Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Take Just A Moment To Remember Them

May 25, 2015, Memorial Day

Since our own Civil War in the 1860's, more than 1,250,000 men and women, immigrants and natural born citizens of the United States of America have died so that my wife and I might have this one brief moment of peace and beauty on our farm.  And we should never forget the wounded, the maimed and the forever changed, whose names do not appear on the rolls of those killed in battle, but are casualties just the same.

Except by reflecting on our freedom, we can never, never do honor to their sacrifice.  They would be proud of the moments they have given you and me, and we should take just a moment to remember them.

Copyright, May 26, 2015 by Loren R. Schumacher
Photo, Copyright, May 25, 2015 by Carol A. Lang

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It's Callie's Turn One More Time

Thomas McGuane in his book "Some Horses*," quotes a friend of his from Oklahoma, "God made a perfect world but he would like one chance to redesign the horse."  Further, McGuane says, "Certainly, some work could be done with the feet, hocks, suspensory tendons, navicular bones, all of which seem far too delicate for the speed and weight of the horse,  And too often, the fifty feet of unsupported intestine acquires a simple loop and kills the horse,  If the horse were a Ford, the species would vanish beneath lawsuits engendered by consumer-protection laws."

Now I don't know Thomas McGuane or his Oklahoma buddy, but I do know that horse, and she's mine!  Callie is the horse, like some humans, to whom everything happens, and unlike most humans, she suffers without complaint.

When she came to us she had a hideous scar on her right front shoulder that looked to be the product of a vicious bite.  Just a slight correction by another horse, perhaps.  There's the straight-line scar on her left side that runs nearly the length of her belly.  Might be from barbed wire fencing.  Then there is the wire fence scar above her left hind hoof, a reminder not to roll too close to our pasture fence.

There have been several trips by our vet to check minor eye injuries, you know, a piece of hay or dust and her eyes close and water like the Trevi Fountain.  And of course, her navicular and deep flexor tendon problems.  All suffered in silence by my beautiful girl.

While we were on vacation, the young woman who takes care of them for us emailed and mentioned that Callie had welts or hives that seemed to come and go.  We told her that Callie was no doubt suffering from mosquito bites and she, Irene, shouldn't worry about them.  We told Irene to make sure she sprayed Callie with fly spray a couple of times a day.

But we weren't prepared for this:

Callie's hide had bubbled up like paint exposed to high heat.

When I finally got a good look at Callie the next morning my first thought was, "Call the vet." 

 Instead, I sent our vet this photo and the following conversations in text followed.

Me:  Came home from vacation to find Callie covered in what appears to be hives.  Caretaker said they are not as bad as they were.(?)  Callie seems not to be bothered by them.  Is there anything I should do?  Are you seeing this elsewhere?  Looks like an allergic reaction to me.

Dr. Mc:  Definitely is allergic reaction that we don't want to ignore.  I would suggest antihistamines asap.  I can have the office get ready if you want to pick up.  If left prolonged could lead to an exaggerated systemic reaction etc.

Me:  Ok on the antihistamines.  I will p/u after 3 today.

Dr. Mc:  I will also leave a small packet of cortisone granules to get a jump on it.  Should resolve rather efficiently.

When I picked up the antihistamines the syringe was marked in ML, but the prescriptions was for 5 CC's twice per day.  I was confused, but Wikipedia cleared things up right away.  Silly me, CC's and ML's are the same.  Can I get a science class do-over please?

The antihistamine was prescribed for two doses for five days, but on the fifth day the hives reappeared.  Being Sunday, I felt pretty bad about bothering the vet, but another text brought the same immediate response.  Take the second cortisone packet and continue with two 5 ML doses a day.

Callie's hives seem better and she looks like my horse again, but I still have my fingers crossed that the allergic reaction is under control.  Still, I don't know what caused Callie's reaction and that's what bothers me most.

* Some Horses essays by Thomas McGuane, copyright 2013 and published first in hardback by Lyons Press in 1999

Copyright by Loren R. Schumacher May 18, 2015
Photo by the author, Copyright May 18, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Divers, Sharks, Chickens and Sunset Horses

Carol and I, like most of you, work like dogs to earn a few days vacation each year,and a trip to Paradise, Grand Cayman, seemed the right place to decompress.  We're fortunate to have come here to the island several times and while the weather has been iffy, it is still a beautiful, restful and peaceful place. 

We have been diving on the windward, east side, where the seas roll and tumble into deep boat-pitching troughs that have produced rock-me-in-your arms surge and a bit of sea sickness in me.  Most of the dives have a 100' profile for 40 minutes and then back to the boat and on board...if you can.

The west side along Seven Mile Beach is more commercial and tourist driven, but diving with
the Don Foster Dive operation is as good as it can get. 

Carol and me with a green turtle.

The reef on the west side is a little used up in places but still beautiful.  Best of all, the dive ops have done a great job keeping the predator Lion Fish at bay.  We understand that they have taken over the Bahamian reefs and as a result, the tropical fish population has declined.  The local predators don't yet see the Lion Fish as prey to be taken.  Too bad, we have always loved diving there.

Enough talk.  Most of the following pictures were taken by our friend, Howard Farr, with his GoPro camera, some by Carol and me.

A great shot of a Nurse Shark with Carol watching closely.  Nurse sharks are usually found on the bottom and are not normally aggressive,

Sunset on Baker's Beach.  Just Carol, me and our guide and camera man, Mike.

Diamond in front and me on Lady.  She was a head tossing, nose to tail trail horse, but she's still a horse.

Did I tell you that life is always an uphill battle?

Georgetown, Grand Cayman is famous for its feral chickens and this rooster is one of them.  The pictures were taken at the Bates Family park on the island's west side.

This fellow is beautiful.

They used to call her Bubbles.
We're doing a safety stop on our last dive at 20' for 3 minutes.  That's the boat above my right shoulder.

On the dive pictured above, Carol and I both blew our dive profile of 60' for 50 minutes, which is never a good thing, because of nitrogen accumulation in the joints which can lead to a potentially fatal condition called the "bends."   But we saw a glimpse of two reef sharks darting in and out of the blue water over the reef's edge.  Well, most people run from sharks, but divers usually swim toward them as we did to a max depth of 81'  Battleship gray, sinuous, and lethal these girls (I have never seen a male shark) swam directly at us, so we were able to study them very closely.  It was a curious experience because one of them was being led by four tiny silver fish just in front of its snout and trailed by another larger fish (not a pilot fish), dark in color, which I did not recognize.  I can only think that they existed in some sort of symbiotic relationship.  It is always a surreal and beautiful experience to be in the presence of sharks.

Just a couple of more days and then back to the REAL world.

So long for now, from Paradise.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Of Course They Have Emotions

My favorite portrait of Callie, just after a bath.  Hadn't washed her face yet.  She likes the way a cloth feels on her face, but she is so impatient that I am usually wetter than she.
The author of The Horse God Built, Lawrence Scanlan, wrote in his 1998 book, Wild About Horses,* "Few humans have ever wondered what animals were thinking or feeling, or even granted the possibility of animal thought or emotion." 
Not long ago I was asked if horses show emotion, because their facial expressions seldom seem to change.  It was a friend who has spent little time with horses who asked and she was surprised to find that their range of emotions is as complete and complex as our own, but mostly played out on a physical stage.  Horses do use their infrequent verbalizations to express how they are feeling or what they might want another horse or person, for that matter, to do.   A horse can even nicker, "Good morning," as mine often do.
Horses feel anger, boredom, fear, resentment, jealousy, loneliness and abandonment, as well as grief, just as we do.  Their ears and bodies tell us a great deal: ears up, down and sometimes sideways (interest, anger and boredom), chewing without eating, a hoof cocked when standing (at ease or learning or resting), among others.  We simply have to watch them to learn their language.
But what about affection?  Do my girls feel comforted by me, do they need me?  In all the years Callie and Stormy have been with me I have never been 100% sure.  Oh, Stormy will practically wrap herself around me when she is uncertain or a bit fearful, at a clinic for instance.  At night when I feed her she will touch my back or shoulder with her mouth and nose while I spread her hay, all the while drooling all over me.  Is this affection or just simple curiosity?
Perhaps it is because the three of us are getting older that the presence of one another as members of the herd has taken on greater meaning.  But I have begun to see changes in them, especially in Callie.
I had just gotten back from this year's "Road To The Horse" and the woman who takes care of them while we are away had fed and put them to bed.  After three days without seeing and touching them I had to make a quick visit..  Stormy, in her usual way, let me know  that she was mad at me, turning her head after greeting me with her rock hard eyes and by peeing in her stall, which she never does, her anger and rebellion in bloom.  Just Stormy being Stormy and I understand.
Because Callie has a controlled navicular problem, I wanted to clean her hooves and say hello to her too.  As I finished her right side hooves, she turned her head and touched her right side, just as I had taught her to do when flexing, once, twice and held it there after the third touch.  I stood and took her huge head in my arms and lay my head on her forehead.  We stood together in that way for several minutes.
Our part of the state has rainy, cold winters and springs, so not a lot of riding gets done for several months.  Each spring I start my horses in the same way.  Using a training halter and lead rope, I simply walk my horses up and down the pasture.  I ask them to disengage their hind quarters, turn on the forehand and back up, nothing too strenuous, just letting them know that it is time to work.
Stormy always shows great distress, jealousy really, whenever I pay attention to Callie.  As Callie and I reached the farthest point in our pasture Stormy charged at a full gallop toward us.  Alert and enraged, ears erect and eyes focused, she began to harass Callie (never me).   Callie began to pull on the lead rope and swinging her massive hind quarters from side to side.  She was frantic, throwing her head up and down trying to avoid Stormy.  Callie will sometimes buck, kick and even rear when she's in a tight spot, and I could feel it coming.  Pretty soon the wagons were circled and I was between them.  Now I was in danger.  Using the end of  Callie's lead rope I began twirling it to drive Stormy away. With her eyes flashing and her sweat-soaked sides heaving, Stormy retreated. 
Fear like an electric current charged Callie's body.  The twirling rope relieved the danger Stormy presented but drove Callie to hysteria. As she pulled on the lead rope, her head ripping the air from side to side, backing and wheeling on her hind legs, I should have let go, but I began talking to her softly, following her as she backed away, staying with her, reassuring her, speaking calmly and gently until she stopped her crazed flight.  It was quiet and I could feel the tension leave her body through the rope I still held.  Callie took three or four quick steps forward and lay her head on my shoulder.  I could hear her breathing slow.  I put my hand over her muzzle and stroked it until our hearts beat normally.  Questions answered.
Other things:
Last week the air finally warmed enough for a few flies to show themselves.  I knelt down to spray
Callie's front legs and when I did, something startled her.  She swung her head around and caught me on the forehead near my hairline (yes, I still have a hairline).  When the stars cleared (and there were stars), I was against the fence nearly six feet away, with a frail grip on consciousness.  When the bees stopped buzzing in my brain I finished spraying her and went on with life.  Mad?  No, it wasn't intentional.
The next post will be an interview with a horse trainer.  He makes some interesting observations. Following that, a review of the 2015 "Road To The Horse" and perhaps an essay on the former Kentucky Derby winner, Grindstone.
*Wild About Horses  by Lawrence Scanlan, 1998 by HarperCollins Publishers
Text and Photo Copyright May 5, 2015 by Loren R. Schumacher