

The geldings response was instant and welcoming: Awesome. Dude, look! It’s a chick! One youngster was oddly gleeful: “Mommy!! Where have you been?!?”  Um. Right here, I guess?

The mares decided to hold a sorority meeting after the barn was closed up for the night.

Girls in a herd are much trickier to navigate than boys.  Ask any high school boy who’s been brave enough to attempt cutting a girl out of the herd. It usually doesn’t go well.

I think about this. It’s never good when one is left out of a sorority meeting.

I was new: I expected to get the horse version of super-glue-to-the-chair, notes passed behind my back, and a blackboard scrawled with derogatory “Teacher is…” phrases when I walked into the barn.

I wasn’t going in blind. The trainer gave me a rough overview of personalities, quirks, and habits.  I was looking forward to one quiet alpha mare in particular.  Barn staff had nominated her as “Least Likely to be Difficult”. Very sweet mare.  Her quirk: she dislikes having her blanket touched. Problematic, since I’ll be taking it off and putting it on at least twice a day.

The next morning, I walked into a barn of unusually docile mares. Sweet faces innocently hang over stall doors. Stupidly, this did not activate either my Mom Mayday Siren or Substitute Teacher Hazard Warning Lights.

Awww… They like me! How cool is that?

I unblanket, groom, bandage and lunge the higher-strung Alphas before the arena is packed.

They were perfectly behaved.

Relaxed, and in the rhythm, I went on to the less-amped alpha and beta mares, leaving Miss Least Likely for last.

Fortunately, beyond The Mare Stare of Death, and slight ear pinning, she’s never acted her feelings out. I remove her blanket under the Death Stare. Try to coax her ears forward. Nada.

Oh well.  We go about grooming and working.

Apparently the Sorority of Mares had a secret nomination and a hazing plan.

Guess which mare drew the short straw?

Returning her to her stall, I quietly pull the blanket over Miss Least Likely’s head, adjust it, and reach under her belly for the strap to fasten her blanket, pleased her ears are momentarily forward.

(I’m making progress! She likes me!)

A flash of movement and a searing pain on my butt instantly told me that while I thought I was cooing this message: “Its safe, you can trust me.” She received this message: “YOU can be the Alpha Mare, I, Jane, am a wimp, please take over.”

You could do a dental ID on this mare by photographing my rear. It’s clear she’s had excellent dental care. Beautiful teeth. Nice and even grip.

Mares 1. Jane 0.

Luckily, she was self-correcting. She had a violent reaction to biting me: assuming (somewhat correctly) I was going to beat her to death, she backed up, reared, and hit her head, looking shocked and startled. She was convinced I’d somehow managed to correct her from afar. I glared at her, to reinforce her mistaken idea I’d actually done the correction. It’s hard to glare when you are mad at yourself for being stupid, not the glare-ee for acting horse-like. But I took one for the team.

Before I shut the stall door behind me, I notice every single mare in he barn is on high alert. Our interchange had been closely monitored. Oh. Good. Miss Least Likely’s huge reaction did me a favor: they all believe I aggressively turned on her and instantly dealt out alpha mare justice.

I’m not about to set them straight. I glare at them too, until they turn away, or put their heads down.

I calm Miss Least Likely by ignoring my throbbing butt, forcing myself to relax, and unnecessarily adjusting her blanket until the tension drains from her body. When she pins her ears, I get in her face. Her ears go forward, relieved. She didn’t really want to be the boss.  She lowers her head and nudges me: I had to. I drew the short straw. Sorry? Do over?

I rub her face.

Do over.

My Funny Valentine, Sweet Comic Valentine…

Dear Jane,

Ahem. It is Valentine’s Day.

I find it quite unacceptable that you have not come to see me.
You claim to love me. It’s Valentine’s Day. Do the math.

Strike that. I will do the math for you. I do not trust the human public education system.

If L = mass of love claimed, and V = 1/365, Then G would represent a ‘floating’ factor, giving us an equation that looks something like this:

(L + V) x a factor of G136*= 20 pounds of carrots, minimum.

*(please assume guilt to the 136th power)

If you must be away, consider this word carefully: delivery.

I am not asking for carrots in a red, heart-shaped box, or a dozen long-stemmed carrots nestled in white baby’s breath. The manifestation of your love for me does not have to be fancy, pretty, or expensively arranged. It only need be pleasantly edible.

I’m a simple, industrial-plastic kind of guy.

Perhaps the visual aid below, of what I look like when off-roading, will jog your memory:


Please get the guy from Palace of Fruit to schlep the sack to my paddock.

Humph. I bet Woodrow gets cookies. I bet Bella scratches his back.

I bet Bella shows up.


P.S. Miss Smokey would appreciate a can of tuna for padding this out on the keyboard. Put it on my expense account.

Into the Equine Heart of Darkness…

Dear Equines and Bipeds,

Hudson here. I am in existential angst.

My life is…boring. It’s a dreary endless round of circles and grooming.

I’m a little cranky.

Jane is furious with me.  Bella is furious with me. Woodrow is…not amused.

I ask you, when you are in existential angst, at whom do you lash out? The people closest to you, naturally.

Well.  Woodrow just happened to be the closest to me at the moment I became overwhelmed with ennui. But this was forever ago.

(Jane said to tell you it was the day before yesterday, whatever that means.)

True. He – ah – might be limping a little on the leg all the antiseptic-smelling people were trying to fix.

And – ah – I might have thoroughly alienated his massage therapist, a delightful woman, who happened to have just finished working on Woodrow’s problem areas.

And – ah – I might have fallen slightly into a habit of lashing out at Woodrow during dinner, which,  if I’m honest, could be a contributing factor into why he’s not getting better according to the vet’s projected schedule. Who knew a little regular slipping and falling could hurt him?

Fine. If I put myself in his horseshoes I wouldn’t be very happy with me either.

I’ve been banished. I’ve also been told in no uncertain terms by Jane that I am not allowed to feel sorry for myself, and you are not allowed to feel sorry for me either.

(No “poor Hudson” comments, please.)

I formally apologize: Woodrow, I am sincerely sorry, from the bottom of my stomach, that I have been a big, mean, bully and caused you both psychic and physical pain.

I do not trust that I would not do it again.  Sorry. I hope you will take this as a sign of my personal failings, not as a sign of any dislike of you.

Jane is taking me to something she calls “counseling”.  I do not quite understand the concept, but she says it involves a long succession of wet saddle blankets, that I will become quite tired on a regular basis, and I will be doing something new.  When pressed to know what this “new” thing is, Jane merely says “I don’t know yet, Hudson.  Please shut up before I hurt you.”

(Hurt me? Why?)

Humans.  So confusing.

I just hope it won’t be as it’s been: circles at the trot on the buckle. Circles at the trot on the bit.  Circles at the walk on the buckle. Circles at the walk on the bit.  Circles of the canter on the buckle. Circles of the canter on the bit. Tiny circles. Medium circles.  Large circles. Giant, arena-sized circles.  Circling the barns on the access road. Circles carrying yourself like this.  Circles of carrying yourself like that. I am not a merry-go-round horse.

I miss all the decision-making I got to do running steers.

I want to know what the new thing is.

Do you know?



Have You Ever Used a Horse Psychic?

I’m curious.

But before we get all fearful of ridicule, let’s remember I lived in Berkeley, have had my Tarot cards read, my astrological chart done (I’m like a triple Libra with Cancer rising), and once let myself be the guinea pig for “Head Bump Reading”, (I am still clueless about what insight that was supposed to impart.)

Everyone pretty much said the same thing, which lends credence to the possibility these methods of diviniation work: I am shy and lumpy, with very little sense of humor (but somehow am still destined to do great  – if humorless – things).

Two out of three isn’t bad.  I’m one with the shy and lumpy. As for greatness and lack of humor, the last great humorless thing I did?  Send Hudson off to the dentist this morning.

The psychic who predicted I’d have 5 kids with my future husband and live in a Montana cabin without running water or electricity was…uh….wrong, but she had the grace to have a disclaimer riding on her psychic prediction: the whole husband/kid/cabin thing was just one of the “multiple realities she saw in that moment”.

A psychic with a penchant for physics. Love it. I wonder if Stephen Hawking goes to psychics? Wouldn’t you love to hear THOSE predictions? Wait. Wouldn’t you love to invent those predictions?

I love where I live.  So entertaining.

So seriously, anyone have good experiences with a horse psychic? Whether the psychic was right on the target, or so off it’s entertaining, I’m interested!

Let The Human Training Commence!

Dear Equines and assorted Bipeds,

I was invited to a St. Patrick’s Day party in tack room #2.  My human was unable to attend, so I stepped up, and fulfilled her social obligations.

Jane owes me.

Am I right, or am I right?

Green is not my color.

Googly headbands are never my color.

Alas, I am a good sport. And yes,  a very attractive mare has caught my attention.  She was balancing a human foal on her back, and trying very hard not to drop it.

Personally I would have let the foal fall off.  There was a lot of heel action going on. Definitely the humanling was using the reins as handles.  Her mouth is gonna be sooooore.

This is why horses should train you.

  1. If you get a little dirt in your teeth, you will never forget how to avoid getting a little dirt in your teeth again.
  2. We know what you feel like up there, long before you do. LISTEN.
  3. Really? You’re going to begrudge us a few measly carrots/cookies after #2?

Yes, yes, humanlings do fall into a different category.  You’re cute when you’re foals. It’s difficult to reisist the huge grin and enormous “I love you” eyes.  Probably why we cave and catch them, or put up with  all that kicking.

I was rather shocked that Jane figured out I trained her to feed me on hoof command.  (That was just a little side experiment.)  She’s smarter than I thought. Not as smart as an Equine of course, but perhaps a little faster, cognitively, than a boulder.

There, there, Jane.  Don’t mind the boulder comment. You out-smarted me on the hoof thing, so clearly you are back in command.

(What is it humans say? Whoohahahaha?)

Jane’s addendum: Uh-oh, sounds like the training gauntlet has been tossed. No matter what he wants you to believe, Hudson is good-hearted, so I expect the training “attack” will be subtle. Now. How many of you have been trained by your horse?

In Which We Meet Woodrow, and See Bella’s Magic

Woodrow is Bella’s new roping prospect, and Hudson’s new roomate.

Below, Woodrow is right off the trailer.  The photo angle is a bit funny.  A few groceries wouldn’t hurt him, but his real issue is serious lack of muscle tone.  He’s wasn’t as thin as he appears in this picture. Overall, he looks older than his actual age.

Stepping back, before I snapped the pic, I thought: wow, nice lines, it will be interesting to see him after a few months with Bella. He’s going to look younger than his age!

Bella is a genius at bringing horses into bloom and condition. I asked her if she had any tips she’d like to share, and she answered with true good horsemanship: “Sure! Uh. I just do my thing?” Pause. “Whatever they need.”

Translation: each horse is an individual. She starts with quality food, adds any supplements that the horse might need, has him checked by the farrier, and then starts conditioning.  It’s a simple plan.  Stop, Look, Listen, Respond. When pressed for conditioning tips, she says strengthening the back muscles is her number one priority. Her horses have to move out round, lifting their backs. Makes sense to me.

Being at a barn with a lot of Arabians, I rarely see a such a splendid Roman nose!

Only three weeks of specific supplement/food mix and careful exercise later…

He’s a hunk!

The after photos were taken was in mid-January. We’re waiting for his winter coat to blow out before taking the Super Hunk after-photo.

Awesome how the right amount of work and the right kind of feed can put bloom back on a horse. In three weeks.

Conditioning, it’s an art form.

Welcome, Woodrow!