Horse Report April 2019

Julie petting Pepper's neck, riding in the indoor arena.
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I’ve spent more time on the road than at home this month, getting less ride time on my horses than I would’ve liked. Fortunately, I have Melissa, my barn manager, to keep the horses going in my absence.

I had to make the hard decision not to enter Pepperoni in the Legends Futurity, which takes place this month. Between my schedule and his time off due to a sprained stifle, we’re just not ready. I probably could have pushed to get him ready for the dry work, but I am in it for the long run with this colt. I want to bring him along slowly, and not stress him mentally or physically. I plan to start Pepper on cattle this summer, and have him ready to compete next year as a 4-year-old in the Legends Maturity show in both the dry and wet work.

With less pressure on us now, I am working on the basics with my red-headed colt—introducing collection at the trot, refining his stops, developing his pivot into a spin, and introducing roll backs. As this harsh winter comes to a close, we’re able to ride in the outdoor arena now and I’m getting him out of the arena too, for a refreshing change of scene.

Meanwhile,  Melissa has started shooting off my little mare, Annie. They had their first competition last weekend and they both did very well. Maybe we have found Annie’s forte! My boys, Eddie and Dually, are both happy and healthy. Dually is basically retired now, but we still get him out with the other horses, so he thinks his spot as my #1 horse is still secure. He’ll always be #1 in my heart, even if I can no longer ride him.

Ready to Get Started on Your Riding Goals? 

Spring is almost upon us, and my team and I are getting ready to tackle our goals for this year in earnest! It’s easy to set the goal and promise yourself that you’re going to work with your horse X days a week, or practice really hard to get ready for a big ride or competition. But it can be really hard to actually START—whether it’s Day 1 or Day 25. Life happens—we get busy, things come up, and we excuse away making ourselves and our horses a priority.

If you need a little extra encouragement and support to meet your goals, join my new #HorseGoals Or Bust Facebook Group! This is a community where you can come to share your goals and updates, find support through frustrations and set-backs, be a cheerleaders for others, and celebrate accomplishments. See you there!

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August 2018 Horse Report

Dually and Julie with the vet.
With all the talk about my new young horse, Pepper, it may seem like I’ve forgotten about my other three horses. Yes, a pretty young face always get the attention, but I have my other horses to keep going too.

Dually has once again been undergoing some diagnostic work and progressive (pronounced: ex-spen-sive) treatments to try and understand the source of his pain, which we’ve finally isolated to his right knee. At 18 years old and with an early start to his performance career as a cow horse, he’s showing his age (and one crooked leg doesn’t help). Although he’ll hold up to light riding for some time to come, I am definitely NOT a ‘light’ rider. I don’t weigh much, but I tend to ride hard. Hence, the reason for having a young horse. So Dually has been relegated to “semi-retirement,” meaning we’ll keep him in shape—fit and shiny—for photo shoots and videos, but not really train on him anymore. He deserves it!

Meanwhile, Annie, my little mare with a red-headed attitude is doing great and a blast to ride. My long-term efforts to try and train her to be a gelding seem to be paying off! Eddie, our handsome ranch gelding (son of Sixes Pick—world champion Ranch Horse), has become a fully-trained, solid and reliable bridle horse. Rich has been using him to shoot off of and more recently, has been saddling him English to get ready for our trip to Ireland. I might add that this stocky, typey ranch horse looks downright sexy in English tack (and Rich doesn’t look so bad either!).

January 2018 Horse Report

Julie with her horses in the indoor arena

The winter months are creeping by, but still, my winter riding goals are not yet fully formed.

With my little mare Annie, my plan was to learn the basic movements of Garrocha—pole dancing with a horse! Her compact and athletic build makes little circles easy and ducking under that pole on a short horse just seems like it would work better. But alas, I am having great difficulty finding an adequate Garrocha pole (which has to be rigid, light enough to carry and about 13 feet long). Currently, I am eyeing one of my neighbor’s windsurfing masts and wondering if he would miss it….

I am seriously considering taking Eddie and Annie to the Legends of Ranching competition in April. I’ll need to decide soon because it will take me a few months to get the horses tuned up and ready to work cattle. If I decide to compete, it will make the goal-setting for these two horses easy.

For Dually, my old man (18 this year!), picking goals is more of a challenge.

First, at his age, I don’t want to do anything that would cause too much stress on his joints. Although he’d be great at Garoccha, he doesn’t need to be loping tiny circles. Plus, Dually is so well-trained that there aren’t many new skills to acquire. So I think I will work on the upper level Western Dressage tests and drill down on our accuracy and correctness.

I’ve got plenty to keep me busy through the winter months of riding indoors!

Dually Recovering from Colitis Logo

It’s been a rough few weeks around our barn, but I am pleased to report a happy ending. My number one horse, Dually, has always been a high-maintenance horse, with digestive issues, performance injuries, tendency toward ulcers—you get the picture. He is also extremely important to me, my most precious horse—and everyone who works for me feels that pressure when I am out of town (Dually, please don’t get sick on my watch!). My husband, Rich, freely admits to our friends his second-place standing in the order.11174394_10152710669652181_909998351562014715_o

A couple weeks ago, when Dually crashed, I was out of town at an expo. I got several calls and texts on Sunday that Dually had diarrhea, was not eating and was cold and lethargic. The only thing worse than a sick horse is one that gets sick when you are out of town (as is usually the case with Dually). By Monday morning, there was little improvement so once my plane landed in Denver, I mobilized Rich and Melissa to get Dually ready to transport to the closest critical care facility, Littleton Equine Medical Center, a mere 2 1/2 hour drive north, through the mountains.

I headed south while they headed north, and we met along the way so I could jump in the truck with Rich and accompany Dually to the hospital (in my airplane clothes). He was in critical condition, with septic shock, severe dehydration and a compromised circulatory system.

Without medical intervention, he would have died within 48-72 hours—it’s a downward spiral that happens fast and even with intervention cannot always be reversed. He has colitis, which is inflammation/infection in the colon without a known cause (50-70 percent of colitis cases are from unknown causes; known causes include antibiotics or a viral infection like salmonella or clostridium, but Dually had none of those).

11088599_10152710670027181_499968741940279423_oDually wasn’t colicky but he did have diarrhea. He had a low body temperature (from dehydration and circulatory compromise) and a fast heart rate and was extremely lethargic, anorexic, drinking and urinating excessively. When colitis attacks the lower gut, it basically shuts down the digestive system and the horse is no longer able to absorb any nutrients or water—thus excessive drinking just led to excessive urination and he continued to dehydrate by the minute. This shut down happens very fast.

Once in the hospital, the immediate treatment was to get him hooked up to an IV and pump massive fluids into him and plus an array of antibiotics to attack the apparent infection and plasma to boost his circulation. While waiting to see how he would respond to these treatments, there was a secondary concern of laminitis due to the high toxicity level in his system. He was put in ice-boots and his digital pulses were monitored throughout the days and nights, but thankfully no signs of laminitis emerged.

Dually was in the hospital with critical care nursing and heavy duty pharmaceuticals and probiotics (translation: very expensive) for four days. It was really hard to leave town on Friday, the day he could come home, but I had a clinic in GA. Thankfully Rich and Lucy were on the spot and while I headed for the airport, they made the journey—knowing it would be a long and anxious ride home, winding through the mountains.

Saturday, Dually was in a very weakened and depressed state. Melissa and Rich watched him like a hawk through the weekend; he wasn’t eating and felt quite puny but they nursed him through it. We’ve been monitoring his vitals closely and administering medications and mega probiotics (Proviable) twice a day. His vital signs are stable, his heart rate still elevated but trending down slowly and his appetite has finally gotten back to normal. His manure is absolutely picture perfect and his attitude is greatly improved, although he’s quite tired of being poked, prodded and having stuff crammed down his throat.

FullSizeRender[1]Now that I am home, I am spending more time with Dually, massaging his sore neck (from injections) and taking him on leisurely strolls around the farm to munch green grass. I imagine it will be a few weeks before he is totally feeling great and may be ready to get back to work. In the meantime, we are grateful that he pulled through, and we are optimistic about his full recovery.

Here’s a helpful article to know what to look for, in case you ever have to deal with colitis. Please do make sure you know how to take your horse’s temperature, heart rate and perfusion and be sure to call the vet any time you see a horse with diarrhea–better safe than sorry and better sooner than later! Please read and share this vital sign info–and make sure to post it in your barn so everyone knows how to check vitals and what numbers are good!