Monday, January 25, 2010

Blog Carnival: Snowflakes

AliciaMae of Crafts and Cooking chose snowflakes as a topic for the EtsyBloggers Street Team January carnival.

No snow here, just rain... but recently I was talking to one of my friends about horses and the snow, something my horses will likely never see. Good thing because Kylie shivers in the mornings if I take her blanket off to get her ready to ride and it is below 65. Since I grew up on the east coast, I had my fair share of dealing with the slippery ice, frigid temperatures, frozen water buckets, and deep snow. I worked at a barn during college and all the horses were turned out each morning all winter long in the snow. They seemed perfectly happy. I can't remember too many days that the weather stopped us from riding. When I was a kid I had "rain gear" for riding in the rain. A plastic hat cover, saddle cover, and poncho. Not here! People do not even like to ride when the ground is damp...may be slippery!

These are my dad's horses. They live in Vermont and they survive in quite a bit of snow.

Here are some horses in winter I found on Etsy.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Hello Sun!

We finally got a break in the weather, but the rings are way too wet to ride. I have been handwalking the horses in between storms this week. Kylie has been fine, but this morning Mazzy didn't want to behave very well afer a week of being cooped up in her stall - silly and young. She had a few outbursts today while I was walking her due to some other even wilder horses setting her off. It was a crazy day at the barn with all the owners showing up to handwalk thier horses who have barely left thier stalls in a week. Luckily I got there early and avioded most of the commotion. As I was a leaving there was a horse that got loose from its owner. Not the most relaxing day.

Poor Kylie had another huge outbreak of hives. I just can't seem to get a handle on them, and have no idea what is causing them. The only thing left is her hay (unless it is airborne) since she is off everything else, her stall has changed (completely different shavings, and it is dry and clean), blankets & brushes washed. I started her back on the antihistamine Hydroxizine 2x/day.

Kylie looking out her stall door, wishing the rain would go away.

Backstroke in ring 1, anyone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Los Angeles Pounded by Heavy Rain; More on the Way

Let's build an ark! Forecasters said storms lasting through Friday could drop a total of 20 inches of rain on Southern California. Four winter storms are slamming into Southern California, dumping record rain on the Los Angeles area where only months before raging fires burned away mountainside ground cover. Today the second of the four storm system is sweeping across Southern California prompting power outages, mud flows and frustrating commutes. Even stronger storms, with heavy rain and powerful winds, are forecast to hit the region Wednesday and Thursday.

Still vulnerable to mudslides were residents in foothill areas torched by last year's Station fire. That 160,000-acre blaze destroyed about 80 homes in Los Angeles County. Scores of residents from those neighborhoods had been urged to evacuate. The evacuation orders were called because communities below wildfire-scarred mountains are at risk of debris flows and flash floods.

Winds and rain also left many in the dark Monday. More than 53,000 customers have lost power because of the rain in Southern California with more than 23,000 customers STILL without power in southern California as of 10 p.m. Monday PT (1 a.m. Tuesday ET), according to Lois Bruce, spokeswoman for Southern California Edison.

People here really go crazy when it rains. LA's mayor warns residents not to go outside if they don't have to...don't leave the house? Are you serious? It is rain! The news doesn't help the situation, they've been covering the rain like a hurricane is coming. Since I grew up on the east coast this seems very funny to me. What would happen if it ever snowed in LA? Perish the thought, there would be mass hysteria. People here have ALOT of trouble driving in the rain, life would come to a complete hault I am sure.

Needless to say, with no indoor or covered arena I will not be riding for a while. The horses are all snug in thier dry warm stalls, however, I think they would rather be outside running around in the mud. Sorry, handwalking and saddlewalking the property only for a while. The rings have inches of standing water as well as the paddocks. Amazingly, yesterday there was a break in the rain, and I was able to get them both out to stretch thier legs. Mazzy didn't care much and was pleasant to walk, Kylie wanted to plow me over. Better get used to it girls, I think you may be in for a while.

Luckily, I am far from a mudslide prone area!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mazzy's progress & Kylie's hives

It is always something with horses isn't is?

Mazzy's football sized hematoma that required two vet visits (and no treatment) is gone. Still no explaination of what caused it, but at least it is gone. She is finally getting back into a productive work schedule now that my trainer is back from the busy year end showing schedule and all of the awards banquets and holidays are behind us. It is really nice to get on Mazzy after my trainer and feel a HUGE improvement. I guess if I didn't I wouldn't need the the help! Some days her trot is rhythmic and it feels fantastic. She is getting the hang of bending and softening and when she relaxes her neck and back it feels great! Her transitions are improving. Her canter is also coming along. I'm starting to be able to regulate it, a little bit, but it still feels disorganized and strung out. I am sure it will be years before she feels connected. I wish I kept a journal of Kylie's progression as a baby to compare. I do have alot of videos of her training which I am going to dig out one of these days.

"Your horse is telling you there's something wrong; the problem is, it's in Braille." Poor Kylie has hives, referred to as urticaria. Inflammation induced by allergens causes small veins to dilate and increase capillary permeability in the skin. “Fluid” leaks into surrounding tissues to form wheals or plaques of edema (fluid swelling). Hunting down the cause of hives is often a challenge. Because hypersensitivity reactions take weeks to months or even years to develop, a sudden onset of hives is not necessarily a result of a recent change; this makes it difficult to pin down the actual source of the problem. I did what I could to eliminate anything that could be causing it anyway. I dug out her stall just in case there was lurking bacteria (which I am sure there was plenty of) that was irritating her. I took her off all of her goodies (supplements) so she is just getting hay and beet pulp....blah. Washed all her clothes and pads, scrubbed her boots, cleaned my tack (which I should be doing anyways). The causes are limitless as I read in an article on

Many different medications, such as antibiotics, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or topical agents can be the culprit. Other causes range from a rapid change in temperature, stress, or an autoimmune disease. Santoro also noted that allergies can play a role as well; "a horse could be having an allergic reaction to food, flies, mosquitoes, or something in its environment." Of course, just as in humans, horses can have a seasonal reaction to pollen or molds.

This has been going on for a few weeks now. They have gotten so bad that I have had to give her Dexamethzone, because I am concerned about her airway closing up. Thankfully, the Dex clears them right up.....only to return again a few days later. Argh! She doesn't appear itchy or bothered by them which is good. The only other suspicious factor is that she is not the only horse at the barn who has developed them lately so it could be something in the hay. I have my fingers crossed that there are no hives left on her tonight, that will be four days hive free.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


How about some uplifting news on a slow Wednesday?


WALNUT — Lukas was all bite, buck and bitterness before Karen Murdock adopted him six years ago and made him an Internet star.

Murdock introduced the 16-year-old Thoroughbred to carrots and kindness, helped him forget years of abuse and taught him tricks: He can smile, yawn, kiss, nod, identify shapes, numbers and letters, fetch, wave, salute, pose and stretch — and he does some of it with his front feet on a pedestal.

The 1,200-pound gelding has a Web site, is a star on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and has been on TV. He and Murdock get up to 200 e-mails a day.

The story of Lukas has to be patched together in places. California bred, he ran in three races as a 2-year-old under the name Just Ask Mike, but "he was a back of the packer. His heart wasn't in it," Murdock said.

Between 1995 and 2001, he probably changed hands a couple of times. When a Southern California horse trainer saw Lukas in a yard, "He was malnourished, neglected and emaciated. His tail was a solid mat of mud and debris," Murdock said.

The trainer bought him, then sold him to Murdock for $2,000 in 2003.

"I had to let his mane grow long so I would have something to hold on to when he did this wild, spinning, bucking kind of thing," Murdock said. "He would spook in his own stall. He had a whole lot of fears and phobias. You couldn't touch his ears. There were no scars, just mental worries, apathy and mistrust."

It took her a year to untrain him.

"I use trick training as a tool to bridge what is not right into what I want," said Murdock, who has been working with horses since she was a teenager. "Lukas flourished. He cannot get enough of learning. He's like a sponge."

Now he is a liberty horse (performs without tack) who can do the Spanish Walk (front and back), passage (a hesitating trot) and jambet (a three-legged pivot). He also does the bow, obeisance (curtsey with his face between his legs) and rear (goes up on his hind legs).

The Human-Equine Alliances for Learning in Chehalis, Wash., which offers programs in psychotherapy and personal growth, asked to study Lukas. Lukas and Murdock show the "connectedness" that enables horses to be so therapeutic for humans, HEAL spokesman David Young said.

But it's unlikely the study will clear up history's mystery question about smart horses.

There is no scientific data to support the notion that horses have the cognitive ability to count, spell or read, Dr. Emily Weiss, the ASPCA's equine behavior expert, said in a telephone interview from Benton, Kan.

She looked at Lukas' Web site.

"What is more amazing and more astonishing (than intelligence) is that this horse is so cued in, has such an incredible bond with its owner, such a great understanding of his human. The way they interact is pretty profound," she said.

There have been parallels drawn between Lukas and Beautiful Jim Key, an Arabian horse who may have performed before as many as 10 million people from 1897 to 1906 because of what seemed to be his ability to read, write, spell, count, tell time, sort mail and use a telephone and cash register.

Weiss also tells the story of Clever Hans, a horse in Germany in the 1890s owned by William von Osten. He was said to be able to spell or solve any math problem by simply stomping his hoof with the answer.

"He was all over the news. It was astounding," she said.

Clever Hans was challenged at every turn — there was even a Hans Commission. Professor Carl Stumpf and a man named Oskar Pfungst tested Clever Hans and determined the horse was getting cues so subtle that even the questioners didn't realize they were giving them.

"It wasn't that the horse knew math, he was just very cued into human behavior," Weiss said. "The horses are reading the behavior of their person instead of understanding the language of science."

Murdock doesn't care why Lukas does his tricks or the reasons for their bond.

When she arrives each day at the Brookside Equestrian Center in Walnut, about 25 miles west of Los Angeles, Lukas greets her with big, sloppy kisses. The Montana native and trained psychiatric nurse doesn't own a whip. Lukas performs for love and carrots — he eats 5 pounds a day.

Lukas recently became the spokeshorse for the Southern California chapter of the Communication Alliance to Network Thoroughbred Ex-Racehorses (CANTER), a national volunteer group that helps racehorses find second callings. Every year, the careers of about 37,000 U.S. Thoroughbreds come to an end. About 2,000 of those ex-racehorses come from California and too many end up abandoned, abused or sent to slaughter.

Bonnie Adams, the Southern California chapter's director, believes Lukas is the perfect spokeshorse because of his background and turnaround.

"He's a very kind, quiet horse. But his eyes never leave Karen. You can see the love in his eyes," she said. "It shows people that horses really do have deep feelings. They are not throwaway animals."

Visit to see photos and videos of Lukas.

"In California every year there's about 2,000 that leave the tracks that need homes," said Bonnie Adams, director of the southern California chapter of CANTER. "It's an unending supply of racehorses that retire from age 2 to 6. They're young, healthy vibrant horses that really love to learn and love having a job."

Monday, January 11, 2010 la LOVE YOU part 3 Treasury

My Lilac Chalcedony Earrings were featured in a treasury. Just love the color combinations jennjohn used.

Go check it out before it expires!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

January's Featured EtsyBlogger: Nico Designs

January's Etsy Blogger of the month is Nico Designs! Her blog is full of tutorials that range in topic from running an art or craft business to step-by-step creative projects.

At the Nico Designs shop you'll find handmade, eco-friendly items like tote bags, handbags, baby shoes, pincushions, and home decor items!

Nico Designs Shop:
Nico Designs Blog

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Good Mare, Bad Mare

Strangely, and not by choice, I have only owned mares. Here are the stories of the first and the worst...

The first mare I really bonded with was Shadow. She was orphaned and bottle fed after her mother was killed in a barn fire. Perhaps that is why she was so amazingly sweet. She was a bay Appaloosa that came from my dad's friend's back yard to occupy me for the summer and we loved her so much, we never gave her back. I arrived at my dad's farm in Vermont to spend the summer and was welcomed by what would become my perfect companion. I had been riding for years, but this was the first time I wasn't under the watchful eye of a trainer with a horse I could do whatever I wanted with. So the first morning after I arrived my dad rose early and anxiously awaited for me to wake so we could go out and feed the horses, but after waiting for about an hour he decided to go ahead and go feed them without me. When he got out to the barn he found me already into my second hour of grooming! Are you kidding, sleep in when there is a horse on the way! I rode hundreds of miles on her that summer. We went everywhere and did everything together, I probably rode her 4-5 hours a day, and groomed and bathed her for several more. We went swimming together, rode through the forests together, played high jump, went to horse shows, and to pony club camp. The topper was we competed in a 3-phase event that first summer and won! I had no idea what I was doing (coming from the hunter/jumper world), but I studied my dressage test over and over and came out first, then I figured it was a breeze after that. I knew nothing about time allowed so I plowed through the cross country course as fast as Shadow's legs would take me, through the water, sailing over jumps and ditches, and well within the time allowed. No trainer, just me and my dad. She truly was a saint. I had no fear, and neither did she. And neither of us had ever even been on a cross country course before. The stadium phase was at least familiar to me, as it most resembled the only kind of showing I had done before. She was fast and clean and we took home the blue ribbon! I remember talking to a few girls at the awards presentation and they asked me where I trained, they weren't too happy to hear I was winging it and beat them, when they had been training all year for this event. Ignorance is bliss. She was probably the kindest horse I have ever ridden. Never once did she say "no", her response was always "OK, let's give it a go". She just forgave all my mistakes and kept on being a nice mare despite everything I did wrong. That was the first of many fun years we had together!
My dad bred Shadow and still has her baby, Summer, who is now in her 20's and a happy trail horse living on my dad's farm with the same wonderful temperament as Shadow. Shadow lived into her 30's and is buried on my dad's farm.

A really nice mare is as good as you will get. But a really bad mare may be as bad as it gets.

Evil...enter Stevie. I saw her and just had to have her. I thought she was beautiful! Dead green, but great breeding (sire: Hall of Fame) so there was potential...right? She was a six-year-old broodmare, but I thought I could make her into something great. My other mare, Kylie, was pregnant, so I was looking for something to keep me riding while Kylie was out of commission. It was a bad idea from the moment she stepped off the trailer, feet planted and wouldn't move. She was big, 17 hands, and strong, and opinionated. The fitter she got the more she bulked up and the stronger she got. It was exhausting to tack her up, she was deathly afraid of clippers or the vacuum, hated her legs touched, and she constantly reared up and broke out of her halter taking off at a full gallop. She had no regard for human life. I was determined so I rode her everyday, two steps forward, one step back. Each day was a struggle, and many of them included a dirt sample. I remember the first horse show I brought her to, it took three people to hold her still while I tried to get her saddle on. She was leaping into the air, fighting the whole idea of behaving nicely. I almost gave up at that point wondering how I would ever get on her, but somehow I made it on and did not get off until I was done showing for the day.For two years I tried to make it work, one trainer I had her at rode her beautifully, jumped her around 3'6" with ease, which made me keep her even longer trying to make it work, but she was the only one who could do that. The last of the three trainers I brought her to (to be sold) finally told me that she was just too dangerous and no one wanted to handle her. She is now doing what she is best at - mothering. Not every horse is meant to be a show horse, and she just had too many of her own ideas.

I have not lost my faith in mares. I have two. I know not everyone is a fan. I know people who only want geldings because they believe they are more reliable. They point out that geldings do not have serious mood changes or interpret things differently from day to day because of hormone swings. So they have got a bit of logic to back up their prejudices. I guess the thing with mares is they decide whether they are going to pay any attention to you at all.

Old time horse trainers know there are only two ways you can argue with a mare and neither one works.

Friday, January 1, 2010


Zenyatta, the undefeated champion 17.2 hand mare who finished her career with a perfect 14-for-14 record by beating males with her dramatic late charge in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was saluted at Santa Anita on opening day, Dec. 26th. I was lucky enough to be there that day.

Everyone knew Zenyatta was scheduled to appear after the sixth race, but few knew exactly when or from which direction she would come. As a prelude, the crowd was treated to one more viewing of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic on the huge infield screen.

This video has become a familiar work. As Zenyatta was seen passing the 11th and final horse, with nothing but open ground in front of her, many in Saturday’s gathering accompanied Trevor Denman on the last five syllables of his now-famous call:


When the replay was over, and the crowd had quieted down, Denman instructed everyone to look to the quarter-pole. And suddenly there she was, just a dark shape at first, difficult to pick out on this overcast day — at least from the rail in deep stretch — until she’d come off the turn.

The cheering rolled up the grandstand as Zenyatta, ridden by long-time exercise rider Steve Willard, glided through the stretch, looking as fit and elegant as ever. Somewhere around this time, the sun came out.

Mike Smith then took a turn in the saddle, parading Zenyatta back and forth in front of the crowd before entering the winner’s circle. While another brief ceremony was taking place, Zenyatta struck the expert winning pose she’d perfected during 14 consecutive victories. Then, with Willard back aboard, she passed before the grandstand one last time and was gone.

Girl Power at the Breeders’ Cup: Zenyatta’s Brilliant Comeback Wows the Nation

What an incredible, brilliant race. Zenyatta…girl power indeed.

Zenyatta recorded a brilliant win in the $5.45 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, California on Nov. 7. I hope you saw it, either in person or on TV.

Zenyatta became the first female to take the coveted 1¼ mile (2000 metres) race, notching her 14th straight win in the process.

Settled in her customary position at the rear of the field under Mike Smith, Zenyatta was some 10 lengths off the lead in the back stretch and looked to have work to do entering the final turn. Having to come around horses, the striking dark bay mare came with a scintillating run down the home straight, flying home to win by a length from Gio Ponti, with Twice Over third.

Now five years old, Zenyatta’s 14 consecutive wins bettered the record of another great distaffer, Personal Ensign. Having capped a perfect season in 2008 with victory in the grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic at the same course, this season she has added four further wins at the highest level.

Speaking after the race, her trainer said: ”Tears are coming to my eyes. I can’t believe it – what a great, great filly. She’s special. She came out on the wrong lead and took some time to get going but she’s all heart.

”There was a little bit of chaos at the start and she got upset and I was a little concerned. She was slow early and I didn’t necessarily want to be that far back. She came round and I still didn’t hit all the gears. She’s the horse of the decade. She’ll go down as one of the all-time greats.”

I couldn’t agree more. Horse of the Year? Some may argue against her, but not me.

Not if you saw that great race.

Zenyatta rules.

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