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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Marti Go Byebye

Yes, it's true. Marti is going home and after you read the following, you will understand why.

Following our small breakthrough, Marti's behavior remained fairly unchanged. He was still not so sure about being caught in the pasture, but eventually was coming if I had food. I decided to give him another shot, and went to lunge him again as I had been doing last week before he went all kinds of bat-poop crazy on me. He had previously been great on the lunge, so I groomed and tacked him, and added a surcingle to the mix to see how he would feel about that. He cringed, as he does when you put something new over his back, but was otherwise fine. Out on the lunge in my enclosed field/arena area, he started off fine, and then offered up a canter, which he hadn't done before - I didn't think he knew how to canter on the lunge. He was pulling like a freight train at one corner of the circle, and cutting in on one side, but that is a green mistake, so we were working with it to make him a little more even all the way around. Marti, however, had other ideas. On the far end of the circle, in full lunging regalia with bitted lunge caveson and all, he just stopped turning and started running in a straight line. Buh-BYE. This is exactly the way he had figured out previously to get away while leading: come forward, spin on his haunches, and bolt in the other direction away from the person. He ran through a stud chain with my full weight on him that way, twice, with absolutely no regard for the flimsy human being on the other end. On the lunge, he just took off in a straight line. There was absolutely nothing I could do except get my shoulder ripped out of the socket before letting him go. He galloped off at high speed, fully outfitted with gear and a lunge line trailing. As I watched him galloping away from me at full speed towards the fence, barely slowing in time to avoid fully crashing into it, I thought to myself, wow... one of us is going to get killed here.

And that's when I decided I had had enough. A horse his size with a blatant disregard for pressure even though he knows exactly what pressure is is not one I want to be working with as a fun side project, because it's NOT fun. Could I eventually fix him? Maybe. Could a more skilled person have more success with him than I could? Likely. Do I want to put myself in harm's way for a potential evetual bop-around ride? Nope. Honestly, I don't. I wish it could have worked out differently, but it didn't. The owner has been very gracious about it and knows his shortcomings. She will be taking him home either tomorrow or within a few days.

It just isn't worth it to me. I gave him a good try, and the negatives of the situation FAR outweigh the small positives. I hate feeling like I 'gave up,' but I don't actually feel very strongly like I did. More like... protecting my assets. Mainly my currently-intact body. And his.

I am not going to pursue finding another lease horse. My landlord is finally fixing up my fence and barn behind my house, so Gogo will be moving soon to the 5 acres directly behind me instead of the 15 so that the larger acreage can be set aside for growing hay. I have an offer to take on the mini from our farm (AKA Devil Pony) as her companion, and this will be great provided that I assure myself that the local pack of coyotes won't eat her. The other major challenge I'll have is that this pony was previously horribly foundered. Wait until you see her feet, you will die of horror. She is currently sound enough to run around attacking the big horse she is turned out with without apparent lameness - and by some miracle she lands properly and is growing in a new healthy hoof capsule - but wow it's scary. She'll have to live in a grazing muzzle, especially during the spring. The other option is a mini donk, which for SURE will keep the coyotes at bay. But I dunno... pretty sure Gogo would kill a coyote if she got the chance.

So that's that, I guess.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Don't laugh at the clip job.... he's not done yet. Note the hairy hind legs.... oh well, we'll get there.

Marti and I had a real and true breakthrough today! He let me catch him fairly easily out in the field twice - once to remove his blanket, and once to take him to the roundpen - and I let him loose in the roundpen to see what we could accomplish. He moved out well, trotting and cantering on command as well as halting on command, and then at some point he finally just turned in and marched right to me after I had given him the command for whoa and he had stopped. He came RIGHT to me and initiated a grooming session... so awesome!! I scratched him all over, and he scratched me right back. When I walked away, he followed, and asked for more scratches. Do you guys know how amazing it feels to have a horse who just a few days ago was bolting away from you and twitching every time you touched him actually ask to be touched? It's wild. He has no idea how big he is, and he was practically trying to crawl in to lap, but I'll take that for now because at least it means he wants to be there. There will be PLENTY of time to get him out of my bubble... all I want right now is for him to be involved with my space. I clearly don't want him to squish me, but I don't really forsee this being too much of a problem once I built a relationship with him. He is seriously submissive.

When I turned him back out into the field, he stayed there and nuzzled me again even after I had taken his halter off. A few days ago, taking off his halter was an invitation for a manic gallop in the other direction. He actually stayed! Or well, until Gogo came over... then it was all over. I took her out of the pasture so she could get a green grass snack (you have no idea how much the grass is growing here, it's wild!), and leaned on the gate while she munched away. Marti came right over to me and nuzzled my back, tried to eat my hair, and in general stayed with me nosing me all over while I let Gogo eat. SO AWESOME.

I'll keep it brief, as I am trying to get into Ft. Worth to see the Future Hubs before it gets seriously late, but I can only hope that tomorrow is as awesome as today was!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marti Makes Progress

I've been making some small progress with Marti over the course of the week. At some point it occurred to me that I'm so used to working with a dominant horse (Gogo) that my body language probably screams I'm-The-Boss even when I am trying to be as passive as possible, and that this is probably what was scaring him to death. Horses read right through cover-ups every time, don't they. He could not possibly be a more opposite personality than Gogo. I've also been learning bits and pieces about his history, like how the workers at the place he's been at were so afraid of him that instead of leading him anywhere they just opened his stall and paddock and chased him to and from turnout every day, and how others have also tried to work with him and he's been equally as timid with all of them. He's really only known his momma and his stable his whole life, so getting completely removed from that is a BIG scary deal for sure.

So I changed my tactics. I am not insisting he come right to me if he wants to eat. I am not insisting he put his head in his halter before he gets his meals. These things were causing him to increasingly keep away from me, as it meant that every time I walked into the pasture I had an ulterior motive. What I am doing is holding his food bowl and waiting for him to come eat out of it while I have it, so that he associates me with something simple and full of comfort without the pressure of HAVING to do something, or using food as a bribe. Once he is there and eating, he gets lots of good rubs and scratches, and he seems to like that. He actually came to me directly tonight for food instead of backing away first. That being said, I had also enlisted the help of another weapon I didn't even realise I was holding: the owner. The owner had originally planning on staying away for awhile to try and get him to detatch a little from her, but she is honestly all he's really known, and she can get him to do pretty much anything. It's just other people that he has a problem with, and honestlty now that I know a little bit more about how other people handle him, can you blame him?

I re-released him into the wild with Gogo the day after I wrote about keeping him in a small pen. He was definitely not happy there, and while I originally thought it would make him easier to catch, it only made him more nervous. I said screw it, he's going back out, and out he went. At that point I let the owner know how bad he had been with the pulling back and getting away, and she offered to come out and see if being there would help him a little. She too had initial trouble catching him, but we soon figured out the real issue at hand... GOGO! She is incredibly possessive of humans in her field, and doesn't let other horses get near them unless she is bribed by food to go away. The owner couldn't get her to stop following her around, and he kept running away from both of them, so she had to put her up in a stall to just get her out of the way. Then she could catch him! Together we gave him a bath, which he desperately needed, and he was for the most part really well behaved, if not a bit jumpy. My hope was that I'd be able to finish his clip once his hair wasn't so thick and greasy, and the owner came back today to see if we could get it done. Of course, by this time I had totally killed every set of blades I had, so we struggled to get his front legs and head done. I gave up after that, and will try to finish his hind legs and belly tomorrow. I also hope to lunge him tomorrow, and maybe try on a surcingle and really loose sidereins to see how he reacts. He's on principle a hair fitter than he was when he first arrived already, simply from being out and running around on 15 acres all the time, but he's clearly still quite unfit so I want to be careful with what I do.

Today was definitely the first time he came TO me when I brought food to him, and didn't step back or run off while I was in the process of approaching and putting food into his bucket. Maybe after a few more 'hey-look-you-weren't-kidnapped!' sessions with his mother around for comfort, he'll start to get increasingly comfortable, and be able to be weaned off of her a little bit more. I don't want to rely on either her or food in order to catch him or be able to work with him, but Rome was not built in a day. The next time I hoof it into town (a 20 minute drive from the middle of nowhere where I live), I plan on picking up a clicker and trying that with him. Roundpenning is still an option, as I do have access to one, but I'll really need to read up more on technique before I give that one a go, or take a clinic on it. In principle I know what to do, but I've not ever roundpenned a horse beyond exercise. I've never had a horse NOT want to be with me before... this is a while new realm of training. Gogo comes running every time she hears or sees me, and she definitely doesn't ever leave my side when I'm out at liberty with her unless I insist on it. She puts her head on my chest and asks me rub her head for endless amounts of time whenever she wants a good snuggle. She follows me everywhere, even when she's just out grazing and I'm just out with her enjoying the sunset. I love that.

I think Marti will probably get to that point where he wants to be with me that much too. He really is a sweet guy, even with his issues.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

In Which the Big White Hairy One Gets Jailed

As a side note, I would like to mention that it was a balmy 80+ degrees yesterday. I wore a tank top and gladiator sandals and a cowboy hat and got a tan. Everyone else up north is excited about letting their ponies go naked for a day when it's 40 degrees out... my ponies haven't worn blankets day or night for over a week. Sadly, the temperatures are supposed to drop and it will only be in the 60's next week. Sounds downright fridgid to me.

Marti has had his Gogo privledges revoked. This was not completely his fault, as Gogo herself had a hand in the matter. I spent my lunchbreak on Thursday sitting out in the field with my horses (safe, I know), and getting nuzzled and snuffled by Gogo while Marti watched with uncertain curiosity in the background. That evening, I moved in to catch him in order to feed him dinner, and it took an unusually long amount of time to get him to come to me. By the time he did, and by the time I got a halter on him (a prerequisite for eating), Gogo had finished her dinner and had wandered over to see what was going on. As she is the boss mare, she turned her butt to him and made to come backwards to kick the snot out of him, and he of course did what any self-respecting wussy horse would do and wheeled and got out of the way. Unfortunately for me, that meant taking off again with halter andd chain still on. I didn't even argue that one, and just let him go. It took an age to recapture him, and involved taking away his food, taking away his Gogo, chasing him around for awhile, leaving him alone for a longer while, and getting out a scoop of grain as tempation. He finally came around, and as soon as I had him I brought him over to the labryrinth and locked him up in the one useable portion of it. This did not amuse him, and he spent some time pacing and crying for Gogo, who didn't help matters by crying back. Eventually, he got over it, and settled in to eating. His butt is staying there until he figures out that I am not an evil devil woman who is going to eat him.

We're making very small bits of progress. In order to eat grain, he is required to come to me and let me halter him. Eventually, I want him to put his nose in his halter, but that will come with time. If he doesn't show interest in coming over, or especially if he leaves, then I move him off away from me and keep him moving until he shows interest in stopping and coming over to me, which he is still not great at. I attempted to bring him out and work on his completely embarassingly horrible clip today, and at least get most of his legs done, and he must have pulled back at least five or six times, truly in terror. He's not afraid of the clippers, he's afraid of being approached. As I tied him with a nylon halter and an unbreakable trailer tie, he eventually just gave up and stood there shaking like a leaf until I could soothe him and reassure him that I am not approaching with a carving knife, just clippers. I didn't get a lot done, and continued on with grooming from there, and he continued to try and pull back several times when I was brushing his mane. I mean really, do I have a neon sign that says "Horse Killer" on my head? I am not trying to eat you, I promise! Again, he was eventually soothed, and stood there quietly while I finished.

But all of this did lead to a very small baby step. When walking back to his pen, he was spooked by some mystery particle of air overhead, and he made to spook and shoot backwards. He hit the chain after one step, and immediately stopped and waited for me instead of panicking and throwing himself around. PROGRESS. I called that a major success, and fed him dinner.

Really, really small baby steps. Lord he needs a bath but I know he is going to try and break his neck to get away from it, so I am just going to be gentle. We'll get there.... it just takes time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Holy White Terror

Oh boy! Well I've finally seen the naughty side of Marti that his owner warned me about. I didn't quite realize the extent of it though... I have some serious work on my hands.

Marti is a very, very big boy. When Marti is scared, Marti runs in the opposite direction with all haste. Marti also pulls back when tied if he wants to leave. I had seen a bit of this when I went to put on his blanket the first day. He shot backwards like a cannon, but I stopped him after a few hops. 'Ah ok,' I thought. 'I see what she means.' I've been able to do some work with him, which I will elaborate on a little bit later, but he was so amazingly hairy, out of shape and nervous that he worked himself into a total lather every single time. After one of these lathering sessions when he WALKED for 30 minutes, I attempted to hose him off, and he pulled back from where he was tied. He was tied with a nylong hater and strong line to a pipe fence, so he was unable to get away, and he stopped as soon as he figured it out. Hmmmmm. 'Ok, I HAVE to clip him,' I thought. Marti had another freakout prior to beginning his clip when a motorcycle came down the road. He lost it and shot backwards at high speed again, but yet again I stopped him. The actual body clip itself was a total disaster. I had no idea that underneath his ridiculously thick coat, an impenetrable layer of filth existed, and my clippers just stuck in his hair and refused to cut. This was a totally stupid error on my part.... I refuse to clip other people's dirty horses, so WHY did I bother clipping mine? It was awful. Worst clip job I've ever done. And it's not even done yet! After two torturous hours, I finally just gave up, and decided I'd bathe him today and then finish the clip tonight. I'm embarassed by how horrible the clip is. That horse has more lines than I-35. (And you guys know I pride myself on my awesome clip jobs.)

He pulled back twice when I was clipping him, both times when I got up near the top of his head. (He has a clipped bridlepath, so I don't think he's scared of it!) Having anticipated a potential problem, and having watched how he pulled back on purpose two days prior, I tied him with a trailer tie and a nylong halter - unbreakable. If he were to get away, I'd never catch him... and if he is pulling back on purpose, that habit needs to stop NOW. He cannot keep doing it. I don't want him to get hurt, but there is a larger risk of him getting hurt if he gets loose, so it's a risk I have to take. He did stop after the second pullback, thankfully. My problems were not over there, however. Once we got back into the field, I brought out supper and moved in to feed the two. Marti has actually been SHARING a feed bowl with Gogo whenever I can't chase him away from her, and TAKING HER BOWL FROM HER, which is mind-blowing to me considering what a nasty piece of work she is to other horses. Because of this, I had him with a halter and chain still, and fed her first. Marti, of course, moved to sneak in and take a bite, and I turned around to back him up. He bolted backwards at high speed, and once agan I stopped him, but then I decided to back him up an additional step. At that, he absolutely lost it, wheeled on one foot, and galloped away, with me hanging on to him, chain and all. He galloped right through a stud chain with my weight dragging on him. I had no choice but to let go.

But I had the upper hand. I had two things to hold over his head: Gogo and food. I fed Gogo, which upset him, and waited to see if he would come to me for his dinner. He did not, so I took it and fed part of it to Gogo, handful by handful. He still refused to come over even though he watched intently the whole time, so I then took Gogo away from him. Finally, he decided that he REALLY would like to be caught, and let me lead him back over to his dinner and remove his halter. I stood for awhile petting and scratching him, but I am sure my body language was electric. I was not amused.

Today was no improvement. At lunchtime, I came home with the intention of bathing him so I could finishing clipping him this evening. His filth just wasn't going to allow for anything else, so I set up all my bathing stuff and opted to bathe him in his field in case he pulled back and got away during his bath. I tied him in his rope halter and lead, as opposed to his nylon halter and lead, and apparently this was a mistake. I watched his mother bathe him and spray him in the face, so I was surprised to see that he totally freaked the moment I picked up the hose and ran it over his legs. He pulled back once and stopped, then twice and stopped. Then he pulled a third time, and really put his weight into it, fully sitting down and staying taut on the rope until something finally has to give - the lead. He sat fully down, awkwardly stood back up, and took off. There was clearly no catching him after this, so I packed up my bathing stuff, took away the snack I brought for him, and took Gogo away also. He was not happy about this, and screamed his head off, but would not come to me, so I left him alone for awhile. I had to go back to work, so I had to turn Gogo back out, but I clearly needed a new tactic. I will not get on a horse who is a struggle to catch. If he doesn't want to be near me, then I can't trust him to be a willing partner just yet. And if he dumps me, I'll never see him again.

So this evening? He still wouldn't come near me, so I brought a chair, a book, and a bag of Chex Mix, and just sat down and read. Gogo, of course, immediately mugged me for Chex Mix, and probably ate about as much as I did of it. This intrigued Marti, whose curiosity and food drive finally overcame him. We all shared some Chex Mix for awhile, and they both finally lost interest after it was gone and wandered away. I brought out dinner, fed them both, and Marti finally let me catch him and take his halter off.

Clearly, we have some MAJOR issues to work on. 1) He has no interest in being with humans. 2) He doesn't like to be caught. 3) He pulls back HARD. 4) He is scared of his own shadow. I think the root of this is his nervousness, and his distrust and dislike of people. He is waiting for boogiemen to jump out and eat him, and right now he sees me in two lights: food bringer, and scary bathing/clipping/riding lady. He needs to trust me, and learn to like me and want to be with me. When he learns to trust me, he will learn that scary situations are ok because I will say that they are.

But clearly we have to go back to square one: groundwork. I was lucky enough to be contacted by a Parelli representative about a month ago when I mentioned wanting to try playing some Parelli games with Gogo, and they sent me the Getting Started video which covers the basic Seven Games and the basics of Horsenality and the zones of the body. I am not one who ever bought into any of the natural horsemanship guys simply because some of them really do look like complete highway robbers waiting to sell their overpriced wares to any bumbling idiot who came along looking for an answer (you can only train in MY lead, halter and stick, only $3999.99 plus tax and shipping and handling!), but I have to admit that there is something to giving them a try. Good training is good training, no matter what school you subscribe to, but this horse flinches every time I touch him anywhere. He needs to be desensitized, stat. And THEN we will think about riding. I am going to Parelli the SNOT out of him, and pair it with the clicker. No more spoiling him with treats.... those days are over.

I am pretty sure I can get him turned around. It's just going to take some time. Trust you me, if there ever is serious risk to either one of us then he will go to someone more capable than myself. I'm not a trainer and I am not getting myself killed over something like this. Honestly though, Gogo dished it out something terrible when he was his age too. He is only five after all.

But he sure is darn cute for a total devil child.... and he and Gogo are totally in love:

Did you ever think you'd see the day when the naughty spotlight wasn't on Gogo? Me neither!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday Success Stories - on Monday!

(Since I wrote about Penny yesterday, we get our Sunday Story on Monday instead! Enjoy!)

(Sunday Success Stories have been revived here at Eventing-A-Gogo! Each week, we feature a reader's own personal journey through overcoming difficulty and adversity, sometimes against all odds, and pulling through no matter what. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around and really bloom again. Send your success stories, past or present, to!)

Story removed due to owner's request. 

(Send your submissions and stories to! Gogo wants you to!)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

When completely freak things happen to good horses. (RIP Penny.)

Sometimes I think horses were put on this planet to completely traumatize humans and break their hearts. They just always seem to find the most amazing things to maim and kill themselves on. Don't even bother reading this story if you're not interested in some serious suffering and gore. I've seen some pretty gruesome things in my life, and I have a an innate ability to hold it together during a crisis, but I have to admit that even my stomach turned during this whole ordeal. It was bad.

The facility I work at is private. We don't take on boarders unless there is a good reason behind it, which is what had happened in the particular situation of my boss' good friend's daughter S, who needed a place to take her horses for a bit while getting herself out of an ex-boyfriend situation. Her two horses have been with us for about a month or so, and were scheduled to leave this weekend. On Thursday, we arrived at the barn at 7:45 as usual, and I asked the other guy R that works with me to go retrieve Penny's feed pan so that we could feed everyone (she was fed a night check grain so her pan was still in her stall). He said all right, and walked away. Not a moment later, I heard a very concerned "Uhhh... you better come here..." issue from her stall. When I walked over to investigate, my jaw dropped. The stall bars on our stalls were designed by my boss to only be three inches apart (to make sure no hoof could ever get in there), and were hand-welded to make sure they were all perfectly placed. Somehow, some way, Penny had either kicked or had gotten herself cast and had put her right hind foot through the bars. There wasn't a single dent anywhere. I have absolutely no idea how she did it, but once in there she couldn't get her foot free, and was laying flat on the floor of her stall with her right hind still up and caught in the bars. She had degloved pretty much her entire pastern area trying to free herself, and was still wedged tight, pieces of raw skin and smears of blood all over the wall and bars. She lay helplessly, her eye rolling as I entered the stall. The marks in the shavings showed much thrashing, mostly from her front legs, but otherwise she was still. I called my boss and immedaitely following called the vet, and we also got hold of the owners and told them to get out to the barn ASAP. The other worker tried in vain to crowbar Penny's leg out of the stall, but we soon realized that the metal was far too strong. While I sat on Penny's neck and shoulder to keep her still, R took a buzzsaw to the bars (which are thankfully hollow), and sawed as close as he could get before taking a sledgehammer and pounding the rest of the bar off. Penny could not physically lower her leg... it was just frozen there in mid-air, rock solid and eerie. It did eventually relax enough to come down, but it was unpleasant to look at for a few minutes. It was also at this time that I started to really pay attention to the amount of swelling around her head and neck, and noticed some fleck of chunky meat-looking subtance on the mats. R noticed it to, and carefully lifted her head up off of the ground. Neither of us were prepared for what we saw next: the mare's entire eyeball hanging out of her skull, mashed into an unrecognizable meatball pulp. Half of her head was grossly swollen, and her face had no definition all the way from her muzzle to her ear. In her desperate attempts to free herself, she had completely destroyed that side of her face. I cannot imagine how long it took for the eye to get to the state that it was in. It was mashed enough that it was clearly not a quick or painless process.

With the vets and owners on their way, there was nothing more to do than to keep her down on the ground and quiet. My boss arrived just as the mare started to thrash, and it took all three of us sitting on her to keep her still and quiet. She struck, kicked and thrashed, but made no efforts to come sternal or to get up. Thankfully both the vet and the owners arrived at about the same time, so we were able to quickly get some meds into the mare to try and relax her and keep her comfortable while we assessed the situation. There was nothing to be done about the eye while she was down - it would clearly have to be removed - and there was no way to safely reach the damaged hind leg, which was twice the size it had been when we pulled it free of the bars. The vet's concern at that point was Penny's shocky state and the fact that her head was continuing to swell. If she didn't stand, there was a risk of her nostrils swelling shut as fluid continued to build in her head, or fluid pooling in her lungs. If she stayed down, she was dead. But we didn't know if we could get her up, or if we should. She still was making no effort to get up, and hadn't moved her head at all from where it was. We tried pulling, pushing, rocking, tugging, manipulating her limbs.... anything to try and coax her up. We had no response from her at all except for a rolling, frightened eye. She smelled like death and none of us wanted to say it outloud.

That was the point that we cut her blankets off of her to get a better look at her back. Eerie swellings had cropped up along her withers and midback, and the vet ran the cap of a needle down her spine and along her shoulders and hips. She had a minimal response in her front end, and none in her hind. The likelihood that her back was broken was extremely high. There was a very, very small possibilty that swelling was causing her paralysis, and that we could have tried to get the swelling down and get her to be able to stand that way, but at that point it appeared that the leg was also broken, which would have made standing impossible. It was at this point that the owners tearfully opted to euthanize, and we continued to hold her thrashing body down right up until the final moment when the vet injected her. It was such an enormous relief to finally see her be still.

Given how much her body was stinking even before she was gone, we opted to not do a full necropsy, but to take radiographs for insurance purposes instead. We laid sheets and blankets over her body, and waited for the vets to return with their machinery. Radiographs confirmed that she had indeed broken her neck at the base, sustained at least four fracutures in her back that we could find (and it was highly likely that there were more), and had also luxated (dislocated) her pastern. A luxation is in some cases worse than a break because of the displacement, which was the case in this situation. The necropsy continued to get more and more disturbing as we had to lift and manipulate her body to get all of the radiographs, and then lift her legs and flip her onto her gross side in order to get pictures for the insurance. Staring at a grotesquely swollen face, with a pale and crushed tongue already hard with rigor mortis and poking out from between teeth, and a meatball shoved in a socket where an eye should be all deeply disturbed me. That is not an image that will leave me. Worse yet was when the guys tied ropes to her hind legs, flipped her up onto her back, and dragged her body out the door with the tractor to lay out on the grass in the sunshine while waiting for the renderer to come pick her up for cremation. The dogs were all VERY interested in her, and I had to cover her face again with a towel for fear that one of them might have a little eyeball snack. Looking at that face made me want to throw up. When the renderer picked her up, blood poured out of her head like a waterfall, once again sending the dogs into a frenzy. She laid out on the grass for hours, and just reeked. Her stall stinks too despite the fact that we stripped it, like words don't even describe. It's lingering, and it will not. Go. Away. I didn't sleep that night....... all I could do was worry about Gogo. And all I could see when I closed my eyes were pale tongues and meatball eyes. At some point I finally just got up, made myself a drink, and laid on the couch for hours. I don't think I've caught up on my sleep since.

So that's that. I've seen more disturbing things, to be sure, and witnessed a worse death (Quincy's), but still. Pretty awful stuff. As a young professional, I've already had my first horse that I saved. It was inevitable that I'd have my first one that I couldn't. Sometimes there is absolutely no way to prepare yourself for these things because you cannot possibly imagine how they could ever do things like this. That mare suffered through excruciating pain for hours, and that is the part that bothers me worst of all.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Marti's Here!

First of all, thanks to everyone to sent their condolances about the horse we lost on Thursday. Not sure that anyone really wants to hear how totally gruesome her death was... but I do sort of want to write about it to get it off my chest, so I might just do it. Thank god Future Hubs spent the night with me last night, or else I might not have been able to sleep at all. The night before I for sure couldn't sleep because of what I saw behind my eyelids whenever I closed them. The barn still reeks of dead horse and her body's been gone for two days. Ugh.

Anyway. On a WAY WAY better note, Marti has arrived safe and sound!

His owner brought him to me on Friday and managed to hold herself together and not cry too hard! She said that this must be what sending your kid off to college feels like. She has had him since he was a weanling, and he is now approaching six, so I agree! We weren't sure what he would think about his new digs, seeing as he has lived at just one barn since he was a baby, but Gogo also lived at the same farm where she was born until she was 5, and she was great when I took her off property. They could not have more different personalities though... he is every bit the timid, lower-ranking gentle giant that she is the overly confident, self-assured bossmare. She has confidence oozing out her ears and you have to make sure she knows her place in the herd - beneath YOU. He desperately looks for a leader and practically begs you to be his.

To our surprise, he walked right off the trailer and hopped right into his stall no problem! Shortly after that, we turned him out in the roundpen, and then let him meet Gogo. She of course gave him the snake eyes, but he immediately backed right down. After a careful introduction, we let them go out together. There was a bit of galloping, which I wasn't too happy about, but it was shortlived and they soon settled in to grazing. They ate their dinner near each other without fuss, and today they spent a large part of their day grazing side by side. Despite how horribly racist Gogo seems to be sometimes, I think she genuinely likes the company, and had been tolerating him REALLY well.

Learning about a new horse is always an interesting and fun process. He is very, very shy around people he doesn't know, but he responds well to me, so I think it will just be a matter of letting him get to know me better before he really trusts me. Besides his lack of confidence and shyness, he does have a few issues to work on - namely being a little hard to catch and skittery about his blanket. His owner says that not long ago he had an incident with his blanket, which involved him taking off with his blanket still half on and tearing it all up. When I went to put his blankie on last night, he bolted backwards and tried to get away. I did have a chain on him, thankfully, so I managed to stop him, but I am sure he would have gotten away from me if he hadn't had one on. He is a BIG boy. As for the catching, it's hit and miss right now. I can get him every time, but it takes a bit of trickery and bribery for the moment. I am sure that once he realizes that I am his friend that he will come to me religiously, but as for now he likes to turn and walk away. If you follow him, he runs every time. But if you pretend to leave, or go take 'his' cookies to Gogo, he comes trotting right back. He just doesn't know or trust me yet, but he will. Regular play and groundwork will make that better.

This first week, I plan on just doing groundwork and some light lunging in order to start the relationship off on the right foot. He has only been ridden once or twice a week for a long time, so he's very out of shape. Today I lunged him in my cavesson - it actually FITS but it is on the last hole of everything - and he was super. I was impressed with his behavior because I brought both him and Gogo over to my house and lunged in my pasture, and he didn't bat an eye. He stood rock solid while I groomed him, and he made me laugh when I put on my Nunn Finer boots that I won with Gogo at Groton House (which also fit!) because he couldn't figure out what the Velcro noise was. I'm not sure that he's ever worn boots before! He was really quite good with the lunging, and stayed right on his circle without pulling. He did stop dead once or twice and looked at me, but he figured out pretty quickly that I'd send him right back out on his way, so he stopped that. He also for the life of him could NOT figure out how to canter. I'm not sure that he knows how to canter on the lunge, so I will have to ask his owner. He clearly knows how to lunge in general though! I don't plan on cantering a big huge youngster like him on the lunge much anyway. He doesn't need it, and it's not good for him. He is not strong enough or balanced enough for that yet. And he is VERY out of shape... our lunge session was for 20 minutes with 6-7 minutes of trot in each direction, and he was very sweaty and puffing at the end of it. I am going to have to hound Stacey and Daun for conditioning tips for the big guys. Metro was a BIG guy but for sure Marti is BIGGER.

I've been nothing but impressed with his demeanor so far. The little issues he has shown me so far are simple and will be easy to correct. His owner made it clear that he can be a little devil sometimes, but that it's all fear based instead of attitude based. I haven't seen that side of him yet, but I am sure I will! I can't wait for it to stay light late into the evening... I want to trailer out and go on some TRAIL RIDES!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Calendar.

It is time I let you all in on one of my super ultra amazing record-keeping secrets: The Calendar. I've been keeping records like this for years, and will likely continue to do so. My horsey life revolves around it!

While I always make sure to have paper records just in case something were to happen to my computer records, I spend quite a lot of time organizing and planning my training via calendar. It's a simple Word document, but I can spruce it up any way I want, and by having it organized page by page I can get a good visual of incremental training.

The first two months of 2010 in a snapshot:

Here is what a piece of May 2009 looked like:

Annnnnnnd here is what January 2011 looked like:

Right. Well, maybe this time next year I will look back and laugh.

I live by the calendar. I know when she is due for anything, when to alter or increase my rehab work, what I did on a particular day last month, when she cut her leg on XYZ, everything. When she was in serious work, I had a training schedule all set up week-by-week, and I always knew what we had worked on and what I was planning to work on. I planned things out ahead of time, mapped out my show season, and worked backwards from there. When she was in rehab, I delicately mapped out every incremental increase in her workload, and had everything perfectly planned for weeks in advance. Obviously, there isn't much of a use for that kind of meticulous planning anymore.

OR IS THERE! With Marti set to arrive this Friday (3 days!!!), I can actually satisfy my crazy record-keeping goal-setting urges once again! He will of course get his own set of records:

I can't wait to get started with him. He's never really been away from the stable he's grown up at, save for a few times, so this may likely totally blow his mind. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the situation. He is really quite a baby and he is a very big boy. Honestly though, all I can think about is how totally hellacious Gogo was at his age. She was a nightmare! I couldn't ride her alone outside of an arena. I couldn't ride her at all outside of an arena! She would put her head between her legs and bolt for the nearest horse. She couldn't steer and she couldn't take a contact. And she had an opinion about EVERYTHING. She broke crossties and halters left and right. She fussed horribly for the farrier. And she tried to kill Nicole once by galloping straight into the horse she was riding while I sawed her face off trying to turn or stop her, neither of which I had any ability to do. I really think there is NO way on earth that Marti could POSSIBLY top some of the crap she dished out!

Tonight, it's absolutely pouring and temperatures are scheduled to drop into the teens with windchills in the negative numbers. Sleet, ice and quite a lot of snow are all forecast for tomorrow, so Gogo is tucked away in the barn out of the weather with a nice pile of hay, two blankets, and a fresh pair of wraps (she hasn't been wrapped in nearly two months but she's been stocking up whenever stalled so I opted to wrap her and see if it helps). I trimmed her yesterday, and the changes in her feet are REALLY interesting. With all the snow and wet we've had, her feet have gone back to looking a big Connectict-weather-like, but before that they were so hard, slick and shiny that they actually looked like polished marble, frogs included! When you tap on her frog with the end of a metal hoofpick, they sound the way knocking on hoofwall sounds - solid and HARD. And as expected, she is exfoliating her sole! I'll have to get pictures, it's totally wild - and the sexy sole underneath is gorgeous. Her cuts are all finally healed or healing, no amount of grooming gets her clean (although god knows I try), and she is also putting on LOTS of weight from being on pasture all the time. I see a grazing muzzle in someone's future...


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunday Success Stories

(Sunday Success Stories have been revived here at Eventing-A-Gogo! Each week, we feature a reader's own personal journey through overcoming difficulty and adversity, sometimes against all odds, and pulling through no matter what. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around and really bloom again. Send your success stories, past or present, to!)

This week's Sunday Success Story comes from Kate, who wrote in to tell us of her horse Zeus. When Kate and her sister aquired the only offspring of her sister's mare, Shantori, they were faced with the prospect of unraveling the damage an uneducated owner had done to the gelding. Lots of hard work, training and love helped turn Zeus right around!

No Such Thing as a "Free" Horse

Zeus was given to us by his previous owner because he had become more than she could handle. Actually he came to my sister because her horse was also Zeus’ dam. Zeus’ owner boarded at the same barn where my sister kept her Arabian Mare, Shantori. My sister and Shantori were an unstoppable pair, this did not go unnoticed. This border noticed and wanted a baby by Shantori. My sister went along with this idea, curious to what her beloved Shantori would have.
Zeus was born in May of 1999, he was nothing but legs. The owner was so happy to see Zeus was a paint. My sister warned the owner that the spots would fade in time, as Shantori was a gray mare. However, my sister wormed this owner of all the trappings of bringing up baby. All warning went unheeded and the proud new owner of Zeus went on her way. Eventually my sister got her own property and no longer needed to board Shantori. Over the years she would hear occasionally how Zeus was doing: as a three yr old he was sent off for training, the owner was riding him occasionally, the owner got bucked off and would like to sell Zeus back to my sister, thanks but no thanks. Owner got bucked off and cracked some ribs, Zeus is now just a pet. Then, please come get Zeus, he is yours for the taking. After some debate, you know the usual, what are we going to do with a free horse? There is no such thing as a free horse, we will have to feed him, ferrier him, vet, and above all could we try to ride him? I said yes, yes , and yes, lets go get him! After all he was the only foal Shantori ever had and would ever have.
We got Zeus home and could not do much with him at first, I had just had my second child and my sister was expecting hers. So, Zeus would have to remain a pet for a little longer.
After the baby was born, my sister tried to work with Zeus, you know the usual, lunge, dead man, walk , trot then canter, it seemed to go well, that is until it didn’t. Zeus was not wanting to canter one evening, so he bucked my sister off, and also managed to kick her in the head. Sister was wearing a helmet and she was physically fine, but shook up. Zeus became a pet again.
I the spring of 2008, I began to work with Zeus. Just lunging at first and worked my way up to riding him, just walk with the occasional trot thrown in. Then it happened, June 22 2008, Zeus bucked me off. There was no apparent reason. My mom was in the indoor riding arena watching me ride. There was nothing that her or I could see that sent Zeus into the bucking horse he became. We were baffled. I was not physically hurt, but it shook me.
After some more debate, on what to do with Zeus, my sister and I settled on sending him for training. We would split the cost and if it looked like the bucking was not going to stop, Zeus would go up for sale.
Now all we had to do was find a trainer will to work with a “bucker”. Most trainers said no, but all pointed in one direction. This particular trainer was known for her Natural Horsemanship techniques and for taking “problem” horses. This combination had earned her a reputation as “crazy”, I took that as a good thing. We told her our problem, and the goal. I wanted a horse I could ride without getting bucked off, for starters. Then I would like to show him, and trail ride him. My new crazy trainer took on this challenge. She started with ground work, which as I learned was much more then lunging. Zeus had little respect for his human counterpart, being kept as a pet for so long only reinforced that idea for him. As far as Zeus was concerned, humans were for bringing him treats, and that was it. The trainer worked with him on respecting human boundaries and the riding slowly began. I also learned some new Natural Horsemanship techniques that I could apply when I took Zeus home. I learned to control his feet, and Zeus learned to let me.
I continue to ride Zeus to this day, I have taken him on overnight camping trips, shows, and clinics. I now take Dressage lessons on him twice a month and plan on showing him this coming summer. I am grateful for my “free” horse, I have learned more about riding horses, and horsemanship from Zeus and my new “crazy” trainer than all my years of riding safe horses.

By Kate Damp

(Send your submissions and stories to! Gogo wants you to!)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Here Yesterday, Gone Today

Wow... sometimes you hear news that just blows your mind.

Remember where we did all our rehab work last winter before the weather improved and we were able to continue on outside? This indoor:

(Also a fun video. She's my special girl.)

It collapsed last night under the latest insane amount of snowfall Connecticut has dealt with in the past month. Totally demolished. Gone. I also heard reports of several other arenas in the area also caving in, and I know of at least two barns that collapsed, one of which killed two trotter mares. Wow. They got everybody out of my old place ahead of time as they were worried about the attached barn, and it's a lucky thing they did. I can't believe it.

Go hug your barns and arenas!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Even Texas has Deathsnow

For the week and a half that Gogo has been on 24/7 turnout, she hasn't even set foot in the barn. Neither her nor the other horse on the property ever come inside. This all changed last night when the predictions of a massive Texas winter deathstorm actually came true for once. My Future Hubs and I were out last night actually doing that ridiculous southern thing where you stock up on food for a few days in case you do actually get stuck in your house when bad weather arrives, and I got a call from my landlord. "The weather is supposed to be really bad tonight, so I am gonna bring Bobo in to the barn. I'll set up a stall for you too if you want it." (Yes, he actually is Bobo... I thought he was Bubba but I was wrong.) I told him sure, and that I'd come check on how she was doing after we got back from our errands and decide then if she needed to come in or not. She was double blanketed and fed, so I wasn't worried about her being warm. I figured she'd hunker down in her shed if it started to rain.

And boy did it ever start to rain. It rained.... and rained.... and POURED... and THUNDERED.... and SLEETED.... and it just kept getting worse. In the 30 or so minutes that it took to get home, we passed by two huge accidents on the highway, and barely made it back ourselves. I kept thinking over and over, "is Gogo REALLY smart enough to stand in her shed and wait this out if Bobo isn't in there with her?" NOPE, she was by the gate, completely SOAKING wet, standing in the sideways sleet just hoping that maybe somebody would pass by and bring her inside. Thankfully we were there! I tried to toss some hay into her shed, but changed my mind and just went ahead and brought her in. Half of the barn has typical indoor stalls, and the other half has open air stalls of all varying sizes. Gogo is in the biggest stall, and Bobo is next to her. She was completely thrilled to be back in a stall, and went right to munching her hay as if to say, "Mom WHY have you forgotten to bring me inside for nearly TWO WEEKS?"

This morning, winds are gusting at nearly 60mph nonstop. We have blowing and drifting snow and LOADS of ice. I'm actually trapped in my own driveway... I can't get out!! I somehow fought my way to the barn on foot, fed and picked Gogo's stall, and said screw this, she's not going out and I am going back to bed!!

Her open air stall has lots of blown-in snow in it, but she doesn't seem to mind. She's out of the wind and cosy warm, so she's happy!

Yikes. But she is happy and toasty warm under her blankets, and I am happy and warm on my couch. I will try to make it to work later but seeing as I am honest to god stuck in my driveway, I can't imagine I'll be able to for awhile!