March 31, 2010

Whips, Guns,and Chairs

To protect the innocent, the names and places in the following story have been changed.

There's a new mare in the foaling barn. She is rather bold and quite pushy. She pins her ears flat against her head when she is looked at or spoken to. And she kicks at humans, dogs, or imaginary friends at least twice every day.

Today, our famous cowboy friend Gary suggested that we needed better tools to handle the mare. He declared that in his experience, it was appropriate to carry whips, guns and a chair. Now, I'm an imaginative person. I don't need a lot to stimulate mental pictures or scenarios. The image of Gary- dressed like Indiana Jones- entering the lair of a mad mare with a leather bullwhip in his back pocket, guns in holsters on his hips, and a wooden chair held up as if to fend off the most ferocious beast certainly caused a chuckle. Of course, he was using witty sarcasm to entertain my misery with this horse from Hades. It worked.

So, tomorrow as I enter the new mare's stall, I will be sure to lift my chair with both hands in front of me. Using my best lion tamer's voice, I will command that she not bite, kick, or harass. I'll have to get back with you on how that works out for me.

March 30, 2010

Scary Things

I am not a person who is plagued greatly by phobias. I'm not really afraid of spiders, snakes, bugs, or needles. I'm not afraid of the dark nor am I concerned with heights or any animal with fur. I am unphased by driving over bridges or flying on airplanes.

However, there are a handful of things which do cause me to cringe. Pigs. The Burger King. Clowns. Dentists. These are the nemeses which strike fear in my heart. Tonight, I encountered a new foe. Tara and I attended a Summer Learning Fair hosted by a large local school system to represent the farm and our riding programs. While Gary and Amber stayed back to train horses and teach riding lessons, Tara and I bravely tackled a gymnasium full of families searching for Summer enrichment activities.

Equipped with clean white shirts, brochures, and a couple of saddles to decorate our expo booth, we greeted, meeted, and chatted with one after the next interested mom. The event planners thoughtfully created diversions intended to entertain the tykes and babysit while their parents filled their already busy schedules.

I looked across the room at the crowd of children playing ball and games and noticed a 7 foot tall Chik-Fil-A mascot. For those of you who are not familiar with this fast-food chain mascot- it's a cow. Now, this 7 foot tall black and white marvel decided that it should leave its charge of children and come to our booth. Why, I will never know.

As the bovine walked with purpose toward me, I looked left and right for an escape. I made a mental note that I must be a flight (versus fight) animal. The large spotted mascot stopped right in front of our booth and seemed to stare down at me with its huge plastic eyeballs. I choked on my words as the confused parent in front of me turned to follow my frozen stare. I felt my body disobey my command to stand my ground and it shrunk backwards.

Just as I began to stammer an apology to the confused mother, the small child in her arms began to shriek. The 40 decibel scream pierced every eardrum within firing range and the mother quickly began to console the  child- "Honey, It's ok. That's just a person inside there. I'm sorry, she's afraid of characters."

The cow retreated and I felt my pulse slow ever so slightly. As he moved back to the center of the gym, I breathed for the first time since he began his attack. I exhaled slowly and handed the nice lady a brochure. I couldn't help but think that her 2 year old and I may have exhanged knowing glances.

March 29, 2010 Of The Wurld

May I have your attention, pleez? This is Ringo the Raccoon. I am the Master and Commander of all creatures who bear fur, fleece, or feathers at Feelds Quarter Horses. My mother has become distracted by mars who are supposed to be foaling so I have seezed this opportunity to speek to you.

Pleez heed my warning. There is a conspiracy afoot and I need your help to get to the bottom of it. You may have herd that the goat met her demise a few weeks ago. I have been investigating this matter and beleev that the evidence suggest that she did not die of natural causes.

If you have information which may be helpful in solving this murder case, you may contact me. All information will remain confidin, confeden, confadin- secret. Pleez call this hotline to report information about this case. 1-800-COO-NCOP.

March 28, 2010

Hay Days

It's been an interesting weekend thus far. We have spent it in the usual manner- horses, dogs, customers, and hay. Our friend Debbie is still visiting from New Jersey. Several people have asked if it makes me weary to have a house guest for so long. They obviously do not fathom what our days are like for the extra set of hands are welcome. Anyone who tarries too long or stands still in my vicinity is dispatched an order.

Debbie dozes on the couch early in the evening and can barely keep her eyes open at dinner. She is sore in places that she had forgotten had muscles. She smells like the barn or at the very least a stinky horse 90% of the time. And she expectantly awaits the imminent foaling of a mare. I would say that she has adapted to our lifestyle quite well.

She tabulated the calories she ate yesterday and was mortified. But somehow has lost weight while visiting. She has become a frequent abuser of caffeine and lives from one sugar fix to another. Again, she has become one of us.

So, as the morning dawned today with a yearling on the wrong side of a fence line with no gate, rain pelting down upon the rooftops of the barns, stalls waiting to be cleaned yet again, and a bevy of horses clamoring for breakfast- I dare say that these are the days of our lives. Our company leaves soon only to be replaced by our son Josh's family from Arkansas/US Air Force. One visitor leads to the next- one foaling leads to more- one trailer comes another trailer leaves- and breeding/foaling season marches on.

March 27, 2010

The Contrary Mare

There was a contrary mare who lived at Fields Quarter Horses. When she woke up in the morning, she was usually grumpy.  In the wintertime, when it was quite cold and snowy, she grumbled because she stayed inside her warm stall. In the springtime, when the daffodils were beginning to bloom, she did not like it when the people took her outside after breakfast. She would have preferred to linger inside the barn for a bit longer over her morning hay.

Now, it came to pass that this mare conceived a foal. She did not remember the details- only that several months ago it began to move inside her body. The foal would turn inside her and kicked with joy when the people brushed the contrary mare. She pinned her expressive ears back flat against her skull to show her displeasure when the foal stretched its long unborn legs. Sometimes, he became excited and moved while she munched on her grassy hay. This, too, was not pleasing to the mare.

As winter faded and the earth began to green, the foal grew larger inside her womb. Although a higher design dictated that her body should accommodate the growing horse, she found herself uncomfortable much of the time. She vaguely remembered that she used to lie in the green grass and let the sunshine bake her golden body. Now, because her heft made it difficult to lie down, she mostly just dozed on her feet.

The contrary mare found herself waiting. She did not reckon the reason. She shifted her weight from one hind leg to the other at least 380 times each day. She nibbled hay but often felt overfull. She was hungry most all of the time and greedily gobbled her grain threatening anyone who dared approach. She endured twice daily probes of her udder and tail only because they were accompanied by grooming sessions which she still sort of liked.

And thus was the state of the contrary mare. She was in fine company as there were a few other contrary mares who shared her misery. It was as if her whole existence (and comfort) hinged on some unforeseen event. Little did she know.

March 26, 2010

Top Ten List....

of reasons that another mare needs to foal ASAP!

10. I can't stand the suspense
9. I don't like to wake up at night unless there's a foal coming
8. Chevy can't breed a pregnant mare
7. I want to go farther than 5 minutes away for dinner
6. I need a vacation
5. Kathy and Judy are getting bored watching them do nothing at night
4. It's Spring and there are lush paddocks waiting for them
3. At least on of them is ready to pop
2. Stalls, stalls, stalls
the #1 reason another mare needs to foal is....The next 4 foals born will be Chevy's!

Feel free to join us at and stare at the mares at the farm.

March 24, 2010

Long Days

It's days like today that can make a person become weary. Today really began for me yesterday. One prayer was answered when KC foaled. The mares who are waiting to foal at our farm were beginning to resemble a log jam or a crowded airport runway. Now that KC has foaled, I was able to move another jumbo jet into the line-up to await her take-off. Unfortunately, with an answered prayer, came the additional burden of working with no sleep.

KC is a maiden mare and her foal needed assistance to nurse until nearly dawn. Newborn foals are fragile and teeter a fine line in the first few hours of life. They are born equipped with the ability to stand and run within about a half an hour but if they do not receive life-giving colostrum frequently, they can deteriorate quickly. So, in the best interest of KC's little bundle of sunshine, I patiently milked her, fed the foal, and coaxed him to try to feed on his own periodically throughout the night.

The morning dawned and the real day began. Before lunch, the stalls at the foaling barn were cleaned and a customer dog was groomed. After lunch, I began the normal Wednesday job of cleaning the arena stalls. Afterwards, I had about an hour to kill before Dr. Mather came to visit the new foal and complete his well-baby checkup. I opted to begin cleaning the cobwebs from the barn trusses with my handy-dandy new telescoping pole with a broom attachment.

Dr. Mather made her visit and the foal received the care he required. There is a concern that he was slightly dehydrated- most probably from his confusion involving nursing. Therefore, there will be the added chore tonight of making a few wee hour visits to his stall to ensure that he is observed nursing appropriately.

After the veterinarian's visit, it was time for Farrier Mike to begin his usual Wednesday task of tending to the hooves of some of the farm residents. In an effort which would have impressed even Henry Ford himself, we assembled the horses for their hoof trimmings.

Then, the foaling barn mares were nestled into their stalls, milk tests were done, and those horses were fed. I hopped onto the back porch and quickly apologized to Wayne and his father Les. They had been waiting for nearly an hour for me to come so that we could have a brief 84th Birthday celebration (for Les not Wayne). Then following the quick Birthday dinner, it was time to check mares again, help the KC's foal nurse again, and tend to a couple more Canine Companion customers.

So, that equals a long day. Tomorrow, hopefully, will be a little slower and a little easier. It's not the work I mind- after all, I like to stay busy. Rest for me is usually just finding a different job to do. But I have the feeling there are going to be a number of long days just like this one in the near future.

March 22, 2010

Lil Bo Peep

There's a new trio of mouths to feed at Fields Quarter Horses. Their names are Lil, Bo, and Peep and they are newborn Shetland Sheepdogs. True to their heritage which heralds from the Shetland Isles off the shores of Scotland, they are sturdy little Shepherd dogs with thick double coats to fend off even the dampest weather and keen minds to defend their fleecy charges.

The tiny trio are sable in color with white collars and white blazes. They are hungry, snuggly, and squeak quite often. Their mother Heidi is the beloved companion of Wayne- master of most everything at Fields Quarter Horses- and she is torn between her daily post at Wayne's side and her maternal duties to her brood. Her whelping box is nestled in a corner beside the french doors inside our house where she can keep a watchful eye on the comings and goings from the foaling barn and office. She is also keeping a close watch on Wayne to make sure that some other hound does not usurp her rightful place at his side.

Tonight, as Wayne sat on the floor and inspected Lil, Bo, and Peep for at least the 5th time today Heidi lay with her head on his lap. She seemed to look at his face for approval as he held each tiny canine in his hand. He stroked their heads one by one and made sure that they were indeed as perfect as their mother. Assured that they are, he placed them carefully back into the protective warmth of their whelping box. Heidi let out a long sigh, licked Wayne's hand almost more for herself than him and dutifully curled up next to her grunting puppies. As they began to nurse greedily, he patted her on the head again. He will be keeping a daughter from this litter- it seems that our menagerie may have just grown a little larger.

March 21, 2010

Sad Day For America

I really try very hard to refrain from posting anything in my blog which reflects my political views or which would offend the menagerie which lives at Fields Quarter Horses. Tonight, however, I am overcome with the desire to express my displeasure with the passing of the Health Care Reform Bill in Washington.

I gathered the critters round and explained to them that there would be changes in the future and that these changes were going to be painful at times. George the Llama seemed unconcerned about the gravity of the situation. I suppose that this is likely because he is (in fact) an illegal immigrant. He lives here and fills a position that a donkey may do as guardian to our herds. He, however, does the same work for less pay and talks regularly of bringing the rest of his family to live here.

Ace is concerned about the availability of prescription drugs for his perpetual ear infections. The mare population is generally concerned about the quality of care that they will receive and how Dr. Mather will weather the sweeping medical reform.

Ringo immediately seized the computer and googled "What is Health Care Reform and How Does It Affect Me?". He is currently identifying if he is lower, middle, or upper class and whether he will be penalized for not providing health care for the cats who are in his employ.

So, as the night comes to a close- our animals will be tossing sleeplessly wondering what tomorrow will bring. They are discussing their individual party affiliations. There is talk among the mice about a peaceful demonstration in the form of a sit-in. For Wayne's sake, I hope they choose not to assemble en masse.  I have a feeling that by morning, there will be more than one Grand Old Pet at Fields Quarter Horses.

March 20, 2010

First Day of Spring!

There were lots of things going on today at Fields Quarter Horses- both farms! We had visitors, visitors, and a few more visitors. Here's a brief accounting of the highlights:

Amber taught a few riding lessons to some of her favorite students on some of her less-than-favorite lesson mares. Everyone learned something new, the students had a great time, and there was no bloodshed. That always counts as a good day. Amber's beau Dean flew in from Boston last night for another weekend visit. His wings are getting stronger as he makes more frequent trips to Kentucky. It's always good to see Dean's brilliantly white smile- and strong back. He and I have developed a tradition in the short year I've known him of servicing the interlocking stall mats when he comes. Oh, and Amber smiles more when he is around (which is also a nice side effect of his visits). Later this afternoon, Amber's parents Dan and Dolores made the two hour drive to Kentucky to see Dean's brilliantly white smile. I suppose they also enjoy Amber's as well.

We welcomed another guest to the farm this week who is a member and fan of Team Chevy. Debbie from New Jersey is spending her hard-earned vacation not on a cruise, not on a beach somewhere, and not on a ski slope in Colorado. Rather, she asked if she could come to Kentucky and foal mares during our peak season this year. We, of course, obliged but I can't help but wonder if it will be as glamorous as she hopes. I dare hope that she won't be disappointed in our rather mundane life.

The afternoon was punctuated by visits from Tiara's family from Ohio to check up on their little red mare. This is the first foal for the Cooney family and they were beaming with excitement. It's contagious and I found myself hoping that Tiara will deliver soon just for them.  MaryAnn who owns ZigZag, Snapshot, Showgirl, Showdown, Noel and a number of other occasional residents at our farm also peeked in just in time to see her 2 year old horse being ridden by Amber. Jason stopped by to visit the wild turkeys and I and we discussed a new fencing project, the weather, the varmint population, and other worldy issues.

Chevy assumed his post in the first stall inside the door with his usual pomp and circumstance. In the manner of the best Walmart door greeter, he nickers to every visitor who graces our threshold and few people get by without stopping to say hello to the King of the World or at least Everything Important.

And that is how the first day of Spring wrapped up at our place? Hope yours was sunny, bright, and filled with friends, too!


March 19, 2010

Waste Management in the Home Office

March at the farm has been gloriously warm and sunny. I find myself just stopping outside in the sunshine and lifting my face upward to bask. It feels foreign and familiar all at the same time. I think I may have had the best job at the farm today. I spent the entire afternoon in the large mare/foal paddocks dragging and seeding them.

From my post on the Gator, driving laps and dragging the pastures, I watched mares lazily eating new Spring grass and foals napping the deep slumber of newborns. The yearlings romped and ran for hours- Maxim seemed to challenge each of his pasture mates to foot races and wrestling matches. It seems that adolescent boys are the same in any species.

I pulled the heavy drag behind my machine and slowly scribbled a pattern of lines across each paddock. I weighted the metal frame with cinder blocks and a heavy log that just spans its width. The extra weight makes sure that the teeth score the earth to prepare it to accept the new seeds and it breaks up and spreads the left over manure from the paddock's former occupants. By breaking the manure into smithereens, any parasites living within it are exposed to sunlight (and heat and weather) and their lifespans are greatly shortened.

Part of our pasture management practice at Fields Quarter Horses is to keep our paddocks rotated, rested, dragged, and reseeded. Many people question me because we do not spread the manure and waste removed from our stalls onto our pastures. This practice was commonplace at stables and barns everywhere for many years. We have always opted to remove the farm's waste from the property or spread it onto green areas of the farm which are not used to house horses. This ensures that there are no new parasites or pathogens introduced into our soil.

After I finished dragging the paddocks, I filled the hand seeder with the special (insert the word expensive here) horse pasture seed mix. Then, with my best organ-grinder-monkey interpretation, I began cranking the handle as I walked. The little wheel began to spin and the seed dispersed into a circular pattern around me. Systematically, I walked each paddock spreading seed over the already greening ground. The newly seeded paddocks will be allowed to lie at rest for 30-45 days and then they will be reopened to greedy mares with tiny foals who will lie in the lush green grass.

As I walked the paddocks today, I was simply thankful. Perhaps Spring is Mother Nature's way of rewarding us for making it through Winter. Everywhere around me, everything seems pregnant with life. The mares, the grass, even the underground spring which gurgles beneath the paddocks- all are awakening from Winter with a vengeance. I for one, was happy to work from my home office today.

March 16, 2010

Guest Blog

Hello everyone! My name is Annelise Sophiea and I am a Horse Management student, graduating this year, at Michigan State University. I had the honor of becoming part of team Chevy for a week at Fields Quarter Horses in Walton, Kentucky during my spring break.

The week I spent at Fields Quarter Horses is one that I will never forget. All the learning that took place during the week can never be replaced. My adventure started as I left my house in Dewitt Michigan and started my 333‐mile drive down to Kentucky. When I arrived at Fields Quarter Horses I was greeted by a smiling face and cheery attitude. Khris and Wayne Fields were gracious enough to invited me into their home and allow me to participate with some activities that occur on a breeding farm.

 The very first full day I was there a mare foaled prematurely which was very sad and devastating but it was a terrific learning experience, I am also happy to announce that as of right now the mare and foal are both doing well and healing nicely. During my stay I got to ask many questions to one of AQHA’s most significant assets, Gary Trubee. He was a fountain of knowledge and you could see how much horses were his passion. He was willing to teach as well as to learn. I learned so much from him during the week as well as many new phrases that will stick with me for the rest of my life. He has never stopped learning, which should be an example to all of us.

Throughout the week I was able to help out at the farm cleaning stalls and letting horses out as well as some more experience handling mares and foals. I was so thankful to be able to ride along with Wayne and Gary to Rood and Riddle to watch OHK Krymsun Zip be collected for breeding. It was something that I had never witnessed before. It was such an amazing experience, which made me realize how amazing these stallions really are.

Throughout the week there was a mare that we were keeping an eye on because for about 48 hours she had been waxing and dripping milk and she had not foaled yet. I had to leave on a Saturday morning and it was Friday afternoon with no baby yet. I wanted so bad to actually see a mare foal and how they help the mare if needed. Well Friday night came along, I said a little prayer that I could see a mare foal before I left and sure enough, she began to foal! It was all very quick and the gift of life it something to never take for granted. What a wonderful thing to be a part of.

As I left Kentucky it was very bittersweet because I really missed my husband and my family and I also had a lot of excitement waiting for me at home due to my graduation but I had made new friends though out the week and I hated to leave something that everyday I learned something new. Thank you Fields Quarter Horses for making my experience so enjoyable and allowing me to become part of Team Chevy for the week. The week I will never forget.  Photo Caption: This is the foal born on Annie's first day at the farm. This foal was premature and she and the mare were in serious condition for the week. What a happy ending!

March 15, 2010

Rainy Days

Today is a cold, rainy, depressing day. It's one of those days that tests mettle, grit, and just seems to take effort to grind through it. The tasks are usual- tease, breed, ultrasound, ride, feed, muck. The weariness that accompany them are unusual.

Maybe it's because I had a spot of bad news today. Maybe it's because I've got some busted plumbing and my son and his family are 10 hours away. Maybe I just latched onto reasons to feel melancholy. Regardless, today has been punctuated by gray.

March 14, 2010

March Madness

There's a touch of March Madness going around. Like flu and cold season, you can rest assured that March Madness hits Kentucky about the same time each year. For people who have moved into the area (like Amber and Gary), there seems to be a good deal of immunity for the disease. However, it seems the longer one lives in the Bluegrass State, the more susceptible that he/she is to it.

It is characterized by the desire to purchase blue clothing and name one's pets or children after Kentucky Basketball players. March Madness seems to transcend gender and age- it affects men, women, boys, girls, and other all the same. Those who have the most severe symptoms of the disease can name not only the starting line-up players for the University of Kentucky, but also their heights, weights, and tell you where each went to high school before becoming a Kentucky Wildcat.

So, as the SEC Tournament Final game unwinds today with the inevitable outcome of the University of Kentucky being victorious, in Kentucky, we will watch the Selection Show tonight to hear that our Wildcats are a #1 seed into this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. And how does this affect Fields Quarter Horses and the farm, you ask?

That's easy- Chevy is a huge UK fan. His personal favorite player, John Wall, reminds him of himself. They are both athletic, humble, and achieve the impossible with their crazy mad athletic skills.

March 12, 2010

Revolving Doors

Our house seems to have become a revolving door of late. Wayne announced to our son Josh on the telephone earlier that he had to put up with 7 women in his house tonight. It struck me that he is a real saint to endure the torture of girl talk, and chick flicks, and ya-ya moments tonight. (Even if he still is throwing a fit about cutting down his forest.)

Annelise has spent a great week earning additional Intern hours for her Horse Management degree from Michigan State University. She assures me that she enjoyed her stay and has experienced life on a horse breeding farm to its fullest. She will return to her husband Thomas and 3 dogs tomorrow.

Brittney arrived home this evening with 2 college roommates in tow. Katie and Cortney seem like nice girls who share Brittney's interest in their laptops. Brittney's Spring Break began today and we look forward to having her helping hands and smiling face home for a week.

Add Rachel who lives in the Mom/Pop apartment and Amber who lives in the efficiency apartment and I would say we have a Full House tonight. In addition, the upcoming weeks will bring more visitors. March is certainly going to be like a revolving door at Fields Quarter Horses.

March 11, 2010

Truths and Trubeeisms

There are certain people in life that you just know have worn out more than their fair share of shoes. They have walked more miles, ridden more horses, and shaken off more dust than the average Joe. Gary Trubee is one such cowboy. Five minutes spent with this lifelong horseman and there is no doubt that he is authentic.

Imagine a pair of cowboy boots which have reached the perfect broken-in but not yet broken-down stage- that's Gary. I quickly discovered that he comes with a language all of his own. Each day, he reminds me that life can be condensed to simple steps. Things such as learn to Stop, Start, and Steer- that applies not only to training horses but also navigating life. And that I only have to be smarter than what I'm playing with. And that fast nickels are better than slow dimes. Besides being truths, these nuggets of wisdom are commonly known as Trubeeisms.

I have come to know that Trubeeisms are profound kernels of knowledge. They all come wrapped in plain brown cowboy paper and tied up with a little bit of good-ole-boy string. I imagine the lifetime of experience that it took to assemble such good advice. I'm sure that it could fill many pages and there are plenty of details best forgotten. 

The thing about Trubeeisms- they seem to be able to creep into any conversation and cover any subject. At times, they are delivered with a tale but can be served ala carte as well. There's always a story to enhance a teaching moment. There also seems to be no shortage of new vernacular to describe how things looks, feel, or behave. And there appears to be a Trubeeism for just about every situation.

March 10, 2010

Tree Top Lover

Well, we've had an extremely productive week so far at the farm. For that matter, we've had an extremely productive year thus far. I'm excited about so many things for 2010. I noticed this afternoon as we buzzed around the barn like worker bee drones that the atmosphere at the barn and farm is happy and content. It's amazing to me that we can be so busy but still find time to laugh and enjoy the process.

We have been making some plans for expansion and have reached a crossroads. I always knew this moment would come. I just didn't think it would be such a difficult hurdle to leap. Our farm is a lovely blend of rolling lush pastures and stately wooded areas. Each paddock is fringed by a lovely forest which wraps around the green fields like warm arms. There is an used area of the farm which is about 8 acres that houses not only the local coyote population but also a wealth of mature hard wood trees. As we prepare to fence the final pastures so that the horses can utilize them for late Summer/early Fall grazing, it seems logical to clear some of the woods so that the horses can traverse them more easily.

Now, that plan on the surface seems all well and good. The woods become cleared, the valuable hard wood can be sold to a logging company, and the valuable money we receive in return can be used for some amenity that the horses may need. The problem with this plan is my husband Wayne. He is a tree-hugging, non-littering, child of the 60's, no-you-are-not-killing-those-trees sort of guy. I am faced with the paradox of how to get a large logging operation onto the farm, into the woods, murder the trees, and not have my husband notice. Any suggestions would be welcome.

I will add an aside here that this is the same man who will not let me have a cow on the farm because he can't fathom the possibility of eating something that has a name. Although I've produced thoughtful, intelligent, well-planned arguments, I still have no cow to eat. I've skirted the issue of removing some of Wayne's forest before. The idea was met with such resistance, such ferocity, that I decided to wait for reinforcements.

Now, I am staging a coup. I've enlisted the assistance of wise advisors. I've assembled data (Wayne appreciates data); I've assembled legions to help form a formidable force against him. He will never see it coming. Soon, if my strategic planning works, the horses will be lounging in a shady new pasture with clear beautiful woods on its fringe. I'll let you know how that all works out for me!

March 9, 2010

Walking on Sunshine

Well, today- like yesterday and the one before- is going to be glorious, sunny, and warm. Spring actually may be winning the battle. The grass is just beginning to show signs of green. The mares are ALL beginning to cycle for the year. Foals are being born. The two who live at the farm already Ella's foal Quincy and Tootsie's foal Myrtle spent yesterday frolicking in private paddocks. There's something about a newborn foal playing beside its mother that heralds Spring!  So, today I will complete every possible outside project that I have and soak up some sunshine!

March 7, 2010

Ornery Opossum

An ornery opossum arrived at the farm a few days ago. He is ornery because he wanders around in the middle of the day, hissing at us, the mares and foals, and the barn cats. He is breaking rules and crossing unspoken boundaries. Those barriers dictate that wildlife stays away from us- and we stay away from wildlife.

There was a brief debate regarding the probability (or possibility) that this opossum was rabid. Upon close (very close) inspection, I determined that he is just stupid. Or perhaps has distemper. Regardless, the animal was given notice that he should vacate the premises. Again, he proved himself stupid by disregarding my notice.

So, I decided yesterday that stronger action must be taken. I debated the use of a firearm to evict the marsupial from my farm. I decided against such drastic measure and opted to just club him in the head instead. I armed myself with weapons from the selection of stall-cleaning tools hanging on the wall in the barn. Having most recently sited the offensive critter in the pasture with the boy yearlings (Maxim, Jude, and Hotrod), I set out to harm the animal.

I reasoned that he did not belong at the farm. Opossums are known carriers of the disease called EPM which causes devastating neurological damage to horses. And, his daytime habits coupled with his confusion also seemed out of sorts. Surely, I needed to eliminate this varmint before he exposed the horses to disease or injury.

But, alas, the opossum has proved to be a wary, wiley animal. He has eluded my clubs (and garden rake) and seems to be a master of disappearing when I go to the paddocks with tools. The opossum sightings have increased as if he is laughing at my inability to eliminate him. This is one ornery opossum.

March 6, 2010

Some days, sad things happen

Today was a sad day at the farm. Sad, heroic, tragic...choose a word. I was tempted to skip the events of today in my blog. It's easy to focus on the simple, happy, fullness that fills each day. The hardness of nature and life on a farm itself provides confronts us on occasion. My blog would seem counterfeit somehow if I glossed over days such as this one.

Before the sun arose, Tara, Annie (the breeding intern) and myself set out for a quick day-trip to Morehead State University. Brittney spent her sophomore year at college qualifying to compete at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Regionals. She was hoping that at least a small contingent from the farm would be able to cheer her on. As the sun was rising, and we were nearly to Lexington, the cell phone rang. It was Amber calling from the farm. She quickly informed me that there was an emergency situation involving Coco- a maiden mare due to foal near the end of March.

I exited the Interstate and headed back North as quickly as possible all the while mobilizing the team. The initial emergency was that Coco had foaled early this morning and was unattended due to the fact that she was still housed in a quarantine stall at the farm. She had arrived in our care 5 days before and showed no signs of an impending foaling.

I arrived back at the farm just minutes before Dr Mather to see the tiny foal standing beside her mother. The small blue roan filly seemed healthy but sluggish and had not been able to nurse her mother yet. Worse yet, the mare had suffered what appeared to be extensive damage to her vulva and rectum during the foaling. I will brag about our team for the briefest moment because everyone was so helpful, calm, and intelligent in dealing with the events of the morning.

We had stabilized the foal before Dr Mather's arrival with oxygen and were working with the mare's udder to try to get her milk to let down We helped the vet administer IV Plasma, tube nutrients into the foal, and an IV treatment of DMSO (Dimethyl Sulfoxide) to relieve impending swelling of the filly's brain tissues. With the foal stable, we turned our attention to the mare.

Upon examination, Dr Mather discovered that she had torn about a 10 inch section of her rectum.  The entire "roof" of the uterus was missing and mangled with the shredded rectum above it. Everyone knew that this was a possible death sentence for the mare and forwarned of real trouble for the foal as well.  The cell phone minutes ticked away as we tried to keep information to the mare owner, her vet and team at home, and decisions were made regarding the care and treatment of both patients.

Fast forward several hours, and we were loading mare and daughter onto a trailer to receive nursing care nearer to the owner's home. The months will be tenuous and long while the mare fights to recover from this tragedy. Each day she survives is one day better for the foal. Someone said as we loaded the mare- "She's a real fighter, she wants to stay alive and has done everything she could today to help us help her."

I send this blog out tonight with prayers and hope. Every so often, we are hit full-force with the smallness of our role in the universe. We are reminded that we are passengers on a much bigger vehicle. Today, we were all passengers and I can only hope that this ride ends in happiness, health and joy.

March 3, 2010

Fine Four-footed Friends

Well, it's the end of another long day but I'm showered, have a full tummy, and all the work of the day was completed without complications. That (officially) goes on record as a good day. The barn seemed to teem with life today- both human and animal.

The day looked something like this. Morning dawned a bit too early today as our fine four-footed friends from Vermont arrived around 3:45am. Tess and Nona arrived a little thirsty and tired, and a lot hungry in the wee hours this morning. After getting them settled into their waiting stalls, I was wide awake. Perhaps because I had been outside in the just below freezing temperatures, or maybe because I knew that it would be dawn soon, regardless, I decided to stay awake and climb the small mountain of paperwork on my desk.

Once the sun finally decided to join me, we proceeded with our regular activities for a breeding season Wednesday. Paddocks were filled with bright green alfalfa, water tanks were refreshed and checked, horses were fed and stalls were cleaned. Tara and I tackled several large projects (including one which required the use of no less than 4 power tools!). Meanwhile, Gary and Amber put the school horses through their paces.

We were surprised with a visit from several visitors and another by an area horseman just before lunch. Then, after a brief detour to Taco Bell, we returned to the barn with a fresh load of hay. Again, another visitor- this time an owner delivering a mare to be bred by Chevy. After a short visit, everyone settled again into their respective list of chores.

There were horses to groom, ride, longe, hand-walk, and tease. Added to the mix were visits from two different farriers- one in the AM and another in the PM. So, as I'm winding this up tonight, Chevy has a brand new set of shiny rims. Much like the morning began, the evening is ending with horses munching hay while all wrapped up on their snug winter blankets. The days may be getting just a touch warmer and the flow of work is getting just a little quicker as we are no longer fighting snow and ice. Of course, mud comes with its own set of rules.

March 2, 2010

Twins, again.

Well, it's that time of year again. Breeding season arrived at Fields Quarter Horses right on schedule this year. Each year- foaling season for the Quarter Horse at our farm runs from January 1st until mid-June. Because a horse gestates on average 340 days and we do not want our foals born before January 1st, breeding season opens a month later in February. This year, we've been quite busy already breeding mares.

The first set of mares were bred on February 12th by artificial insemination. Chevy has lots of lady friends but very little actual experience when it comes to meeting, dating, or otherwise wooing the opposite sex. His first venture to the breeding shed produced semen which was used to inseminate 4 mares. Those mares had been prepped for breeding season by being housed in stalls under lights for 16 hours each day. This process causes their bodies to produce more melatonin because their eyes are tricked into thinking that the days are longer than they really are. The increase in melatonin causes the balance of their hormones to "shift" and causes them to begin producing viable (or useable) eggs on their ovaries.

So, the first mares were poised on the bring of virtual Spring, they were inseminated, and again we intervened by utilizing a special compounded drug called Deslorelin to encourage the mares to ovulate the more fertile eggs (also called follicles). With the brave Chevy swimmers (semen) on board, it was left to Mother Nature to work her magic and we waited the long 16 days to determine if we had produced pregnancies. During the 16 days while we were waiting, we stacked the deck sort of by also giving the mares oral progesterone to make sure that their hormone levels stayed at a healthy level to maintain a budding pregnancy.

Well, I'm pleased to say that Chevy's first 2011 foals are on their way. Essi, who is a notorious culprit for producing twins, has been ultrasounded with a single healthy pregnancy. We will of course be checking her again at 21 days and then breathe easier when we find a heartbeat on the new embryonic horse at 27 days. From there, it will be 10 more months of feeding and nurturing the little life.

Sabrina, on the other hand, has decided to be generous and produce twins. Unfortunately, the mortality rate of  twin foals is not very high so the best chance of a surviving foal is to eliminate one of the fetuses. Dr. Bruce Howard of Rood & Riddle visited the farm today to perform the procedure. As fascinating as the modern technology is, I am always sad at the loss of an embryo- particularly at our hands. But, I understand that it is absolutely necessary for the health of the mare and her unborn foal.

First, the vet identifies the position of the two embryos. He quickly makes a determination regarding which embryo has the best chance for survival based upon its size and position in the uterus of the mare. Frankly, it does pay to be the biggest, strongest, and have the best seat in the class. After determining which embryo will be the survivor, he isolates the unfortunate one into a different area of the uterus (if possible) and literally "pinches" it between his fingers. As I watched the little ball of genetics disappear on the ultrasound screen, I said a prayer that it would have a speedy return to horse heaven. The fluid from the dying embryo seeped around the healthy one before it was absorbed by the spongy walls of Sabrina's uterus.

To make sure the insult doesn't end up with an abortion of the survivor, we administer additional progesterone and anti-inflammatory drugs to the mare. She will be watched closely for several days but the vet felt that the procedure was pretty much textbook and the larger, healthier embryo would persevere.

So, I suppose breeding season also means that it's twin season at Fields Quarter Horses. We have good semen, good drugs, and a good feeding program. All these factors combined cause our farm to also have a high ratio of twin pregnancies. We are careful to examine the early pregnancies for any chances of twins for the safety of our mares but it is my fear that someday, we will deliver a set. I surely hope that we will not.