Kieffer on the Couch

This is a series I’ve been wanting to publish for a long time. I inherited this couch from my Opa but very quickly Kieffer is the one who took it over. He shares it with us, sometimes grudgingly, and he does not like it if Karma dares to try her luck at cozying up on the couch as well. Often I’ll come downstairs and find him in some new, strange position on the couch–sometimes he’s built himself a fort with the pillows, other times he’s standing on the back of it like it’s a balance beam as he gazes out the window, on patrol.

So here goes, these are not fantastic photos, these were all taken on my iPhone, but I feel they best tell the story of Kieffer and his couch.

Enjoy!

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Goose Grievances

If you’ve read any of my previous posts you’ll know all about Goosey—the resident goose (just in case you couldn’t decipher what kind of animal I was talking about based on her name). Now, Goosey is a white goose, a “domestic” goose, not one of the Canadian Geese that frequent many of our parks and lakes and leave their mark by pooping in every perfect picnic blanket spot (and by the way, geese produce between 1 to 2 pounds of poop a day! I know this because if the barn doors are left open… well, let’s just say there’s a lot of cleaning, and grimacing, to be done).

Goosey has lived at the barn for several years now. When Zappa first arrived at the farm they became fast friends—you might even say he took her under his *ahem* wing. Even though he would probably try to trample any horse that dared come near his grain, Zappa would always allow Goosey to peck away at his grain bucket like sharing his precious dinner was no big deal.  I’ve even seen Zappa lying down in his paddock with Goosey tucked in close to his side—BFFs of the oddest sort.

Despite Zappa’s friendship, Goosey,  still seemed to pine for her feathered relatives. Anytime a flock of Canada Geese soared over head, honking away, the normally subdued Goosey would flap her wings and belt out the saddest sound you’d ever heard a bird produce. And so it was decided that Goosey could be lonely no longer and a second white goose was soon added to the farm’s collection of animals. The new goose has yet to be officially named but I call him Squawker and we appear to be in a long-standing fight. I’m not exaggerating in the slightest—we do battle on a daily basis and let me tell you, it’s exhausting.

When Squawker arrived he immediately latched onto Goosey, as she did to him. Some might call their relationship “adorable” and to observe just the two of them waddling around the farm together, shaking their tail feathers this way and that, I can see how that word might be applicable. When the green plastic kiddie pool is filled up with water, the two will spend hours dunking their heads, chortling excitedly at each other, then splashing water about while swimming in laps around the perimeter. Hilarious is how I like to describe that scene because when you see them paddling in circles in the kiddie pool in the apple orchard while looking oh-so-serious,  it’s hard to not laugh out loud or at least crack a smile.

Squawker and Goosey

Squawker and Goosey doing their thing

BUT… back to the battle at hand… Squawker and I do not get along. I don’t know when our relationship went sideways but it was probably very shortly after the first time we met. Squawker likes to make it known that Goosey is HIS gal and nobody had better mess with her, nor him, for that matter. He employs intimidation tactics such as hissing whilst waggling his tongue and showing off that he does, in fact, have rows of pointy teeth hidden underneath his beak . Then he proceeds to flap his wings and run (yes, geese can run surprisingly fast) sporadically in your direction while honking obnoxiously. At first I laughed at these antics and took to shooing him off with my hands and feet—as if he’d instinctually know that my wild gesticulations meant “back off buddy!” This logic quickly backfired on me and he told me so by giving my rubber gum boot a solid bite. Shocked by his gall, I took to approaching Zappa’s paddock with a pitchfork or broom in hand, something to swish in his general direction whilst protecting my gum boots. He took notice and retreated by about a foot. But he’s a wise one, that Squawker, and he knows as soon as I head in his direction without a barn tool in my hand, it’s fair game to charge at me, glaring with his beady little eyes.

What irks me the most is that every night at dinner I toss the geese a handful of the horse’s grain. Goosey always waits patiently and then quietly goes about pecking up each morsel of grain; Squawker, on the other hand, will forgo the generous gift of feed in order to continue hissing at me even as grain rains down beside him. He always has to have the last word.

I recently found out that geese can live between 20 and 30 years. So it looks like I may be stuck dealing with Squawker for several more years to come. I don’t know if I have it in me to battle for that long. I’ve decided I’m going to have to come up with some sort of a peace offering… perhaps I could purchase a second wading pool. Or toss an extra handful of grain each evening at dinner.

I’m open to any suggestions…

–Cassidy

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The Mystery Has Been Solved…Sort Of

Well, the mystery of Kieffer’s heritage has finally been solved…sort of. We still don’t really know where those ears came from, or his incredible bounciness, but we do know that he is NOT a Basenji, nor a Chiwoberman.

For my birthday this year Bryan had Kieffer DNA tested and the results were a total surprise! Kieffer is a Redbone Coonhound, Shar Pei, Pointer Mix. Or, as my roommate has recently begun calling him, a Pointy Pei.

Big Ears

Big Ears

Who would have thought eh?

-Cassidy

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Why My Dog Would Make An Amazing Horse

Sometimes, well, not sometimes, actually almost daily, I think about what an incredible horse my dog would be, if he were a horse. Still with me? I’ve never really thought about what my lab, Karma’s, personality would be like if she were a horse; she’s such a typical lab (is beyond obsessive about balls, if she can catch the faintest whiff of ocean air she goes wild, could play fetch all day, is friendly with just about everyone, I could go on…) Karma is all canine, wants only to please and be (wo)man’s best friend and there’s no point imagining her doing anything other than being a dog.

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Miss Karma

Kieffer on the other hand… he is a wild one and it’s doubtful that his DNA make up is all canine. He is built like a racehorse—slim and fast with strong, muscley hindquarters—and he sure can run like one. In fact, I’ve seriously considered entering him in a Whippet or Greyhound race (only I have no idea where those are run…and if dog racing even still exists? Although I think it must because I know of a few rescue Greyhounds… Alright, maybe I should do a bit more research before investing too much in Kieffer’s dog racing career.) In my limited knowledge of Greyhound racing, I know the dogs wear a muzzle and have to chase after a fake rabbit as it electronically bounds down the track, just ahead and out of reach of the dogs. Now, while I don’t doubt that Kieffer would chase after a rabbit, it’s the birds that he really speeds after. So, in my version of Kieffer The Race Dog, he would be chasing a fake, electronic bird with wings that were programmed to flap. Brilliant, no? He’d be unstoppable.

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so speedy!

On second thought, the muzzle may prove to be his downfall in the race. Kieffer has been introduced to the muzzle before and he did NOT like it (and no, it’s not because he’s aggressive, quite the opposite in fact). The reason my über friendly puppy required a muzzle is because one day  he decided, out of the blue, after six months of happily sleeping in his soft-shell kennel in the car, that it would be fun to shred the mesh siding of the kennel and make a grand escape. After he tore apart the one side and found his freedom, he took to gnawing on the zipper, almost successfully ensuring that the kennel would be unfixable (he’d obviously forgotten about my good friend who is an incredible seamstress and had already foiled his many attempts to chew through his harness by sewing it up each time he nashed his way through the soft material).

After the epic kennel-destroy, I didn’t know what to do with him in the car. The whole reason he had to be in a kennel is because he’d chewed through all three seat belts in the back seat. So, I decided a muzzle might be his last option otherwise he’d be banished from any and all car rides. Now that he’d discovered a taste for seat belts, I was positive that the driver’s and passenger side seat belts were next on his list.

The muzzle, however, lasted all of two minutes (I’m too much of a softie and kept feeling badly for the little gaffer) so now he’s back to being muzzle-less and confined to a hard kennel in the car.

But I digress… Kieffer would make an amazing horse because he also jumps like his hind legs were made of pogo sticks. He jumps over everything, including patches of floor in between strips of carpet, as if the floor was molten lava and if her were to touch it his paws would be scorched.

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Can’t you see him out on the cross country course?

He leaps and bounds with ease akin to a gazelle. People have compared him to a kangaroo, a deer and a jackrabbit, but in my mind, I see the potential he would have if he were a horse. With his speed, his endurance, the amazing bounce he has in his step that sends his front paws popping up so high they almost clear his head, and his effortless jump—he would make the most incredible three day event horse!

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Kieffer’s powerful spring!

The aspect that would likely be his undoing is that he’s

a)      TERRIFIED of water (if you follow my blog you’ll know this already)

b)      Is incredibly spooky

Spooky is a word we horse people use to describe horses who frighten and shy easily, like at a leaf blowing across the street for example. Kieffer spooks very easily and often at the same things a horse would find scary looking, such as on garbage day when the bins and bags are placed at the end of everyone’s driveway in the neighbourhood. Kieffer does NOT trust those bags. Not for a second. He leaps away and twirls around so he can face them. Then he growls and barks, all the while backing off. No amount of my coaxing will reassure him that the bag is simply a smelly, inanimate object.

Alas, this spookiness is probably what would have saved his life if he’d continued to grow up on the streets in Belize and in a horse, while we often regard spooky horses as frustrating to ride, really, their flighty, overly cautious personalities would have meant their survival in the wild. And as we know, Kieffer is a survivor and not a horse. So really, while it’s fun to day dream, it’s far more enjoyable to watch his hilarious antics.

–Cassidy

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Just Call Me Nurse Nunn

I seem to be learning a lot of lessons these days, such as the importance of ALWAYS having a well-stocked first aid kit at the barn. A human first aid kit wouldn’t be a bad idea either, but it’s imperative to have a horse kit ready to go. I thought I did. I thought I was all organized like that, but when disaster struck and my horse was in need of medical attention, my kit was, shall we say, lacking. This was rather embarrassing since I work at a tack store so really, I don’t have any excuse. I also learned that making a list of all the necessary items for said first aid kit BEFORE driving to the tack store is a brilliant idea. My mind, however, sometimes lacks in brilliance, so in one day, I made three trips back and forth to the tack store, each time forgetting yet another important first aid item.

All this un-asked for learning came about last month after Zappa somehow managed to puncture his fetlock. As any horse owner knows, it’s not a matter of if your horse will hurt himself, but when and how bad. So while we avoided an emergency a few weeks prior when Zappa got his foot stuck in the fence, it seemed this time our luck had run out. The small puncture wound became massively infected and I quickly found myself calling my vet for some much needed help.

Thus began a week spent driving back and forth from the barn, three times a day, to change Zappa’s wraps, be there for the daily vet visits and give him his antibiotics. The rest of my day was spent worrying about him and wishing I was back at the barn. I was pretty useless to anyone other than my horse that week.

Now that this whole ordeal is for the most part over (I just got the okay to start jumping Zappa again and I actually delayed writing this post in fear that I’d jinx his recovery—yes, I’m paranoid/superstitious like that) I’ve had some time to reflect on the situation and to try and find the positives since as with so many things in life, it could have been much worse.

One positive: I’ve learned how to give an IM injection without any squeamishness or uncontrollable shaking. (I also now know that IM stands for Intra-Muscular. That’s right! Might as well call me Nurse Nunn. And yes, I’m aware that I love alliteration a little too much…)

I realized very quickly that I prefer a digital thermometer to the old-school mercury thermometer, which I tried in vain to use before giving up and running to the drug store for the easier, digitized version (for some reason it still feels like cheating but every time that thermometer beeps I am unreasonably happy that I don’t have to squint to read the numbers and find the mercury line and try to make a decision on what exactly his temperature might be). So I suppose this is a positive, right? It’s good to know about thermometers…

IMG_0687Another positive: This incident also forced me to tackle yet another one of my fears—wrapping Zappa’s legs in standing bandages. I’ve been warned of the dangers of mis-wrapped polos and standing bandages many times before. I’ve heard the horror stories of the resulting bowed tendons and because I never got to participate in Pony Club, this is a skill I never acquired in all my horsey filled years. At my first cross country clinic, my more experienced horsey friends taught me the basic gist of what to do when wrapping, but even then I’d usually wuss out and beg one of them to wrap his legs so I could study, yet again, how it was done.

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Zappy taking a nap with his legs all wrapped

Lastly, I think after all the extra attention, daily grass walks, additional treats and time spent with Zappa, we are much closer. He now often whinnies when my car pulls up at the barn, and he’ll come out of his, “house”, sometimes even abandoning his hay, to greet me at the gate. He’s probably just looking for treats, but I’d like to think his affection means a little more. I know it’s sappy, but after all this, I am even more aware of how lucky I am that he recovered and I have a happy and healthy horse to continue riding. Not every medical emergency ends so well.

So, it looks like I’ll continue to have more horsey stories to share on this blog after all—stay tuned!

-Cassidy Nunn

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And We’re Stuck…

I recently found myself in an unexpected and terrifying situation with my horse. It was one of those times where I was cursing the fact that I never carry a hoof pick or any other sort of emergency kit with me whenever I head out riding on the trails. I’m usually a very organized person, but there are some habits that die hard, and even though I know you should carry some supplies with you when riding off by yourself, it’s just something I’ve never actually done.

Zappa and I were headed off to a jumping lesson at a nearby facility and it was our first time riding there. We took what I thought was the right trail, but, as it turns out, was not a trail at all (I have a lousy sense of direction and apparently a skewed view in what I think a trail should look like!) Zappa took a couple steps (ever the brave trail horse!) and suddenly stopped just as I heard a metallic clinking sound. I hopped off immediately and discovered the source of the sound: an old wire fence, hidden underneath the long grass. And there was Zappa’s foot, firmly lodged in between a wire square. He lifted his foot up as if to say “Um, hello? Mummy, I’m stuck. Could you remove this please?” and sighed deeply. I had visions of him pulling back and losing his balance, tipping over in slow motion. I also envisioned him panicking and become more tangled in the wire, cutting himself to bits in the process (I’ve been told I have an over-active imagination and that I constantly think of the-worst-possible-scenario—all very true observations).

With a lot of struggling, sweating and cursing, I managed to free his fetlock from the wire, but the last stubborn strand of wire remained wedged deep in between his shoe and hoof wall.

Now, at first I thought I was having the worst luck ever and I was about to burst into tears. There we were, stuck in a field, far from any neighbours, without wire cutters, and my 1,000 pound horse suddenly immobilized. And of course on top of it all we were now enormously late for our jumping lesson! Plus, I’d probably have to call the farrier or the vet, to properly remove the wire. I’d JUST taken my one dog to the vet the day before and I didn’t think I could handle yet another vet bill in the same week.

Then, as I reviewed our situation, I came up with a mental list of all the good luck I was having in that very moment.  For starters, the wire could very easily have been barbed wire and likely would have shredded Zappa’s leg, even if he had remained calm. I also have the best horse in the world (I’m biased, obviously) with the quietest disposition—had it been almost any other horse, they likely would have panicked and become further tangled in the fence. Instead, Zappa was content to have me hold his foot while he dove into eating the grass beside him. He is one of the mellowest horses I’ve ever met. He is, after all, the same horse who the very first time I took him off island, to an eventing clinic where all the other horses were going wild in the makeshift paddocks beside him, decided to have a snooze in the sun, using a pile of his poop as a pillow. Yep, that’s how subdued his personality is.

While I may have forgotten a hoof pick, I did have my cell phone in my pocket (another stroke of luck since I never carry it when it’s raining out—technology for the win!) I cradled Zappa’s foot in my hand to ensure he didn’t continue to wedge the wire deeper with any movement, and pulled my phone out to call for help.  Another plus, I was able to get in touch with a neighbour and she came running to our rescue, wire cutters in hand.

So, in the end, disaster was avoided, we made it to our jumping lesson (better late than never!) and Zappa’s foot was unharmed.

He went home after our lesson to extra treats and a rub down, followed by a nice nap with his poo pillow.

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A couple weeks later, our luck seemed to run out and I did end up having to call the vet, more than once, for an unrelated injury… but I’ll save that story for the next blog installment because it’s a long one!

–Cassidy

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Wild Horse, Wild Ride–Movie Review

So, I embarked on a documentary spree of sorts over the last month and I’m now addicted to this genre of film. From horse movies to nature docs to food films, there are many great documentaries well worth seeing. If you’ve been following my blog at all you know how much I loved the horsey documentary Buck and today I’m going to talk about the latest horse doc I watched called Wild Horse, Wild Ride.

Every year in the US, thousands of wild mustangs are herded up and they all need to find a forever home. In order to raise awareness about these stunning animals, the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge was born from the Mustang Heritage Foundation. Basically, it’s a contest for both professional horse trainers and serious amateur trainers who have enough horse experience under their belts that they can properly start out a horse who’s never really seen a human, let alone been touched or ridden by one. Each of 100 mustangs are paired with a horse trainer, and then the trainer has 100 days to work with that horse before the horses are presented in a contest at the end of the three months. The contest, which takes place in Fort Worth, Texas, is to show off what these mustangs can do under saddle and in-hand.  At the end of the contest, all 100 of the mustangs go up for adoption and the winning trainer is awarded $5,000 in prize money. If the trainers have fallen in love with their mustangs and want to buy them (which many of them do, as I’m sure you can imagine!) then they must bid against the public.

Filmmakers Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus follow nine of these trainers as they throw their hearts and souls into taming these wild horses. What I loved most about this film is that the filmmakers included a wide spectrum of horse trainers—from Melissa, who has her PhD in biomedical engineering and teaches during the day, to Wylene who is a professional horse trainer and a seasoned competitor in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. Jesus is a roofer by day and an amazing trick roper, while George and Evelyn each decide to bring a mustang home to their ranch to train. There’s also Charles and his son Carlos who live on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, and Kris and Nik, brothers who are trying to make their names in natural horsemanship training.

With such a diverse array of trainers, it was also interesting to watch each trainer’s methods of starting their horses—for one, she was riding her mustang after three days, whereas another took months to mount up and instead focused on establishing a strong bond on the ground with his horse. Of course every horse’s personality was vastly different and some proved more challenging than others.

My one criticism is that I think after watching this film, a non-horse person may think that training a mustang or any horse for that matter, isn’t actually as hard as it looks and that anyone who knows a little about horses could reasonably give horse training a try. This is not to say that the film doesn’t show some of the challenges of working with a wild horse, but I actually think they should have showed a few more of the setbacks that come with horse training especially with horses that have spent their entire lives running free compared to a domestic horse who has at least been raised and handled by humans by the time they begin their training.

Wild Horse, Wild Ride had me laughing and crying (I don’t cry often in movies, though admittedly I do cry more easily whenever there are animals involved. Still, I advise a tissue box….) As with Buck, I don’t think you have to be a horse person to enjoy this film and take something away from it. The scenery was beautiful as were the horses, of course, and watching the relationships between horse and human form is always remarkable. I definitely left with a new appreciation for mustangs and what they are capable of as a riding horse (I now not-so-secretly want to adopt one). I also have some new goals I’d like to work on with my own horse, such as riding him bridleless and teaching him all about tarps and how they don’t have to be scary at all. We have a lot of work to do before we get there, but I’m feeling very inspired after seeing this film.

–Cassidy

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