Sunday, December 15, 2013

Horse Show Boyfriends

      As I wrapped up my first year as head-coach for an local high school equestrian team (a tale in itself that I might tell later on), I came upon the startling realization that these young horsewomen had absolutely no knowledge of an invaluable asset that was plentiful and right under their noses.  So, doing my coach-ly duty as both a fellow female and a horsewoman, I let them all in on this secret source of manual labor:

      The “Horse Show Boyfriend”.

      Now the Horse Show Boyfriend need not be an actual boyfriend (for all of you parents whose hearts just momentarily stopped beating).  Any male friend will suffice for this particular purpose.  He must simply be physically strong, weak-willed, and ideally in love with your daughter (or you, if you happen to be single, this also applies to grown women and men their age).  His purpose is only to make your life as a horse show parent or competitor easier for the several hours that you are on the grounds.  Odds are, at the high school level, your daughter will be completely exhausted by the end of the show, so there’s minimal chance that they’ll end up spending unsupervised time together after.  There’s really no downside. 

      Since local horse shows are almost always on weekends, this frees up most potential HSB availability.  In the case of high school equestrian team, the majority of boys in that age group have unlimited availability on weekends, and will certainly clear their schedule when they receive the text from your daughter that reads “I’m at a horse show, you should come up and see me!  You can meet my horse!”.  Amazingly, these boys will ignore the last sentence of that text and ditch their friends and prior commitments to hop in the car and come to your daughter’s side.  Well, more like your daughter’s horse’s side.  This is where you come in.

      Once the HSB arrives, it is your job to make sure your daughter does not forget that she’s there to ride and compete despite the unplanned testosterone presence.  You can make sure this does not happen by quickly putting the HSB to work.  No teenage boy wants to stand around at a show full of girls and VERY LARGE horses who have VERY LARGE hooves and VERY LARGE teeth and conspicuously stand out.  Give him something to do so he looks like he fits in.  Need water buckets filled from a quarter mile away?  His legs probably aren’t broken, he can carry them.  She needs her saddle pulled out of the trailer?  Send him after it.  Let him show off his pubescent muscles for her by verbally instructing him in proper saddling technique while she gets dressed in the privacy of the truck (this also insures no accidental peep show while your back is turned).  Can’t get the girth tight?  Have the HSB do it!  Be sure to warn him that the horse might reach around and try to bite if he pulls to quickly, (this is a great opportunity to instill a healthy fear of the horses in the HSB).  Once the horse is tacked , the HSB makes an excellent horse-holder for the bridled horse that can’t be tied to the trailer any longer while you do important things like drink your coffee and chat with other parents. 

      While your daughter is heading to the warm-up pen, allow the HSB to accompany her.  They will get a bit of one-on-one chat time, and you can rest assured that no physical contact of questionable nature will take place because she will be mounted on top of 1,200 pounds of escort while he walks alongside.  Bet you’re glad you bought her that horse now, aren’t you?  The HSB won’t enter the warm-up pen, he’ll loiter outside in case she wants to chat on her way by, so you can keep a close eye on them both and potentially get some private-conversation time with the HSB.  Save the death threats for later, you may never actually need to use them.  Use this opportunity to explain what the judge will be looking for when your daughter goes in to show, and teach him a few horse-savvy terms so he can understand the mysterious language everyone around him is speaking.  Perhaps offer him something to drink or a few bucks for the concession stand.  Then leave him alone to nervously wonder why you didn’t tell him about your gun collection at home. 

      The trick to perfecting the usage of the HSB is to make sure your daughter is aware of his presence at all times.  No self-respecting teen is going to throw a tantrum in front of this guy.  This will be the most peaceful horse show you’ll ever attend, relish it.  If the HSB hints that he might be leaving soon, invite him to a post-show dinner!  If he accepts, he’s in it for the long haul, he might be able to tolerate your daughter’s hobby, and you’ll have someone to unload the trailer tonight when you get home.  If not, and he doesn’t have a good excuse like “I have to go to work”, “I have a lot of studying for the SAT to do”, or “It’s my turn to dish meals at the soup kitchen”, he’s not a keeper anyway and you’re better off letting him prove that to your daughter right now.  Explain to her beforehand that if he can put up with her showing and get along with her horse, he’s worth keeping around.  No man is worth the headache if he can’t help out at a horse show from time to time.  The best part of the HSB is that there’s no commitment on anyone’s end.  If this one doesn’t work out, invite a different one next time. 

      Now if you’re an older horsewoman and thinking this whole HSB thing doesn’t apply to you, think again.  Use the man in your life to your advantage.  Compliment him on how great his pickup would look…definitely better hooked to your trailer than any of the other guys’ trucks at the horse show.  Get him a comfortable lawn chair to set up in the shade and make sure there’s cold beer in the cooler, and then let him be. 

      They’ll get up and help when you need them, but by the fourth or fifth horse show, they’ve pretty much figured out the gimmick and it’s going to take more than a smile and batting your eyelashes to get them to come along.  To make things more interesting, show with a few girlfriends, and invite their men to bring grills, alcoholic beverages and tailgate the show.  It won’t take long before word travels to their single buddies that horse shows are the holy grail of women, and much more plentiful hunting grounds than a football game. 

      If you’re like me, and you’ve got a man who has figured out the Horse Show Boyfriend scam, yet still enjoys tailgaiting the shows with his friends, just go with it.  They might get a little carried away, but as long as they’re not disturbing anyone else or spooking horses, who cares?  Horse shows are painfully boring to non-equestrians, and unless you’re at a show with a lot of beginners, making a drinking game out of rider falls will lead to a group of very sober, bored men.  That’s never a good thing.  It is also very important to stress to the men BEFORE they become intoxicated that, under no circumstances, are they permitted to do any “improvements” to your horse trailer without your prior consent.  Horse shows spark competition not just amongst the riders, unfortunately.

      The most important thing to showing with an HSB as an adult is the bartender feature.  A little Southern Comfort in your coffee before your class helps to calm nerves, and if nothing else, you quickly become semi-famous on the local show circuit for being the traveling mini bar.  Plus, after three or four modified coffees, you don’t even care how catastrophic of a train wreck your ride was, AND you have a designated driver to drive the rig home!  Perfect horse showing, every time!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Home Sweet Home

Well boys and girls, we did it.  After fourteen months of appointments with no less than four different realtors, hours of painstaking searches on the internet, hundreds of “Hey!  Have you looked at (insert address here)?  It has a sign out front!” phone calls from well-meaning friends and family, dead-end offers, back-and-forth negotiations with listing banks, and many realtor-less visits to properties that I’m fairly certain was legally considered breaking and entering, we bought a place.  Bye bye, Landlord.  Helloooooo home-ownership!  Woohoo!

Now this news in itself warrants extensive celebration, but as any horse-owner knows, the absolute best part of this whole event is one simple fact: I am no longer a boarder.  My kids get to come home!  As a complete control-freak (some would call it bordering on OCD) when it comes to the care that my animals receive, this news could have not come soon enough.  I’m not cut out for boarding barns, I have a true inability to play nice with others, and I believe that there are very few people in this world that can care for my horses properly.  Simply put, I am a pain in the ass.  And now, that is no longer a problem for anyone other than Patrick.

When it comes to the perfect man for a girl like me, I could not have asked for a better guy than Pat.  Since closing, he has worked tirelessly for weeks to design, plan and construct Tyler-proof fencing that proves effective at containing the Ungrateful Bastard, yet doesn’t give the appearance that we’re operating a prison on the property.  This is not an easy task to accomplish, and not to say that I have not helped during the process, but I learned early on that the best way to get something of this magnitude accomplished is to give Pat a general idea of what I’m looking for (a fence that will effectively contain a small horse with the willpower of an angry buffalo), and pay for whatever he decides he needs.  I make sure he is never hungry or without a beer nearby, and let him do his thing.  He will ask questions, I am to provide simple, concise answers, and I should ask only what I can do to help beyond providing food and drink.  It may sound slightly chauvinistic, but there’s a perfectly practical reasoning behind this:  I couldn’t keep Tyler in my own fencing, and I’d prefer to not have him end up in traffic and hit by a car.  Pat is a brilliant man, and has had over a year to come up with a plan.  I trust him.  And I know how infuriating I can be by asking a million questions. 

When the final pasture gate was hung the Saturday before Labor Day, it was like Christmas Eve for me.  It was better than Christmas, really.  Sure, I’ve spent hundreds and hundreds of dollars on supplies, and probably even more on beer, but who cares?  Now, I have the joy every morning of looking out the kitchen window to see my ungrateful, overweight heathens demanding that I get out there and feed them before they waste away to nothing.  Also, I now get to buy and transport my own hay and grain again, wrestle blankets onto uncooperative horses, hunt down destroyed halters in the field, and try and explain to Pat’s adopted American Bulldog that yes, the fence WILL bite you, and no, the pony is not your friend and is not playing tag when he chases you.  All of which I get to do in rain, sleet, snow, hail, sub-zero temperatures and the occasional sunny day….while Pat laughs at me from the comfort of the couch…until he has to put out a new round bale. 

I know I’m a lucky girl.  Not only because at 26 years old, I seemingly have my shit together and am working on this whole adulthood thing quite efficiently.  But because I’m also very aware that not too many of my friends can say that they’ve got a man who, while he barely understands the concepts of cribbing, colic or why in the hell someone would voluntarily own a horse when man invented the four-wheeler, he supports me.  If I need something, he’s got it taken care of, and for that, I will always be appreciative and grateful.  I know I could never replace him.  In turn, I try my best to do the things that most pseudo-housewives do to make things easier for him.  This recent domesticity has not come without a significant amount of trial-and-error though, especially with Pat working second shift and not being home during the majority of the time that I am in a week.  I really think I’ve learned more in the last four months than I did during my entire college career.  For example:

-       It took me 45 minutes of sitting in the dark to come to terms with the fact that that the circuit breaker wasn’t going to reset itself, and that the fuse I blew was going to stay blown (and consequently disable 75% of the house in the process) until I marched my happy ass down to the basement to figure out which one it was. 

-       The basement is scary.  It is even scarier when you are home alone (except for the dogs).  But taking the dumb rescue dog with you for protection is a really bad idea.  Despite his size, it is still very possible to trip over a 100+ lb Bulldog while rushing up a flight of stairs to try and escape the basement-monsters that reside in every home and try to grab you by the ankles as you’re climbing basement stairs (let’s be honest, that’s just one of those things you never really outgrow). 

-       God made men taller than women so that they could hang curtain rods.  This is also apparently because I should never ever do anything that involves power tools and a step ladder and a straight line.

-       Furthermore, if you want anything done in the house and are not going to be present to whine and nag, make sure there is ready-to-eat food in the refridgerator at all times.  Guilt and a full stomach will get your list accomplished.

-       Always throw the receipts for any horse-related purchases in the trash immediately.  If he asks if that blanket on So-And-So is new, it isn’t.  And you traded some other “horse junk” with a friend for it.

-       When you are strictly forbidden from using the gigantic pole barn for your horses, slowly allow your tack and equipment to bleed out of your designated 10x10 space over the rest of the barn.  Getting a “horse barn” will work its way closer to the top of the priority list.

-       A penny saved is a penny earned.  A pocket full of pennies saved also makes a hell of a lot of noise in the dryer at midnight.  Which sounds nothing like what someone trying to break in sounds like, so the dogs won’t give a damn while you’re in bed with the covers yanked over your head, having a heart attack and wondering where he put the shotgun when you moved in.

-       Don’t ever lie on the couch and look at the walls.  You’ll just end up disappointed with every minute imperfection in your paint job and it’ll piss you off until you repaint the entire room. 

-       If he wants to spend eight hours in his barn over a weekend playing with his man-toys, let him, and don’t even think about bitching.  It’s a very small price to pay considering the amount of hours in a weekend that you’re off doing horse-stuff.

-       When you get the text at work reading “When did we get seven horses?  My last count was six…”  there is a very simple response:  

-       It is always better to ask for forgiveness than permission.  Also, it is better to show him the cash from a recent horse sale than the pile of bills accumulated by said horse. 

-       Men are visual creatures.  If you did something bad, wear something revealing when you tell him. 

-       Any tools not locked away from your reach are fair game for quick repairs of tack, fencing, or other random horse-related usages.  Putting his tools back within a 5’ radius of where you found them is generally sufficient.  Just don’t leave them outside. 

And finally….

-       When in doubt, blame the dog.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Luigi's Honour - Part 2

Three weeks ago, I was bitter, angry and full of resentment towards most of the human race.  See, I don’t usually get to deal with the GOOD people.  I get the "pleasure" of dealing with the people who ruin and throw away what often end up being perfectly good horses, after they’ve healed up (physically and emotionally), and then I have to go and clean up their mess and try and right their wrongs.  The horses are always the victims.  It’s not fair, and consequently, I’m sure anyone can understand why I have very little faith in the human race as a whole.

Three weeks ago, a horse named Luigi’s Honour unexpectedly walked back into my life and while our time together has been short, his presence has taught me that maybe I’ve been wrong.  Maybe these horrible, hurtful people that I’ve dealt with are the exception, not the rule. 

When I first published the blog about Luigi (click here), I didn’t have much faith that the horse world would respond the way that they have.  I try and avoid asking for help when it comes to personal rescue missions I undertake, I’m a little proud, a lot stubborn, and I don’t like admitting that I can’t do something on my own, but his story needed to be told.  When I published that blog, I had no idea of the magnitude of support I’d receive, and for that, I am humbled and amazed at the generosity of virtual strangers.  Together, they raised $1020 towards the Luigi effort, a little over $900 remained after GoFundMe and WePay’s fees (mandatory for all fundraising through their website).

Through Lisa at Day Dreams Farm Rescue, I was put in touch with a wonderful woman by the name of Gail Hirt at Beyond The Roses Rescue & Retirement.  She specializes in the rescue and rehabilitation of Thorougbred ex-racehorses, and although she was currently at maximum capacity, she got right to work networking and trying to find a solution for Luigi’s situation.  Yes, he had an offer of a home back at his owner’s place down in Pennsylvania, but shortly into Gail’s work, she connected with LongRun Thoroughbred Retirement Society in Ontario, Canada.   Now, as a frequent rescuer of in-danger horses and ponies, I’m of the belief that if one horse can raise awareness of the all-to-often plight of the ex-racehorse and serve a greater purpose in life other than pasture-puff, then they should be allowed that opportunity.  Do I have any doubts that Luigi would enjoy the pasture-puff life?  No, not really.  But he’s only seven years old, and for him to live out the next twenty-something years in a pasture would be a waste of the attention and publicity he’s gotten through this endeavor.  People need to know how easily a great horse like Luigi can end up in a bad situation.  Not every “good home” is the real deal.  Luigi’s trainer agreed with me on this, and said that as long as I can guarantee Luigi’s safety and happiness, he and the owners fully support the decision to find him an ambassador career. 

Anyway, LongRun’s criteria for accepting a horse into their program included the stipulations that the horse have been Ontario-bred, and have come directly from the racetrack.  Luigi fit that criteria, and after I filmed an evaluation video for the staff at LongRun to see him, his wonderful personality, and his awful fetlocks, he was accepted into the program and I made the arrangements to export him to his new Canadian home.  Fortunately, I have an absolutely wonderful veterinarian who did the health papers and Coggins at cost for me, and I had extra vaccines and dewormer at home to bring Luigi up-to-date in time for travel.  Saving money without compromising quality of care is always a good thing.  I found out several days before our trip that Luigi's original owner has made a very handsome donation to LongRun towards the cost of Luigi's retirement.  The wonderful folks at LongRun commented on Part 1: 

"Thanks to the hard work of Gail at Beyond the Roses Equine Rescue, and Jackie who bailed this deserving guy out of a truly bad situation, we are proud to announce that Luigi will be coming home to Toronto, where his accomplished career started.

We welcome all of you to continue to follow Luigi's story as he joins us at one of our amazing foster homes via our website, facebook - or twitter @LongRunTB.

We hope everyone is as excited as we are to welcome him home - one of his first owners is also going to be assisting us in his retirement and is happy to know that so many people cared enough about his horse to ensure he had a safe ending.

Thank you to everyone who got involved and chipped in to ensure this boy got the dignified retirement he deserves.

-The LongRun Team"

As I write this, I’m somewhere in Canada in the passenger seat of my truck (it's my brother's turn to drive).  I’d love to tell you where we are, but all I know is that I’m surrounded by farmland as far as I can see and the GPS says we’re 148 miles from home.  We’ve been on the road since early this morning, and quite frankly, I’m bored to death.  I tucked Luigi safely in a deep, plush stall in his new home with LongRun several hours ago (he immediately grabbed a mouthful of hay, drank half a bucket of water, then dropped and rolled with the most satisfied grunt and groan I’ve ever heard from a horse).  He’s happy there, and every other horse on the property was in great condition and equally as content.  I wish I could say I was sad to leave him, but I’m really not.  Instead, I have this peaceful sense of contentment and satisfaction that another horse survived and will go on to be happy for the rest of his life.  Maybe that’s closure for me?  I don’t really know, but it’s a good feeling, and I sincerely hope everyone that has contributed to saving Luigi’s life feels the same thing.  Here are a handful of photos from our journey...

Loading up to head "home" one last time...

It almost seems like he knows what's waiting for him.

Getting to look around at the first of many fuel stops...
(Don't worry, we were parked here, I don't travel with trailer windows down)

Finally off the trailer and heading to his new home.

Almost there...

SUCH a comfy stall!  He immediately approved the culinary selection.

My final words to him were "Alright.  Be good, okay big guy?"  
"Yeah, yeah, whatever lady.  Just give me the damn cookie."

I can’t help but feel like a savvy shopper though, this trip (as long as it is), was still shorter than taking him to the other farm by about fifty miles.  Plus I don’t have to drive through Ohio (where I’m pretty sure I’m still wanted for a few unpaid speeding tickets I got back in high school).  We did this trip with my new-to-me GMC pickup I bought a few weeks ago.  It’s 12 years old, with 208k miles and change, and gets a whopping 8.5mpg with the trailer behind it.  The gas gauge isn’t exactly functional, so I was a little apprehensive about this trip, but buying gas by the litre thing isn’t nearly as annoying when your receipt says you got 59.26 litres for $77.99.  Pretend that 59.26 is gallons, and it doesn’t hurt as bad.  At least, not for the first three fill-ups.  By the fourth, it’s lost some of its humor.  Also, I’ve realized that the exchange rate here does not work in my favor, restrooms are called washrooms (and you’ll get a strange look if you call them something else), and 100 kilometers per hour isn’t nearly as fast as it sounds.   Also, they don’t have guns here, and as a CPL-holder, that makes me slightly sad for them.  I’m tired, and I want to go home.  And shoot a gun…preferably at a 100 kph speed limit sign.  

As a final note, I want to thank everyone one more time for making this possibility a reality for this horse.  Without everyone that stepped up and helped, whether it was hauling at the last minute, providing stabling for him while his fate was in the works, veterinary care, networking and sharing his story, or making financial contributions towards this effort, it couldn't have happened without all of you.  Please know as you finish this blog: You ALL saved Luigi's life.  It wasn't just one or two people, it was a whole network of people that I can't even begin to list individually here.  Clearly, there ARE good horse-people out there, and thank you all for proving that to me.  

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Luigi's Honour

I've kept my mouth shut for months now, and I've finally been pushed to my breaking point.  In the last twenty-four hours, every ounce of anger and hatred I've suppressed against Locust Breeze Farm in White Lake for the past six months has been stirred up and has finally boiled over.  What I thought I could walk away from and ignore, I can't.  I saved a horse that was literally hours from shipping to the kill pen today, and it was solely because of the woman that owns and operates Locust Breeze Farm.  And so as I write this, please keep in mind, this one's for the big bay Thoroughbred named Luigi.

Last November, I moved my beloved Tyler to Locust Breeze mainly to have him closer to my house, but also because we were somewhat "asked" to leave the Goodrich farm where Cleveland still lives.  Why, you ask?  Because my dear, sweet hellion of a four year old took to climbing through the fencing, and not-so-politely knocking on the farm owner's back door at 4:30am looking for breakfast.  Needless to say, it scared the hell out of the farm owner to have something banging on her door at that hour, so I did what a responsible owner would do and moved him right away.  We went to Locust Breeze.  

Things were alright in the beginning.  Stalls were bedded, horses were fed, Tyler's SmartPaks were being given on schedule, there was always good-quality hay stacked up and available.  I was content.  I don't particularly think I'm difficult to please as a horse owner, but I do have certain expectations and require those to be met without compromise.  My horse needs to be fed what I ask for, in the amount that I specify.  I've had this horse since he was orphaned at a day old, I know him, and I know what it takes to keep him in good physical condition.  "Sure, sure, no problem!" said the woman that owned the facility.  

In early January, four off-the-track Thoroughbreds showed up from out of state.  They had been shipped up from the Pennsylvania/Ohio area and given to the barn owner by a very reputable race trainer under the pretense that they would have good forever homes and be used in her developing therapy/riding lesson program.  (I know what you're thinking: OTTB's as therapy horses?  Seriously?  But it was not my program, and therefore not my problem).  One of these horses was named Luigi's Honour.  

Luigi wasn't particularly tall, maybe 15.3, with a front right sock, a left hind sock, and a very crooked star between two very quiet eyes.  I'm not a Thoroughbred-fan as a general rule (most of you already know I will do my best to avoid dealing with one), but I appreciated him for his puppy-dog-quiet disposition and good manners, even at six years old and fresh off the track.  When he went through temperament testing, he was nothing but a rockstar.  Luigi was, however, profoundly sore and needed time to heal.  He sported a baseball-sized lump on his front right fetlock, and was obviously in pain.  Instead of receiving proper vet treatment and REAL rehabilitation care, he was essentially pushed to the back burner at the barn and spent his days in the pasture, and stalled at night.  I never saw him receive so much as a gram of Bute from the time he showed up to the time I left.

Luigi's Honour upon arrival at Locust Breeze (Jan. 2013)

Luigi has a heart of gold and the patience of a saint (Jan. 2013)

Tarps are CLEARLY not scary! (Jan. 2013)

Three months had passed from the date of our arrival at Locust Breeze, when I noticed Tyler had begun dramatically dropping weight.  I asked that his intake of Safechoice be increased from four to six pounds per feeding (AM & PM), I even began paying an extra $25/month for the extra grain.  I started soaking hay cubes and bringing them out daily to add to his meals and changed his SmartPaks to include a weight builder.  Tyler kept dropping weight.  One night, I stuck around at feeding time to see what exactly my horse was eating (grain and supplements were always kept locked in a cabinet away from the boarders).  What she dumped into Tyler's feeder was NOT Safechoice, but some grey pelleted feed, and certainly not the six pounds I was paying for.  I got angry, very angry, but I kept my mouth shut and quietly spoke to several other boarders who also noticed decreased in their horses' weights.

Right around that time, Tyler had been growing very violent.  On any given day, he was biting, striking out, screaming bloody murder and attempting to mount anything that stood still long enough to allow it.  This was NOT my horse.  Fearing that my little problem-child was potentially a "Three-Nut-Wonder" (I was there when he was gelded, we took two out and all of their accessories came with them), I had a testosterone assay done by my vet.  I had to pull blood for it myself, as my vet was only one of a large group of equine vets that refused to come to Locust Breeze because of the erratic, psychotic outbursts and episodes of screaming, hollering, and randomly evicting boarders and verbally assaulting veterinarians that the barn owner was quickly becoming famous for.  I got to witness several of these tantrums, and it deeply disturbed me that this woman was supposed to be caring for my horse.  When the testosterone assay came back at five times the normal count for a stallion during breeding season, I knew something was drastically wrong and that I needed to act fast before my horse hurt himself or someone else.  

Under the pretense of "Tyler is going for exploratory surgery" since I knew I would be unable to keep my cool if this psycho confronted us for leaving, Pat and I packed up my tack, loaded Tyler (who, for the first time in his life, leaped onto my trailer before I could get the door completely open and stood like a veteran show horse) and headed over an hour north to a well-known trainer whom I've known and trusted for more than ten years.  If anyone could fix Tyler, she could.  I didn't believe that my sweetheart of a horse, who has never shown any stud-like behavior in his four years on this earth, could all of a sudden turn into a hormonal, raging asshole and it DID NOT have something to do with this woman.  When we left, she actually had the audacity to stand in front of Tyler's stall with tears in her eyes and say "I just really hope he's going to be okay" before wiping her eyes and going in the house.  I lost half a month's worth of board, plus the additional money I was paying for that "extra grain".  When I left, I never spoke to her again.  We unloaded at the new barn and upon opening my SmartPak drawer, I realized it was completely full.  Tyler was supposed to run out that week.  It had obviously been a very long time since my horse had gotten his supplements.  Ironically enough, after leaving Locust Breeze, Tyler has never had another "asshole attack" since.  He quickly put back on the 150+ pounds that he lost at Locust Breeze (a lot when you're only 14.1), and has been nothing but a gentleman ever since.  Several weeks after I left Locust Breeze, I was informed by several different people that the barn owner was regularly buying cattle and "all stock" pelleted feed at the feed store in large quantities and feeding it to the horses because it is incredibly cheap.  It is also loaded full of hormones to encourage massive amounts of growth in livestock meant for meat production, hence the astronomical spike in Tyler's testosterone levels.  I also learned from their respective owners that two other geldings underwent extreme behavioral changes for the worse as well during that same time frame.

Two weeks after we bailed out of the Locust Breeze hellhole, nine more horses and their owners abruptly left without warning in the course of one day.  Several of the horses, owned by one boarder, were in such poor condition that as far as I know, Locust Breeze is still under investigation by Animal Control for what she did to them while in her care.  On that day, not a single flake of hay had been found in that barn for more than twenty-four hours prior.  That same day, during one of her infamous tantrums, the barn owner evicted two more horses and their owners by throwing their tack into the driveway and tying their horses to the fence at the road.  In total, she lost eleven boarded horses that day.  Good business practices, eh?

Once everyone I knew had abandoned the sinking ship that was Locust Breeze, those four OTTBs were virtually lost.  I had occasionally wondered if they were still alive, what had happened to them, and if they were starving to death like the other walking skeletons that were still in her field.  I can't save them all though, so I did my best to push it to the back of my mind.  Until I got the phone call one day from one of the former boarders who knew the horses and personally knew the trainer that gave them to the owner of Locust Breeze:

"You're never going to believe this.  Remember Luigi?"
"That bitch sent him back to the track."
"Wait, nooo....Luigi the horse with the blown out ankle?"
"Oh my God.  He's going to die there."

See, the woman that owns Locust Breeze made a very fatal error when it came to these four Thoroughbreds.  The trainer that gave them to her is one of the few responsible race trainers in this world that actually cares where his horses end up.  When he found out about the mass exodus from Locust Breeze, he looked up the four names of the horses he had sent there, and realized that the most crippled, debilitated, certainly-not-fit-to-be-anywhere-NEAR-a-racetrack horse was, in fact, racing in Mt. Pleasant under a "trainer" who lived not five miles from Locust Breeze.  Luigi had 37 starts prior to coming to Michigan, winning a boatload of money, but time had taken it's toll and the trainer knew Luigi deserved a good retirement home.  Instead of shipping his horse off to who-knows-where, he tried to do right by Luigi and find him a forever home in what he thought was a reputable, responsible barn.  Now his beloved horse was back on the track racing against time to see if he'd come out of each start on the track alive.  The trainer confronted her repeatedly, this was NOT their agreement, and he wanted Luigi back.  Luigi's owners refused to let their horse die like that.  I don't know how she responded, as I wasn't witness to the conversations, but I have a pretty good idea.  The biggest kicker to the entire thing is that Locust Breeze's owner KNEW Luigi wasn't fit to be racing, she says so right in the ad for him on her farm Facebook page!

Fast forward a month.

Two days ago, Luigi was dumped off by the woman's race "trainer" at a nearby sale barn where my roommate works.  She came home from work and as I was working away at my computer selling off some extra tack, she said "Dude, I had to ride a Thoroughbred today with the BIGGEST ankles I've ever seen".

I stopped typing.  I knew a Thoroughbred with at least ONE big ankle. 

"Off the track?"
"Yeah.  He's SO lame though."
"I think I know that horse."
"I have to see him."

An hour later, she and I were at the sale barn, and pulled the bay horse out of the stall.  A quick look at the markings compared to an old picture from last winter confirmed my fear.  It was Luigi's Honour.

Luigi at the sale barn. (July 2013)

Looking at the horse standing in front of me, I was amazed that he was standing at all.  BOTH front fetlocks were swollen to the point that it looked like baseballs had been strapped to them, his front legs were dotted from the knees down with white scars, and he had old poultice residue on his legs and race plates still on his feet.  He was still the same, sweet, puppy-dog Luigi I remembered though, despite how clearly broken he was, and as we took the identifying pictures we needed, he cuddled with his head at my chest and stood quietly as I scratched his forehead.  I don't know exactly what this horse had been through in the last few months, but it obviously wasn't good. 

Right front fetlock (July 2013)

Other angle of right front fetlock (July 2013)

Unfixable "dumped" horses at a sale barn like this generally go to one place, the killer's trailer, and they generally do it within 24 hours.  Remember, Luigi was VERY lame.  Hate it all you want, but that's the way things operate.  There's no recycle bin for all of the broken horses that humans create, even if we humans are the ones that broke them to begin with.  Generally, they simply get thrown away.  Unfortunately, in Michigan, broken racehorses are a dime a dozen, and every horse is worth something to the meat man.  I didn't know what it was going to take, or if it was even financially feasible for me to try and save Luigi, but I had to try.  It's not like I have some emotional attachment to this horse, but I knew he had been wronged by the people he trusted to care for him, and that somewhere, there was a man looking for him to try and keep him safe.  Knowing that, I had little choice but to at least try to help.  I spent the next several hours on the phone with several people, including Luigi's original trainer, letting him know that we found his horse, he wasn't safe, by any means, but that I would try to help.  

After doing some more homework on Luigi's race history last night, I realized that Luigi had raced as recently as last Saturday, as in five days ago, on those same god-awful legs. 

Here's his complete race record:
Yes, this horse won more than $188K dollars in just six short years, was supposed to have a forever home as a therapy horse, and STILL ended up virtually staring death in the face.

He failed miserably in his last race, similar to the other two races he had run for the owner of Locust Breeze and her "trainer", and the best I can figure is that he was loaded up shortly thereafter and dumped off at the sale barn.  Talk about getting rid of your problems.  Screw the horse, get him off the feed bill!  Dump him wherever you can and cut your losses, I guess!  

I ended up having to scrape together $200 from my used-tack internet sales to buy Luigi from that sale barn, a sale that simply could not have been orchestrated without the help of my roommate and two of my very good friends who literally dropped what they were doing and offered their hauling services and rig to get him out of there just a few hours before he was scheduled to be picked up by the local kill buyer.  His original owners and trainer have a pasture open for him in Pennsylvania to retire in peace, and desperately want him back, but finances are making this difficult.  My feeling is that these people did right as best as they could by Luigi, but a lying barn owner at Locust Breeze betrayed both them and the horse.  If there's a way that I can help raise the money to get him home to them, I'll do the driving myself.  He is currently safe at a boarding barn owned by a wonderful couple who, upon hearing his dire situation, immediately opened up a small rehabilitation paddock and stall for him to rest in (and are charging me a VERY reduced board rate) until we can raise the funds to get him back home to Pennsylvania to retire in the life he deserved all along.

Safe and sound until he can get home to Pennsylvania (July 2013)

For everyone involved who immediately put their own lives and plans on hold in the last 24 hours to help me save the life of just one crippled ex-racehorse, Lindsey, Andrea, Emily, Nathanael, Christina, I cannot even begin to thank you guys enough.  For those of you who want to help contribute to getting Luigi home to his family in Pennsylvania, please use the link below to make a donation.

Donate To Send Luigi Home:

It's quick, easy, secure, and literally every dollar puts us a little closer to sending Luigi to the retirement that he deserves.  I'm not putting any real cap on the donation request, but the program requires me to come up with a number, so I'm going to say $1500.  We're taking only what we need for fuel and food for the trip (fortunately it's close enough that we won't need a hotel), and anything above and beyond that will be split 50/50 between Day Dreams Farm Equine Rescue & Rehabilitation ( and Beyond The Roses Equine Rescue & Retirement ( another 501(c)3 that specializes in Thoroughbred ex-racehorses.  I feel very passionately that even though I can't afford to save more than one of the millions of "Luigis" at a time (either Thoroughbred or Standardbred) that fall through the cracks and end up staring death in the face, I can do my best to support those organizations that have similar goals.  

Oh, and by the way, I guess I really don't hate Thoroughbreds as much as I thought...that's a good thing, right?

One Final Note:  To the best of my knowledge, Locust Breeze is under the same owners and management as it was when myself and the others were there.  Should anyone ever consider boarding there, I invite questions and can give a long list of angry former boarders whose horses were also harmed during their time there.  Shortly after moving Tyler to the new trainer's facility, he was diagnosed with EPM and has been responding well to treatment.  I fully and completely hold Locust Breeze and the psychotic woman that owns it responsible for what has happened to him.  Karma is a bitch.  

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Attract Crazy

I swear, despite the fact that I haven't actively sold a horse in a year (happy anniversary to me this week, by the way), the crazies still manage to find me.  It's amazing, really.  I don't know if I have some sort of aura that draws them in like parasitic leeches just searching for ways to drain off the remaining brain cells I have through forcing me to listen to their babbling over the phone...I really don't know.

Last weekend, Pat, myself and two of our friends spent the day out at the rescue working on lean-to roofs, cleaning stalls, tinkering with foster and adoptive horses and trying to help catch up on the endless list of odds and ends that any working horse rescue always seems to have.  Volunteering is cool, right?  Right.  Even when it's 90-degrees with 93% humidity.  Everyone needs a good sweat every now and then, no big deal.

On the hour-plus ride home, my phone rang.  Now, considering I've got two vehicles for sale right now, and also have a really cute little two-horse trailer that I'm selling for a friend, I can't exactly dodge unrecognized-number phone calls.  I like money.  A lot.  So I answered.

"Is this Jackie?"
"I saw your website, so I thought I'd call."

Now here's the thing...I don't HAVE a website.  I have this blog, which I know does not have my phone number on it, and I have a general assortment of one year old sold ads on several different horse-classifieds sites.  Despite this, my mind instantly went into damage-control mode:

Oh God...there's a porn site with my name and number on it somewhere.  Wait, I have a porn site and I'm not even getting PAID for it?!  Goddamnit!!  Wait...why is a woman calling me?  Maybe she's looking out for me.

I kid you not, that's where my mind went.  Twelve hours in the heat will do that to you.

I tell her I don't have a website.  She says she's looking at it right now, and it says I have a lot of sold horses.  Oh.  Right.  Damnit.  No porn site for me, I guess.  I tell her those are all really old ads and I don't have any horses for sale.  Just my own three personal horses.

So this lady goes on to ask if I have any Haflingers for sale.  Um...what?  I politely inform her AGAIN that I haven't had any horses for sale in over a year, so I really can't help her.  She tells me she's looking at my site and I have a REALLY cute Haflinger gelding that's marked as sold, and is he really sold?

I look at my friend sitting next to me in the back seat and roll my eyes.  Yes, he's sold, well over a year ago, like I just said.  His owner is sitting right next to me.  Let the party begin...

"Oh...well do you have any more?"
"No, I haven't sold a horse in over a year."


Now, Pat and I have been together long enough that he knows when I repeat myself on the phone, and the subject is about horses, I've got a royal moron on the line and I won't simply hang up on them.  This is due to two factors: 1) I eventually plan to sell horses again, and really don't want a reputation as a heartless bitch (although it's probably too late for that at this point) and 2) Some of the psychos that call me really deserve to be listened to, if only to give me material to write these stories about.  I cannot make this shit up.  These people are certifiably insane.  My inability to hang up on these folks infuriates Pat, and generally results in him yelling "HANG UP THE PHONE!!!" in the background, turning up the radio, or trying to distract me with another conversation.  Fortunately, Pat allowed me to have seven of the best minutes on the phone I've had in a very long time before he managed to do all three at once.

Her: "Oh, well my name is (I didn't bother to remember) and I'm looking for a Haflinger for my thirty year old daughter with MS.  I also have another daughter that's emotionally impaired, but I have five other children who will probably ride.  Well, actually, I have four that are adopted special needs, and three out of those four will probably ride, one definitely won't though.  So six of my seven would.  Do you know where I can get one?  I need a really gentle Haflinger and I heard Haflingers are really gentle."

Are you kidding me right now?  Please tell me you're joking.  Oh God, this conversation is going to hurt.  

Me: "No, I don't have anything.  I haven't sold a horse in a year.  You might want to try (I give her the name of a riding stable that usually has moron-proof trail horses for sale)."

Her: "Oh...okay.  Because I found a really nice one in Bloomfield.  Her name is Molly.  She's thirteen-point-two-hands and twelve years old.  I just don't know if twelve is too old though.  I have seven kids and I don't want their horse to die right away.  Plus the owner is REALLY hard to get ahold of!  Do you know her?  Is twelve a good age?"

Me: "Do I know who?"

Her: "Molly, or her owner...I just can't get ahold of her!  She responds to my emails and send me pictures and videos, but she won't call me or answer my calls.  But Molly is just beautiful with a long flowing mane and she looks so sweet.  And her owner sent me videos of her jumping and she's just adorable."

Me: "No, I don't know them.  Why don't you try (I repeat the name of the riding stable)?"

Her: "Well, then I called a place by me, it's called (Insert name of well-known riding barn in White Lake).  But he told me to call back tomorrow because he might have one then.  Do you know them?"

Me: "Yes."

Her: "Oh, do you know the Haflinger they might get?"

Me: "No, I don't.  Do your daughters ride now?"

Her: "Well my daughter with MS rides on trails, but I even called that therapy place on Ortonville Road, they're supposed to be REALLY good, so I thought I'd see if they had a Haflinger for sale, but they won't sell their horses!  Can you believe that?!  But anyway, my friend told me I should have a vet check done on anything I buy, but I don't know if I really need that.  Do I?  I mean, I've never bought a horse and I don't really know how much I should spend, but I don't know if a vet check is expensive."

Me: "Well that last Haflinger I had a vet check done on sold to a woman in New York and she spent over seven hundred on that vet check."

I look in the rearview mirror.  Pat is glaring at me and reaching for the radio volume knob.  At this point, I have realized that this woman is completely insane, has absolutely no business buying a horse whatsoever, and her "emotionally impaired" daughter is probably perfectly normal, but is very much aware of what a complete whackadoodle her mother is.  I've also realized that not only is this woman taking up my time, she has no intention of giving me so much as a dollar, but wants my advice and is treating me like her trainer.  I am not her trainer, and I do not work for free (unless I want to).  And I don't want to.  Time to end this call...

Her: "Well my budget for everything is $750..."

HA! YEAH RIGHT!  In your dreams, lady.  

Her: "...But I'm really wondering if the lady that has Molly will take less.  I breed Collies, that's my thing.  I used to show too, but with the kids and whatnot....Now I just breed.  And rescue, I have three here as rescues now, and a little terrier mix that we rescued too. We also have three cats, a bird and two goldfish..."


Me: "Well I'm sorry I can't help you.  Like I said, try (insert name if trail riding stable)."

Her: "Okay, I'll give them a call.  What's the name again?  Do you have their phone number?"

HOW many times did I say the name in this conversation thus far?!

Me: "No, I don't.  You'll have to Google them."

Her: "Oh okay, because I really just wish the lady that owns Molly would call me back!  I just don't know why she won't talk to me."

Lady, I've got a really good guess right now.  Pat turns up the radio.  I hear my call waiting beep and I look at my screen.  It's my friend sitting in front of me.  

Me: "Look, I'm on the road right now so I really can't talk."

Her: "Okay. Bye."  Click.


...And to think, I actually missed selling horses.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Miss Manners

I've never been accused of being the most charming individual, and being "politically correct" is about as easy for me as writing my name in fresh snow with my own bodily fluids.  When I have something on my mind, it usually comes out of my mouth before I can channel it through the proper filters, and I almost always end up offending someone.  As Daddy says "Your mouth is in drive and your brain is stuck in neutral".  Now, don't get me wrong, my parents TRIED to make me into a nice, polite, charming, upper middle class citizen.  I went to private Lutheran school for elementary, middle, and junior high school.  I had more than ten years of professional piano lessons and competed regularly.  I owned more than one dress at a time AND a pair of shoes that didn't have horse shit on them.  Hell, even these days, it has gotten to the point that my dad offered to buy me a brand new car if I could graduate from Charm School.  The agreement was that if I flunked out, however, I had to pay the cost of the class.  

I know a losing bet when I see one.  I'm not going to Charm School.  

I also have a rather dark sense of humor, and as most of you know, I find that yanking someone's chain solely to get a rise out of them is a great way to pass the time and keep myself entertained.  Perhaps that makes me an asshole, but I'm okay with that.  I think I'm funny, and so do my other sick, twisted friends.  We like each other.

Since I've become more and more involved in the "official rescue" world, I'm realizing that I miss my own "privatized rescue" corner of the horse world.  You have to be nice to people in "official rescue" land, even if they prove to you how profoundly stupid and worthy of being punched in the face they really are.  They'll say things to you that make you want to wrap your hands around their neck, and you have to smile and swallow how you truly feel in the name of being politically-correct.  Where I'm from, it's totally acceptable to tell them to bend over and fuck themselves.

This has been a very difficult transition for me to try to make.  I am a fish out of water in "official rescue" land.

God bless the team at the rescue I work with now.  Let me be clear, I am not on the Board of Directors, nor am I nearby enough to attend the vast majority of their functions, but I've been told I have a talent when it comes to writing, so I use that when I can to help with fundraising and campaigns.  Unfortunately, my past has followed me and my previous transgressions have reared their ugly heads and forced the team at the rescue to do a fairly decent amount of Damage Control.  These folks should work for the President.  When it comes to damage control, they put his staff to shame.

The problem is one point, many many months ago, I visited another "official rescue" on unofficial business to see a friend of mine who was working there and to check out the setup.  Always one to take a look at other facilities, feed programs (especially rehabilitation feed programs), and business operations, I constantly file away little tips and tricks that might make my own life easier once I have my own facility and can pick up where I left off.  The problem was that, once again, my less-than-sensitive sense of humor flew straight over the head of the owner of that rescue, and while we were discussing the financial woes of her rescue, I pointed out her abnormally-high euthanasia rates (we won't even address THAT issue) and said that perhaps she should consider selling the carcasses of the draft horses to an exotic cat sanctuary.  It would have provided a humane end for the horses (although they would have to be shot instead of injected), a dual-purpose for their remains in that they'd serve to feed endangered cats, she'd save money on cremation and/or burial costs, and would generate some financial income for the rescue to offset the enormous feed bills.

Sometimes I say things just for shock value, everyone goes "Ohmygod Jac, what the hell is wrong with you?!", we all have a laugh, and that's the end of it.  This apparently-offended rescue owner didn't say anything at the time, and my friend, knowing I was completely and wholeheartedly full of shit, laughed right along with me.  It was a joke, and it was over.  For the love of God, that was the end of it.  But apparently that's where I went wrong...

Some people just can't take a joke.  They take every word out of your mouth and twist and turn it into some sort of three-headed horse-eating monster, then spread it to every corner of the world that'll listen to them.  Those people are no fun, and really, they should come with a warning label so people like me can stay far, far away from them.


I would, however, happily feed a lawyer to one!  I know I'm not alone in that thinking.

I bet this guy is a lawyer.  I hear they're delicious.  Nothing like the taste of overpaid, Armani-dressed asshole first thing in the morning, eh Mufasa?

Anyway, the rescue owner that I clearly offended and apparently traumatized in the process waited the better part of eight or nine months to contact the other rescue that I work with to inform them that I am a horse-abusing, big-cat feeding, psychopath and that they really should look into whether or not they want me associated with them.  Because truly-concerned people really wait eight months to share information like that....riiiiiight....

Needless to say, because I am clearly incapable of having one of those "politically correct" conversations that you have to be able to have if you want to be allowed to speak on behalf of the rescue, I wasn't allowed to share my TRUE feelings about this woman in a reply message, but the PR department did just fine, the message said something along these lines: I'm NOT an official representative of that rescue, although they very much DO appreciate me for my writing and fundraising talents, and I DON'T feed horses to exotic cats.  

But, the beauty of this blog is that it's MY blog.  So I can say whatever I want!  You, ma'am, need to go buy yourself a sense of humor...and please pick up a nice Armani suit for yourself while you're at it, they tell me Simba's getting hungry.  He likes plaid.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Horse Porn

I like to think I'm a fairly open-minded person.  I don't vote (mainly because I have an adversity to waiting in long lines and telephone calls from strangers telling me what I should and shouldn't care about), but I DO know the guy that's in office now just isn't getting the job done.  I have friends of just about every ethnicity and religious group, and yes, I mock them for their differences.  I don't care who you love, as long as you're happy, I think everyone should be entitled to marry whomever the hell they choose.  I also don't think it should cost more to adopt a baby than it does to abort one, but if you want to abort, you should be able to.  I think that's a pretty good argument for my open-mindedness, don't you?

The thing that I just absolutely, positively CANNOT deal with, however, once again comes back to Facebook.  Now, prior to starting this blog, I had a nice little cozy group of Facebook friends that I knew personally in the real world.  Facebook was simply a place for me to post ten thousand pictures of my stupid horse, and send those obnoxious little drawings of Victorian-era people with the funny captions to friends.  If I didn't know you, it didn't matter, because you didn't know me and why would you want to be friends with me anyway?  I'm just that asshole broad with the sorrel gelding.  Just one of a million.

Post-blog, things changed.  I started getting friend-requests from people I'd never even heard of with whom I had absolutely no friends in common.  Now apparently, in Facebook-land, there is some sort of unspoken rule that if I have a profile picture of a horse, and YOU have a profile picture of a horse, then we should automatically be friends because, well, horses are cool and, like, stuff....right?  I suppose somewhere along this time, after fighting a hell of a good battle, I surrendered my "No, I'm not confirming you as a friend, I have no idea who in the hell you ARE" rule of thumb and gave in.  Now, I have three times as many Facebook friends (which validates me as a human being), and I know less than a third of them personally.  Whatever.  I'm still cooler than you are because my friend count is higher than yours.  So there.

The problem is this: the majority of these random friends are horse people, and many of them have mares in foal or are self-proclaimed breeders.  And we aaaaaall know how I feel about those types.  Rather than publicly bash them for their ignorance and stupidity in contributing to the unwanted horse population by breeding shit to shit to get baby-shit, I do my best to ignore their blatant disregard for producing quality horseflesh, and try to find the humor in their status updates of the trials and tribulations of waiting for their mares to foal.  Nothing makes me smile during my morning coffee quite like reading about how so-and-so was up ALL night waiting for her cow-hocked, sway-backed, ewe-necked grade mare to pop that baby out!  Haha, suckers, I slept for ten hours straight!

The statuses are amusing to me, but I just can't deal with the pictures.  The sight of that same conformational-clusterfuck mare heavy in foal make me sad deep down in that tiny little space that people call my heart.  But the worst part is that I just can't understand why anyone would think that the Facebook community would want to see thirty-seven pictures of their mare's udder, teats, or her freakin' hoo-hah!  Listen up, people, I KNOW what that stuff looks like, as does the rest of the horsey-inclinded Facebook world.  I do not need a day-by-day progression of how droopy and sloppy it's getting because she's "almost there"!  Do you take pictures of your wife/sister/daughter's crotch and chest days before she's about to give birth?  No, because that would get you murdered.  Just because your mare doesn't kick your skull in doesn't mean your actions are appreciated.

Have you people noticed that REPUTABLE, responsible breeders don't post those same pictures?  They don't ask the world "How close do you think she is judging by her gargantuan, gaping vagina and the wax on these nipples?".  They don't report the color and consistency of the discharge on a daily basis, and they don't end up being questioned by non-horsey friends who are considering turning them in for bestiality.  Responsible breeders show pics of the mare, who is almost ALWAYS aesthetically pleasing, pictures of the stallion, who is a handsome representation of his breed or discipline, and then they put up the disgustingly-cute pictures once that gorgeous baby is brought into this world.  And then they post the price tag and we all keep on dreaming.

Those are the pictures I want to have plastered all over my news feed.  So please, keep your vaginas tucked away where they should be.  The indecent exposure of your mare's privates isn't something anyone wants to be scarred with.  Thank you for understanding.