September 30, 2009

Pony Rides, Anyone?

Amber Tewell joined the Fields Quarter Horse Crew as Head Trainer, Barn Manager, and Assistant to Khris in All Matters in January 2009.  We had observed her from afar over the past few years as she applied her skills and blossomed into a talented young horsewoman and in October 2008 at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, invited her to interview for our open position. She visited the facilities in November 2008 with her parents in tow and we instantly knew it would be a great fit for all involved. She was hired on the spot.

Amber had graduated from Morrisville State College in Upstate New York earlier that year.  With her degree in Equine Sciences in hand, she proceeded to unravel the puzzle of what to do with her life. After working for several of the World's premiere American Quarter Horse professionals, she was certain that she was being called to establish her own training program.  She was in need of a facility from which to apply her craft, a steady source of income while she did, and a healthy customer base from which to draw clients. Fields Quarter Horses provided all of those things and was located a reasonable distance from her family in Ohio.

Amber rides and  trains horses 6-7 days per week. Her pupils range in age from yearlings (one year old) to older already established show horses. This is a brief look at how she spent today.  After feeding each horse under her care their specially balanced morning ration of feed and hay, Amber began her daily exercise and training regimen with each.

Each horse is allowed to exercise- either free in a private paddock or on a longe line- to loosen their muscles and warm up before they are asked to begin strenuous activity.  When she is working with a yearling, Amber is usually teaching them ground manners such as leading, to tie quietly, grooming, clipping, and bathing. The most important lessons for yearlings are over the next few months- they will learn to recognize cues to walk, trot, and canter from the ground, learn steering with driving lines, learn to wear a saddle and even a bridle. In American Quarter Horse shows, horses are not allowed to be shown under saddle until July of their two year old year. The preparation for those first shows, however, begins six to nine months in advance. These horses will have what amounts to a complete education before they ever grace a show ring.

With the current two year olds, the real work begins. Amber is currently riding 3 of these horses. These are the equivalent of the Kindergartners of the barn. They are prone to temper tantrums, have good days and bad, and are each individual in their own learning speed and style. With her courage on board, Amber mounts these horses for the first time, teaches them to stop and back, turn left and right, and yield to hand, leg and seat cues. The foundation she is laying down will carry these horses throughout their entire riding careers. They are learning to accept a rider, and the will of another creature, with unquestioning faith. These days are stressful as the horses are capable of bucking or rearing if they choose not to comply with the lesson plan of the day. Thankfully, Amber spends many hours of prep work teaching them to carry weight, feel rubber tires banging on their sides, and listen to their trainer if they become unsure or feel frightened. There is always the moment when breaths are held when she mounts her charge for the first time and we learn if the hours of preparation were thorough enough.

Recently, one two year old which matriculated from Amber's School of Being a Horse was named Red. Red came to Fields Quarter Horses an overgrown, rather bossy, unathletic mountain of a horse. Over the Summer months, he blossomed into a willing and obedient animal. On Labor Day weekend, his owner travelled with Red to Indiana and atteneded at trail ride in a State Park. He was safe and carried his aged 60ish rider over hill and dale that weekend. Amber beamed with pride as she watched Red's owner complete the manuevers he had learned from her.

The older horses who are in training with Amber are kept in a maintenance program which keeps them limber and fit so they can show in top form. Sometimes, they learn new skills. Amber exercises and rides Chevy daily- I'm not sure which of them enjoys those rides more!

Amber is an integral part of the Team at our barn. She is meticulous with the feeding and training of each horse. In an industry which requires a participant to be self-motivated, she gets up at the crack of dawn each day and shows up eager to achieve excellence in every ride. Her personal drive to be exceptional at her craft is why she is a great fit for our organization. In a career where she will work too many hours, but never enough, spend too many weekends working, but always work one more, ride too many horses, but live for the great ones- Amber is excelling in her chosen path and we are grateful her path crossed ours.


September 29, 2009

The Boys of Summer

This morning dawned at Fields Quarter Horses with a sharpness that seemed a little too bitter for Fall. The steady wind which blew outside whistled a warning that the sun would not appear today. Wintery clouds filled the blue overhead with their tell-tale grayness. There was no rain in the heavy curtains above, but they were thick and cold nonetheless. Today, we were going to be cold.

Fall on a breeding farm means many things. Pregnant mares begin getting vaccinations to ensure the health of their unborn fetuses, hay fills the storage sheds, and the weanling colts are scheduled for castration.  We are firm believers in following the Farmers Almanac for the best dates to perform certain procedures. Two such deeds which are always coordinated with the Almanac are weaning of foals and castrations. While the Almanac may date to Benjamin Franklin, the advice contained within dates to before Medieval Times. Even earlier than the Druids, it is believed that Ancient Egyptians may have consulted with the stars to determine the best times to plant crops and perform animal husbandry tasks.

After weaning them based upon these dates over the past 3 months, it was now time to castrate the young males of this year's foal crop. Having scheduled the appointment a few weeks ago, we could only hope that Mother Nature would cooperate and send us good weather- she withheld the rain but sent us a bitter wind. Having the blessing of the Almanac on our side (the sign was as far away from the groin as possible today!), we convened our team to perform the surgeries early this morning.

Our team consisted of Dr Mather, myself, Wayne, and Amber. The plan was set into motion. The vet preferred to perform the operation outside in a clean dry grassy area.  We organized equipment and moved our operation to the freshly mowed holding area just beyond the gate of the Colt Paddock. Jude, a beautiful kind bay colt, approached the gate first to inspect the group which stood there. We brought him into the grassy area and Dr Mather administered the two-part sedation. The most dangerous aspects of the procedure is when the horse lies down and when it is arises after surgery. During this time, the horse is sedated, unsteady, and if it flailed, it could injure itself or a handler.

Jude became drowsy while standing and we gently helped him to fall over on his left side. I covered his eyes with a towel so that he would be encouraged to rest quietly during the procedure. Dr Mather affixed a rope and pully to his top hind leg and we pulled that leg forward, exposing his genital area. She laid out her sterile surgical supplies, cleaned the surgical site thoroughly, and made a 2 inch long incision onto his scrotum. She then manipulated the bottom testicle (and several inches of epididimus cord as well as a gland) out of the incision. A clamp was placed onto the area to prevent it from slipping back inside. A tool which clamps (or emasculates) the cord was placed onto the base of the testicular matter. The crushing action prevents bleeding as the vessels clot and begin to repair themselves almost immediately. After allowing the clamp to remain in place about 10 minutes, she repeated the entire procedure with the remaining testicle.

During the process, we monitored Jude's breathing to make sure that it remained steady and even. He flinched involuntarily only once during the clamping portion of the second testicle. He received a tetanus booster, a shot of penicillin to ward off infection, and an injection of a pain-killer/anti-inflammatory drug to help with discomfort and swelling. Then, we removed his leg restraints and allowed him to rest quietly for a while longer.

With Amber in charge of recovery efforts, we moved our attentions to the next in line- Maxim, the tallest and biggest of the weanlings. As Amber closely watched Jude for signs of waking up, we sedated and began to prepare Maxim for surgery.  We removed the soft towel from across Jude's eyes and he blinked slowly. Right on schedule, he moved to rest sternal but remained lying down while he sorted out the spinning world. After another few moments to get his bearings, Jude decided to stand. With Amber to steady his front end and Wayne to steady the rear, he stood up. He wobbled only slightly as he took his first few steps as a gelding. Within moments, he was being led back to his paddock to join the other foals.

The assembly line progressed much the same as we castrated Maxim, then Wolfe, then Sly. Each was quiet to handle both before, during, and after their procedure. Wolfe protested slightly when he was sedated and tried to move away from Dr Mather's needle but then was the slowest to decide to stand up. He lay on his side, his black eyes barely discernable from his black coat, and just looked around. We thoughth that he must be trying to decide if he was awake or dreaming.

The foals remained near the gate of their paddock, watching us with interest as we moved through the morning and each castration. We will leave them outside in the large paddock for several days following the castration so that they can move around freely. Their grassy paddock is cleaner than a stall would be and the movement reduces swelling. The incisions are left open to drain and the healing time is very quick. All of the weanlings will be romping and playing again by the end of the day. Tomorrow and the next few days, we will check each of their incision sites carefully for signs of infection, swelling, and to make sure they are draining as they heal. 

So, for another year at least, the Boys of Summer are now the Geldings of Fall! It is always nice to report that everyone is safe and the event was uneventful. Until tomorrow,


September 28, 2009

Through the Looking Glass

As the heir to the Fields Quarter Horses "empire," I have a behind-the-scenes look at all of the horses, owners and overall various personalities we encounter.  The most interesting thing about this industry is the variety of people and personalities you meet from diverse backgrounds and upbringings, but many of you don't really get to know the people behind-the-scenes; the people that do the day-to-day brunt work.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Khris Fields (also known as Mom, Mother, Her Royal Highness and Empress of the Highest Council) is controlling, child-like and suffers a severe case of OCD.  Her favorite child is Ringo, the raccoon (something I've come to terms with) and she loves what she does with her life.  The greatest thing about her is the passion she exhibits everyday at work, as well as her brutal (sometimes harsh) honesty.

Wayne Fields (the REAL boss) is a behind-the-scenes man, like myself.  He makes the important decisions (we like to let Khris think she does) and has the most essential job to the employees of FQH-- where we eat for the day.

Amber Tewell (better known as "Sistahfrannn") is a boss in training.  She can most often be found in the arena on a horse or in the barn aisle dancing like nobody's business. Warning: if you see the two of us together, expect trouble!

Rachel Speaks (mother of Chevester Stallone and "Zoie" the dog) is our resident labrador retriever.  She keeps the mood light and airy, even when we need a pick-me-up.  A workhorse at heart, Rachel's independent spirit has helped her thrive in this sometimes tough industry.

Tara Lytle goes by several names at the farm- among them Mama T, T-bone, T, and "Can you please come help with...". She is there for the big projects and can also be found organizing the Chevy Fans for their general membership meetings. Tara is the owner of Chevromotion (first point earner) and Chevromax (tall weanling extraordinairre).

Nick Mann is the go-to guy on the farm.  The packhorse of our operation, Nick does most of the brunt work around the barn.  Sounds of "Nick, can you come lift this?" are often heard frequently during his work hours.

Sandi Kempton (newly known as "Mama Sandi" and the mother of Chevrolution and Chevendipity) is our "resident" videographer.  While she resides in Maryland, we're often in contact with her, receiving phone calls such as "Hey, I just posted something.  Watch it."  A true character in herself, Sandi keeps us on our toes.

Guest Blogger-- Brittney Aaron-Fields

September 27, 2009

Seduced...The End

Her mind raced before her. She had been poised to flee. The strangeness- the mere passion which stood before her- was exhilarating and frightening. As he sang the llama song, the rich deep tenor of his voice beckoned her to stand frozen. Her feet could not obey their earlier directive.

She was a burro and the native sounds which assaulted her sensitive ears resonated deep within her. Once, many generations before them, their ancestors walked side by side in the ranges of South America. She was of a clan of burros which had served the Mayan warrior Chieftans. Her ancestors had carried great chiefs to war and home again. His ancestors had roamed high in the Andes Mountains. Their sure feet had carried the bounty of the great people to the highest peaks to offer to the spirits which resided there.

And now they stood there facing one another. Across four hundred years, spanning two thousand miles, they collided here on the meadow. She knew it was forbidden love- he did not care. He was a beast of passion- his veins pulsed with it. She could not deny him.

The whispers swept through the meadow like a wildfire- sweeping and furious. The beasts which lived there knew it was forbidden. There could be no cross-species affections. Their missive was to live harmoniously together- different colors and creeds- but no one had ever dared to cross the line.

George was a bold one. His Latin blood cast caution aside and he recognized only emotion. Llamas could not afford to be rational. He continued to sing  her  the llama song.

"Hmmmmmm, " he droned.

"Please. Stop, Senor Jorge. I cannot think when you do that," she pleaded.

"Senorita, I'm sure that you do not mean that. I could keep singing to you, hmmmmmmmm," he crooned as he seductively swayed his elegant head and neck. She was transfixed, her eyes could not break the stare which held her gaze.

"HeeeeeeeeeeHawwwwwwwww," a shrill sound broke the silence. George sensed, rather than heard the thundering hooves as they approached the ill-fated pair. Again, "HeeeeeeeHaaaawwwwww", only this time louder and with menacing intent.

Rico, the dominant Jack of the burro herd, was racing toward the Llama and his entranced victim, Elizabeth. As he neared them, he deftly changed directions and manuevered his entire body into the minimal space between the llama and the innocent young female burro. As Rico positioned himself, he swung his hindquarters to face the Latin intruder. His hind feet reached skyward in an athletic move designed to thwart unwelcome intentions. George parried the thrust with the grace of a masked bandit wielding a sword. Like Zorro himself, he leapt backward and sideways in a single flowing movement.

"Stay away, Spaniard," Rico growled through his gray muzzle.

"I am not a Spaniard, Don-Kay," retorted George.

"And I am a burro, not a Don-Kay," Rico shot back.

"And I am not property!" declared the tiny female between the testostrone charged livestock.

With that, delicate hooves spryly kicked simultaneously. Both beasts before her ducked and looked incredulously as she walked away.

"Ah, well, easy come, easy go," said George as he noted the gentle sway of her rump as she retreated.

The End- for today.

As a side note, Llamas are kept with other livestock as guard animals. Unaltered male llamas make excellent guard companions but MAY at times attempt to breed sheep or goats.

September 26, 2009

Seduced...Part Dos

George contemplalted his next move carefully. As an accomplished Latin lover, he had seen the look in her eyes before. She was intrigued but a mere misstep and she would flee the absolution of this passion.

Elizabeth was held fast by deep bottomless chocolate eyes. His head and neck swayed back and forth but his gaze remained constant. Like a snake charmer and his pet, the two remained in a trance. One set of eyes locked onto the other. In the manner which lovers do, without thinking, the rhythm of their breathing synchronized. Together, they drew one breath, together their hearts thudded a single beat.

"H-hello, Senor George," she stammered shyly lowering her gaze, less she appear too bold. Her heart skipped a beat. Could he he hear the stutter in the rhythm- or worse yet, did he feel it?

Ah, he thought. She would not be quite so hard to succumb to the ways of love as he first presumed.

"Hola, my pet," he crooned. "You look especially lovely today."

Elizabeth blushed, she was not accustommed to such attention. Senor George was so dark, so handsome, so worldy. He spoke with a soft tone- rich as chocolate and with just as much dark intention. The subtle undertone could not be mistaken.

George noted the feminine form standing in the center of the meadow. She was slender- yes- but with a budding womanliness that did not miss his notice. Elizabeth aroused his curiousity with her large black eyes and even larger ears. To him- the exotic one- she was fascinating. Her tiny hooves were perfectly shaped- as if she were wearing high heels just for him. Some may call her ordinary, but George saw the passion which lay beneath her common exterior.

"Senor George-" she began shyly.

"Please, call me Jorge," he interrupted.

"Alright, J-Jorge," and again the thick lashes fluttered downward to hide her black eyes. He mused, those eyes were so dark that they reflected nothing but his own reflection. How lovely.

"Elizabeth, may I call you Elizabeth? I noticed that you were standing here alone. Would you like some company?" he crooned again in his sing-song Latin accent.

She lifted one tiny hoof. He held his breath- had he been too forward? These matters were delicate and he must exercise control wtih such a delicate flower. She glanced sideways but did not move. He was magnetic- with his hypnotic swaying back and forth and his beautiful voice.

Sensing her indecision, he decided to make yet a bolder move. He began to hum- quietly and almost imperceptible. It was a love song, taught to him by his father, taught to his father by his father, and so forth. It was the language of llama love.

"Hmmmmmm," he sang.

September 25, 2009

Seduced By A Llama

George the Llama shifted his soft mahogany eyes slightly. Something was different today. Love was in the air. He could sense it- just as one may taste a sugary treat or smell a familiar scent. Passion coursed through his veins like liquid fire. He stopped chewing his cud for a moment as he tasted it on his lips.

"Ahhh, passion," he sighed. His soft voice was velvety smooth. His Antonio Banderas-like accent was distinctly South American. "Somewhere, I tink there is a lovely for me," he cooed.

He stood up from his usual place beneath the tree and stretched his sinewy limbs. His milky chocolate wool fell into heavy folds along his sides as he shook  In the ways of an accomplished seducer, he slowly blinked his heavily hooded eyes. Everything about him was purposeful and magnificent as he stepped onto the meadow. His slight build contradicted the raw strength and power that he exuded as he strode toward the liquid sweet scent which beckoned him. Moving siliently, he fixed his intense gaze upon perfection in the feminine form.

She stood in the middle of the meadow. A warm gentle breeze from the West blew her hair across her face and claimed her scent. It carried it along the current of the wind like a gypsy running freely across the moors. She was innocence and seductiveness and witchcraft and Spring combined. She lowered her neck with a grace that would have shamed Aphrodite herself.

George (or Jorge in his native tongue) approached her with the quiet strength of a panther stalking his prey. This was no ordinary ingenue. She was a child to the ways of the world and he cautioned himself to exercise restraint- less the force of his passion unnerve her.

He cleared his throat. "Ahem." She seemed overly occupied with the green tendrils at her feet. "Escuse me, Miss." 

She stopped moving her velvety lips. In what seemed an eternity, but was barely a second, the graceful neck lifted and black eyes met deep brown ones. A heartbeat stopped- or was it two? This was a moment in which time did not exist.

To Be Continued...

September 24, 2009

These Boots Are Made For Walking

     Over the last few days, I have spent a little time thinking about my feet. I spend a little time everyday thinking about mischief. So, it's only natural to assume that those trains of thoughts may cross at some point. That happened today.

     As I stepped onto the back porch early this morning, I was faced with a choice. Like a battalion of infantry soldiers lined up for morning inspection, there they stood at attention- awaiting their orders. Assuming the role of general, I inspected the lineup closely. Boots and shoes awaited my perusal. Tennis shoes and muck shoes, rubber boots and cowboy boots, leather soles and crepe soles- all were carefully aligned into two neat rows.

     Glancing at the light filtering through the six panes of the back door, I surmised that it was dreary outside. I listened more carefully and could hear the gentle fall of raindrops on the roof of the porch just beyond the door. In the systematic way that a human makes decisions, I eliminated my usual choice- the tennis shoes. Moving on to the second row of footwear, I began to look closely at the options there. Since it was raining, it would be important that I choose a boot which would be hardy but comfort was always a concern. Any top model (or cowboy) can tell you, it is very important that your boot fit well and be suitable for the job you are doing.

     The choice before me weighed heavy on my mind. The boots in the line were constructed of several different types of hides. I recalled a saleswoman's face as I glanced fleetingly at the black Stingray boots. They were so attractive with the signature white "eye" on the top of the boot. I remembered her promise that the hide was durable and rugged as I noted the cut on the side of one of them. Because of the rainy day, I dismissed the holey boot and looked further down the line. Too new- too fancy- too red. Everyone seemed too something today.

     Feeling somewhat like Robert Frost in a yellow wood, I chose a different path. Pulling on my rubber boots, I stepped outside. Much like a child feeling the need to test her boundaries, I stepped directly into a puddle in my path rather than stepping around it. That seemed to go well so I looked ahead and saw another puddle. Deciding to push my luck a little, I stepped into that puddle with a little more force. The water droplets splooshed! Captivated by the sound of the water as it exploded under my feet, I stepped into another puddle. Again, sploosh!

     Just as I splooshed into yet another puddle, the sound of a door closing jarred me from my hypnotic game. I glanced around into disapproving eyes. For a brief moment, I felt as if I were a child again, caught up in the wonder of making a grand mess.

     Wayne cleared his throat and said "If I'd known we were river dancing, I would have worn my rubber boots, too." I stared at him with a long glance, deciding my next move as he approached me. Should I? Did I dare? Just as he was adjacent to me, he pushed one syllable too far, "Well, are you coming?"

     By that time, the puddle which I had been standing in had recovered from my previous stomp. The water had filled back in to surround my rubber boots as if it had never been disturbed. And, the little voice of reason in my head was silenced for the moment. I stomped with both feet and began my best imitation of Irish Step Dancing.

     Later, after changing both of our jeans to drier, more clean pairs, we finally left for the post office. Interestingly enough, not another word was uttered today about my wardrobe choice, about my rubber boots, and my dear sweet husband took me out to lunch. There are certain reasons why we choose to love the people we do. I would cite today as an example of that!

September 23, 2009

My Life Vs. A Reality Show

     I have a somewhat active imagination. Occassionally, I amuse myself by conjuring up scenarios. Today was one such day. I proceeded through the mundane Wednesday- meeting with accountant, meeting with banker, drudged through more office work- I found my mind wandering to greener pastures. For those of you who do not know me well, I will share a pint-sized secret. I adore reality TV. In the spirit of Fall premieres, I amused the right side of my brain by imagining how we would fit into some of these shows. Let me share a few of those thoughts:

Dancing With The Stars- Join the crew from Fields Quarter Horses as they dance down the barn aisles to the radio. Amber would be the favorite to win this competition but watch for dark horse Brittney to make a good showing.

Survivor- Stall cleaners compete to see who will survive the rigorous demands of working at Fields Quarter Horses.

Americas Next Top Model- 2009 Chevy foals vie for attention and their chance at super-stardom. Photo shoots and spokesmodel videos are the highlights of their episodes. Watch them all compete for the $100,000 grand prize.

Dirty Jobs- Watch Farrier Mike trim various styles of hooves, feet, and toes. Parental Guidance Suggested.

Hell's Kitchen- Chef Wayne prepares the specialty meals for the dogs at the boarding kennel while the apprentice Chef Sheri looks on. This show promises to be full of cursing, tears, and drama.

I Survived- Take your pick of the any near life/death experiences that we survived during the 2009 foaling season!

Toddlers and Tiaras- Join us as Amber coaches several youth clients to success showing American Quarter Horses. Watch this compelling show about Showkids and the parents behind them.

The Secret Lives of Women- Join us on the Broodmare Channel as we explore the Secret Lives, Fettishes, and Alternate Lifestyles of the mares in residence at Fields Quarter Horses.

Dog The Bounty Hunter- Ace the Bernese Mountain Dog pursues George the Llama. George the Llama has outstanding warrants in 6 states.

Cash Cab- Visitors to Wayne's truck get to answer trivia questions about Khris while driving from the Main Farm to the Foaling Barn. Contestants can choose to utilize a Street Shout-Out or Phone-A-Friend to help answer questions.

Shaq vs Ringo- Watch as Ringo the Raccoon faces off against NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal in a Twinkie eating/ Napping competition.


How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

     How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? Please pardon the Sound of Music reference but much like the main character, Maria, in the movie, there is a filly at Fields Quarter Horses who is musical, lyrical, naive, and special. In the dense constellation of stars who live at our farm, Maria is bright and shining.

     Like many royal children, Maria entered the world with a certain sense of entitlement. She was just special and she knew it. Her parents, Zoe and Chevy, were great specimens with years and generations of Champion lineage. Wrapped into her tiny equine frame was the promise of greatness. As befitting a royal heir, she romped and flourished in the greenest pastures. She was protected and treasured. Her impish antics with the other foals in the pastures were a glimpse into her playful nature but when she was attending school with the humans, she was bright and intelligent. She vowed to comport herself with the manner befitting her regal breeding.

     One fateful day, as Maria approached 6 months old, the humans came to stand outside her stall. This was a usual occurence, all of the Chevy foals were accustommed to having visitors pet and regard them closely. But, this day was different. These dark haired humans (a male and female) seemed to look deeply into her soul. She thought to move away from them, but her feet seemed frozen. The female voice began to speak to her and she could not move away. The hands began to caress her entire body and a calmness settled over her like a veil- delicate and soft. Did she know this voice? Reason said not- but in the way which cannot be explained, her soul  responded as if it were familiar.

     Next, they brought her to a place she did not know and she was encouraged to play and romp. She agreed with the plan and since it seemed to please the humans, she enjoyed running and playing while they talked. Then, the dark man pulled her away from the others. Much the same as with the woman, she did not feel afraid. She felt protected and safe and stood quietly waiting with the man. He walked and she walked- he stopped and she stopped. This was nice. These people were nice and she liked being with them.

     The days passed and Maria soon learned that she would have a formal name- it would be Chevendipity. She also learned that she would soon be living with the dark haired people. This made her happy and she settled into waiting until they returned for her. She dreamt of life with them- of being a great show horse. Sometimes in life, we meet with our own destiny. In this case, we were spectators as we watched Maria meet her future owners. As clearly as the night sky on a summer evening, this filly belonged to them and they to her.

(This is the story of Maria- and her new owners Sandi and Eddie. They are the owners of Chevrolution "Chase". They met the sister to Chase just a few days after she was weaned. It was truly magical to watch the special connection which was formed between she and they. She was trusting and calm and we are excited that she will be joining them soon. For a link to video of one of their first meetings, please visit this link:  . The other side of this story is quite unusual. Maria was not for sale until after Sandi and Eddie arrived in Kentucky. Sometimes we watch the stars line up into a perfect formation. This was one of those situations where everyone, everything just came into place at the perfect time.)

September 21, 2009

The Llama Can Cush

     Mondays at Fields Quarter Horses are always busy but in a different way than other days. Emerging from the weekend hustle bustle, we look much like hosts cleaning up from a grand party as we clean, organize, and otherwise remove all traces of Saturday and Sunday visitors. Amber returns to her normal schedule with the training horses- riding, longing, and defining her weekly lesson goals for each one.
     Each Monday afternoon for me is spent with Farrier Mike. Mike has provided farrier service for us for about 10 years now. A good relationship with a farrier is essential to a working horse farm. Akin to the relationship a woman may have with her hairdresser, Mike is loyal and holds his secrets well. Each Monday, we prepare his list of clients and have them ready and waiting for his ministrations to their hooves. (For the non-horse owner readers we have, each horse is trimmed every 4-8 weeks based upon their individual needs.)

    Today began as a normal Monday, Mike arrived at the main barn first and trimmed a mare or two. Right on schedule, he arrived at the small barn which is also the housing for the 2009 foals. The weanlings are now all motherless and live in two small herds- one herd of boys and one herd of girls. Each foal was in its own stall awaiting his/her turn with Mike. Most of the foals were well-behaved and stand quietly as he progressesd in an orderly manner trimming each tiny hoof. Maxim is the dominant colt in the boy group at this time and he tried to no avail to assert his authority over Farrier Mike. Patiently and methodically, we moved through the entire group until all foals sported new pedicures.

    We reached the end stall of the barn and Farrier Mike peered inside. Oversized brown eyes looked back at him and the sound of a quizzical  "hummmmm" was emitted from the animal's soft lips. George the Llama was about to have his first toe trim since arriving at our farm 3 weeks earlier. Mike and I stepped into the stall and I easily restrained George with a halter. Having formerly been employed by a petting zoo, 12 year old George is docile and comfortable with human touch. Mike had never trimmed a Llama's toes before (they have two on each foot) but has trimmed several goats- we decided that since they were similar style, it must be the same. Well, that was a mistake.

     Several crazy moments passed- these involved llama screams, Farrier screams, Khris giggling hysterically (I do this when I'm extremely nervous such as at funerals), limbs flailing, and 3 creatures panting.  We decided to call Amber for reinforcement and get a new plan.  Mike mentioned that he remembered an episode of "Dirty Jobs" in which the host trimmed Llama toes- he seemed to recall that the llama laid down for the procedure. And a new plan was hatched.

     Having done some reading these past weeks, I knew that llamas, camels, and alpacas all can be taught to lie down or cush on command. Amber armed herself with treats for a reward and Mike and I proceeded to teach George to cush. Rather surprisingly, he accepted the posture nicely (well, after a few tries) and Amber fed him grain the that position for positive reinforcement. George seemed quite proud of his new behavior and we even tried it afterwards several times successfully.

     So, Monday ended with freshly trimmed hooves and toes. I smell somewhat like a llama but that is a correctable problem. And Farrier Mike can now add a Llama to his list of clients. And Amber can now add Llama trainer to her resume. I would say that all is well that ends well on this day.



September 20, 2009

It's a Traffic Jam at Fields Quarter Horses...

Whew! What a day. The front gates of the barn today resembled a revolving door at a busy department store on December 24th. The day began and ended much the same- rainy and with strange horses in the barn.

Yesterday, eveningish, our friend Tracy from Vermont nestled herself and a horse in to the main barn. The big horse was relieved to step off her trailer and enjoy a refreshment of hay for the night. Early this morning, the big guy got an opportunity to walk off his horsey version of jet lag before he re-boarded for the second leg of his journey. They departed for Houston and we sent well wishes for their 17 hour ride today.

It's horseshow season and that means that Quarter Horse people are on the move! Horses are showing, selling, and generally moving around these days. As the day progressed, we prepared for some of our residents to be picked up for their return trips home. Broodmare Jasmine, her 4 month old Chevy daughter Luka, and show gelding Hank  readied for their chariot to arrive. We usually ask travellers to call us when they are one hour away so that we can be ready for their arrival. The one hour notice came about 3:30pm and we got everyone ready. And we waited. And we waited. And we waited. Unfortunately, the rainy day caused more than a small delay due to an Interstate traffic accident. The trailer arrived to pick them up 5 hours late!

In addition to the trio returning home to Pennsylvania, we were also expecting a trailer with a friend travelling from Michigan to Georgia to arrive this evening. These horses were in need of a soft bed and a meal for the night before continuing on their journey south tomorrow. In the master scheme, we would send Jasmine and Friends along their merry way, eat dinner, and then receive the Georgia show horses. Of course, the universe seemed to have its own ideas regarding our schedule tonight.

Although they had travelled from polar opposite directions and for over 14 hours collectively, you guessed it, they arrived at the exact same time. After a graceful dance which would have been the envy of even the most experienced tractor trailer driver, both trailers delicately manuevered themselves and lined up side by side.

Crew Number One set out to load Jasmine and Friends onto the Pennsylvania trailer. They were clearly anxious to get underway since they had suffered a nearly 5 hour delay. Crew Number Two proceeded to unload the Georgia horses and settle them into their accommodations.

And, in less time than it took to read this accounting, everyone was introduced, loaded, unloaded, and ready to go about their individual business.

When travelling great distances, it is both necessary and desireable to allow horses an opportunity to rest from the movement and rolling motion of the trailer. Many horses are reluctant to drink or even eat properly on the road and it's always great to have a haven that is clean, safe, and quiet in which a horse can relax.  Also, with so many trailers travelling long distances, it's also convenient for owners to car-pool and find rides for their horses whenever they can.

We are always happy to see our friends and to host a weary traveller (or two!). As someone once said "We'll leave the light on for you."


September 19, 2009

Friends and Foes...

Today was another brilliant day at Fields Quarter Horses. Our daughter Brittney and her friend Jessica were home from college- Go Morehead State- for the weekend and they offered to pitch in with chores at the barns. As is often the case, morning dawned at the local Waffle House. After getting fueled for the day with caffiene, hasbrowns, and a hefty serving of grease, we set out to feed, turn out horses, and tend to the wounded who we are rehabbing.

The strawberry blonde filly named Wendy looks much better today. She sustained an unknown injury to her left hock (hind leg) and we have been furiously addressing the swelling and watching for any joint complications. Wendy has received injury to each of her four legs since January. Initially, we assumed that her bumps and bruises were those of any juvenile, 1 year old horse. After she suffered yet another mysterious injury resulting in blood, guts, and weeks of bandages in March, we began to suspect she needed therapy.  Unfortunately, like too many parents, we did not seek help soon enough and she is once again in bandages. At this time, Wendy is being closely monitored and is on suicide watch. We will be seeking therapy for her self-destructive behaviors. We believe she has some deep seated abandonment issues since her mother (Nikki) recently ran off to Ohio and is now living with another man (stallion).

After we tended the meek, turned out the sturdy for exercise, and completed a few repairs around the barn- we decided to break for lunch. The stuffy afternoon was spent mucking stalls, feeding hay outside, and catching up on some neglected grooming chores. A visiting Paint halter horse left- we were horse sitting her for a few days- and we prepared for a visitor. Tracy Reed (many of you may remember her mare Echo and foal Edgar from this Spring) will be stalling a horse with us overnight. She is en route from Vermont to Houston delivering him to a new owner and we are a convenient half-way point. Tracy's short visit is a reminder that one of the wonderful benefits of the horse world is the intricate web of people we get to encounter.

Chevromotion (Kramer) returned home late last night on a trailer from Michigan. He is a 2 year old Chevy Hunter Under Saddle horse who belongs to our friend Tara. Kramer lived with us in Kentucky from August 2007 until December 2008. He has spent the last 9 months becoming a refined gentleman. His first day back in the barn was a little subdued. He may have been a little overtired by the 12 hours he spent on a horse trailer yesterday.

The afternoon hours also contained a rare treat for me. I helped Wayne with a dog training lesson for a Malti-Poo named Aristotle Baltazar Bender. He is 5 months old and not nearly as large as his name. We trained a pair of Maltese dogs for the same owners about 12 years ago. In years past, I spent most days training dogs and tending to the business of our dog kennel. In recent years, the barn and horses have occupied my waking (and non-awake) time. With refreshed energy for my original trade, we set about to make Ari a good little Canine citizen. He will be a work in progress.

Evening approaches and there are many mouths ready to be fed. It's time to make the journey from turn-out paddocks back into the freshly bedded stalls. George the Llama has already become encrusted into his spot under the maple tree.

Tomorrow brings fun in Kentucky- the Crew (humans only) get to work a community awareness booth at Turfway Racetrack. Of course, we will be enjoying Thoroughbred racing at its finest while we labor. I'll let you know if I wager- and better yet, if I win. I'm afraid that our Quarter Horse background has taught us to choose horses for their ability to move slowly- it will be a different pace to be sure!


September 18, 2009

Horses, Raccoons, and Llamas- Oh My!

    This blog will update visitors on the capers of the beings who inhabit the fresh green spaces of Fields Quarter Horses. To understand the diverse cast of characters you will meet here- first, let me give you a brief overview of our operations.

    Fields Quarter Horses is a multi-purpose industry which breeds, raises, trains, shows, and boards American Quarter Horses. The proprietors also operate a pet boarding and training center, a doggie daycare, and a full-service grooming salon and spa.

    The crew at Fields Quarter Horses comes in many shapes and sizes. Some of us have toes- some of us have hooves. We come in long and short haired varieties, in many colors, and a range of individual personalities. But, alas, that just covers the staff. Thank goodness, the animals are not quite as assorted as the humans who take care of them. You will meet the human animals in good time.

     The stars of the show, of course, are the non-human animals who live at Fields. The main players in our troupe consist of a couple of Quarter Horse breeding stallions, a Miniature Horse stallion, lots of mares, their foals, the teenage horses,  the training and boarding horses, a llama, some donkeys, a goat, gobs of dogs, fistfuls of cats, and a rather sarcastic raccoon.

     A small sample of what you can expect- today a Rocky Mountain horse named Cody moved out of the barn and a beautiful 2 year old Englishy looking chap named Kramer moved in. A strawberry blonde filly named Wendy stood quietly in the corner stall with bandages on her left hind leg. An athletic-blonde-bring home to momma- looking young horse named Chase went about convalescing from surgery to both his front legs. Chase received his daily grooming before he went out for hand-walking exercise. He asked if his hairs were all in place and we all assured him that he was dashing and ever perfect. In his short time with us, we have begun to suspect that Chase may have some narcissistic inclinations. He spends an unusually long time each day pondering his appearance. 

    So, tomorrow, we will return with highlights from the day- until then.