Friday, September 27, 2013

Special Time With Scarlette

Now that both my little girls are in school, when I go out to feed the horses in the morning, there is no longer a rush to get back in the house, I can spend as much time out there as I want.   I always feel closer to God when I'm with the horses, it's very special time.

After feeding, checking water tanks, and checking over a few of the horses, I was standing out in the paddock by the barn where I saw Scarlette standing nearby.   Scarlette is a special horse, she was not treated very well in her younger days, at the farm where she was born and raised, she was feared, handled roughly, etc.   I was the only one who showed her kindness and we had an immediate connection to each other, that was so powerful, we were just drawn to each other, all those years ago.

When she arrived on my farm, in the fall of 2004, we had not seen each other in almost 12 years, but we picked right up where we had left off.

In the almost 9 years since she arrived, our relationship has gotten even closer.   She is, no doubt, one of the smartest horses I have ever been around and worked with.   I talk to her in plain english, as if I am talking to a person, and I swear she understands.   This morning was no different, but it was so special.

Scarlette rarely approaches even me, when she is loose in the pasture, but this morning, I asked her if I could check her over and she stood still as I approached, instead of turning and walking away.   I ran my hands across her neck, over her topline, over her ribcage, across her flanks, and rump, checking her body condition.   Now that she is 22 years old, I am trying to watch her weight carefully as I can, along with the other 2 senior horses on the farm.   I recently changed to a new grain and am watching for changes to tell me if I have made a good choice.

After checking Scarlette's body condition, she stood close to me and I gently touched her face and discovered some seeds of some sort on her face and I carefully picked them off of her fur.   There had to be near 50 of them, it was a lot.   She stood letting me do this and then when I was done, she shifted her weight and I thought she was going to walk off, but she moved and seemed to be asking me to scratch her neck and shoulder on her right side.   After a few minutes, she backed up 2 steps and repositioned herself so I could do her left side.   I never moved, I let her do all the moving.

As we spent this time together, I started talking about our history together and if you have read the story of our time together at Longwood Farm, you will know of the Angel experience we had together.   For some reason I asked Scarlette, "Do you remember the Angel?"

At that very moment, she stepped back again, raised up her head, ears pricked, and then she gently put her nose to my face and continued to gently sniff my chin.   You will know the significance of this if you've read that story or if I have told it to you.   I will put the link to it at the end of this post, but if you have not read it, I was touched by an Angel feather on my chin, to protect me from Scarlette's knee hitting my face, when she threw me off one morning, when something scared her.   No one can tell me otherwise, that it was definitely an Angel experience.  Scarlette never threw me again, from that day on, she always let me calm her down.

Scarlette and I continued our peaceful and loving conversation and rubbing session for almost a half an hour.   It was of her own free will to spend this time with me and it was, by far, the longest time she has ever spent with me, of her own free will.

As I scratched her itches, from time to time she seemed to tell me "Thank you!", she'd wrap her neck around me, put her head on my shoulder, and sniffed my face a few more times.   Most of these things are not her normal behavior, as she is not the most affectionate horse, but I have noticed that she seems to be becoming one, in her older years and maybe as she realizes she's here to stay and at peace.  

I told her of her son, Marcus, and how proud we are all of him.   We always tell her about his races right after we get home, but I just decided to talk more about it.   I even told her that if he continues to do well that maybe we could breed Glory, her daughter, next year, and she could see her grandbaby running around the fields in the next year and a half.  She seemed to like that and pricked up her ears and even looked over towards Glory, at that moment.   As I said, this mare is smart and understands what i'm saying to her.

This morning was definitely a very special time with my beloved Scarlette.   She is now retired from breeding and will live out her life with me and I look forward to many more special times with her.   What a blessing from God she is to me.

You can read the blog entry "Red Devilette's Yearling Story" at:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Praise God for the Geese on the Track

It truly is amazing how God works and what His plans are.   Sometimes there is a really good reason for Him to say "No" or "Not now" to a request, prayer, wish, etc.

For those who know me or have read my previous blog posts, you know of the love of horse racing I have had since I was a child, that I have been involved in the sport, off and on, for over 20 years, and that I am currently racing in a partnership the gelding, Marq Your Bible aka "Marcus", who I bred and raised and am now the Managing Partner of his racing partnership that allows us to race him, to help me fulfill a dream.   You know this road has not been easy, it has been very tough, but I have stayed the course, because I truly believe with all my heart that this path is the one God wants me on.

Marcus had a very tough year last year, his first year racing, and his best finish in a race, came in his first start, which was a 6th place finish.

It just seemed like we had bad luck and some other things went on that I won't go into, as they don't really have to do with the reason for my writing this.

We made a trainer change in February of 2013, moving Marcus to Karen Dennehy Godsey at Eagle Point Farm.   She worked with Marcus to build his confidence, get him back into condition, and to evaluate his potential.    It did not take long before I was being told, "I can win with this horse!" by Karen.   She said that he had some talent, but it was still unclear how much.

As the spring progressed, he got stronger and stronger and we were pointing him towards a return to the races at Colonial Downs.   Everyone involved with him was getting excited and hopeful that we were now on the right path with Marcus and that the bad luck was behind us.

He was entered to race that first Sunday afternoon at Colonial Downs.   He looked great, he was ready to run!   Karen thought we had a really good chance in the race.

As the horses raced down the backstretch he started to pass horses on the outside when suddenly we heard the announcer call out that there were geese on the track and Karen said that she thought he'd run through them.   After the geese, which had slowed him down, of course, he did try to pick up his pace a bit, but then got in a big traffic jam and had to check hard and so lost all that momentum and ended up 8th.

We went inside and sat down at a table and Karen came and found us after she had talked to the jockey.   The jockey said that Marcus, indeed, had ran through the flock of geese, and had killed at least 2 of them, maybe more.   He said it was one of the scariest moments he'd experienced.

Karen commented, "If this horse has any luck at all, it's bad luck."

So, we regroup and enter him to race again on June 21st, which happened to be my brother's Birthday and my Dad and his wife, would be in town, so we all agreed to meet at the track.   My Dad, his wife, my brother, his wife, my Mom, my husband, our 2 little girls, and I were all there to cheer on Marcus, who now had another jockey, an up and coming apprentice named Chelsey Keiser.  

Several horses were scratched and as post time approached, we watched the odds in shock, as Marcus was bet down to the 8-5 favorite.   A horse that had never finished better than 6th, was the favorite?   Granted, his new jockey and his trainer were having a great meet at Colonial, but it was still surprising to all of us.

Chelsey was told to just get Marcus in a good position for the first turn, let him relax in the back of the pack, where he could settle, since he always breaks slow, and let him slowly start to pick through the field and pass horses.    Chelsey rode him perfectly, following these instructions to a T.   As they came out of the final turn onto the homestretch, she had him sitting in 5th, when suddenly the horse infront of them tripped and lost it's rider.   That jockey fell off right infront of Marcus, so Chelsey had to check him hard and turn him to avoid the fallen rider.

People who have seen the video still remark, "How on earth did he not step on that jockey?"   My only answer to give is, "The geese!  God put the geese in that race before this one, because He knew a jockey would fall infront of Marcus and Marcus would need to know how to avoid something in his path, while going at top speed.  God used the geese to save that jockey's life."   It's that plain and simple and I praise God now for those geese.

We all thought it was over, but not Marcus, who after passing the fallen rider, and getting his course straightened, set dead aim on the horses infront of him and he accellorated with an explosive move, split between two horses, and was suddenly in the lead as they raced towards the finish line.   He continued in the lead and eventually won by 3 lengths!

I immediately dropped to my knees, crying and praising God, thanking Him for what He had just allowed Marcus to do.   I had everyone petting me on my back and hugging me

It was an amazing experience, one I will never forget and it was my first win as an owner.   God's timing is so perfect, His plans are amazing, on how He can place obstacles in a path, that are meant to teach, not just us, but a horse, so that a life could be saved.

Marcus continues to do well, he has raced 4 more times since his win, and now has a 2nd, two 3rds, and a 4th, which was in his most recent start on September 23rd at Delaware Park.

Whenever I visit him, he nuzzles me, sniffs me, and is just a total sweetheart.  I was there from the beginning as he was trying to come into this world, upside down, and I had to help him and his mother, so they could both survive that tricky situation.   I will always have this horse in my life and pray he is never claimed from us, because he means so much to me and the lessons God has taught me through this horse, his mother, etc are just amazing to me and I owe it to Marcus to care for him for the rest of his life.    He will continue to race until he says it's time to move on to something else.   I actually pray, that after his racing days, that I can use him as my own pleasure horse around the farm.   It will happen, God willing!

Praise God for those geese and the lessons He teaches us all!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Part One: God Provides the Right Dog at the Right Time

Dextra, my 4th Seeing Eye Dog, and I are approaching our 2nd anniversary on April 4th and I thought it appropriate if I wrote about my Seeing Eye Dogs and how God told me about them before I even met them.   So, here is Part One, focusing on my first two guides.

I applied to The Seeing Eye in late winter of 1994 and was accepted later that spring.  I am not exactly sure at what point I started getting the feeling that I would get a German Shepherd, but I know it was well before I arrived, in mid July, to The Seeing Eye's Morristown, NJ campus.

After talking to my instructor and going on several Juno Walks, where the trainer gauges how fast we walk, how much pull we need from the dog, how quickly we react to sudden movements, and more I anxiously awaited the moment when I would meet my very first Seeing Eye Dog.

After lunch, on a Sunday afternoon, I was called down to the Women's lounge, where I was sat down on a sofa and then introduced to Ginger, a female German Shepherd.

I was ecstatic, to say the least.  I had that feeling I was getting a German Shepherd for so long and here I was given one.  God's intuition or message to me had been correct.   Every time I said "Ginger Forward!" out loud to her, in my head I was adding, "to freedom!"   It was freedom from the use of the cane and freedom from having to depend on people, at times, even though I was quite independent, I felt this would only add to increasing my desired independence level.

Things went very well, but looking back, in hindsight, there wer some early warning signs.  During class Ginger and I were playing and she pinned me to the floor and would not let me up for a few seconds and later she and another female German Shepherd seemed to develop a dislike for each other.  Though they never fought, they did growl a little bit at each other.  Both things were brought to trainers attention, but it was thought to just be play or stress related and isolated incidences.  The rest of our month of training was smooth and we left The Seeing Eye a wonderful new working team, ready to take on the world, well, maybe just my college life.

Things continued to go well for about a month, after starting back to college, when suddenly little things started to happen that showed me I may have an issue.   She started attaching herself to my friends, more than she should have, started to try to dominate me, and eventually she got very protective and then dog aggressive.

After about 6 months or so of trying to resolve the issues, talking on the phone with trainers from The Seeing Eye, it was decided I needed to be visited by a trainer to evaluate the situation.   In late March 1995, I was visited by a trainer and after two days of evaluation it was decided that Ginger was just not suitable as a Seeing Eye Dog.  The trainer said it was almost like she'd had a dog nervous breakdown or something.  Her guide work was impeccable, but the behavioral problems just could not be ignored.

I decided to work her through the end of the spring semester, with some new training techniques the trainer taught me, instead of going back to the cane, while I tried to find Ginger a retirement home.

I was given a class date of mid May 1995 and though I had tried, I had been unable to find Ginger a retirement home, so I had a hard choice to make.  I could keep her and return to The Seeing Eye with her, give her over on Saturday morning, for them to find a home, and receive my new dog a little over 24 hours later or return her 2 weeks before my class date, to have some time to grieve her loss and prepare myself for my next dog.   I chose the latter.  I knew I would not be emotionally able to hand her over and take a new dog within 24 hours, I just don't work that way.  I was so attached to Ginger, despite all her issues, it was killing me to give her up, but I was in college and had no where to keep her.

Waiting those two weeks to return to The Seeing Eye, after sending Ginger back, was almost unbearable.  I prayed a lot and cried a lot, pleading with God to heal my broken heart.

I arrived at The Seeing Eye, that mid May Saturday morning and my new instructor met me.   We talked and I went on a Juno Walk with him.  That night I prayed more, knowing I'd meet my new dog after lunch on Sunday. 

Sunday morning came and it meant a Juno Walk in the town of Morristown.  I went out first, of my group, and then climbed back to the parked van, as I awaited the others in my group to get their Juno Walks done.   I closed my eyes and prayed, yet again.  "Please God, heal my broken heart.  Let my new dog be special and help me."  It was at that moment a peace poured over me, a peace like I had not known before, and I saw sitting in front of me a male black Lab.   I opened my eyes, looked up  out the van window into the sky, smiled, and praised God.   I did not stress anymore the next few hours, as I awaited my new dog, because I was sure that God had just shown him to me.

I was in the same room I had been in the year before, when I got Ginger, so when I was called to get my new dog, I was called to the same place, the Women's Lounge.   As I turned the corner into the room, with my limited vision, I saw sitting across the room a big black Lab.  My eyes did not waiver from this dog, as I sat on the sofa and heard "Your new dog's name is Zach."  I do not really remember much else that my instructor told me that afternoon, all I remember is when he brought Zach to me, I got down on the floor and Zach climbed into my lap and licked my face.

I took him back to my room, for some bonding time.  I spent most of it on the floor, with Zach in my lap.

God had sent me a clear message, that He was with me and He had the perfect dog for me, just waiting.  At the time, I did not know just how perfect or how God had really worked.   But I started to fairly quickly.

Usually dogs take a few days to really start to trust, love, and transfer all their affections over to their new handler from their trainers.  But by Monday morning, actually sometime during the night, I knew Zach was mine and I was his.   When I slept that first night, he did not want me turning my back on him.  If I turned over in my sleep, I was suddenly woke up with a big bassy bark!  I'd turn over and he'd be sitting there on his tie down, staring right at me.  I would pet him and drift off to sleep again.  This happened several times during the night.

Late Monday, I could hear long time trainers commenting as Zach and I went by, "He's already found his master. I've never seen one transition that fast."  And other comments of the like.  The trainers all knew what I had been through and how hard it had been on me to give up Ginger and they were thrilled for me that Zach had bonded so quickly to me.

We are not usually told how old our dogs are or any other details of their past until we have had them about 2 weeks.  There are many reasons for this, so someone isn't disapointed if they get an older dog, if the dog isn't the height they wanted, or so on, it kind of helps prevent prejudgement.

Well, when it was my turn to find out Zach's details, everything truly fell into place about how perfect God's timing is and how he has to sometimes get creative when humans mess things up.

You see, Ginger's birthday was November 3, 1992, and Zach's birthday was, September 1, 1992.   Yes, he was 2 months older than Ginger, even though I was there almost a year later.  

What had happened?   Well, he was in training at the same time Ginger was, when it was discovered that the Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) gene was in the Labradors that The Seeing Eye bred, raised, and trained to be guide dogs.   They did not know how to track the gene, yet, but were working with Cornell University to find out.  But until then, they had to have each Labrador get their eyes checked to see if they had any signs of this disease, that would leave the dogs eventually going blind.   When Zach was taken to be examined, the test results were inconclusive.  So the vet said he'd need to be rechecked in 6 months.  So, he was sent back to his puppy raisers, but instead of it being 6 months, it was 9 months, because there was such a large number of dogs to be seen.  I worked Ginger for 10 months.

Upon his 2nd examination, there was no change in his eyes, so he was cleared to go back into training.

What does all this really mean?  Well, if Zach had not been taken out of training the first time, I most likely would not have ever gotten him or maybe I would have gotten him the first time, only God knows that answer.

But because he was taken out of training and he was my "perfect match", I had to get Ginger first, so that I could get Zach, who God had truly intended for me.   God worked out this timing perfectly.  Maybe I had to have Ginger first, to appreciate Zach even more.  I see so many ways this could be viewed, but no matter which way I look at it, it is all God and His timing.

Zach worked for me for 7 wonderful years.  I graduated college with him guiding me across the stage.  I lived in Tennessee, Kentucky, Texas, and of course, Virginia, my home state, with him.  He guided me through busy airports, college campuses, busy city streets, and so much  more. 

Zach, indeed, helped my heart heal, was an amazing guide dog, and had such a gentle and caring soul.  I'd have total strangers approach me in stores and say, "May I bring my child over to meet your dog?  They were attacked and are now afraid of dogs."   This happened on at least 3 occasions that I can recall.   Each time I'd agree and move to the side of an aisle, out of the way, put Zach at sit and await the child to approach.  As Zach would see the child coming, without fail, he'd lay down, roll onto his side and I could tell he was looking at the child, as if to say, "I will not hurt you.  It's ok."  These kids were all under the age of 4 years old, one was maybe 18 months.  Zach just laid there and let them touch him, not moving a muscle, and when he felt they were ok, he'd gently lick their little hands.   Parents thanked me profusely for their help and I always just smiled and said it was no problem.

Zach also helped an adult woman over come her fear of dogs.  She saw him almost daily for 2 years, coming into the office where I worked on the college campus to use the copy machine.  She started out giving him a wide birth, from where he was safely tucked under my chair, but eventually realized he wasn't going to move, so started walking a more straight line.  When I was close to graduation, she realized she wasn't going to see him very much more and finally got up the courage to pet him and I let her feed him a treat, which was a big break through for her.  She thanked me and said that Zach had taught her that not all dogs were going to attack her.

Another time, I was sitting in the office, with Zach sitting under my chair when this woman sat down next to me.  We started talking and suddenly Zach, very uncharacteristically got up without being told, turned around and put his head in this lady's lap.  She broke into tears and confided in me that she had just been diagnosed with uterine cancer.

It's stories like the above, and many more, that are why Zach was so special, not just to me, but to just about everyone who met him.  His first trainer at The Seeing Eye still fondly recalls him, telling me once, "Zach is just one of those dogs you don't forget, you know he's special from the moment you meet him."

Even when in training with Dextra, in 2011, almost 18 years after he'd trained Zach, he still recalled him fondly to me.

It was hard when Zach decided he wanted to retire, but he deserved it, and I retired him at the age of 9 1/2 years old.   He went on to live to be almost 15 years old, continueing to touch the lives of people he met, even in his old age and retirement.  I did get to keep him and a wish of mine was fullfilled, when he lived long enough to meet my first born daughter, who still remembers him, even though she was only 22 months old when he passed away.

I owe Zach so very much and there is so much more to our story than I can tell in one blog posting.  But this focus was how God is in control, God's timing is perfect, even when we don't understand at first, it will eventually be revealed.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rella's Story: Mylute's Dam's Full Sister

I will admit, I have put off telling this story, the pain of it is still pretty fresh, despite it being almost 5 years since it happened.  But with the news that one of Rella's nephews, Mylute, is possibly a Kentucky Derby contender for this year, maybe it is time Rella's story be told. 

In the spring of 2008 my husband and I decided that we might take on another broodmare for our small farm.  I discovered a nice prospect in Club Hopper, who not only fit what we were looking for, but was in desperate need of a new home.  I did not know how desperate the situation was, however, at the time I was considering buying her.   All I knew was she was pretty much on a farm that was her last chance before a slaughter auction.

Club Hopper had raced and won, not a lot, but she was a winner.  Several of her full siblings were stakes winners and stakes placed, making her catalog page very nice and making her an ideal broodmare prospect for a small farm, like ours, Perfect Peace Farm.

A lady living near me was heading up to PA and offered to pick Club Hopper up on her way back home from a trail ride.  Club Hopper was in MD.

When the trailer pulled up infront of our farm that Sunday morning, my neighbor got out and told me, "You rescued this mare and it was all I could do not to put another horse on my trailer, to get it out of that hell hole."

She went on to describe rotting round bales, no grass, just mud, muck, and horses looking at her with pleeding eyes, "Get me out of here, please!"   But she knew her husband would not allow it, so she sadly had to leave with only Club Hopper.

We unloaded Club Hopper from the trailer and were appauled at her physical condition.  The picture I had seen had shown her as thin, but she had dropped a lot of weight from that picture, supposedly dated just 2 weeks prior.

I had a quarantine stall all set up for her, deeply beded in shavings and it had a small half acre paddock off of it, where she could go out.  I had my other horses out in the field, so they would not share a fenceline.

Club Hopper was so beautiful, despite her appearance, you could sense the beauty in her, her soul shown through her outward appearance.  My oldest daughter was 3, at the time, and "Cinderella" was her favorite movie, but she could not say "Cinderella", she just said "Rella".   It was a name that really seemed to fit the situation and the poor sweet mare was given a new name.

I had rescued in the past, but this was by far the worst case I had ever dealt with myself.  I knew to start feeding very small amounts, just a handful of grain a few times a day, at first, limit her turnout with the grass, which she was not used to, etc.

Monday morning, I called my vet and told them the situation, they sent a vet out the next day.  I also called my farrier, as her hooves were in desperate need of trimming, so that was also taken care of quickly.

When she first arrived, the vets estimated her body score condition at maybe a 2 to 2.5.   She was in bad shape. 

We devised a vaccination and deworming schedule, and discussed my plan to rehabilitate Rella.

I don't remember if it was Thursday or Friday of that first week, but it was one of those days, when I was out checking on her, on my many trips to the barn, each day, when I noticed her hind legs swelling up huge.   I called the vet and one was sent out immediately.

At first they just thought it was a skin infection, so antibiotics were started and I was to start hosing her legs and also wrapping them, to help keep them clean.

Early the next week, probably Monday, I went out about lunch time to check on her and found her down in the stall.  I could not get her up.  She just laid there. 

Another emergency call to the vet and vet was sent out, she was still down an hour later, when he arrived.  He gave her a shot of something, being 5 years ago, I forget all the details, but I think Banamine.     We waited a few minutes and then he helped me get Rella to her feet.

She was obviously weakening and not improving.  He suggested I start her on electrolytes and slightly up the grain I was currently feeding.   I had been feeding her about 6 times a day, maybe a cup and a half, by that point, at each feeding.  Went to 2 cups.

At this point, she started to go down multiple times a day.  Most of the time I could get her up on my own, but vet had to be called to help me out at least 2 to 3 times a week.  Needless to say vet bills were starting to mount up very quickly.

Despite heavy bedding in her stall, she was developing sores from laying down on a skeleton with no muscle mass or body fat.  So it was decided by the vets to limit stall time, despite her still needing to adjust to grass, they thought being outside was much better for her, at this point.

She was then allowed in my paddock that we call our Pond Paddock, so I could see her better from the house.  Well, so could people driving by.  I had several people stop to tell me she was down, several even thought she was dead, a few times.  Each time I thanked them and told them her story, as I rushed out to the paddock to check on her, hoping she was not actually dead.

One day she was not doing well and I called the vet, but he was out on other emergencies so it was going to be awhile.   My husband was home from work that day and we decided going out to dinner would be a nice break for me.   So decided we'd go after the vet left.

The vet got later and later, as not only did he get other emergency calls, but the weather turned nasty, that May afternoon.   We were under a tornado watch and then a warning.

Then the skies cleared and the vet showed up, by that time it was dinner time and getting late.

He assessed Rella and gave her some more shots and then left.

I think it was well after 6 PM by then and my husband had not watched the news, despite the warning from me that we had possibly had a tornado near us, while he was napping.

So we head out and as we get near Suffolk, VA, obviously power is out and traffic is terrible.  We've had the radio on and there has been nothing about a tornado, nothing about traffic, they just keep playing music.

We got stuck in a traffic jam for hours.   Luckily, I had some snacks with us for my 3 year old to eat.  We were not able to get to the restaurant that we wanted to go to, instead we were directed away from Suffolk and had to head to Smithfield.  We finally got dinner at a drive through around 9:30 PM and headed home.

That night at home, we realized what had happened when we watched the local news.   A tornado had gone through Suffolk and right next to the restaurant we had wanted to go to.

If we had not had Rella and had not been waiting for the vet to help her that day, there is a good chance we would have been right in the path of that tornado.

We credit Rella with keeping us safe that day and possibly saving our lives.

For 5 weeks we watched Rella struggle to improve, but she only weakened.  Pictures taken made her look like she was improving, but what could not be seen in the pictures, was that her new belly was not actually weight gain, but fluid leaking into her abdominal cavity.

Rella touched so many people, a dear friend, Tera, sent her fly leg bandages, but I had to stop using them, when Rella's legs starting to swell so much, that all 4 legs were having issues with the velcro straps and her legs started to look like telephone poles and the bandages would just slide down over her hooves and I was worried about her tripping.

Saturday, May 31, 2008 my husband went out at 6 AM to check on Rella, because he could not see her from the house.  He ran into the bedroom and said, "I think Rella is dead."

I lept up and dressed as quickly as I could, racing out to where he said she was.  As I approached there was no movement, but when I spoke her name, a gentle soft nicker could be heard.  My husband exclaimed in shock, "She's alive!  She didn't move when I was just out here."

Rella struggled, thrashing her legs, but could not even raise her poor head.  It was immediately realized she was nearing the end of her struggle.

We called the vet to come to put her down, called my Mom to stay with our daughter, so she would not have to see it, and started to find someone to help us bury Rella.   Then I went and got a bucket of feed and sat on the ground next to Rella, tipping the bucket so she could have her breakfast.

I sang quietly to her.  I had been singing to her since the first day she arrived.  She loved hymns and would stand quietly listening to me as I sang and groomed her or tended to her sores or other wounds.   So, I felt I should sing that morning, as we awaited one of the vets to arrive.

It was one of the younger vets, who had probably been the one to come out the most to see her, so he knew exactly what was going on and the situation.

He assessed her and agreed, she was just way to weak and since she could not even lift her head, putting her down was the most humane thing we could do for her, the last act of love we could give her.

Rella was apparently ready to go, as she was gone before even a full dose was given to her.

After she died, the vet opened her mouth, something he had done many times before, but this time was different.  She had holes and ulcers all over her tongue and the lining of her mouth.  He said he would have liked to do an autopsy, but had another emergency to go to, but he was suspecting from all we could see and her ever weakening condition, that her intestines were full of holes and her mouth was just the last place to get them.   He said that the damage that had been done by the feedlot owner was so severe that even if we had known and given her ulcer meds, she still probably would not have made it.

Knowing that I am a strong Christian, as he was packing up his truck to go to the next farm, he turned to me and said, "Lisa, you notched a good one in your Bible with this horse."

To this day, I rarely can go to Rella's grave, the time I spent with her trying desperately to save her life after the severe neglect, starvation, and abuse, that she suffered it hurts so much that I could not save her.   I do try hard to realize that at least Rella knew true love and kindness her last 5 weeks on this Earth.   She had a purpose, saving us from the tornado and for that I will be forever grateful to her. 

God sent us this poor angel in need of love and I know she experienced "perfect peace" while she was here.  I wish she could have stayed longer, but it was just not meant to be.

So, this year, as the Triple Crown Prep races go forward help me in cheering on Mylute,, who is racing in Louisiana, and watch with a tear in your eye knowing what his mother's full sister went through and maybe, just maybe, Mylute will win the Kentucky Derby in honor of his poor aunt Club Hopper aka "Rella".   Maybe her story will be heard, finally, about how horrible some people treat horses and better laws need to be passed so these criminals can never treat another horse like Rella was treated before I rescued her.

With tears in my eyes, flowing down my cheeks, I conclude this post and wish to Mylute, please race safe and strong and help tell your aunt's story.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Race Those Horses!

I know I have not posted to my blog in quite some time, being a busy mother of 2 girls and managing our farm and racing partnership, along with other obligations seems to eat into my free time to write.   But, after the 3 year old races this past Saturday and hearing the winner's connections comments, I can not keep my silence, as this is a big issue I see and I just have to write about it.

If I get some facts wrong, I'm sorry, feel free to correct me, as with limited time I am unable to do the research I'd really like to do in this matter.

What is my issue?  Well, honestly, not racing racehorses and coddling them before the Kentucky Derby and then expecting them to be able to handle 3 races in 5 weeks, when you've never asked them to do anything close to that before.

I don't know why this recent trend seems to be so popular.  I think it is several things, some of which is people thinking the horse is worth so much as a stallion prospect that they are afraid to race it, supposedly saving it for only the "big" races.

We did not see this trend even `15 years ago, definitely didn't see it 20 years ago and more, this seems to be a more recent phenomena.

One of the now favored for this year's Kentucky Derby, based on his recent win in the Withers, may only make 1 more start before the Kentucky Derby.   That would be 2 races in a 3 month period.   Somehow that seems, to the connections, to be too much for the horse if they race him more.   I don't get it, I'm sorry, does he have a soundness problem?   If so, I might understand, but if he's sound, for goodness sakes race him!   you know he can get hurt just as easily in the morning as in a race, right?  If that is your fear.

Years ago trainers used to not breeze horses in the morning so much, saving them for races, nowadays they breeze more than they race.   Breezing them does serve it's purpose, getting a horse into shape after a layoff or tightening them up after a few week break between races, before the next race, etc.   They used to not use them to keep a horse in shape, long gallops and two minute licks were used between races to keep conditioning and then they raced them more frequently.

This sport of horse racing complains about losing fans and I have news for you all, if you don't race horses, and people don't see them racing, it's hard to get fans to follow them, especially new fans.

Years ago the top horses used to race 8 to 10 times a year, recently, a lot of top horses maybe race 6 times a year, maybe 7, if we are lucky.   It used to be common to see horses with races spaced 2 to 3 weeks apart for a several month stretch, given a short break in summer, at some point, not taken out of training, but training backed off a little, and then brought back to race with races spaced 2 to 3 weeks apart, again, in the late summer and fall.   These days most top horses may race once a month, some trainers even spacing races out 5 to 6 weeks apart.

Breeders should also be apauled at this trend, because you can not tell if a horse is truly sound with that light of a schedule.  If we want to breed sound horses that can race more and have less of chance of breaking down, we must race the top level horses more, so we know who is truly worthy of being bred to.

Is it really no surprise that a stallion that only raced 6 times or so sires brilliance in his offspring, but they are also done racing after only 6 races?   Is that really what we want this breed to come to?

What happened to breeding horses and racing them so they make 20 or more starts in a 2 year period?   If they raced that much and were retired at the end of their 3 year old year, I would not have so much of a problem with retiring a 3 year old, but look at how many of last year's top 3 year olds are at stud this year, most of which had non-career ending issues and injuries, but connections decided there was more money in breeding, so they were retired, most with under 10 lifetime starts.  This is the next generation we need to think of, we can't keep doing this.

Now, I will caveat this, accidents do happen, injuries happen, I've experienced it as a breeder and owner and I am not saying that a horse that retires with an injury should not be bred, but other factors need to be taken into consideration.   Then unsound mares should not be bred to that stallion, especially if there is a conformation flaw present in each and they are similar in nature, it could make the issue worse.

I remember falling in love with Sunday Silence and watching him race in California several times before he headed to the Kentucky Derby, it had to be at least 3 races, the spring of his 3 year old year and the last one was probably just 3 weeks before the Kentucky Derby, the Santa Anita Derby.  That race is now 4 or 5 weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

People have this idea these days that a fresh horse going into the Kentucky Derby is a good thing, but history does not show this or prove this.   Look at all the Triple Crown Winners, the ones in the 1970's raced 2 to 3 weeks before the Kentucky Derby, and the ones from even further back sometimes raced a week or less before the Kentucky Derby.

I believe there are more factors involved with why horses are being coddled and lightly raced than what I can express in this post.  I've mentioned value of the stallion prospect as the main one, but I do believe there are more issues here.   But if this sport is to survive, bring in new fans, you must race these horses, especially if they are sound and if possible, let's see them race at 4 years old!

I do think another issue is purses for the biggest races have increased so much that people don't have to race their horse to earn money, they just need that big win or placing and that takes the place of what 2 to 3 races or more, used to bring them in earnings.

Yes, I do believe a lot of drugs have also affected the state of the breed, as well, but that is for another day.

Myself and other fans, some of us fans are also involved in the sport so do know a bit of what we are talking about, want to see these horse race and know that this is a good thing, and will only help the sport bring in more fans and also breed and produce better horses for the future.   Race those horses, please!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Trust in the Lord

Perfect Peace Farm gets it's name from Isaiah 26:3, which is as follows:

"Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee; because he trusteth in Thee."

I also feel God has included Isaiah 26:4 in verses He is directing at me. 

"Trust in the Lord, for the Lord Jehovah will give you everlasting strength"

Sometimes it may be hard to fully trust, but it is at those down times that trusting is most important.  It is the faith that I lean on, the "trust" and belief that everything will turn out alright, no matter how deep that valley may seem, how hard the struggles are, He gives me the strength I need.

I believe in naming my horses names that have some kind of religious meaning, even if in only a small way, but every single one that I have named has had a religious theme.  It is my small way of witnessing my belief.  It sometimes helps open conversation about God and what He has done for me, my family, and my animals, those gifts He has bestowed upon me.

This life with horses has not always been easy, people telling me to quit and find something else, that maybe God wants me on another path, maybe God didn't want me to have a certain horse because of some roadblocks put up at different times, but I see what God has intended, maybe not at certain moments, but when I look back, I see reasons for them all.   There are a few I don't know, yet, but those are lessons God is currently teaching me and I will eventually learn the lesson I am to learn from God.  

People will say things about how much money they have cost me and my family, how much heart ache, and more and these things do hurt me, but they do not see the reasons as clearly, they do not see the purpose, maybe it is because it is my path, my purpose, and not theirs, that they do not see and why they question so much.

My whole life I have felt God leading me to horses and no, it has not always been easy, but God never said it would be easy to walk the path He has laid out for us, we just must trust Him that we are doing what he wants and that He will give us the strength we need and what we need, when we need it.

Each horse I have named may plant some seed in someone that might get them asking questions about God, it may lead them down the path of salvation and that could lead more people down that same path.  It could be someone I never meet, someone reading a racing program who sees the horse's name, someone at a show who hears the horses name called out, who knows, but God knows.

As Marq Your Bible has recovered from his rough July, it has not been easy on any of us that are involved with him, being patient and waiting for him to get better, but I trust God that it was just another lesson in patience and that He will reward us for learning our patience lesson.  No, I do not expect a champion, maybe not even a stakes winner, sure that would be nice and i know all things are possible with God's help, so it is possible, but I know not to expect it.  I pray God allows Marq Your Bible, who we affectionately call Marcus, to race to the full ability and talents God has granted him and that he keep him safe, and please God, no more thunderstorms on race days.

So, I will continue to trust God and like a quote I just heard last week: 

"When God closes a door, I will praise Him in the hallway."

Because, I know he will eventually open another door or re-open the one that was closed, when He says it is a better time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Road Trip, Day 4: Assateague Island

We got up and got ready, packing up, as we would be leaving the hotel and heading home, after spending a day on Assateague Island.

We headed over and had breakfast at the little restaurant near the hotel.   The same couple that had been singing and playing their guitars, the day before, was out on the porch doing it again.   After we ate, we sat and listened for a little bit and then I struck up a conversation with them.   When they found out I sang, they encouraged me to sing for them, so despite my stage fright issues, I started to sing "Amazing Grace" for them.   My Mom chimed in, over to my right, while she watched my girls.

The couple complimented us and we talked a little bit more, before we had to get back to our room to finish packing and check out.

After the car was loaded and we had checked out of the hotel, we headed to a local t-shirt store and I got two new horse t-shirts with Chincoteague Ponies on them, my favorite being a light blue with a white pony running in the water, with a wave coming up behind it.  My girls each got a shirt and my oldest picked out one for her Daddy, who couldn't come with us on the trip.

After we were done shopping, we drove across the bridge to Assateague Island and we stopped at the entrance to the island and there was a sign that said no dogs were allowed, even in cars, on the island.  We told the ranger I had a Seeing Eye Dog and she, of course, said that was fine, but was happy I had told them, so she could radio the other personnel to let them know a Seeing Eye Dog was coming onto the island.  

We then stopped for a short time at the visitors center.  I wish we could have spent more time there, but we wanted to get to the beach.

As we drove across the island, we saw a lot of cars stopped up ahead of us and as we started to slowly pass them, we saw what they were looking at.   Over to our right, in a large meadow, was a herd of ponies!   My Mom stopped the car and rolled down the windows, so we could all get a good look at the ponies.   My oldest counted 13, which included two foals.   There were lots of different colors and patterns, mostly pintos of various colors.

We watched for about 10 minutes, Mom took some pictures, and then we headed back on our way to the beach, on the eastern side of the island.

We found a parking spot near the bath house and changed into our bathing suits.   We then grabbed what we would need for a few hours on the beach and headed out to find a good spot.

The wind was really blowing and we were having trouble with our unbrella, so some nice ladies came over and helped us.   Once it was securely in place, we laid out a few towels and a blanket, got our covers and sandals off and headed down to the water's edge.

At first I just kept Dextra on her regular short leather leash, but eventually I switched to her flexi leash and she had a blast playing in the water, like she always does, being a Labrador.

My oldest played near me, holding my hand as we stood in the waves and Dextra ran around us.

My youngest was a bit intemidated by the waves and didn't really want to go in the water.   My Mom tried a few times, but she really didn't want to do it.

After awhile, Dextra needed a break, so my Mom took her up for some water and to rest in the shade of the unbrella.   Dextra laid there on the blanket, with no one holding her, in a perfect down and rest for a very long time.   Someone was always with her, of course, it was just that she is so good we don't always have to hold onto her leash, if we are trying to do something else.   She is a wonderful dog and so well behaved, a perfect example of what a Seeing Eye Dog should be.

I had both my girls down by the water and my oldest wanted to go in, but my youngest still was not wanting to.   I picked up my youngest and started talking about how fun the waves were and she eventually let me carry her out a little bit, where my oldest could have some fun in the waves and when a few big ones hit my legs and splashed her feet, which were dangling down near my knees, she started to realize it was fun.

So, I took us back a bit and I sat down on the beach, in a spot where waves only occasionally reached us.   I started with having her sit on my knees, then she sat on my lap and eventually was willing to stand infront of me, as I stayed sitting.  

My oldest sat next to me, sometimes laying in the sand, so the water would come up around her, so she could splash in it, when the waves came up.   Both girls had a wonderful time and I was so proud of my youngest daughter for overcoming her fears and playing in the waves.

We let them play for several hours in the sand and in the water, before we decided it was time to pack up and start heading home.    We changed in the bath house, but unfortunately, the line for the showers was too long, so we could not wash the sand off of us, we just had to do the best we could dusting it off.   That was pretty hard, as the sand on the island is very soft and seemed to be more sticky than other places I've been.   My oldest had laid all over in the sand, so she had it everwhere, even up in her long wavy hair.

We loaded up and stopped at McDonald's for dinner, as we started our car ride back home.

We drove several hours south, down the eastern shore of Virginia and then crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel right before dusk.   I think it was the first time I have actually been on it, so it was pretty nice to see all the water.  I was told there were ships in sight, but I could not see them, they were too far away for my limited eyesight.

We arrived home around 10 PM and my husband and I got the girls changed into their pajamas, dusting more sand off of them and got them into bed.

It had been a long day, fun filled, and one to remember.   It had been a wonderful 4 day journey, starting with Mount Vernon and ending with the beach of Assateague Island.   I hope I can go back to Assateague Island again soon, it was so beautiful and I want to see those ponies, again, too, of course.   if you are a horse person and have not been, you must go.   If you like nature or just going to the beach, you must go to Assateague Island for some great fun!