065. Revisiting home trails

Nakai has settled quickly in his new stall routine; Mechele says he seems to enjoy coming in for meals. On the other hand, I keep forgetting he has a stall. I tore my tack trunk apart looking for bell boots and they were on his door. Oops!

The stars aligned and I found myself riding at the same time as Marina, Theone, and Mechele. I’ve been working diligently on Nakai’s patience (he’s  most impatient at home). She wanted to do a slow conditioning loop with Lina so this was the perfect test.

Nakai rocked! It’s the first time I’ve been out on the home trails with friends in months. I’ve either trailered out with Maria or been by myself.

The first hurry up and wait happened 20 feet into the trail. Mechele attempted the rocky crossing with Lina. Nakai watched her eyeballing the rocks and poking them with her hoof. He was standing so patiently that I didn’t care if Lina took all evening.  If Lina never crossed, I would happily end the ride there!

Rocks were no but the mud was OK, so off we went. Marina and Theone zipped into a fast trot and I worked to keep Nakai soft and slow. He has a ground-eating extended trot and wanted so badly to work at that pace, but after a few minutes he softened and rated. He kept his attitude in check but we squirreled all over the trail – a hip popped out here, a shoulder there, or he would drop behind the vertical and try to scoot forward. He settled after about  2 miles, more resigned to his situation that agreeable, but it was a big improvement and I was thrilled.

If I can get the chance to work on rating in a group a few times a week, I think I’ll see a continually improvement in mellowing out his competitive streak.



I write this with trepidation, as I feel there is more I could be doing -should be doing- but here I am wading through murky waters, lost and insecure.

In February, I noticed some weight loss. We evaluated Nakai’s feeding program, gave him a vacation from riding, and had the vet check out a few alternative avenues. He had his teeth floated, tested negative for Cushings, and his ERU is under control. Basically, I was told to add more fat to his diet, cut back on the harder work, and go from there. That’s what I did through March and April, and while I noticed a bit of weight gain it still wasn’t what I wanted.

Late April rolls around and he’s acclimated to summer pastures. Again, there’s a weight increase but I still feel like he isn’t thriving. I’ve been down the google rabbit hole, wondering if I need to call the vet back out for a full blood work up. Compared to our usual riding schedule Nakai is still in light work. Now that summer is fast approaching (and with it bugs), Nakai’s back to wearing his ERU mask almost 24/7. ERU masks are amazing and a crucial aspect to his long-term treatment, but a serious downside is that they are more difficult see out of than regular fly masks (Kai cannot wear a standard mask). Since he’s completely blind in his right eye, the mask only compounds the issue.

Mechele had her own concerns, and brought up the lack of sight being an issue in regards to the rest of the herd. The other significant issue with the mask is that he has a much harder time seeing the other horses. This results in not being able to read body language, and over the weekend somebody had nailed him.  He had bite marks up and down his right side (blind side), a couple of which were pretty swollen.  Nakai’s current herd is small and they all get along well. There’s bickering at feeding time, and since I’m not there during the feeding I wasn’t aware this had escalated.

He needs to wear his mask or risk an ERU flare up (3 weeks of medication, pain, and the possibility of a flare up in his good eye). If he wears the mask, he’s quite literally blindsided during feeding.

Mechele’s suggestion is to switch over to stall board. She’s thinking the extra stress of being almost blind and have to eat quickly is starting to take its toll on him.  I’ll admit I’m a little hesitant – mainly because Nakai has never been stalled in the over 9 years I’ve owned him. I’m crossing my fingers he won’t object to being inside and will relax when he realizes he can eat as slowly as he likes.

I’m going to start taking weekly pictures to document any changes, good or bad. If this doesn’t help I’m going to call the vet back out, do a full blood panel and try to figure out where to go from there. . . and as much as I hate thinking about this, I have to discuss when enough is enough for him. Nakai is 26. I’ve met horses over the years where all of a sudden they were “old”. It’s like they aged overnight and nothing was quite the same. If I’m at this point with Nakai, I have to assess his quality of life and be able to recognize when enough is enough.


063. Sorry, Mulder.

Give him something fluffy and he nests. He pulled this old comforter back into his crate.

Mulder loves his crate. It’s located in our living room, and when we are home the door is left open. He comes and goes as he pleases. Upon returning from some serious mental stimulation (such as socializing or a difficult hike) he’ll take part of his bedding in his mouth and knead with his front paws. Mulder’s also allowed on the couches and bed (provided someone gives him permission first). He is a big fan of creature comforts and will tunnel under our comforter or throw himself into the pillows.

So, when he started resisting going back to his crate last Friday morning, I assumed he was getting too used to snoozing on the furniture. I figured it was another one of his budding behaviors as he continued to adjust to our home.

When I would place him in there, the whining and barking would start. If I put him in and “left” (walked out of the house and stood there), there was silence. He didn’t display any other signs of separation anxiety, and I believe it was perhaps attention barking. We began ignoring him when he started, immediately praising and releasing him when he was quiet.

I should mention that afternoon before this resistance and barking started, Mulder dumped his water bowl. I found it upside down upon arriving home from work. It was dry and the crate pan surrounding it was too, so I refilled the bowl and didn’t think anything more. I assumed he drank it and then knocked it over during one his redecorating sessions (he enjoys burrowing into his bedding).

I let him out Sunday morning and bent down to toss a few toys in his crate. I put a hand on his bedding and noticed it was damp. I pulled it out, and damn if the entire bottom was wet. It didn’t smell like pee (so far no house accidents!), but it was damp enough to be uncomfortable. “Aw buddy, I’m sorry!” I told him, pulling his bedding out and making a beeline for the washing machine.

A cycle later and armed with fluffy bedding, I threw it back in his crate. Immediately he runs back in, circling a few times before flopping down with a sigh.  In fact, I haven’t been able to keep him out of it. The door is open right now, and instead of begging hanging with me while I eat lunch he’s curled up inside. The resistance and barking have vanished. I feel like a shit for not realizing it sooner. It was only 2 days, but ugh, would you want to sleep on a wet bed? Yeah, me neither.

“His” blanket

+1 to the smart pup for voicing his displeasure, and shame on me for not investigating further.




Over the past two weeks I’ve had some incredible schooling sessions with Nakai. He feels light, responsive, and ready to work without the impatience that normally plagues us. Is it possible that at 26 years old he is finally settling down? I’m sure we’ll have a moment or two the next time we do a fast ride out with friends, but for now I’m enjoying his agreeableness.

In fact, with the exception of Maria I haven’t ridden with any ladies lately. It seems I’m on a completely different schedule than everyone else! While I miss catching up with them (I have a bad habit of sitting in the middle with everyone else, chatting away when we should be working), I find myself more motivated when riding alone.

On the flip side, I’ve logged over 56 miles for April so far and the majority has been hiking with Mulder. He has a much higher energy level than Honey, so the plan is to start doing longer hikes (6+ miles) in anticipation of completing Green Lane (12 miles) and Rickett’s Glen (7-12). I’d love to make both of them a regular jaunt, especially since he needs all the exposure he can get. Getting him fitted for a hiking pack, harness, and boots are on the list too.



2017 Book List

  1. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins  [ Side note here, but hooooleeeeey, this was the worst.  Does Paula Hawkins dislike women? She wrote them all as hysterical, unstable, and defined only by the men in their lives. The ending was anticipated 200 pages before I even got there. Seriously, ignore the hullabaloo on social media and don’t waste your time.  ]
  2. The Bell House Witch – Brent Monahan
  3. Promise Not to Tell – Jennifer McMahon
  4. Snowblind – Christopher Golden
  5. Secret Place – Tana French
  6. The Vanishing – Wendy Webb
  7. Within These Walls – Ania Ahlborn
  8. Things Half in Shadow – Alan Finn
  9. Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence – Bill James
  10. Under the Harrow – Flynn Berry
  11. The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
  12. Nothing to Envy (Ordinary Lives in North Korea) – Barbara Demick

061. North Side Trails

The south side of Nockamixon is all horse trails. From Elephant road to the dam and back is about 12-14 miles depending on how many loops-within-loops you do. The North side has significantly less trails with the two loops being accessed by the fishing pier entrance.

Thursday I hiked the Old Mill trail with the dogs and ended up doing 5 1/2 miles. The trails were in pretty decent condition despite the rain we had. I didn’t have enough time to do the Quarry trail, so when Maria said she wanted to trailer out again I suggested we go here. I wanted to snoop and it seemed like the perfect footing and distance for Beamer. Plus, it was a trail I haven’t done with Nakai.

You can see a significant shrinkage in his right eye from ERU

It starts off rocky and then opens up enough to ride side by side.  A great canter section runs parallel to the lake and we had a nice hand gallop uphill. Strangely enough, the top trail was by far the wettest. The quarry trail turned out to be a beautiful combination of wooded trails and grassy openings, and we checked out a dead end that overlooked a small cove of the lake while the horses grazed.

Nakai loved being somewhere new! While we only did 8.6 miles, it fell in line with Maria’s goal. Both horses settled quickly despite being a bit up and ready to work. Beamer handled the technical footing at the beginning and end of the trail really well, and I got a chance to work on Nakai’s waiting. I was glad I brought my sponge (and also glad I clipped Nakai). Beamer was super sweaty by the time we finished, so we trotted over to the fishing pier to dip the horses and sponge off.

These past couple weeks have been a bit crazy – I got sick (again), Khoshekh’s been back and forth to the vet for a suspected UTI, and Ben’s truck has been on the fritz. Hopefully I can get back into a regular riding routine soon.

060. Success

 Tuesday evening was spent doing my best to tidy up his body clip and tackled his legs. I need much more practice (and a smaller set for face and legs) but overall it’s not bad. All that’s needed is two weeks of hair growth to hide some of my lines – especially on his white!

Here’s a before / after:

We have a few new spots too:

I always find new spots on Nakai, but these definitely take the cake for being the largest. They’re on either side. At first I was worried these spots were from saddle fit issues (if anyone recalls my worried posts after Foxcatcher). I wasn’t sure what was going on as his summer coat started to become flecked with white all over, and large roany patches on either side of him appeared. He was never back sore, scored A’s on his back at rides, and his many massages found his back/withers in great condition. He moves out beautifully, happily extends/shortens, and at this point I’m chalking it up to appaloosa genetics.