Saturday, August 16, 2008


So much to do: so little time to do it! Sorry if you have been anxiously awaiting our daily post, sometimes there really are too few hours in the day. On the other hand I'm sure you got by quite adequately without us. Been a long week of catching up after our day trip last Saturday. Always a bitter sweet experience, sending our rescues off to, hopefully, their forever home. Our adoption contracts stipulate that should anything unforeseen occur, then the horse comes back to us. Life is full of those "surprises", and bad things happen to good people. Our adoption process tends to be slow, but choosing a horse takes time and we like to be sure that it is a good fit for both horse and adopter. These last adoptions we feel are good ones and, as can be seen, Flicka is making great strides in her new home. This was a four-year old, "unbroke" horse that had never had a saddle on her back.

Rudy, our blind Appaloosa has given us some worries recently. At 40, he is a Cushing's horse with all the usual aging handicaps, which include going off his feed for no apparent reason. Then, somehow, he managed to get dinged in both front ankles, and for a while even looked neurological with a weak back end. Our vet, Dr Kathy White, DVM, looked him over and we also took some blood samples, and apart from a slight anemia it looks like a combination of small things coming together.

It highlights for me that even with horses we know well, it is important to keep looking at them as individuals with all their special needs and complaints. We decided that his weakness in turning his back end, was unfamiliarity with the new area he was in - not being fully aware of where all the boundaries were, so important to a blind horse. All the other symptoms were just an unfortunate coming together of some pretty minor problems that, individually, would have made little impact. A few days in a stall have helped and he is now eating well again and standing solidly.
Rudy on the right, with his good friend Mingo (now adopted)
While Jorg is searching for "Mr Right" (for the cows I hasten to add) I have been honing my milking skills. "Nobody said it would be easy" - how I hate those words. Well, as my last milking episode implied Bessie and I had settled for an uneasy alliance, I don't squeeze too hard, and she doesn't kick my lights out. However, an incident occurred that actually bonded us at a time when I was thinking she was getting extremely "bullish".
Cows, apparently, can get pretty amorous when in heat and do all sorts of things with other cows which, if tried on their human keepers could result in fractures or worse. Walking Bessie to the parlor, which entails convincing her that the grass along the way is not the most succulent in the world, means tugging on the lead rope and this usually does the trick. This particular night instead of just grudgingly giving up her juicy mouthful Bessie went into rodeo mode. Back arched, all of 6 inches into the air with all four feet, and then straight for the parlor. Spooky, and a good job I'm no shrinking violet and quickish on my feet. This was after she had gone 3 rounds with Rosebud, and scattered the calves to the four winds.
Of course that night the pulsator chose to not work. Now this block of metal has a myriad of small holes which either suck or blow, according to where the slides are, and cause the pulsating motion in the inflations that mimics the fingers. According to the book, these can get blocked and need to be cleaned out. Needless to say this is not the moment to meddle with mechanical engineering with an anxious cow ready to be milked. What to do? Hand milk of course, duh! Now, I do the stripping of course so I can actually get a stream of milk, but empty a quarter, on Bessie in heat, you kidding?! Meanwhile Bessie had been peering around at the claw, on the gate next to her, and at me with bits of pulsator strewn around as much as to say "hey, what's up, shouldn't you be putting this thing on me so I can plant a foot on your head?" Well, the upshot was, Bessie and I bonded over manual milking, she certainly seems to prefer it to the mechanical sort, but has in fact been a gem from then on with hardly a raised foot.
Perhaps milking is finally becoming my "quiet" time, and the click of the pulsator a relaxing metronome. Oh, the problem with the pulsator? Leather washers on the sliders. They dry out and so become loose and let the air through. A quick spray of WD40 and all was well!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

In the News

The AP reports that an Equine Massage Therapist is suing the state of MD for the right to massage horses without a veterinary license. The entire article is below.

The reasonable mind asks why, if human massage therapists don't need to be doctors, animal therapists should need to be veterinarians. Of course, the reasonable mind already knows the answer to that question: professional lobbies. But legislators are elected to be smart enough to sift through all of the special interest gymnastics and deliver legislation that makes sense to everyone else when it hits the street. Somewhere, that process broke down in MD. We wish Ms. Clemens luck in her suit. And we're sure happy that we don't have that problem in VA. We have been very pleased with the results of massage therapy on our horses.

Associated Press, August 11, 2008

Damascus, Md. — Mercedes Clemens is certified to massage humans, but she claims the state of Maryland is keeping her from her first love: Massaging horses.

She shut down her equine massage practice in a Washington suburb after state officials told her state law only allows veterinarians to perform such services.

Now she's suing two state agencies, saying regulators are unfairly barring registered massage therapists who want to practice on animals.

Animal massage regulations vary from state to state, with some allowing only veterinarians to practice. Clemens' case is being closely watched by those in the animal massage industry, who say business has grown steadily along with interest in other alternative treatments and pampering for pets.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Looking for Mr. Right

Within the next two months, we will make one of the most important decisions in the lives of our future calves: we’ll pick their daddy. To do this, we will review a list of candidates in order to select one lucky fellow, we will purchase semen straws that will be delivered to us frozen, we’ll procure the services of an AI technician, and then we’ll put on some Barry Manilow (or maybe some Yanni or John Tesch), light some scented candles and watch the magic unfold.

The selection of “Dad” might be considered a straightforward exercise to some. Not us. Really, what do we know about these guys? We’ll want to start with a good, registered bull in order to know who his parents are. Are they our sort of cows? After all, we can’t have our girls consorting with anyone unsuitable. Did he come from the “right” farm? We’ll also want to make sure that he isn’t too closely related, if you know whutta’ mean (banjo music). We’ll want to examine his physical attributes in order to predict what characteristics might be handed down to our little cherubs. And we’ll want to know a few other things. Does he have tattoos? Of what? Has he ever done time in the Big House? We’ll run a Google search to find out if his previous “girls” have had bad things to say about him. We will also examine his Internet IP number to find out if he’s been contacting objectionable web sites.

The bull in the picture is the handsome “Breyer,” owned by Tammy in Staunton, VA. He is an example of what we are looking for. He’s got the size (small), the pedigree (AMJA) and a nice temperament. Unfortunately, he also has a very close relationship to our girls- he is their half brother. So we’ll need to find someone who occupies a more distant branch of the Miniature Jersey family tree.

But even once we’ve sifted through all of this information, there’s more.

Cows are able to be bred only during a very narrow time interval each month. Figuring out WHICH interval is one of the more difficult jobs in bovine husbandry. If we guess wrong, our AI technician will have wasted a drive out to our farm and we will need to wait to finish off that second bottle of Freixenet. Or, not. But in any case, we will be watching the girls very carefully for the subtle signs of a cow in season. They are hard to spot, and include things like mooing, fence pacing, letting other cows jump on their backs and possibly jumping on your back, if you aren’t careful. We are novices at determining this important stage, so in the photograph, Bessie helpfully demonstrates some easy-to-miss signs of bovine heat.

By the way, the current front runner is “Joe” (owned by Mary Hill in PA), who is the father of Annie and Penny. But other applicants are encouraged and will be carefully considered.

Photo of "Breyer" by Tammy Cupp

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Yesterday, we celebrated the Homecoming of Nikki and Whiskey, along with their new human family.

We have adopted many horses into new homes and every single adoption is different. This event was a celebration shared by friends and family, the culmination of much hard work to remodel the barn and repair the fences, a lot of homework on horse care, and various other tasks to ensure that every detail was attended to prior to their arrival. These horses received a king’s welcome.

Tom and I got up at 5:30, milked the cows, and fed Annie the calf and all the horses, cows, dogs, cats, birds, and sheep. We hung water buckets in the trailer and put down hay, then loaded up the boys and we were off.

The drive through central Virginia was beautiful. While many of us have been suffering through drought conditions, it appeared as if someone had flicked the “green” switch and somewhere around Roanoke, the brown gave way to a lush, emerald green. The boys were very quiet during the trip, which was a surprise to us because Nikki is known to be a nervous traveler. Whiskey is very self-confident, though and he seemed to have a wonderful calming influence.

Once we arrived, Tom walked the fence line with each horse, and then led them into their beautiful new stalls to rest, have a drink and munch on a little hay. Meanwhile, we had an opportunity to meet everyone, chat about horses and sample some of Tricia’s delicious pies.

We know these horses will be loved and cared for. On the way home, we talked a little about Whiskey and his sad start at an auction in southern VA with EPM. We know that the kind woman who bid on him would be thrilled with his new home and family. We certainly are. Tricia, thank you for your hospitality and congratulations on the newest members of your family!

Whiskey, left and Nikki, right, take a moment to confer with Tom.