Finally Fall

The dawn's early light on a much cooler morn.

The dawn’s early light on a much cooler morn  Photo by Kristie Nichols.

The last few days have ushered in new cooler temperatures in the pre-dawn hours where I do not come in from feeding the animals sweat drenched.  Today, I could even get dressed for work, go back to the barn, get horses out and not smell like I had hung out all night in the boy’s locker room.  I feel this is an improvement not only for me personally, but for the my work colleagues.  However, it may be a little too late as my cubicle at work has abandoned.

My desk-the messy one and then my co-workers-GONE.

My desk-the messy one and then my co-workers-GONE.

Anyway, I am sure if they return they will be happy the weather is cooler and I smell better. Life continues at the farm.  Pecans are falling in record amounts as this year has been one of the best pecan season’s in years.  They are good-sized and I have many pecan trees.  Please let me know if you want to come pick some for your very own.

Lauren is back on Feather although full use of her hand and arm has not been restored.  She is working with a neurosurgeon to create a path forward that hopefully does not include further surgery.  The riding on the flat is going pretty well although she has found it is way harder to get back in condition to ride than it is to stay in condition to ride.  Her entire body is weakened from weeks of inactivity.  Yesterday was her first full lesson back on Feather.  After working leg yields and long posting trots, it wasn’t just her hand and arm that was complaining today!

Lauren back on Feather and she actually did some low jumps.

Lauren back on Feather and she actually did some low jumps.

Dev continued his work with my mare Kalani.  Snowboy did not even gaze up as the two worked around the arena.  He was pretty busy with the new green grass brought on by the early fall rains.

Dev and Kalani with Snowboy grazing on the hill.

Dev and Kalani with Snowboy grazing on the hill


I am still working to conclude the details of my mother’s life. I have a few jewelry boxes filled pink necklaces and trendy bracelets. I want to consolidate the stuff the girls or I may ever use and get rid of the rest. I still find myself leaving work headed in the direction of her place. Habits die-hard and I miss her dearly.

Ally and her kids have been horribly sick with ear infections, fever and vomiting.  Ally actually has an ear infection as well and is totally miserable.  I suspect the drugs will start kicking in today but sometimes I think we need a little reminder what our children go through.  At this point, Ally wouldn’t wish an ear infection on her worst enemy.  Hope it is better soon.

The days are getting shorter, dark is coming sooner.  We are settling into new routines and looking forward to the fall shows.  This maybe the first fall since 2004 that Lauren will not be riding boldly into the ring.  But when she is ready, I will be there to support her.

That's all folks!

That’s all folks!  Photo by Mia Kuchner

Getting the fever

It has been a long time since I have felt this way. Probably all the way back to spring of 2003 when I brought Kid home to a boarding stable near our house. But even then I really don’t remember this intensity of feeling. I definitely have the fever for my new mare!

While Kid was our first Texas horse, bought three years after we arrived here from Florida, and I was seriously enamoured by his impeccable manners, his glittering copper coat and forelock hanging in his eyes like rakish teenager, I was not at point in my life where a horse could emotionally take over my life. I loved to be sure but I was not obsessed with him.

Now, 11 years later, with a whole lot of road behind me, rocky road, uphill climbs and some gentle trips to the country, my heart is more open ( or ready ) to care. The day after giant Bruno lost his fight and I laid him to rest, an ad appeared on Facebook for my roan mare.

From the moment I laid eyes on her, I had to have her. And it wasn’t because everything was perfect. Certainly, I did not have funds for a new horse, not after vet bills, expenses with my mother’s passing, huge medical bills for Lauren or needing to fix up the barn (again) for new boarders. Completely irresponsibly, I worked out a deal to buy the mare. I owed money to a bunch of people, but still went ahead.

I am an experienced horse buyer and let emotions drive the purchase. I didn’t even ride the horse, although I watched the owner and my friend ride her. Stupid! I should have asked more questions as well,but I didn’t.

And from the moment, the mare we named Kalina, Hawaiian for heaven sent (which I believe her to be) I fell head over heels for her. I LOVED her amazing thick tail that falls to the ground. Her forelock is the bleached out black of an island kid who spends everyday surfing. Her eyes are gentle and kind. Kalina is a registered quarter horse with the big bone and size of her Hancock relatives and the grace and performance style of the Zippo Pine Bar horses. As much as my world is now deeply seated in warm bloods and jumpers, my roots will always go back to my daddy and his love for the athletic quarter horse. But this mare is big as well. I watched her in the pasture yesterday standing amongst Feather (Irish Sport Horse), TeeDee (thoroughbred) and Cody (World Champion Quarter horse jumper) and she was taller than any of them!

At just over 16 hands, my incoming filly, Betty Sue will no doubt out grow Kalina to be the biggest in the barn, but right now Kalina is the tallest. She is not startling tall like Bruno but with her unique blue roan coat, she is eye catching.

In the category of it all being perfect, while this mare has wonderful ground manners, the first time I rode her I didnot get what I expected. From watching the videos of her and seeing her go in person, she appeared uncomplicated. Gee, not so much. While she walked where ever Jordyn or I asked her to go, at the trot she was prone to fast stops. When I asked her to canter we were not much of a team. Our communications were off. As we went around at the canter, she would suddenly drop her head and stop on a dime. Pretty hard to ride and unsettling as well!

Lauren had just been released to get back in the saddle. She has been doing some flat work withFeather. I think Lauren just felt I was old and couldn’t ride so she got on Kalina. The walk and trot went okay. Oh, but the canter, Lauren got lulled into thinking that would be fine as well. Off they went in Kalina’s big strided, flat kneed canter, until once again she stopped, dropped her head and spun just like she cutting a calf. And just as cleanly, Lauren flew from her back, instinctively protecting her broken arm. When she hit the ground, the tears sprung from her eyes. In seconds though, she realized she wasn’t hurt and laughed happily.



Yesterday, Dev worked with the big mare and assured me with a little work she will be just fine. I am even going to take some lessons on her. Who knows I might even end up in the show ring again! My riding goals this year were around what I would do with Bruno. Those opportunities are gone. But some new goals are in order.

I am finding myself wandering out to the barn and Kalani’s side over and over. I get off of her and minutes later want to saddle up again. I even picked out this beautiful new brow band for her. I am in love with this sweet mare. What a wonderful feeling!

A new horse-New love

Jordyn and Kona getting to know Kalani.

Jordyn and Kona getting to know Kalani.

At 16 hands, she Cary's those big-bone Hancock genes.

At 16 hands, she carries those big-bone Hancock genes.

A week ago, we were battling Bruno’s last hours.  I was distracted about everything else and if you would have told me a new horse would be taking up space in my barn, I would have thought it was some new boarder certainly not a horse I was interested in.

But life moves in crazy ways, breaking our hearts and just as cleanly slicing it open so love can flow again.  I have been watching, seeking, wanting a horse for Ally and I to ride.  A nice pleasure horse, quiet, dependable and kind.  But I have been looking a long time and not found anything close to right.

Tuesday, the day after Bruno died, Lauren started reading me Facebook ads for horses.  One caught my attention as it was the right price, nearby, pretty, and looked quiet in the video.  Talking to the owner, I realized I had known her for some time from working horse shows and watching her ride.

For someone deep in grief over my momma and my big horse, something about this pretty mare with amazing tail spoke loudly to me.  We brought Libby along to try the mare out.  By the time the owner had finished putting the eight year old through her basic paces I was sold.  Libby rode her fine, but the decision was already made.

Felt so great to get my tack out and ride my horse!

Felt so great to get my tack out and ride my horse!

Two days later, the Zippo Pine Bar/Hancock bred Quarter horse is in my barn.  She is a blue roan, named Zip a Blue Valentine, whom I have named  Kalani, which means sent from heaven in Hawaiian.  Jordyn kept asking me if the mare was taking Bruno’s place.  No one can ever take Bruno’s place.  This is a totally new and different beginning with a completely different partner.  Loving Kalani does not diminish in any way my love for Big Bruno.

First trot!

First trot!

So, this horse is not a rescue, not an OTTB or OTQH, simply a backyard horse, looking for her next family.  Perhaps this time I was the one that needed to be rescued from dark days and a broken heart. Kalani has come to bring joy back in my life.  I am so happy and grateful.

Oh the joys of owning a wonderful horse!

Oh the joys of owning a wonderful horse!


Thank you for the literally thousands of well wishes and extensions of sympathy you have sent my family and I.  Thank you for always riding along.

p.s.  Jordyn was my great partner today and the talented photographer of all these pictures.

Bruno is Gone

The majestic Fiddlers Pilgrim, aka Bruno.

The majestic Fiddlers Pilgrim, aka Bruno.



It has been almost two years since trainer Dev called me to ask if I would take a horse he had that had some hoof problems.  At the time, I told my vet, Lynn Criner, that I would give him two years.  I had forgotten that conversation until she reminded me yesterday.  It has been a long two years.

Just a short re-cap-

  • Bruno was an off the track thoroughbred bred from racing royalty A.P. Indy and Hansel.
    AP Indy, grand-sire of my Bruno

    AP Indy, grand-sire of my Bruno


  • He was a staggering 17.2 hands high and weighed over 1650 pounds in the best days.



  • He was brave, stoic and strong.
  • Bruno has been treated for hoof infections for at least four years.  I suspect maybe longer.
  • He had surgery to treat a massive infection to his coffin bone in December 2012.

    Lauren loving on Bruno after surgery at Texas A&M.

    Lauren loving on Bruno after surgery at Texas A&M.

  • Bruno spent over five months on stall rest
  • He came back from the surgery alternately sound and lame for the last 18 months.
  • During that time Lauren got to spend two weeks with him in a focused jumping program-it was wonderful for both of them.

    Bruno at the trainer's in December.

    Bruno at the trainer’s in December.

  • Amelia turned him into a dressage horse and we watched him stretch and reach new limits under her tutelage.

    Look at the stretch in this canter!

    Look at the stretch in this canter!

  • Hoof problems plagued him regularly.

When Amelia left on vacation in July, the hoof infection was back with a vengeance.  We would clear the infection in one hoof (or so we thought) only to have it re-surface in another.  There was not a moment except last Tuesday where he was without severe pain.  I enlisted the help of my vet and farrier and we tried multiple types of antibiotics, pain killers, shoeing adjustments (really pads on his now bare feet).  I even ordered over $200 of corrective padded, glue on shoes for him just this last Friday.

Bru's feet wrapped up once again.

Bru’s feet wrapped up once again.

But no matter what we did, this beautiful horse was not pain-free.  If I could have asked him, as the orthopedic surgeon asks Lauren each time we visit what her pain level was I know it would have been over a 5, even on the best of days.  Last Tuesday, which was to be Bruno’s last good day, he went with me to have pictures taken in the bottom pasture.  He was not pain-free but he could get around.

Bruno as a background for Jordyn and Kendyll

Bruno as a background for Jordyn and Kendyll

By Wednesday morning, he was racked in pain again, lying in the far corner of his stall not able or willing to get up.  He would eat and drink if he had heavy doses of IV drugs on  board, otherwise he just laid silently in the shavings.  We had been treating his good foot but now the infection was running hot in his bad foot-the one he had surgery on.

Dr. Criner has been out for hours each day.  Taking x-rays, administering IVs with pain killers and antibiotics.  There is no solid, one, overwhelming reason why this young, gallant horse is so sick but we cannot get him better.

By Friday, Lauren and I both discussed it and knew we could not let this go on much longer.  His pain levels were tremendous.  We had identified at least eight separate sites of abscesses in his left hoof.  His right hoof was infected as well.  You could smell the thick stench of infection as you entered the barn hallway.  We told Dr. Criner, and she agreed, that we would not let this continue past Monday if we could not get a major turn-around or resolution.

Meantime, it was a lot like watching my mother slip away to death in hospice care.  We were losing Bruno day by day, hour by hour.

Together, Lauren, her friend Libby, my friend Gaylyn, Dr. Criner and myself stood by Bruno and held him as he was humanely euthanized today. It was time to release him from pain.

I don’t know why Bruno came into my life.  Maybe because I could do so little to help my mother and felt so helpless watching her slowly drift towards death over the years she was here, that Bruno came so I could prove to myself that I tried everything in my power (and my pocketbook) to make him whole again.  Sadly, that failed as well.  Grief enfolds me tonight.  Maybe I just needed to meet this proud, handsome, puppy-dog of giant and have a gauge by which to measure every future horse I meet.  I do not know.

The horror of Lauren’s recent injury, mother’s death and now laying this huge horse down to die make my heart brittle.  To love deeply is to hurt deeply.  It will be awhile before I stand straight and tall overcoming the weight of my injured heart.  Bruno, I loved you so…I am so sorry you are gone.

Bruno looking me in the eye.

Bruno looking me in the eye.


Pretty as a Picture

Bruno as a background for Jordyn and Kendyll

Bruno as a background for Jordyn and Kendyll

Our seven-year old, off-the-track thoroughbred Bruno, has always been one handsome horse.  However in the past 45 days, Bruno’s feet have been acting up again causing him to be seriously lame on one of his four feet consistently keeping him from leaving his stall until recently.

Bruno came to us lame and we did surgery at Texas A&M Vet hospital.  He has been sound and working pretty well in the last six months prior to this incident. Bruno managed to complete an intense but outstanding jumping clinic with a local trainer in late December of last year.  He has been ridden very well by our resident dressage and eventing expert, Amelia, since we moved to the new farm in April.  The two managed some lessons with both Dev and Nancy Lindsey for jumping and dressage.  He was going great.

Then Amelia went out-of-town on an extended trip and it all fell apart (yes, I blame Amelia!).  Actually, I think his boredom from not being worked lead to his racing around in the pasture which lead to him pulling his shoes off, over and over, and destroying what fragile bit of hoof wall he had. Not mention some nasty abscesses took up residence in his hooves as well.

The plan was to keep his shoes off, let his hooves grow and then start re-shaping them for more effective traveling in the future (so he would not be catching his back hooves on his front hooves).  Barefoot Bruno was not a happy guy unlike the doll Barefoot Barbie, Bruno did not have a smile on his face or fun times.  His feet just hurt.

Meanwhile, my ever practical daughter, Lauren (practical when it comes to things I care about, not so much about things she cares about) kept pointing out to anyone who would listen that we could not keep such a big horse, that we could not work, that would not eat, that we were amassing vet and farrier bills on, indefinitely.

I agreed but felt (most of the time) that there were better days ahead for Bruno.  I did have a period when I was painstakingly opening 30 individual antibiotic capsules to dump their contents into a bowl so I could give them to Bruno  each morning and night, mixed into vegetable oil and shot in his mouth with a syringe, while he played the “I am taller than you game” at my every approach to his stall, that I wanted to personally shoot him or me or someone.

Sean, our farrier even said that if he felt he couldn’t get Bruno better he would personnally drive the backhoe to dig the hole to bury him in, but we were not there yet.

At one point three of his legs were involved with infections or just swelling from so much inactivity.  Sean and Dr. Criner worked together to make pads to elevate Bruno’s front feet off the ground to give him some comfort from the pain. Sheets of thick rubber were cut to fit the bottom of his foot, then in essence ‘super-glued’ to his hoof with long pieces left to be glued to sides of the hoof.  Sean is an engineer in addition to being a former jockey and a farrier.  Dr. Criner has a creative streak as well.  I was afraid I would come home to find Bruno on roller skates or something!

Barefoot Bruno becomes super glue Bruno

Barefoot Bruno becomes super glue Bruno

Weeks have turned into months and finally, Bruno appears to be on the mend.  I have been dragging him out of his stall to get some sun and green grass.  Each day he has been better about going out and more reluctant to go back in.  One evening, I had already poured breakfast feed for Mickey and TeeDee that pasture outside all night.   Bruno roamed around the barn and ate both meals through the windows of their stalls.  Any other horse you would be worried about or mad, but Bruno can use any food he will eat.

Yesterday, we found the perfect profession for Bruno in his semi-lame state.  We made him the model in Jordyn and Kendyll’s professional pictures.  I got him all cleaned up, white socks white again, mane and tail washed and conditioned,  coat gleaming and pulled out his show halter (of course, he has never been to a show, but we can always hope).  When Elvia (Memories by Elvia) showed up, I hauled Bruno down to the back pasture behind the kids and figured with his less-than-mobile abilities he would be a perfect prop.

Then the camera flash started popping and off Bruno went, up the hill towards the barn.  I was being laughed at from the arena as I chased behind the hobbling horse.  I just want to point out that his legs are quite a bit longer than mine, so he is way faster, even at the walk.  I dragged him back to the “photo shoot” and got him re-positioned.  From that point forward, Bruno was like a high-paid model, he would have won “America’s Next Top Model” honors.  He posed.  He tilted his head.  He turned back to look at the girls.  He bowed his head to take candy from their hands.  Then he stood stock still in perfect thoroughbred form as both girls got on him with just the halter and lead rope.  This is a seven year-old racehorse, albeit a lame one, still he was amazingly patient.

I am sure I will be showing updated pictures for a while.  I am really excited about them.

Oh, Jordyn and Kendyll, they were pretty awesome as well. They are cute girls! I think my next step will be to get an agent for Bruno and he can start on his new modeling career right away!

And that's a wrap, folks.

And that’s a wrap, folks.