Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Warning!  Some graphic photos!!

Back in January, I had my vet look at a lump on Gem's chest.  It was located on the fatty area of his breast.  I noticed it last September and actually thought he had been stung by a wasp.  My vet looked at it and recommended that it be removed and a biopsy done just to close the loop, but his first impression was that it was nothing serious.   I trust my vet.  I booked the surgery for the end of April.   All went well.

Beautiful, even stitches.....
The 2nd morning after surgery, barn staff arrived to discover that Gem and Noah were loose in the barn and had been eating, pooping and pulling stuff off the racks during the night.  They were also shocked to see that the top door of Gem's stall was still locked!!!  The bottom door, however, was wide open.  What the heck?!   Yep, Gem limbo-ed under the top door to escape...and then he let his buddy, Noah out.  As far as they can figure, the very tall visiting horse in the stall next to Gem's, reached over and unlocked the bottom door bolt.  Sigh. You cannot trust Gem when it comes to containment.

Of course, he pulled out all of his stitches during his escape leaving a huge, gaping hole.   So, I hosed it (couldn't be restitched because it had been open too long), flushed it with iodine and then coated it with honey.  Eventually, I stopped hosing it but continued with the honey for a few weeks.  It was a very deep wound and has taken a long time to heal, but it has healed from the inside out with no complications.  Yay!   Thank you honey!  I do appreciate that he's robust and a good healer.

 * * * * *
Our bridge was like this one.
This horse does not like the noodles!
By early June, Gem's wound was nicely scabbed over and I was able to join some friends on a trail ride.  I love that I can trust him to be sane after a long absence from riding.  He lived up to his name and we had an awesome ride, staying out about 1.5 hours.  On the way back, we walked by the obstacle course.   A long "tippy" bridge caught my eye, a leftover from the clinic earlier in the week.  DH's Mom started to tell me to let Gem walk up and sniff it and allow him to ease into stepping on it, etc., etc.   Pffft!  Gem and I walked up to it and just walked across.  Even when it tipped forward, he didn't hesitate.  We turned around and went back over it again just to prove it wasn't a fluke.  :-)   Then we walked through the hanging noodles.....DH's Mom was, well....impressed.  :-)  I know that I can trust Gem to have the confidence needed when it comes to things out of the ordinary.

 * * * * *
In July, DH's Mom asked if I would go offsite with her and ride a local trail (what?!).  Apparently, TS and SS are not interested in going offsite this year.  I declined; riding in 30C weather has no appeal to me, but said that I would go later in the year.  I did however, agree to allow Gem to go offsite with another rider.  MC rides a Clydesdale, but the owner (she leases) would not allow the horse off the property.  I volunteered Gem as her mount so she could go with DH's Mom.  I looked at this as an opportunity for Gem to experience another location without risk to myself.  :-)  MC is a more experienced rider than I, more physically fit and confident.  I showed her his tack and then wished her a good ride.  I trusted her to take care of Gem and she did.  He actually loaded and unloaded with ease and rocked it when they were on the trails.  The only time he refused to walk on was when they came to a big puddle.....strange...  But they did not force him because this ride was for getting both horses familiar with the trails.  MC couldn't say enough good things about Gem.  :-)

* * * * * *
One of my goals this summer was to get comfortable riding on my own.  I don't want to be dependent on others.  I have been out on Gem "by myself", but usually within sight of others.  There is still a safety net, so to speak, when you can see other riders.  We needed to get out there alone.   I tried!   There were a number of times that I did not make arrangements with my riding buddies to meet up so that Gem and I could go it solo.  The best made plans....sigh.  People I hadn't seen in weeks seemed to jump out of the woodwork when I arrived, asking if they could join me on the trails....of course they could... :-)  Eventually, the day came when Gem and I were alone.  There was no one, with the exception of LA's mother, at the barn.   I was excited...this is it!....not a nervous bone in my body!  What the heck?!   No issues with mounting; stepped right up and on.  Off we went.  Well, sort of.  Gem started off fine, but once he realized it was just him and I, he walked vvvverrry sloooowly and kept looking behind us, searching for our usually riding companions.   I could almost hear him say, "Wait a sec...where are the others??"   :-)  He eventually came around, after a lot of encouragement, and we walked around the open fields (I wasn't quite ready to go into the orchard or forest).  One thing about riding on your own is that it's quiet....really quiet...  So I chatted a lot with Gem, just to make sure that the critters could hear us and nobody got spooked.  Strangely, I think he sort of liked my chatter. Note to self:  Find Gem's bell necklace.   My heart really swelled as we headed back to the barn and I had a big smile on my face.  I think our partnership was truly sealed with that ride.  I trusted him and he trusted me.  I felt that we could do anything after that ride.   What a wonderful feeling....

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Finding Love...again....

Well, the weather here has been brutal.  I don't want to brag, but we have been experiencing an average high of -15C (-3F) with lots of snow the last few weeks.  Yay!!....not.  Does that stop me from going to the barn??  No!  It may be too cold to ride, but it's not too cold to groom and give my boy some lovin'.   Dressing for this weather is not my best look, however, and getting in and out of the car can be a challenge.  I had so many layers on last weekend (-25C with windchill), that I was struggling to bend over to get my brushes out of my case.  :-)  Walking back to my car, the wind made my eyeballs hurt.  Whaaaa!

LA has had the older horses brought in from the herd.  They are housed at night and turned out in the front paddock during the day.  That way she knows that they are actually getting food....it seems that in this cold weather, horses get grumpy about getting food to ensure they can maintain their body heat and the older guys get pushed away from the hay. 

                                                                 *  *  *  *  *  *  

A couple of years ago, I posted about R., John and Mary and a horse named Ringer.  As Valentine's Day approaches, I thought I would give an update on the love story.
This is what Harmony looks like.
Over the last couple of years, LA has been retiring some of the older school horses.  They will live out the rest of their days chowing down on delicious hay and grain and enjoying a life of leisure.  This means that she has to have replacements and in the summer of 2013, LA purchased a beautiful bay mare, Harmony, as a replacement lesson horse.  She had lots of training and had a nice demeanour.  But, it didn't work out.  Harmony was sweet, but once you put an inexperienced rider on her, she just wanted to prance and couldn't be trusted out on the trails with beginner riders.  The herd didn't particularly like her and were constantly running her off from the hay pile.  When we were out on the trails, we would frequently see her standing alone, next to the herd, but not part of it.  She was not wintering well.  She started to drop weight, she looked sad and worried.

Meanwhile, Mary couldn't spend enough time with Ringer!  Their bond has become tight.  I have watched Mary's skills as a rider go way, way above and beyond since she teamed up with Ringer and she now goes to just about every obstacle, gaming and barrel competition there is locally....and cleans up ribbon-wise.  Mary is fearless on Ringer.  While Mary continued on with her lessons on Ringer, R. would do little jobs around the barn to keep busy, which included grooming the older horses.  LA had brought lonely Harmony in from the fields to one of the turnout pens to ensure she would get food.  She was going to sell her and wanted her healthy and looking her best.  R. started grooming her. 

Harmony was a mess.  She had bite marks all over her and was suffering with a bit of rain rot.  Her eyes and coat were dull.  She was a bit wary of R. initially.  R. took it slow.  Their sessions got longer and longer.  R. enjoyed fussing over Harmony and Harmony was enjoying the attention.  Over time, Harmony and R. became very close.  Harmony got excited when she saw R.   Her eyes softened, she seemed perkier and a little more involved with her surroundings.  She was eating.  Her coat gleamed and her mane was long and shiny.

LA couldn't find a buyer for Harmony.  She was a nice looking horse, had good bloodlines, was not malicious and was well trained.  But, she was 20 years old; her competition days were long gone and she was too old to breed.   A hard choice was going to have to be made.  No one wanted to take on a senior horse, it seemed.  Well....except R., that is.  :-) 

R. and Harmony have been a couple since the summer of 2014, and neither could be happier.   Never in a million years did R. think she would have her own horse.  When she and John talked about buying Harmony, John came down to see her with R. and he fell in love with her, too.  Ah, love.  R. has been taking regular lessons and their bond continues to grow.  R. did some research and found the original owner of Harmony, located in another province.  Harmony was used for competition, sold at 10 years of age when the owner got another competition horse and then was used as a brood mare by the new owner.  The original owner was delighted to hear from R. and told her all sorts of stories and sent pictures.  Not sure what circumstances led her to LA's place to be a school horse; life is strange sometimes.

Last summer, R. and I were riding in the front paddock.  Mary and her friends had set up the barrels; they needed to practice for a games competition.  Harmony was very interested in what was going on.  Up to that point, R. was still trying to get her sea legs and to figure Harmony out.  For a lark, R. asked Mary to take Harmony through the routine at a trot, just to get her used to the barrels, so that R. could see how she would react and perhaps have some fun with her.   Up Mary got on Harmony and settled herself in the saddle.  Mary barely had to cue Harmony.  Trot?  That's for sissies!  Harmony took off like her tail was on fire!  Her turns around the barrels were tight and well balanced, and coming home she was flat out.  And just to finish it off, she did a little sliding stop.  WTH?!!  We all had our mouths hanging open to our chests!   She was amazing....who knew!?  Harmony was raring to go again, which Mary did.  Again, she performed 110%.  She looked....happy???  She may be heading into her senior years, but she's still got it!!

Harmony's future may have been iffy at one point, but her circumstances couldn't have bounced back any better.  She must have done something right in another life to have a human like R. as she heads into the senior part of her life.  R. absolutely loves Harmony and will always do what's best for her.  She will fuss and brush her, make sure she gets the proper supplements and vet care and ride her with respect.  Harmony is almost unrecognizable from a year ago.  She is muscled, shiny and alert.  She is beautiful.  She is not out with the herd; she has her own turnout area next to Gem's and is brought in at night.  She is much happier.

So, now Mary has Ringer, R. has Harmony and.....guess what?   Yes!!  John bought himself a 6-year old, stunning black and white paint mare!  She's delightful and handsome Gem has his eye on her.  :-)   John has been taking lessons, too!  R. has indicated that when Harmony is ready to be fully retired, John and her will share his horse and of course Ringer will be available for R. as Mary heads off to university.  A great arrangement for the future.  I think it's cool that horses have been the sort of glue for this family.   The family that rides together, stays together???  :-)    

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

And just like that.....

......everything changed.    

On November 18/14, my mother was hospitalized on doctor's orders.  After scans and a biopsy (which she was awake for and never flinched!!), it was determined that she had terminal stomach and lung cancer.  She told me that she was fine with the diagnosis and was looking forward to being with Dad.  She was adamant that she just wanted to be made comfortable, no fuss.  Her wish was granted and her three daughters kept her company every day and into the evening gabbing, watching TV, discussing current events, doing crosswords with her and playing trivia....many days it was like a kitchen party.  On the last day, November 28th, she went quietly and with dignity and on her own terms.

My mother was born in Farrukahbad, India in 1935, during the British Raj.  Her father was from Scotland and was on the British Police Force in India.  He married a local Anglo-Indian and the union produced 6 beautiful children, my mother being the youngest.  She did not have a lot of fond memories of India.  She lived in a compound with other British families and true to the time period and culture, her parents were more concerned with their own needs; my mother was closer to her "Aya" than her mother.  She and her siblings were all sent off to convent boarding school as soon as they turned 5 and wouldn't see their parents again until Christmas break and then summer.  Sometimes, if her parents had travel or events planned, the children would not go home during the breaks.  It was a
Ava Gardner 1940's
lonely childhood.  My grandfather passed away from heat stroke during a riot, held perhaps during the time leading up to India's independence.  My grandmother stayed in India and eventually  married another Brit who took the three youngest sisters and my grandmother to Portsmouth, England around 1948; my mother's brothers and older sister had already left home at that point.  Times were tough.  Coming from an existence that included servants and a cook to living in a cramped apartment was a huge adjustment.  After finishing her education, my mother worked in an office.  Eventually, she became a bookkeeper's apprentice, but it was at her second job in the evening, serving and clearing tables at the Naval Officers Club with her two older sisters, that she met my father.  He became smitten with the young lady that looked like Ava Gardner.  Eight months later, they married and Dad put Mom on a liner by herself to Halifax, N.S., where she arrived on December 15/55.   I came on the scene a year later.

Although our relationship was complicated, my mother and I were very close.  She taught me to be independent at a time when women were not encouraged to be.  She forced me to buy a car when I was 18.  I didn't need one, in my opinion; I had a boyfriend that was driving me around and I was fine with that.  But my mother wanted me to have more freedom and to have my own credit rating with a bank through getting a car loan...she was looking out for my future and she was right.  She was very generous (she sponsored Lady's care for a year and bailed out another elderly horse bound for slaughter) and could be fierce if she saw an injustice being done.  She and I shared a passion for nature, music, books, bird watching and classic movies.  She was way ahead of her time in so many ways when it came to women's issues and I appreciated her strength and wisdom.  We always had something to talk about and I greatly miss our daily chats. This holiday, for the first time in a decade, I didn't make Christmas dinner...there will be a lot of 'firsts' this year....

Stepping over small logs.
LA rode Gem for me while I was with my mother in hospital.  She would send me reports on how "light" he was, or how amazing his lope was.  It made me feel good because it was something "normal" and positive.  When I eventually did get to see him, I was too drained to actually ride.  But I spent an hour with him, just hanging out and grooming.  He was quiet and allowed me to fuss over him; his eyes were soft.  A couple of days later, I got on him and we just walked and jogged around the arena, working on side passing (yes, his back legs were crossing!), backing up long distances in a straight line, obstacles and neck reining.  It felt good.

 A week later, the daughter of one of my dearest friends lost her husband to cancer after a 3 year battle.  She is now a widow at 42 year of age, with a 13 year old son  and a 10 year old daughter.  Laura and her daughter have visited Gem in the past and when I received an email from her the day after her husband died, asking if she and her daughter could visit with Gem, I wasn't surprised.  She had already experienced the curative effects of being around Gem.  We spent 3 hours together with Gem, grooming and riding.  He couldn't have been more of a gentleman.  Again his eye was soft and he was kind to Laura's daughter, who was delighted that she got to "ride" him.  They came sad, but left happy and smiling and that made me feel good.  There will be a lot of 'firsts' for them this year, also.....

Horses are sensitive.  If we are privileged enough to be able to spend time with them, we can see just how sensitive they really are.  There are numerous articles out there that explain how horses have a six sense.  They are so intuitive; they know when your heart beat increases and mirror it when you are riding.  When a rider lacks confidence, they get worried, too.  And, when you are feeling sad, they feel it and I guess in their own way share your pain and give you exactly what you need at that moment. I started this blog as a "diary" of my experiences with Gem.  As I flipped through some previous posts over the holidays, I realized that Gem has pushed me, comforted me, been brave, patient and even bossy...all when I needed it.  I am grateful that I have him in my life.  Although 2014 didn't end in a great way, I am looking forward to the next year....yes, there will be some 'firsts' but there will also be awesome memories, upcoming family and friends events and visits to look forward to....and a year that will hopefully include lots of time with Gem!