Thursday, December 29, 2011

One of Those Weeks

We've had a few too many misadventures in the last week. It all started as we were driving along Highway 31 planning to run a few errands and eat some lunch last week. We were driving along chatting away and all was well. Then we crested a hill and there was a large mound of something in the middle of the road. We ran over it at 50 miles per hour, and in the process heard a very loud "smack" upon impact. The kind of noise where you know you just did some damage.

Jason immediately begins ranting and raving about the idiocy of people and humanity in general. Who leaves @##$%% in the road. What dumb @$^&*$ does that? I'm sure you can use your imagine to come up with something very similar to what he was saying. I'm trying to ignore him so I can listen to the very odd noise that is now coming from the car. I finally interrupt his tirade and ask him if we shouldn't pull over and ascertain exactly how much damage we just did to the vehicle? Finally we pull over into an empty parking lot. Jason gets out and is looking underneath the car. He launches into another tirade, complete with kicking the tire of the car.

He gets back in the car and tells me it looks like the shield underneath the car is broken and it is hanging down. He then proceeds to tell me that because I made him clean all of his crap out of the car a few days ago (Jason is a slob and I'm a neat freak) that he has no tools at all and can't do anything about it. Of course the whole thing is my fault now. We happened to be only two miles away from a Tractor Supply store where Jason could get some tools. It took us a long time to drive those two miles while listening to part of the vehicle scraping along on the road.

We make it to TSC, Jason goes in and purchases the tools he needs, and he proceeds to crawl under the car. Did I mention yet that it was raining? He is under the car in the dirty parking lot in the rain for about 10 minutes. He finally crawls out from under the car victorious with the broken piece removed. His mood improves instantly. Later that day we leave the car in the loving care of the Toyota dealer for repairs. We were laughing about it by the end of the day.

Jason crawling under the car in the rain

Jason saves the day!

Today started out as a fine day. It was a sunny day and everyone, people and horses, were happy. We had just finished eating lunch when Jason's cell phone rang. It was the utility company calling to let us know they had just cut off the water at the farm. They had isolated a leak in their system and located it at our farm. 48,000 gallons of extra water will be on our bill this month. I'm not sure what was more surprising about that phone call. The fact that our water had been shut off or the fact that we had a 48,000 gallon leak.

The "good news" is when you are talking about that much water the leak is very easy to find. The leak was located at the main connection at the road, the pipe had become completely separated from the main county line. The county water line is six inch pipe. We are only about three miles from the tower, and are also about 500 feet below it. This means that we have water pressure of 180 psi where our one inch water line taps into the six inch main line. Now you know why it is even possible for us to have such a massive leak - and why we also have a pressure regulator installed at the main connection.

Thankfully after a trip to Home Depot and a couple of hours of getting wet and muddy Jason saved the day again. The leak is repaired and our water is back on. I didn't push my luck with any pictures as I had a strong desire to live to see another day. To give you an idea of Jason's unhappy expression today here is a picture I took a few months ago of Jason dealing with a different plumbing issue. Not a happy look is it?

Sometimes I wonder if Jason wishes he were not so handy. When the car had its boo boo I would have just had it towed and had someone pick me up and give me a ride home. No crawling under the car in the rain dealing with it myself. As far as our leak I would have called a plumber. Aside from the fact that I am clueless about anything to do with plumbing I'm not good with anything involving tools. Jason gets nervous if he sees me so much as looking at a screw driver. Needless to say we are hoping for a few quiet, uneventful days - especially Jason!



Homer and Elfin

me with B-Rad

I always feel like I am being watched . . . probably because I am

Thomas, Baby and Tony

Chili and Sam

Wiz, Dutch and Murphy with Sam in the background


Monday, December 26, 2011


The old saying that the devil is in the details is very true at least here on this retirement farm. In terms of duty delineation I clearly come out on top. I and the employees look after the details that are farm related including keeping the pastures mowed, the machinery running and the fences fixed and some of the horse work while Melissa does the lion's share of everything else.

There are a LOT of things included in the "everything else" category. Things like monthly invoicing, entering receipts, running QuickBooks, keeping up with bills and payroll, communicating with clients, scheduling client visits, visits for farriers, vet visits, taking pictures and videos of the horses, etc. In addition to this she does more than her share of the hands on horse work too.

Communicating with clients really ought to be it's own whole chapter. At regular boarding barns when a horse needs to see a vet or needs a trim it is often up to the owner to arrange this. Because most of our clients are not local, we look after this for everyone. In addition to regular updates with photos and videos as well as updating the blog several times a week, every time a client's horse needs needs to see a vet or really anything out of the ordinary it requires a host of interactions. These include several emails or phone calls with both the owner and the vet plus follow ups and updates. As much as anything this business is successful because Melissa is an excellent and thorough communicator.

We appreciate our clients and we enjoy what we do. However I am very happy somebody else handles the details because this place would be in four alarm crisis mode ALL the time without Melissa actively working to keep a lid on things !

Lightening yawning and Noble grazing

Darby wins the award for cutest fuzzy ears in the winter

Cuff Links

Walden and Fabrizzio


Rampal and Tiny

Tony and Baby


Ivan, Homer and Moe

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Traditions

I've been thinking today about Christmas and particularly about the varied traditions it brings about. When you grow up, as I did, in a fairly homogenous small community it's easy to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas in a manner similar to oneself. Of course that isn't true. It's been a revelation to me to see how other families celebrate the holidays. It's been particularly interesting to see and learn what other families consider to be important traditions in their households. Some celebrate with a meal of fresh seafood while others open their presents on Christmas Eve or forgo presents altogether. Cornbread dressing was something I had never heard of until I moved south and I'll admit I still miss the traditional Christmas puddings I grew up with. Of course, I'd be remiss if I forgot to mention those that choose not to celebrate Christmas at all.

Melissa and I are looking forward to spending some time visiting with family, and our first big family dinner usually takes place on Christmas Eve. After we tend to the horses on Christmas morning we usually go to my in-laws to join them for a big breakfast prior to opening our presents. We spend the rest of the day until evening chore time at leisure, either relaxing at a variety of non-strenuous activities or doing nothing at all. A much anticipated nap in the chair usually figures pretty prominently in my Christmas Day activities. Maybe this year we'll do something different and go to a movie.

Whatever your Christmas traditions, Melissa and I would like to wish each and every one of you a very happy and safe holiday.

Clayton, Stormy and Largo hanging out and Kennedy grazing

Sparky and Sky

Chance dozing

Sebastian, Renny and Murphy

George, Fonzi and Chimano

Faune and Winston

The Big Boys came thundering from the back of their pasture staring at something (Trigger, Apollo, Ivan, Homer, Hemi, Levendi, Elfin and Moe)

then they all struck a pose and stared at something very intently

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Memory of Clay

Yesterday was another sad day for us, we had to say goodbye to Clay. Last Wednesday when Clay was eating dinner he was eating very slowly. Aside from that he was acting completely normal, including trotting in from the back of the pasture with his friends when called up for dinner. His temperature, pulse and respiratory rate were all normal. His capillary refill was normal. Despite all of this, given that Clay was just shy of 33 years old, we called the vet clinic and told them we were bringing a patient. It seemed like overkill at the time, but when anything is less than perfectly normal with an elderly horse it is better to be safe than sorry. Always the perfect gentleman, Clay self loaded on the trailer and we drove to the clinic.


Clay was examined immediately upon arrival at the clinic. All vitals were still normal and he had excellent gut sounds. His bloodwork was normal and indicated he was fully hydrated. However a rectal exam revealed an impaction. It was only about 12 to 18 inches in from his anus. The vet removed as much manure as he could and it all looked normal. He said the impaction felt pretty large but the good news was everything else seemed to be working normally. The hope was that with the assistance of IV fluids and some oil and water administered via tubing that Clay would pass the impaction and carry on. There was certainly a question mark as to the cause but things were looking very good for recovery.

Clay grazing with Fuzzy and Chili

Thursday morning another rectal exam revealed more manure in the exact same area. The vet again removed the manure. Same thing again that afternoon. By Friday afternoon all the manure had been removed and there was no more impaction. At that point, once the area was clear, Clay's vet said he could feel a large abnormality upon palpation.

such wise eyes

At this point things became more clear. Clay was scoped through his rectum and a large tear at the area where the manure kept backing up was revealed. The tear appeared to be old and chronic. As the vet said there was no blood in the area, not fresh blood, old dried blood, nothing, so it was not anything recent. The tear did not go all the way through the colon, just the first few tissue layers, creating a large pocket. There are no good guesses as to what caused the tear other than an aging body beginning to wear out. Is is assumed that something happened to stretch the tissue around the tear and make the compromised area even larger, creating the pocket where the manure would get packed in and back everything up.

trotting through the snow with Fuzzy

The plan was to keep Clay on IV fluids and continue giving him fluids and oil through a tube as well to make his manure as soft as possible. The hope was that with super soft and wet manure Clay could pass it on his own. If that was the case we were all hoping he could come home and carry on with life with a modified diet.

grazing with Fuzzy

The waiting game began. Clay did not pass any manure Saturday but still seemed comfortable. No more Sunday either but Clay was still comfortable. Then he got uncomfortable Sunday evening and the vets had no choice but to remove manure through another rectal. The manure had stopped at the usual spot around the tear and packed in.

Clay, Fuzzy and Chili

During all of this the surgeon on staff was exploring surgical options for Clay. Unfortunately due to the size of the tear and the location, along with the already weakened tissue that a 33 year old horse has, she determined that Clay was not going to be a good surgical candidate. As if that news was not bad enough Clay's vets also were confident that Clay had nerve damage in the stretched areas of tissue and that was the main reason why Clay could not evacuate manure on his own. In the end we were left with one reasonable and humane choice for Clay, euthanasia. The staff at the clinic gave Clay a big pile of alfalfa hay to eat since he had been on a severely restricted diet the last few days. He munched on his alfalfa. Jason hand picked grass for him and brought it to him in his stall. Then we said goodbye and Clay passed peacefully. Everybody involved, us, his vets, the staff at the clinic, were devastated.

Clay, Chili and Fuzzy

When you were around Clay you knew you were standing in the presence of a wise old soul. He always had a serene aura about him, and he was one of the smartest horses I've ever worked around. The entire time he was at the clinic, with the constant rectal exams and nasogastro tubes, Clay was a perfect gentleman. He never needed to be sedated or restrained. He just stood there while someone held the leadrope. His vet said it was as if Clay knew they were helping him and could not believe that for several days in a row Clay stood quietly for each procedure. Jason and I were not surprised at all. We already knew Clay was a wise old soul.

Clay and Chili

Clay had lived with us for several years. Jason and I were reminiscing about the first day we met him. Clay walked off the trailer and we put him in a stall next to his buddy Chili who had travelled with him. Clay stood in the stall with his legs trembling, probably from a combination of nerves (he had not been on a trailer in 10 years) and being tired from his long trailer ride. We gave Clay some paste electrolytes and stood outside his stall watching him anxiously. Jason made the comment "It will surprise me if he is with us six months from now."

Clay and Snappy

Clay rebounded quickly and within a few hours he was happily eating hay and settling in. Happily he beat Jason's worried prediction of six months by several years. Clay quickly made it clear that while kind and gentle to both people and horses, he was no pushover either. He quickly rose to number two in the order in his group. The joke was that Clay walked around with an air of quiet self confidence that said "I have been there and done that."

enjoying a good roll

Clay had been owned by his family for almost twenty years. He started out life as a race horse on the Quarter Horse racing circuit. He won $18,000 at the track. I have always said that this part of his history surprises me. Clay was so smart and not spooky at all, and had this vision of the gates flying open and the bell ringing and Clay just standing there going "what is everyone in a panic about?"

Clay enjoyed the retired life

After his racing career he joined his family and became a trail riding companion. His mom said she had been devoted to Clay ever since one day out on the trails when he saved her life. She had been trail riding with her daughter who was on her pony and they had been out for several hours. They were riding in the mountains and she had lost her way. She kept trying to to get them on the right path home but without success. Finally, scared and trying not to cry in front of her daughter, she dropped the reins and said to Clay, "Clay, please get us home. "

Clay felt you could never roll too much

During that ride she never picked up the reins again. As it turned out they were almost 10 miles off their trail and at over 10,000 feet elevation in mountain lion territory. Clay picked his way along, sometimes at the walk, sometimes at the trot and canter, through the dark on the narrow, steep and twisting trails. A few hours later he got them back to their base safely. She firmly believes that Clay saved her and her daughter's lives that day, and as she said she has been devoted to him ever since.

Clay with Lightening and Chili

Unfortunately Clay had to be retired from riding a couple of years later due to navicular at the age of 12. Clay enjoyed 21 years of retirement, the last several with us. As Jason pointed out yesterday Clay really should have had no complaints in life. He essentially retired at the age of 30 and got to lead a pampered life that someone else paid for until he passed at 95. I don't know anyone who would complain about that. After 22 years of retirement Clay certainly does not support the oft repeated refrain that horses "need a job" in order to live a long and happy life.

Slinky and Clay

Clay leaves behind his close friend of almost 20 years, Chili. Fuzzy was also especially attached to Clay. We have been watching them closely since we took Clay to the clinic last Wednesday. As we have always seen in the past Chili and Fuzzy have been just fine and acting their usual happy selves. As for us, well we have not been just fine. It really hit Jason today when were preparing breakfast for everyone this morning and filling up feed bags. Before he realized it he had filled Clay's feedbag. He stood there with Clay's feedbag, fully absoring the reality that Clay was permanently gone. It was a heartbreaking moment. We miss his kind and gentle presence.

Clay's dad said it well when we were telling him the only humane option left was euthanasia, "goodbye to a good soldier." Clay was a wise old soul and good soldier. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


Sam is a 13 year old Hanoverian gelding who joined us for retirement this summer. Sam was bred and born in Germany. His sire is Saint Cloud who was a Grand Prix dressage horse.

While Sam was frolicing in a field in Germany as a young horse his future mom was riding and showing her Arabian gelding, ironically named Ham. Sam's mom had been showing Ham at some USDF rated dressage shows and she was also starting to do the upper level ratings in Pony Club and becoming more involved in eventing. When it came time to purchase a horse more suitable for moving up the levels she began the search for another horse.

Sam and him mom schooling at home
Sam's mom looked at horses up and down the East Coast for about six months. She never found what she was looking for and ended up trying horses at a farm in Canada. While she did not find the horse she was looking for in Canada, she did meet someone that she trusted to travel to the Verband Auction in Germany and pick out a horse for her.

Sam at the Verband Auction in Germany

This person picked Sam out for her at the Verband Auction. After Sam enjoyed a plane ride from Germany and a short quarantine, Sam and his mom met for the first time nine years ago. Sam was a very green four year old that had just been lightly started undersaddle. She said she remembers meeting Sam for the first time and holding the leadrope attached to the gorgeous and feisty black gelding and wondering what she had gotten herself into.

Sam and his mom at a dressage show

It turned out she had gotten herself a wonderful partner and they began furthering their training together in both jumping and dressage. At first they did a lot of jumping, and over the years the migrated more and more towards dressage. Sam was very athletic and full of try under saddle, but as his mom said you had to keep his brain engaged and keep him from getting bored. If you didn't he would find ways to start entertaining himself under saddle. This usually involved a spook and spin, or sometimes a buck. His mom said Sam was the most talented bucker in a barn full of really athletic horses, and she developed a great seat riding him.

When riding Sam the challenge was to keep his mind focused on the task at hand while channeling his energy in a constructive manner. His mom said that when everything came together when riding Sam he was an amazing ride. Soft and supple in the bridle, forward, sensitive yet always listening. She especially loved riding his extensions as she said it felt like you were floating.

Sam and his mom

Sam and his mom finally found a trainer that they really clicked with a couple of years ago. A lot of trainers wanted to label Sam as difficult since he required such a tactful ride. It was during these last couple of years that she and Sam had their best work under saddle. They went all the way back to basics and spent a month at the walk learning how to walk into contact. Then they worked on really going forward at the trot. After they had mastered these two things they started to advance very quickly. They often drew an audience for their dressage lessons as Sam had become so impressive to watch under saddle.

Sam on the move a few weeks ago

Sam and his mom had their low point about three years ago. Sam bucked her off and she had a compression fracture in her back. This episode sent them looking for reasons for the much stronger than usual bucking episode, and Sam was diagnosed with kissing spines. Sam was successfully treated and brought back to work, they found their wonderful trainer and were having the best riding times they had ever had.

Sam trotting through the pasture in one of his first weeks with us, I'm sure he was about to go cause trouble somewhere.

A few little things started bothering Sam in the last couple of years and he wound up having various joint injections done. Then he came up lame up front and an MRI showed severe navicular changes in one front hoof and moderate changes in the other. Sam's vets were amazed he had been in work and was only showing mild lameness relative to the changes seen on the MRI. His mom decided at that point that she was not going to keep pushing things and trying to patch him together, she was worried if she did that he would wind up really broken. Instead she decided to retire him now so he could really enjoy retirement after 9 years of working and trying hard for her.

Sam's personality is exactly as him mom described it to us. He is very self confident and likes to be in the middle of things. He is never bored and is always finding ways to entertain himself, just like he did when he was being ridden. He has a very in charge personality and if there is a ruckus going on in his group you can be confident that Sam is in the middle of it and probably the cause. Because his mom decided to retire him before he was pushed too hard he is enjoying retirement to the fullest. He is a very lucky horse!

We hope you have enjoyed learning about Sam as much as we have enjoyed getting to know him the last few months!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Water in Winter

I remember being stuck in Lexington due to an ice storm three winters ago when Melissa called crying and cold after being outside for seven hours on a ten degree morning trying to keep all the water troughs open. Fortunately there was not ice in Middle Tennessee but it was much colder than normal and at that time we did not have electricity at every trough. We also had one hydrant that had a leak and it froze during this very hard freeze.

In spite of the ice in Kentucky, I dusted off my winter driving skills and left Lexington immediately. After an epic trek across central Kentucky including three hours on the Bluegrass Parkway completely by myself (I later found out they closed the highway) I finally made it home and put my Canadian cold weather skills toward remedying some of our problems. A few hours with a blow torch had us in water again and everyone was happy. Fortunately we don't get many ten degree mornings in this part of the world, but I disliked that one enough that I swore up and down that we were going to do better when we had our new place.

Fast forward three years. As we approach winter, one of the nicest things about having everyone at the new farm is having properly installed, correctly buried water lines, properly installed hydrants and insulated troughs in every paddock and around all the buildings. We have eliminated the need for electricity and trough heaters which is a huge relief as you always worry about trickle voltage when using them. Cold weather and the possibility of intermittent power doesn't scare me a bit any more. In spite of the infamous rock, every line and connection on the farm is buried two feet deep...more than twice the frost line in southern Middle Tennessee. The horses have instant access to unlimited quantities of fresh, clean water and if something fails there are shut offs everywhere and redundancies are already built into the system.

Winter coming ? Yawn. This Canuck says bring it on !

Toledo and Johnny

something had Fuzzy and B-Rad's attention

Elfin even managed to get his eyebrows dirty when he rolled

Rampal and Largo

Calimba, Norman and Cuff Links


Thor, Walden and Lucky

Chimano, Faune and Winston