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Waggy Update and HGTV Date

Odd things to combine but neither require a full post.

Most important is my Waggy Tails. She was in much better spirits Monday morning when Dusty took her to the specialist. Her biggest issue? She couldn’t roll over for belly rubs due to the pain in her leg. The pup is addicted to belly rubs and she became pretty pathetic when she figured out she couldn’t do it.

She went in to surgery around lunch and came out with a 15 hole plate filled with 10 screws (5 above and 5 below the fracture) as well as an intramedullary nail. That’s a lot of hardware. The surgeon said it went well, the fracture had a bit more comminution (fragments) than the X-ray led her to believe burnt cane together nicely.

She stayed the night last night and we will get her over lunch today. The plan is to keep her at the clinic for 6 weeks to let her have the needed cage rest and see where she is then. We need to do range of motion exercises to prevent contracture of the quads but other than that she shouldn’t need a lot of therapy.

All good news.

Second, I keep forgetting to announce this on here but our House Hunters episode is airing in the US on Friday 8/17/18 (this week) at 10pm EST on HGTV. I don’t have cable so my mom is DVR-ing it for me and I’ll watch it Saturday. There are so many things that happened during filming so I’m a bit nervous to see how they edit it and what the end result will be!

Who knows – they may make it look like I hated something I loved.

Tune in if you want to see me make an fool of myself. I’m so interested to see the spin they put on it and to go “but I didn’t say that about that!”

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A Really Shitty Day

Sunday morning I hopped on the tractor to try to finish mowing the big pasture in preparation to move the horses out there this week. It’s been hard going to mow it between the raging storms every evening and the insane growth rate.

I was heading up the hill when I saw a flash of yellow out of the corner of my eye and turned to see Wyatt coming up the hill. I stopped and turned the tractor off to see what he wanted and next thing I knew both dogs and Wyatt were all on the tractor with me.

Now I’m a tractor nazi. I hate Wyatt being on there with me and am very paranoid about the high level of risk involved with a tractor and the addition of a running bush hog being pulled behind. I kicked the dogs off as they know they aren’t allowed on it and generally aren’t supposed to be near it. They had followed Wyatt out from the house.

Both dogs jumped down and I was talking to Wyatt and turned the tractor back on to go up the hill before kicking him off too. Thankfully I didn’t turn the bush hog on. I’m counting all my lucky stars and thanking every possible higher being for that one. I pulled forward slowly and immediately felt a bump followed by hearing the gut wrenching sound of a dog screaming in pain.

I slammed on the brakes and looked around. Waggy Tails was trapped under the bush hog. I froze. I didn’t want to raise it with Wyatt around fearing the worst and wanting to spare him that sight. Instead I screamed for Dusty who was out mending fences. I wasn’t thinking and poor Dusty heard me and immediately thought it was Wyatt who was in trouble.

He made it to the tractor at a dead sprint and I told him “I just killed Waggy”. Wyatt was sobbing. I was sobbing. Dusty told me to take Wyatt to the house and as I was walking down the hill he raised the bush hog.

Much to everyone’s surprise Waggy came hobbling out without a scratch on her. She was holding her back left leg off the ground but otherwise was in perfect condition.

Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it.

We rushed her off to Dusty’s clinic and got her filled with pain meds while he got the X-ray machine turned on and ready. The radiographs showed a broken femur and that was all. I feared she broke her pelvis but that was fine as was all the internal organs he could see. Her heart and lungs sounded fine and her abdomen palpated normal.

Again. Lucky doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Dusty texted the ortho specialist in town and set Waggy up for surgery this morning. She will be getting a plate and screws in her leg to hold the femur back together. Poor girl. She will be on cage rest for at least 6 weeks. I’m so glad that I have a husband who cares for the animals like he does and didn’t even hesitate to call the specialist to set up surgery.

I’m glad the bush hog wasn’t on.

I’m glad I hit her leg only and not her abdomen or chest.

I’m glad it wasn’t Einstein as he is so small it would have killed him.

I’m glad it wasn’t Wyatt.

I’m pissed that I didn’t realize she had laid down in the shade of the tire and assumed she had walked off.

I’m pissed I ran my dog over.

But she should be ok. It’s a clean break and not shattered. It could have been so much worse.

Keep her in your thoughts today guys, please.

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Because If You Can’t Be Useful, You Might As Well Be Expensive

Lame.

That about sums up Cruze’s life with me. Which sucks for both of us. I had plans for him when I brought him home which amounted to a lot more than one flat lesson in a torrential downpour and one cross country school.

But such is life.

I’ve decided to put him out to pasture, per se I mean he always is out anyway, and ignore his existence until September 5th when the farrier comes back and assesses if he can be safely shod with pads or not.

I’m not going to attempt another arena ride until that point. It just pisses us both off and we get nowhere. Part of his under saddle attitude is no doubt due to being painful though a lot of it is just him trying to see what he can get away with. The problem is that I don’t want to push him like I normally would because I know his feet hurt.

If it ever stops raining I’d love to start taking him out on the trail with his boots on trails I know have forgiving footing. If we are stuck to a walk, might as well return to my love of the trail and get him some exercise and a change of scenery from walking figures in the arena.

In the meantime though, why not spend money?

Packages!!

First, he is going on a course of gastroguard. I don’t like his rough, dull coat and he has plenty of reasons between the move, change in life style, and foot issues to have sprouted some stomach issues. If I’m not riding right now anyway, I figured it was a good time to treat him for potential ulcers. Good thing Hubby is a vet and gets a killer deal on this liquid gold.

I’m about to find out how good he is for medicating

Second, I splurged online a bit. He needed a new bit as the chunky French link snaffle was a tad too small and he hated it. He had been going in a d ring myler, so I decided to order one and see if it made a difference. Damn those bits are expensive though. I tried it on him once and it made an immediate difference. No more chewing the bit or trying to spit it out. I only walked but he didn’t try to rip the reins from my hands one time and was much, much steadier and happier. Nothing like a perpetually lame horse with champagne taste.

Why are these bits so expensive? Gem went nicely in a $15 baucher.

In the same order I threw in a jolly ball toy with a likit treat. My hope was that he would take to eating that instead of his wooden stall door. Anyone care to guess how that played out?

He took one sniff, threw his nose in the air and immediately returned to the door. Sigh. I don’t know. I’m either going to just remove the stall door and replace with a stall guard or cover it in Tabasco sauce.

Can I trade Cruze for this horse? He eats his toy and looks thankful for it

The other item in the box was a new girth. He takes a 48″ and hated Gem’s antichafe girth as much as she always did. It didn’t have elastic ends instead claiming the entire length had stretch and both horses really didn’t enjoy it that much. I want to stack the deck in our favor once we do return to riding, so I got him a nice fleece lined girth that he seemed to approve of by not trying to eat me as I slowly tightened it.

Soft fluffiness for the orange guy

Of course the husband questioned why I spent money on tack items for a non rideable horse, but one can always dream of riding the horse you specifically bought and paid good money for to do just that.

The last item was Keratex to help harden the sole and hoof wall.

I could use some soundness and reliability in my life right now

In reality, my “ignore him until September” is really “don’t get your hopes up to ride while continuing to pamper and coax his health along”. I have texted back and forth with Trainer about doing some ground lessons and learning how to ground drive him because why not? Might as well work on something and it may just help once we do get back under saddle. It can’t hurt.

So that is that. I refuse to get worried or upset until the farrier says he has enough hoof to shoe him. The big guy grows on me daily and has been fun to get to know better on the ground without the under saddle stress. The pace season will start at the end of the month and maybe we can spend the fall hitting those and enjoying the cooler weather together. We will see what time brings us.

The right front hoof last week. You can see my expertly drawn lines of growth with the new angle coming in at the top.
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It’s Cool. I Don’t Want To Ride My Horse Anyway

Friday the farrier declared the abscess blown and Cruze good to go back under saddle. I watched him walk off sound and happy with full length strides and was satisfied with our plan moving forward.

Saturday morning I brought him in for breakfast and saw this

Guess some big orange butthead heard the news and needed to find some way to remain “retired”.

Good news is that it is superficial, there is no swelling or heat and he is sound on the leg. For the moment anyway.

Bad news is that it’s over a joint and healing that could either be easy or a royal pain due to the motion of the skin. For now I put him back out instead of in his stall mostly for my own sanity plus the above no heat, swelling or pain thing.

I’ll check on him regularly for the need to be stalled. In the meantime if anyone knows someone in the market for a sorta sound accident prone pain in the butt gelding please let me know.

I think I’m going to get into knitting.

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New Farrier, New Plan

Confession time: in the 9 years I’ve had Gem and Pete I have had to call the vet out twice. Once when she cut her hoof half off and again that same year when she had a colic scare. Both were due to the bad boarding situation she was in and we quickly left. Even with her hoof injury she never took a single lame step.

Lameness isn’t something I’m experienced with and when it comes down to it, I’m a newbie with problematic horses.

She may be physically easy to handle but mentally she pushes everything to the limits. Seriously mare. She is in a 10 acre grass pasture with zero reasons to push the boundaries except that she can.

Cruze has continued to be off going right under saddle while being perfectly sound gallivanting in the pasture. I stopped riding him last week when it started getting worse instead of better and decided to just wait until the farrier came out to get his advice on the situation. I was finally able to secure a new farrier that came highly recommended by Trainer and whose work I have personally seen on an event horse and liked.

I always start a new farrier off with Gem. She not only has freakishly amazing feet, but is also an angel in the cross ties, half the time falling asleep. It’s a nice introduction to how I train my horses to behave for the farrier. She was her awesome self with no issues and no concerns. Then it was Pete. He is a bit harder since his feet like to crack and he is prone to white line. He was also a good boy, stood still, picked his feet up in advance of being asked and walked off better for it.

Slow leaving the house waiting for this guy to cross the driveway into the trees

Then it was Cruze. He can be a total jerk with his legs often pulling them violently away from your hands. He no longer does this to me as I scolded him severely for it but he tests new people still. I quickly corrected that and apologized. Bad manners for the farrier is very embarrassing.

I filled him in on the last two months of hoof woes. The lost hind shoe exposing lamina resulting in being crippled and getting his first vet call. Then becoming sound only to repeat the process on the front which has not resolved any where near as quickly as the hinds. Plus the pesky right side lameness in the better looking hoof that is getting worse and not better.

Right away he diagnosed that issue. Cruze had freshly blown out an abscess on the lateral heel. Ugh. I admit to feeling like an ass. I had noticed the spot looked odd last week but thought it was his hoof boot rubbing which is why I ditched the boots. He continued to get progressively more lame and I didn’t even think to make sure that wasn’t an abscess brewing.

Thankfully it has blown and should grow out and he gave the green light to hop back on him thinking he should be as sound as his feet will let him be once again.

Of course I have family in this week so I won’t get to test that theory for a while.

Other than that the verdict on his feet is that they suck. In general. More specifically he has paper thin soles that remain “squishy” (his words) even after two months of pasture, being bare and hoof supplements topically and orally.

The look of an angel. Hahahahha!

My question to him was: could they thicken with time and a better hoof growing down or is this genetically him?

His answer? They will certainly improve with all that but if I want to ride him on anything but mattresses and jump him, I should shoe him and forget about it.

Ok.

Unfortunately he still doesn’t have enough hoof to shoe, so the plan is another 6 weeks bare, use keratex three times a week, and then shoe with leather pads for a cycle. Hopefully we can ditch the pads after the initial go and remain in shoes. He said I could go bare behind but I’d have to be very careful on the footing and if I’m planning on eventing I’d be best off just shoeing them too.

Chopped all my hair off. So much cooler!

So that is that. He needs to grow enough hoof to not end up in a cycle of pulled shoes and lost hoof wall, but this guy’s opinion is that I should just shoe him all around as he was sound shod before. As long as this guy is as good as his reputation makes him out to be, he should be able to trim/shoe him in a balanced manner to counteract his tendency to want to be high right and low left and get him moving better so we can go back to having fun and growing as a team.

We will see what six more weeks brings us. In the meantime I’m going to hop on him hopefully sometime soon and see how he feels now that the abscess is blown. Hopefully he will be sound and ready to roll at least for flatwork lessons and ground poles.

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Things In Cruze Land

DThings are….okay.

A lot of his ground behaviors have improved tremendously since I got firm with him over his biting and I have not had to repeat the correction since. Things he now does nicely like a well behaved boy:

  • Stands quietly and without moving in the cross ties
  • Picks up all 4 hooves without whipping his head around to bite me or ripping the leg out of my hand
  • Stands to be bridled without running away
  • Allows the bridle to be buckled without trying to eat the straps or my leg
  • Goes into the arena without stopping twenty times along the way to stare off in the distance for other horses
  • Enter the arena without screaming at all. Not one single time.

All those are major steps in a very short period of time and the big orange man gets tons of praise and pats each time he does so. It’s been refreshing to not battle those any more.

How he feels about being a good boy. I took all his fun away. 

Under saddle things are still hit and miss. The ride immediately after the one when he ugly bucked me off was lovely. He was clam, cool headed and went to work. I stopped after only walking for about 20 minutes to reward his change in attitude.

Then three days passed before I could ride him again. That ride was eh. He did all the above nice behaviors but then under saddle he kept snaking his head back and forth and threatening to be very bad indeed. I was able to shut it down and work through it and after 10 minutes he settled. The rest of the 40 minute walk/trot ride was nice. He rooted down a lot and wasn’t fully paying attention to me but I worked him through Exercise 1 of the Jumping book and added some trot poles to perk him up and keep it interesting and he did ok.

The non stop down pours have wreaked havoc on arena Puddles everywhere and it is either actively raining or not dried out enough to get in there and tear it up so the grass and weeds are back. I’m about ready to cash in my chips and have someone come scrape everything off and put all new footing in. I just need to sell a kidney to afford it.

He is still a little off trotting right. He isn’t head bobbing any longer but does short stride so I am keeping the trot sets short and working mostly on having a non explosive transition.

Last night’s ride was cut short by a nasty storm rolling. Again. Thankfully I dismounted and had put two of the horses back out before a rogue lightning bolt struck a tree in the woods behind the pond. It has been nasty out folks. 

Last night I decided to try lunging him first. I admit I despise lunging before riding. Deep in my bones despise. I’d rather not ride than have to lunge before I can get on my horse. But I figured I’d give it a whirl and see if it made a difference.

I don’t think it really did much for him. He wasn’t an idiot on the line. In fact he listened extremely well to my body language and voice commands and was in general very gentleman like. I don’t know if he was just in a good mood or what but he did just fine.

His opinions of life in general. I have been taking him in the arena in his halter to bridle him there instead of in the barn to work on his standing still skills in the open. He has improved leaps and bounds and now no longer tries to walk away as soon as the halter or bridle is slipped over his nose. 

What it was good for was my eyes on him to see how he was moving and what he looks like. In the first trot transition, he tucked his chin, snaked his head side to side and leaped into the trot. Now riding this is what slightly terrifies me and makes me very tense as it feels like he is either going to bolt or rear or a combination of both. Watching it from the ground it looked more like he was just flailing into the trot instead of truly being awful. The second time I asked he went into it just fine like a normal horse.

Life isn’t so bad buddy

When I got on him he tried to tell me he was done and couldn’t possibly work after 5 minutes on the lunge. He eventually caved and realized we were still working and while he tried to be a butt head the first transition and then again during the trot when he was bored, I was much calmer about it and ignored him instead of getting worked up.

That really helped and he soon settled and got down to working. His rooting against my hand never showed up and I’m not sure if that was due to stretching his back super low on the lunge or because I wasn’t getting tense. Probably both. I made sure to really praise him and give him scratches with every transition to the trot that he performed calmly and in balance and just ignore those that had some flailing involved.

Don’t let him fool you…he run, gallops and plays with Pete all day in the pasture with nary a limp in sight. 

Honestly if he hadn’t had such a nice PPE and hadn’t been sound before his feet went to crap I’d be super worried I bought a lame horse. As it is his movement improves daily and I have a few weeks of shod delight to compare to.

Not too painful to call Pete on to a game of chase and bitey face

I did order a new bit for him as he was going in a myler d ring snaffle and the seller said that was his favorite of all she had tried with him. I’ve been having him go in a regular French link snaffle. I don’t put a lot of faith into a bit change making a lot of difference but I want to take all the factors out of play that I can.

Speaking of that I’m also starting him on two weeks of ulcer meds. Between the move to green pastures, the crippled feet and bute use he has a laundry list of risk factors going against him. Might as well treat and see if it makes a difference. He eats well and isn’t girthy but you never know.

Rainbow to the left, blue sky and the moon to the right. It was an almost eery night with wicked nasty storms.

Once he is 100% sound I also plan to have the massage therapist and chiro out to work out any issues that walking oddly created. Basically I’m trying to set him up for success physically so that he doesn’t have any excuses.

I really really want a lesson on him but I am waiting a bit more until he is sound going right. He is so close but not fully there yet and there is no reason to rush this at all. He is young and we have a long future together to get over sticks and gallop down the lane. My closer goal is to be able to take him to the hunter paces in his boots once they begin next month but we will see how he is moving at that time.

Still love his spotted nose. More so now that it isn’t constantly trying to eat me. 

Right now I’m just trying to work slowly with him to build an understanding and figure out what he needs to be successful. I want this partnership to work and I am willing to put the time in.

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Happy Retirement Gem

As I led Gem out after dinner the other night it dawned on me that a lot of readers do not know her very well. Most of you joined my story towards the end of our time together and that isn’t very fair to my bestest mare.  She is now fully retired, living large and happy outside eating grass and not being asked to jump over anything or perform another 20 m circle in her life.

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A  few of my favorite pictures over the years. Or at least the ones I have access to on this computer anyway.

It was my last year of medical school and I had time on my hands. Having spent my youth with horses and now finding myself as an adult with spare time and change, I was finally getting that itch back in my soul. An internet search (this was pre Facebook so it was websites or bust) led me to an 11 year old 15h bay Arab mare – $800. No picture, no other write up. I have no idea why I went to look at her, but when I saw the scraggly, pot bellied, hair less mare standing in a paddock of knee deep mud I knew she had to come home with me. I didn’t even ride her. I handed my check over to the 16 year old boy who was selling her so he could buy a truck and went home to find a barn and arrange transportation.

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Our humble beginning in 2009
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Vetting in for the Ride and Tie East Coast Championships Fall 2016

Gem proved both difficult and above my pay grade from the start. She would stand perfectly still while I begged, pleaded, kicked, used a crop and uttered many a swear word to try to get her to walk on. Eventually, out of the blue, she would bolt madly forward and careen around the indoor arena at mach speed. That is if I could even catch or bridle her in the first place. She had a nasty habit of walking annoyingly away from me just out of reach in the pasture and then bolting backwards as soon as I tried to get a bridle on her in the barn aisle. For months I had to bridle her crammed and cornered in her stall.

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Eventually I figured out I was out of my league and moved her to a “training” facility at $1000 a month to include 5 professional rides and 1 lesson a week. I’m not sure that the trainer ever got beyond lunging her and certainly never sat on her though I know a few unlucky kids took lessons on her. By the time I moved to WI, three months and a lot of money later, I was told Gem would never be able to canter outside of a circle, would never go down a trail and don’t even think about jumping. Ok…so maybe the last proved true though she has proven she can jump when she decides to.

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PC: Becky Pearman, used with purchase

I was determined that my little bay mare could be a normal horse and the next year was spent renting a house at a boarding facility which gave me plenty of access to the mare. I was patient and worked slowly from the ground up to build her trust in me. By the end of that next winter she was cantering like a champ and come spring of 2011 we were hitting the trails with her BFF Pete. Unfortunately, we were evicted from that rental when the landlord was foreclosed on for gambling our rent money away instead of paying the mortgage and I moved Gem to a new boarding facility. This place proved magical for us as it had an indoor, outdoor dressage ring, outdoor jump arena, trails and a cross country course giving us a lot of opportunities for exposure.

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Roughly halfway through the 100 miler. PC: Becky Pearman, used with purchase

Gem and I got exposure to a lot of different things and I even jumped her for the first time. That year was the first time I hooked the trailer up and drove it by myself. Gem gave me wings in a lot of different ways.

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She looks so pretty in braids

While in WI, Gem and I completed our first 25 mile limited distance ride placing 8th followed by our second placing second to last. That first 25 mile ride was the first time I rode without Dusty and thankfully I was taken in by a group of women. With two miles left I let them go ahead figuring Gem would be tired and rode the last miles completely alone for the first time ever. Before heading south, Gem tackled her first ride and tie with Dusty and me, placing first.

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When we made it to SC, I was determined to focus on endurance and so I hit the trails all alone. My plan was to go out 30 minutes and turn around. I didn’t care how far we made it or how fast we went. After an hour of ride time, we arrived back at the trailer having covered 0.75 miles. It wasn’t looking good for an endurance career. A month later she stranded me at the trail head for two hours refusing to get on the trailer.

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Fast forward and Gem did improve on the trail alone. We have logged thousands of miles together on the trail, covering triple that travelling in the trailer solo, over mountain, sand and flat terrain in TN, SC, NC and GA. We completed our first 50 mile ride, followed by a second and had plans to move up in 2015 until she cut half her foot off needing emergency surgery and 30 days in a fiberglass cast. Honestly, I thought our riding time together was ended that summer.

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Gem proved me wrong yet again and bounced back that fall without missing a beat. She went on to complete a difficult 100 mile ride at Biltmore in the spring of 2016 and the long course Ride and Tie East Coast Championship in the fall of 2016. After that ride, I decided to hang up our long distance gear. Gem was in top form, both physically and mentally (she dumped me twice during the R&T championships in pure Gem evilness), but she was nearing 20 and had proven herself enough. I felt like we had nothing left to conquer, having crossed all my goals off the list, and Wyatt was growing more demanding of my time.

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The winter of 2017, I purchased new gear and introduced my endurance machine to eventing. She immediately gave me the middle finger and told me where I could stick this new plan. Even with her outright displeasure with this change, she took me to our first CT June 2017 where we placed 4th of 9 and got over the 18″ stadium course without a rail or time fault. She also hauled my butt around a schooling jumper show at 2′ with out killing me or knocking a rail. All told, Gemmie and I went xc schooling five times as well.

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Gem and I struggled with the new discipline until this past spring when I finally started listening to what she was trying to tell me. She was unhappy. Sure she has always been a pistol full of opinions, but this was different and it was time to let her rest.

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At 20, she is happy, healthy and sassy. She has remained sound for the entire time I have had her, even through her injury and surgery she never took a single bad step. She had one minor colic scare a few years ago, but that is it. She was barefoot for every training and competition mile except the 100. Physically Gem is a beast that I will likely never get the honor of managing again.

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PC: Bette Mann

Mentally, Gem is still sharp and quick and ready to put me in my place. Over all the years and miles we had reached a solid understanding: I chose the trail and the speed, she chose her footing and how to maintain that in whatever gait was best for the terrain. I didn’t micromanage her and she didn’t try to run off or poke along. It worked great until we changed to working in the arena where I began learning to micromanage her body moving shoulders this way and haunches that. In her mind, I broke our contract. It is a bit of a shame that she is retired so sound and healthy. In another life, she could easily still be working for another 10 years at this rate, but my favorite black tipped ears are starting to get grey around the edges and she more than deserves to spend the next decade being boss mare in the field and looking down on anyone who dares enter her personal space.

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The last nine years have been very special in so many ways. Graduating, residency, becoming a mother, starting my own practice, buying our farm. Through it all, by bestest mare has been there to keep me humble, remind me that there are more important things in life than work, give me wings to chase down dreams and be a rock when I melt down. Nothing went according to plan with her and yet every goal was reached, every dream came true. I owe a lot to that little bay mare and I hope to see her pushing boundaries in my pasture for many, many years to come.

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