Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Kennel Expansion

Another topic on last week's agenda was to get quotes for getting more kennels. We originally only built out half of the kennels to start small. We currently have 20 - 24 kennels (4 of them being designed to split into 2 smaller kennels), for a total of 240 sqft of kennels. Phase 2 calls for 26 - 29 kennels, all Medium to much larger than what we have now, for a total of 364 added sqft of kennels. We've decided we really have plenty of the 'small' sized kennels already -- they are limited in the dogs we can put in them, though we do use them regularly. But really they are a pain to clean since they are difficult to manoever in. All told with a max of 53 kennels we should easily be able to house up to the 60 dog limit the county placed upon us.

What with the big holidays coming up, though, we know it would be to our advantage to have as much capacity as possible to take advantage of those very busy pet-boarding times. Since every other kennel looking to expand is doing exactly at this same time, we knew we'd need to have a fair amount of lead time on our order.

A few months ago we were contacted out of the blue by a kennel manufacturer who said he'd happened upon our website, and just wondered why we hadn't used his product. I replyed... because we didn't know about you? I do remember having a heck of a time finding kennel manufacturers on the web when we were first looking. Who knows why, but the one we ordered from seemed to be about the only game around. Well then the shocker -- this guy says well, we're just over in Greely 30 miles from you! Aarg! We ordered from a company in Ohio and the freight was considerable not to mention a bit of a hassle.

So we got a tour of a local facility that has this new mfg's kennels installed, and then managed to wrangle of tour of their shop where they had some show samples of their other kennel styles. Liked them alot, but it would REALLY bug me to have different looking kennels on either side of the building. I really dislike inconsistency. BUT, if it were a matter of saving a considerable amount of money, I decided I'd have to live with it. Ultimately they have white sided kennels with chain link gates, so they shouldn't be soooo noticeably different.

I sent off our request for a quote to both this new place as well as our original mfg on Sunday. Got a response from the local guy on Monday because he was expecting it. And we were dismayed to see it come back at $21K - $28K for our different options. Yikes. We orignally only spent $13K on the first set, and hoped the second would still be in the $15K range, particularly if we didn't have to pay shipping.

The other mfg didn't get us a quote until late Friday, and I feared opening that one up thinking their prices may well have increased since a year ago. But NO! Our entire order was quoted at only $16K -- including shipping! So - HUH. I guess that makes it a no brainer, but now I feel badly for not going with the local guy who has given us some great service in the past few months. Even if I could convince him to drop his price 25% to match that of the other mfg -- we still have the issue of putting in inconsistent products.

So, I suppose we'll be placing our order with Mason Kennels here any day now.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Farewell, Missy

That's the problem with quicky updates -- I forget things!

Y'all may recall that last summer we were given a horse by a friend of a friend: Missy. She's a 26 year old mare with very broken down pasturns in the back. Because of her pasturns we've been doing special shoeing and putting only small kids on her. The problem with small kids, though, is that they don't have either the strength nor the confidence to ride her assertively -- and an assertive rider is what she needs. It's always amusing, though I'm quite certain infuriating to both Ginger and the rider, to be watching a new group of beginner riders and oops -- there goes Missy walking the opposite direction as everyone else! From what I can tell she's put more students to tears than any other.

So because of some of these difficulties, Ginger was thinking of creative ways to keep her useful to us, and thought that she could probably find a student who would like to buy her, on the condition she boarded her here and we could use her when we needed to. Sounded like an interesting solution to me -- the only kink was that we never finalized the ownerhip transfer from the woman who gave her to us. Since we had the brand inspector coming out to do Jack and Chico anyways, we called the woman and asked if we could get that settled. We, of course, figured this was just a matter of tying up loose threads.

She, however had an entirely differnt take on the situation -- and decided that she didn't really want us finding a new owner for Missy, regardless of where she would be cared for. We discussed it for a while and reassured her that Missy wasn't being a burden, but on the other hand we also could not guarantee that we would keep her forever. So, her friend from Kansas who had given Missy to HER... decided she'd prefer to drive out and take Missy home with her.

Wow. HUH. Didn't expect that, frankly. But Missy left yesterday morning and I guess it isn't too much of a strech to say it's best for everyone. She got quite the fanfare too, seeing as how we had a crowd of teary eyed Missy-loving students who some how ALL were signed up for lessons starting yesterday. I think that touch -- totally serendipitous -- really helped put a nice spin on the departure as her owner could see how much she's been doted on for the past year. For 26 that mare looks astoundingly good:

So: After all the excitment of thinking we were up to 10 horses, then deciding that we would keep only Jack -- putting us at 9... Now we're back to a herd of 8. The search for more camp horses continues. Huum, camp just ended for the season...


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Vacation Week

David went to visit his parents at their cabin this week, so I took the week off of work to help run the ranch in his absence. Since summer camps ended last week, we've actually had a somewhat reduced effort week. Not that we haven't managed to stay busy every day, mind you, but it's been an enjoyable diversion from my regular job.

Monday was Jack and Chico day. We had finally managed to arrange for the brand inspector and the owner to come to our place during the doggie nap time to do the brand transfer. Well, first thing the brand inspector called and said he'd be an hour late. Rather inconvenient, but hardly unprecidented. Meanwhile, we got a call from CHR saying that if we wanted to deliver Chico to them on Monday we had to be there by 2. Not wanting to push this off another day, we committed. So by 1:00 we had the transfers, we had paid for Jack and he was OURS. He had already been introduced to our 'bad boy' group -- Jordan, Romeo and Chaco, so he just went back out with the boys while we loaded up Chico to go.

This was my first chance to drive the horse trailer -- and ended up calling David in California while we were enroute since I didn't know how it was supposed to feel pulling it. Aparently a 4000 pound trailer does significantly alter you driving experience! We made it to CHR and dropped of Chico without any problems, and bade him a fond farewell with hopes that they can find an adopter for him soon. By the time we got back I just had time to get the dogs out for their afternoon play session.

Tuesday was a big day, for KOD and Savanna were scheduled to go home after being with us a full 2 months. Originally they were to stay for one month, but 2 days prior to their pickup we got an email saying that the owners were delayed in Hong Kong, and thus they would be sending more food and medicine for the dogs. When 4 more bags of food was delivered, we wondered just how much longer they planned to be! So Tuesday morning we found their kennel full if diahrea, which when Ginger took them out for their before breakfast romp turned to bloody diahrea for KOD. Lovely. Ginger took KOD to the vet while I watched the rest of them and tried to contact the owners. Wasn't able to contact them, of course, because they were traveling, but we left some messages and ultimately left KOD at the vet for an IV to combat his dehydration. Fortunately the vet said his trouble was caused by an influx of a normal intestinal bacteria (you have to ask Ginger the name of it) and given the fact that Basenji's are very emotional dogs it was quite surprising that they hadn't had an outbreak before this!

In the mean time we gave Savanna a bath, and removed her colar so we could wash the 2 months of grime that had accumulated, turning it from a hot pink color to a dull flesh tone. Unfortunately we made the mistake of leaving the washed colar where she could get to it -- and she chewed on it nearly in half! Ay-yi-yi. Finally we connected with the owners, who didn't sound surprised at the diahrea, so they came to pick up Savanna and Ginger then went with them to get KOD. They admitted that it is very common for the dogs to instinctively know when they are on their way home and to start acting differently that day. Boy -- do they ever!!

Wednesday was a fairly uneventful day, finally, and Thursday Ginger did dogs all day while I did fianances I'd been ignoring for quite a while. Friday I even got to get out and get my hair cut! Today I've only had 4 dogs. Holly and Joy the twin Great Pyranees 'pups' that are now about 9 months old. Cute, but not terribly responsive. Kattan and Rory have been with us a number of times and are very sweet. All four are VERY fluffy, and as I look around this play room I see LOTS of tufts of fluff lying everywhere.

It rained last night and again a bit this afternoon. With that and some of the unbearable heat this past week I've been trying out using the indoor play area more. We tend not to because it's so conveninent to go outside, but on the other hand, we have it so we should use it! The dogs at first are all confused because they are so used to going straight into their kennels. But it doen't take too terribly long to figure out that we're going to stay out an play.

So here we are. Saturday afternoon and this is the first chance I've gotten to sit down and write a blog entry all week! And to think, I was going to use this 'vacation' time to get caught up. Ah well! Dave just called and his flight is an hour and a half delayed, so I won't need to go get him for some time. Perhaps I'll write another entry or so now.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Horse Update

So we've had the two new horses for over a week now. Unfortunately by a week ago we'd already determined that Chico wasn't going to work for us. He's a wonderful tempermented horse, works well with the kids both on the ground and while riding. But he is in very poor shape, worse than we'd feared. After just a few days in camp he showed up signficantly lame in the hind end. This certainly was worrysome. The vet came out and only made our fears worse. In addition to the lameness and emaciated state, he lost a lot of hair when the campers gave him a bath, and he has a heart murmer. Out vet pretty much advised us against doing any bloodwork or other diagnostic tests because he figured the cost of those tests alone would far out-value him as a lesson horse.

Jack, on the other hand, is a superb horse. The seller was asking for $1000 for each horse, and we wondered about offering her $1500 just for Jack. But we knew she wanted them to go together, so we steeled ourselves for the possiblity we wouldn't get Jack either. When Ginger talked to her and gave her our vet's prognosis, she was very upset not knowing he had such serious problems. Well, if he's just grazing out in pasture, he doesn't show the problems. And he is such a sweet horse you'd think someone would be looking for a companion animal to do just that - graze out in pasture and come in for pets occasionally. The seller offered to give him to us, but we know we can't get into that business.

So Ginger suggested that we try and help her get him donated to the Colorado Horse Rescue. Companion animals are, of course, the hardest to place and are thus the hardest to get a rescue to accept. But we're friends with the now president of the board, so we said we'd try and open some doors. CHR's president came over to look at Chico and got some pictures, and they are currently looking to see if they can arrange a direct adoption -- connect the adopter with us without the horse ever having to go to the rescue physically. So, we have Chico and are caring for him in the interim. Hoping that this interim doesn't stretch out too long...

Meanwhile, here are some pics from the past few weeks. Sure am sorry things aren't going to work out for us and Chico!

Chico in a lesson

Bath day for Chico -- see, PERFECT temperment!

Ready for the Show

Jack, at the show.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

New Arrivals

Well, seems our vet tales aren't over just yet.

Romeo, thankfully, has shown no further issues from his colic.

Chaco, however, came down last Thursday with really nasty discharge out of his nose. The vet, who'd been suspecting strangles figured it probably was strangles, but the infection was so closed up it neither was treated by the antibiotics nor spread to other horses. Strangles is very contageous, yet though he's been mixed with the herd off and on for these 2 months that we've been battling this thing, none of the other horses have shown any signs. So Chaco went back into isolation immediately for observation.

Friday we were to pick up a pair of horses that Ginger thinks we should purchase. The owner is being very generous and letting us bring them to our place to try them out for a week. We keep asking people if they would consider this, but this is the first owner who has agreed. She is very concerned that they go to a good home, and likes our lesson and summer camp setup.

But with a contageous disease on our property, we couldn't in good conscience bring two more horses in, so we had to delay that.

Overnight Chaco's sinuses seemed to be entirely cleared up, so after 4 days in a stall he was put back out with the herd. He still coughs, but it's slowly going away.

Meanwhile the owner of the horses called saying she had other people interested in them, so what were we going to do? Feeling things were resolved with Chaco we headed out Monday night to pick them up.

Meet Chico and Jack:

So far they have been great! Chico definitely needs some weight on him, so that is our biggest concern -- figuring out why he doesn't keep it on. The vet will be out tomorrow to do some blood tests to see if he has any metabolic problems. Otherwise they were wormed last week, we'll have the vet check their teeth, and the farrier is due out on Saturday to give them much needed trims. After all that, even if we do end up turning them down I won't feel too bad for stringing along the seller for a week.

Chico has already been toting along summer campers in camp. Jack has been being ridden by Ginger's teenaged camp counselors because he's just a bit more spunky than Chico. I rode Jack finally on Wednesday and, other than the fact I can never remember which english saddle out of our collection that I like and instead chose the one I HATE, I had a really great ride. He is a beauty!

And no, I'm not fond of the idea of having both a Chico and a Chaco... but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Chaco, alas, just won't get better. He started with another runny nose on Tuesday, so he's back in isolation and on antibiotics. I sure hope we get a handle on it this time!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Getting to know our Vet

We've had a rash of vetrinarian needs the past few months, something quite unusal for us. *knock on wood*

It all started innocuously enough back in April with our usual spring vaccinations and Xrays for Jordan.

Then Chaco came down with a nasty chest cough. Watching that for a few days, suddenly he turned up extremely lethargic in camp one day. Ginger took him out of circulation, but when she took his temperature it was an astonishing 105.9! Over the phone our vet told us to start hosing him down to get the fever down, and then called in a prescription for antibiotics.

After a few hours of hosing and slow walking to keep his circulation going his fever was down to 103, the next morning down to a barely elevated 101.4. But the antibiotics never did much for the cough. So we called the vet out, and he prescribed something else to help repair his lungs which he thinks were damaged by the high fever. By now - two months later! - he still coughs, but nothing like before. We hope he manages to shake that any day now!

Shadow is our gray quarter horse. Most gray horses are especially prone to developing melanomas. We've known about one high inside his hind leg for a year now, but it seemed to be getting bigger so we asked the vet about it. He removed that almost 3 weeks ago. Reports say that it was about an inch by an inch or so in size. He's recovering just fine.

But, this last weekend we had probably our worst scare yet. Ginger's sister-in-law's sister was visiting nearby and arranged to come out for a ride. While she was riding Romeo, he started acting strangely - and even tried to lie down with her on him! She immediately got off, and it was quickly obvious that he was colicing.

Colic in horses is one of those things that you talk about, read about, and absolutely dread having it happen. It is often fatal. Yet in the past 10 years of working farily closely with horses - including 4 at the rescue - I've never seen a horse colic. But there was do doubt what so ever that that was exactly what Romeo was experiencing; he displayed all the classic symptoms. Was trying to lie down, kicked at his stomach. While we were keeping him walking in order to prevent him from lying down, you could just see the waves of pain hit him and his hind legs would damn near collapse underneath him. It took quite a bit of yelling and pulling to keep him up in those moments. This was scary. We actually have a stethoscope, but that doesn't mean we really know how to use it -- but use it we did and we both were unable to hear any gut sounds (gurgling). THIS - is even more scary.

Colic is a generic term for stomach pain, and can be from a variety of causes. The most severe, however, are those that cause the intestines to come to a screeching halt: either a blockage or a twist in the intestines themselves. Twisted gut isn't correctable without surgery, as far as I know, and that's very risky. With blockages you have to act quickly.

So on this Sunday afternoon we called the vet and he headed our way. Still took him 30 minutes or more to get to us (seemed like hours), and it was his third call of the day! He said he'd started out at 6 am with a 2 foot long, 2 inch deep gash on a 6 month old foal! Yikes.

Before he had even arrived, however, Romeo was already much improved. He'd pooped a few small piles - good indication that though not much was happening in his gut, it wasn't toatally shut down. But more dramatically, he stopped having those waves of pain that made his eyes roll up into his head and his hind end want to crumple. He even decided he was interested in eating.

The vet confirmed there still was a dangerous lack of gut sounds, but agreed that he look like he'd pulled most of the way through it himself. He recommended feeding him several bran mashes - wheat bran mixed with water, just to make sure any lumps of dry material got swept out of his gut. By morning he was acting pretty chipper -- and begging for another bran mash!