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Author: Mikki

Book Review: “Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel” by Jeannette Walls

Book Review: “Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel” by Jeannette Walls

Half Broke Horses coverFirst of all – I am SO sorry to have neglected this blog for as long as we have. It’s inexcusable, really, but we have been very, very busy. My father retired at the end of September and I spent weeks getting ready to go out to California to help them move, then the actual time there getting them packed (about 2 weeks), then the week driving back, and since then we’ve been getting them settled (driver’s licenses, new doctors, new banks, etc.)…so I’ve let a lot of things slide. Y’all aren’t the only ones I’ve neglected, believe me!

But I DID find time to read this great book, and I highly recommend you do too. Although it’s not technically about horses, horses do figure prominently in the story. It’s the story of the author’s grandmother’s life, told in the first-person. Her name is Lily Casey Smith. She had quite a life, and she thankfully shared stories about it with her family. Ms. Walls and her mother, Lily’s daughter, remembered a lot about Lily’s life, and Ms. Walls created this wonderful book from those stories. She calls it a true-life novel because she couldn’t know everything about her grandmother – e.g., conversations she had with others, her thoughts about events that took place, other little details. But Ms. Walls fills in the gaps beautifully, and wove together a riveting, moving, even inspiring life story that I think her grandmother would be proud of.

Preview the book here (affiliate link)

What a life Lily lived – she was born in a dirt dugout in West Texas, became an itinerant teacher in Arizona at the age of 15 (riding her horse alone from her home to Arizona), ran a cattle ranch with her husband, survived the Great Depression, raised two children while earning her college degree, learned to fly…and those are just a few of the highlights. Ms. Walls’ writing style really connects the reader with Lily – you feel like you are really hearing Lily’s voice. She was a spunky, no-nonsense character, and I wish I had known her in life – but I’m glad I could meet her in this book.

URGENT: 186 Horses in Tennessee Need Help

URGENT: 186 Horses in Tennessee Need Help

This is an email I received as a member of Back Country Horsemen. I’m posting it as I received it, without doing any research on the situation, because of the very close deadline (Monday, August 3). If you have questions, contact the sender directly, as we here at Our First Horse don’t know a thing about this situation. I hope some of you out there can help:

Subject: URGENT 186 Horses & 30 Mules Need Help in TN
Date: Tuesday, July 28, 2009, 7:23 PM

If anyone can help, please email Diana ASAP with the number of horses you can house, thanks. Her email is voiceforhorses@ wmconnect. com
Hopefully more of these horses can be saved!

I am forced to get involved in a horrible situation in Gallatin, TN [near Nashville – OFH] involving 186 horses and 30 mules. There is a rescue that has spoken for all the mules, so we are looking at a desperate situation with horses. HSUS says if we ask for their help, they will euthanize the horses, and they will euth any that we can’t get out of there. HSUS willing to take care of prosecuting the owner, but seems to think saving this many horses is not possible. A dog rescuer named Maureen, who knows nothing about horses (her rescue took 70 dogs from the place) has contacted me for help, and she has bravely determined that the horses won’t die. She had no idea from there what to do next, but her dog rescue volunteers have found trailers and drivers to deliver horses, and have recruited horsie friends to care for the horses that can’t travel. Vets are currently getting Coggins Tests on every horse, and are worming every horse. Unfortunately, the ones that would be best to bring here (because of my vet abilities) can’t make the trip for a while. The rescues in TN all together have arranged to save 40 horses, leaving 146. Can you help me save them? I think if we all network like we did last year, we can do this! The horses are all handle-able and sweet.

There are Quarter Horses and TN Walkers. There are many mares in foal. Maureen thinks maybe 20 mares in foal, but she is trying to sort how many of what as we speak. She thinks there are some ponies as well.

Here is my question for all of you:The trip to our facilities will be too much for most of the horses. I have 44 horses at Horse-Angels currently, and we struggle as always with grain, hay, farrier, bedding, and medication costs. We have lots of land, but these horses need shelter and many sound like they need a stall in my barn. I can put most of my recovered and healthy horses outside if I can afford more sheds for our pastures so that stalls can go to the neediest guys, and I can put the stronger arrivals in my paddocks and isolation area. If I can get 30-40 here to get stronger for a couple weeks, can any of your rescues (or others you may know of that are good quality) commit to taking some? Can you each give me a number that you could house, and I will get those, plus what I can handle, transported here? I will get them strong enough to travel (I will keep the weakest ones here and sort stronger ones for your rescues), and hopefully within 2 weeks , they can be picked up to head north. I don’t know if the volunteer transporters that are currently hauling from TN will still be available to help by the time they can travel, so you would have to find transport. My goal is to get as many out as we can through our networking. That would be great if we could save them all. Realistically, I’m thinking maybe we can get 40 out. Can you help do you think? They want a number by Monday so they can start getting them out before HSUS steps in and destroys them.

Oh yes- there are some elk as well if anyone is interested. Elk can have tuberculosis, so you would want them tested before bringing them home! Thanks so much!

Diana Murphy
Voice For Horses Rescue Network
PO Box 566
Toledo, Ohio 43697
(419) 247-0025
www.voiceforhorses. org

I Hate Scrubbing Buckets

I Hate Scrubbing Buckets

Don’t you? That’s why when we went to Tractor Supply last year and saw a product called Stock Tank Secret, we thought it was worth a try. It’s a little bag full of barley straw that you just drop in your water tank, trough or whatever. The company claims that barley straw has been used in the UK for hundreds of years to help keep livestock water clear. So the day after we got it, I scrubbed the bucket clean (Stock Tank Secret says you don’t need to clean it first, but ours was pretty gross) and dropped it in. Then our most important product reviewers ambled over for a drink.

First, they looked at us like we might have dropped poison in their water. Then they nudged the sack, then nudged each other as if to say, “No, you try it!” and looked at us again, this time as if perhaps we’d dropped a small animal carcass in their water. After several minutes of nudging, sipping and head-shaking, Valentine finally decided he was thirsty enough he’d have to just go for it. They both got a drink, albeit still suspiciously, and hung around the water cooler for quite a while.  Unsurprisingly, when we came out about an hour later to check the tank, the suspicious item was on the ground a few feet away.

They finally got used to it and left it alone, but did it work? Not really. I emailed the makers of the product to ask for further instructions, and the actual owner emailed back with his phone number. I called him and had a very nice conversation with him, in which he gave me one of my favorite quotes to this day: “A horse is just an animal spending its day trying to kill itself.” Unrelated to the stock tank, but true nonetheless. Anyway, he diagnosed the problem, which was that I had put the water tank in the shade. It needs sun to work. So we moved it to a nice sunny spot, where we also did not get good results. But we were using an itty bitty (about 20 gal) tub, off-white in color. We upgraded to a 100-gallon stock tank but by then it was winter and we kind of forgot about the Stock Tank Secret.

Fast forward to this year. We’re on our second 100-gallon water tank – the first one cracked and therefore leaked like a sieve. It also turned green within days of cleaning, and wasn’t much fun to clean – big, deep, with a ridge about halfway up because the bottom half isn’t as wide as the top. Why are they made that way? I’m sure there’s a good reason – other than making it harder to clean – but I don’t know what it is. (Perhaps to keep the horses from kicking it – well, they still do.) Anyway, when we got the new tank, we decided to try the Stock Tank Secret again. We’ve been using it for about a month now.

So, does it work? Kind of. It stays pretty clear of algae, which is what you have to scrub off. The water still gets nasty pretty quickly, because horses are very messy drinkers. They dunk their dirty muzzles all the way in, and backwash like crazy. We still have to empty that big old thing at least once a week and put clean water in, but we don’t really have to scrub it, which is nice. All in all, it is worth the small investment.

The small stall buckets and the goat buckets, unfortunately, are too small to pop one of these in, though, and still require scrubbing. Pretty sure the horses would eat it out of there, anyway, the goats definitely would. When someone invents an anti-scrub product for those, I’m in.

Stray Horses!

Stray Horses!

We went to get hay on Saturday from our favorite hay supplier, Grammy. We were down to about 6 square bales – yikes! – so it was past time. Grammy’s farm is down some winding country roads back in the boonies. We were heading home down one of those meandering, narrow roads when we saw a mare and foal in the front yard of a house. I often see horses and think, “Dang! Those horses are loose!” – only to realize that there’s a barbed wire fence around them. But this time, they actually were loose.

Stray Horses

Luckily, they were just grazing in the yard and didn’t seem inclined to wander…but we know from experience (twice!) that there will most likely be some wandering to come, and probably some road-crossing too. So we pulled into the driveway and knocked on the door. No answer. Bill tried to get close to the mama but she wasn’t having it. I went into the barn behind the house and tried to find a lead rope. I saw a couple but they were tied to the barn, obviously being used as cross-ties, but given the situation I decided since I’d already trespassed I might as well untie a lead rope too. So I did. I also noticed that one stall in the barn was empty with the door wide open.

I headed back out to the front yard with my lead rope and filled Bill in on the barn situation. Mama saw the lead rope and shied away. We decided we’d try to herd them toward the barn, so Bill got behind them on one side of the house and I went around the other side to keep them from just rounding around it instead of going into the barn, which was behind the house. They unfortunately ended up cornered against a barbed-wire fence. This was a little scary, since up to this point Mama had avoided anyone coming toward her. But she started grazing quietly and didn’t seem afraid, so I decided to just take it really slow and see if I could get closer to her, making it clear to her that I was aiming for her and not her baby. So I talked to her for a bit, then walked up slowly until I got a hand on her flank. She was okay with that, so I petted her side, then her back, then her neck, then her head…then got my hand on her halter. She very obediently lifted her head and let me put the lead rope on her. Then we led her and baby up to the barn and into the stall without incident.

We left a note at the front door telling the residents what we had found and what we had done, noting that we hoped the horses were actually theirs, and left our number. We haven’t heard anything yet. There was a sign in the barn with a name, the title “farrier,” and a phone number, which we wrote down. We have called the number a couple of times with no answer.

This incident, combined with the previous ones, has reminded us that we need to make sure that if our horses get out, whoever finds them will know where they belong. The sign in the barn was a good idea, and we’re thinking about putting one in our barn with our names and phone numbers on it. (We’ve considered halters with name tags, but we don’t leave halters on our horses so that wouldn’t be very effective.) It also reminded us that we need to step up our plans for an electric fence!

CD Review: On Horses’ Wings…And You Can Win It!

CD Review: On Horses’ Wings…And You Can Win It!

On Horses Wings AlbumThat’s right…just in time for Christmas, we’re going to have another first here at Our First Horse – a giveaway!

We have found another great CD for your listening pleasure. It is a compilation CD called “On Horses’ Wings” and features seven great artists on 19 vocal and musical tracks. Everything on the CD is horse-related, of course, but it’s one of the best CDs on any subject or in any genre we’ve heard in a while.

It is beautifully done. The tracks alternate from a spoken piece (think poem, or short story) to a song. There is a lot of thought put into the arrangement; each song fits the piece before it, and they all flow from beginning to end. Some of the pieces will make you laugh (“The County Fair is Over” followed by “Falling in Love in America,” both by Antsy McClain), and some will bring a tear to your eye (“He’s Gonna Run” by James Cain). All will inspire you, and remind you of how very powerful a horse is, in every way. I love the whole CD. My current favorite is “Hands” by Wylie and the Wild West (I think of it by the more complete refrain, “16 Hands Closer to God”), but I’ve only heard it a handful of times.

Oh, and one of the best things about the CD is that all proceeds will benefit Little Bit Therapeutic Riding Center, an equine-assisted therapy center supporting children and adults with disabilities. Read about Little Bit here.

Check it out and listen to tracks here: On Horses’ Wings
Read about it and buy it here: On Horses’ Wings CD

Surely by now, the end of this post, you’ve clicked on the links, listened to all the tracks and know all about the artists and Little Bit. Maybe you’ve even bought a copy or two – we surely hope so! But maybe you’re still remembering the beginning of the post where I said you could win a copy. Never fear, I haven’t forgotten that either. Here’s how: Simply post a comment here, right here on this post. Not just any comment though – we don’t want a whole line of “I want it,” “Me too,” “Count me in,” etc. But we won’t make you write an essay or anything either…it is the holidays, after all, and we’re all busy people! Just please leave a little note telling us something dear to your heart that is horse-related. You could tell us your favorite horse activity, or how many horses you have, or your favorite song on “On Horses’ Wings,” or why you love Our First Horse! 🙂 Make it as short or as long as you like. Post it by midnight EDT on December 15, 2008, and we’ll randomly pick a poster to win a copy!

Good luck to you all, and Happy Thanksgiving!

Update: Even though the contest is now over, the CD is available still at Ecletic Horseman Communications (no affiliation).

Cash’s List of Woes

Cash’s List of Woes

Our horse CashPoor Cash. He’s been with us since June, but we honestly don’t think he wants to be here. We were concerned when he came here on a visit and escaped, but chalked it up to his being in a new place with new horses. Since then, though, he just acts like he’d rather be somewhere else. First of all, he’s broken down the fence more than once; he’s gotten out again (but thankfully didn’t take off that time); he tried to escape between the truck and the barn when we were bringing the chipper/shredder into the pasture; and he is still afraid of the other horses. And if his general unhappiness in the pasture weren’t enough, he is apparently allergic to something out there too.

One day the week before last, Cash had a swollen eye when he came in for his grain. I mean, BIG. (Not the eyeball, but both eyelids.) So we called the vet out, and she stained it to check for scratches. There was a questionable spot, but for the most part it looked OK other than the swelling, so she gave him a couple of eye ointments and some bute. We decided he most likely had gotten some dirt in his eye while he was rolling – his favorite thing in the world. The eye was 100% better by the next day. We continued the eye ointment for a few days and everything was fine.

Then last Wednesday he had two swollen eyes. He looked like a prizefighter who’d gone a few too many rounds. So we called the vet out again (thank goodness I work for the vet!) and she sedated him again, stained both eyes this time, and found no scratches again. His eyes were all goopy too, so she thinks it’s probably an allergy. This time he got more eye ointment and antihistamines. But within an hour after she left, we checked on him to discover that all four legs were swollen from the knees/fetlocks down (or “stocked up,” in horse-speak). She sent another medication home with my friend Shari (who also works at the vet – I was off that day) for the swelling. This time it took a couple of days for the eyes to clear up. The legs went down by the next day.

We’re all pretty sure that the eye symptoms are caused by an allergy, but we’re stumped as to what it could be. The only new thing we’ve introduced recently is bermuda grass hay, but we started feeding it a couple of weeks before his first episode. Also, why was it only one eye the first time? We think it might just be something in bloom out in the pasture, but isolating that would be nearly impossible. We are eventually going to mow down everything out there and plant grass, so hopefully that will take care of it if a pasture allergen is the problem. In the meantime, we just watch his eyes very carefully and keep antihistamines and eye ointment on hand.

The poor guy. If we didn’t like him so darn much, we’d think about finding him a home were he might be happier.

Horses Are Our Life

Horses Are Our Life

I know you’ve heard it before: “X is my life,” or “He eats, breathes and sleeps X.” Well, I’m hear to tell you that horses have actually become our life. Occasionally, work or sleep or some other mundane thing intrudes, but generally everything we do in some way relates to the fact that we have horses.

This weekend, for instance, we drove all the way to Knoxville (about an hour) to rent a chipper/shredder at Home Depot on Saturday. We spent about six hours collecting fallen trees and branches in the pasture and sending them through that terrifying, but oddly satisfying, maw of wood death. Then on Sunday, we drove the hour back to Knoxville (missing church, btw) to return the behemoth within our 24-hour rental period. We are both so sore we can hardly move and have stuffy noses from the dust, and our bank account is $150 lighter (not counting the gas to drive up there and back twice) – but about 27 tons of deadfall is now nice neat mulch. Of course we want our pasture to look nice, and that’s probably why most people would spend their Saturday clearing it out, but frankly, we could have left all that stuff indefinitely. That’s a lot of hard work, and the “natural” look is best for a pasture, don’t you think? But our horses walk through the woods out there all the time, and we’ve been concerned for their safety for months now. So once again, we devoted a weekend to horse maintenance. Last weekend…well, I don’t actually remember last weekend, but past weekends have included putting up hay, fixing fences, fixing barn stalls, clearing weeds in the pasture, driving to the city to get horse supplies – oh, and actual riding, once in a while. Our weekends coming up will include installing a new outlet to plug in the stock tank de-icer, building out the unfinished stall for Romeo, fixing up the old barn for hay storage, installing an electric fence…and that’s just what has to be done before winter.

I wish we had known ahead of time how time-consuming horse ownership really is. On second thought, maybe it was better not to know.

“Found: Large Animal, Hooves, Mane, Long Tail…”

“Found: Large Animal, Hooves, Mane, Long Tail…”

Not the horses mentioned. Photo by Hunter Folsom on Unsplash

Funny title, not a funny subject. We recently received the following note here at Our First Horse:

“My sister lives in Cumberland City and recently found four horses left on her property. She is not familiar with the horses and does not recognize them as any of her neighbors’ horses. They appear to be in relatively good health with a few minor wounds and they haven’t been groomed in a long time. No one has come to look for them they have been there for four days now.”

The writer was looking for information on how to find the owner or legally keep the horses. I’m not really sure about either one but the situation brings up a timely subject: how horses are faring these days, with the current economic climate and the ban on slaughter. I have to say, things are not looking good.

In addition to the above letter, I personally know of two cases locally of abandoned horses. The first one is that of a neighbor of the vet clinic where I work. A woman called to ask us to post a notice on our board – like the writer above’s sister, she had found a horse on her property and had been unable to identify an owner. The consensus around our office, staff and visitor alike, was that the owner intentionally “lost” the horse. The second case supports that theory. One of our clients, who has cattle but not horses, brought a horse trailer to a stock auction to haul equipment home. He was inside for a while and when he came back out to his trailer, he found two horses inside with a note saying something along the lines of, “I can’t feed my horses – please take care of them.” They were thin, but otherwise in good condition. So sad.

I’m sure there are many more stories like this, here and everywhere else. I know Bill has written before about the horses being abandoned in the Arizona desert. It seems to us that things will get worse before they get better. We are blessed here in East Tennessee with a good hay crop this summer, so we’ve been able to get hay this year for decent prices. Others are not so lucky. Also, while hay was cheap and plentiful for us, everything else is going way up. We are literally paying twice as much for oats as we were a year ago. We’re fortunate to be able to absorb the extra costs, so far, but we know that there are a lot of people out there who can’t do so, at least not for long. We’re concerned about what will happen to those horses.

Just another reason to hope that things will get better very soon.

A Plethora of Horses…and Not Enough Time

A Plethora of Horses…and Not Enough Time

Our HerdWe have been SO busy here the last few weeks. We’ve been traveling, on business and pleasure; the Kid is back in school; Bill and I have both been busy with work; and countless chores (e.g., fence and barn repair – thanks, Cash!) are eating up our time.

On top of that, for about 2 months, I’ve been having problems with my right foot. It has been sore on the ball of my foot right where it rests in the stirrup. I finally went to a podiatrist and she diagnosed it as a Morton’s neuroma. I’ve had 2 shots of cortisone and it’s improved a bit, but it’s still sore enough to make riding unpleasant. So the result of all these things together is that we have four horses in the pasture that are not being ridden. And the weather is getting cooler…it’s the perfect time to ride, ever so briefly, and there’s not a thing we can do about it. 🙁 So frustrating!

So that’s where we’ve been. What’s up with you all? I’m sure you’re spending your cooler fall days and trail rides, or at the last of the horse shows of the season, getting all kinds of riding in before it gets too cold. We’re so jealous.

Cash Knows Karate!

Cash Knows Karate!

When the weather’s nice, our horses are only in the barn for about 15 minutes a day, when we feed them grain. We let them into their stalls, they have their grain, then they go on out again. A few days ago, we were watching Cash finish up, marveling at how very dirty he is. The reason he’s so dirty is that he likes to roll, and as we were standing there watching, he did that very thing. He knelt down just like a camel, rolled on to his back, wiggled back a forth a couple of times, then kicked out his back feet to flip back over…knocking the stall door off its hinges in the process. It was really quite impressive – he didn’t kick very hard at all, but those hinges didn’t stand a chance. So we got some longer bolts, which hopefully will fare better.

I’ll tell you, whenever wood splinters around this place – and it happens too darn often – Cash is almost always behind it. Troublemaker.