Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dammam, Saudi Arabia - Horses and Kebabs

We're heading out for the airport this morning with a lovely group of Arabian horses that Terry and I will accompany to Dammam, Saudi Arabia. Thank you, Khalid, Haytham, Othman, Ahmed, Abdullah and Saleh for sharing these wonderful horses with us. As always, it has been our pleasure working with you.

Our visit in Dammam will be brief, because we have horses to fly to Amsterdam next week, but while we are there, we are looking forward to enjoying authentic Saudi kebabs. We've been on a kebab recipe quest for a while and want to thank all of our friends from Saudi, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates for sharing their favorite kebab recipes with us. We've been working on getting just the right blend of spices and we think we're getting close. We prepared chicken and beef kebabs last week to share with friends in Rockport, TX and the reviews were great. Everyone loved them and asked us to bring more! So, thank you, dear friends, for helping us enjoy the wonderful tastes of your part of the world! Yummy.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

You Can't Please All the People All The Time

Wow, are we frustrated right now. Terry is on his way home from Luxembourg where he delivered a group of quarter horses for a buyer in France.

When we went to pick up these horses from the seller's farm, it took four hours to load them. They had not been trailer trained and were as wild as March hares. Several of them were underweight and had various scratches and minor injuries. One mare had an abscess on her foot that looked pretty bad. The seller said that it had just appeared that morning.

They traveled very badly, with lots of kicking and carrying on in the trailer and when we received them here at the ranch we wondered what kind of miracles we were going to be able to perform by flight date. Luckily, we had about 6 weeks to work with them, as the buyer hadn't paid for them yet and we agreed with the seller to board them for two extra weeks (at no charge to her) before starting quarantine.

We got them into stalls and started working with them, hoping for the best. The abscess went from bad to worse. We had the farrier and the vet out to look at it. The first course of treatment that the veterinarian recommended (soaking in epsom salts) didn't help. By the next week, the mare was actually in danger of losing her foot ... and her life.

We contacted the seller (who insisted on doing all the communication with us, rather than putting us in touch with the buyer directly) and she said to take the mare to the vet's clinic for 3 days of intensive care. The vet had recommended two weeks, but the seller didn't want to pay for more than three days. She actually expected us to pay for the veterinary care, but our contract is clear about whose responsibility that is!

We took the mare(and her nursing foal) to the clinic and picked them up after three days(transport was at our own expense - 100 mile round trip twice). The vet said that she had responded well to the treatment and he was cautiously optimistic that she might live. The key to saving her life was in the daily care that needed to be provided from that point in time. Following the vet's instructions, we carefully and thoroughly cleaned her foot and changed the dressings every other day for the entire time she was with us, making sure that the foot stayed completely dry at all times. We also administered medication every day for a period of time after her return to the ranch. This took a lot of staff time and commitment (at no extra charge). The mare's foot improved such that she was actually able to ship on schedule. The vet said it was a miracle and we agreed!

Meanwhile, we continued working daily with the others in the group, trailer training, worming, having the farrier out to trim their hooves and feeding them extra feed and weight building supplements ... all at our own expense. We didn't charge an extra penny for the extra care and expense that this particular group of mares needed.

By flight day, they were all significantly improved. They walked into the trailer and the flight containers like old pros, with no challenges whatsover (thanks the the time and effort spent trailer training them!) We were really happy to be able to put them on the plane and deliver them to their new owner. They all were dressed up in new halters( also provided at our own expense) and Terry accompanied them across the ocean.

There was a lot of turbulence on the flight and Terry was in the containers with these mares throughout, keeping them calm and risking his own safety. He was slammed up against the side of the container at one point in the flight and has the bruises to show for it. But this is all part of what we do ... all in a day's work ... all part of the service we provide.

So, here's where the disappointment comes in. After all the extraordinary care that we provided, we got a nasty email from the buyer saying that the horses arrived in France in terrible condition and that we did not care for them properly.

She said they were underweight. I sent her "before and after" photos and she didn't mention that again. When a horse arrives at quarantine underweight, there is only so much that can be done before flight time. We did the best we could do, and the before and after photos clearly showed significant improvement in their weight.

She said they were wormy. We have records showing that they were wormed on August 1st. We always worm horses when they begin quarantine, as a normal course of action.

She said their feet were in poor condition. We have the bill from the farrier showing that he trimmed their hooves on August 25th. We always have the farrier out to assess hooves and provide trims if needed, again, just a normal course of action at our facility.

The biggest blow of all was that she said we had nothing to do with saving the mare's life. She said that she is thankful to the veterinarian, but that we had no part in it and she owes us no thanks at all. After all the hours and hours and hours that we spent providing care for that mare - at no cost to her - and she says that we deserve no credit for saving her life.

Wow. It is times like this that make us wonder why we continue being so generous and providing so many extra services at our own expense - both physically and financially. But then we reflect and we know why we do it. Its because we care about the horses and we will continue to be committed to their health and well-being, regardless of the owners' attitudes.

And for every hateful client that we meet, we have at least 100 others who are kind, intelligent and caring people who appreciate the services that we provide. We take a lot of pride and get a great deal of joy from being able to bring horses and owners together all over the world. I guess we can't let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch - but this experience certainly has left a sour taste in our mouths.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tropical Storm Hermine

There's an old saying in South Texas ... If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute.

We are flying horses and donkeys this week ... and we've been blessed with some interesting weather, courtesy of Tropical Storm Hermine.

Some of the animals flew to Amsterdam on Tuesday afternoon. Terry and Megan drove them to Houston and loaded them into the shipping containers in the midst of heavy rains, thunder and lightning. All went well, however, and they have now arrived safe and sound in Europe. Thank you, Hans and Laurence, for sharing your animals with us. And thanks also to our groom, Bob Riley, for doing such a great job of caring for them on the flight.

Last night Tropical Storm Hermine dumped 4.75 inches of rain on the ranch within an hour's time, along with a magnificent light show that was accompanied by dramatic thunder rolls and claps. At midnight, as Salem, our resident ranch cat, and I were sitting up in bed watching the lightning and listening to the pounding rain on the roof, I was thinking about the 10 horses that we needed to load for the trip to the airport this morning. Loading horses in a thunderstorm is not much fun ... not for for people nor for horses.

I was so thankful that when the light of day dawned, the rain had stopped and we were able to load the horses in the sunshine. Ron and Tanner drove them to the airport without incident and they are all safe and sound in Houston, just waiting for time to load into the containers and fly out on their CargoLux plane. Terry and our groom, Henry Quintanilla, are flying with them ... some to Luxembourg and some to Kuwait. Thank you, Mercy, Isabelle and Ayman, for sharing your horses with us. They will be in their new homes soon.

Now that its evening, the storms are beginning to pop up again at the ranch. Who knows? If we're lucky, Salem and I will be treated to another midnight show!