Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Saturday, December 31, 2011

A resolution I can keep

I barely remember 2011 and in two hours it will be 2012.

How many rides did I take?

How many rides did I not take "because"?

Which is the bigger number? Sadly, probably the second.

I tend to ride if my riding buddy rides. I tend to not ride if she doesn't. Since she works fires for the Forest Service and they send her all over the west, she was gone A LOT this summer. So I rode less.

I need to find a backup riding buddy.

I am planning to start dressage lessons soon, something on my "bucket list" that I need to do before I get too old to even think about posting. I may not do them for long, but I want to try it long enough to decide if this is something I want to participate in, or just enjoy watching.

I hope to make another trip to France this year, in the fall, to ride the Dordogne area and see cave paintings. I might work in a day or two in Paris to see the Louvre and other famous Parisian sights.

I hope to get more work, to publish my third book, to start advertising the first two.

I need to get another tenant for one of my rental houses, and maybe obtain a third rental house if I can get financing.

I have projects around the house to do that I never seem to have time for. Well ... let me amend that, I have plenty of TIME, what I lack is energy and motivation.

But mostly I hope to ride more. Dash's recent illness (which we now suspect may be a urinary tract infection) has reminded me how fragile these horses are, and reminded me that I need to ride whenever I can because I don't know how much time I have left with her.

So there is my resolution for 2012. Not weight loss, not financial security, not fixing up the house -- RIDING.

Because nothing else really matters that much to me. Nothing else gives me the joy, the freedom, the peace of mind that riding brings.

I live to ride. So ride I shall.

Happy New Year from the Ranch.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Poop, wonderful poop!

Horse people are a different breed. Probably nobody else in the world can get quite as excited about a pile of manure as horse owners -- especially a horse owner with a sick horse.

There remain a lot of mysteries about Dash's ailment -- what caused the fever (blood tests were all normal), why will she eat anything except the teff hay, was she impacted or just empty -- but last night things started to "come out" all right.

Anyway, I'm still cutting her meals into smaller chunks for another day but it appears whatever was ailing her no longer is.

Since the vet gave her a bucket of mineral oil Tuesday morning about 10, she has pooped six times. Three of them were since 5 p.m. last night.

My theory? Friday night she decided, for reasons I can't fathom, to stop eating the only hay she was being offered, which is this lovely teff grass that I planned to feed all three horses this winter. It's a wonderful hay, highly nutritious, palatable, fresh, clean, weed and mold-free. But I think Dash took exception to it for reasons of her own.

I had noticed Saturday that there was uneaten hay in her bin but didn't think all that much about it because I give them a LOT of hay these cold nights. But Dawn and Dash have access to each other's feed and they go back and forth all the time so I did have a moment to wonder why Dawn hadn't eaten the leftovers. But I didn't think all that much about it.

I think Friday night she ate the 2# of Strategy pellets and left all or most of the hay. I think Dawn ate Dash's hay Friday night. Saturday morning they only got hay. I think Dash didn't eat it and Dawn ate what she wanted and got full (since she already had a double meal the night before) and left some.

I think Saturday night Dash probably only ate the pellets and Dawn probably helped with the hay again.

Sunday was Christmas. I didn't pay much attention to what might have been left in the bins when I fed. I was gone all day. My neighbor fed at night and didn't have reason to look to see if hay was still left in the bins. I think Dash ate the pellets Sunday night but probably not the hay.

Monday I didn't feed; I swept the loose hay out of the garage into a huge pile and let them eat that. Some of that hay was alfalfa and bermuda, so Dash may have eaten some of that, but most of the sweepings were teff.

Monday afternoon Dash had the fever. She pooped around 3 and again at 4:30 and that was when I realized she was sick and refusing to eat. Gave her a fever reducer and expected her appetite to return when the fever broke (less than an hour later).

But Monday night she ate only the strategy pellets but didn't touch the hay and I finally noticed that fact. She pooped once overnight.

Tuesday morning she still hadn't touched the hay, but I gave her 2# of senior feed and she ate that.

Vet gave her oil about 10 a.m. in case she was impacted although she really didn't have any symptoms of it.

She was offered alfalfa and ate that. That was when we realized she was only "off" her feed if her feed was Teff hay.

She pooped once that afternoon. Sunday's pellets?

She pooped once during the night. Monday's pellets?

She pooped once Wednesday afternoon. Tuesday morning's senior feed?

Finally sometime after 5 p.m. she pooped twice, and then once again during the night. The small meals she was fed at intervals on Tuesday after the oil was given? There was oil in this poop.

Anyway, if I am correct that she started refusing hay Friday or Saturday, the lack of pooping may have been due to a lack of anything to poop.

But . . . we'll never really know.

I'm just glad to see that wonderful poop out there and know that she is NOT plugged and everything that has gone in, has come out.

And if you are not a horse person . . . you don't "get this" . . . but the horse people do, and are rejoicing with me over those piles in the corral.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Still puzzled

Had the vet out for Dash this morning. All her vitals are back to normal, she's got gut sounds, but she didn't pass any manure since about 9 last night. She could just be empty, if she actually had gone off her feed the day before yesterday, or she could be developing a mild impaction.

The vet gave her some mineral oil by stomach tube and another dose of Banamine. But we're both puzzled by the fever, so he took blood for some tests. In the meantime, I took away her uneaten hay, except for a very small amount and I'll watch her today to see what goes in and what comes out.

Will update as things develop.

And that's the latest from the sickroom at the Ranch.

Update, 9:30 at night:

She's refusing to eat her normal hay (teff) but hungry and willing to eat some alfalfa or her strategy pellets. But she's only pooped once since about this time last night, and she normally goes about 8 times in 24 hours.

She's feeling better but until stuff starts coming out the other end, I'm restricting how much goes in the front.

Should have blood results in the morning.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ignoring the clues......

Well, Dash is on the sick list.....

Went out about 3 to get her for a ride. She was lying down, which did not concern me, but I thought it odd that she was lying in the shade, not the sun (clue #1 overlooked).

Ran the other two horses in, she didn't follow them but stopped in the front yard. (Clue #2 overlooked -- why didn't she follow the other horses?)

Haltered her and took her to the tack room to saddle her. She stood quietly on a loose tie while I groomed her. (Clue #3 -- why wasn't she fretting about being led away from the others?)

I cleaned out all four feet. She stood quietly without attempting to take a foot away. (Clue #4 -- she usually objects to her right hind foot being lifted)

Thinking she would be fresh and energetic, I took her in the round pen and worked her both directions. She performed calmly, flawlessly, obeyed my every command. (huh?)

Got on her and went over to Tessa's. She sniffed noses with both her horses without any pinned ears or squealing.

Went on ride. She did everything I asked her to, didn't seem to care about anything. Rode at a walk for about an hour, easy ride, only a very little incidental climbing, mostly we were down in the wash.

On the way back, I commented to Tessa that she was being so good I wondered if I should be worrying THAT SHE MIGHT BE SICK.

I had noticed when saddling her that the hair on each side of her tail was rubbed off. After feeding her after the ride (she showed no enthusiasm for her food, but that's not unusual since they're rarely without food long enough to get particularly ravenous) I sprayed ointment on her butt and noticed what looked like a worm "there" so I went to get some wormer.

When I came back out, she had left her food and was standing in the corner of her corral. I haltered her and gave her the wormer (oral syringe of a gel) and she only tried to take her head away from me ONCE. Major clue at that point. Alarm bells starting to go off.

After getting the wormer she stood in the back of the corral with her head down.

Got the thermometer -- 102.2 (about a degree or more high). Checked pulse -- 42 (high). Checked respiration -- 40 -- very high.

Called vet.

He thinks she may have a respiratory infection going on. I found the Banamine (pain and fever reducer) and gave her a dose of that. She tried to evade that dose (I didn't halter her) so she had some spunk left but in the end I hand-twitched her and got it into her without having to resort to the halter. Can't normally do that; usually have to halter and fight to get any meds into her.

So . . . she's definitely one unhappy horse right now.

I'll go check temp again in an hour and may take her in tomorrow to have Drew check her too.

Never a dull moment at Rancho Mucho Caca.

And that's (unfortunately) the latest from the Ranch.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My non-annual non-Christmas non-letter

Dear Friends and Family and Fans,

Life in the country can be rough sometimes and it seems in recent years most of my emailed "Latest from the Ranch" letters announced the demise of one or another of my cherished critters. But, assuming I'm not jinxing myself by declaring it seven days prematurely, Rancho Mucho Caca has made an entire year without a death. Thank you, Lord!

It also went an entire year without new kittens in the garage for me to raise. Thank you, the Friends of the Ferals free Trap, Neuter, Release program that paid to spay and neuter about 15 of the resident ferals that visit my garage.

The only animals to leave RMC this year went to new homes. After leasing him out for over three years, the mustang Nevada came home in May and was permanently re-homed three days later to a wonderful new home on three acres with a knowledgeable and loving owner. A few months later she entered him in his first ACTHA (American Competitive Trail Horse Association) competition and he won the Pleasure class and the Best Groomed award. So they are happy as can be with him, and I am as happy as I can be with them, and I think the horse is pretty content with his life too. I signed him over to them in July so my official horse count has finally dropped to three for the first time since Dawn was born six years ago.

Also leaving the ranch were five of my remaining seven chickens. I gave them to my neighbor and riding buddy because I was getting over three dozen eggs a week and I eat about three eggs a month. The only condition was that I was to get a couple dozen eggs for my Christmas baking every year. So those five hens are happily supplying Tessa and Dan with eggs and my two remaining hens, Marilyn and Britney, lay an egg or two every week or so which supplies me with an occasional egg to go with an occasional pancake.

Finally leaving the ranch two days ago were Taz and Hissy, the cats I've tried to give to every friend, relative, client, and visiting stranger, and a few online acquaintances on the other side of the country for the past year. These were formely feral kittens that I raised and then due to them becoming ill was not able to adopt them out through the Humane Society. They recovered quickly but I just haven't been able to rehome them and there were conflicts with my other four cats, primarily with Princess Alfie, who was displaced as the baby and was no longer the sole female.

The nightly cat fights between Alfie and Hissy came to an end when I called in to Trades n Sales, a small town radio show where people can call in with stuff for free, for sale, for trade, or stuff they are trying to find. I had barely hung up the phone when "Billy" called and expressed interest. I took the cats over to Billy and his wife, Crystal, spent some time with them, then left the cats. I'm hoping all will work out because I told them I'd take them back if it didn't, and I'm REALLY enjoying sleeping through the night without being awakened by a snarling catfight under the bed.

Peace at last.

Returning to the Ranch was Dottie, who has been in Oregon for a year on a lease that didn't work out after she developed crippling arthritis. After a cold wet winter last year, I decided it would be better to have her winter in Arizona where it is warmer and drier so I flew to Oregon in October and my friend Jackie and I did a three-day road trip with horse and Jackie's dog Sydney to bring Dottie home to her daughters.

We've tried an HA injection that seems to have eased a lot of her arthritis symptoms and she's enjoying her semi-retirement with her daughters, Dash and Dawn. I wrote about Dottie a few posts ago when the kids were up here.

While I loved having her in Oregon up to her knees in grass all summer, I'm glad to have her back for the winter. I wish I could let her go back to Oregon in the summer again but the travel is hard on her and the gas bill is hard on my budget so I think she's home to stay.

The ranch is now populated by three horses, Dottie, Dash, and Dawn; the sheep named John Deere (my weedeater); two dogs, Daisy and Lacey; two chickens, Marilyn and Britney; four indoor cats, Bugsy, Bernstein, Alfie, and Max; five resident feral cats who live in my garage, Jessica, Licorice, Moose, Pops, and Bashful; and probably a half-dozen transient feral cats who come by for a meal but don't regularly stay in the garage, including Sheba and Stripes whom I often see coming and going, and who knows how many others who slip in during the night to eat and are gone by morning. (I go through a LOT of cat food out there!)

I have embraced the label of "crazy cat lady" and wear the term like a badge of honor.

Oh . . . I live here too.

I'm still doing accounting and tax work for over 100 clients, and have had a few book sales this year. My book is now available for e-readers and there have been some sales! I feel like a real writer now that some total strangers have bought a copy, many in Australia and the UK and even one to someone in China. Wow! Ha ha, I'm an internationally published author now. Go figure.

The other noteworthy thing I've done this year is that I have joined the newly-formed (a year ago) Gila County Sheriff's Mounted Posse and a few months ago spent three days on my first search, two days on Dawn, and one grueling day on Dash (see "Riding with the Boys" in the October section of my blog).

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas or Happy Hannukah and a healthful and prosperous new year.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Monday, December 19, 2011

From solstice to solstice . . . the cycles of the seasons

The winter solstice is upon us. In a couple of days, we will pass the point where days are getting shorter, and change to where days are getting longer.

I remember when I moved here seven years ago. I brought sixteen chickens with me, 15 of them laying hens, most of whom weren't actively laying at the time of the move, but a few were. Two eggs were laid en route. One egg was laid the day after I got here. Then nothing. I moved here December 9.

I had to do my baking. I had to buy eggs from the -- gulp! -- store. I baked some of the cookies, and then the day of the solstice arrived -- and one of the hens started laying eggs again. I finished my baking with fresh-laid eggs and fed the rest of the store-boughts to the dogs.

The animals know.

I don't know how they know, but they know.

Two summers later, Dutch had a mild colic near the end of June. When I called the vet about it, I was told that several horses had colicked that morning. "It seems to happen on the solstice," the receptionist told me.

No idea why.

I look forward to the solstices, both summer and winter, because by the time they arrive, I am ready for the change in seasons they herald. In summer, the days have been getting longer, and hotter, and the evening rides have been delayed longer and longer, waiting for it to start cooling off. We're ready for the reduction in heat that the shortening days will bring. And the monsoon rains usually start a week or two after the solstice, bringing further relief from the increasing heat.

In winter, the enjoyment of cooler weather and the delight in the snows have been replaced with a chill in the bones that won't go away. Rain and snow have brought mud and chill. Horses are filthy. It's hard to clean corrals, and evening rides have been moved to mid-afternoon, if at all, because the sun is down by 5 and it's pitch black by about 5:30. By the time of the winter solstice, we can hardly wait for the days to start lengthening and warming into spring.

So now, we are about to achieve maximum gloom of night and start turning around. It will be three more months before true warming will occur at this elevation, but the increase in daylight will lift the winter gloom and bring promise of long rides under sunny skies, just around the corner.

Right now, I look out my window at solid gray skies from rain that has threatened all day, but not arrived. It's cold out. Yesterday's rain has left the corrals a muddy, mucky mess. Dawn, the creamy white double-dilute, is a dirty tan from rolling in the mud. Even Dash is muddy. The only one who looks clean (although she's as muddy as the others) is Dottie, the dirt-colored buckskin. Even if I wanted to ride, it would take too long to groom one to leave any time for riding.

So they will stand idle another day.

Our high today was a chilly 47; it will stay within 2 degrees of that for the rest of the week, finally warming to 51 for Christmas day, when I will be in the valley enjoying probably 70 degrees under sunny skies.

But each day, we will gain a few more minutes of sunlight, a degree or so of warmth, and before we know it, the spring equinox will be upon us and life will renew again. The trees will bud and bloom, the bees will arrive to work the orchard, blades of grass will appear on the denuded ground and we will be able to ride in the evenings without having to put on parkas and wool caps.

And then it will get hot, and we will look forward to the summer solstice, and the slow march toward winter.

It's interesting to live in a place that actually has four seasons. For much of my life I lived in Phoenix, where there were nine months of summer, two months of winter, and a couple weeks each for spring and fall. I remember standing at the mailboxes talking to a neighbor in Phoenix in the middle of January one year, in shorts and bare feet, discussing a blizzard back east that was claiming lives. It was 75 degrees where I was standing.

Do I miss it? No. Winters in Phoenix were like summer up here, but summers in Phoenix were like . . . hell.

For now, I will put on my jacket and rubber boots and go out into the cold and gloom and mud and feed my filthy horses, and look askance at the muddy, uncleaned corrals and hope it will warm enough tomorrow to enable the ground to dry enough for me to go clean the manure out of the hoofprints, and maybe the sun will come out long enough for me to justify taking a curry comb to Dash and getting on her back for a short ride. And know that the next ride will get to be a few minutes longer because the day will be a few minutes longer. And the solstice will be behind me and I will look forward to the lengthening rides that come with lengthening days.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Not riding? No excuses.

Not riding is hard for me. Something about the sight of my horses' backs makes me just want to get on and go.

When I was a child, my horse-buddy, Regis, and I swore that if we had a horse we would ride every day. We couldn't understand how the owners of all the horses in "horse alley" could let them stand idle day after day. How could they NOT ride that beautiful steed waiting for them in their yard? Why would they even HAVE a horse if they weren't going to ride it?

Well . . . it didn't take long for me, as an adult, to understand it.

In a way, the "not riding" makes the "riding" more special. The riding is the escape from all those things that make "not riding" the norm for most adults, most of the time. Teenagers can ride every day, and when I had Chang when I was 16 -- I rode every day. Or nearly every day. Certainly the riding days far outnumbered the "not riding" days.

But as an adult . . . especially now as a single adult . . . it's the other way around, especially in winter. There are just so many other demands on my time. Work, of course, is a big one. When there is client work to do, meetings to go to, payroll taxes to file or pay, even when it's time for me to get my own billings out so I can get PAID for the work I did -- it gets in the way of riding.

Laundry, and cleaning litter boxes, and bringing in firewood get in the way. And, as always, there are corrals to clean and water bins to fill or clean, and frequently fence repairs -- due to the unridden horses becoming bored and mischievous. It's a vicious circle.

Cold weather gets in the way, especially if raining or snowing. I'll ride in the snow, but not in a snowstorm. Wind will keep me off a horse (or get me off, one way or another, if I was silly enough to try to ride anyway).

Gloom of night will keep me off a horse, and since this is the time of the year when there is more night than day, that is a factor.

But the thing that keeps me off a horse most of the time is just -- exhaustion. I just don't have the energy I had 40 years ago. So often, even if I have the time, I don't have the energy, because of all those "things" I had to do. And if the horse is muddy that adds to it, because it will take energy just to get a horse clean enough to saddle.

However, there is a remedy for all of those "reasons for not riding" -- and that's a phone call or text from my riding buddy across the street -- my 29 year old neighbor -- saying "wanna ride"?

Because while I can make excuses to myself about, "I'm too tired, the horse is too dirty, I have to do laundry, I have to do this, I have to do that," I can't make those excuses to HER. Because they are not reasons not to ride.

If you truly love horses, and are lucky enough to have them, the riding should come FIRST. The laundry and litter boxes and firewood and billings will all still be there after the ride.

I know a young man who is in a wheelchair, and I was driving to the valley with him one day (he was driving me to pick up a car) and I moaned about "not having time to ride much" and this young man who will never ride a horse, but who drives and rides a quad out into the forest by himself, and who doesn't know if he will live to see 30 or not said to me, "You have to make the time for the things that matter to you most, because you never know when your time will be up."

I think of Matt often when I'm out in the yard, looking at my horses' backs, yearning to ride but having "all those things to do" -- and I halter Dash, lead her to the corral fence and climb on. I might only ride for five minutes, but I take the time for the thing that matters to me most, because I don't know when my time will be up.

Ride. Because you must. Because you should. Because you will never regret riding, but you will regret it if the last thing you did in your life before God called you home was -- laundry.

Thanks, Matt, for sharing the wisdom of one who truly knows the precious value of time with one who had grown to take it for granted.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Justice for a murdered horse

I've been silent for a few days because my thoughts have been so consumed with the senseless murder of the rodeo horse Credit Card and the abduction and torture of four of his stablemates. Jaci Jackson, upset because these other rodeo horses were better than hers, arranged their theft, watched as her accomplice shot and mutilated Credit Card, and left the other four horses tied to trees to die without food or water.

Luckily the other horses were found, alive but in poor condition, nearly two weeks after they were stolen in the night along with a horse trailer and tack.

It's hard to even put into words my thoughts about this, which is why I've been silent. The theft of any pet is only a tiny step below the kidnapping of a child. So many people treat their pets like family, think of them as their children, refer to themselves as the pet's "mama" or "daddy," ... and grieve as long and hard when they die.

I can understand someone through need or greed stealing an animal for monetary gain. But to steal an animal for no other reason than to deprive its owner of the animal, and to ensure that the owner will have only pain and anguish left, blocking out all the happy memories, because they are overwhelmed by the reason and method of the animal's death is a cruelty beyond imagination.

I'm reminded of a story someone felt the need to post on Facebook about a man who decapitated his handicapped stepson -- okay, I can understand the motivation of a frustrated parent ending the burden of care -- and then left the head for the boy's mother to find. And there is NO understanding THAT. Bad enough to kill; but to inflict that horror on the mother who loved the boy -- WHY???

And this is the same thing. If you're twisted enough to want the horses dead, fine, shoot them. Let them be dead. But to torture them by tying four of them in the woods to suffer without food or water for over a week? What is the point of that, other than to let their owners know that their horses suffered horribly? Shooting Credit Card was bad enough. But to mutilate and cut up his body? That wasn't directed at the horse, it was directed at his owner, to maximize the owner's pain.

I just can't wrap my brain around such unspeakable evil.

I'm torn between wanting that soulless bitch locked up for life and wanting her released so that TRUE justice can be done. For it's nearly certain that the court will not give justice for that murdered horse and his suffering owners. Likely she'll get some token sentence, probation, an order to never own another horse (what good will that do? It wasn't HER horse she abused), and probably monetary restitution for the market value of the horse, which will probably be paid by her accomplice mother.

That is no justice for her cruelty.

I have written to the judge in the case and asked him to give the maximum sentence. Thousands of others are likely filling his inbox as I write this, likely the letters will be ignored. But maybe some will be read.

She's already posted bail. Her $100,000 bail was approximately equal to the collective market value of the horses and trailer she stole. No acknowledgement that this wasn't an inanimate object, this was a living, breathing, beloved animal she murdered. Her bail should have been a million dollars. $100,000 is an insult to Credit Card and his owner.

I can only pray that judge will look beyond the notion that this was "just a horse" and realize it was not "just a horse" but the death of a young man's friend, companion, partner -- and his dreams. His love of horses will be forever tarnished by the memory of the one a jealous, insecure, demented lunatic butchered with no more thought than swatting a fly.

She can pay him for the horse. But how can she ever make restitution for the permanent damage done to the joy in his life that was once provided by a horse named Credit Card?

Stealing a horse used to be a hanging offense. Maybe it should be again.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Note: they are asking that people NOT contact the judge in the case but to direct comments to the prosecutors:

David Bulter is the prosecuting attorney in Arkansas! Make sure to drop him a line to!
P.O. Box 727
Magnolia, AR 71753


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Loving the snow

I love snow. I love the silence of the snowfall as it gently coats the landscape with white frosting. I love when a breeze shakes the freshly-fallen snow from the tree branches, making mini snow storms with every gust. I love the first foot prints in new snow. I love the way it clings to the wire of a chainlink fence, sometimes completely filling the little square openings.

I love to watch the dogs play in it, running through the drifts, throwing snow up with their feet, sometimes pushing a muzzle into it and shaking, throwing snow from side to side, or digging to find a suddenly buried chew bone.

I love a foal's first snow, and their wonder as they run through it, and paw holes in it, and, yes, shove their muzzles into it and shake their heads too.

I love to watch a feral cat dash through the snow, trying to leap from one spot of bare ground to another, eventually giving up trying to keep feet dry and dashing through the snow to the safety and warmth of my garage, where food and a heater and soft beds await it in the loft.

I love the quiet the snow brings, at least until the snowplows clear the road and highway traffic resumes its hum in the distance. I love how snow muffles sounds as we ride through the woods in it, and how the snow-laden branches dump snow down our backs as we, laughing, have to bend lower than usual to duck under them.

I love the way the horses' warm breath makes little blasts of cloud in the frigid air. I love cantering over deep snow in the wash, where we don't have to worry about avoiding rocks because they're 8 inches below the horses' hooves.

I love to watch the dogs bounding through the snow as we ride, pausing occasionally to shake the snow from their fur before leaping over a bush to continue pursuing invisible rabbits.

I love the unique grayness of the snowclouds, and love trying to predict how much snow is coming by the color of the overcast.

I love to sit here in the warmth of my living room and watch my own housecats as they look out the window at the falling snow, trying to figure out what manner of flying creatures are swarming the house, and plotting to get to them and save us from the white horde.

I love using my quad to carry hay to the horses when the snow is too deep for me to pull the little hay wagon, and then putting it in four wheel drive to ride down to the mailbox, where it inevitably turns out that our mail carrier DID let snow and rain and gloom of night stay her from the swift completion of her appointed round. But I enjoy the ride there and back, making new tracks in the snow on the road.

I especially loved riding Dottie to the mailbox seven years ago after my very first snowfall here when I didn't have the quad yet and was reluctant to drive my little Toyota Echo in the snow just yet.

I especially love that first moment when the sun breaks through the clouds, and the dull gray landscape turns into a field of sparkling diamonds.

And, since I've only been here for seven relatively dry winters so far, I even love getting out my show shovel and shoveling a path to the garage and the chicken house.

Yes, I love the snow.

Ask me how I feel ten years from now, when the novelty has worn off, as I'm sure it will someday. But for now . . . I love the snow.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Horse slaughter -- the US Government finally gets it right

The subject of equine slaughter is an emotional one, to be sure, but it SHOULDN'T BE.

The death of any loved horse is a sad event but we need to be practical about it. Several years ago due in large part to a letter-writing campaign by schoolchildren who were brainwashed by well-meaning adults, the US Government voted to end funding for USDA inspections of horsemeat, effectively killing the horse slaughter industry in this country.

"We don't eat horses here!" was the rallying cry. People in Europe for whom horsemeat is a staple in their diets were reviled as barbaric. No, no, no, we can't let them eat Trigger or Black Beauty!

Well, let me tell you -- each horse will die exactly once. No horses' lives were saved by that well-intentioned but ignorant decision made by Congress in 2007.

But some horses suffered horribly, for days, weeks, or months because of that decision, instead of for the minute or two it would have taken in a properly-operated local slaughterhouse. Horses turned loose instead of going to slaughter have died horrible slow deaths by starvation or death by predators. Many hoarders ended up facing animal cruelty charges when they sympathetically "rescued" horses headed for slaughter, then found they couldn't afford to feed them and the animals starved to death in their care. Death by stun gun is far more humane than many of the alternatives.

After a GAO report established that just as many horses were being slaughtered since the ban as were before -- only in Mexican or Canadian plants -- and that those doomed horses instead of being trucked a few hours were being crammed into trucks and hauled for DAYS without proper food, water, or space, then slaughtered by barbaric methods (in Mexico at least), Congress finally reversed itself in November and restored funding for inspections of horsemeat.

What will this mean?

Old, unwanted, or crippled horses will be able to be sold for slaughter, returning cash to their American owners who in this economy may desperately need it. The horses will be spared the anguish and terror of long rides in a cattle trailer to another country. People who currently are turning their horses loose to starve because they can no longer afford them and can't justify spending hundreds of dollars to euthanize them and dispose of the carcass will be able to take them to a local auction and know that the horse won't end up in Mexico getting its spinal cord severed so the terrified animal can't thrash around while its throat is cut.

Money currently being funneled to horse rescues can be funneled into people rescue instead.

There is a hay crisis in this country right now. In the next few months, as the price of hay climbs to the predicted $500 a ton, more and more people will have to give up their horses. It's not just that people can't afford the hay; THE HAY ISN'T THERE TO BUY. If every horse owner won the lottery next week, the price of hay would get bid up to $10,000 a ton and horses would STILL starve because there ISN'T ENOUGH HAY.

It's a simple fact that in this rough economy there simply are more horses than there are people who can or want to have them.

What are we going to do with them? The anti-slaughter bleeding hearts never had the answer to that question. They want them humanely put to sleep instead -- and do WHAT with the carcasses? Fill up landfills with them? Why waste the meat if someone is willing to buy it?

A horse who ends his life providing food for humans or animals has never lost its usefulness.

If you're opposed to horse slaughter -- don't have YOUR horse slaughtered. But don't tell me what do do with mine.

It's about time Congress realized what knowledgeable horse owners, including myself, have been telling them for the last four years. Thanks to the GAO report, they finally have.