Mish Mash

What a Week

This week has been a lot. I started two new side jobs in an effort to earn that barn money (anyone sitting on a pile of cash they aren’t using?). One of those is cashiering at Fleet Farm. I’ve had three days of training so far and start my first day as an actual cashier next week. I decided to get a job at Fleet Farm because you get a twenty percent discount (on most stuff) and they sell almost everything I need; from toilet paper, to horse feed, to lumber, you name it, Fleet Farm probably sells it. I’m a little worried about how my back will handle standing for 5-hour shifts but we’ll see how it goes; worse case I’ll just ask for shorter shifts.

The hay shed project is going VERY slowly which has me worried we won’t get it done in time but we’re chipping away at it. One of the 11-foot 6×6 beams is done and one of the 36-foot 6×6 beams is mostly done. We have to fully assemble it at its final location because it would be too heavy for us to move. Nate has declared that we are never building anything ourselves ever again. I chose not to remind him that we still have at least four more hay boxes to make; and since Juniper, Leeloo, and I all agree we need one more horse it is actually six more hay boxes that we need. And we still need a lid for box number two. But at least that FF discount has already come in handy!

Glue and screwed cut-offs to make a big beam

Used bigger boards – went much faster!

On another front – we FINALLY got the last medication we needed to really attack Juniper’s eye abscess. We are treating this thing with three drugs: an oral antifungal, an antifungal eye ointment, and an antibiotic eye drop. The oral antifungal and the antibiotic eye drop came in two weeks ago and we’ve been giving them daily, but we didn’t get the antifungal eye ointment until Tuesday night so this past Wednesday was our official first day of the full treatment plan; which we’ll need to do for six-eight weeks.

The vet says progress is being made. The first picture (on the left or on the top depending on what size screen you are on) is from 9/15, the second picture (right or bottom) is from 9/29. The vet says the blood vessels you can see within the abscess in the second picture are a good thing because that means the body is able to get the things it needs to heal to the site that needs healing, and that overall the eye looks more comfortable than when she was here to see it. We’ll be doing a follow up appointment sometime in the next few weeks.

Taken on September 15

Taken September 29

Juniper remains a willing patient and I am getting better at the eye-drops. Partly because we dropped down to giving an anti-inflammatory just once a day and a tiny bit of swelling came back. This isn’t great, but it makes it MUCH easier to actually get her eyelid open enough to get the drops in and the swelling is very minor. For any horse owners reading this we are giving banamine because it apparently works more effectively on the muscles in and around the eye than bute does; but we’re giving injectable banamine orally with her food since that is a thing you can do. We went this route because the injectable stuff is much cheaper than the paste in the tube and Juniper rears when you try to give her an oral paste. We will be working on the rearing issue as soon as we’re done dealing with the eye. Rearing to avoid stuff is not an acceptable behavior.

Juniper remains a willing patient because we’ve been using the clicker training (treats – with a purpose); however an unintended consequence is that Juniper is getting VERY possessive of me. She is learning that the blue fanny pack that holds the medicine also holds the treats. Nate randomly got an obnoxiously blue fanny pack as a promotional thing, and I instantly stole it to use to hold the various eye ointments and drops and treats. I highly recommend one if you need to give these types of meds because you don’t have enough hands to hold everything and if you put the ointments in your pocket they get too warm and melt, making them very hard to apply. However, Juniper now recognizes the obnoxiously blue fanny pack and comes trotting up to me (which is great) and then immediately pins her ears and tries to bite at Leeloo (which is not great). This is ridiculous on two counts because first – Juniper is wearing a grazing muzzle so that threat is utterly meaningless, and second – if she actually did make contact with Leeloo, Leeloo would hand her a** to her so quickly her head would spin. Usually, Leeloo doesn’t take offense, but it is hard to give eye drops and ointments to a pony who is constantly trying to attack another horse. Which means we’re still having to separate them in the round pen to medicate, unless I happen to have a helper available who can distract Leeloo for a minute.

This will pretty much be my life for the next six to eight weeks. All the normal life stuff I have to do, plus working on the hay shed, working at Fleet Farm, and giving medicine to a jealous pony four to six times a day. Remind me again why I wanted to do this?

Back Inaction

Backs – why are they garbage?!

I managed to hurt my back, again. This time there wasn’t any single defining moment of stupidity that did it, just an accumulation of all the physical labor that my body is not used to plus the additional labor of trying to build this hay shed (we have about 1/3 of the “foundation beams” constructed so far, plus we made three saw horses). Luckily after about five days of being pretty painful my back is feeling about 90% better. Probably because Leeloo helped with chores.

Leeloo helping put out hay, good thing the hay box is no longer scary.

I come from a long line of people with terrible backs. The first time I threw my back out was about nine years ago and after several days of not being able to stand up I decided to go see my physical therapist. Of course I had to go see a general practitioner first and get a referral to see the physical therapist, you know, to make sure I wasn’t wasting my insurance company’s money. I had a great go-to physical therapists, Sandy Wilson at The Institute for Athletic Medicine, who I had started working with a few years prior to help with some ongoing shoulder and neck pain. (Side note – it appears that The Institute for Athletic Medicine has been renamed as M Health Fairview Rehabilitation Services and that Sandy has retired. This makes me sad because I loved working with Sandy.) Sandy assigned me a reasonable amount of exercises, which we adjusted at subsequent visits as my back slowly got better. That was the start of a daily strength focused exercise routine that I still do every weekday, though it has been modified over the years. The neck/shoulder stuff had been more about stretching and changing daily habits; the biggest being a switch from carrying all my class stuff in an over the shoulder bag to carrying it in an obnoxiously loud rolling cart . That sucker is loud on our school’s tiled floors, but totally worth it! The back issues however needed more than just a few lifestyle changes and stretches, I really needed to strengthen my overall abdominal core, which is an ongoing effort. Though having a stronger core isn’t always enough, sometimes I need to go beyond exercises to deal with the various back pain issues that continue to bother me.

Sometimes the back pain has nothing to do with core muscles but is all about the joints. Like the time I locked a facet joint in my upper back and the only thing that helped that was my chiropractor; one visit and it was immediately fixed. I started working with a chiropractor around 2011 to see if they could offer relief for some of my various aches and pains and chronic headaches. I saw that first chiropractor pretty regularly for a few years, but since then I have gotten better at identifying when my pain would be helped by an adjustment and when it wouldn’t. I have also learned that certain things just throw my body out of whack and that an adjustment will make it better (driving long distances, flying, sleeping on terrible mattresses). I used to automatically go in for an adjustment after any such event but my chiropractor recently moved and I haven’t found a new one yet.

A quality massage also makes a big difference for some of my back pain, particularly when the pain seems to be muscle based. However, despite lots of evidence that massages provide relief for pain and help with healing, they aren’t covered by insurance and I’m too cheap to pay for them on any sort of regular basis (that barn won’t pay for itself!), so I don’t get them nearly as often as my back would like.

For many years that was the routine. Do core strengthening exercises five times a week but still hurt my back or have random back pain set in, go see Sandy and/or see the chiropractor and/or get a massage and it would eventually fade away. It wasn’t the worst system, but I was still dealing with back pain pretty regularly. Then I saw this article of a summary of a TED Talk about sitting and my world changed. I read the article, then watched the TED Talk it referenced, then googled for more videos by Esther Gokhale. I started doing some of the things on my own, like stacksitting (stacksitting is the BEST,  though it does tire out your core muscles if they aren’t strong enough yet) and the shoulder roll; but I felt like there was more to learn than what I could find from scouring for videos on YouTube. This was also in the midst of “high covid” so everything had switched to online formats, which in this case was great, because the Gokhale classes had never been offered anywhere near me but now they were all on zoom! This may have been the only time in my life I was genuinely excited about something being on Zoom. I was also in desperate need of a new office chair at this point. My old one had one and a half broken wheels so you had to have the chair just right or it would be all tippy or at an unreasonable angle, and now that we were doing everything from home because of covid what had been a major, but only occasional, inconvenience was now a major, and all the time, inconvenience. After talking to Nate, we decided it would be worth the money to do a whole package which would get me a new chair, and the Gokhale Method video, book, and online classes. It has changed my life. The biggest thing is that it’s not about exercises and trying to find time to fit new things into your life, it’s about changing the very basic things you do constantly to be better for your back. I sit differently, I stand differently, I walk differently, and my back is so much better! Even when I do manage to hurt it by being dumb, or in this case the overall accumulation of more activity than I’m used to, I recover much faster and more fully than I ever did before.

That isn’t to say I don’t need an extra boost once in a while to get over a back issue. This spring when I hurt my back nothing was making it better until I went back to acupuncture. I had originally started working with Dr. He (who has retired, seriously, why is everyone leaving? I also need to find a new dentist!) for some other health issues and stopped going a few years ago when those were resolved, but since nothing else was working I thought it was worth a try. I saw Dr. Yang at TCM Health Center and after just two visits my back was better. This time what seemed to do the trick was a ten minute back massage from Nate (or possibly just time, but we’ll say it was the massage). Side note – Nate and I play a game or two of cribbage almost every day; however, we are both salty about losing, so several years ago we instituted a rule that after eight losses the losing person gets a ten-minute massage, and that if you get skunked it counts as two losses. This has added an odd twist to the game because now if one of us is losing we would prefer to get skunked and get annoyed when we don’t.

Speaking of which, I need to go ask Nate if he wants to play a game of cribbage, I need to lose a few more times and bank another massage!

Though Leeloo is pretty sure my back got better because she was helping.

So Much to Do!

And so little nice weather and daylight to do it in!

As discussed in this post, having to give Juniper eye medication 4 – 6 times a day has made the need for some sort of make-shift barn more urgent, as has Leeloo and Juniper’s sudden desire to actually eat hay.

Up to this point there was enough grass in their track system (I know the official paddock paradise track system book says there should be no grass in your track, but clearly, we are far from the ideal scenario here) that up until recently when I put out hay, they weren’t very interested in it. Granted I wasn’t putting the good hay out and the roughage hay that I was putting out was the questionable stuff that I knew had gotten a little rained on, so their lack of interest was understandable. However, between eating the grass down over the past three weeks and me finally getting into the hay that had not gotten wet, both Leeloo and Juniper are now genuinely excited about eating hay. This has made the need to get more hay before winter a little more important; yes, I can always find some in winter, but I’d rather deal with it now.

This means we’re finally prioritizing building that third shelter, you know, the one my friend and I were going to build by the end of May (ha!).

I created plans that are loosely based off of the shelters we currently have but also slightly inspired by sturdier overall construction.

We were originally going to create the boards and beams we needed using the white oak cut-offs purchased for my hay boxes by gluing and screwing them together. Last weekend we officially got started and managed to make one of the ten 6”x6”x12’ “foundation beams” we needed to make. Once we added in the cost for glue and screws it turned out to be almost the same price as just purchasing some of the boards and beams. Not the big giant beams, which would cost a small fortune, but we can get buy 2” x 6” x 8’ boards for almost the same price as we could create them out of cut-offs so we decided to just buy the bigger boards to make this process go faster, and use less glue and screws.

The boards arrived late on Thursday so attempting to build this thing will be occupying our time for the next few weeks. The goal is to have it done before our next farrier appointment in two weeks. Please note, we know almost nothing about building and woodworking and if you do those plans above and this list will probably make you mad or sad or both. If you are willing to work for free you can always come over and set us straight, otherwise you’ll just have to watch this train wreck slowly unfold.

(Unrealistic) Goals for the next two weeks:

  • Create the “foundation beams” and a few longer boards out of the 2”x6”x8’ boards
  • Build the 4’x8’ “wall cells” we’ll use to build the walls
  • Set the “foundation beams” out in their proper spot and figure out how to level them (that part is still kind of fuzzy in my mind)
  • Erect the “wall cells” on the “foundation beams”
  • Create rafter beams out of lumber (that still needs to be purchased)
  • Install the rafter beams
  • Install the purlins (that term I do know is correct!)
  • Install the roof (materials source is still TBD, I should probably get on that)
  • Install our temporary siding since long term this will be a bug/summer shelter with only a roof and supports, no actual sides

What are the chances we can pull this off in two weeks and it won’t collapse in on itself the first time we have a stiff breeze?

The Joys of Medicating Ponies

The Eyes Have It

Juniper came to us with an eye injury. Unfortunately it was healing very slowly and developed an abscess over the top of it that is preventing any medication from getting to the actual injury, so the original injury is still not healed and now we also have to heal the abscess itself.

Some of the new drugs for fighting Juniper’s eye abscess arrived late last Tuesday, so Wednesday was day one with the stronger antibiotic for her eye itself and a broad-spectrum oral antifungal. The drugs we had been using were ointments that were pretty easy to apply. They have enough substance to stay on your finger until you position yourself and the horse (or pony) and wipe it along the eyelid, and you didn’t have to be perfect about placement. My vet was able to find the eye antifungal as an ointment (which we are still waiting for), but unfortunately the stronger eye antibiotics could only be found as eyedrops. The old medications were also given only three times a day and the new meds have to be given 4-6 times a day. So far we’ve managed five doses a day. Sort of. It turns out I suck at giving eye drops. I need one hand to hold Juniper, one hand to hold her top eyelid open, another hand to hold her bottom eyelid open, and yet another hand to squeeze the dropper. That is two more hands than I currently possess. Things have gotten a tiny big better, mostly in terms of not having to actually hold Juniper because she stands relatively still on her own. That is due entirely to positive reinforcement training, also known as clicker-training, also known as bribery, but like, intentional, well thought out, bribery.

Small digression – if people are interested, I can write more about this in a future post. A while ago I discovered Mustang Maddy and started down a clicker-training rabbit hole. I got some books and clickers for the holidays and have been working on it off-and-on with Leeloo for about two years. Super simplified summary for those of you not familiar with clicker-training: you teach your horse (or dog or dolphin or elephant or whatever) to associate a certain sound with a reward of some sort (hence “positive reinforcement training”). Then when you ask them to do a thing you use the sound as a way to communicate with them that they did the right thing. This is great because you can get the sound out IMMEDIATELY so they know exactly what the right thing is, whereas the reward might take more time to give them, and meanwhile they can get distracted and forget or not realize why they got a reward at all.

My concern was that Leeloo and I are still beginners at clicker-training and I didn’t know what she would do if she heard her clicker sound and then didn’t get a reward. I also didn’t know how I could use the clicker with one hand during this eyedrop process when the biggest issue is that I need more hands. I decided to make a random noise that I personally have never used with a horse before so Leeloo would never have heard it and hopefully neither had Juniper. There are very important guidelines and rules that should be followed when first introducing clicker-training to a horse and unfortunately Juniper and I didn’t have time or a physical location to do them in so we skipped right over them; this may be an issue long term but for now I’m hoping for the best. I started by making my sound and just giving Juniper a treat the day before we got the meds. Then on our first day with the meds I started by standing next to her and putting my hand by her eye and waiting until she stood still, then I made the sound and gave her a treat. Then I pulled the eyelid apart, waited till she stood still, made the sound, gave her a treat. Then I pulled the eyelid apart, placed the eyedropper near her eye, waited till she stood still, made the sound, gave her a treat. Then we did the actual eye drop. We are doing this every time I attempt the drops and for the first few days I would randomly go back a few steps in the middle and the end so we don’t end our time together with a drop in her eye.

Her standing is getting much better, but somehow I must have a tell for when I’m just holding the eye dropper near her eye versus planning on actually putting a drop in because she stands much better when I’m just holding it than when I plan on putting a drop in. She is also nickering for her treat as soon as she hears her “you did it right” sound, which is great because she is definitely associating the sound with the treat. She’s also associating the blue fanny pack the treats are in with treats and is trying to get them on her own (being polite about treats is one of those foundational steps we kind of skipped…).

The issue remains that I personally suck at giving eyedrops. Even with Juniper standing pretty quietly, I can’t seem to squeeze the eyedrop tube and keep it still enough to actually drop the liquid where I want it to drop. When I squeeze the tube, it moves, and the drop goes on my finger or down her face instead of in her eye. I am not the only person to suck at giving eyedrops, so the vet also sent some very tiny syringes with the idea being I could get some of the drops in the syringe and kind of spray it at her eye. We tried that on day three and somehow I suck even worse with that method than with the actual eye dropper so we’re going to stick with the eye dropper for a few more days and see if I can get any better.

The oral antifungal medication is going a little better at least. Day one we had to give a loading dose of 19 pills which I mixed in her food, added half a chopped-up apple to, and fed her, hoping she’d fall for it. She did not. She took a bite, spit it out, tried a second bite, spit that out, and then wandered away to eat grass. I went inside for molasses and added some, then added a little more, then added a little more. Sugar is as bad for horses as it is for people, and because Juniper most likely has Equine Cushing’s disease (more accurately called pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction or PPID) she may have some insulin issues, which is why sugar is extra not good for her. However, if I tried and failed too many times to get her to eat her meds she would just stop trying and then I would be out 19 very expensive pills. Luckily the overload of molasses was enough, and she ate it all up on the second try. She only needs seven pills a day for the rest of the time (three weeks for this med) and I was hoping the apple alone would be enough; it was not. I didn’t have to use as much molasses the second day, but still more than I liked. I started measuring it on day three instead of just pouring it out until it looks like enough. Having tried several times, I have it down to just a half tablespoon of molasses. The best variation so far is to let the pills soften up first (Juniper’s food is soaked so there is enough water in there to soften up the pills), but keep them spaced apart from each other, then put a little molasses directly on each of the softened up pills, then mush them around with everything else.

Complicating everything is that Leeloo thinks that when I’m in their space, I’m there for her, and nobody else. To be fair, that has been true for the last 13 years. She’s not mean to Juniper, but when I go up to Juniper, Leeloo comes up to me and Juniper moves away a few steps. I then step closer to Juniper, Leeloo then steps closer to me, and then Juniper moves away a few steps. The result is a ridiculous slow-motion chase around the shelter area which is where they are usually hanging out during the day.

I don’t have a barn (yet) and I still haven’t gotten my hay shelter built so my make-shift barn isn’t actually useable as such, being currently full of hay. This means the only place where I can actually separate the two of them is the round pen. That would be okay, except (A) there is no shelter so if it’s raining that means I’m attempting to put in eyedrops in the rain (B) there is ton of grass in there so Juniper is pretty distracted by all the food and (C) it is SUPER extra buggy in the front of our house where the round pen is. I have no idea why, but every single kind of bug is worse up there. The mosquitoes, the flies, and those stupid f*ing midges or gnats. I am coming to hate them more than any other bug (other than ticks which will always remain enemy number one) because they love to divebomb my face, and actively fly into my nose, my ears, my eyes, and my mouth. I have had at least three fly into my mouth while I was trying to blow them out of my eyes. They drive all of us crazy! As if trying to give eyedrops to a pony wasn’t hard enough trying to do it while you are both being swarmed by gnats is miserable. This, along with the rapidly shortening days, is why I feel very strongly that I need a barn. Nate keeps reminding me that I don’t actually *need* a barn, I *want* a barn, but after the last few days of giving eye meds it feels like a need to me!


Video proof that the bugs are awful! 

Leeloo and Juniper feel the same way I do about the bugs and would also like a barn.  Now we just need one of us to win the lottery!

The Bumble Bee’s Happy Place


Things have been a bit crazy around here and the current post needs more work so there will be a slight delay in posting. In the meantime please enjoy this video of the bumble bees loving the heck out of this plant we received as a gift from some friends when we first moved it. I have no idea what kind of plant it is, but it is a perennial, the bumble bees love it, and it has survived the stupid f*ing deer for three years now despite their best efforts to kill it each winter.


First Two Weeks

Eye Infection and Poop

We’ve had Juniper and Leeloo home for a little over two weeks now and it’s been, okay. So far most of my time has been taken up with poop. I am still obsessively cleaning out almost all poop from the whole track almost every day. This will not last. If nothing else the freezing temperatures will eventually force a stop. But I am trying to stay ahead of the parasites so we’re doing both Ivermectin Gold and Strongid but I am waiting a few weeks in-between them and while we wait I will stay obsessive about picking up poop.

For those of you not familiar horses eat off the ground so they can pick up parasites. There are various treatments for them, but the industry has not been able to create/find a new one in decades and the parasites are starting to show resistance to the medications that we do have, so the shift has been to minimizing parasite load in the first place through improved management. Which mostly boils down to: pick up the poop. Long term I am planning on getting a harrow I can drag behind my lawn mower and I’ll use that for the poop in the majority of the track and just pick up the stuff around their main hangout areas like the shelters, water, and hay boxes.

Speaking of hay boxes – I finally finished the lid!! AND! We built a second one (that still needs a lid).  Big thank you to my friend for helping me figure out a design for the frame of the lid. Still need to figure out a mechanism for keeping it on the box, but right now Juniper has a grazing muzzle on and we’re still feeding the “roughage” hay so there isn’t danger of overeating so I’m keeping the nets off. This however has made me realize that a hinged lid might not be the best option and something that comes all the way on or off, but the horses can’t get off, will probably work better. Still haven’t worked that out yet.

What I did not realize was that Leeloo and Juniper would be afraid of the hay boxes. Leeloo in particular truly confuses me about what she does and does not find scary.

Example – several years ago at our previous barn they were doing construction and after the work day would sometimes store equipment in the arena. I was out with Leeloo and since we were alone I let her loose to roll (rolling in relatively clean sand is always preferred to rolling in mud). I turn my back for three seconds to set down her lead rope only to find that she has decided the skid steer with the two giant skids sticking out the front looks like the best toy ever. She has walked right up to it, between the two skids, and is in the act of reaching in to pull on the levers. Leeloo has tried to put almost everything she has ever come across in her mouth: the vet’s clipboard, the chiropractor’s iPad, sweatshirt strings, every whip ever, pitchfork handles, broom handles, literally any handle, glasses, Nate’s beard, cat food, hoses, the list goes on forever. Anyway, here is my horse, standing between the skids of the skid steer, reaching in to pull on the handles that make it go. Great. I managed to get around her so I’m facing her and signal her to back up and luckily she does. She clears both skids before she notices the next thing the work crew left behind. The single most terrifying thing in the world. A large wooden spool. About three feet across and about a foot and a half high. Probably used for a large hose or tubing, but currently empty and just sitting there. Leeloo comes to a dead stop, flags her tail, arches her neck, and goes into her snorting impression of an Arabian horse. The thing that could actually cause her harm – great toy. The thing that could cause her no harm in any conceivable way – terrifying monster. I do not understand my horse.

The haybox apparently counted as a terrifying monster. Not having expected that, I hadn’t made any effort to introduce her to it. Nate and I just put it out in the field while Leeloo and Juniper had been hiding from the bugs in the shelter and they hadn’t noticed. Now Leeloo had come up for water by herself and must have spotted it. I missed her very first reaction but I caught it out of the corner of my eye. When your normally pretty mellow horse decides to prance around snorting with her tail flagged and her neck all arched you notice. By the time I found my phone she had managed to calm herself down a lot and worked up the courage to investigate closer. You’ll notice she chickened out on her first attempt to walk by it calmly and ended up running past it, but then when it didn’t chase her she came back around for another try and this time did actually get to it and take a few bites of hay before deciding she had had enough of bravery for the time being.

The other thing that has been taking up most of our horse related time is Juniper’s eye infection. We knew she had one when we got her, but it just wasn’t getting better so I had the vet out the Monday after we brought her home and then we had a recheck last week. The conclusion is that she has formed an abscess over the top of the original injury and eye abscesses are usually fungal or mixed infections so we need to change up our treatment plan. Here is what I got from the vet:

Diagnosis: Corneal stromal abscess. 

Treatment: Since the literature and the ophthalmologist describe these as being commonly fungal or mixed infections, the approach would be to treat for fungus and bacteria, while trying to get the eye comfortable and stop the reflex uvieitis. The recommended treatment duration is 6-8 weeks.

6-8 weeks of giving eye meds 4-6 times a day – fun times.

I will admit that when I was imagining what it would be like to have my horse at home I hadn’t been thinking of poop and medicating eyes. But I know long term the good will outweigh the not so good. Even now, with most of the time spent doing the less than fun chores, it is really nice having them home. When Juniper nickers at me for her breakfast, or Leeloo comes up to see what I’m doing – which is usually picking up poop at which point Leeloo will sniff the poop and then immediately poop right by the poop cart (thanks), or when Leeloo calls to me when I am in the garage working and trying to have a conversation with someone else (seriously Leeloo, not everything is about you) they are a lot of fun to have around.

Looking for a Baby Maker

Leeloo Needs More Friends

Juniper would like Leeloo to get more friends. Having Leeloo’s full and undivided attention is getting to be a bit much for her.

Because it is just the two of them and Leeloo is used to being with a herd at all times Leeloo insists that the two of them be together at all times, not just within sight, but together. Leeloo also hates bugs almost as much as I do which means she wants to be hiding in the slightly less buggy shelter area most of the daylight hours. Juniper on the other hand doesn’t mind the bugs if she can be shoving food in her face and would rather be out eating all day. But because Leeloo is who she is, and has no one else but Juniper, that means that Juniper has to be where Leeloo wants to be, and that is in the shelters and not eating for much of the day. They are not starving by any means, I have been picking up enough poop every day to know that, but Juniper would definitely be eating more if she had a chance. For Juniper’s sanity we really need to find Leeloo more friends.

Juniper’s preference – grazing

Leeloo’s preference – hiding from the bugs in the shelter



I have some strong feelings on who this next friend needs to be. I have wanted to have a horse farm my entire life, specifically I have wanted to work with foals and young horses. I had my first opportunity when Leeloo was born and have loved almost all of it; the injuries, illnesses, and mystery lameness not so much, though I have learned a ton. My goal when we moved here was to start a very, very, small horse breeding and training operation. I had hoped to have a new foal every other year and work with them slowly over several years and then sell one sane, sound, well trained, six- or seven-year-old every other year. VERY small operation. But to do that I need a mare worth breeding. I love Leeloo, she is one of the best horses ever, and I would love to have many of her qualities in future horses. However, the sheer quantity of lameness issues she has dealt with, some with clear sources and some without, combined with some of the soundness issues her sisters have had, makes me unwilling to breed her. I never, ever, want to have to go through the pain, heartache, and money that I have gone through with Leeloo again and the chance that there might be a genetic component to her various lameness issues is just too high to risk passing on to another generation. Therefore, I need to find a mare worth breeding.

I have learned that means different things to different people, this is what I mean when I say that: I’m looking for a mare with good conformation and a good personality.

Conformation. There is a lot of information on what good conformation looks like – this post by the U of M extension has a really nice summary. I’m looking for everything they mention plus I want a pretty head and good feet. A “pretty head” is a little harder to pin down than good confirmation, but I did find this website that articulates it fairly well. I think Leeloo has a pretty head, but of course I am biased. Good feet can be a bit trickier to identify because the condition of a horse’s hoof is a combination of conformation, genetics, nutrition, environment, and farrier care. Bad farrier care, bad environment, or bad nutrition can ruin perfectly good feet. That being said after having a horse that had to be shod year-round and dealing with Leeloo’s various feet issues, having good feet is a must. I read an article in the American Quarter Horse Journal (it was an actual physical magazine so I can’t link it) about one of the founding studs of the Quarter Horse breed. He was a really talented racehorse and a popular stud, but they mentioned in passing that he had bad feet. My immediate thought was, and you just bred that trait into how many future generations? So, I’m looking for good confirmation, good feet, and a pretty head.

Personality. I think a foal picks up much of their early personality and behavior from their dam. Leeloo’s dam Annie was a sweet, friendly, smart, willing mare who loved to be around people (she was a lapdog that somehow got born into a horse body) and I believe Leeloo got that from her both through her genetics and through learned behavior; by watching how Annie interacted with the world and people around her. That’s not to say you can’t ruin a perfectly good-natured horse by treating it poorly or that a horse that starts out as a bull-headed a** can’t eventually become a friendly and willing partner. But starting out with a foal who already likes and trusts people because their mom likes and trusts people makes the job easier. So, I’m looking for a sweet, smart, and willing mare. 

Things I don’t care as much about.

Height – I am a tall person and most of my height is in my torso, so when I’m sitting on a horse I look even taller. If I ever start showing again it’s important that the horse and I “make a pretty picture” and since I’m 90% torso I look stupid on short horses. Not to say shorter horses aren’t great, we just look very disproportionate. So, I’d like a horse that is at least 15’1 hands high and not taller than 17 hands. I know that in some performance-based events (like barrel racing) shorter horses are preferred which is why my height range has expanded from my long-term preference of 16 hands or so.

Color – I have always been partial to buckskins, duns, bays, and roans. But in the end color doesn’t matter, good confirmation and personality matter. Also, Leeloo is a chestnut and Annie was a gray and I love/loved them completely so who cares about color

Breeding – I think too many people get caught up with certain bloodlines and in the end a good horse is a good horse. A horse can have the “best” (as in most expensive or most famous) breeding and be just a so-so or worse horse. I do however want a registered mare because I think long-term it gives more options for what to do with her and how I can market and sell future offspring.

I have just recently started searching for this dream mare, having been preoccupied with the seemingly never-ending fence saga, I’ve gotten a few leads but so far they haven’t panned out, or have been out of my price range. I had always assumed I would be getting a Quarter Horse or an Appendix since those are the horses I have had so far in my life and most of the people I showed with while growing up had Quarter Horses or Appendixes. However, two of my last three leads were Paints and one of the neighbors who I’ve started to get to know better shows her horse at Paint shows. Is the universe telling me to get a Paint?

Coming Home

Leeloo and Juniper Move in

Leeloo and Juniper officially moved-in to our new track system last Friday. It was not an easy transition for anyone. Okay mostly for Leeloo and I, Juniper settled in pretty quickly.

Leeloo’s former barn is within sight of our current house as mentioned in this post and I was, and still am, concerned that being so close may encourage something drastic on Leeloo’s part, like attempting (and failing) to jump or fight through the fence to go “home.” I was also concerned about the invariable herd dominance interactions that always happen whenever horses are introduced to one another. I have had some good experiences in the past with taking two horses that didn’t get along on a trailer ride together. The shared trauma of the trailer ride didn’t necessarily make them best friends, but they seemed to get along better afterwards. With those two things in mind, I decided to haul Leeloo with us to get Juniper so that she would feel like she had traveled some distance and would have a chance to spend time in the trailer with Juniper.

I talked out my introduction plans with Marin, the barn manager of Leeloo’s most recent barn since she knows Leeloo better than I do in terms of how she interacts with other horses. In addition to the trailering together idea I had also intended to put one of them in the round pen and leave the other on the outside so they could meet over the fence. Marin suggested putting them both in the round pen together so they had to interact and get used to each other but without corners so no one could get trapped. Also being able to observe their new home from a contained space could help them feel more secure as would putting something up to act as a wall of sorts for part of the round pen because there is no shelter of any kind in that area. I was skeptical because Leeloo is taller than the panels are, but we have a large piece of roofing rubber that we aren’t doing anything with that would work well as a “wall” and it couldn’t hurt – so we hung it up.

My friend Hilary was kind enough to trailer us and we met early Friday morning to get Leeloo loaded into the trailer. Leeloo loaded fine as always, but she doesn’t like staying in the trailer; when I leave, she wants to leave with me. Hilary kept her distracted from the other side of the window as I tied her and got the divider shut. Then we headed out to pick up Juniper. Leeloo was unhappy and pawing the entire trip and continued in a state of  distress the whole time we were picking up Juniper. I hoped having Juniper in the trailer would make her feel better, but she didn’t seem to notice.

Once we got to our house and unloaded I led Leeloo, Hilary led Juniper, and we walked all around the track. Then we put them both in the round pen together. We left Leeloo’s halter on in case we needed to get her out quickly and left Juniper’s grazing muzzle off so she would have all her resources to defend herself if needed, and to remove any additional stressor. The result was that Juniper immediately started gorging on the grass in the middle while Leeloo ran around the edge freaking out. Leeloo would occasionally roll, which was apparently a good sign because rolling, shaking out, and snorting, helps horses release stress hormones; so she was trying to calm herself down, it just wasn’t working. She would run around the edge of the round pen and then go in and herd Juniper around, making her run and switch directions. It was almost identical to what you see trainers do when they first work with a new horse in a round pen. I was too busy watching and stressing out myself to film it; but it was truly fascinating to watch. Eventually Leeloo stopped herding Juniper and let her eat while she paced for a while longer before finally giving up and huddling by that “wall” we had created on one side of the round pen.

After some time of calmness (on Leeloo’s part, Juniper was still busy eating) we decided to take them on another tour of the entire track system and then let them loose in it. I had assumed, since they seemed to have worked out all their issues in the round pen, that there wouldn’t be any more dominance interactions so I put Juniper’s grazing muzzle back on and let them go. However as soon as they were both loose Leeloo would chase after Juniper and Juniper would defended herself, though she always gave way. Eventually Leeloo managed to herd Juniper down to the shelter area and Juniper stood outside the shelter while Leeloo stood in one of the bays with her head in the corner. That is where Leeloo spent the rest of the day. At one point Juniper was over it and headed back up to the round pen area to eat and Leeloo chased after her and tried to herd her back to the shelter but Juniper held her ground and wouldn’t go back, at which point Leeloo gave up and she spent the rest of the daylight hours moping in the shelter while Juniper ate around the round pen.

Saturday morning I went to do chores (I have to do chores every day now – why did I think this was a good idea?!).  They were both separated but calling at each other. Leeloo however was shaking and still seemed very distressed and did not want to leave the shelter area. I walked over to where Juniper was and got her shut into the round pen so I could feed her breakfast. Juniper eats her breakfast very slowly because she gets to have her grazing muzzle off for that and the grass is far more tempting than her breakfast is. Once I had Juniper eating I went over to the shelter area to pick up poop and this time when I walked over to the round pen area Leeloo followed me, and proceeded to pace around the outside of the round pen. Once Juniper was finally done eating I put her grazing muzzle back on and opened the round pen gate. Juniper trotted out and then she and Leeloo acted like they hadn’t spent the whole day together yesterday, with squealing and kicking and being foolish, though no one was hurt. They quit sooner than they had the day before at least and then Leeloo went to pacing in and around the round pen. Eventually she stopped pacing and stayed in the round pen and hid behind the “wall” and just stared at Juniper, who ignored her. Leeloo creeped on Juniper like that for several hours.

Eventually Leeloo left the security of the round pen but she still stuck close to the “wall” just on the other side. Thank you, Marin, for that suggestion!! That “wall” was Leeloo’s refuge for the whole day. As the sun was setting Leeloo herded Juniper over to the shelter area and this time Juniper cooperated and went with her and they both hung out in the shelter, though in respective bays.

In the end I think the move-in plan worked as well as could be hoped. Up to this point Leeloo has always lived with at least other ten horses in, or immediately adjacent to, her paddock so I knew going to just one pony would be a huge change but I hadn’t realized how stressful it would be on her. Leeloo has moved a lot in her past. By the time she was six years old she had lived at seven different boarding facilities and we were moving to her eighth. However, she has been at this last barn for seven years. She had gone from moving, on average, every nine months to staying in one place for seven years.

In many ways I think Leeloo’s experience with this move echoes my own experience when we moved in 2019. All through college and grad school I moved almost every year and it was never a big deal, but then in 2006 we moved into our previous home and stayed there for 13 years. When we moved again in 2019 it was a much bigger shock for me; it was far more disruptive and caused significantly more emotional distress for me than any of the previous moves had. I think Leeloo felt the same about this move.

In addition to going from moving constantly to staying in one place for seven years, Leeloo had also grown up, and in the process became the single most dominant horse of a herd of close to thirty. Going from the unquestioned boss of thirty horses to the boss of one indifferent pony was a huge shock.

Luckily by Sunday morning Leeloo had calmed down enough to actually lay down for a few minutes. She didn’t stay down long, she was clearly trying to get comfortable and just couldn’t, but the fact that she was willing to try at all made me feel better. Then she and Juniper spent the day standing near each other but not engaging with each other. They looked like a couple who had been arguing about something stupid and were giving each other the silent treatment. But at least Leeloo wasn’t shaking or pacing anymore so I’m calling it a win.

We have horses at our house!