Just Another Day on the Prairie

Back in 2011, when Logan and I started the Chico’s & Logan’s Great Adventures blog, we were just setting out on a five-month trip with our peeps, travelling by truck and fifth wheel trailer. It was all so exciting. Keep in mind I was just two with a fairly narrow life experience to that point. That trip opened my eyes to what a big and wondrous place is the world.

From enormous sand dunes to rolling blue water that went farther than my eye could see. From palm trees to giant cactuses. From the noise and lights of Las Vegas to the quiet, starlit nights in the Arizona desert. It was a journey of contrasts, new experiences, and adventures. We never lacked for stories or fun photographs to share.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and sleep more these days, or it could be the pandemic that’s kept us home a lot and other people away, but life is just not feeling very blog-worthy lately. How is an old dog living on a farm in Alberta the stuff of exciting stories?

T tells me not to worry, that all writers go through periods of low inspiration, that I still have stories to tell. I sure hope so, because I’ve so enjoyed my life as a blogger, sharing my adventures with all of you. And I hope that it doesn’t come down to sleeping, eating, barking, walking, and pooping! Although, now that I consider this list, I think I’ve blogged about all of those things. :o)

The planned adventure to celebrate a big anniversary I mentioned in my blog post two weeks ago didn’t happen. So, when last Fur-iday came along and I was still just hanging out at home, I couldn’t muster up the energy to blog about anything. Why no anniversary adventure you might ask? Well, it snowed. In fact, April generally seemed to want to be winter this year, which is usually March’s gig.

I tried to get Storm to write something this week, but he’s spending all his time seeking out blades of green grass. The horses are a little crazy for the stuff at this point in the season after eating dehydrated food all winter. But he did send along this photo, since he promised a coat update when he blogged back in March and he’s committed to an update from the field next Fur-iday.

Storm’s end-of-April look. Tune in next month …

From what I hear, I’m not alone in my current lack of general enthusiasm. Between the pandemic and the weather, many are feeling weighed down. But I am ever optimistic that spring is here to stay, that the next adventure planned for just over a week from now will go ahead, and that very soon things will turn a corner on this pandemic. We all just need to hang in there a little longer.

In the meanwhile, on this Fur-iday morning on the last day of April, I think I’ll take a nap in that sunbeam over there.

Spot Turns Thirty!

We horses are generally longer lived than our four-legged, human-companion counterparts, the dog and the cat. Dogs get the short end of the stick (pun completely intended) with a life expectancy of just seven to fourteen years, depending on breed and size. Although, there was one little Cattle Dog (good news, Chico) who lived to twenty-nine and a half. Cats live longer, in the fifteen to twenty range, with one outlier named Creme Puff living to thirty-eight years old.

Horses, on average, live to be anywhere from twenty-five to thirty, but many live into their thirties and a handful have lived decades beyond the average age. Three reached fifty-one, a pony named Sugar Puff lived to fifty-six, and a guy named Old Billy made it into the record books when he lived to sixty-two. Wow, right? Based on Creme Puff and Sugar Puff both living well beyond the majority of their species, I just might change my name to Storm Puff. What do you think?

Enjoying his birthday meal and party hat.

Nevada isn’t registered and there’s no record of the month and day of his birth, but, as a horse born in 1991, he officially turned thirty on the first of January. It’s likely he was born between April and July like the majority of Alberta-bred horses.

He was added to T and Nollind’s then collection of one horse and three cats in 2002. As T tells the story, Nollind started taking riding lessons that year and in the fall started shopping for a horse. Nevada was advertised as a well-trained, eleven-year-old, Appaloosa gelding. Another horse named Jack, advertised at the same time, was in his teens and reported to be a very experienced trail horse. Since the two horses lived in the same area, a day was set aside to go and see both of them.

Still likes showing off in the snow.

They saw Jack first. T loved him, thought he was perfect. Great temperament, good age, lots of trail experience. Nollind thought he was okay until they drove up the driveway of Nevada’s home and the big guy came loping along the fenceline through the deep snow, looking majestic and impressive, as he does. Nollind’s eyes lit up, and the two rides that followed, one outdoors, one in, were really just for T’s satisfaction. Fortunately for Nollind, Nevada passed her scrutiny and has been part of the clan ever since, moving here to the farm with Alta, T’s mare, in the spring of 2003.

Nollind’s new (and first ever) horse at Park Stables west of Calgary.

In case you’re wondering what happened with Jack, T liked him enough that she sent a student down to see him and then buy him, and years later, when that person was ready to sell him, recommended him to a friend who was shopping for a husband horse. In 2010, T, Nollind, Nevada and I went trail riding with Jack in the Smithers area of BC where his new people had moved. By then he was in his mid-twenties but still rocking it on the trail.

Jack in the lead, where he most liked to be.

Nevada’s name was Snowflake when they bought him, usually just called “Flake” for short. I won’t comment on whether or not Flake suits him, but Nollind didn’t think so. Since we horses are more inclined to come for the sound of oats in a bucket or maybe a whistle with a bucket of oats to follow, name changes aren’t really a big deal.

T and Nollind had learned some Spanish while travelling in Central America so started searching for a good Spanish name that was a translation of something snowy, to keep the spirit of his existing name. When they landed on Nevada, Spanish for snowfall, they’d found it. Little did they know they’d be spending quite a lot of time in Nevada a decade down the road.

Lunch break on the trail.

Somewhere along the way, he earned the nickname Spot, sometimes Big Spot, which is how I tend to think of him. He’s the biggest horse in the herd and has spots. I like things that make sense.

Spot was Nollind’s mountain horse for about ten years, until he was in his early twenties, and he really excelled in his trail boss role. Strong, brave, and setting a good pace, I couldn’t have asked for a better leader when I started out on the trails as a youngster.

My first big, multi-horse trail ride with my trusted leader as coach.

When he began to show signs of hind end challenges on steep hills, Nollind retired him and started riding Rosa. On Spot’s last trip to the Rockies, he was ponied behind me without a rider and that didn’t sit with him too well. On one narrow, downhill trail where the hill rose and dropped steeply on each side, he climbed the bank and went around me, accustomed to his front-of-the-ride position.

There was another creek stop that wasn’t this peaceful, but that’s for a future “adventures on the trail” post.

So, the big guy is thirty this year, which puts him on the back edge of the life expectancy range, but other than some of his incisors being worn down to nearly the gums, and a bit of a hitch in his backend, he’s in great shape. He needs a little extra feed to keep him in good condition through the winter months, but he keeps up with the rest of us just fine. Maybe he’ll find himself in the record books with the horses mentioned earlier. Nevada, you up for another twenty or thirty years?

How many?

Last Horse Standing

Well, not really. We’re all still standing. But I’m the only one in our herd of four to not suffer some kind of injury or lameness this summer. Although, come to think of it, I did have that choking episode last month. More about that later.

First on the injured list was Nevada with his previously-written-about, skewered-by-a-stump wound in June. That was a doozy, and definitely the most impressive effort at equine self-injury we’ve had on the farm since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here from the beginning, less one year.

Since I blogged about Nevada’s wound in “A Hole in One”, he’s continued to heal nicely with no further complications. All that’s left is what you see below, a fingernail-sized scab surrounded by a rather cool looking scar. Trust old Spot to add another interesting feature to his collection of spots, brands, and scars.

All that’s left of the “hole in one”.

The next to run into trouble was Gidget with a sore, swollen knee. T and Judy thought it was the result of some kind of impact at first, possibly even a kick. But I swear it wasn’t me. I’m just not the kicking type. Gidge and Rosa sometimes get into what I like to call “mare matches”, where they back up to one another and go to town with the hind hooves, but that wouldn’t impact a joint on the front leg.

Turns out the most likely culprit is old age and the arthritis that often comes with it. She’s been on a supplement called OsteoAid for the past couple of months and that really seems to be helping. She’s still a little stiff on that front left but still able to keep up with the herd just fine.

Gidget’s lumpy left knee still works quite well.

Our most recent invalid is the lovely Rosa. Back in May when I wrote about Rosa in my “Shesa Lil Ichi” post, I said “we’ve all got hooves crossed that she won’t have to be locked up in a dirt pen and fed hay for the spring and summer.” Well, she made it through the spring okay, but in late July she came up lame and has been in her grass-free, private accommodations since the 25th.

It’s not terrible. She has free-choice hay in the net feeders, a third of the shelter, and an area where she can roll. But she misses being out with the rest of us and, most of all, she misses grass. She loves her grass … which is a big part of the problem. After two weeks in the pen she was looking so much better and when they started exercising her she held up just fine.

Rosa enjoying her private buffet.

Tuesday we went on a trail ride and she trucked along in her Renegade hoof boots for the two-hour ride without issue. With everything looking so positive, she went out on grass early Wednesday morning for a short while. Whether it was the trail or the grass, or a combination of the two we’re not sure, but she sure is sore again. Poor Rosa. Just when we all thought her life was going to return to normal. For now, it’s back to a hay diet, some pain meds and supplements, and a few days rest to see if it will settle down again.

Dipping our toes (and nose) in Bragg Creek.

If you’re not familiar with this problem that afflicts some horses, it’s called laminitis, and is an inflammation in the feet often caused by too much rich food, like green grass. Having a sensitivity to what would seem like your most natural food source is a cruel trick of nature. I admit to having an enthusiastic attitude toward food and an easy time putting on pounds, especially during the grass season, but never has it made my feet hurt.

My own little health incident resulted from my aforementioned enthusiasm for food. With everyone else in the herd getting one supplement or another for one issue or another added to their feed—probiotics for Nevada’s digestive system, SimmirDown for Rosa’s metabolism, OsteoAid for Gidget’s arthritis—lucky me gets a little something too. I’d like to think it’s because I’m such a great guy and deserve it, but the truth is that it keeps me away from Rosa’s and Gidget’s food without T having to manage everyone.

Nevada’s is the deep, pink bin with more than the rest of us combined. Age has its benefits.

So, anyway, T bought this new kibble from K&K Livestock that’s extra low in sugar for Rosa and decided it was the best thing for me too. In my excitement over this new feed, I more inhaled than chewed and suddenly had a great wad of the stuff in my throat. I lay down. I stood up. I lay down again. I stood up. I coughed. I coughed some more. That was when T started to get worried. Although choking isn’t as immediately serious in horses as in humans since it doesn’t block our airway, it can result in serious complications if it doesn’t resolve quickly.

I’m learning to be patient and settled or T makes me wait longer.

The best thing, according to Google, is to keep the horse quiet and give the obstruction time to pass. I didn’t need Google. While T was browsing the internet, I went to the shelter and stood quietly in the shade until all was well. She’s put me back on my old feed now, which has bigger chunks and isn’t quite as dry.

Back to my original, less-inhalable feed.

Perhaps I should have called the blog “We’re Still Standing” since that’s closer to the truth. In a summer filled with bumps and hitches, we’re all hanging in there, looking forward to a long fall season filled with warm weather but no bugs (thanks to an early frost). I guy can dream, right?