Monthly Archives: March 2016


After spending Christmas Day at Urgent Care with my husband, and New Years Day at the Emergency Vet, when my Jack Russell vomited on Saturday morning, after eating an abundant supply of grass on Thursday, and coughing all night, I went immediately to my regular vets office.  No Easter Sunday ER Vet for me.  She has a history of pancreatitis so I didn’t want to take a chance.  Rain (JR’s name) had entirely too much Christmas cheer that  week.  She spent three days in the hospital after New Years day.

Well the good news was everything was normal, more or less.  I was told not to worry, she was given a shot for the nausea (that’s what the coughing was all about), and I was told to just go back to our normal life.  Later that day I spoke with my neighbor, and she had been at her vet, with her little dog, that morning too.  Odd?  Her vet told her that it was from all the pollen that the dogs are ingesting which is on the grass that they are eating.  My vets office called Monday morning to check on Rain.  I mentioned to them what my neighbor had said about the pollen and she was in total agreement.  They have seen more dogs this week with pollen related sickness than ever before.  I guess small dogs are closer to the ground and inhale or ingest more of it, but all dogs are being affected by it.

I’ve noticed horses, that have never rubbed or scratched before, rubbing up against trees, and those that have allergies, are going crazy.

I know the rest of the country is still in a late winter, early spring mode, but here in Florida we are in full blown Spring.  Everything is in bloom and there is a yellow layer of pollen on everything.  They are blaming everything on the El Nino pattern.  Could be, I’m not a meteorologist.  I just know my allergies are going nuts, and now the animals are having problems.

So keep this in the back of your mind, because your turn is coming.  Happy Spring!  More or less.


WARNING:  We see this everywhere, to the point of not even paying attention to it anymore.

We see it on labels, pill bottles, cleaning products, TV programs, even bedding.  Did you ever wonder why they put those labels on pillows?  “Do Not Remove This Tag! It’s The Law.  Why?  What happens if you do?  Do the pillow police come crashing through your door to arrest you?  Cigarettes I understand.  We know they cause cancer, but pillows?  Although who knows what they put in anything anymore.

You get so overwhelmed with cautions that you just tune them out.  The drug companies tell you how great this new pill is, and how it will cure your ailment right off the bat.  Then comes the disclaimer.  Yes, your original problem will be gone, but you’re going to die of the side-effects.  The list of side-effects take up most of the commercials time.

So I was watching a TV program Monday night, and before they cut back to the program (Swamp People) after each commercial they run the disclaimer that the visuals may upset some people.  Well they may, and it’s nice that they warn you.  I don’t like to see any animal killed, but gators aren’t at the top of my list.  Not after I’ve seen them kill hounds that I’ve worked with for years, or my friends Jack Russell.

So it made me stop and think.  What if horses came with disclaimers, what would it look like?

  • WARNING:  Horses may be hazardous to your—–
  • Health?  If you fall off a lot
  • Wallet?  None of us can deny that
  • Time?  It’s time that we enjoy, just don’t get much else done
  • Relationships?  If the person isn’t involved with horses, it could
  • Conversation?  If the person isn’t interested in hearing about your horse, it could
  • Life style?  No explanation needed
  • Landscape?  Again, no explanation needed

Well that’s dealing with how they change your life, but what about if a horse came with a real disclaimer.  I think most of us would make different decisions when purchasing.

  • This horse bucks
  • Eats your barn, fence, trees
  • Eats your car – I had one that loved to remove the paint and lenses from the horse trailer, hub caps, mirrors
  • Kicks
  • Bites
  • Does not like circles, arenas, horse trailers, cross ties, being tied
  • Runs the fence line
  • Takes down fences, doors
  • Is an escape artist
  • Hates men, woman, children, dogs, other horses

The list could go on forever, you just add what you have experienced to it.

They are wonderful, amazing animals.  We love them in spite of their oddities.  They make us who we are, and we make excuses for who they are.

I wanted to do a light, happy post this week, but it still comes with my original Warning.  Spring is coming, I know it is.  Even though I sit here in Florida with frost covering my beautiful green (yesterday) pastures (white and frosty today).

Your horses have been sitting idle for months, the thought of nice weather is popping in and out of your head.  Warning:  Take it slow.  Both for you, and your horse.  Too much, too soon, can cause problems with their body parts.  He may be game for a long gallop, but are his tendons, ligaments, and muscles.  You may just have to lay him up for months again with lameness.  Now that the weather is breaking, do you really want to do that?

Remember, he’s an athlete, condition him as such.  There will be plenty of beautiful weather to get out there and do what you both love doing the most.  Conditioning can be half the fun if you keep your ultimate goal in mind.

You’ve got to think of this as a pre-game warm up.  As my friend Stu used to say – “Inch by inch, any job’s a cinch.”

Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Speak Up

When I worked for a large corporation in Manhattan I was asked to take notes at a Board Meeting.  I was 20 years old and certainly not prepared to do this job.  The Secretary of the VP who usually did this was out sick.  I bounce between being a timid person, and a person of confidence.  The confidence surfaces when I’m totally knowledgeable about my subject.  I was definitely not confident about this.  So I had to talk myself into being great.  Somewhere along the line, the other secretary told me that the executives were just regular people and they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like us.  As I told my girlfriends daughter that time when she was going into the ring for a dressage test, just picture the judge naked and you’ll feel equal or more important than them, their just regular people doing a job.  So I put myself into that meeting as an equal, and did just fine.  Got to do it many times after that with no problem.

I’ve learned a lot since then.  I’m a more confident individual.  Years later some friends and I went to the Mayor of the City of New York to fight a horse licensing bill, and there was no hesitation speaking up for what we believed.  Mayor Koch was pleasant and listened to the points each one of us made.  The most important thing is that we won.  So if someone tells you that you can’t fight City Hall, they are absolutely wrong.  We fought the City Hall of one of the most important cities in this country and won.

I use my neighbors horse for a lesson I have on Saturday mornings.  He’s quiet, gentle, and just a sweet thing.  When I walked over to get him, he was definitely in distress.  Brown gunk pouring out of both nostrils and coughing up the same.  Looked like choke, but when my filly had the same fluid from the nose thing, it was a twist and we put her down.  We couldn’t get her off the ground to get her into a trailer to surgery.  His owners were not at home, so I called my other neighbor to come stay with him while I went to call my lesson and cancel.  She was going to call the owner and the vet.  By the time I got back, the husband returned and he called his wife and tried to get their vet.  It took sometime, but we finally touched base with the vet on call.  He was on his way to another call an hour away.  This was at 11:00 a.m., so 12 cc of Banamine, and five hours later, the vet showed up.  My neighbor and I stayed until the Banamine took effect and then I walked home and watched him from my window and she from hers.  The wife came home shortly after I got back to my house.  I walked back and filled her in on all my findings.  Fresh manure in his stall, no temperature, pale gums, wouldn’t drink, very little gut sounds, his whole body was sore to the touch, laying down, and lethargic.  She told me she’d call me when the vet got there.

Well he arrived.  Then he made the mistake of telling us that the horse looked fine when he pulled up.  Seriously!?????????  He’s standing there looking like death warmed over.  My Irish side snapped to attention and I said “Really?  Have you ever seen this horse before?  Do you know this horse?  He is NOT fine.”  (I know I’m supposed to speak the truth in love, and I wasn’t coming across that way.)  The owner chimed in and said this was definitely not how the horse normally was, and he wasn’t acting normal when she went to feed him that morning.  Okay, my defenses were up.  You don’t spend five hours with a sick horse to have a vet pull up and tell you he looks fine from his truck, without examining him.  So he went about tubing him for choke, pumped a bucket of water into his stomach, and appeared to be done.  Then he pronounced that it was just choke.  My comment was “I’m not buying into that.”  I had a horse with choke and after it cleared, he was back to normal.  I got the “if looks could kill” look, but back to the truck he went.  He came back and checked his heart, lungs, and stomach sounds.  Did a rectal, checked his gums and took his temperature.  Then he pumped a gallon of mineral oil into his stomach.  Next comment from him was “Well he didn’t have much gut sounds.”  Ya think? – That’s it? –  You’re done?  So I said “How about after care?  So then he told the owner no grain or hay for two days.  (I could have told her that, but I wanted her to hear it from him.  I also wanted him to do what he was getting paid for.)  I told him that the horse was pastured with two cows and there was a big roll of hay out there.  So he told her to keep him confined. (I think that was also a question that he should have asked since rolls of hay are common in our area.)

This is the second time I’ve run into the lack of after care information.  Just recently I had this problem with the office staff at the vet clinic I take my dogs too.  I had to ask them.  Now I know what after-care usually needs to be done, but there are so many people, who would be so relieved that their pet was going to be okay, that they wouldn’t even think to ask, and without proper after-care, it could put the dog right back where he started.  Actually, I’ve had questions pop into my head as I was pulling out of the clinic drive.  I have just picked up my cell phone, or turned, went back, and ask my questions.

Just because someone has a degree in something, or appears to be knowledgeable about something, if it doesn’t feel right to you, stop and ask questions.  Challenge them to make sure they covered everything.  If you still don’t buy into it, check further with other people and in other places.  Don’t just believe everything you hear.  Not with your animals, or the people in your lives.  I’ve done this to doctors too, and on prescriptions.  Sometimes it’s a matter of life or death.  If they are right, good for them.  You’ve just confirmed that this person knows what they are talking about.  If not, you’ve kept things from getting worse.

If this horse didn’t improve, after the original diagnosis, we would have had to wait another five hours or more to get the vet back.  As with my mare, maybe it would have been too late for this horse too.  The day my filly coliced I was an hour and fifteen minutes away.  Everyone was at a horse show.  There was not vet on Staten Island that took care of horses, my vet had to come from New Jersey, an hour away.  It was Saturday, and when the kids found her, they called my vet, and he didn’t want to come out.  When they called me and told me that she had fluids coming out of her nose, I called my vet and told him he’d better be there when I arrived.  He was, but it was too late.

I’ve probably written about something like this before, but it’s worth repeating if I did.

This will always haunt me.  If it doesn’t feel right, don’t be afraid to question a diagnosis.  They just put their pants on one leg at a time.  They do make mistakes.  But at whose cost.

What’s Your Learning Style?

Many have asked if I would mind if they reprinted or quote me.  I’m good with that.  What is the point of trying to teach if you keep the information under your pillow.

A line from the movie “Hello Dolly” said “Money is like manure, it doesn’t do any good unless you spread it around.”  I’m not sure if that is word for word, but you get the idea.  Same thing with knowledge.


Do you learn by reading, watching, hearing, or hands on doing?

I’ve been working with an 8 year old for months now, and was having a hard time getting through to her.  There are different learning styles, but no matter what door I try to go through, I was not reaching her.  I’ve tried demonstrating, and she just looks around at the surroundings.  I describe what I’m looking for her to do, and she nods and smiles, but it goes no where.  I try having her do the motion, but she still struggles.  What I have found is that anything I tell her to memorize she excels at.  She learned all the body parts of a horse, all the color and markings of a horse in one week.  She obviously learns by reading.  However, I have never really seen anyone learn how to ride a horse by reading a book.  You have to get out there and physically do it.

Riding is a physical sport, no matter how you cut it.  You can’t learn how to ski by reading a book either.  You can learn the basics, but when you hit that slope you better be physically able to apply what you have read.  Especially if you hit a patch of ice.  Tried skiing, but I like a little more control of a situation.  Took out a lot of people on my way down that hill.  Trees are not forgiving either.  And I Hate Being Cold!

I’m not really athletic.  No hand eye coordination.  I never felt left out if I was the last person to get picked for a team sport when I was a kid.  I understood and was just happy to be picked at all.  I was really good at yelling “Car!”  We always played in the streets.

Yes I struggled to learn to ride.  Not too bad.  I need to see something done to imitate it.  When I paint something I need a picture to copy.  I can match it almost perfectly.  When I learn a new dance I have to break it down to the steps first, then the upper body motions.

The one difference with riding is that I had the passion.  I wanted it so bad that nothing would stop me.

This child seemed as though she did not really have the passion.  Yes she wants to get on and just tool around.  She would be happy to go to a pony track and just go three times around for (in my day) a quarter.  Have no idea what they charge now.

So with my frustration I spoke to her mother.  I explained that the child still had no control of her horse, or lower body stability.  These are the things that are going to keep you on and a live.  She has been doing this for three months, and still walks into the barn and with no purpose in mind.  She knows that when she comes in she is to put her horse on the cross ties and clean him, then get him tacked up.  She stood there like she had never been in a barn before.  Her mother explained that her daughter had just been tested and that she is now in the gifted program.  So with that we were both baffled.

We spoke for sometime.  Just going through every aspect of the lesson and learning process.  Where was the missing piece to the puzzle?  Then it happened; a light bulb moment.  The young mother had been pregnant since the daughter had been taking lessons.  A month after starting the lessons the mother had the baby and had not been bringing  her daughter, the grandmother had.  The mother realized that just maybe it was the lack of involvement on her part, that might be causing the problem.  She knows her daughter better than I do, so I let her handle it on her end.  I told her to speak with her daughter, but first make sure that this is something that the child really wanted to do, before she gave her the options.

This past Saturday a whole new child appeared.  Her mother brought her and the other three girls to the lesson.  One older who watched the two year old, and the mother carried the two month old with her.  The child I am teaching walked into the barn, got her horse out of the stall, and put him on the cross ties before I even made it back in the barn (I was herding the two year old out of the stinging nettle).  She was busy cleaning her horse and was 100% with the program.  She rode better than I had ever seen her ride before.  What I had been saying all along really did reach her.

I know a lot of times when I’m working with the preschoolers at church, even though they are not looking at you and are involved with something else, they do hear what you are saying and will repeat it back to their parents after church.  Such was the case with this young girl.  Everything was registering, but was not making itself apparent.

The mother told me that she felt it was her preoccupation with the new baby, that was affecting her daughter more than the she realized.  She thanked me for bring this all to her attention, and spending almost an hour on the phone with her, trying to figure everything out.  It not only helped me as an instructor, but her as a parent.  Not to mention the young girl.  I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong, and why I wasn’t reaching her.  The mother just assumed everything was alright at home.

Teaching riding isn’t about only making a good horsewoman, it’s about making an adult who you really would like to be around in the future.

My other students are now either ending their high school years or are starting college.  I love them all and keep in touch with them even as they move away.  They are all beautiful, intelligent young ladies, who are kind, caring, wonderful human beings.  I hope in some small way that I had a part in molding them into whom they have become.  It’s nice when they call, just to say Hi! and tell me that they love me.

It’s not always about what you are doing wrong.  Sometimes it’s outside circumstances that are blocking the learning process.  But take the time to really evaluate what is going on, and don’t hesitate to speak with the parents, or an outsider who is familiar with the situation..

As for knowledge – Pass it on.  Or as they say now-a-days, pay it forward.

Making The Right Decision

Disclaimer:  Sometimes I reiterate a point in my posts.  That is because it’s a very important point that I don’t want people to miss.  The circumstances in part of this post may not be entirely true, but the point I’m bringing out is.


So do you want what’s behind Door Number 1, Door Number 2, or Door Number 3.  It’s just so easy on TV.

When we make a decision, we take the information we have at the time, and try to choose the best way to handle the situation.  Sometimes we’re right, and sometimes we are not.  The not times can be dangerous when it comes to our horses.

Most of the time we think “Oh it won’t happen to me,” but it can.

I was putting blankets on last night and I stood behind the horse to pull it straight.  The little voice in my head said “this isn’t a good idea”, so I moved off to the side.  I know better.  I know the dangers.  But you think, oh just this once and it will be okay.  When that little voice speaks to you – LISTEN!  I don’t care if you think it’s God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit, your Guardian Angel or whomever, or maybe it could even be your common sense.  Imagine that.  If the bells, whistles, red flags, or whatever goes off in your head, LISTEN!

With horses it’s not just a situation that can be dangerous, it can be fatal.

Every once in a while something happens that challenges by beliefs about teaching.  I don’t mind people questioning me on why I believe in what I do.  It makes me take a second look to make sure I still believe what I’m doing is the right thing.  This past week I had that happen.  I reexamined the situation and came to the conclusion that I had no doubts in what I believed.  I believe keeping the child safe, and giving them the right foundation is most important.  I’m not there to buy into what makes them happy, I’m there to keep them alive.

We all fall off.  We pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back on and try again.  Rarely, but occasionally, it doesn’t work out that way.

I’ve seen two people killed on the Hunt Field.  When the first one was killed we had to go to the Police Station and answer questions about the incident.  There were 50 mile an hour gusts and a tree snapped and caught her across the back.  The Police asked “What could have been done to prevent this.”  My answer was, stay at home.  There was nothing we could have done except not be out there.

The second time could have been prevented.  I had told this woman for years, when she was getting dumped, to let herself go and push away from the horse.  She always insisted on hanging on his neck and pulling herself back into the saddle.  The last time she slipped under him, and was killed.  She was an excellent rider, but made the wrong decision.

This week a beautiful Professional Barrel Racer, only 28 years old with a small child, was killed.  I don’t know all the specifics, I wasn’t there, so I won’t make any comments as though I was.  My prayers and love go out to her family and many friends who are mourning her loss.  I will make comments on the information that is circulating in hopes of it being a wake-up call to others.

Supposedly as she came around the third barrel her horse tripped and her reins went flying over the horse’s head.  As she was running for the finish line she was reaching forward to either grab the bit or his bridle.  Now I did that once when I was on a horse that was out of control and running for a road.  I put my fingers in the rings of his Pelham bit to turn his head in hopes of stopping him.  (The reins were doing nothing to turn this drafts head.)  The problem is that when you are reaching forward it is throwing you off balance and encouraging the horse to run faster.  Since sitting back and pulling wasn’t working, I did the next thing I could think of, the turn.  Jockeys get off their horses back every day to get more speed.  It takes your weight off their backs and they move freely and faster.

I remember fifty years ago when we hosted the Eastern Barrel Racers Association at the barn where I worked, the riders didn’t want the in gate closed (that’s how they were exiting).  They wanted to run their horses right out of the ring before stopping them.  If the gate was closed the horse would set up to stop before breaking the beam on the timer.  I thought at the time it was dangerous, but the horse was going to stop when they hit the eight foot high chain link fence that was 100 feet in front of them.

From what I was told, the gate was open at this event and the horse kept running until it hit the asphalt.  Whether he stopped or slipped I don’t know but from what I heard, she hit face first into the pavement.  They rushed her to the hospital, operated, they thought she was going to make it, but didn’t.  I don’t know why.

I don’t want her death or any other riders death to be in vain.  If it makes one person stop and think before making the wrong choice, and saves that person’s life, the person who gave their life will be an angel on a mission.

I know the gate person will question themselves for the rest of their life if they should have shut the gate.  Yes the horse would have either stopped and thrown her over the gate, or turned and dumped her into the fence.  It might have injured her severely or even killed her, but it could have saved her life.  But like everything else, you make a decision and live with the consequences, good or bad.  You’ll just never know and there’s no point in beating yourself up about it either.  You took the information and made a decision.

We only have a blink of an eye sometimes to make the right decision, make everyone count.  Sometimes there are no do overs.