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Pay Big Money Or Do It Yourself'

By Cynthia Foley, October 03, 2013

About a year ago, my husband and I finally gave in on our new-barn project and hired professionals to do the work.

I say ?finally? because We've gone a year trying to figure out how we could do it ourselves. it's just the two of us, it's a big barn, and we have precious little spare time. So, last week we came to our senses and wrote a big, fat check instead. The barn looks beautiful.

We did the same thing with electric, although we went through a lot of bids before we chose the right one. Bids ranged from $2500 to over $12,000. Why' Your guess is as good as mine. The point is, though, we decided tackling painting and electric on our own was holding us up too much.

But we're disappointed, too. We're both diehard do-it-yourselfers. We don't believe in paying anyone to do anything that we can do ourselves. And, by and large, that's worked just fine.

It may take us a little longer to get it done?and heaven knows we sacrifice ever going on a real vacation to do it?but things get done the way we want them for a lot less money. So, we paint, mow, repair fences, re-do the gravel driveway, garden, clean stalls and care for the horses, haul in bedding, etc.?whatever needs to be done is accomplished with our four hands.

Of course, in order to succeed at this you need enough common sense to admit if something?s not within your realm of expertise.? We can paint, but we can't do our horse's teeth.? We can repair the fence, but we can't diagnose veterinary problems, not even with all the ?help? you can find in Internet chat rooms.? Sometimes those forums get you into trouble, too.

that's because chat rooms are just that, folks sitting around discussing things. they're just doing it over the Internet instead of a coffee table. Go ahead and enjoy the chats, but verify the information you're getting before you use it.

People can tell some pretty tall tales when they're hiding behind a computer screen.? Bad painting advice might just be a matter of wasted cash, but improper suggestions for horse care or training can get you or your horse hurt.

Double-check online information through reliable sources, like your own veterinarian, farrier or trainer. Consult Horse Journal and other reputable publications and books. Attend clinics and seminars. Learn all you can. Then, get right out there and do it yourself. you'll enjoy every minute of it and save a bundle ? if you have enough time.
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Are Horses 'Innately Vicious?'

By Cynthia Foley, September 24, 2013

A Connecticut Supreme Court will hear an appeal today about a boy bitten by a horse in 2006, according to an Associated Press story in today?s paper.? The story says that the boy tried to pet the horse, and the horse stuck his neck out from behind a fence and bit the child on the cheek.

Apparently, the initial ruling, in 2010, was that ?the child's father, Anthony Vendrella Sr., failed to prove the owner knew of previous incidents of aggression by Scuppy (the horse).?? The horse was not known to bite anyone before, so there was no foreseeable reason to believe the horse was vicious and, therefore, no case. But then began the appeals process.

In 2012, an Appellate Court over-ruled the 2010 decision, stating that the owner of the horse demonstrated that ?Scuppy belongs to ?a species naturally inclined to do mischief or be vicious.?" Therefore, the owner of the horse was responsible. Yes, you read that right: Horses are naturally inclined to be vicious.

Of course, I cannot believe that was what Scuppy?s owner meant in his testimony, but it's what the jury believed. Now, it's at the state Supreme Court in an appeal to return it to the 2010 ruling. Mercifully, usually Supreme Court decisions are sensible.

it's scary, though. If the 2012 ruling is allowed to stand, Connecticut will become the first state to consider horses inherently dangerous.? That is very bad for those of us who own horses, starting with our ability to obtain affordable equine liability insurance or, potentially, any insurance policy that doesn't exclude horses.

If you don't believe me, talk to dog owners. Insurance-coverage problems dog owners experience include higher premiums and/or exclusions related to dog incidents, meaning you're not covered if your dog bites someone (and a scratch can be classified as a ?bite?). ?Of course, owners of ?known aggressive breeds,? like Akitas, Malamutes, Chow Chows, Dobermans, German Shepherds and Pit Bulls, are usually targeted, but every dog owner should read his or her homeowner?s policy carefully before signing.

Is that justified' I don't think so. I believe I would point to the stupid owner, not the dog. it's unfair to categorize responsible dog owners in the same group as idiots who think it's cute to have a dog that growls.

Still, the American Humane Association?s website states there are 8 million dog-bite incidents a year, with insurances paying out more than $1 billion per year due to that problem. Approximately 240 incidents per year are fatal, with over 25 different dog breeds involved. It makes you see the insurance underwriter?s point.

I couldn?t find what I considered a reliable site for horse-bite incidents. The information I readily found for horse-related injuries seemed old to me, although tHere's a widespread belief that approximately 20 people are killed by horses each year (heavily due to riding accidents). And about 78 million of us visit the emergency room for an equine-related incident each year.? One chat room insisted that there is a 20% chance that you'll be injured by a horse. That seems high, and they didn't define ?injured.?

I've been stomped on my right foot so many times that I'm sure if I had an X-ray, the radiologist would be horrified by my mangled foot bones. I never went to an emergency room for any of the stomps, so even if someone was counting, it wouldn?t have been known. (I did go to the ER for a potential head injury, of course.)

While horse people will continue to be a tough lot, too busy to ?waste? time in medical care (?I'll be fine. it's a long ways from my heart!), those who do wisely seek medical help will likely become a statistic next year. (Yes, it's ALWAYS wise to seek medical help any time you're injured, no matter how small the problem or how busy you are! Otherwise, you have put yourself at risk.)

On the near horizon, tHere's a change that may help. The federally mandated World Health Organization?s 2014 medical diagnosis codes will include subsets for how people are injured. It will track what you injured, how it happened and even if it's the first time you?ve been seen for such a problem or if it's a second incident, i.e. is this the first time you?ve been bitten by a horse or did it happen before'

it's believed organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) will use this information for tracking injuries and illnesses, disease control, research and education of the medical community.

Without getting into that looming ?invasion of privacy? issue, the good news is that I believe it should help prove that horses are not ?innately vicious,? in that most accidents are the result of someone doing something stupid and the horse reacting in an unexpected manner.

Whichever way this case goes, ?nothing excludes our responsibility as horse owners to do our best to ensure that people who visit our property conduct themselves in a safe, sensible manner to avoid potential unexpected incidents. ?Because, unfortunately, in this liability-driven world, we could find ourselves facing mega legal expenses, even when the incident was not foreseeable and well beyond our control.
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Summertime "Fun"

By Cynthia Foley, July 27, 2013

What a summer it's been so far! Here in the Northeast, We've had abnormally high rainfall and abnormally high heat.? it's a recipe for disaster for humans, animals and vegetation (lots of noise around here about higher hay prices. Ugh!).

On our farm, We've had to shave the Persian barn cat due to horrible hair mats--he was a rescue and we couldn?t keep him in the house because he fought with the other cats, so he was put on mouse duty.? And He's pretty mean, so brushing him regularly was never a fun thing to do . . .

We had trouble getting into the pasture to get it mowed?too much rain?so the field got too tall, which caused all sort of skin bumps on the horses.? We've had a hoof abscess that thankfully resolved quickly, and even our spare tack has had to be cleaned more frequently due to the high humidity. (OK, I know moldy tack is a ?blessing? because it tells you that your leather is well-nourished and healthy, but you sure don't want to ignore it and let it penetrate into the leather.) But lately it seems to be work, work, work.

And, worst of all for me, my mare developed skin disease between her forelegs and into the girth area, so no riding.? We haven't had to battle skin disease on her for years, but this year certainly set the stage for it.? It isn?t to a level where I needed to get the veterinarian in because I caught it quickly (don't wait when you see something, as it can spread all over the body quickly).

I initially thought it was a fungal infection and was treating it as such. When I didn't see any improvement four days, I asked my husband to look at it, and he thought it was bacterial. Now, we're making progress. The antibacterial nitrofurazone cream he suggested is doing the trick.

I know some folks really over-react when it comes to getting rid of skin problems, and they throw everything but the kitchen sink at the infection. Certainly, a full body bath is in the first thing in order. For overall skin irritations, a gentle shampoo, like Orvus or Corona, is the way to go.? But if you're dealing with a bodywide problem that's red and inflamed, you may need the ?umph? of a medicated shampoo, like ChlorHex, EQyss Microtek or Absorbine?s Medicated Shampoo.

Be careful about what you apply to the actual infected area. Skin is easily damaged by the wrong topical treatment. Straight bleach can burn. ?Lime sulfur, another old-time remedy, can be toxic to the animal, if used incorrectly. (The concentration and duration for lime sulfur should be determined by a veterinarian.)

There are safe, effective over-the-counter topical treatments you can use: Chlorhex 2X, Ketochlor, EQyss Microtek, and Vetericyn are among our recommended products. Vetericyn is expensive enough to be called ?liquid gold,? but it's very broad-spectrum and effective, providing both antiseptic and wound-healing capabilities.? Contributing Veterinary Editor Grant Miller DVM discussed it in his series on skin problems in July and August 2012. ?Vetericyn is a strong oxidant that can kill pathogens?bacteria, fungus, viruses?and bring oxygen to damaged tissue, which hence potentiates healing.? ?Of course, if you don't see progress in five days or so?or if you see worsening!?call in your veterinarian.

Yes, the summer of 2013 has been challenging so far, to say the least.? But, still, even after I've finished the stalls, hay, water, feed, painting the cracked hoof, applying the skin cream, inspecting for bumps and swellings, sweeping the barn aisle, combing the cat (to avoid more mats!) and all the other chores we all do every day without thinking, tHere's no place I'd rather be than in my barn. Yup. Even in the heat or pouring rain.
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Fireworks Day!

By Cynthia Foley, June 26, 2013

Our horses, past and current, never have been able to fully tolerate Independence Day celebrations. Although fireworks are illegal for private parties in New York state, where I live, they seem to "pop" up everywhere around the Fourth of July.

The noise starts in late June (I guess they have to practice) and peaks, of course, July 4th in the early evening. ?It lasts a few days, as I guess they must use up the leftovers. ?We don't call the police, partially because I don't want to be the neighborhood snitch, but also because I firmly believe the authorities have enough to do without trying to track down the source of a fireworks display.

I have long had a rule that horses aren't ridden here past 4 p.m. on July 4, as I am a safety freak. And the horses come into the barn earlier in the evening, too, because they feel safer there. We make many trips to the barn during the evening to ensure no horse is getting overly upset, but you can see that each pop and crack goes through them like a knife.

The few times we have been caught on horseback when someone was practicing for the 4th, we've used basic good horsemanship to stay safe: Keep the horse occupied and busy, no matter what's happening around you. Never stop and stand, because it gives the horse reason to think that something's wrong. Do circles, serpentines, turns on the forehand or haunches, leg yields . . . you don't want to add speed into the mix, but a good walk or trot riding patterns should help keep your horse's mind on his work.

Keep your own body loose and relaxed, as you ride, and your voice calm. He can feel your tension. If the horse bolts, get him under control as quickly as possible, by turning him in a smaller and smaller circle. Stay calm. If the noises continue and your horse stays upset, you need to end the schooling session because you're really not getting anywhere anyway. ?Better yet, go ahead and give your horse a vacation day! Horses need a break every now and then, just like we do.

Have a safe and happy 4th of July celebration!




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Reining to the Harlem Shake

By Cynthia Foley, April 30, 2013

If you like reining (or even if you don't), this is an awesome video of reiner Pete Kyle aboard A Ruf Gal at the Kentucky Reining Cup Freestyle doing the "Harlem Shake." ?I think reining is an exciting and impressive sport (no wonder Anky started doing it!). ?A Ruf Gal's spins are jaw dropping.

Watch closely, though. Not only is the mare absolutely awesome, but she was working harder than the background dancers and she wasn't getting anywhere near as tired! ?Watch A Ruf Gal's Harlem Shake.

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