Year End Reflections

100_0575The year 2012 is drawing to a close. It has been quite a year for me and my family. I started this blog this year and so many times have been surprised and pleased when I have found out that people are reading along with my family and our exploits.

Since April, almost 10,000 views of my blog have been shared with you all. What a privilege!! I posted 190 posts and you all rode (and read) along. The busiest day on the blog was the day Bruno left for his surgery at Texas A&M. Almost 300 people read along that day.

This year has brought my mother to Texas to spend her final time with me and my family. It has not been easy but then I would tell my girls, what worthwhile-ever is? I love her so much and am glad to have her so close. I could not have imagined what the time with her and her nursing home friends have come to mean to me. What a surprise!

This year brought baby Kendyll, Ally continues to remind me that I don’t like babies. It is not so much that I don’t like babies I just enjoy the kids even more as they grow older and are more verbal, easier to get them to react to things (and learn new things). Baby Kendyll is my fourth grandchild and each one is unique and special. I would have never known that I would have loved them all so much.

My three daughters are spots of enormous pride for me. From the choices they have made with their families to their education and lives they have pursued. They are beautiful, intelligent, talented women. I could not have hoped for more.

This year brought Feather surprisingly out of Florida to our Texas home. Wow, it has not been an easy match up. Beautiful Feather is scared, timid, and reluctant but when she heads to a jump she forgets everything else in her world and SOARS. I have never seen anything like it. I don’t know if we will unlock all the potential that Feather has or not. But hopefully, day by day, we earn a little more of her trust. In 2013 she will be the go-to horse for us, heading into the ring with Lauren in the irons. I can’t wait to see how she does.

The year also brought Mickey to his knees literally sick to the point of not being able to jump or get around a course. We nursed him through it while we reported his progress. Lauren and he fell short at the Zone Finals. Not every story has a happy ending. This is not fiction but our lives. Maybe he will find an opportunity to jump for Arianna this year or maybe he is ready to be retired (at least semi), more for us to learn in 2013.

And finally, the story of Bruno, the handsome, giant OTTB with the bad foot who I thought we were nursing back to soundness for a few months. After surgery and a projected year-long healing process, I did not get what I had originally bargained for when I discussed taking Bruno from Sherre. It is day 13 today. Another change of the bandage, another time to clean the stall, another time to worry about how he is doing in the cold, damp weather that has wrapped around south Texas. No, I did not get what I had bargained for at all. I do not know how his story will end. I cannot see the light at the end of that tunnel yet. But just as my son-in-law called Bruno “indescribable”, he is. He has that special something that certain champions have, so no, I did not get what I bargained for at all. I got so much more.

2013 will be a year for me to work harder at my job, finally starting to understand the nuances of the new industry I entered. I will start to give more than I am taking as an employee and that will make me proud. In this next year, I will ride more, laugh harder and spend more time with my mother and family. I will try not to be so concerned with schedules and rituals. I promise I will continue to write even if I bore you to tears, because my writing is the best of me.

I am so grateful and thankful for 2012 and all of you that I have gotten to know so much better. To a new year, new opportunities, new horizons and grand sunsets. May be peace and love follow you into this new year.

Hello from Wharton

101e2582The last couple days have been constant activity with all the kids, animals and adults with differing opinions. You know, family times! We have eaten well and often. Laughed, long and hard and occasionally been near tears (and not just the kids). I have gotten to know my dear granddaughter Lexi who was just a baby when I saw her last in Denver but now has a full and engaging personality.


Lexi trying on her hat for next summer's vacation.

Lexi trying on her hat for next summer’s vacation.

She reminds me so much of Amber as a toddler. All full of Irish personality and big, brown eyes with long lashes and a quick smile. Impishly small, with tiny features and frame, she packs a lot in her miniature self. Riley, too, had grown up and while spats with cousin Jo were common, so was a new maturity and an eye out for his little sister. Jordyn had her hands full constantly being called upon “to do the right thing because she was the oldest.” Being the oldest is not all that fun when it means someone one else gets to ride Mickey first or have first choice over dessert.

Still, we were all happy to have the time.  I actually missed two days with my mom.  The first two days in a row that I have missed since she moved here.  Ally and Amber went on Thursday but she had no idea who they were and asked only for me.  Big time guilt. 

Yesterday, although freakishly cool for south Texas, the kids had been promised that they could ride the horses and so they did.  Horse people know cold weather makes for frisky horses and I was concerned about using Feather or Mimi.  The previous day, in a random accident, Lauren and I had been trying to get the horses in from the pasture when Feather bucked out and just happened to catch Lauren square in the jaw. She dropped like a rock to the ground.  I figured it was Life Flight time.  Amber, the nurse practitioner, quickly assessed that she was moving her feet (kicking the ground-so not paralyzed) and screaming (no broken jaw) so while it hurt it was nothing that ice and Advil would not heal. Anyway, no desire to try Feather or young Mimi with the wee ones on a windy, cold day.  Riley rode Mickey first, much to angst of Jordyn who thinks Mickey is hers (of course, she also thinks Snowney, Feather, Mimi, Kid and Bruno are hers).  But she waited without tears until both Riley and Lexi had taken a spin.  We even convinced her to let Riley ride double with her!  Mick was a champ.

Neither of my son-in-laws had seen Bruno in person.  Luke said it best for me when he told Ally of his first glimpse of the big, black horse.  She said, “I told you he was sweet and big and you have seen pictures of him. ”  Luke told her, “when his blanket came off he was just spectacular.  He was  (and Luke hesitated a moment), indescribable!”  Oh, my Bruno stealing hearts again.

After tearful goodbyes last night, Amber and family are off to Denver today.  I appreciate all Ally and family did to make things so nice for all of us.

Lauren and I got working early this freezing morning, preparing the area in front of Bruno and Kid’s new stall to lay mats.  The vet had suggested that we have the mats so that we had a ‘clean’ place to work on and re-bandage his hoof over the next several months.  We leveled the ground, went to TSC to buy eight new 4 foot by 6 foot mats and carried them one by one to lay in front of the stalls.

The new mats in front of the stalls for Kid and Bruno.

The new mats in front of the stalls for Kid and Bruno.

We had our first time to re-bandage the hoof and while it was not as neat as our vet techs before us, I think it was adequate.  

Later I rode Mick and Lauren rode Feather.  It was still cold but both horses worked well for us.  The plan is to take them to lessons on Monday.  Hopefully, the weather holds. 

I am tired from all the fun but grateful for my terrific family, the health of my mother and wellness of all my animals.

Bruno Comes Home-A Bruno Story

Due to the graphic nature of today’s photos-please use caution in allowing children to view pictures.

Today on day nine of Bruno’s recovery, we went to Texas A&M  to pick up Bruno.  He had new tissue growing on the bone and the healing had started.  Here are some photos of the hoof as it was cleaned out prior to having a custom shoe fitted on Friday.  The new shoe has a plate that screws in and out so we have access to the “defect” (as the vet called it). 

Sorry its sideways!  Lauren c alls it him bloody stump.

Sorry its sideways! Lauren calls  it him bloody stump.

With his custom shoe!

With his custom shoe!

Today-cleaned and ready to come home.

Today-cleaned and ready to come home.


Bruno will need to be stall bound for four weeks at which time he will return to A&M.  He will not be happy but he will have Mr. Kid as his constant companion. Dr. Marsh was terrific. 

Jordyn was singing “Santa Claus is coming to Town”.  Ally told her yes, he was in 363 days.  Wish I knew how Bruno will be doing then.  We are happy to have him home and happy to have been able to give him this second chance.

Holiday Cheer

On Christmas Eve, Lauren and I took Nanny to Jo Etta and Blake’s for a soup dinner before Christmas Eve service at their church.  Jo Etta had set such a beautiful festive table.  So many of the nursing home residents were just hanging out listening to Christmas Carols.  Mom was excited to be going out.  However, after the dinner and church service, it was way too much for her and we left at the offertory.  It may be the last time we do the whole Christmas Eve thing. 

After many travel delays, Amber and her family made it to Texas late Christmas evening. 

Mom is drinking her Boost while the family gathers around.

Mom is drinking her Boost while the family gathers around.

Lauren, Jordyn and I had dinner already made at Ally’s house.  It was exciting for all of us (okay, maybe just Jordyn and I) when they finally arrived.  It was great to have us all together.

On the 26th, we all met up at my house for Christmas dinner and presents.  So many wonderful gifts were exchanged and way too much food was eaten.  I got an IPAD so I can take the Blog on the road and never have to miss a day.  Of course, it is taking the entire family to get me set up to use it.  I am moving into the future.

Hope everyone had a great holiday!

Day Five-A Bruno Story

The Aggie Leg.

The Aggie Leg.

Lauren and I made the Sunday drive up to see Bruno today. He had gotten his hoof re-dresssed this morning. The surgeon was happy to see that there is granulation which means new healthy tissue is growing. Likewise, there is no longer any infection and for the first time in who knows how long, Bruno’s foot is disease free.

There was no sign of blood this morning which was a bonus for us as well.  Although I am to receive some of the pictures from the hoof during surgery so if you are squeamish you might want to miss out on tomorrow’s post.  He was re-wrapped and also had his leg half-way wrapped to help support it and keep the swelling down.  Coincidentally, it was wrapped in A&M maroon.  I am not sure they even order any other color here.

Lauren loving on Bruno.

Lauren loving on Bruno.

We spent some time in the stall with Bruno.  He was in great spirits and ate about 20 carrots, some apples and horse treats.  He is obviously feeling better.  I wish I had a 20 foot high, cinderblock stall to put him in when he gets home.  He certainly is feeling no pain today, which is great, but we don’t want him to get excited and hurt the foot.

When we got back home, we did the last of the grocery shopping, a lot of cooking and had a quiet afternoon.  We will not talk about the Texans.  Merry Christmas Eve Eve to all.

Life Goes On-

Bruno has been taking center stage the last few days but today was a day to catch up with family and friends.  Of course, I have been seeing my mom each day, a couple of days the visits have been a little rushed but I have gotten over each day.  It seems like there is something in the water there with all the residents a little more on edge and nuttier than usual.  One man had searched endlessly for his wife when he first came to the facility but finally had been settling in pretty well.  Last night he was going door to door (and opening each door without warning) looking for the dining room.  Twice he walked into my mom’s room as I was helping her dress for dinner.  The third time I just asked him if he wanted to wait and walk down with us.  He said okay and sat down on my mom’s bed to wait.  In loud stage whisper, mom looked at me and said, “Do you think he is going to break it?”  I told her I hoped not. 

Tonight one of our favorite residents was distraught over some men that were coming into the place and scaring her.  I am pretty sure it could have been the man we just talked about so I asked if she wanted to stay with us for awhile.  She asked Lauren over and over if that ever happened to her (that men had scared her). Then she started rearranging Lauren’s hair.  Another lady was convinced her room was on fire and was rushing down the hall with her purse intent on evacuating the facility. It is hard enough to get Lauren to go with me and I doubt she will volunteer for a while after tonight.

Micenzie looking focused and determined on Mr. Kid

Micenzie looking focused and determined on Mr. Kid

Today my friend Cayla and her family came down to let their daughter ride.  Jordyn was here and Caroline came with her daughters, Arianna and Abby.  All the horses, including Mr. Kid got saddled and ridden.  Everyone switched around a lot but I think young Micenzie rode the most horses.  I saw her on Kid, Feather and Mimi. 

Arianna trying out Lauren's Mickey. I'd say it went pretty well!

Arianna trying out Lauren’s Mickey. I’d say it went pretty well!

We thought Arianna was bringing her horse to ride.  Lauren and I had discussed the possibility of her trying out Mickey to do jumpers on this year but were afraid since he had not been saddled in almost three weeks that he would scare her and act stupid.  But they pulled in without the trailer.  It was one of the cases where things just seem to happen-the whole man plans-God laughs thing.  Arianna ended up doing great on Mickey and he acted like he had been working and jumping every day.  Lauren jumped Feather for me. It was great to see their progress.

Arianna and Lauren exchanged Christmas gifts.  Lauren got the beautiful white and gold OTTB saddle pad which I hope one day soon Bruno proudly wears into the show ring.

Arianna's present to Lauren and Bruno.  The beautiful OTTB pad (photo from their web site- )

Arianna’s present to Lauren and Bruno. The beautiful OTTB pad (photo from their web site- )

On the Bruno update side, I had told my friend Kathy that I was a little freaked out about what I had gotten myself into with this horse and the huge responsibility he would be for sometime.  I want to share what she told me. 

“This will be the worst part because you are at the beginning.  Time flies and each day that passes moves you closer to realizing your dream.  Any investment requires that you sacrifice something; usually money and time.  Its the sacrifice that makes the reward so sweet.  Hold on to the excitement of what they (Lauren and Bruno) can be.”

Well said, my friend, and I needed to hear it.  Tomorrow morning we will head back to TAMU for another visit with Bruno.  It will be day five for him. 

Amber and family come on Christmas day.  So much to look forward to-wishing happy times to all of you.  Enjoy the blessings of this season!

Visiting Hours-A Bruno Story

Bruno in his surgical stall.

Bruno in his surgical stall. Red and green buckets for the holidays?

We made the trek up to Texas A&M Vet hospital to see Bruno today.  Dr. Marsh had let us know that Bruno had a pretty good day yesterday as his first post-operative day.  The doctor had been concerned about how well he would deal with the pain.  But Bruno was tough, strong and had a real good day.  Today they were holding his pain with a couple of grams of bute, which horse owners know is a pretty low dose. 

When we got back to the surgical stalls, he was bright-eyed and walking with a minimal limp. We were not allowed in his stall without special foot covers, so we fed Bruno treats through the door.  We had brought him horse treats and carrots.  He absolutely love carrots-like he can devour a package in moments flat if you allow him.  We were telling this to Sherre, his old owner, and she told us this story of when he first came to her in Texas. 

Bruno was not a pet, he was a race horse in training and apparently had never had a carrot.  Sherre tried to get him to eat carrots but he had  yet to acquire a taste for them.  Finally, she bought the carrots with the green tops still attached.  Bruno ate his way through the greenery and suddenly was eating carrots-the orange part.  He has learned the “I love carrots” thing well! 

They had sedated him earlier to clean out the wound and then to get a shoe on his foot to give him support and protect it from infection.  You do not think of a hoof and blood.  We have all watched the farrier trim hooves and they do not bleed.  But think about cutting too much of your nail off and how that hurts and bleeds.  Well, Bruno’s hoof was definitely bleeding.

Bruno's bandaged hoof-and yes, that is blood seeping the bottom.

Bruno’s bandaged hoof-and yes, that is blood seeping through to the bottom.

The doctor said he can probably come home after Christmas (the 26-27th?) so that is our plan.  We will have to learn to clean and bandage the hoof.  We will also have to come up with something to keep Bruno from running and playing until his hoof can stand it.  That will require some prayers and drugs.  Maybe not in that order.

The vet student, Lisa, that was assigned to Bruno said that he thankfully did not act like his breed (thoroughbred) or his age (five).  I am again grateful for his even temperament and good training.

I kind of freaked myself out yesterday.  I got overwhelmed with the prospect of the many months of care this big horse will need.  I wondered if I was not the biggest fool ever to take this horse then agree to do surgery on his foot.  But then last night, Lauren and I looked up many of Bruno’s relatives.  He is definitely bred from the best.  We looked at pictures of two triple crown winners (Seattle Slew, Secretariat), Breeder’s Cup winners ( AP Indy) and of course, way back,  my favorite horses Bold Ruler and Man O’War.  I guess if I have to pick a horse to bet the farm on, this one is not a bad choice. Bruno is big, brave and tough.  I suspect he has that special ingredient, “heart” as well. 

Day three of recovery is done and we are one day closer to getting him well.

Day One-Starts Now!-A Bruno Story

Mimi is a 13 hand Welsh pony.  Bruno is big.

Mimi is a 13 hand Welsh pony. Bruno is big.

It has been a long day waiting for the call from Dr. Marsh.  The surgery was scheduled for 1:00 pm.  I had been watching the clock all day.  Two o’clock came and went as did three and four.  When 5:00 rolled around, I tried to call the vet hospital knowing it was unlikely I would get cell reception once I got out in the country near my home.  A polite receptionist told me Dr. Marsh was not available.

Finally, the call came in.  Dr. Marsh reported that the surgery had gone well.  He had said yesterday that he doubted the infection would go to the bone, although Dr. Criner had felt it was involved from the start.  The infection did go up through his hoof directly into the coffin bone.   There was abnormal tissue, pus and other signs of infection along the way.  They were successful in totally cleaning all the infection out of the area leaving clean, healthy bone in its place.  So, more of the hoof got cut away than we had hoped but all the infection is now gone and we can go forward with new, healthy tissue. 

Due to the way the hoof was cut, it will be possible to get a special shoe on him, one with a treatment plate that unscrews off the bottom so we can dress and treat the hoof but keep it protected as well. 

Dr. Marsh said Bruno was a trooper.  He handled the anesthesia and the surgery well and was resting comfortably now in a big stall.  He did say tomorrow might be a little rougher for him. 

Just like at the people hospitals, Dr. Marsh was urging Bruno’s release as soon as he could handle it.  Maybe Sunday or Monday, we will see how he is doing and what the bill is so far and then decide if it is time for him to come home. 

As far as I am concerned, I am marking this as day one of his recovery and his road to the show ring.  Maybe my Christmas present next year will be seeing him soundly walk, trot and canter.  That would be pretty terrific!

The Wait is On!

The beautiful (and momentarily spotless) hallways of the Large Animal Hospital at TAMU.  Lauren and I were awaiting Bruno to be x-rayed.

The beautiful (and momentarily spotless) hallways of the Large Animal Hospital at TAMU. Lauren and I were awaiting Bruno to be x-rayed.

We headed out for the 100+ mile trip to Texas A&M at 8 am this morning.  It is a cross-country jaunt for us with no major highways.  We pulled in right at 10 am.  We were quickly checked in and a tech went to the trailer with us to get Bruno.  It had been cold when we left our place but Bruno had worked up a good sweat under his blanket by the time we got there.  Kudos to his prior trainers and handlers, as a huge and young OTTB, he could have been dragging us all over, but he was obedient and calm. 

Dr. Chad Marsh was on hand to start the evaluation.  He had seen the previous films but wanted to evaluate the horse himself.  He got down on the treatment floor to take many photos of the hoof and then we went outside to have the tech trot him in hand on both the concrete and in the grass.  Since loosing his shoe on the bad hoof earlier this week, Bruno was showing signs of lameness when trotting on the hard pavement.  He actually moved fairly well in the grass for as bad as his hoof was-all of which was recorded on the camera. 

Lauren and I waited in the beautiful facility as Bruno’s hoof was x-rayed once again.  If you look closely at the picture above you will see the pharmacy off to left about halfway up the picture.  We noted it had metal barriers across both sides of the entrance.  I guess if a horse got loose and crazy running through the halls he would be stopped short of running through the pharmacy.  Probably a good architectural detail (especially if you work in the pharmacy!). 

Dr. Marsh kneeling down and working on the hoof-Bruno was an all-star!

Dr. Marsh kneeling down and working on the hoof-Bruno was an all-star!

Once the x-rays were complete we followed Bruno, Dr. Marsh, a league of other doctors, fourth year students, the A&M top farrier and several techs to cut away at the hoof and see what we could find.  Immediately it was clear- ending all speculation on the behalf of the vets here in Houston or perhaps even in New York, this horse’s hoof was infected.  First, you could smell it.  Second, you could see it.  Using a dremel tool, they cut away some of the hoof to expose the infection.  It is not clear if the infection goes to the coffin bone or not, but I was gratified to see that Dr. Lynn Criner had made a superb catch on the problem with this horse’s hoof.  For at least 20 months, this hoof has been cracked and has not healed.  It has not healed because the infection will continue to destroy the hoof wall until it is removed and healed.  Dr. Marsh said he was not worried about the crack itself.  He will do surgery tomorrow, clean out the infection and depending on how much hoof got cut away in the process, would depend on how long this boy would be out of work but probably many months to a year.   I am okay with that, he is only five-years old and we have plenty of time to let him recover.

Then Dr. Marsh turned to me with a smile on his face and asked, “what if I get him good enough to get back on the track?”  I paused (pretty much horrified with the suggestion-I wanted him at my barn learning to be a jumper not going back to be a race horse) but Lauren didn’t miss a step, telling the doctor, he can race around the jumper course-that would be just fine.

So, tomorrow he will go into surgery.  We will get updates out as we get results.  Thanks to all of you, including so many old and new friends, that have a taken a moment to send well wishes to our big Bruno.  As always, thank you for riding along with us, especially now-your comments and well wishes mean the world to us!

My favorite picture of Bruno and Lauren!

My favorite picture of Bruno and Lauren!


Bruno-off to Texas A&M-a Bruno Story

The majestic Fiddlers Pilgrim, aka Bruno.

The majestic Fiddler’s Pilgrim, aka Bruno.

I can just hear my daddy repeating one of his frequent sayings, “Ain’t no such thing as a free horse.”  And I certainly know that but when you are working with my budget to try to produce quality show horses, sometimes someone’s else problem can be your ticket to the big time. 

In fact, with the exception of paying for Mimi, the grey pony, all the horses in my barn are rescues of one type or another.  Starting with my horse Kid, with his ownership, I signed a document stating I would never barrel race him again.  He was done.  He was free to be a pleasure horse for me but his racing days were over.  Then came Mickey, even with Sarah’s hard work at the rescue it would be years before he reliably bridled, loaded or wasn’t a fool (okay, that still happens but we do our best).  Snowboy, also from the rescue and later the ASPCA, has had his issues but settled into being a top-notch schooling pony.  Even beautiful Feather has some anatomical issues that will prevent her from ever winning a halter class but should be no issue for her in the jumping ring.  Feather had some psychological issues to overcome as well. Not one of these horses could I afford to own if I had bought them for what their true value was (either previously or in the future).  I got all of them because they had “issues” and we have been good at dealing with issues.

When I heard about Bruno, an off-the-track Thoroughbred (OTTB) from our trainer Dev, he freely told Lauren that he was feeding into “your mother’s addiction issues” (those of rescuing the unwanted horses) but I don’t know if I would have agreed if I had known what I know now.  Bruno was reportedly having a hoof issue that had caused cracking of his foot.  This is not uncommon in horses but just like your fingernails or hair, new hoof takes awhile to grow.  I have had success in the past helping horses grow hooves that needed repair and thought I could handle this, no problem.

Once our vet, Lynn Criner started looking at the x-rays, she only wanted more information.  She did not think this was a simple hoof crack (of course not) and with help from Bruno’s former owner Sherre, we tracked down older x-rays of the same hoof that showed clearly that the coffin bone (major bone in the hoof) was infected or had some other issues causing deterioration of the bone.  Dr. Criner consulted with vets here in Houston who concurred with her diagnosis and then moved on to the big daddy of vet hospitals in Texas, The Texas A&M University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.  Chad Marsh, DVM, an Assistant Clinical Professor at TAMU School of Veterinary Medicine, specializing in Equine Surgery, Sports Medicine, & Imaging also agreed with Dr. Criner’s diagnosis and recommended surgery to clean the infection from the coffin bone to allow the hoof to heal. 

So, obviously as my dad had told me so many times, not a free horse, but with this surgery, IF (and I fully understand that it might not be successful) it is successful this horse may be able to carry Lauren to new heights (literally).  And honestly, the price of this surgery while not cheap, is way cheaper than I would have paid for a horse of a fraction of Bruno’s caliber. It seems like a good gamble to take.

Am I nervous?  Yes, I am almost in tears just writing this.  This big guy has fully and completely integrated himself into both Lauren and my hearts.  But I feel there is no point of trying to let the hoof heal on its own.  For over 20 months (if not longer) this crack has been present.  I can see through online race records, that in March of 2011, Bruno ran to second place at Belmont Park in New York (note that this at Belmont not to be confused with running in the Belmont).  Apparently it was not bothering him much that day!

Today Bruno, having thrown his special shoe off in a pasture romp spent his last day of freedom, splashing and rolling in the mud and running through deep water.   Lauren gave him a good bath, removed all the dirt and mud, polished his black coat and cleaned his feet.  Tomorrow we will trailer him to A&M.  Surgery is scheduled for Wednesday.  It is expected that a large portion of his hoof will be removed.  It may be eight months before he is able to ridden again.

I honestly don’t know how this story will end, or to put it another way, if the Bruno and Lauren story will ever get to begin.  I am making the best decision I can, to do the right thing for a beautiful, proud thoroughbred.  I hope one day he runs freely and majestically as he did Saturday.  I hope one day he is whole again.

p.s.  Bruno has a new OTTB saddle pad (fresh from which I sure hope this great guy gets to wear.