Wednesday, October 27, 2010


My thoughts are with LA today. LA told me last night that Spunky, her 29-year old mare, is being put down today. Spunky stopped eating and LA had the vet out yesterday afternoon. The diagnosis is that Spunky's liver is giving out. She had a rough winter last year and rather than force her to recover and face another winter, the difficult decision was made. Spunky was put in Gem's field last night, along with her special friend, another retired mare. I watched them for a few minutes. Spunky was standing, looking around at her new surroundings. But, I could sense that Spunky was "tired". Her special friend was standing close to her, almost touching, as she grazed.

I did not really have an opportunity to know Spunky well, but I will share what I know. She has lived 27 of her 29 years with LA. This means that LA was about 17 or 18 years old when Spunky became part of her life. I believe LA's father had a soft spot for Spunky and she may have been his horse. Spunky eventually became a lesson horse. Her patience made her a good babysitter, and quite a number of people learned to ride on Spunky. She was officially retired 5 years ago and has been living outside with the herd ever since. Her gentle nature and age put her near the bottom of the herd hierarchy, but she managed. She and her special friend could be seen grazing together in their preferred field, just outside the forested area not far from the barn. I would watch in amazement as she trotted across the fields like a youngster to receive her special supplements when LA called her name at the gate.

Spunky has had a good life. She has been loved, appreciated and cared for. I remember that Spunky was in rough shape late winter and LA was worried that she would have to put her down then. Routines were changed up a bit to accommodate Spunky's special needs and she was able to enjoy another summer.

Personally, I think that Spunky has made the decision not to endure another winter. She decided to take control of her destiny by allowing her body to stop working. Her liver failure has made it easier for LA to cope with the decision to assist Spunky on the next part of her journey. A gentle lady to the end. RIP Spunky.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Gem!

Gem celebrated his 10th birthday on October 17th. Today, we went on a celebratory trail ride. Five of us braved the cold and rain. He was well behaved and I relaxed enough to let him do what he needed; I didn't interfere with him as he wound our way through stony trails and shrubs. I am trusting him more and more. After he was back in his stall, I gave him a carrot and then went to the lounge to have some carrot cake with my riding buddies.

Birthdays and anniversaries make me reflect. I have been thinking about Gem's first life, pre-Wolfie. Ellen, his first owner, had wished for her own horse for a long time. She researched what she wanted: something unique, brave, strong, solid, an easy keeper that could withstand our cold Canadian winters and keep her safe out on the trails. Her breed search came up with the Canadian, or La Cheval Canadien as the breed is known in Quebec. The history of the Canadian breed can be found here. My dream horse wish list included the same things.

Gem started his life at a breeder's facility not far from where I live. When Ellen purchased him as a 3-year old, she had him transported to Guelph, Ontario and Gem lived on her property for five years. Ellen's wish had come true and Gem was to be her forever horse. She had his name tattooed on her back. Over that 5 year period, he lived outside and she rode him on the trails on her property. He was the only horse and I believe he had a dog as a companion. I get the impression that Gem was more of a pet than a riding companion. He was spoiled.

Over that 5 year period, Ellen's circumstances changed dramatically. The business that her husband and she owned was suffering, they had to sell their property to pay bills, the business eventually went under, her marriage broke up. She had a friend that owned a boarding/lesson facility about an hour away from where she was living and asked if Gem could be housed there until she found a job and her financial troubles were sorted out. Gem moved and shared a field with other horses. It didn't work out very well. Having no real herd manners and being a big guy, he bossed everyone around and took to herding the mares so aggressively, he was separated and Ellen had his blood tested to make sure he was a true gelding (he is). Gem just didn't know how to play nice, so he was kept alone in the front paddock while the herd was kept at the back of the property. He was used in some lessons to "pay" for his board. Time passed. He got fat.

Eventually, Ellen had to make a decision. Her friend was downsizing to a small hobby farm that could house her two personal horses and her 4 dogs, but that was it. The facility had been sold. Ellen could not afford to board Gem anywhere. She was still unemployed. Gem was put up for sale.

While Ellen's life with Gem was unraveling, I was surfing the Internet looking for my dream horse. I actually found a 15.0hh Fjord (LOVE Fjords!) that seemed perfect and was being offered at the top end of my budget. Jean and I drove for hours to see him. We both rode that sweet guy and loved him. Unfortunately, when I had the vet exam done, he came up sensitive on his right front leg after being lunged in a circle for a while. In fairness, the owner did say that he had been sensitive before when being lunged, but had never had a problem with him out on the trails. I needed a horse that could do circles in lessons, so I had to walk away.

Then, I found Gem. When STA and I went to see him, I also met Ellen. Initially, she was a bit hostile to me. But, once we started talking about Gem and his history, she broke down and started crying. I actually got teary-eyed myself; it was obvious how much she loved this horse and now one more thing in her life was disappearing.

Megan, STA and myself rode Gem, and I was smitten. When we all sat down to negotiate - Ellen with her friend and STA and I - I started off by asking Ellen if she was OK with this, if she was OK with me. I was prepared to walk away if she was not comfortable with this situation. I would accept her decision. She said she liked me and was absolutely fine with Gem going with me.

Ellen sold Gem to me for the same amount she paid when she purchased him from the breeder. As I shook her hand to seal the deal, she grabbed me and hugged me. I reassured her that everything would be OK. The next Friday, Gem had his vet check and STA and I picked him up. The adventure began on April 18/09.

Initially, Ellen emailed me about once a month to see how he was doing. I would give her a light update on how he was adjusting to his new environment and being in a stall at night, about his new roommates and how he was doing in lessons. On his birthday, she asked if I could give him an extra apple for her. I did not hear from her over the winter months. Then, this past spring, on the anniversary of me becoming his companion, Ellen contacted me to see how Gem was doing. In her email, she indicated that her situation was much better. She had found a job over the winter and moved into an apartment closer to friends and family and was much happier. I was pleased for her and gave her an update which included a recent picture of Gem. She responded that she was grateful that he looked so good and content. He looked loved and she knew I was the right person for Gem. She thanked me for helping him become the horse she knew he could be and told me that she could finally let go. I have not heard from her since.

Sadly, what happened to Ellen is not uncommon. In a heartbeat, circumstances can change. The closing of one door in Ellen's life, opened another for me and another for Gem. Having him in my life has had such a positive effect on my well-being. I hope he feels the same. Gem started his life not 20 miles from where he is now; I brought him "home". Strange how these things happen. Was it meant to be?? Here's something even stranger. The second or third time Gem was getting his feet done, The Farrier, who recognized him as a Canadian, asked me where he was from. I explained the story. The Farrier broke out into a big smile. It turns out that, for the last 15 years, he has been doing all the farrier work for the breeders where Gem was born. He did Gem's feet for the first 3 years of his life!! Cool, eh? Yes...I think that Gem has really come home...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wanting to be Hated

My riding class expanded this past summer to include CA and BF. CA is an experienced rider, but has not been riding much over the last year because her horse is recovering from a leg injury. LA offered her a horse to ride during our lessons to keep her skills up. BF is a newbie and has been taking lessons for almost a year now.

Gem was a schnook last night. He is not usually affectionate; he's not fussy on having his face touched unless you are putting on a bridle. However, last night he allowed me to softly rub his face and eyes, hug him and scratch his ears. He sniffed my hair. He touched my butt when I was cleaning his feet. Yep, we were going to have a good ride.

Last night, LA set up two cavalettis and four poles in the middle of the arena. Gem was very interested in them. Ears up. We walked up to them and he checked them out. He sniffed and sniffed. No problemo, he said. Alright!

As I have mentioned, our usual routine is walk, lope, rising trot, jog, with leg yielding exercises thrown in for good measure. And, as usual, when BF takes his turn at whatever he is being asked to do, he does it with ease and finesse. His tall, lanky body seems to float effortlessly with his horse when he lopes. He's balanced. He makes it look easy. He doesn't break a sweat. And, when he completes his turn, we tell him how much we hate him. Last night was no exception. We told BF fairly early in the evening that we hated him.

In general, Gem and I were having a pretty good session. He was responsive to my leg and verbal cues. He was relaxed. His jog was OK although we are still working at slowing it down a tad. On the other side, his rising trot could have been a bit faster and larger. Oh, well. After one false start, he and I loped one full circle, at a consistent pace and I believe my butt was in the saddle for most of it. Yay! I managed to reprise my loping performance a number of times. My goal of going around the arena twice at a lope is in sight!! My classmates were quite impressed.

Now it was time for the cavalettis and poles. We all walked over them a couple of times, to allow the horses to get used to them. CA's horse refused a couple of times but eventually realized that the cavalettis were not going to eat him. The poles were set up beside the cavalettis. The pattern would be trot up and over the cavalettis, turn and trot over the poles. We took our turns and as usual told BF that we hated him.

LA: Let's bump it up a notch. Wolfie, you and Gem pick up a lope and do the pattern.
Me: No.
LA: Well, thanks for thinking about it.
Me: Are you mad???? I am still trying to stay in the saddle under normal circumstances when I lope! You want to throw in jumping???
LA: It's not that high.
Me: I'm not loping over those poles.
LA: *sigh*

Gem and I managed quite nicely at a trot thank you very much while others loped/hopped over the cavalettis and poles. After we trotted over the obstacles, Gem and I loped down to the far end of the arena to join the group. I think I may be getting the hang of this loping thing! Jean did amazingly well on a new horse. They actually did jumps over the cavalettis! OK, the elevation of the cavalettis is probably, what, 6 or 7 inches??? But Jean and her horse jumped them. It was lovely to watch. We told her that we hated her.

LA then added another cavaletti, positioned on the same side as the poles. So, now we had to go over the first two cavalettis, turn, go over the new cavaletti and then the poles. No sweat. Gem and I gracefully trotted over the first cavalettis. However I made my turn very sharp and didn't give him much room to reposition his body before taking on the new cavaletti. We were almost at a standstill and in my effort to keep him moving I pushed a secret button by mistake. With no room to actually take a stride, he went up. Like, straight up. He jumped over the new cavaletti and then continued to trot over the poles. WTH?! He JUMPED! He JUMPED that cavaletti like it was a 2 foot jump instead of 6 inches. And, I stayed in the saddle!!! Everyone was cheering. I am sure the group thought that it was a smile on my face, indicting that the jump was planned. But, in fact, I was checking to see if I had chipped any teeth. As I joined my classmates, CA leaned over to me and said: "Loping, jumping....soon you will be the one we hate!" Wow!!!

The rest of the lesson was a bit of a blur. I have to admit that I was grateful that Gem made the decision to go forward, or up in this case, instead of freaking out or refusing. It reaffirmed my gut feeling that I can trust him. He did what needed to be done to continue moving on, but didn't overdo it.

I had jelly legs when I dismounted. I could already feel the effects of whiplash settling in as I was leaving the stables last night. Getting out of the car when I got home took some effort. Sigh. Today is an Advil day....boy, is it an Advil day.

What was I thinking....?

Monday, October 18, 2010

U.S. Bill H.R. 503 and Canadian Bill C-544

You may or may not be aware of Bill H.R. 503 and Bill C-544. They are to stop the transport of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption (H.R. 503) and to stop horse slaughter for human consumption (C-544); basically eliminating horse slaughter for human consumption in North America. I am not a political person and I certainly don't want my blog to turn into a political forum. However, I received this notice from the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition and feel compelled to pass on this information to other horse lovers. The information outlines ways to voice your opinion on horse slaughter to your federal government. Personally, if it weren't for groups like CHDC, I would not be aware of documents like these bills. I have already contacted my Member of Parliament outlining my desire to stop the slaughter and asking where he stands on Bill C-544.

"From our friends in the U.S., we have an urgent message to call on Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, Oct. 19/10 and ask her to schedule a vote on the Prevention of Equine Creulty Act - H.R. 503. Please read the following from EWA:

..... Tell Speaker Pelosi that this bill has 183 bipartisan cosponsors in the House, 28 in the Senate, and tremendous public support. After you call Speaker Pelosi, 202.225.0100 or her San Francisco office, 415.556.4862, call on Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid 702.388.5020 / Fax: 702.388.5030, and Assistant Majority Leader Sen. Dick Durbin 202.224.2152 or fax 202.228.0400 to schedule a vote on the senate version,
S.B. 727. Don't wait. Do it now. For the horses.

For additional info, visit Animal Law Coalition at


Petitions are still active for our Canadian Bill C-544. Deadline for petitions is DECEMBER 31/10. If you haven't started to gather signatures yet, please download a new petition here: (English version) or (French version).
Please continue writing your MPs, you can find your MP link here:
As well, please keep your letters flowing to our Ag Minister, Gerry Ritz at: and make the liberal opposition aware of your thoughts - contact MP Wayne Easter, Liberal Agriculture Critic at: A full listing of people to contact can be found on the CHDC web site or blog.

To ensure your petitions are accounted for and read in Parliament, please forward them to MP Alex Atamanenko's office directly. His contact information is:
MP Alex Atamanenko
337 Columbia Avenue
Castlegar, BC V1N 1G6
Tel: 250-365-2792

Humane Society International (HSI) has been instrumental in gathering names and signatures on this bill. Since they already have a tabulation of many Canada-wide supporters, HSI is assisting to keep track of all support efforts across the country. After you send in your petitions to MP Atamanenko, please notify your MP of your actions, and take the time to write a letter or email to say why you're supporting this bill and the number of names you've gathered.

Also, please notify HSI how many signatures were gathered, and in what riding. If you have already sent in your petitions to your MP, please follow up with them and ask that they be tabled in the House of Commons. Please notify HSI with details of your petitions. If you have sent in your petitions or copies to the CHDC, we will ensure they are tabulated together with the others. By accomplishing this tabulation, we will ensure all signatures are properly accounted for, and that all petitions get tabled.

Humane Society International (HSI) - Canada

372 Ste-Catherine O/W Suite 319
Montreal, QC H3B 1A2
Tel: 514-395-2914 (EST-5h)
Fax: 514-395-8021

Thank you all for all for your continued support,

For the horses,
Canadian Horse Defence Coalition"

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bad Mommy, Good Mommy

It was a fantastic long weekend. Lots of sunshine, lots of friends, lots of family and lots of riding. It was a very relaxing weekend for me. For the first time in a number of years, My Husband and I did not have to prepare a huge meal or entertain. I had Friday off so I got my nails done and went for a ride. Saturday I met a girlfriend for lunch and Saturday night, My Husband and I went to friends' for dinner. Sunday we did some work around the house and went to my parents' place for Thanksgiving dinner - my sister prepared everything from appetizers to dessert. Yummy! Monday, My Husband and I had late breakfast and he went golfing and I went on a trail ride.

The weather was amazing all weekend and continues so far this week. My ride on Friday was interesting. I was the only one riding Friday afternoon. One of The Arena Gang was grooming her horse, so I took advantage of the company and rode in the arena. Gem was "off". He was fidgety while I was grooming him. He moved around as I saddled him up. He nipped at my clothing a few times. I thought it was because he was missing mid-afternoon snack. When we were in the arena, I couldn't get on him. It didn't matter what I tried, he always seemed to be able to move just out of my reach. I had to ask for assistance from the other boarder. While riding him, he pushed back on everything I asked him. He was resistant to my cues through the whole 45 minutes I rode him. He pulled on the bit. When I was untacking him, LA's 75-year old mother (she lives on-site) asked how Gem was when I rode him.

Me: He was not himself. He was off. Why do you ask?
Her: He didn't get up this morning when we arrived to feed. Usually, he's up and very vocal because he wants his breakfast.
Me: (alarmed) He was lying down???
Her: Yes, his head was up, but he was lying down. It took him a while to get up.
Me: (very alarmed) Was he struggling??!!!
Her: Oh, no! I put his breakfast in his stall and that encouraged him to get up. He ate. Perhaps he has an upset tummy.

I spoke to LA about it and she thought he was fine. His poops (along with other horses) have been a bit loose on and off because of eating apples that have fallen from the trees and perhaps some other Fall grasses that they don't usually eat. She has been monitoring poops. Whew! But, Bad Mommy!!! Gem was trying to tell me that he wasn't well. This explains his behaviour. I hate the thought that I pushed him when he wasn't well. :-(

Monday he seemed like his old self. It was a stunningly gorgeous day. Warmish and sunny. I was pumped about going on a trail ride, but also nervous. I placed my Confidence Vest in the trunk of my car, and headed out to the stables.

Driving through my neighbourhood......

Crossing the river....

There was quite a turnout at the stables on Monday afternoon. We were all in the front paddock. Gem was excited and frisky, not exactly how I would like him to be going out on the trail. I jogged Gem on and off for 20 minutes. I wanted him loose and calm when that gate opened out to the fields. Once we were ready to go, I put on my Confidence Vest and the gate was opened.

Loosening up the horses before going out.....

There were 8 of us that went out. I positioned myself with a very experienced adult rider. I was stiff and had to keep taking deep breaths to calm myself. About 5 minutes into the ride, I found myself LEADING the trail. At first I panicked, but then I realized that Gem liked it! Because I am such a chicken, I usually try to position myself in the middle. He is always rushing when we are in this position - I thought it was because his stride is bigger than the quarter horses. But now I am wondering if it's because he likes to be out front.... I started to relax a bit and let him do his thing.

I did try to take some pictures while we were actually walking on the trails, but I wasn't coordinated enough to get my camera ready and ride at the same time!

Stopping for a drink.......

I survived two horse-eating squishy mud puddles - Gem was able to hop like a bunny over them and I remained in the saddle. I survived him telling another gelding of lower rank to get out of his face. I survived Gem being happy and breaking into a jog - he allowed me to bring him back to a walk. We were out for a couple of hours. Gem loved it and after I calmed down, so did I! I am sure he had a smile on his face. I felt good that Gem was out of the arena and that we were riding on grass instead of sand. What a great way to end a great weekend. I have already started arranging another trail date. :-)

This last picture was taken a couple of weeks ago from my deck. I was putting the dogs out when I got home from work and the sky was an amazing pink colour. It's not a very clear picture, but I think you can get the idea of how brilliant everything was.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Temporary Insanity

First, Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow Canadians!! I hope you are able to spend time with your families this weekend. I certainly have a lot to be thankful for, and I am grateful every day.

So, my last lesson was all of 20 minutes. I actually left work early and got to the stables 1/2 hour before my usual arrival time. As I started to get out of my car, my cell phone rang. One of my co-workers was trapped in the hallway of our building. Let me explain..... our offices are on two floors of a professional townhouse with a hallway on the main floor that also allows access to the basement where the bathrooms and kitchen are. The offices on each floor lock individually. My co-worker was down in the bathroom, the other employees left locking up the offices behind them. They assumed my co-worker had a key to lock the front door as he left. Nope. So I drove back to the office through rush hour traffic (45 minutes), locked the door and drove back to the stables (45 minutes).

I am not good with rush hour traffic at the best of times, let alone having to face it 3 times in one evening. You see, I have a condition.....there's no flowery way to say this.....and I am little ashamed to admit it......I turn into lunatic. Put me on a crowded road, crawling along over a period of time and I unravel. My happy demeanour starts to slip away. My patience level diminishes to zero. Yes, I am the one yelling unflattering names at the person that is stupid, inconsiderate or pushy. Granted my yelling is done through my windshield, but I exaggerate my pronunciation so that the person can clearly make out what name I am calling them if they look at their rear-view mirror. Fargin Icehole!!! Fargin Bastage!!! Throwing my hands in the air or shrugging my shoulders is also part of this display. What the.....??? As my frustration escalates, my hand somehow finds its way to the horn. Yep, I may even accentuate my yelling with a little horn blowing. I am sure a vein starts to pulse on my forehead at this stage. I wasn't always like this..... there just seem to be more incompetent rude drivers out there now. So for my own peace of mind and to avoid looking extremely unattractive, I don't drive in rush hour. My personal office hours are 9:30-6:00 p.m. :-)

Needless to say that by the time I arrived back at the stables, my face was pinched, my lips thin lines. My lesson was well underway. LA had saddled Gem up and was sitting on him when I arrived. I still felt like the top of my head was going to blow off. She asked if I was going to get on my pony and I replied no. I just wasn't in the right frame of mind. She gently insisted that I get on him, so I brought my mounting stairs to the centre of the arena and got on Gem. He didn't move as I mounted. HE DIDN'T MOVE AS I MOUNTED. Now, it could have been because LA was standing basically in front of him. It could have been that he knew I was still suffering from temporary insanity and was anticipating some sort of awful repercussion if he didn't behave. Or, it could have been that he was just being a really good boy. Frankly, it didn't matter why. HE DIDN'T MOVE AS I MOUNTED. I sat on him for a minute, giving his neck and mane a good rub and thanked him.

We didn't participate in any of the loping. Instead Gem and I walked around on the inside of the arena while my classmates waited for their turn to trot or lope on the rail. We did some limbering up; small circles, 90 degree turns. I did not chat with my classmates (my new rule) and continued to focus on being with Gem, keeping him moving. I could feel the tension slipping away and I could feel my body melting into the saddle. My pleasantness returned. When LA asked me what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to try to do a side-pass. What?! Yep, a side-pass.

LA coached me on rein position and leg position and on the fourth try, Gem and I did a side-pass from the middle of the arena to the rail. :-) It wasn't the straightest example, but it was a side-pass none the less. Good boy!

So within a 3-hour period, I managed to go from office manager to lunatic driver to saviour to lunatic driver to Zen rider. Yes, I am woman and I am amazing. Geez, I sure hope I don't have to go on this emotional roller coaster on a regular basis, though. It's exhausting!

What was I thinking....?