Category Archives: horse

Couples therapy

For the past few months, Anna and I have missed the opportunity to take the horses on a trail ride without the kids. This is because we have been without two horses for us to ride. While the lower feed bill has been nice, we really missed our time to ride as a couple and as a whole family.
On Monday, Calli (Calliope) came to join us. We have her on a free lease for now as we evaluate if she is right for us. Calli is a 5 year old, 16.1hh, thoroughbred mare. She has some arena experience, but is definitely more green than horses I have worked with in the past. So far, after 2 rides, we are getting along well.
Since it was raining this morning, we rearranged some plans and Anna and I went trail riding this afternoon. To my knowledge, this was only Calli’s second trail ride. We got her to do a small water crossing and did some canter work in a nice open field. She did very well and Anna and I were able to enjoy the afternoon out.



Pasture maintenance in progress

Horses eat grass and leave weeds. Goats eat weeds and leave grass. A little rest from the horses is a perfect time to let the goats clean up the weeds! We recently purchased a large quantity of used Premier electronet fencing for just this purpose. At their initial browse rate, it looks like the weeds will be clear in about 24 hours. Luckily, we are putting up more electronet around an overgrown area of the property for the goats to move to next!


Devil’s cancer surgery

Warning: This post contains explicit details and graphic pictures of equine cancer surgery. 

Last summer, we got Vicki a Paint pony named Devil in Disguise (Devil).  He has been absolutely fabulous with the kids and Anna uses him for teaching lessons to new riders.  In late April, we noticed an unusual lump on his sheath, so we decided to have Salem Valley Vet out to evaluate the issue.  Salem Valley came and took a small cell sample for analysis, but was pretty certain it was a sarcoid tumor. In the about 3 weeks from when we first noticed the tumor until Salem Valley checked it, Anna and I both noticed a definite size increase in the tumor. The recommendation came back to book him for surgery at Tufts.

As we were moving through this, I met Dr. Kara Kneser at a 4H goat showing clinic, and she referenced me to Dr. Anne Schwartz of Tri State Equine Surgical Specialists.  Based on the cost estimate from Tufts, we decided to have Dr. Schwartz give us a second opinion.  Dr. Schwartz has experience working in equine hospitals in Florida and a couple of years ago moved to RI to branch out on her own.  Right now she is specializing in on-farm surgery.  We did a consult with her to evaluate the tumors.  The advantages of doing on-farm surgery are lower stress (no trailering, familiar environment, etc), convenient, maybe better recovery, and cost.  Of course, the risks are higher because there are no monitors and fewer options if things go bad.  We decided to accept the risks and cost because Devil is only 9 and has many more years ahead of him.  Due to some shifting schedules, the surgery got moved up to today.

Dr. Schwartz did the actual surgery and Dr. Kneser was the anesthesiologist.  The surgery was actually conducted in the grassy area just outside our barn.  They started by sedating Devil and then actually giving him the anesthesia.  Once he was down and on his back, Dr. Schwartz got to work.  It was about 2 hrs, 15 minutes from her first incision until she finished sewing him up as much as possible.  Brittany Banning introduced us to Devil in the first place, and since she is a vet student, we invited her to the surgery.  Dr. Schwartz let her jump in to help.  The tumors were much more involved than any of us had imagined.  Samples are being sent for analysis to confirm the are sarcoids.  In all, 1-1.5 lbs of tumors were removed, and a number of times Dr. Schwartz commented on how in over 20 years she didn’t remember seeing any sarcoids that involved.  There were a few touchy points when his heart rate dropped or his breathing got irregular, but in the end, he survived the surgery.

It took about 45 minutes for the anesthesia to wear off and for him to stand up.  At first, 5 of us were helping keep him from falling back over.  After a while, Vicki came up to check on him.  Devil was very happy to see Vicki and actually, kept stepping forward to get closer to her.  We used Vicki to lead him back to his stall.

Devil will be on stall rest for 1-2 days, and then get to go back out.  He will get 4-5 chemotherapy injections throughout the summer where the tumors were located.  How he does will determine how long until Vicki gets to ride him again, but probably about 2 months.

We are very pleased with the work that Dr. Schwartz and her team did, and definitely give them a “4 hooves up” endorsement.

What follows are pictures from the surgery.

Rob is going back to school

I’ve got a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and a M.S. in Engineering Management.  Now it is time to get a degree I want to use.  It is interesting how our decisions in life change.  In about 7 years I will be eligible to retire from the Navy.  My current “second career” plan is to be a professional, full-time barefoot horse trimmer.  In preparation for that career and to aid me in my current trimming business, I am working on a certification in Natural Hoof Care from The Equine Sciences Academy.

The first phase of the certification is to earn a degree in Equine Sciences.  Through the program, I will be studying the whole horse, with emphasis on Natural Horse management principles.  The curriculum is very comprehensive, so I expect it will be very beneficial beyond just the trimming business, but improve me as a rider and owner as well.  I will also be traveling on occasions to conduct trimming practicums with instructors.  The second phase of the Certification is focused completely on the trimming.

Time to study.


Grizzly Rock Screen

Ever since we moved in, we have been working to improve our horse riding arena.  We have spent some unknown number of hours using pitchforks and just our hands picking up the rocks out of the arena.  Last year, we added 50 tons of sand, but that didn’t really take care of getting rid of all the rocks baseball size and below.  Frequently, I use the york rake to condition the arena, and create nice rows of rocks to pick up.  Of course, I always end up with some larger piles of rocky sand/soil mix that we have to sort through by hand. There are a lot of things you can buy to expedite this process, but they are REALLY expensive.

Finally, we decided it was time to build our own Grizzly Rock Screen.

I was able to get the expanded metal mesh panels for the screen from Mid Town Steel.  CAUTION: the panels are EXTREMELY sharp.  I sliced open a finger just touching the surface.  Research indicated a 45 degree angle was the ideal angle. The initial design I had planned was going to have the front edge about 2 feet high and put a piece of the screen as a front wall.  I decided to build the frame out of treated lumber since a metal frame was going to cost me about $350 in steel plus the cost of a welder.  While I am looking for a good project to justify the welder purchase, I decided not keep this simple.

Assembly revealed 2 faults with the design.   If the front is 2′ high, and the screen is 8′ at a 45 degree angle, the back is about 8′ high.  No problem since my tractor bucket can just clear 8′.  Now my math skills were able to figure all that out on the engineering plans.  However, actually testing the design after assembly revealed that when the bucket of your tractor goes over something at max height, dumping the contents becomes a problem because there isn’t enough clearance below the bucket.

So after so disassembling, we started design #2.  The second design had the front edge directly on the ground and the back legs about 6′ high.  Much easier and MUCH more stable.  The elevated design was very unstable and probably would have collapsed under the first load of dirt.

As indicated in the pictures, I moved the Grizzly to the arena and gave it a test with a pile I had been collecting in the middle of the arena. If I ever build another, I won’t bother having the expanded metal panels cut; just build the angled bed 8′ square.  This will give more room for the 5’6″ bucket under the bed for scooping out the cleaned soil/sand.

While the rock side does build up on the bed and limit the amount that can be processed before clearing the output, it is a significant time saver.  The screened sand/soil is clear of everything 1/2″ and larger.  Looks like I need to fill up the tractor and spend a few hours in the arena!


Musical horses?

This week has involved a number of horse rides, but few on the normal mount pairings. On Monday, I did a trail ride with the kids – Alex on Devil, Vicki on Precious, and Amanda with me on King. Tonight, I went for a run with Amanda in the jogging stroller and came home to Vicki trotting around bareback, Alex riding King, and Anna on Precious. Amanda actually is happy riding with anyone that will let her up, and Alex thinks it is tons of fun to ride with his little sister. When they were on King together, no matter how much Alex kicked, King wouldn’t move until I let him know it was OK to walk around.

I guess it’s good to build confidence on different horses!

Farewell to Turbo

Today Turbo left us. While we still had longer we could keep him on trial, there were a few specific issues that led us to realize he wasn’t the right long term horse. For now, instead of seeking a new horse, we are going to ride King and focus on more lessons for Rob on advanced school horses.

Just another non-stop weekend building and improving the farm

Since the base was having a “big drill” last week, the Nautilus Museum was closed Thursday and Friday so I had the day off.  Of course, we are always behind on the list of farm projects, so it seemed like a great time to catch up (a little).  In fact, I have yet to meet a farmer who feels everything is just right and caught up on their farm…

The biggest project for the weekend was goat fencing.  I hired 2 high schoolers to work for me Thursday, Friday, and Saturday because I needed the extra hands.  My neighbor Tim has a large backhoe that he brought down to remove a couple of stumps for me.  After that, I put up 1 long stretch of fence to create a corridor between the horses and goats.  Now we can easily go back and forth across the bottom of the property.  Of course, that 12′ wide by 180′ long corridor can also be used as a grazing area for ponies, calf, etc.  Then I built a fully contained by field fence kid area inside the goat pen.  I’ll explain why.

When a doe has kids, the kids get all of momma’s milk for the first 2 weeks.  After that, we start to isolate the kids at night so we can milk the doe in the morning.  For Betty’s kids, we just locked them in the kidding stall at night.  However, since Maggie is due this week, we needed a better/larger solution.  Now, our 30’x30′ kid pen can be used as the overnight isolation area.  I’m sure it will get lots of other use too.

As I have discussed before, we like to recycle as much as possible.  I have previously posted about recycling pallets into goat shelters and chicken coops.  Last week when I went to get another load of pallets, I found out the moving company that supplies us is going out of business.  Bad news for them, but good for us because they are emptying out their warehouses.  That means I was able to get 4’x4′ wood crates and 7’x7′ shipping crates.  Add a recycled door, and what do you have?  How about a storage shed for the rabbitry.  Now all of the rabbit supplies, feed, hay, etc are conveniently located next to the cages (it just needs some paint).

Of course, we had people coming and going all weekend.  Some were here to buy chicks, while other were just here to meet us or catch up.  For example, we placed an ad in the North Stonington Bulletin Board classifieds.  Some neighbors a couple of miles away saw the ad and found our page.  It turns out they have a very similar mindset with slightly different focus.  Check out this blog to learn more about Morning Star Meadows Farms and their Icelandic Sheep!  You can also see what other blogs we like on the right side of our home page.

And there was one other little thing.  Turbo.  We were waiting to get serious about finding a new horse for me until we placed Cinder in a new home.  Well, on Wednesday Cinder went to a new home.  On Friday, I test rode Turbo.  And Sunday morning, I brought him home on a 30 day trial.  I never have been very patient.  Vicki approves.

It’s good to be crazy.

Meet Turbo!

Only 4 days after Cinder went to his new home, we have the barn filled again. Turbo (SF Galaxy Quest) is an 11 year old, 16.1h National Show Horse (1/2 Saddlebred 1/2 Arabian). His color is Seal Brown and he is already barefoot.
After a short test ride on Friday, I was hooked. We have him on a 30 day trial period to make sure it works out. He has the get up and go that I love, is very responsive under saddle, and has jumping experience. He just didn’t bond with the previous owner. Looks like I found my show horse!