Thursday, December 19, 2013

One Horse

It's been an interesting couple of weeks to say the least. First, I successfully defended my thesis, and I now have my MPH. I can't tell you how great it feels to not have that hanging over my head!

Kwik had his mid-point checkup last Thursday, and there was some improvement at the trot. He was still crow-hopping and carrying on like a nutter at the canter. It's hard to say how much of that is pain and how much is being out of work for 4 months. Either way, it was clear that if he's sound enough to put back into work in the spring, I will have a helluva training project on my hands. So much so that I was afraid to even think about getting on him.

After a very long and honest talk with my vet, it came down to this: people like me get one horse. Sure, there are some of us working adult ammies that have their own land or have managed to find a boarding situation that allows them to support two ponies, but the majority of us are doing everything we can to have even one horse. Horses, just like dogs and cats, become part of the family, and we love them as such. But unlike dogs and cats, they also have a job to do, and they are too expensive to not earn their keep. When a horse can't do his job any longer, it's time to find him a new job they can do. With Kwik, I felt like I fixed what I could, but it's just not clear he'll be able to do the job I want him to do.

I decided to find Kwik a new home with someone that could give him a job he is physically capable of doing. I put the word out on Saturday, and by Sunday I dropped him off at his new hom. Kwik is now living with my good friend, S. He's going to hang out in the pasture until spring, and then S will gradually put him back to light work and see how it goes. This certainly wasn't a decision I made lightly, and there were lots of tears involved. But it was the right decision for both of us. I was pouring so much money and hope into something that just wasn't going to happen, and I was teetering on the edge of becomming disenchanted with horses. He'll still be a part of my life: I've been invited to visit and ride him, if sound enough, any time I like. I feel relief, and any time you feel relief after making a decision, you've made the right one. I certainly don't regret any of my choices. I've learned some valuable lessons (some the hard way), and I will be infinately more educated when the time comes again to own another horse.

In the meantime, I've decided to look for a lower-level packer to lease. A has already hooked me up with an exciting prospect, and I am scheduled to try him out after the holidays. I'm looking forward to becoming the best rider I can possibly be, and more importantly, rediscovering the joy of ridining. Bring on 2014!

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year!!!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thesis and Thanksgiving

Wow, I've been gone for quite some time, although it only feels like a few weeks! Apologies for going MIA- I know that's one of the seven deadly blogger sins! To be completely honest, I think I needed a little break from blogging. There's only so much you can write about a horse that's livin' in up in the pasture for the next six months (well, 3 now). All is well in the Kwik front. I go out about once or twice a week to spend time with him. I pull him out of the pasture, and we usually go on a hand walk down the trails. He was jumpy and strong for the first couple of walks, but as soon as I learned to just enjoy the walk, he settled in and did the same. Now we amble down the trails together lazily- he plays in the leaves and stops to eat grass and I tell him what a good boy he is. Then we head back to the barn for a good grooming, he gets his brown sugar Pop-Tart (his new favorite!), and I turn him back out. That's about it! Some days he looks a little off behind when I watch him walk away after turning him out, but this might be footsoreness from our trail walks (can't avoid all the gravel!). I get reports all the time from other boarders and the barn staff about him running around in the pasture like a nutter, so I guess he wouldn't be doing that if he didn't feel good!

I've also been super crazy busy trying to complete my master's thesis. I'm defending on Wednesday, and I've been staying late in the office each night to write in the peace and quiet. I'm happy to report that I've just got to  put the finishing touches on the paper and tweak a few slides here and there, and I'm ready to go. I can't tell you how incredibly excited I am to be graduating. It's been a long time coming, and it will be nice not having that hanging in the back of my mind.

Despite looking at the computer for most of the day for the past two months and not having a ride-able horse of my own, I've done quite a bit of riding. Everyone at my barn has been incredibly supportive, and I've received several offers to ride and lesson on boarders' horses. My current favorites are Annie, my barn owner's horse, and Kwik's next-door neighbor, Sherlock. Annie has lived at Ashland the majority of her life and knows the trails like the back of her hand. She is the most trustworthy horse I've ever ridden, and she's been very good for me. On Annie, I get to sit back and enjoy the ride. She doesn't jump anymore, but she is a phenomenal dressage teacher. She's extremely hard to put together, and every step is a brain workout. She's challenging, and it feels fantastic when I get some good work out of her. Sherlock is the complete opposite of Annie. He's big, super fancy, and extremely easy to put together. His stride covers a lot of ground and you always feel like you're going somewhere-even when he's being lazy. I have to focus on asking him to move forward in a steady rhythm. I'm hoping to try him over some crossrails the next time M offers me a ride!

I did lesson on Annie with Ann several weeks ago, and we had a nice long chat about Kwik and his future as a riding horse. More on that conversation to come. Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Dressagin' with Sherlock- Copyright DPH Photos 

Exploring the trails with Annie and Adam

Monday, October 7, 2013

Safari Adventures

About a month ago, I was asked to travel to Lusaka, Zambia to conduct a laboratory assessment and provide training to the national syphilis reference laboratory to support efforts to scale up syphilis screening in the country. I spent the latter half of August and the beginning of September frantically putting together training materials, presentations, and packing lab supplies, and I finally had a moment to breathe when I stepped on the plane for my 10 hour flight to Amsterdam. This would be my second trip to Africa, and I was extremely excited and extremely anxious to do a great job. I'm happy to report that while exhausting, the trip went very well, and the laboratory learned quite a bit from us and vice versa. This will definitely be a wonderful partnership going forward. Unfortunately, due to the government shutdown, I am on furlough (more on furlough adventures later) until Congress passes a spending bill. I hate to lose the momentum from this trip, but what can you do?! Hopefully Congress can get their act together before this whole situation becomes even more of a debacle.

 Anyway, while the trip was extremely busy (like 14+ hour days busy) my colleague and I did manage to do some sightseeing on the day of our departure. We decided to visit Chaminuka Lodge, a private wildlife reserve about an hour outside of Lusaka. It was absolutely incredible! For about $80, you received two game drives, a delicious buffet lunch, and access to the lodge's activities (boating, fishing, horseback riding, hiking) and amenities (pool, amazing collection of African artwork). We made it in time for the morning game drive, and I'm so glad we did! It seemed like all of the animals were out and about enjoying the beautiful Zambian weather (nowhere near as hot as Atlanta). I saw plenty of gazelle and antelope, zebras (including a baby!!), wildabeests, buffalo, elephants, and giraffes (my personal favorite- they are so graceful!). Our guide took us by the lions' 20 acre enclosure, and we were able to spot a lion and lioness lounging in the shade. They were absolutely magnificent! Last but certainly not least, we drove by the Cheetah enclosure, and the guide invited us to reach out and pet them through the fence. I cannot even explain how cool it was to scratch a cheetah behind the ears. They are beautiful, awe-inspiring animals!

Osterich running away from the car

Chaminuka Lodge

The logde has an impressive collection of African artwork. This is just one wall from the gameroom.

Ready for the game drive!





Sleepy buffalo

Sable Antelope




My cheetah friends


After the game drive, I went for a ride in the bush! You heard me- I went for a horseback ride in the bush! It was the most incredible experience! The atmosphere was alive with the sounds of birds and cicadas, and we passed elephants and sable antelope as gazelle leaped in the distance. Edward, the steady little horse I rode, was born and raised at Chaminuka, and he knew his way around the reserve like the back of his hand (hoof). It was the perfect way to explore this amazing reserve. I spent the remainder of the afternoon eating a delicious lunch on the deck overlooking the lake and sipping a Mosi while perusing the lodge's art collection. Chaminuka was certainly an experience I will never forget!

Don't forget! Lauren's contest over at SheMovedToTexas to win a Horze winter jacket ends tomorrow!

I wanted to take sweet Edward home with me!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

No Stiches, No Shoes, No Stall Rest

Long time, no post!

Kwik had his sutures removed at the end of August and that meant NO MORE STALL REST!!! I honestly thought two weeks of stall rest would drive him absolutely bananas, but he handled it pretty well. The first couple of days he seemed on edge during the hand walks, but he figured out the new routine quickly and settled in just fine. I decided to put him on Ulcerguard to protect his tummy throughout his bute regimen, and (knock on wood) he didn't have any problems. He was also due for new shoes and my vet and farrier decided the best thing to do would be to pull his shoes and allow him to go barefoot during his layup. He's doing quite well without shoes, and the extra week of stall rest gave him some time to adjust before turnout. After two weeks of turnout in our small medical paddock, he will go back out in his pasture with Sky tonight. Hopefully any residual foot soreness with deter him from running around like an idiot!

I've definitely been a busy lady in the meantime. Adam and I joined three friends for a backpacking trip on Cumberland Island, GA. It was my very first backpacking trip, and it was amazing! We hiked 4 miles to a back country campsite the first day and spent the afternoon on the most incredible, pristine beach. The next day we hiked 4.5 miles to Plum Orchard Mansion, built by the Carnegie family circa 1900. The mansion was absolutely incredible- it even had an indoor heated swimming pool! After picnicking on the side porch of Plum Orchard we hiked 6.5 miles to the island's Sea Camp. The next morning we hiked up to the Dungeness Ruins to catch a glimpse of the island's main attraction- wild horses!! They weren't phased in the least by our presence, and I was able to get close enough to snap some great pictures!

On the boat in St. Mary's- we're ready for our adventure!

Beautiful salt marshes

Horseshoe crabs

Reindeer moss

Plum Orchard Mansion

Indoor heated swimming pool

Dungeness Ruins

Curious stallion!

Spanish moss everywhere- beautiful!