Thursday, July 16, 2015

The This and That of Summer

My husband is at home recovering from pulmonary embolisms in both lungs.  He's trying to wean himself off the pain killers and increase his exercise a little more each day so that he will be ready to return to work next week.  Though the staff in the emergency room was less than stellar, the hospital staff in the progressive care wing was awesome.  After having his health problems dismissed by so many health care professionals over the years, it was a relief to finally work with a team of people who cared.  The doctors acted like they had all the time in the world to answer our questions, and most of the nurses were thorough, attentive, and quick to respond.  One nurse came running into his room when he took of sip of water and it went down the wrong pipe.  I think she was ready to perform CPR.  A couple of nurses actually checked on me to see if I needed anything like a blanket or water or food, and I wasn't even the one who was sick.  We are fortunate to have any hospital at all in our rural area, and this small one we went to gave us a lot of personal attention.

Though my husband has been pretty much taking care of himself, the dogs have been a handful between Midge's storm phobia and Stewie's sensitivity to any change in our routine.  Stewie may also have a urinary tract infection, because he keeps asking to be taken outside every few minutes to pee.  I'm keeping an eye on that.  It could just be anxiety and him not knowing what to do with himself.  At this point, just being able to finish a cup of coffee without having to warm it up ten times would be a luxury for me.  Oh yeah, and being able to go to the bathroom myself.  For some reason, every time I try to go to the bathroom, the dogs decide that is their cue to go too... on the carpet.  They can't wait two minutes for me to take care of myself so that I can take them outside.

I signed up for a 30-day trail for Amazon Prime, and while I found Prime Day to be a disappointment, I am liking Prime itself, which I'm sure was the whole point of the Prime Day marketing ploy.  The free 2-day shipping allows me more control over when packages arrive, I love the free streaming music and videos, I love the lending library, and all the money I have saved with that and the Prime discounts has already exceeded the $99 a year we will pay for the membership.

I was a bit baffled by Prime Day, because I'd look at items I was interested in that were in the upcoming sale queue, and I'd see that they only had two left in stock.  Of course, I could never click the button fast enough to get what I wanted before it was sold out and the waiting list was full.  Then, of course, they'd prompt me to buy the item at regular price.  Huh?  I thought they were out of stock.

However, when I went to my wish list, I saw that all the items in it had dropped in price significantly just by me joining Prime, so I ordered a bunch of those items.  When I went to Walmart's online sale, their website kept crashing.  By evening, I was finally able to order what I needed from there, and the prices were super low.  Now I get to deal with three dogs barking every day for the next couple of weeks as packages are delivered, and I'm going to be hard pressed to come up with ideas on what family members can get me for my birthday, but at least we will be caught up on fulfilling wants and needs and other people's birthday gifts.

On the horse front, I'm becoming a big fan of Julie Goodnight.  I've always known of her, but for some reason never bought any of her books or videos.  Then I subscribed to Trail Rider magazine, and found that I really like her horsemanship philosophy.  There's something about her attitude toward horses that is refreshing.  I think that in the past I studied other horse trainers because I was always in the process of dealing with a green horse or a spooky horse or a horse with a bad attitude.  I was constantly in problem-solving mode.  Julie tends to focus on teaching trail riding skills, and it wasn't until recent years that I broke out of arenas and began trail riding on a regular basis.

I'm reading one of her books, and each time I think, "I'll never need my horses to have that skill," the very next day something comes up and I realize that my life would be a lot easier if my horses did have that skill.  For instance, I just read a chapter about teaching your horse to stand and stay without being hobbled or tied.  I was like, "Nah, I'll just tie my horse somewhere."

Then this morning the horses were driving me bananas by pacing and walking in circles, kicking nice neat piles of manure all over the place while I was trying to clean them up.  I realized that I was trying to get them to stand still and hold still until I told them that they could move, which was exactly what Julie had taught in that chapter.  The only horse to pick up on my expectations right away was Gabbrielle.  The other horses understood what I wanted, but kept anticipating that I was almost done cleaning their stall, and would walk in before I told them they could move.  Gabbrielle, on the other hand, stood in the same spot without moving while I cleaned the entire paddock, and then looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to tell her it was okay to go into her stall.  As soon as I praised her and pointed at her stall, she went in.

I've been trying to figure out a way to train Gabbrielle to stop pooping in the doorway to her stall, because not only am I tired of having to step over it, but the horses kick it around as they walk in and out to see if there is any hay or grain left in her feed barrel.  Every time I am about to open her gate, she presses her butt against it and poops.  She literally will not let me open the door until she is done leaving her mark.  I believe she does this to claim her territory and to try to keep the other horses out of her stall, but it doesn't work.

So, last night she had finished her hay early because she didn't get as much as everyone else, and the second I approached her gate to let her out, she blocked me while she pooped right where I needed to step.  I was exhausted from already cleaning up manure three times and dog poop two times and having to fill water troughs and feed and medicate the animals in all that heat and humidity.  I felt like I couldn't lift that manure fork one more time to make a path for myself, so instead, I dropped another small flake of hay right on top of that fresh pile of manure and walked away.  I decided to let Miss Priss decide if she was willing to eat that hay or not.  She did, but she also learned her lesson and began pooping to the side of her stall.  I think if I keep dropping a flake of hay in the entryway, she'll stop pooping there.

Several of the types of problems I have with my horses are not the types of behaviors that horse trainers talk about in books and videos.  My goal is to direct the horses on where they can poop.  That's very difficult to do without them generalizing that they are being praised or punished for the pooping itself.  So, I have to get creative in figuring out their motives for pooping in the locations they choose, and find a deterrent for them to keep them from pooping in those locations without giving them the impression that pooping is bad.  Easier said than done.  Well, you've seen how hard it has been for me to house train one old dog, one sick dog, and one puppy.  It seems everything I do only gets temporary results.  As soon as my time and attention get monopolized by some other problem, the dogs and horses go right back to relieving themselves where they please.

I'm hoping the dogs will sleep through most of their primal urges today since they were kept up most of last night by lightning and thunder.  For me, summer in Arizona is all about surviving from one moment to the next and figuring out what I can do to pass the time quickly.  Once fall arrives, this place is heaven, but it seems summers present challenges around every corner.  Every little problem expends energy, and the heat complicates everything.  The dogs don't want to go outside because the ground burns their feet.  The horses get grumpy and develop bad behaviors, and I'm very limited in how long I can stand out in the sun and heat to train it out of them.  Wild animals try to get into our house, barns, and sheds for some shade and cooler temperatures.  Right now we've got something with claws scratching inside our walls.  We have no idea how to get it out, because we don't know how it got there in the first place.  I'm looking forward to normalcy and lower electric bills, but still have at least two more months of waking up to face the next unwanted challenge.


Semi Feral Equestrian said...

Glad your husband is getting better and that the hospital has been excellent in that wing. Send them some positive feedback! After working in the hospital, it is really uplifting to have people notice the above and beyond. :)

So, I haven't read Julie Goodnight's tie in place thing..what's the general idea behind how to accomplish this? It's something I think would be a handy skill from time to time with picking up manure in the arena, etc.

Best wishes.

-Semi Feral

Cheryl Ann said...

My cousin teaches her horses to "stay". She drops the lead rope and they have to stay in place. Sunni can do it, but the rest haven't got the concept yet.

We're having a nice thunderstorm/rain here this morning. We had a haboob yesterday afternoon, so at least things are getting cleaned off.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Semi Feral - Sorry, I've been too busy to answer your question, and every time I try I get interrupted, but it's basically what Cheryl Ann said. If you have a halter and lead rope, you give the horse a signal and voice command to stay, and if it moves its feet, you use the rope to put the horse back into the spot it was in when you told it to stay. It's a lot like teaching a dog to stay and takes a lot of patience. I can do it without a halter and lead rope, because I know how to block my horses with my body language. It's just a little more work because I have to keep re-positioning myself to move different parts of the horse's body into the location I need it to stay in.

Jen said...

So glad your hubby is on the mend! I don't know if this will help you or not, but I decided to "potty train" The Girls a couple of years ago (one of those 'just to see if I can' things ;o) when I was too incapacitated to do any serious stuff with the horses.
Our horses are all on pasture 24/7 but we have stalls that stay open for feeding and/or shelter should they wish it. Anyway, I started praising whoever tinkled/pooped outside and the others gradually started following suit. After they got fairly consistent at it, if anyone "went" in their stall I yelled "No ____!", went in and covered it up (so they'd know why I yelled no), and then made them wait until after everyone else - including the boys up the hill - was fed (food/greed is a very strong motivator ;o)
Additionally, I would keep that stall door shut and locked until feeding time the next day. They were pretty quick to catch on, and I was happy to not have to shovel anything anymore. It also helps that horses tend to tinkle and poop in the same areas over and over again.
The only hiccup was when Bella (our resident brainiac) decided to pee in Rina's stall hoping to get her into trouble - really have to watch those smart sneaky ones, you know? *laugh*

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Jen - I'm glad you shared that, because I always wonder if other horse owners attempt to potty train their horses or now and how it goes. Because of our extreme heat and because of the obnoxious ravens, I have to keep all the water troughs inside the barn to avoid instant algae build up and botulism from the ravens dropping dead animal meat into the water troughs. So, the horses have to have full-time access to the barn and stalls in order to get shade and water. Sometimes if they are all pooping and peeing in Rock's stall, I'll close the gate to it to give the ground in there a break. Each horse has its own quirks. Bombay is super neat and always poops in an out of the way location. If I am riding him and we come across manure in the trail, he'll either go around it or jump it, because he doesn't like stepping in it. Lostine, on the other hand, always has to have a pile of manure with her in her stall like a security blanket. As soon as I clean her stall, she's right back in there pooping. But she'll hold her bladder all morning in order pee outside when I let her out of her stall. Gabbrielle uses pooping to mark her territory. She leaves a pile in each corner of the paddock to ward off predators each day, and she leaves piles in the entry way to her stall to keep the other horses out. Rock is lazy. He just poops wherever he stands.

achieve1dream said...

I love Amazon prime!! We got a discount because hubby was in school... Check into the school discount. Since you take continuing education courses you might be able to get it.