Archive for February, 2008

Presenting….the Composter!!

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

It’s colder this weekend than it was last weekend. We didn’t get many pictures, as the battery in the camera was drained almost immediately by the cold. As well, Glen told me I’d better be happy with what we had; he wasn’t going outside again.

It doesn’t look nearly as impressive in the pictures as it does in real life. This structure is 16′ wide, 48′ long and 14′ tall. With the structure complete for some time now, we’ve been able to assess where further anchoring is needed to accommodate the high winds we get. Many thanks to Darcy Kublik of K-Bear Fabrication & Welding for making the super strong supports needed to anchor the tent structure to the wood structure. Also, we couldn’t have done it without the work and support of our neighbor, Jeremy Hutchings. Jeremy and his family immigrated from England 3 years ago. He is a wealth of knowledge and practicality, as well as a very handy kind of guy. Jeremy questioned the building, every step of the way and solved a number problems that were never able to present themselves, thanks to his attention to detail.

We’re not operational yet, as in running the electrical to the composter, we found out about several wiring issues we inherited with the property and many of those will need to wait until spring. Also, in planning, we didn’t consider that we would be putting in frozen manure from the outdoor paddocks and sheds. We will need to run heat tapes around and down the middle of each bin to make it work in winter.

But conceptualizing and drawings just don’t prepare you for the real thing. I can hardly wait to get it functional.

I’ve been remiss

Friday, February 8th, 2008

From the news coverage, many of you will know that the Caspian horses arrived from their long journey in less than perfect condition. Of greatest concern was the stallion, Talib. Talib is getting stronger every day and is developing quite the personality. But I couldn’t have brought him back on my own.

The first thank you goes to Dr. Randy Killeen, for advising me on nutrition and deworming programs for bringing the horses back to health. The second thank you goes to Trisha Willsher, my farrier, who implemented trimming at 3 week intervals. Talib’s right hind hoof resembled a donkey hoof in texture and it was beginning to curl leaving a separation at the white line.

The third and most profound thank you goes to Dr. Dan Martin and his wife Linda, at Stone Raven Ranch. In late November, Talib spent 10 days at Stone Raven, undergoing daily chiropractic and energy therapy. When he came off the trailer from Kentucky, he had a roached back and his hindquarters showed evidence of extreme muscle wasting. His stride and way of going did not match what his conformation said it should be. After his time at Stone Raven, he displayed a remarkably different topline and stride.

The fourth thank you goes to Patti Hanco at Omega Alpha Horse Health Products for advising me of products and dosages to help support Talib’s new topline. He was put on Antiflam, Vantiox and most importantly, Sinew-X. Patti’s e-mail’s arrived from her hospital bed, when she was supposed to be on vacation. But, sometimes I think that’s the only way to slow Patti down.

Talib and I then began a regimen of hill walking. As he became stronger, the Kubota was used for ponying at a slow trot, for increasingly longer distances. (see earlier blog “Truck Training Pony Style, December)

Talib has continued to receive chiropractic care, at increasingly longer intervals. Last Monday, we again hauled over to Stone Raven for an appointment with equine dentist Shorty Olson. Dr. Randy had checked Talib’s teeth on arrival and had encountered sharp ridges of points on both sides. By Feb. 4, he had severe ulceration from the ridges. I had hoped that Shorty would have been able to do Talib’s teeth while he was in residence. But although Talib was significantly recovered in my mind, he was not in good enough condition to undergo a sedative and dental work in early December. The first Monday of every month is Dentist Day at Stone Raven with Shorty (sometimes accompanied by Wes, from Calgary) doing the dental work and Dr. Rick Faintruck, from Stockyard Veterinary Services, administering sedatives and performing other veterinary services as required. Linda, a certified farrier, also gave Talib a badly needed trim, as I have been reluctant to strain my friendship with Trisha in the variable weather we’ve had.

Stone Raven Ranch also provides chiropractic services for dogs. Thursday is Dog Day. In late December, our St. Bernard, Olga (also from Michelle), became very sensitive on her right hind to the point of being non weight bearing. She seemed to be getting a bit better and bearing some weight, so we assumed she must have undergone something concussive and weren’t overly concerned. However, by the mid January, she was worse. Greg was on leave from the army at the time, so took her to the vet he had used throughout his show jumping career. The diagnosis was a torn ACL which, because of her size, would require a $4500 surgery with a specialist and an extensive 3 month rehab program. I had made earlier arrangements to take Olga with Talib to Stone Raven, but by the time that appointment had rolled around, the diagnosis had been made and I was still reeling with the options. I wasn’t sure how I’d get Olga up into the truck anyway.

Dr. Dan had been expecting Olga, but didn’t comment on her non appearance, except to ask if the vet had taken x-rays. We took Olga to another vet for a second opinion, as $4500 is a lot of money. He concurred with the first diagnosis and extended it to the other leg, as the muscle fibre was beginning to thicken there as well. At that point we were seriously thinking about having Olga put down, as the surgery was out of our financial reach and rehab would continue into foaling season. But Dan’s comment kept niggling at me, as well as another comment from a friend; his torn ACL was only confirmed through a MRI. So Olga has now had 2 adjustments from Dr. Dan and is going for a third on Thursday. She is also on joint supplements. She is definitely more comfortable and heading towards recovery. Dr. Dan’s work is now focusing on hip area, excluding her knee area. This has been an eminently more palatable solution, both economically and practically to having her cut open, or having her destroyed.

I cannot give enough kudos to Stone Raven Ranch. We are so lucky to have this wonderful facility in our backyard. Even though I’m glad to pull into our gate at the end of a visit (it is a minimum 3 hour round trip), encounters with other clients show them to be hauling well over 6 hours one way. Dan and Linda’s whole approach to horses is kind, gentle and non invasive. It sets a new standard for integrated care, using both veterinary and wholistic treatments, all in a one stop facility. Training services are also available from Al Porter, well known in the reining world, as the resident trainer.

I found out about them through an article I read in something; it may not even have been a horse magazine.  I didn’t take note of it at the time, but Dan Martin had done some work for us several years ago, when Greg was still on ponies.  When Dr. Randy confirmed a roached back was not structural but muscular, it defined my next step with Talib.  A “Google” search for “Dan Martin Animal Chiropractor” led me to Stone Raven Ranch.  The ranch name in itself is a story.  It took awhile for just the right name for their new endeavor to present itself; I won’t relate it here, you’ll have to ask them, but it fits perfectly with how Dan and Linda live their lives and work with animals.  It’s all about awareness, watching for and interpreting the signs provided.  I can’t do all the services Stone Raven provides justice in this blog, so you’ll have to check their website at We’re in the process of adding reciprocal links, as what they do fits so well with our own mission statement.

We didn’t get photos of the composter or the cart last weekend; it was too cold. It doesn’t promise to be any warmer this weekend, but we’ll just have to brave the cold. Keep checking back.

Tribute to Phillip

Monday, February 4th, 2008

On Saturday night (Feb. 2) we lost our llama, Phillip. He was still alive when we found him, but we humanely dispatched him. A combination of age and cold weather contributed to his demise.

We acquired Phillip in the spring of 2005, when we were moving to the farm. Michelle McKiel, who had been boarding Greg’s ex-showjumper, Friendly, was moving to a new suburban subdivision and divesting herself of animals. Phillip had jumped into her paddocks 2 years previously with the owner not particularly wanting him back, and had been at Michelle’s ever since. He and Friendly had become buddies and Glen took a fancy to him. After a two hour game of “catch me if you can”, he became ours. Michelle’s last words of advice were that we should probably have him clipped, as he generally became quite distressed when it was hot.

Llamas can be a bit disconcerting if one doesn’t know how to handle them, especially if the llama in question has not been handled. The top of his nose bore scars of a too small halter and his ears tips showed the effects of severe frostbite. After more than a dozen phone calls, I found a “llama clipper”, who would only clip tame llamas. After receiving an earful of advice, the taming of Phillip began. He was placed in an 8 x 10 run and fed by hand three times a day. That first week, I was kicked, struck, bitten and spat upon, but we ended up with a truce. He kicked apart the portable stocks, the llama people brought with them. It was then we found out he was probably quite advanced in years. We also learned that llamas need to be dewormed by subcutaneous injection; something we were never particularly successful with, no matter how hard we tried. It’s a little difficult to find a skin fold to inject in an animal with a flexible neck and legs that can move almost 360 degrees. Parasite loads probably had a lot to do with his demise as well. He eventually decided he liked human attention and often became quite affectionate when it suited him.

Phillip had the most expressive face and had a very wide range of expressions. His favorite was one of quiet distain. He got to be quite a character. At one point, Greg decided he looked like he should be ridden and took every opportunity to vault onto his back, at which point Phillip would usually lie down. But he eventually got to the point he would oblige Greg with a wild ride of 50 or so feet before lying down. One year, when my nieces and nephews were quite small, we gave them llama rides. Phillip would be good for 3 rides before he got PO’ed and started spitting. Sometimes when he thought he would spit, you could yell at him and he’d swallow it back down. He always intimidated new horses at feeding time with a good show of spitting. Most of the horses got to the point, they just ignored him.

By last summer, we didn’t even bother keeping him in a paddock; we just let him wander at will. He never left the property and was found in the strangest places, calmly chewing his cud. But this fall after we planted our shelterbelts, Phillip acquired a taste for cotoneasters. He was summarily moved over to my brother’s to join the mares.

All the time we had him, we never saw a coyote on the property, but on occasion would see him get quite agitated and aggressive with a loud “chucking” sound. He proved his worth at predator control. He liked to put the run on the dogs, as well. The scene was worth charging entertainment fees.

I’m told that llamas can be quite affectionate and generously bestow a gentle kiss without much coaxing. But maybe due to his earlier history, he felt kissing below his dignity and I was only ever bestowed a kiss twice. Each one I treasured. Once, when we were deworming horses, Phillip was lying down chewing his cud. Glen and I made a decision to try double dosing him with an oral dose of ivermectin. I jumped on his back and Glen rammed the syringes into his mouth. Well, he got up bucking causing me to have the auspicious experience of being bucked off of a llama.

Last spring, his coat was again quite thick, so Greg and I wrestled him to the ground and clipped him. It’s a poorly kept secret that clippers in my hands should be declared illegal, as I never know when to stop. We even shaved his neck and ended up with a prehistoric looking creature. Phillip was quite indignant about his new haircut.

Phillip was an endless source of learning, conversation and entertainment. An independent soul and loved by all, he will be sadly missed.

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Friday, February 1st, 2008

I haven’t been on line for awhile. Sylvia cornered me at the “Horse Owner & Breeder’s Conference” in early January and told me they needed to give me a tutorial on how to make separate pages in my blog. January has gone by in a blur, so I’m trying it myself. I’ve figured out what a “blogroll” is but don’t know how to add one, and have no idea what a “slug” is besides something I don’t want to encounter in the garden; so I’m playing.

Diana Balbar interviewed myself and another gal with rare horses at the Horse Conference for a podcast on Canada Equine Online. O.K. here goes the attempt at a blogroll. If it doesn’t show up when I publish this, I guess I’ll be on the phone to Sylvia.

One of my earlier blogs mentioned we’d been in the news. Well, we got our fair share of press, with articles in the “L’Nouvelle Beaumont News”, “Leduc Representative” and “Camrose Country Market”, besides the “Edmonton Sun”. We got picked up by “The Toronto Sun” and generated several articles in Word Press on the net. The latest article is a research article in “The Pipestone Flyer”. Let’s try that blogroll thing again…

This entry is mostly an experiment. Hopefully this is on a new page. If tomorrow is a nice day, I’ll get pics of the composter; it’s quite impressive, as well as my one of a kind Benoit and Fils pony cart (Regretfully, I have to sell it to help finance the set up for transported semen for Talib).
So check back later this weekend.