Thursday, December 31, 2009

Highlights of 2009

Getting to know Jett more

Getting Jazz from the track

Getting Montana from the track even though we didn't have the money, time, or room

Finding Gunny a new home
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Riding Major in his first eventing clinic

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I can't remember the last time we had this much snow on the ground before Christmas! Around here, 6-8 inches is a blizzard! Here's the barn after the storm passed:

Kevin "busts" the snow off the round bales of hay we place in the paddocks for the horses to snack on in between meals of their regular hay and grain. This is especially important for my two skinnies, Jazz and Montana, who have been struggling with their weight recently. I don't know why, but every one of the horses from the track has gone through a period of weight loss to one degree or another, usually about two months into being off the track. It is usually accompanied by depression, or as in Montana's and Gunny's case, some aggression. It usually lasts a month or two, and they come out of it. The weight loss disturbs me, though. I baby them and fret alot during these "episodes." I call it the "Slippery Slope", and I feel like I I just trudge away up the slippery slope, pulling them behind me, till we reach the top and breathe a sigh of relief!
Jazz is pulling out of it; gaining back weight - but Montana still looks thin and ribby. I think I will de worm them again, and keep on with the rice bran and high fat feed. That seems to do the trick. It is just a slow process.

Montana looking a little stunned; like, "How come you turned us out in this?!" I did; I hate to keep them cooped up day after day. They're ok with blankets.

Blankeys drying in the barn isle.....
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Friday, December 11, 2009


It finally got seriously cold here in Virginia. We had been enjoying very mild weather; albeit rainy and chilly up until now. Last night we had a good freeze.
I blanketed the horses and left them turned out; they seem to enjoy this more than being cooped up in their stalls all the time.
I decided to leave them blanketed all day today, as it is going to stay cold, and with the windchill, feel colder.
I had to break ice off the horse's water and add fresh water to their slush.

Jett in his cheery red balnkey


Water drops on Jett's muzzle

There was a hawk in the barn this morning; he soared out of the door in front of me and landed on a fence post; looking at me.
Once I rescued an owl and took it to a rehab center for raptors. Several weeks later, they contacted me and gave me the option of releasing her back into the wild myself. I was overjoyed and picked her up from the center. I released her into the woods at my parent's horse farm.
Ever since, I have loved raptors, and think they are so magnificent and noble. I am not into Native American folklore, myths; etc. But I have always thought that if the "spirit guide" thing were something I believed in, the hawk would be my "guide".
So when I saw the hawk in the barn this morning, and then on my fence; I liked to think it was "message" of sorts. I've been feeling cruddy recently about my whole equine predicament; depressed about the death of my dog and my lack of good riding time, and my two skinnies struggling with their weight. The hawk inspired me this morning and I just thought I'd spread the experience! Hope everyone is having a great Holiday season so far!
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Sunday, December 6, 2009


My heart goes out to the family members of the two men who died, and the owners of the 43 horses that were burned alive in a fairgrounds barn fire in Ohio yesterday. They were harness racing horses, from what I understand.

I cannot imagine loosing my horses in this way.

This is terrible, and tragic.

Please, don't smoke or allow any kind of space heaters in your horse barns..... especially where hay is stored. I do not know if this is what caused the fire, but I think we can all assume it had something to do with heaters, this time of the year.
I have a wall heater in my tack room and bathroom, and I don't even feel comfortable leaving them on when I am not right there at the barn. It scares me so bad.
I have a brother who was a firefighter, so fire prevention and safety is a strong point with me.

Ok. O think I will run to the barn and love on my horses for a bit, and just relish the fact that I have them safe and sound.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Living the Dream


I confess, I have been a little down in the dumps when it comes to my horses recently. We have had soooo much grody, wet weather; and I have been so consumed with work, remodeling, Thanksgiving, etc. etc.

I think it boils down to the fact that I just generally hate this time of the year; period. I know there is obviously nothing I can do about it; it just is.

After working, there is little or no daylight left for me to ride. Or it is raining cats and dogs. Or, everything is muddy and messy. So I feel like all I do is feed the horses, and get a little bit of brushing done, and a few barn chores.
When I was instructing all the time, my students helped me out with a lot of the brushing and horse care things. Now that I am not teaching, I don't have that luxury.

So anyway, this past week before Thanksgiving, I was just completely down in the dumps about it. Every day, I found myself at the barn after work, feeding, mucking, blanketing, etc. etc. all by myself, in the dark, and cold rain, and mud, and I was just vexed about it.

"All I ever get to do is the work," I complained to myself while I wheeled yet another load of stall mess out to the ever growing muck pile. "I never get to do the fun parts - like riding!!!!"
"Is is EVER going to clear up so I can ride at least one day this week?"

And then when I discovered two broken fence rails in the paddock, I was really annoyed, and complained dome more.
"All I do is fix things and then you guys just break it again! Come on, guys. Can we NOT break anything tonight?"

And then it struck me; at some point, when I was trudging hay bales through the mud to a dry spot in the turnout paddock for my freshet two OTTTBs that are struggling with their weight.

This is what I have always wanted. This was my childhood dream. This is what I swore I would do if my parents just let me have a pony. This is it.

That realisation suddenly put it all into perspective for me. It's what I tell people - students; kids; all the time. If you get a horse, it is not all going to be frolicking in the meadow and going to horse shows and peaches and cream.

And I realised how spoiled I have become; yeah, spoiled. Me. Here I am, with this palatial 6 stall barn from heaven, straight out of a horse magazine. I have a kitchen in my barn nicer than the one in my house, for Pete's sake. I have everything I ever wanted in a barn. And I am complaining?!

Ever since I first took a hunter jumper lesson on a 17 hand OTTTB when I was 15, I was hooked on TBs, and dreamed of getting one one day for my own. Yes, I had horses all my life; mostly QH schooling horses as I was an instructor and needed steady ones. But I always put off getting my dream gelding - off the track - young - training him myself - and now I have FOUR?! (I have four otttbs. I have 12 horses all together.) And more if I want them? And I am complaining?!

So I am ashamed of myself. I am resolved to stop my complaining. I may hate this time of year and not be able to ride as much a I would like to; but I am going to stop complaining about it.

OH and the photo above? That's me at 8 years old, next to the first horse I ever loved, Red's, mom Cookie. This was before braces. (LOL) This was when I started my love affair with horses and dreaming this dream that I am now living.....
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Checking In

I know I haven't been posting lately. Not that I have so many readers to disappoint, though. :)
The past weeks have just not been so great in my neck of the woods.

I have had no time to ride. At all. I feel terrible. I need to be working with Major over jumps and with his cantering issues. Instead, I have been fighting "little fires" all over the place. Just a note, though: My sister Naomi took Major out with her friend Ted, on a trail. She asked major to canter, and he took off running. She was able to collect him and put him into a lovely, amazing canter, from what she told me. She said it was incredible. So that is a good thing.

The little fires have been our two newest TBs on what I call the "Slippery Slope." Sudden, unexplained weight loss, depression, dull coat, uninterested. It freaks me out. This time it was Jazz, followed by Montana. In two weeks Jazz dropped 50-75 lbs, her coat was dull, she has rain rot, she got cut in the fence when it broke one night, etc. etc. I went into "emergency" mode with her and she is much better. This is what I think happened:

1. I switched feed on her. I went from Purina Omeline 200 and Equi Jewel Rice bran and corn oil to Purina Strategy Pellets, no rice bran, and less corn oil. BAD IDEA!
I decided from now on, when I figure out what works for these OTTTBs, not to change it to a "Fat Quarter Horse Maintenance" plan! They're back on Omeline and Equi Jewel.

2. I am CONVINCED that OTTTBs have a problem with parasite infestations in the extreme. On the track they don't graze, or eat hay. So when we get them and turn them out onto pasture, the parasites have a heyday. So while my "regulars" I deworm on a 4-6 times per year basis and they never have a problem, I am starting to think I need to deworm the OTTTBS twice as much in the first year.
I dewormed Jazz, and everyone else, (again) and within 10 days I saw improvement in coat, etc. So I am convinced. More deworming.

Both she and Montana are stabilized and doing better. I have had no problems anymore with Montana and biting; I simply have been loving on him and rewarding him with affection when he behaves; and when I halter him, turn him out, etc. etc. I think Spencer was a huge problem for him as well, and since Spencer went to his owner's, The problem has improved as well.

Major's barefoot experiment is working beautifully; no lameness or anything. Yay!

Gunny went to his new home last week. In the few days following, I found myself mistakenly putting feed in his feeder and filling his water bucket in his stall out of habit. It was a little sad to see his stripped out stall empty and bare. I went to see him and he had a little attitude - still adjusting to his new people and home, I think.

And what is with all this RAIN?! FOUR days of it! I kept the horses in for the first two days, but decided I had to let them out for the afternoon today. When I got back to feed, they were damp, and miserable. They were picking at one another, and pawing and kicking in their stalls impatiently; Major kicked out at me then I went to remove his blanket. I think they are all fed up with the miserable weather. I can't blame them, as I feel the same way!

I am hoping for better weather this next week and maybe I can finally get some riding in, now that most of my "little fires" are all put out. For the time being.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bye Bye, Gunny


Kevin and I have recently been discussing plans for our horses, mainly, our Thoroughbreds. Going through our list of 10 now at the farm, and making plans about who is going to winter where. We simply cannot keep them all; and besides, we got them for the sole purpose of finding homes for them.
At the same time we are doing this, one of my 4-Hers/student's Grandmother had built a barn and had asked me to start looking for a horse for her Granddaughter.
One day an idea occurred to me, and I spoke to Kevin about it, and that weekend, I had arranged to sell our OTTTB Gunny to Libby as her fist horse.


It was a bittersweet arrangement; I love Gunny and hate to see him leave my barn; but at the same time, he is going to an excellent home with a girl who adores him to pieces. He will be local, and I can see them both and help them if need be. She has been taking lessons on Gunny already, and I knew she can handle him, as her riding skills are blooming right before my eyes. Gunny likes her, and they get along great. What more could I ask for?


I had this idea that all my OTTTBs offered for sale would go on to be hunter-jumpers, dressage horses, showing, eventing, being "great" and have awesome careers. Gunny might end up at some 4-H events, but I don't think Libby plans on doing a great many shows. I have to let that idea go. It doesn't matter what the horse will be doing; what matters is that they are in good, permanent homes where their people love them, and care bout them. That is number one, and that is where Gunny is going.

I will probably cry and blubber when we deliver him there next week, but I know he is only about 20 minutes away and I can always go see him. It's hard; as this is my first one I have let go.
I've been through a lot with Gunny; with his aloof attitude it was hard at first to connect with him. Then with his terrible illness this spring, he finally connected, and allowed us "in." Now that he is all well, and I find myself attached, it just makes it hard.

On a similar note; I advertised our mare Jazz for sale on a equine website. A few weeks later I got a very interested person a few hours away. I thought, ok maybe this is "the one" for Jazz! Then suddenly in the past few weeks her weight has dropped, she got rain rot, and thrush - and then when we had work done on out high tensile fence, a strand broke one night, and wouldn't you know but she got her hind legs in it?! Luckily the strand had no tension on it, otherwise she would have had lacerations. As it was broken, she only suffered a lot of small cuts and scratches. Still, she was bloody, and sore, swollen, and miserable. This, coupled with her weight loss, made me decide to contact the interested party, and let her know I was taking Jazz off the market. I deleted the ad also.
I sinply can't sell a horse in this condition, and jazz needs us right now. It was disappointing but I will try again to find her a home in the winter or the spring.

So this is sort of a goodbye, Gunny. But it is the beginning of a whole new bright future for him! For that, I am happy.
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Saturday, October 17, 2009

In Peace....


In peace will I both lie down and sleep, for You, oh Lord, make me to dwell in safety." Psalm 4:8
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(This is my horse Red, on the day he was born in 1987. My Dad took the photo, and may others just like it, of the extremely laid-back little foal he was then.)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blog GIveaway!

Ok this is not really about horses, but anyway. On my other blog, Happily Ever After, I am giving away a "fairy stone" necklace to celebrate the opening of my Etsy shop, Carolina Roses.
Make sure to go over there and get in on the giveaway!
Fairy Stones are found in Virginia, in the Fairy Stone State Park. They are geological mysteries. You can just walk along and pick them up off the ground in many cases.
Many are polished and prepared for the jewelery trade as good luck charms.
I wear one all the time. Although, it has never brought me much luck - I have been wearing it every time I have had a fall, or other mishap, with horses. Including when I was kicked in the face. So, I pretty much think they don't help my luck at all, but they're cute as heck! Go win it today!!! Good luck!
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Friday, October 9, 2009

Oh-oh. What do I do now?

Well. I am a bit stumped.
My sister went over to the barn last night to ride with a friend. I wasn't there. My sister is a great horse person, and knows how to handle horses and the things they do.
She called me up later in the evening and told me something that really disturbed me.

It was the first time she had seen the two new TBs, Montana and Spencer (who has still not gone to his actual home; we have just had no time to make the trip with him yet.)
She said after she and her friend got done riding Jett and Major, who were wonderful little dolls, she went into the paddock with Montana and Spencer to love on them a little bit. Then she dropped a bomb on me:

"Montana bit my face," she said.
"The big chestnut? That's Montana, right? He BIT my FACE."

Of course, my first concern was for my sister's beautiful face. She already had plastic surgery to repair a pet rabbit bite to her face, but a HORSE BITE?

She said it was sore and that the inside of her mouth bled from where she clamped down her jaw as he bit her.

My next concern was what she did about it. I usually punish my horses for biting. She was so stunned she didn't have time and he immediately backed off.

She went back to the tack room and got a jumping bat (just in case) and came back to the paddock, haltered him, and began petting him again to see if he'd repeat an attempt. He didn't; but her was clearly annoyed with the petting around his face.

Kevin said Montana had nipped at him when he was putting out the hay in the paddock the other day.

And thinking about a 4-H meeting recently, I remembered the kids hanging on the fence, trying to pet Spencer and Montana, and as I watched, I saw him getting really annoyed and had to ask the kids to step back away from him. I emailed a friend, jokingly, that he looked like he "....wanted to rip their face off........"

After last night this has obviously become an issue I will have to deal with.
Was he mistreated on the track? Was he hit around the head and neck area as a youngster? Is he just going to be "mean"? Should I just get rid of him now?

I guess I need to do some of John Lyon's "head shy" lessons with him and see how he responds. Teach him to drop his head kind of stuff. As I said, I usually punish a horse for intentional, mean biting. But I don't know if that is the right course of action here...... if he bites me and I smack him and yell at him, it might make the problem even worse, and he'll learn to hate me instead! How do I lovingly, but firmly, discipline a horse like this, who more than likely is this way because people were mean to him and made him so? I do not believe it is in his nature to be nasty. He's just continuing some kind of defensive reactionary mode held over from the track or something.
We've never had a mean OTTTB before. They've all been so sweet. Till now. Golly-Gee-Whiz. These OTTTBs are just not like other horses, mentally.
Darn it!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Love animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled.


Do not trouble their joy,

Do not harass them,


Do not deprive them of their happiness,

Do not work against God's intention.

- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New Shoes

The horses had a visit from their second favorite guy today...... the Farrier! (David.) Their first favorite guy is the VET! (Paul.)
Jazz, Jett, and Gunny got new shoes. My horses get more expensive shoes than me, and more often, also.
Montana had his racing shoes pulled off and will go barefoot for a few days to see how he is.
Spencer had his abscess opened so it drains better. Luckily it is not as bad a the one Gunny had earlier this summer when he was so ill from it. Spencer will go barefoot also; as he is going to another owner shortly.
I decided to try an expirament with Major and leave his shoes off also to see if he gets lame as the others tend to. He seems to be a little tougher than the rest and so I think he might be ok.


All the horses are growing their winter coats and getting fuzzy. Except Jett. he never grows much winter coat. I am dreading cold weather and blanketing all the time. Oh well. I must endure.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Ain't Misbehavin' ?


This is Princess. She is NOT one of my TBs, obviously, because she is a Paint. And a princess. A diva.


I've had "Prinny" about three years now. She originally belonged to one of my students, who then grew up, moved on to college, and her Dad called me and gave me the horse. They had paid a LOT of money for her.


But she was now older, and they knew I would give her an excellent home and everything. So I became her owner. Generally, she is a nice horse; she doesn't get along with other horses at horse shows or trail rides very well and can show her diva side at these public events.


In these pictures, I am using her to give my student a lesson - her first lesson ever.

Ok - so the point of all this is to tell what she did today. Rotten............
This same student came over for her lesson, but we decided to go on a trail instead. My student has been showing real progress and has been looking forward to graduating to riding outside the arena. So I put her on Jett and I saddled Prinny for myself.
Off we go onto the trail; which goes right past the pasture, with the remaining three horses not in the barn.
Dow the hill to us the come, galloping and making a fuss!
Princess freaked - freaked - getting all riled about our little "red-haired snipett" QH "Quarter Pony". (For Sale.) First she acted like she was going to buck. Then rear. Then buck. I pulled her head around to my knee, and she started backing up into the high tensile fence; bounced off of it, and tried hopping around again, all in an attempt to get me off.
Finally, she threw herself down to her knees with a huge lurch, seemingly to toss me off the front! I have never -!
So I decided to quit fighting with her (My student was behind me on Jett, trying to stay calm as Jett tried to scramble out of the way in the ruckus.)
Off I jumped, just missing getting tangled in my stirrups and reins as she got up and I got off.
She knows better so I whacked her once or twice and hollered at her.
She straightened up, but I had to lead her until we got out of sight into the woods away from our little Red Haired Snipett's (Millie is her name, turd) screeching, dancing, galloping, and general "alpha mare gone bonkers because horses from her herd left the pasture without her" type of behaviour.

The rest of our trail ride was relaxing and fun, with no incidents. I had to explain about punishing horses and how I rarely have to do it, and that it makes me feel terrible, but that when a seasoned trail/lesson horse throws a fit and KNOWS BETTER, or does anything dangerous and generally BAD, a little punishment is in order.
I also explained that I always "make up with" my horses after punishing them. I always end on a loving, positive note.

I hate it when these things happen. I really do. I think the thing is, I have been working so hard in the arena, and neglecting their trail riding excursions and so they all got freaked when we went out. Anyways. So once again I narrowly avoid falling off and busting my butt for the umpteenth time. Yippe.
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Friday, September 18, 2009

Raising Money for the Horses

Here are a few of the kids in my county's 4-H group at my barn, making a poster to sell raffle tickets to raise money for the NC Equine Rescue League. We're raffling off a Russel Watlington framed print, and a Mary Kay gift basket plus some cool horsey T-Shirts. If you live in NC (or not)and want to contribute, contact me. Tickets are $1 each, or $5 for 6 tickets.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Note To Self.......

In the future, do not turn out horses in the barnyard, no matter how elderly and feeble they may be!



Before I explain, let me just say that one of the reasons I love the horse world and horses so much is because you always have something to learn no matter how long you've had horses or been riding or teaching or managing a barn...... something always happens that you don't expect that keeps you from ever "arriving". It's great! Keeps you humble, and keeps you spontaneous.

Ok, now for the explanation - Our barn is entirely fenced in, with two smallish paddocks to the left and right of it; with immediate acess by gate into the barnyard. Our two larger fields are further off from the barn. We use the paddocks for quarantine for the thoroughbreds and other new horses; or for sacrifice areas when we're trying to grow grass in the pastures. Right now I have Major and Jazz in one, while the pasture is rested; and the two new TBs we brought down last week in the other. (One of those TBs is scheduled to go to another owner this week.) The other horses are turned out down in the big pasture along the creek.

So I have been turning Cisco, my re-rescued rescue I picked up a couple of weeks ago, into the barnyard at night. I am hesitant to turn him out with the younger, feistey, playful TBs. He is a little feeble with his arthritis, and just needs to take it easy, and gain weight. I shut all the stall doors, tack, feed, and bathroom doors and let him wander around, eat his hay, munch grass, and come and go as he pleases. So far, so good.

Until this morning.

Each of our paddocks and pastures has it's own hydrant for water. Each paddock has it's own water tank, also. There is also a hydrant in front of the barn. This morning, as I walked up to the barn entry, I saw the hydrant had been yanked up out of the ground and water was pouring out like a geyser, and there was a resulting lake and waterfall flowing down through Jazz and Major's paddock. They were standing there, staring at it.

I stopped. I looked at Cisco. Cisco looked at me. "What happened last night, Cisco?" (I don't know why, but I always have these one sided conversations with my horses.)

I imagined Cisco saying back to me: "Don't look at me, Mom. I didn't do it! Look at me, half crippled with arthritis. Do I look like I could do that?"

Cisco and I walked to the feed room, where he watches me fix his breakfast and dinner every day, and then I called Kevin; who rushed right over.

There is no way to deny, Cisco had to have done it. The hydarant was broken at the water main several feet underground. So we shut off the water and will have to get to fixing it later after we deal with baleing our hayfield today........

After concluding that Cisco had to have done it, of course we checked him over for cuts or whatever on his head. He must have gotten his halter stuck on it and yanked it out. Even though he is elderly, and slowed down from the arthritis, he has been gaining lots of weight and getting his strength back. And, he is a very big horse, being appendix QH; and 16 hands. I usually don't turn horses out wearing halters, as they tend to loose them, break them, and it can be dangerous. I just opened Cisco's stall last night before I left and didn't remove his halter. Geesh.

Yep, that's my "kids". Keeping me on my toes, and keeping me wondering what is going to happen next. Fun times!
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Friday, September 11, 2009

There and back....... again.

This week Kevin and I had to take a "lay-up" (recovering from a surgery or other injury) back up to PA to his trainer. We picked up "Song of the West" and he stayed in our barn for the afternoon before continuing up to PA Wednesday night.
It was a little nerve racking to know he is insured for one million dollars; and I was hyper vigilant about making sure things were quiet and peaceful so he didn't get injured, banged up, or stressed out. He was a little (actually HUGE - almost 18 hands) angel and transported easily and was delivered to his owner/trainer in fine condition.
We stayed up at the track for a few hours; poking around the place. I snuck up trackside and took some pics of the horses being exercised there.


The trainer told us the resurfaced the track in August and the new surface was making many of the horses sore.


We grabbed some breakfy in the track kitchen, and watched as "West" had a procedure done to a lump on his neck where he got some injections with "dirty" needles during his surgery a few months ago. He's going to be fine.


Here is the beauty we brought back - "Secret Time." I think we're going to call him "Montana"; but I am also thinking about "Senator" or "Honor." Something noble and strong. Because that is his demeanor - noble and strong. He will be re-homed once I school him a little bit and see what he is going to do. Someone needs to stop me before I really go overboard with horses, here.................

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Saturday, September 5, 2009


This is Cisco and me. I got Cisco out of a bad situation about 2 years ago. He's in his upper 20's. I sold him last December to a lady with a young son.


She called me a few weeks ago and said she didn't want him anymore, she couldn't "deal" with it. I went and picked him up and found him much altered and very unhappy. He was so eager to go he loaded himself into our trailer and was totally elated when we arrived home with him.


He was thin, his coat in grody condition, and quite lame in one of his front legs; I knew he had a little arthritis but this was much worse than it was when I sold him.

I put an ad on craigslist to see if I could find another slower, retirement type home for him and the only response I got was "why don't you put it down already....." I confess I sent back a not so thankful email to that person.

Looks like Cisco will stay with me indefinitely, and we'll move him to my parent's big field with their draft mare and Pony Butt.

How could I even think of putting him down only because he inconveniences me?

Just look at that face.

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