Wednesday, August 25, 2021

You Know It's Our Fault, Right?

It's the arguments that drive me nuts. People justifying the existance or way of maintaining certain breeds of animals in their life because they grew up with one that acted just like Lassie, or was every bit as smart as Trigger. 

The argument intensifies when we slather our humanity all over these animals. We might have our "heart" horses or insist dogs bred for generations to bite, maul and kill are really "nanny dogs" waiting to return love in equal amounts of the love given - but that's how we feel, it makes no allowances for the reality of the animal.

Then, if none of those heart felt loaded arguments work we fall back on our rights. Maybe this is an American thing, but it certainly seems to be the go to when facts start overcoming emotion. "It's my right to own this dog breed, it's my right to keep my horse in a box and ride it on asphalt, don't tread on me while I'm stomping all over these creatures."

I understand the emotion, and I also understand a need  to justify molding animals into the shapes we want. It's just that I think animals have rights too. The right to breathe and the right to move come to mind.

Instead, we change their size, their jaw width, even their ability to breathe, all to fit our personal needs. 

We expect our domesticated animals to tolerate our ape-like grasp, our need to be the boss, our need to be loved in spite of crawling all over them, putting bits in their mouths or muzzles on their faces. The crazy thing is, they do. If that's what we want, our animals will accomidate the best they can, within their genetic limits.We humans of course, can't be content with that, and dip our fingers in their gene pools like muddy feet in a basin of holy water. 

I'm not saying our experiments are good or bad, I'm just saying we need to accept responsibility for our mutant Frankensteins. 

The first thing I'd like people to understand is that when we modify one gene for behavior it can rise up in the physical too. We aren't quite good enough at creation to anticipate how our yin will get along with our yang. 

I randomly looked up best couch potato breeds. Bulldog, St. Bernard, Basset Hound, French Bulldog, Pekinese, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chow, Pug, Great Dane all topped the list. Fighting dogs, life savers, royal dogs, hunting dogs, all kinds of sizes and coats, there was quite the diversity. 

At least until I looked up their chronic, breed related ailments. Shortened sinuses, popping eye, joints that don't join, skin that doesn't fit, legs that can't run, noses that can't scent and hearts so small that all their love can't stop them from bursting and killing them in their first decade.

You know who did that? We, the human race did. We've got a nice list of couch potatoes though.

It's not just our ignorance of the damage caused by genetic tampering that gets to me. There's the things we do to our domestic animals for our personal convenience, and then scream from the roof tops, "But he like it this way!!" 

My example here is an awful, heartbreaking injury/infection mess that too many horseowners deal with. Its called cellulitis, a diffuse or widespread swelling of the skin and subcutaneous tissues (that area directly below the surface layer of the skin) caused by inflammation usually associated with bacterial infection. Some of these horses will exhibit mild signs with cool to warm swelling, minimal pain and no lameness. Other more extreme cases of cellulitis will show impressive leg swelling (two to three times the normal size), warm to hot skin that is often painful to the touch, an elevated temperature (102 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit) and notable severe lameness.

The lymphatic system is supposed to clean up those bits of bacteria as blood flows through the the body . When circulation is compromised the toxins aren't flushed properly and can become trapped. Then, those bacteria can get their party started and bring on the cellulitis.

 Healthy lymph flow back into the circulation is encouraged by activity and muscular contraction. Horses in the wild cover long distances at walk each day while stalled horses, and horses in small pastures have long periods of inactivity. In addition, horses have no muscle to contract below the knee, making their legs especially vulnerable.

 You know what prevents this? Strolling for miles, grazing choice bits here and there, front legs pulling, sagging backs and almost continuous movement. It's how horses are made, and what it takes to keep them healthy.

We, us, people, are the ones who keep them in boxes, covered in blankets, sheets, leg wraps, neck sweats and all of these things inhibit movement. We do it for our convenience. We do it because we don't have the room to meet their needs. We do it because a horse's mind is so malleable we can convince them this is what they need.

Cellulitis is our fault, created by forcing a horse to adapt to a confinement that they can't physiologically sustain. 

I'm not pointing fingers. I am however, saying we have to keep our animals real needs in the forefront of our thoughts if we choose to tend them. We have fallen in the habit of treating the results of our manipulation as the problem. It's not. 

I don't have the answers, I have ideas, which I'll certainly share. I can't see the value of treating a symptom without understanding the cause. When we discover we created the mess, I'd like to admit it and start to mop it up.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

HAY!! Good Morning! - One More Thing


It's going to be sporadic and weird around here, at least for a while. I'm moving. I have lived somewhere or the other in Colorado Springs since I was twelve. Still going to be in Colorado, but I'm headed for the Western slope, where there are fewer people, most of whom are of a nature I understand.

My horse Mort and I came together two years after my family arrived here. He saved me from a downward spiral that I don't believe I could have pulled out of, no matter how many well-meaning nuns my parents threw at me. Mort, and my dog Jud, were my rocks, my moral compass, and my protectors during my initial foray untangling human nature. 

Horses are my passion, and dogs are my best friends. The genetic wheel dropped me into the humanity slot, which rolled me into my immediate family, so I'm a member whether I like it or not. Lucky me, there's a few gems in the bunch, and the effort is worth while.

In 2017 I was diagnosed as autistic. I was 59 years old. 

It was an enormous relief. It explained so much. Years of therapy, delving into whys and hows, always feeling just outside of ...  almost everything. My therapist did a fine imitation of that forehead smacking emoji after she read an article I found on autistic adult women. 

She said, "Now what will I do with you? Autism isn't my field of study."

"Clearly," I said.

She may have thrown a wad of paper at me, I'm not sure. 

All our years of work turned out to be caused by a wiring issue. Well, hell, I could live with that just fine. 

Plus, all those years with her kept me with at least one foot on the planet, got me through raising my creatively challenging daughter, and prevented my mind from snapping like an old, spongy rubber band, you know, like the ones you yank out of the shower drain, twisted around a snarl of hair. So we still hang. 

Therapy kept me sane enough to care for my dying partner, Jim. I'm sure many of you know, but I'll repeat just for clarity, my partner Jim had a massive stroke while on the operating table for the surgical removal of a blood clot that went from his ankle to his groin. 

Within 24 hours my life had turned upside down and I became his full time caretaker, which ended my evolving career as a writer for a small town newspaper.

I hung in with my horses as best I could, kept up hiking, writing, doing what I try to do, but as his mental and physical health faded and my Parkinson's Disease began to amp up my outside life began to fade away. 

Friends and assistance from his children disappeared into the Netherworld. I've known this from my cancer years, long term illnesses become boring. We're supposed to get better or dead, but for God's sake, don't dawdle. People get bored. 

In order to maintain, I began to let things go. First, riding, then hiking, eventually writing, drawing, reading, watching TV, visiting friends, all of it, put to the side so I could maintain my single minded focus on Jim.

I wasn't playing martyr, I was doing what I felt needed to be done in order to keep Jim's butt out of a nursing home, one of his greatest nightmares. When you choose a life partner, you've got each others back, and that's that.

Three years and some months ago, Jim died. 

Three years, some months and two days later, I found out his children had systemetically been emptying his estate. The end result was I was broke and going to lose my home.

The last three years I have been fighting for my house and my way of life.

This week will be the end of all the shit. 

I can sell the house, get into the mountains and take a breath. I may be buying another place, or a field with a yurt on it, won't know for a bit, but it will be mine. 

I've been reading. Hanging with my horses and dogs. Pretty much quit people, I get along better through the written word. I'm drawing again. For the first time in my life I am about to be unfettered from obligation I did not choose. It's heady. I never knew old age could be this sweet.

Friday, August 13, 2021

Good Morning

 Words and phrases I don't ever need to hear again, at least not in this life.



Fur Baby

washed out of the program

back yard breeder

quality breeder

adopt don't shop

Quick confession. I just can't go back to the old format. Back then, I told stories of horses I was currently training. Those stories brought up some good training discussions and the blog readers and I enjoyed them. Then, the work I wrote about and the conversations we shared triggered horse memories from when I was a kid. So, more stories ensued. 

I haven't tried to train anything except my aging bladder for the last several years. These days I don't hold back and I keep few secrets. Those of you who read this blog from the beginning will remember how long it took me to admit I have an arm amputated just below my elbow.

I'm old, I have Parkinson's Disease, one arm, and skinny legs. 

There, it's all out in the open. 

I still want to write, but I think there will be more of it if we just see what happens. Are we good?

I do, however, have a new project. Scrub, my Foundation bred dun gelding started watching me about a month ago. I step outside and he might be across the field, but when I look, he's pulled away a bit from the other two and  fixed me with both eyes. The only time he doesn't is when he's running or flirting. 

I think he wants to engage. 

Go ahead and accuse me of humanizing him. I don't care. The keen attention he gives me tells me its time to begin my project. I want to do some liberty work, but make it happen for reals, you know, train him at liberty. I watch the videos of these dancing horses, and the handler invariably has a whip, long or short, and the horse tosses its head like an Arab in a halter class.

I'm going to try to teach Scrub by triggering his curiosity. See f I can keep him interested and curious enough to work with me. No saddle, no halter, no whip, no treats.

Scrub is the horse I started by teaching each step just once. I didn't repeat cues, I showed him once and when we seemed to have it down, I quit for the day. Forever after, whatever we learned one day was part of what we built on the next. It kept me occupied during my long and difficult easing out of the working cowhorse world. I ended up with a curious, willing horse loaded with try. He is friendly and a troublemaker. 

I'll attempt to take pics, maybe some video, as this unfolds. We can talk about it. In my bizzaro world, this will be fun. It's funny, while I'm laying this out a story popped into my head. Guess we'll see where this goes.