Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Allie's Foal Sadly Succumbs to Septicemia

The story is often told that for those who live and work or grow-up around animal life, the lessons of life and death come naturally. Late yesterday afternoon I wasn’t sure there was any truth in the sentiment.

Last Saturday, Dr. Courtney Diehl arrived at 8 AM to look in on Allie’s foal. Pete noticed on Friday afternoon the young colt wasn’t able to stand and nurse. Dr. Diehl’s initial assessment indicated the baby was suffering from hypothermia and low blood sugar. After a round of radiographs, she administered a dextrose solution through an IV and later anti-inflammatory, anti-biotic, and sedative medications. We also rushed to get the foal’s body temperature up from 93 degrees. With the help of our ranch hands, Shon and Dawn, we used a combination of hot packs, hot water bottles, a space heater, heat lamp, and blankets to increase his core temperature.

Around 2 PM, after every practical thing could be done for Allie’s foal, Dr. Diehl left the ranch to take blood samples to a lab. Later she called to say the blood work confirmed the colt was suffering from septicemia. Septicemia is an aggressive bacterial infection affecting any and all systems in a foal. In hindsight, we realize for Allie’s baby the infection began in his elbow joint and quickly spread throughout his body.

A primary risk factor in septicemia is a failure of passive transfer, the failure of the foal to get antibodies from the mare while nursing right after birth. We suspect the foal may not have gotten her mother’s colostrum early enough after birth. If he hadn’t and then ingested, inhaled, or was contaminated with bacteria before sufficient nursing, he was a high risk for developing septicemia. Pete did treat the baby’s umbilical stump with betadine after his birth, but the foal apparently picked up contaminating bacteria before he received the immune fighting defenses in his mother’s antibodies. Our cool, wet weather most likely played a part, too. The foal, although housed in a foaling stall, became hypothermic during the night.

At that point, the foal needed a plasma transfusion at a cost of several thousand dollars. We were faced with the difficult decision of considering a long-term treatment cost, transporting the baby to a Glenwood veterinary hospital, not knowing whether or not he would survive the trip, and, or the difficult option of putting him down. While we had decided the most humane decision was to put him down, before we had to euthanize him, Allie’s foal succumbed to the aggressive bacterial infection about 5 PM with Allie watching over him.

This is the first case of equine septicemia we’ve experienced here at the ranch. We found the roller coaster ride of desiring to remain hopeful he would survive and his sudden turns for the worse disheartening. At dinner last night we could only feel a sense of responsibility for his failure to survive. He was a beautiful colt, a great prospect and we could only think, “What if?”

Living with the cycles of life and death particularly the necessities of making life and death decisions concerning our horses never seems to feel comfortable. Petting Allie’s quiet and lifeless foal, only felt peaceful because I no longer had to watch his agony. I don’t think the experience of failing to save a life or facing the death of a ranch animal necessarily ever becomes natural or second nature. It seems our drive is defined by our hope to sustain life and in the end, the failure to do so is simply against our natural instincts.

For more information on equine septicemia, go to: http://bit.ly/lD2TYJ

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Barbie and Allie Foal

Mother Nature often surprises us with her own rhythm, her own drumbeat. Both Allie and Barbie delivered their babies early this year: Barbie nine days early and Allie just a few days early. Although we’ve been putting them in at night in anticipation of their due dates, they foaled early according to their own natural schedule.

Barbie, a Pitzer, Two-Eyed-Jack bred mare and bred to our ranch stallion, Riggs, delivered what we think will be a red roan colt with a strong white blaze. Allie, whose mother was our favorite mare, Mighty, and bred to our ranch stallion, Riggs, also delivered a red roan colt with a large white blaze. The two new babies look as though they could be siblings, with the same coloring and same long, long, legs.

In the middle of a long and dreary spring, Pete’s call this morning to say that Allie had foaled early reminded me that behind the overcast skies, like Barbie and Allie foaling, a season is turning according to, not our normal seasonal calendar, but according to Mother Nature’s own strong rhythm and beat.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Balanced Ride

Looking for a comfortable balanced ride on your favorite horse? Try the new Balanced Rider.

Our long-time friends and neighbors, Jim and Jo Lauter, have just launched the “Balanced Rider” training device for riders of all persuasions. Designed by Jim, an exercise scientist, the Balance Rider assists in developing seated balance and increased core strength. The result is increased comfort and confidence for both horse and rider.

In the accompanying photo, my son, Andy, tries out the Balance Rider at the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver, Colorado. The Balance Rider moves in a random fashion requiring the rider to adjust his or her position smoothly and in control in order to stay balanced. This requires healthy core strength and appropriate training of the proprioceptors,

The Balance Rider is user friendly: set it up in the comfort of your home for ease of use and convenient access for exercising. With Jim’s Balance Rider training protocols, you will get a beneficial workout and soon see results in your riding.

See Jim and the Balanced Rider at the Western States Horse Expo in Sacramento June 11-12, 2011.

We wish Jim and Jo all the best!

For more information go to www.balancerider.com

Friday, May 20, 2011

Remi's High Tech Liaison

Pete, Shon Colquitt, our summer help, and I stood in the cool barn mid-morning. It had snowed lightly during the night and had now turned to a steady rain. We were waiting with Remi, Andy’s mare, for the vet to arrive. She was scheduled to artificially inseminate Remi for next year’s foal to High Rollin Cat, a cutting bred stallion owned by Karey and Jess Franz of Huzza Valley Quarter Horses.

Overnight, half the potential for a new life had been shipped from Steelville, Missouri in a small Equintainer. The small cooler, used to ship and protect live semen for the purposes of artificial insemination, arrived via Fed-Ex. Our reproductive vet, Dr. Racquel Lindroth, had made several visits to the ranch to ultrasound Remi and determine just exactly when she would ovulate and of what quality the follicle would be. This morning she ultra sounded again and found a well-formed forty cm follicle. The timing would be perfect: a mature follicle and live semen, collected within twenty-four to thirty-six hours.
Dr. Lindroth carefully opened the sealed container and reached in to take out a secured pouch of live semen. With care, she retrieved the semen with a syringe and connected it to a pipette which she delicately inserted into Remi’s uterus. At that moment we all acknowledged the wonder of live semen, collected in Missouri yesterday morning, now being inseminated into a brood mare in northwestern Colorado: the stuff of life flown overnight in a cooling vessel and now safely on its way to merge with Remi’s forty cm follicle.

Andy believes this cross: Major Reminic’s Pep and High Rollin Cat will make for a terrific cutting horse prospect. He’s also excited and pleased to work with his old friend, Jess Franz, and his wife Karey of Huzzah Valley Quarter Horses.

Good luck Remi!

For more information on High Rollin Cat and Huzzah Valley Quarter Horses go to: http://www.huzzahvalleyquarterhorses.com/

For more information on Remi and her foal this year, visit my blog posting at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Minor Flooding At the Ranch

Over Mother's Day weekend, about six in the evening, my garden ditch abruptly began to rise. It had been running strong all day with runoff from the northwestern hillsides. When we realized the water flow might flood the driveway, gardens, lawns, and propane tank, Pete thought he should head up and check the main headgate to the Elk River to see if it had inadvertently been left open last fall. So, he hopped on Dudley, his favorite quarter-horse, and rode up to check it out. Once there, he found the gate appropriately shut, but the northern meadows flooded with run-off from our neighbor's draw. There hadn't been this much water since 1984 when flooding silted in a portion of the land owner's eastern meadow.

Last year brought us the highest water we've ever seen here at the ranch. The Elk River came close to the edge of our arena delivering a thirty-foot log to its resting place next to the outside fence. The melt and drainage out of the arena this year has already displaced some arena sand out the south end. Our main concern this year, with record level flooding predicted, is that the Elk River will wash out the arena entirely and that it may come up high enough to damage our main equipment shed. We have neighbors in lower lying areas who are at more risk than we are. They have sandbagged in preparation of both warmer weather and continuous precipitation.

This is a spring unlike any we've ever seen. We know places like eastern Colorado and the desert southwest desperately need moisture and a water supply to grow food crops, but the extreme nature of our weather is concerning. It certainly makes it difficult to begin with spring ranching chores and more importantly, gives rise to questions about the consequences of long-term seasonal climate change.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale

Pete recently attended the Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale hosted by Colorado State University Equine Science Program in Fort Collins, Colorado. As part of the Equine Sciences program, sixty students were provided with yearling and two-year old horses last fall from some the most well-known Western horse operations in the horse industry today. Among the consignors were the T-Cross Ranches, the Crofoot Ranches, the Haythorn Ranch Company, Wagonhound Land and Livestock, and Singleton Ranches. Each student was then responsible for starting and training their horse over the last six months in preparation for the sale.

The Legends Sale this year brought in more than $250,000 highlighting the economic impact of the equine industry in Colorado. The sale this year averaged $4,052 a horse with the high selling horse going for $14,500 and the high selling young horse going for $8,500. The American Horse Council Foundation confirmed in 2005 that the horse industry in Colorado contributes $1.6 million to the state-wide economy.

Pete hopes one day to consign one our young horses to the Legends Sale. He understands the value of hands-on education for young students and would find satisfaction in providing a young horse as a partner in that education.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Miniature Spring Joy

Emma, Griz, and I made our across the north meadow, flooded overnight from high water out of our neighbor’s long draw. The winds had picked up early in the day and when they do, I seek shelter in the hillside. So, we carefully negotiated a wet meadow and headed for a trail on the far hillside. As I worked to watch my step, sidestepping gopher holes and rocks, I spotted the first wildflowers of the season: primrose, glacial lilies, and mountain bluebells. I’m in awe every year when these first surface out of an oak and sage brush covered hillside; and particularly this year after they’ve been under winter’s cover for nearly six months.

Oh spring joy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Featured Note Card

This week's featured note card is one of my favorites: Sweet Pink Tulips. Although only the crocus have begun to peek out of the cool ground, there are signs that the daffodils are giving thought to erupting in the next few days and I know the tulips won't be far behind.

For more photographic note cards of our life in the Elk River Valley, including Ranch Landscapes, Winterscapes, Ranch Animals, and Ranch Gardens,please visit my store at:


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day has often coincided with the first full bloom of tulips in the ranch gardens. This year there is no full bloom. The tulips have been delayed by our enduring winter season. My thoughts about Mother's Day did arrive however, in part, as I looked over my Facebook newsfeed this Mother's Day weekend.

I was drawn by a photo of my grandmother taken in the 1940s that had been posted by my Uncle Jim to honor her on this Mother's Day. It reminded me of a photo I had recently reprinted.

The photo accompanying my blog posting is of my mother, taken in 1944 while she was serving with the Women's Army Corp in the Intelligence Department at the Pentagon. During my childhood and early adulthood I knew my mother had been in the Pentagon during the war but I and my siblings were never told what she had actually done during her military service. She was sworn to secrecy about her activities there until 1972 when she revealed that her service involved decoding the Japanese codes in order to interrupt Japanese supply lines.

I always admired my mother for having served, not only in the WACs, but at the Pentagon. In the 1940s and in her twenties it didn't matter to her that she was a female and the women's movement hadn't yet arrived. To her, anything was possible.

Her adventuresome spirit and a "can do" attitude has followed her throughout her life. While visiting the ranch at seventy-six years old she followed me over an eight foot high livestock fence and thought nothing of it. At eighty-six years old she toured India for two weeks with her younger sister and wondered why she had a cold when she returned home. On her most recent visit to the ranch, at nearly ninety years old, she eagerly accepted an invitation to round up the horses with me in the Gator and then walked out to the arena to watch Andy train some horses. Before lunch we wandered into the garden and she pruned flowers in my garden.

Unfortunately, this spring my mother works at rehabilitating a broken hip and adjusting to a new senior living facility. But to anyone who asks her how she's doing, he or she will hear, "Well, what other choice do I have than to get to work (in physical therapy) and walk again."

On this Mother's Day I feel fortunate to have witmessed her confident spirit in seizing the times of her life, her many lifetime moments of adventure, and now, reclaiming her independence by walking again.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Launching Spring

I just finished harrowing and fertilizing the ranch lawns. I'd anticipated this day for several weeks. With the winter of 2010-11 overstaying its welcome, I was anxious to hop on the Gator, an all-terrain ranch vehicle, and get to the task of rustling up the thatch, the dead of winter with my small customized harrow Pete had fashioned for me a number of years ago. When the lawns are stirred up I can see through to the new season's growth. At that moment I feel as though I've personally launched the summer season. The following essay was originally posted last spring, but I thought about it again today as I raked troublesome areas of the lawn, ones in which the harrow only scratched the surface of this season's thatch.


As soon as the lawn clears each spring, I grab our four-wheeler and a small customized harrow and rake the ranch lawns. A harrow is made out of ½ inch steel rods fashioned in the shape of diamonds with sharpened ends, called teeth, bent and facing downward toward the ground. Pete cut this one out of an old harrow he’s used on the hay meadows for many years and secured two old tires to give the harrow some downward pressure as I drive over a lawn. This early spring ritual doesn’t take long and if I’ve done a good job the previous fall preparing the lawns, cutting them to the right length and applying some fertilizer, the stage will be set for a wonderful spring growth, the lawns easily leaving winter’s hibernation behind.

This year, Emma and Griz joined me as I set out to harrow: Emma in the front seat shaking from a chilly western breeze and excitement for our chore and Griz, at the ready in the back of the four-wheeler. After just a few turns into my harrowing, I realized the dead growth was greater than usual: the harrow was drawing up a heavy layer of thatch especially from the lawn nearest the house. I knew right away I would have to rake the thatch and remove it so the lawns would have a chance to absorb the warming solstice sun and spring rains.

Using my garden rake, I drew back the dead, leaving open spaces with each passing stroke. At first, I thought, “I’m digging in too deep, I’m taking away too much from the lawn. It may never fully grow in this summer.” And then I thought, “I have no choice, what’s dead is dead.” It won’t do any good to deny the existence of the dead grass and turf." As I raked, it felt freeing to pull back the old and open up the new small and fragile growth. Once committed to removing the thatch, it quickly felt right, like an act of cleansing, making way for the bits of baby grass sprouts to unfold, stretch and fill, the death of winter removed.

In the repetitive reverie of drawing my rake across the thatch, I imagined a similar process of pulling back the thatch in my own life. If I drew a metaphoric rake across my life, I wondered, “What had wintered over in my life? What was no longer useful to me?” A few scenarios come to mind: a number of winter sweaters that are still of use I need to give to a new home; work that I once thought central to my goals and ideals has shifted and I’m finding new work goals emerging; and relationships that have shifted or waned provide a new space in which they are redefined or deepened.

If I think about it, death of this kind comes and goes in my life with a kind of regular rhythm. But I have to be awake to the thatch, to that which has died off in order to let it go. If I hang onto it, push it around, refuse to remove it, I may be preventing the light of day from shining on the change, the dying out and the emergence of new growth.

Once Emma, Griz, and I finish our circuitous route around the lawns, we put the harrow away at the equipment shed and leave the four-wheeler parked and ready for the next chore. I always feel good when I’ve timed the harrowing of the lawns in the spring when the grass is just beginning its season of growth and my chore has given the lawns a good beginning by clearing away the winter-kill. I think I’ll always remember this year’s harrowing and raking chore. The act of cleansing the lawns and making preparations for the spring season subtly underscored the rhythm and existence of life and death in my daily life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Rose Leaves for Kentucky

Seven year old Zanberry Rose, a beautiful red roan mare out of Dudley (Zan Bar Freckles) and Candy (out of a foundation Poco Pine mare) was purchased by a veterinarian from Kentucky. While Rose would make a great team roping horse, he plans to use her for trail riding in the hills of Kentucky. Nationwide Equine Transport picked Rose up on a snowy late spring day and headed on down the road to eastern Colorado and then onto the southeastern United States.

Thank you, Dr. Mike Gentry, for purchasing our Rose and many happy trails with your new trail partner!

Find more information on Nationwide Equine Transport at:http://www.nwht.net/

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Remi Foals

Remi (Reminic's Pep), Andy's reined cowhorse mare foaled just before Easter. Sired to Riggs (Hesa Stylish Pepto), our ranch stallion, Andy hoped to tone down Remi's drive a bit for the perfect reined cowhorse prospect. The little red roan filly already shows incredible cutting moves in the stall with her mother. With a unique blaze on her forehead, she stands well-balanced, appears calm, and displays a sweet disposition. The only thing Andy regrets is he can't get his hands on her: he's in California and Remi and her new filly on here on the ranch in northwestern Colorado. I guess pictures will have to do for now. But, we all couldn't be more excited about this little filly and her prospects.

For information on the National Reined Cowhorse Association visit: http://www.nrcha.com/a.com/