Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Of Haynets and Valleys

Royal and I have had some interesting adventures over the past couple of weeks. The biggest change came when we got hay and put it out for the horses. Given the drought of this past summer, hay is in short supply so we're trying to reduce the amount of waste. There were a lot of slow-feeders at the Horse Expo this year, but the one we decided on was basically a small hole haynet big enough to put over a round bale. I picked up a couple in October and we were able to start using them a couple of weeks ago. This resulted in lots of confusion with the horses. Here was hay, but with a tough inedible exterior. At first they tried to bite through the net, but they eventually realized that it was easier to nibble through the holes. It doesn't seem to have slowed down their consumption much, but there's a lot less waste.

While the nets are designed to help horses eat like they are grazing, they are no longer moving like they're grazing, which has caused Royal's hind legs to stock up. Not severely or horribly, but enough to be annoying.

They usually go down after 5 or 10 minutes of moving him around, and they look completely normal. But the next time they're a bit stocked up, although they seem to be less and less stocked up each time I see him. Hopefully this means he's adjusting to his new activity level.

I've also been able to ride him in the big field a bit, but the struggle is crossing the little valley that separates the back pasture from the field. I thought that wouldn't be a problem as he's had to cross it multiple times where they were turned out there. But now it's muddier which greatly displeases him. So he prefers to gingerly inch his way down the hill, then leap across like there are alligators at the bottom. I tried to play with him a bit OnLine to help his realize crossing the valley is no big deal. He disagrees.

At this point, I'm not sure how to address this. On one hand, he's going to have to cross this valley a lot next year since the field is the best riding place, so I want to nip this in the bud. On the other, all the slipping and sliding can't be good for his joints and connective tissues, and I don't want to risk an injury over this. So we'll play it by ear for now.

We had a very successful session with Contact today. He started stretching pretty much immediately and was more than willing to take the contact at the trot, even offering the canter at one point. He's got a fairly fluffy winter coat, so I'm trying to keep out sessions short so he doesn't get too sweaty. It seems to be working.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nine Years

I realize this post is a little late. All the events of last week made it hard for me to focus on writing. Or working. Or anything, really. And it was a good reminder of why Royal is so important to me.

Copper's death left a big hole in my life. My days tended to revolve around his needs and having that gone was hard to deal with it. It was a case of the cliche "You don't know what you're got until it's gone." I sank back into the depression that sits in the back of my mind and I basically lost the motivation to do anything. If it weren't for Royal, I probably wouldn't have left the house.

But I needed to be with Royal. We just set up hay for the winter and the horses are no longer forging in the big pastures, which is apparently like stall rest for Royal. His hind legs stocked up big time, and I had to figure out how to make the swelling go away. The day after Copper's death, I was playing with Royal and getting him to move around, trying to get his legs back to normal. Which helped, but not as much as I'd hoped, so Friday I saddled him up for the first time in a while and rode him out to the big field that the horses had eaten down over the last month. He leaped over the muddy creek and we cantered around the field, the wind in our hair and our cares long behind us. It was very healing. And his legs looked great afterwards.

I wrote last year that Royal came into my life when I was at my lowest and contemplating suicide. He gave me something to focus on beside my badly-wired brain, and helped give my life meaning and purpose. That's still true. He is the cheese to my macaroni, to steal a phrase from Andrea at Eventing-A-Gogo. My days revolved around Copper, but my life revolves around Royal. I still don't have any idea where I'll be this time next year (Wisconsin, send out your supplemental application already!) but wherever I go, Royal's coming with me. Leaving him behind would be like leaving oxygen behind, or something. Completely out of the question.

This last year had been good for the most part. I wish we could have make it to more competitions, but hopefully this next year will be our year. I never expect to win anything, seeing as we're usually going up again professional riders and/or ex-upper level horses, but it's so much fun. And we're really grown as partners. We both have a lot more confidence in ourselves and each other. I've stopped trying to micromanage the whole course and he no longer tries to rocket around like it's a race. We listen to and learn from each other, and have become better for it.

I'm so lucky to have him in my life.

And, for no reason except I love it, a video of an auto-tuned Mr. Rogers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Copper: 8/14/95 - 11/6/12

On Tuesday, our 17-year-old beagle was euthanized. It wasn't for any one specific issue, but for a lot of little issues that were starting to affect his quality of life. He was pretty much blind and deaf, could not go down stairs without falling most of the time, and was starting to lose his balance. Last Wednesday, he had a serious neurological episode where he lost control of his limbs and bodily functions, and we knew it was time. It was nice, as far as euthanasias go. He had a great last few days, filled with car rides and burritos and chicken and french fries. The vet came to the house and he died comfortably, sleeping on one of his favorite beds. Certainly a much more peaceful death than some I've witnessed.

He wasn't Lassie, but he wasn't Marley either. He was obsessed with food and new smells (I called him "the nose that happened to be attached to a few legs"), but was one of the sweetest dogs I've ever known. He let kids climb all over him and never so much as growled at any human. He wasn't fond of other dogs, but eventually learned how to co-exist peacefully. He was willing to try almost any kind of food and would lick any pot clean. I pretty much dread cooking now, since I won't have him to clean the dishes off before they go into the dishwasher. I miss his scent, his snoring, and his pretty much constant presence. The house seems much emptier without him.

Good-bye Copper dog. We'll miss you.