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December 2009

Vet 'miracle' on short list for NBC's Hometown Heroes

FORT COLLINS, Colorado -- Colorado State University teaching hospital veterinarians who saved two eggs from a mare killed more than a year ago in a nearby tornado -- and produced two healthy foals from surrogate mothers -- will be NBC's "Hometown Heroes" if they get enough votes.
Dr. Pat McCue, director of the Equine Reproduction Laboratory, and other reproduction experts at CSU pulled off the local "miracle" as a way to help the community of nearby Windsor recover emotionally from the devastating May 2008 tornado, according to a CSU press release. If the veterinarians win the award (and we hope they do!), the $10,000 in prize money will go toward helping critically ill newborn foals and educational programs about new foals. Click here and then look for the words "Pat McCue" under "Hometown Heroes" to cast your vote!
NEWS FLASH! ... and if you have not already done it, take our opinion survey on the Larimer County Horse Facilities rules. (The survey does not collect personal data.) Results will be published before the next meeting

All I need to know, I learned from my tractor

Our good, old John Deer 950 peeks out of one of the barns on a snowy winter day - Poudre River Stables - Fort Collins - Colorado - 80521

  1. If at first you don’t make the grade, try, try, again -- faster and faster.
  2. For drop-dead control, drop the bucket. (Gates and fences can be rebuilt.)
  3. Regular oil feedings are as important as knowing the oil hole from the hydraulic-fluid or say, the fuel hole.
  4. Gravity is a powerful force -- especially going downhill backwards on ice, in the dark.
  5. Make more than one copy of the tractor key.
  6. Red farm diesel spilled on fresh snow gives the place that festive touch.
  7. Black smoke and spewing, yellow liquid are bad.
  8. A plugged-in tractor is a happy tractor.
  9. Plow Job #1: The rescue truck.
  10. Based on my 950's long life and ability to multi-task, John Deere was probably a woman. OK, not.

Check out: New life for old axes, mauls! or Manure happens, and it's good stuff! Also, do-it-yourself tractor and other farm vehicles maintenance checklist.

Not quite Hallmark

One of my most vivid memories is the Cold War drill in which we dropped to the floor and crouched under our school desks while the air raid siren blew. I was never quite sure how the drill would protect me.

I suppose rescuers would get the seating chart, dig through the cave-in, and find me beautifully pressed by the desk into the floor.

Back then we visited my grandparents in Hardin, Montana at Christmas. The grandparents had heeded our cry for horses and given us Shetland ponies. The ponies in turn, served as prime bait for repeat grandchildren visits.

We couldn’t horse around much in Hardin then, due to icy roads, so we rode the lanes of my grandfather’s military surplus yard. Our ponies’ barn and the military junk made up part of his bulk-oil plant’s oddly balanced ecosystem.

Once, when it was time to leave for home, my sister and I hid, hoping we would never be found. We rode Nugget and Mohawk into a giant bomb shell. There inside the bomb, astride our stubby mounts, we watched snow gently drift to the ground and listened to our parents shout for us.

The snow, the bomb shell tableau, the moment of our discovery, my parents’ disgust: Not quite a Hallmark Christmas card, but a Christmas never forgotten.

Read also: Yes, I can!

'Christmas past' gobbles up Thanksgiving

Just before the mashed potatoes needed to get started this Thanksgiving, my daughter’s phone jingled with a text message: “Leslie fell off Duke (names changed to protect the innocent) and they can’t find him on the trail.”
Another client on Leslie’s emergency list had sent the message, and was out searching for the missing horse. Had “Christmas past” returned on Thanksgiving?
We raced out of the house, my daughter running to get bridles, me grabbing my erstwhile pocket halter, and slipping on my Mucks (the world’s best bad-weather, cold-weather, wet-weather boot).
Dell, my gelding, who has no plans to become a heroic movie star, backed away when he saw me coming with the pocket halter dangling off my shoulder. He sensed were having a crisis, and thought he was it. A couple of seconds later, Dell grudgingly lowered his head, and allowed himself to be bridled. I ran with him trotting alongside, to our personal gate to the bike trail.
My daughter waited at the gate, and as soon as I unlocked it, she gave me a leg up. (At 16.2 hands, Dell is one of the tallest Morgans around!)
We cantered down the Poudre River bike trail and soon found the husband of our client leading Duke. Someone on the trail had found the horse, riderless. The husband did not know where Leslie was.
We cantered down the trail another quarter of a mile, and discovered Leslie, limping, but walking, thank goodness.
Everybody gathered and headed back to the stable as an equestrian caravan, Duke in the middle.
The story: Duke spooked and spun when a fisherman, kitted out from a horse’s perspective in odd-shaped, threatening, dangling gear, approached on the trail. Duke reared and Leslie leaned forward to keep Duke from falling over backwards. When Duke hit the ground and spun, Leslie was still in the forward mode, and fell off. The poor fisherman felt terrible.
Leslie’s pride and her hip took a hit in the fall. Otherwise she was unhurt, thanks no doubt, to the fact that she was wearing a helmet. Also, luckily, Leslie had thought to ride with A) her husband as a buddy, albeit on foot, and B) with her cell phone.
Since then Leslie has considered the possibility of a bridle tag for Duke that reads: If found call: xxx-xxx-xxxx. (Good idea!)
And if anybody is up there listening – we are done with the historic holiday shenanigans, thank you!

Jax joins 'Winning Bet' team

Winning Bet front cover shot, featuring Bonnie Blue, the novel's real-life equine star! (Click photo to enlarge.)
Congratulations to Jax Stores, the newest member of the Winning Bet team! You can now find Winning Bet, the exciting story of 15-year-old Emma Duncan’s dare to bet on herself and her horse, at Jax Ranch & Home, Fort Collins (1000 N. Hwy. 287; 970-484-2221), and Jax Outdoor Gear Ranch & Home (950 E. Eisenhower, Loveland; 970-776-4540), Loveland.
Winning Bet features a colorful cast of characters, a touch of romance, a mystery, and lots of horse show action. Get it now as the perfect gift for the horse lover on your list! (Winning Bet -- ISBN #: 0-615-32165-8, paperback, 200 pgs., suggested retail, $12.95.) Retailers, contact the Ingram Book Company to make Winning Bet part of your operation.
'Winning Bet' first copy raises $100 for charity
Amazon, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble take on 'Winning Bet'

Horse operations: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water

FORT COLLINS, Colorado – It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
The working group in charge of developing new rules for horse stables and Larimer County staff have partnered up, vowing to work together to solve the horse facility problem. The solution could take at least another six months.
On the table will be the working group’s vision for a plan that horse businesses can swallow, and county staff’s technical expertise and vision for business regulations. The goal: A conceptual model that will survive to a final vote by county commissioners.
NEWS FLASH! Planning commissioner Kathay Rennels resigns

(Take our survey on the issue. Click the "survey" button!)

Continue reading "Horse operations: Don't throw the baby out with the bath water" »

Death toll revised: 43 horses died in fire

Authorities have revised the death toll down to 43 horses in Saturday’s racetrack barn fire in Lebanon, Ohio, that also killed two people. The cause of the fire in Barn 16 of the Warren County fairgrounds remains unknown, but investigators have ruled out criminal intent. Two handlers, Ronnie Williams and James Edwards, were also killed in the blaze. According to All Headline News (, the barn was made of wood, but encased in metal. In a CNN video (, fire officials said the barn roof had collapsed by the time they arrived on the scene.

55 horses die in barn fire

LEBANON, Ohio – As many as 55 horses and two people may have perished in a pre-dawn racetrack barn fire this morning, according to CNN news. Firefighters are battling slick conditions in below-freezing temperatures as they try to use water to put out the fire. Our hearts go out to the people and our equine friends as this situation unfolds.
NBC reports two people missing, 80 horses dead.