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Author: Mikki

Not So Impressive

Not So Impressive

ImpressiveA very handsome horse caught our eye the other day (no, not as a prospective addition to our herd – we’ve reached our limit) – a big, muscled, Quarter Horse stallion. He was something else. Bill wondered why he wasn’t gelded, and if he might be used as a stud someday. I told him that the owner might go ahead and geld him, because he comes from the “Impressive” line. Bill, naturally, was confused by that: “Well, if he’s from an impressive line, why wouldn’t you breed him?” But unfortunately, it’s not an impressive line, it’s the Impressive line, as in “Impressive,” AQHA stallion and halter champion, famous for siring 2,250 foals. He is also considered to be the beginning of a bloodline carrying a debilitating and often fatal genetic mutation known as HYPP, for Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. Sounds scary, huh? It really is.

I had to look up “hyperkalemic.” “Hyperkalemia” is an abnormally high concentration of potassium in the blood. This condition is caused in HYPP horses because their potassium regulation system is messed up. The controls get out of whack every once in a while (“periodically”) and cause a big surge of potassium. This causes the “paralysis” part of the name: potassium controls the voltage currents in muscle cells, so the potassium influx is sort of a “power surge” like the kind that can fry your electronics. The horse loses muscle control to some degree; the severity varies quite a bit, from little twitches to a fatal heart attack (the heart is a muscle too). Scary enough for you?

There are a few important things to know about HYPP. One is, it’s a genetic defect, so your horse cannot “catch” it; they are born with it. Also, the gene is a dominant one – only one parent has to carry the gene for it to be passed on to the offspring. Horses can have HYPP and show no signs of it; only a DNA test can tell whether your horse has it or not. As I said, HYPP is believed to have come from the Impressive line (the most recent count of his living descendants was 55,000 in 2003), so it’s most common in Quarter Horses, but is also found in the closely-related Paint Horse and Appaloosa lines, and of course can be found in other breeds if they have been cross-bred to Quarter Horses.

HYPP can be manageable, depending on the severity. Since it is a potassium issue, diet is very important. Also, stress can trigger an episode, so the horse’s environment and lifestyle are important factors. There are also medications that can ease symptoms and help prevent episodes.

A critical thing to consider if you or someone you know has an HYPP horse is that an attack can occur at any time, including when you are riding the horse. Any rider should be very experienced and always alert for signs, because your horse could literally collapse underneath you.

Now for the controversial stuff. How can HYPP be prevented or even wiped out? Obviously, since it’s an issue of genetics, if HYPP-positive horses don’t breed, the mutation can’t be passed on. That sounds simple, but while the downsides of HYPP are scary, the flip side of the Impressive line is that the horses bred from that line are highly muscled, very strong, show-winning horses. That’s how Impressive came to sire 2,250 foals – he was, indeed, impressive. So there will always be breeders willing to take that gamble for a desirably conformed horse. For now, the only control to prevent HYPP-positive foals is that when a horse is registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), its HYPP status is included in that registration. Any potential breeder will know if the horse is a risk or not.

Well, there’s my very unprofessional, Internet-educated opinion of Impressive and HYPP. If this issue might affect you, I encourage you to do your own research. I, for one, may look into having Romeo (Appaloosa) and perhaps even Moonshine (part Quarter Horse) tested. Even though they surely would have shown signs by now, my web research has once again made me paranoid.

Riding with Fireflies!

Riding with Fireflies!

I finally did it! I rode with fireflies!

Photo by toan phan on Unsplash

We tried to go riding after work last night, but as usual the tacking-up process took longer than it should. We had tack changes to make – different saddles on different horses requiring swapping out cinches, etc. – so it got kinda late. We had just tried my Henry Miller saddle on Romeo (it fits!) when Dayle & Katy came over with Dayle’s friend Christy on Dayle’s pony River. Then we sort of had to go. Christy has Paso Finos and expressed an interest in riding Valentine, so I saddled him up for her – with my Henry Miller saddle, since it’s the only one that fits big ol’ Valentine. Dayle said I could ride River, but no one was saddled up for Bill, so he told us to just go without him. 🙁 Poor Bill.

We rode over to Dayle’s house, around her arena, around her pasture, then it was getting dark. Valentine isn’t crazy about dusk, so we had to head on back to my house. Dayle and Christy were kind enough to escort me back.

Side note time: We haven’t mentioned this before, but I’m sure it will come up again so I’d better fill you in. We often ride at our friend Shari’s property. She lives very close by, as the crow flies, but getting to her property involves a ride down our road to a busy road to another busy, twisty, narrow road – all on slippery asphalt. None of us are crazy about that ride, including the horses. We found a partial trail behind Dayle’s property (she lives across the street from Shari) that we thought might go through to the end of our dead-end street. We cleared it as far as their property line went and discovered that it ended up at the property of another neighbor, so we approached him about making a very narrow, rough trail to the road. He was kind enough to let us do it…and it turns out that he has a four-wheeler, his property adjoins ours at the pasture, and he started making a trail on his property and would like to join it to ours (we have about 3 acres of uncleared woods next to the pasture). So not only did we get a shorter, safer trail to Shari’s and Dayle’s properties, but we have a new circuit of trails in the works right next to our house (and we have a better relationship with our neighbor). It turned out really well.

Anyway, so the ride back to our house is partly through the woods, and there were fireflies! Valentine was just fine going through the woods at dusk – at least until Bill, who was worried about me coming home alone in the dark with Valentine, popped up on the trail in front of him and spooked him!

It was very cool and I’d like to get all our horses okay with riding then, so we can enjoy that experience more often. I highly recommend it, but do be careful. As most of you who commented on the last post noted, it’s a rare horse that is okay with heading out into the wild after dark.

It Was Bound to Happen

It Was Bound to Happen

Black and Blue…and it did. One of us got kicked by a horse. Yep, it would be me who had the trail-riding mishap again. There have been numerous close calls with horse hooves, but until now we’ve escaped harm. I wasn’t so lucky on our otherwise-idyllic trail ride on Saturday. (More on that, with pictures, later.)

First, I have to say that it was pretty much my fault. There were seven of us on the trail ride, with seven very different horses: two Tennessee Walkers (our Cash and Shari’s still-unnamed horse); our Appaloosa, Romeo; and four Quarter Horses (Katy, Cluless [not a typo], Rabbit and Pistol). I was riding Cash and we stopped for a break. My saddle had shifted back (forgot the darn breast collars) so I got off and started adjusting it. Dummy me, we were standing next to Shari’s very young mare, Pistol, and I was in between. I don’t know what happened – I assume Cash sniffed her nose or some other grievous offense – and Pistol let a hoof fly. I was obviously in the line of fire. I thank the good Lord that I was facing away from Pistol, so her hoof caught the back of my calf, not the bony front – otherwise, I’d have a cast on my leg now, and possibly pins in it too, instead of a very large, colorful and painful bruise.

Purty, huh. It knocked me down too. I tell you, I’m spending much too much time picking myself up off the ground on trail rides these days. Hey, at least I didn’t fall off this time! And again, Cash avoided stepping on me. He could easily have backed up, away from Pistol and over me, but instead chose to walk in front of the scary mare. I love that horse.

Once again, I remind you – having horses around is dangerous. Y’all be careful out there.

Let’s Not Forget: Horseback Riding is Dangerous

Let’s Not Forget: Horseback Riding is Dangerous

We’ll get to the title in a minute, but we have so much to tell you, I don’t even know where to start!

We had a GREAT day of trail riding on Saturday. Our horse friend Shari, who was not in the market for a new horse, bought one: a Tennessee Walking Horse! A very large, jet-black one that looks strikingly like Valentine. Shari jokes that when she and I go trail riding on our own, we’ll take our “big black steeds.” (She doesn’t have a name for him yet, so if you have any suggestions, send them our way; he’s a sweetheart, 8-year-old gelding, all black with a star and white pasterns on both rear feet. His temporary name is “Spot,” so he’s badly in need of a new one.)

We bought a horse too! Cash. Yes, he tried to run away from us, but we decided he probably didn’t mean anything by it. In fact, we decided to buy him the day he escaped. He is just such a good horse, in so many ways. So when we started out on our trail ride, Bill rode Cash.

So who did I ride, you wonder? Well, even though we decided to get Cash, we just liked Romeo so much we weren’t ready to let him go yet. His owners also had a saddle for sale that we’d like to try, so we took Romeo and the saddle on our trail ride. I rode Romeo for the first part of the ride. Dayle came too (Romeo’s owner), riding her mare Katie.

So there we were, three of us on three new horses. Fun, huh? The first excitement was when Shari dismounted to open a gate and Spot swung back toward us; Cash spooked, which spooked Romeo, and we all swung around. No big deal – we’re all getting to know each other, after all. Then we started out with a creek, so see how Spot handled water (we already knew Romeo didn’t mind it, and Cash of course crossed the creek any number of times during his afternoon stroll on Monday). Spot didn’t like it. Shari had to get off to lead him through, but after that he was fine. We crossed a bridge, rode through a variety of terrain, had a canine escort (Dayle’s dog Oreo – Cash didn’t like it but tolerated him). No problems at all.

Bill had a great time with Cash, and I love riding Romeo. I wouldn’t have wanted to switch, in fact, if the saddle we were trying hadn’t become uncomfortable. But it did, so we switched mid-ride. We met some cows, took a break under some trees and let Spot and Cash sniff each other. Again, no problems. Then it got REALLY exciting.

We decided to let the horses drink from the creek. I started to ride Cash through the trees, thinking that it was just some leafy branches. I didn’t realize until it was too late that there was a large branch in the midst of the leaves. I didn’t have the grip I should’ve on the reins, so I couldn’t stop Cash in time to save me from being swept off the saddle. Off I went, sliding right under Cash’s feet. To make matters worse, the reins caught on the branch, preventing Cash from moving away. I looked up as I fell and saw those hooves right above me, and I swear, I thought I was a goner. Shari was sure I was about to be stepped on too; I think it looked pretty bad from where she was watching. Dayle was nearly as alarmed. (Bill, on the other hand, made what seemed like a pretty insensitive joke when I got up; he’d missed the whole thing.)

But the amazing thing was that Cash deliberately tucked his hooves up under himself to keep from stepping on me. I’d heard that horses do that instinctively, and it turns out it’s true. I said a little prayer of thanks for that, and silently thanked Bill too for making us wear our geeky helmets even though no one else does, then hugged and kissed Cash and announced that we are definitely keeping him. I love that horse!

Oh, and we’re keeping Romeo too. He’s just too good a horse to pass up too, and…shhh, don’t tell him, but…the Kid’s going to learn to ride, and Romeo’s just the horse to teach him. Besides, it’s a nice change of pace for me to have a horse that I don’t need help getting up on. And when I’m done bragging on Cash for not maiming or killing me, you’ll hear lots of praise about Romeo.

But for now…I love that Cash. He’s the best! And don’t forget to wear a helmet, even though it looks dorky and your head sweats and you get helmet hair. Because remember: it’s always dangerous to ride a horse.

Something For Horse Lovers of All Ages

Something For Horse Lovers of All Ages

I’ve been meaning to write about something for weeks now and just haven’t found the time, or the words. We came across something that is just so cool, but to write about it we’d have to admit that…well…we still like to play with toys. There. I said it. So if you’re only partly grown up yourself, or if you know a horse-crazy little girl, or just someone who loves horses and maybe can’t have a real one – we have found the coolest thing: Paradise Horses.

A disclaimer here: we were given a selection of products to review. I tell you honestly, though, I would buy these myself, if only I had someone in my house (other than me) who would be interested in them. Alas, I only have a boy, and as our loyal readers know, the Kid is not that fond of horses, real or otherwise. Sigh. So, in the interests of our readers, I had to review them myself. The sacrifices I make for you all!

Such a sacrifice, too. I was so excited to get these toys. They are a line of horses (duh!) with all the accoutrements a horse would need. But these are not your usual cheap toys. In fact, they could more accurately be called models, though they are most definitely meant to be played with. The horses are heavy and solid, and horses and riders are fully posable. You can even open the horses’ mouths to put in a bit or a carrot. The accessories are just as detailed, too – the curry comb looks and feels exactly like my real one, and the dandy brush is a perfect replica of the full-sized one too. We just couldn’t get over how realistic all the little pieces are.

And all the things you can get to go with them! Barn, tack, feed sets, jumps – there are hours of horseplay possible with these sets. We got “Rhythmical,” a bay horse, complete with halter, lead rope, comb and carrot; “Grace,” a red-haired little girl dressed for English riding with jodhpurs, boots, jacket, helmet and crop; the grooming set (tote, curry comb, dandy brush, comb, towel, spray bottle, hoof pick, hoof oil can and sweat scraper); and the show set (blue “wool” blanket and “leather” boots). I had so much fun with these (as you can see by the photos)! It made me want to get a set of tack (Grace can stay on her horse bareback, but it would be so much better with a saddle), a barn (Rhythmical needs a place to sleep, after all!) and a set of jumps (we’re not into the English riding, but the horse needs something to do, right?). Maybe even a tack trunk, to put all the cool tack in. Oh, and a feed set – the carrot won’t hold him over for long. . .maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have a horse-crazy little girl in our house!

Oh, and I almost forgot – you can “register” your horse on their website, and print out a certificate of authenticity with your name and your horse’s name. That’s a nice little touch that kids are sure to love.

I highly recommend these toys. They are well made and oodles of fun. I had a great time with them, and can’t wait for my grandson to come visit so I’ll have an excuse to play with them some more!

For more information: (now Paradise Kids)

And On a Much Lighter Note…

And On a Much Lighter Note…

Mini FoalIsn’t this just the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? This is a miniature horse foal, born on Wednesday. It was a difficult birth, and her mama didn’t have any milk for her, and the owners had to leave town on urgent business, so the vet brought her back to the office where we’ve been bottle-feeding her. She’s thriving so far, so we have high hopes. She’s about 14″ high at the withers, and her mama’s maybe 6 inches taller than that.

If we weren’t all full up on animals at our house, I’d bring her home. She is adorable.

More on Moonshine

More on Moonshine

Bandaged LegWe had the vet out to look at Moonshine yesterday. She had good news for us – she says it looks like just a sprain, and there’s no evidence of serious damage to either her leg or her insides. Both hind legs are swollen, especially the left. We sprayed it down with a cold hose for a while, then Kristina slathered it with Magna-Paste, wrapped it and gave her a shot of Banamine, an anti-inflammatory. (Since she was poking her already, she did her spring vaccinations too. If ya’ll haven’t done that yet, it’s time.) She left more Magna-Paste and dressings with the trainer, with instructions to cold-hose it again in the morning and re-wrap it if it was still swollen. Unfortunately, our planned ride tomorrow will not include Moonshine, because she will need a few days to recover.

Now that the medical side is under control, we have to address the bigger question: is Moonshine safe to ride? Three experienced horse people – Shari, the trainer and our vet – think she may be too dangerous based on this incident. We want to heed their advice, because obviously they’re about a zillion times more knowledgeable than we are. But part of us (is it the emotional part, or the logical part?) thinks that since she has never done anything remotely like this, there must be a logical explanation. We had suggested that perhaps she was stung by something. Bill suggested yesterday that it might have been fire ants. They are very common here, and both her actions and her symptoms both fit that theory – when Bill was stung on the leg by fire ants last summer, his leg swelled up like crazy. Both her back legs are swollen, and she certainly didn’t hit that car with her hind end. But the vet says the swelling is due to muscle strain, not the impact, and the trainer says that even if she had been stung by something, she shouldn’t have gone nuts like she did. He says he’s been riding a horse when it was stung by wasps and it didn’t go crazy. (That horse is tougher than I am – I most certainly did go crazy when I was stung by wasps!)

So what do we do? Moonshine is a total sweetheart on the ground – affectionate, calm, obedient, gentle. Her only problem thus far was that she “crow-hopped” when being ridden, usually at a canter. We were making progress with that – the trainer said that she never did it if he longed her before riding, so we just planned to longe her before every ride, and Bill would learn how to react if she did do anything funny. But now we have a horse that may or may not be unpredictable (like any horse isn’t). Shari has long been of the opinion that we should sell her, but who would buy a 10-year-old horse without an impressive bloodline that few people can ride? We’d have to sell her at auction, most likely, and her future would not be bright. We couldn’t do that. So if we can’t ride her, we’ll have a very expensive pet for the next 20 or so years.

She will be coming home from the trainer the middle of next week. Shari has promised to ride her on our trail rides together, to get a feel for how unpredictable she might really be. I guess we’ll just evaluate her over the next few months and see how she does.

So please keep us and our sweet, nutty Moonshine in your prayers. We’ll all need them while we work through this, hopefully with no further injuries to either horse or riders.

More Details on Moonshine’s Accident

More Details on Moonshine’s Accident

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Here’s some clarification.  First of all, we didn’t have a contract with the trainer – he’s not that kind of trainer.  We live in the country, and it’s a country kind of thing – agreements on a handshake and all.  Believe it or not, I’m pretty comfortable with that, at least in this case.  He’s a nice guy who’s very good with horses and up to this point, he’s done a really good job with Moonshine and with Pistol, our friend Shari’s 3-year-old filly who was there all month too.  He’s completely torn up about this incident and in fact is offering to pay for all damages.  We’ll probably come to some sort of agreement about that.  Again, the country way.

So what happened is this.  Lance was trail riding Moonshine this morning.  He has ridden her every day, at first just inside the arena and paddocks, but as he got more comfortable with her, he started taking her out on trails on his property.  It’s unclear exactly where he was riding her today, but for the last several days she has been no trouble at all, so he was comfortable riding her on open trails.  He came across a neighbor and stopped to chat.  The neighbor was not on horseback, so Lance dismounted and tied Moonshine, possibly to a tree.  She stood quietly while they chatted, as she always has for us too.  Then she suddenly, for no reason he could discern, went berserk.  Before he could grab her she had broken the reins and started bucking like a wild bronco.  Again, she has never done that.  Up till now, her problem – and only when being ridden – was “crow-hopping,” a kind of half-buck.  She nearly ran him over; bucked to the fence, where he thought she was going to go through it; stopped at the fence then continued bucking in another direction, down the driveway where she started half-running, half-bucking toward the road.  He ran after her at a dead run (so she must have been going at a pretty good clip) but she made it to the road, where she ran into a moving car.  The car did not hit her, she hit it.  On the passenger side.  Lance knew the woman, who stopped and talked to him.  She “knows someone” who does body work and says she’ll do it cheap.  A $400 figure was bandied about.  We’ll see on that, I guess.

As for Moonshine, she has a small abrasion on her left hip; she ripped a shoe off (the nails ripped right out, leaving tears in the hoof but the soft structures appear to be okay).  There is no heat or swelling anywhere on her body, so far.  She seems to be a bit shaken but okay.  Lance wasn’t there when we came by to see her tonight, but his mother was keeping an eye on her while he was gone.  She thought he would probably be staying with her in the barn all night.  He has a supply of meds and our vet’s number – she sees all his horses too (on a side note, I’m now working for our vet; I’ve been there 2 1/2 weeks now.  It’s sure a good connection to have at the moment).

We’ll update you tomorrow, once the vet has seen her and her condition is more clear.  Thanks for all your kind thoughts!

Stallions, Mares and Geldings

Stallions, Mares and Geldings

Mare and foalThere are a lot of factors to consider when choosing a horse, and one that people don’t always think of is gender. We have two geldings and a mare, and I’m happy to share our inexpert opinion with you. We love our mare, but I would say this: if you don’t want a lot of headaches, chose a gelding.

Stallions, of course, are notoriously difficult. Without doing a lot of research on why, I’m guessing it’s the testosterone. Having a stallion in your barn, especially if he will be around mares (either at home or at trails, shows, etc.), is a challenge for even an experienced horse owner. They can be aggressive, domineering and hard to control. It takes a firm hand to keep a stallion under control.

Mares…I know people who won’t own a mare because they are such a pain. What makes them such a pain? The months of March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October…longer if you live somewhere warm. Warm weather brings a mare into season. And if you think women can be moody and B I _ _ _ Y (well, this is a family show, let’s say “cranky”); a female horse can teach most women a thing or two about moody and cranky. Like women, mares vary in how they react to their “time of the month.” With some, you can hardly tell. With others (Moonshine!), you wonder where your sweet little horse went. Moonshine is irritable, doesn’t like to be touched and if there are male horses around, she has only one thing on her mind, and it’s not trail riding. Our poor geldings: when she met each of them, she had high hopes. She acted a coquette for days, being as sweet as could be. That is, until she figured out they weren’t going to be able to help her. Then she was just a witchy thing, snapping and kicking and bossing them around. Of course, she goes through the same thing whenever she encounters a new male. The last time we tried to ride her, she was in season and there was a new potential suitor in the vicinity; her mind was elsewhere. So mares can be very sweet, but sometimes not. Both in the same horse. Sometimes in the same day.

And that leaves geldings. Life is so much easier without all those hormones. (As the mother of a former teenager and one about to enter his teenage years, I know what I’m talking about.) That’s a very simplistic view, of course; all horses are different and they can have many, many issues separate from the chemicals that may or may not be racing through their bodies. But starting with a blank slate, so to speak, can sure make things easier.

That’s my two cents. What do you all think? Mares, geldings, stallions, no preference?

Moonshine’s Leaving

Moonshine’s Leaving

Don’t worry, it’s not forever!

Photo by Shelly Busby on Unsplash

I’m not sure how much we’ve shared about Moonshine, but to make a long story short, she hasn’t been fit for us to ride since we got her. Our horse friend, Shari, says she’s “green-broke” – she got only so far in her training, and then somebody stopped training her. Not far enough for someone who’s a green rider to feel safe on her. We have Sinbad for Bill to ride now, but he won’t be with us forever, given that he’s (1) not ours and (2) 26 years old. We’ve been going back and forth about getting another horse – namely Champ, the neighbor horse – but Shari is pretty adamant that we should not invest in another old horse who may , in addition, be arthritic. So she came up with an alternate plan.

Moonshine into trailer

Shari knows that even if we can never ride Moonshine, we can’t bear to get rid of her, so we’ll have a horse we have to pay to keep for no reason. She suggested that we take the money we were going to use to buy Champ and invest it in training Moonshine. She knows a trainer, Lance, who she highly recommends – he’s going to train her filly too. So Lance came over last Wednesday and worked with Moonshine for an hour. He suggested that it might be best for her to stay at his farm where he can ride her every day. We agreed, so today Moonshine left for boarding school for a month. We’ll miss her, but Lance has high hopes that after a month of intensive training she’ll be a fine horse.

So wish our Moonshine good luck! We hope she studies hard and comes back a new horse – one that doesn’t want to dump Bill off every time he gets in the saddle.