Where Did The Year Go

2022 – Year-End Recap

I was starting to write a “goals for next year” post and was feeling a bit disheartened by all the things I had wanted to get done this year but haven’t gotten to yet and decided that it would be good for my mental health to take some time to reflect on the many things we did accomplish this year.

Just the decision to bring Leeloo home without having the full barn setup that I had been dreaming of was a big deal. There were many conversations with many people, and a lot of thinking about goals for myself and for Leeloo, before we even got to the starting gate. That process was the main focus of these posts:

Then there was putting the fence up and electrifying it, which took the whole summer. I understand now why people are willing to pay an extra $30,000+ to have a fence installed. The entire fence process is detailed in these posts: (Fence Part 1, Fence Part 2, Fence Part 3, Fence Part 4, Fence Part 5, Fence Part 6, Fence Part 7, Fence Part 8) and I need to remind myself how much work that was or I start feeling like we should have gotten more done over the summer.

Getting the first two shelters, anchoring them, starting to build the third shelter, then deciding that building it just wasn’t going to happen, was also more work and stress than I imagined. It is obvious now that we never could have built them ourselves, we just don’t have those skills yet, but that wasn’t always easy for me to accept. I am very happy now that we opted to buy them already constructed and that for the third one we went with the company that anchors them for you. The drama around the shelters was discussed in these posts: Give Me Shelter – Part 1 and Part 2, Second Interlude, So Much to Do, Mish Mash, Know When to Fold ThemHayshed – Delivered.

Finding and installing the round pen wasn’t part of the original plan but I am so glad we have it! We haven’t gotten to use it for its intended purpose very often but, it was so very helpful when we brought the girls home and has been very handy many times since then; including helping to separate Leeloo and Juniper each morning during feeding time. Though we are currently having some issues with Juniper turning into a picky eater; if it isn’t one thing it’s another. We discuss the round pen in Gate Expectations and the Fifth Interlude.

HAY! I had been a little worried about getting decent hay for a price we could afford. One of my long-term goals is to have our own hay field and I still feel that way, finding quality hay has been a challenge particularly since we also need it delivered. Luckily we were able to find a variety of hay for this year, including several different people who would deliver, though the quality has been all over the place. The girls like the most expensive hay best (of course) but now that we finally have some hay nets and some haybox lids they at least can’t toss it all over the ground and waste it (I’m looking at you Leeloo).  Hay post – Fourth Interlude.

Then there was finding Juniper – I didn’t talk much about that process on the website but it took a while for us to find the right pony, even when her only job is to keep Leeloo company, well and be cute of course. Finding that next mare, who will be the cornerstone of whatever comes next for us, is going to take much, much longer (Looking For a Baby Maker) – but now we’re starting to get into future goals and that is for the next post.

The ultimate goal of all of this work was to bring Leeloo and Juniper (once we found her) home, which we did! I sometimes forget what an accomplishment that is – it is the culmination of decades of dreaming. Here are the posts about bringing them home and the fun that has been: Coming Home, First Two Weeks, Sugar is Evil, Copy Paste, She’s Lucky She’s Cute, First Real Snow, Work Harder Not Smarter, Winter Woe-nderland.

One of the things I feel the biggest sense of accomplishment about (now that it is over) was something that we hadn’t planned for at all; dealing with Juniper’s eye infection. That was a huge, huge deal, both in terms of time and money, and I am so very, very, happy we were able to heal it (First Two Weeks, The Joys of Medicating Ponies, Mish Mash, Copy Paste, Juniper Eye Update). There was a very real chance she could have lost that eye and we saved it!

Though we weren’t able to build any shelters, we did get several building projects done including the six hay boxes (First Two Weeks, Projects Galore, Hay Contained) and the three compost bays (How to Make Compost Bays). The lids for the hay boxes are so close to being all done and hopefully we’ll get a chance to finish installing them during this “warm” period.

We’re once again getting into future goals but taking time to look back over this year has done what I had hoped, reset my perspective on what we all accomplished in the last few months and made me feel better. We got a ton done, pushed ourselves way, WAY, out of our comfort zones, and, more often than not, accomplished what we set out to do (even if it almost always took longer and cost more than expected).

One other huge accomplishment that I haven’t written about was getting this website up and running. I have never done anything even remotely like this and every aspect of this website has been a learning experience and has been the cause of a lot of swearing and a lot of crying, mostly in the beginning – the website hasn’t made me cry in weeks. I am very happy with how it has turned out and am really proud of myself.

Looking forward to another year of adventures. And of course Leeloo will be there to help:


Juniper Eye Update

End Is In Sight

The vet was out last week for fall vaccinations and wellness checks for both Leeloo and Juniper. Leeloo was acting oddly again and did not want the vets to touch her anywhere from the base of her neck back and was particularly put out by the stethoscope. This is very unusual behavior for her and was even weirder considering we had just done a really thorough grooming session the previous day and I touched literally all of her and she hadn’t minded.  The one thing her not wanting to be touched episodes have in common is a change from warmer weather to cooler weather so I’m considering that as a factor, but even then very out of character. We will continue to monitor her to see how things go. Leeloo also apparently developed a very minor heart murmur which can apparently come on from out of the blue and can sometimes resolve itself just as quickly and is also apparently not that big of a deal so I’m trying to not panic much about that. 

Now on to the good news. Juniper’s eye is looking much, much better according to the vet and the ophthalmologist she consulted with here is a progression of how Juniper’s eye has been doing over the past two months:

Taken September 14, 2022

Taken September 29, 2022

Taken October 9, 2022

Taken October 30, 2022

I will be honest and say I don’t see much of a difference between the last three photos but the vets were happy and more importantly.

This is the REALLY important part.

We are down to giving both medications just three times a day!!!!!

This will be life changing for me. I was giving medications at 8:00 AM, 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 4:00 PM, 6:00 PM. Every time I would have to stop whatever I was doing, possibly change clothes if I wasn’t outside doing outside work, and wash my hands and go give the eye drops. Then wait around five minutes doing nothing in particular and then give the ointment. Going down to three times a day is just so much more reasonable and I am so relieved.

And we only have to give both the drops and the ointment for one more week, which will be done this coming Thursday, and then we just have one more week of just the ointment and then we are done! DONE!


For anyone who may need to give eyedrops to a horse or pony in the future I did make a video of our process because doing something six times a day for six weeks makes you pretty good at it and I was so very intimidated by giving eyedrops in the beginning I thought there might be some other people out there that would find this helpful.

Giving Eyedrops to a Horse or Pony

A few notes before we get to the video:

  • We used positive reinforcement or clicker training to help with the process. I go through the steps quickly in the beginning of the video but the basic idea is you have some sort of vocal cue (that you don’t use for anything else!) that you make when you are happy with your horse or pony’s behavior and then you give them some sort of treat. They learn that the vocal cue means they did something right and a reward is coming. You and your horse or pony (or dog or cat) don’t have to have any previous experience to use this process though there is the possibility of creating some “manners” issues with horses or ponies trying to get to the treats (and when a 600 lb animal or 1200 lb animal is trying to get to your pockets that can cause some problems) which is why there are usually some basic ground rules you teach your horse or pony first. Juniper so far has never had issues but I will go through those ground rules before I try to use clicker training with her for anything else.  There are many great resources out there for teaching how to do clicker training with your horse and this Adele Shaw’s website was one of my favorites and I have really enjoyed Alexandra Kurland’s book
  • Eye ointments get too soft if you have them in a pocket next to your skin (like a pants pocket) or in your hand so you either need to have a coat or a fanny pack to keep them away from your body. I like the fanny pack because (A) keeping the medicines in the outer pocket kept them away from my body heat (B) the inner pocket was great for holding the treats (C) Juniper learned to recognize the fanny pack as medicine and treats time and I think that has helped with the not looking for treats anywhere else on my body.
  • I know that the method of putting may hand under her halter is really, really unsafe. If you decide to try that method (A) I am telling you not to so if you get hurt it is not my fault and (B) make sure you keep your hand and wrist really flat so if your horse or pony does move suddenly (say because another horse comes up and is upset they are not getting treats and the pony you are trying to give medicine to wants to get away from said jealous horse) your hand will slip back out again without getting you dragged along with your horse. But again – unsafe. But it worked for us. 

I just want to say again – unsafe to have my hand under her halter like that. 

Here is a video giving the eye ointment. In the beginning I wasn’t very picky about how I gave the eye ointments but I felt like I got better results when I tried harder to get it on the inside of her eyelid. This is the part where having clean hands is really important because you are actually touching inside their eyelid. 

Only one and a half more weeks!!!!! What am I going to do with all that free time?

Copy Paste

Stuck in a Loop

First, an update on Leeloo from this post. Leeloo is doing much, much, better. The morning after our scare she was already looking 90% better. I found a giant welt on the left side of her stomach, which was the side where the swelling in her legs was worse, so I’m pretty confident all of her symptoms were a reaction to a bee or wasp sting. Since she was doing so much better, I decided to hold off on the next dose of banamine and wait a full 24 hours. She continued to improve, so we decided not to give any more banamine. I also called the vet and we opted not to send her blood to the lab because that would cost an extra $180 and she was doing fine. Even though it turned out to be unwarranted, calling the vet was the right decision. Her symptoms could easily have been a reaction to something she had eaten and some of the toxic plants or bugs that can work their way into hay can have fast-acting and deadly consequences. I’m happy it was nothing more serious and that she’s doing better, but very annoyed that she had to get stung on a Sunday – of course she had to get stung on the most expensive vet call day there is. 

Now on to our never-ending tasks.

Lately it feels like I am stuck in my own version of the movie Groundhog Day. Every day seems like a repeat of the day before: eye meds, hay shed work, panic about all the other things that aren’t getting done and how quickly winter will be here. It’s hard to see progress being made; I went to take a picture of where we are at now with the hay shed project and you can’t tell the difference from the previous pictures I took. That being said, we are slowly, soooooooo slowly, making progress on this building.

We have one 36-foot, 6” x 6” beam finished and two of the 11-foot 6” x 6” beams finished and all three are in position outside. We are also 2/3 finished with the second 36-foot 6” x 6” beam. Everything takes us longer than I think it should, and probably longer than it would take someone who knows what they are doing, had all the proper tools, and had dimensional lumber. We do not know what we are doing, we do not have all the proper tools, and we are working with rough cut lumber. I’m hoping once we get past this part, creating beams from smaller boards, it will start going a little faster. One of the choke points in the process is the insufficient number of clamps. We have enough to do two short beams or one long beam which means there is a lot of downtime while we wait for the wood glue to set. It is minor, but frustrating.

You know what else is minor, but frustrating? Having to give two different eye medications, four-to-six times a day, that have to be given at least five minutes apart from one another, that I also have to have clean hands to apply.

When you just hear it, or read it in the email from the vet, having to wait five minutes between the meds seems like no big deal. But because we’re dealing with an eye that already has an infection it is important that my hands are clean when I give the medications and it is almost impossible for me to just stand there for five minutes without doing something that invariably causes me to have to go back in the house and wash my hands again: filling up the water, getting more hay, petting Leeloo, who has come up to see if maybe this time one of those carrots in the bright blue fanny pack is for her – because sometimes I give in and give her a carrot because I’m feeling guilty that we haven’t spent any time together since she came home. I do always make her work for it. Our current game is the “go find it” game where I touch her nose with the carrot and then toss it and point at it and tell her to “go find it.” I can’t throw it very far or she gets distracted by grass and stops searching or just looks at me like, “Why you got a be a jerk? Why can’t you just give it to me?” It has however come in handy a few times when Juniper is being particularly possessive of me and cranky at Leeloo; I’ll walk some ways with the carrot, touch Leeloo on her nose and toss it just far enough that she can still find it, but in the opposite direction as Juniper. It usually buys me enough time to get the meds done.

Hopefully this weekend we’ll make some more substantial progress on the hay shed. In the meantime here is a picture of baby Leeloo, because who doesn’t love baby Leeloo?!

Taken at Horseplay Ranch in Corcoran MN when Leeloo was eleven days old.

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?

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!