Wednesday, November 30, 2011

november hill holiday shopping - day 1 with charlie brown christmas

 I love the Charlie Brown Christmas show, especially the music! And now, day 1 of my holiday shopping guide:

If you're looking for a few books to add to your collection this holiday season, or to give as gifts, I highly recommend the following:

Ten Thousand New Year's Eves by Dawn Deanna Wilson:  I loved this one so much I wrote a blurb for it - it's a wonderful book and perfect to buy now and save for your last read of 2011.

Lessons in Forgetting by Malaika King Albrecht: Her poems put us at windows into the moments shared by mothers and daughters dealing with Alzheimer's. Gorgeous and poignant.

Night Swim by Jessica Keener: This debut novel is available for pre-order and will be a gorgeous book to read moving into the new year. Keener creates a story that is its own song, hitting every note perfectly.

quick end of November catch-up

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving here on November Hill, and this week have gone from balmy to downright brisk outside. Yesterday morning the geldings and Redford were galloping wildly, and Keil Bay was doing his huge floating trot, which always makes me stop and watch. There is simply nothing more beautiful than Keil Bay doing that trot. Unless it's Salina walking out of the barn looking like a 4-year old, or Cody doing the "power canter" that embraces energy and collection at the same moment, or the pony at full gallop, or the donkeys doing almost anything at all.

We had the chiropractor here after the gallop session and Cody was again almost completely clear. He's beginning to enjoy the chiropractor almost as much as Keil Bay does, which is wonderful. It tells me his muscles and joints are feeling better now that we (knock on wood) have his PSSM symptoms under good control.

Keil Bay had a pelvic rotation, but otherwise was clear. He groaned with pleasure as she went along his neck checking for issues, and closed his eyes in what looked like a meditative state as she stretched out his front legs.

Salina was a handful! She's been on the Previcox for nearly a month and we are seeing her younger mare spirit rise up again. She had a very obvious to the chiropractor hip issue and seemed to know that it was going to be a big adjustment - so we marched up and down the barn aisle a few times until she settled down and allowed it to happen. The moment the adjustment was done, she relaxed from head to tail, and had the most enjoyable chiropractic exam she's ever had. It was wonderful to see.

I'm en route to the periodontist today to get my teeth cleaned after the fairly hideous staining that has resulted from the post-laser gum surgery antibiotic rinse. There have been years of my life when this would have completely freaked me out, but after the November we've had with horses the fact of stained teeth just hasn't seemed all that important to me.

The gum surgery went well, I was actually cheerful during the IV being inserted, due to two very amazing pills. I've made it through the soft food for 22 days regime. And hopefully this afternoon will have a more normal color of teeth!

On the "working on it" side of things, we have a pony who needs more hard work (he's his usual very chubby self this season and grumpy as a result) and a donkey with two ouchy front hooves. Here's hoping we move into December with good solutions for both of them.

Starting tomorrow I'm doing a series of November Hill gift idea posts for the holiday season - including gifting oneself with something special if need be! You'll see the gift I gave to myself for going through with all this dental work after dreading it for two years. Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

giving thanks 2011

It occurs to me that there is no better way to get silver of hair (and simultaneously rich in heart) than living with the antics of equines. I'm grateful for this herd of six who each bring something very special to my life:

Keil Bay: reminds me that dreams come true.

Apache Moon: lets me live the dream of little girls and painted ponies and who knows? maybe grandchildren and ponies one of these days! I used to have the Thelwell boxed set. Now I live with the real thing!

Cody: brings sensitivity and the path of opening oneself up, lengthening one's stride, stretching and using those tight muscles we all have.

Salina: offers partnership and a deeper knowing of things. and models how to be a grand old lady.

Rafer Johnson: shares his open heart and steadfast spirit and sweet kind eyes to make every day something special. the words wise and lovebug come together in Rafer Johnson.

Redford: brings a sense of the unexpected to nearly every moment. his place in the herd is always changing and morphing and it's a wonder to watch that process as it happens. he sparks so many things for us.

And, reliably, there go the donkey alarms. Music to our ears here on November Hill. It's feeding time! It's Thanksgiving Day!

Enjoy, and thank YOU for stopping by.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

the third thing (seniors giving me silver hairs)

This morning Keil Bay's eye was wonky and when it didn't respond to my wonky eye protocol I called the vet.

3/4 inch scratch right across the cornea.

The Big Bay got a shot of Banamine, eye stain,  super duper eye ointment that needs to go in every 4 hours, and no sedation because he is a remarkably cooperative horse when something is wrong and he needs fixing.

He cried green tears and gave the vet a nuzzle at the end of it. I saw the scratch and for about one minute thought there was actually a splinter embedded in his eye. The vet seemed remarkably nonchalant for such a thing, but I was very relieved that I had totally mistook what I saw!

I have maybe 30 new silver hairs and now that the third thing has hit, we are ready to move on. Cold weather, hot weather, flies, ice in troughs - I swear I will not complain. Just healthy equines and pure boredom of routine days. That's all I ask for.

Send him some healing energy. He's in a fly mask in November!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

oh my goodness! War Horse!

This horse reminds me so much of Keil Bay it blows my mind. If you hear someone sobbing in the movie theatre at Christmas time it is probably me.

So glad there is a tribute to the horses who fought the great war!

the senior horse, 7 and 8: in which Salina and Keil Bay add to my silver hair count

It's taken me awhile to be able to sit down and write about this - it was one of the most stressful times I've had since we started living with horses and donkeys, and in some ways it was a trial run of one of my worst nightmares.

A little over a week ago, Bear Corgi burst through our back gate as I was heading out to feed breakfast tubs. He does this periodically, but usually he runs huge laps around the perimeter of the arena, barn/barnyards, and our outer fence line. He's generally good about coming to me when I call, and he gets a pat for listening and goes back to the house/dog yard.

Last week his "outburst" coincided with his morning "crazed Corgi" energy run - which he usually does inside our house - AND with the horses and donkeys having gathered in close quarters up near the barn as they awaited being let into stalls for breakfast.

This was a terrible mix - wild Corgi and clustered herd - and Bear proceeded to run like a banshee up and down the paddock, going in a straight line back and forth THROUGH the horses. It all happened lightning fast, and suddenly Bear realized that Rafer Johnson was in the arena alongside the dirt paddock, and he went in and started chasing Rafer. Rafer held his own and we tried to stop Bear, but he was in a frenzy and could not really hear his command to come.

I managed to get his attention and he left Rafer to come through the paddock to me, in the front field where I had gone hoping to get him completely out of the area of the horse hooves, but as he made a path to me he decided to take another pass through the herd. Salina went after him.

Bear went back and forth one last time and Salina whirled around like a reining horse, intent on getting this little monster away from her donkeys.

On the third "whirl" Salina went down. The momentum, soft footing (we'd had rain a day or so before), and her still not quite healed abscessing hoof gave way. She landed hard (albeit on soft earth) on her right hip, and she was flat out on the ground.

I got Bear and put him in the house, and ran back to check Salina while my daughter put the geldings in their stalls. I let the donkeys stay with Salina, knowing their presence would be good for her, and knowing too that they would likely refuse to leave her.

She was fortunately lying flat with her good eye up, which I suspect helped her stay calm. She didn't struggle at all. She just lay there flat out, both hind legs stiff and sticking out in a way that made me think she had done something bad to her hip or stifle joint. Blood was coming out of her mouth, but it appeared to be from her biting her tongue.

I called the vet. The office manager told me to administer Banamine immediately and that she would get someone over here as soon as she could. She told me not to try to get Salina up if she was calm.

Unfortunately there were two emergencies going on ahead of us and she had already pulled in one vet to help with that, but we were going to have to wait. The vet on call checked in by phone and told me to stay with Salina and call her if she began to panic or struggle.

Salina lay perfectly still for most of two hours. My husband came home from work, both my teenagers were with us, holding Salina's head and blocking her eye from the morning sun. The donkeys stood by her side and at one point laid down beside her. Rafer rolled nearby as if he were trying to show her how to get up. As you can imagine we were all in tears.

At one frightening point Salina closed her eye and I thought she was leaving us. I made the goodbye speech I had imagined briefly but never been able to get all the way through out loud before - thanking her for all her wisdom and help in keeping November Hill under control. I told her we would do everything we could if she wanted to stay, but that we would manage without her if it was time for her to go. I promised to take good care of the donkeys, and I swore I would teach Bear Corgi not to chase them again.

She seemed to be listening intently and I really thought that when the vet arrived we would be saying goodbye and dealing with burial.

Around that time the donkeys each went up to her and sniffed her face. Rafer then went down the paddock and into the front field to join the geldings. We'd fed breakfast tubs and put them in front. Redford went down the paddock and was considering going with Rafer but he ended up grazing near the gate. I didn't know if they had said goodbye and were going to join their herd or if they knew things were okay and were taking a grazing break. It was heartbreaking.

Five minutes before the vet arrived, nearly two hours since she first went down, Salina decided to get up. She tried two times without success and then the third time she made it. She was on all four feet but leaning precariously to the right. I was terrified she was going back down, that something was truly not working right in her hip and that this time she would panic. But she held herself upright, defying gravity, and in a few moments took one step, then two, getting her balance, getting her equilibrium back, and then she walked slowly but very steadily down to the gate to the front field.

I immediately got her breakfast tub (wet and mushy and I wanted to get some fluid into her) and she devoured almost all of it as we held it there. The donkeys came back, the vet arrived and did a full exam from head to hoof, and said that other than a slightly elevated heart rate, she was fine.

The vet on call stopped by as well, so she got a second check. By this time she was fussing at the vet, tracking her donkeys, and ready to move on with her day.

We decided to put her on Previcox and keep her on it to help with arthritic pain. I've doubled her Mov-Ease powder, stopped jiaogulan, and started ginseng. It seems amazing but she is looking good. She's back to regular turn-out, the abscess is healing up, and Bear Corgi has had several leash lessons in which he is learning (and doing well) at lying quietly with the horses and donkeys. I waited a week to take him out there, and when I did, at the end of the lesson, Salina and both donkeys came up to him and they licked and chewed while he lay quietly. They shared some breaths and we called that a successful end to that first meeting after such a difficult day.

Looking back, I wonder if Salina felt I needed a trial run of what it might be like when she or any of our equines go. I've never dealt with losing a horse and have barely been able to think what it might be like. Now I know, and although it was terribly upsetting and difficult, I was able to be there and do what had to be done. We all had the chance to say what we wanted to say, and were able to do it without falling apart.

As usual, the black mare who will be 29 years old this spring has much to teach.


Yesterday I went out to feed breakfast and noticed immediately that Keil Bay had a swollen knee. Keil is 22 years old but he is remarkably sound for his age and as most of you know, he's my dream horse, so if I even think anything is going on with him I get extremely anxious.

He ate his breakfast as ravenously as always, and I watched him walk out to the pasture to see how he looked. There was nothing off at all, but the knee was definitely big. No heat, nothing else of note.

I came inside to research some possible remedies and then went back out to watch him some more before making a decision. While I was watching I got the muck-barrow and began to do some mucking in the field where he was.

As I mucked I got more and more anxious. I started thinking what if this is it for Keil, what if his knee is going and he can't be ridden any more. I reminded myself that I can ride Cody, but the idea of Keil Bay in retirement made me so sad I could hardly think about it.

About that time he walked up the hill and went to the water trough I'd just emptied to clean it out. "Hang on," I told him. "I'll fill it for you." I got the hose and added water and kneeled down to check his knee again. I kept feeling around his knee and he kept moving so that his chest was right in my face, almost like he was trying to use his chest to push me over. For a minute I thought he was just being affectionate but then I looked - LOOKED - at the area he was presenting to me. He had gouged himself right at the top of the leg, it had already scabbed over, and his winter coat had covered it up so it was barely noticeable. But it was directly above the swollen knee and suddenly I knew why the swelling was there, why he was so sound even with the swelling, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

At that point Keil Bay put his knee against my hand holding the hose and I thought DUH!  Cold hosing! He stood there for about 15 minutes while the cold water flowed down his leg, then nuzzled me and walked back down the hill.

I gave him 3 doses of Arnica for good measure.

Later in the day as I was working with Bear Corgi in the arena, Keil Bay galloped up the hill, notched back to his power trot down the paddock, and came to a full halt right by the gate to the arena. Cody galloped all the way to the fence and stopped on a dime.

Keil Bay hung his head over the gate and looked me right in the eye. "See," he said. "I'm definitely not ready for retirement yet."

I thanked the universe that I have these two incredible seniors to teach me what they know. I might be completely silver-headed before I read the mid-50s but I will have stories to tell and a huge amount of knowledge to take care of those other 4 equines we live with!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

CALL TO ACTION: AQHA and the Reichert Celebration 2011

I have a huge amount of information and a call to action to pass on from a friend and true advocate of the horse, Lee Earnshaw, on the Blue Tongue Alumni Facebook page, who is working hard to address the issues our Quarter Horses face in their breeding, early training, and the distortion of gaits and frame they are forced to endure in the name of the "Western Pleasure" discipline:
"Please watch this, watch the poor horses, pick out the lame one, count all the draw reins attached to curbs and used as a primary rein...notice no active AQHA stewards there to ensure that rules 104, 401, and 441 were not violated. All you need to do to speak for the horses is send one email to and let her know what you think. Please include your country of origin."

Billie adds:
If you find this video and the riding you see in it offensive, inhumane, and/or cruel to the horses involved, below is a link to all sponsors of the Reichert Celebration. Although it takes time to email them to let them know your thoughts on their sponsorship of this kind of event and the treatment of these horses, it DOES make a difference. There is actually a remake of this video being done with an updated list of sponsors who have already responded to concerns of viewers - and those sponsors who haven't responded at all.

A huge effort is underway with regards to this. Please consider adding your voice in every way you can to help the American Quarter Horse. If you've ever known and loved a Quarter Horse, you know how incredible they are.

Our QH Cody came to us as a 2-year old fully trained under saddle. It took years (he's 8 now) to teach him to move like a normal horse. He is a teddy bear and even under our care and encouragement, he still tenses up sometimes and reverts to the tight, constricted gaits and frame he was taught as a baby.

When I look at the horses in the video above, and look out my window and see Cody gallop up the hill with his herd, I see a completely different breed of horse. He moves beautifully, has gorgeous muscling, and he has a regal air to him that is simply not present in the movements of the horses above. How has this come to pass? Go tell these sponsors what the Quarter Horse can be, and should be, and used to be. Tell them you don't like what you see at the Reichert Celebration, and ask them to stop sponsoring that kind of event - which in my opinion is no celebration at all.  and you can CLICK HERE to go directly to the list.

And read on - here are two articles Lee Earnshaw wrote sharing her research into this issue:


   My curiosity was piqued. I thought most Quarter Horse folks were going to be upset because of my nosing around into what was happening at 'their' shows, in 'their' warm-ups, and fully expected a mail box full of the typical response "You don't understand," and the all encompassing, "Mind your own business." 

     But, I was getting emailed cheers of encouragement from those folks that I thought would like to rip me to shreds, and many of them were telling the same tale as me. "I quit showing WP because of the peanut rolling and four beat lope." And here, I thought I was the only one.

     Being nosy, I just had to find out some statistics. So here we go...about the time the peanut rolling & four beat lope became really fashionable in the early 90's there were 207,286 members like me, renewing their annual membership.

     By the year 2000, annual membership was down to 179, 639. By 2010, it was down to 89,413.

     Total membership (Annual, 3-Year, Life, Youth, and Amateur classifications) dropped about 16% from from 2007 to 2010. Total 345,905 in 2007, and in 2010, down to 300054. Yes, okay, we can blame that on the economy...until we compare the stats from USEF membership decrease in the same length of time to be only about 9.6%

     There are 115,390 owners of registered QH's in Texas in 2010...only 41,186 of them are members of AQHA. That is a measley 36% of all Texan owned Quarter Horses are eligible to compete at AQHA shows or race at the tracks.

     No wonder one of the AQHA goals for the upcoming year is to entice more people into competing. Problem is, a lot of those people used to, but were driven away from it by the whims of judges forgetting what the American Quarter Horse was supposed to do...move like a horse that was a pleasure to ride. Or heck, even just move like a horse was intended to. And a lot of us will not be caught dead in custom-made sequin outfits costing $1000 and up. No way. If I've got a grand to waste, it won't be on clothing that I wouldn't ordinarily be caught dead in except on Hallowe'en.

     And another problem is, now, the expose' of what the horses are actually subjected to, despite AQHA's assurance that their shows are "regulated by some of the most strict rules within the equine industry, designed to ensure the safety and welfare of American Quarter Horses compete,in approved events, are not jeopardized." We know that's not true. We've seen video proof.

     Add on to that, the fact that the judges are still rewarding the non-level toplines, the uncadenced jogs, the staggering slow walks, and the extreme head-nodding at the lope, which is sometimes three-beat, sometimes four, depending on the judge. All against the rules, still. The rules have chnaged and been updated over the past few years, but the judges seem incapable of comprehension or change.

     AQHA likes to impress people with the fact that, in the last 31 years, they have actually reprimanded 52 members for cruelty. Sounds pretty good, right? Until you look at how many hundred thousand members they have now...and through the years, it must be well over a couple of million. Let's be generous, underestimate, and say, 1 million. 52 reprimands? Not even a drop in the bucket.

     The statistics I would really like to hear about are: how many complaints were received, how many were actually even investigated, and how many were reprimanded.  Every year.  Bragging about a vague total from a three decade span just doesn't do it for me.

     AQHA is probably regretting now that in their endeavor to have the most silver and sequins, the grassroots membership faded away. I'm pretty sure they knew all along that was happening--if I can tell, just by reading their published statistics, surely they could tell--yet did nothing about it. It might be time for AQHA to take a good hard look at the ground--they are diving for it, anyway.



Since the video was found and posted on our group wall, we have been following multiple leads...who, on Earth, is responsible for allowing inhumane treatment of horses in warm-up? Draw reins on so many horses, and attached to curbs? What organization failed the American horses so badly? Well, after looking into it for over two one seems to know anything. Definitely, they "ain't sayin' nuthin'"...I feel like we might have stumbled on the Mafia of the Western Pleasure world.

Reichert Celebration offers 1.5 million USD in prize money. The Reichert family raise Quarter Horses.

AQHA rules are to be followed, or maybe NSBA's unless they conflict with AQHA's, then those take precedence. The other breed organizations (PHBA, APHA, POA, ApHC) have their own rules, but AQHA's, again, would take precedence if in conflict; or at least, they think so. They allow show points to be accrued, but the ones who have responded stress that, beyond that, they have nothing to with the Reichert Celebration. It is ''altogether different," apparently.

Horses are supposed to be treated with dignity and humanely at all times, though...that's pretty much the standard rule for horse welfare with all the involved organizations. The video proves that everyone left it up to someone else to figure out what to do and how to do it, and it appears that no one did, and no one could figure out the difference between humane and inhumane. Sadly, there were even vets on site. Vets that yes, will profit from this kind of inhumane treatment. Money talks, and money even shuts one up.

USEF and FEI are not affiliated with any of the national organizations invited into the hodgepodge of Reichert Celebration show and sale.

The NSBA, AQHA, and the organizers themselves have not responded to the obvious rule violations. When they do, the questions I will be asking is:
-exactly how many of the horses were tested for drugs, and is fluphenazine on their list of drugs to be tested for;
-how many actual disqualifications were there in the Western Pleasure classes that state horses to have level topline (AQHA) and no head-nodding at lope (NSBA)
-who provided/paid for stewards and was each ring, including warm-ups, monitored by at least one, at all times;
-how did they not notice draw reins attached to curbs, or draw reins in use, when training devices are banned in warm-up
-why were none of the horses marked with identifiable numbers in warm-up, and do they feel this impairs the safety of the horses by overlooking this basic requirement at events with more than a handful of horses (let alone 2500). How are they going to identify all the riders caught on film violating their own rules?
-do they feel it is ethical to hire their major sponsors (like vets) and have other sponsors also be competitors? This is like bribing the boss to hire you, or buying your placings before you ever saddle up, imo.

AHC and HSUS and the majority of sponsors and involved breed associations have all avoided reponding to concerned thus far...

Update: October 15: NSBA has responded and do agree that their were violations of their rules in that video. They state they had a monitor, a steward, and a drug tester available at the show. They are launcing their own investigation and review. They also state it is not the norm for numbers to be displayed when outside the stall, but they feel that this is a valid point and will be suggested at their next meeting. I think they realized they could see violations but can't correctly identify the violaters since they were all anonymous without any identification.

October 25: RC responded last week and don't see anything wrong with draw reins, and they thought their stewards did a great job pf reprimanding people for using draw reins. Yep. I kid you not. We have a problem here. I think the media man who wrote this has difficulty keeping a train of thought, maybe adult onset ADHD or something can be blamed.
Sponsors who have now responded after me telling them we were going to remake the video for national TV to ensure their names were included if they didn't respond: Western Haulers and Show Girl Show Clothes.
APHA and AQHA sent me their usual generic "we will get back to you" crap email.
USEF has formally denied having anything to do with Recihert Celebration at all/whatsoever/no way, uh-uh.
One guy said he didn't want to be involved when I asked him to pass on a ''heads up'' to his client who also happens to be a major sponsor of the show.

Oct 27:Another sponsor forwarded my email to AQHA and APHA, and guess what? Both organizations responded yesterday. APHA said they have pro-welfare rules.(I asked if they were aware those rules were violated when I emailed her back.)
AQHA rep emailed me like I was a retard and said she'd ensure my concerns about gaits of QHs and use of draw reins would be addressed in 2012. (Obviously, I let her know I am not waiting that long, and surely someone there knows how to call an urgent board meeting.) She also said USEF decides when to drug test, not them...very interesting...since USEF claims they have nothing to do with AQHA drug testing...I will bet money that no horses at this Reichert Celebration were tested, since no one knew who should decide when and who to test...which is why they all looked doped up on fluphenazine in the classes I saw before they made their videos private...


a link to a speech given by Dr. Jim Heird, an AQHA judge, in 2009, advocating for change in their system:
There is more information forthcoming. Stay tuned here and feel free to join the Blue Tongue Alumni group on Facebook if you want to be part of the ongoing conversation there.