Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Frosty Morn

My kitchen view of the pasture this morning was of total white, glimmering, and cold. The horses were standing heads lowered in what rising sunshine there was like reptiles on rocks. At least for today there is no rain forecast. That apparently changes tomorrow with another front line moving across the state to keep things continually soggy. I have now fed the horses and will do a few other things and let it warm up a bit before riding one of two of them later this afternoon, time allowing.

It has been so incredibly long since I have had a solid full day, or any length of time strung together, to really work the all horses. I did get one short ride in on Sunset last week, or was it the week before. Can't even remember. I could barely remember which rein you pulled to go which direction. I am exaggerating of course but in fact while the muscle memory does remain, like riding a bike, the subtle communication lines between the horse and myself are so muffled that what remains are simple gross indicators. Kind of like not speaking a foreign language in a long time. While the basic vocabulary is there, the fluid use and thinking in that language, escapes. I haven't forgotten how to sit there but I can't remember my check lists of what we were working on the last time the horse and I were in tune. The horses too have a hard time focusing on me and are like kids who have been on spring break for a week or two. From past experience I know it all will come back as soon as I get time to get back to a regular schedule with them, but it will take a frustrating regaining of lost ground.

When I was down at the barn feeding the beasts a little while ago, I did notice that their collective focus was on something either in the woods or at the far end of the field beyond my vision and hearing. It apparently wasn't scary enough for them to pass over their food so I didn't bother to worry about it either. Now, though, back in the house the mystery goes further...I just got up to check on the laundry and passed by the window that looks out to the back of the pasture and woods that they had been so focused on and there was something out there that I absolutely had no idea what it might be.

Right by the fence line, I could see a medium sized reddish furry thing that looked to have a symmetrical outline almost like some strange aardvark, ant eater, sloth or something. Grabbing the binoculars definitely cleared my confusion as to the unidentifiable animal on premises. The very strange looking animal was actually two. It was an amorous pair of red foxes working out the production of future cubs for the spring. They were totally locked up in their efforts and it was pretty amusing watching their confusion at their situation with their attempts to travel hooked up but facing opposite directions. One would walk one direction with the other walking backwards and then this would reverse and they would try go the other way. The look on both of their faces made it apparent that they had both forgotten the earlier amorous feelings that got them into this problem and they each indicated it was over and they wanted to get on with their day. Canines sure have a weird way of doing things. These two finally worked their way out of my sight and I am assuming it all worked out and there will be a batch of new cubs in a few months. These two also must've really appreciated the purchased quail that we had been putting out over the months trying to get a covey established. Hors-d'oevres pour les renard.

My first guess for probable cause for the horses' distraction had been deer movement. They too are in their season amorous mode, running around with non of their regular shyness , fearing nothing, crossing open fields during the day light with oblivion, totally focused on just one mission. The big S word. Obviously these foxes' S morning activity and mission must have been what the horses and dogs were listening to earlier when I was feeding.

The wonderful part of my world out here in this animal kingdom, is that there is just no end to the continuing many surprises and I never know what in the world I am going to see on this farm. I have found that the animals don't lie very well and if they say their attention is on something, there is a pretty good chance there is something and I should keep my eyes and ears open. Openness to their visual and aural observations has revealed to me eagles, wild turkeys, ospreys, many deer, bobcats, the approach of strange cars and cows, and so many of the other creatures and pending situations that exist just beyond my normal awareness abilty to pick up on as early as they do. Their awareness of possible danger has also saved me a time or two from stepping on an unsuspecting snake laying in the grass. It is this wonderful play of observation and communication with the animals here that I love and feel deeply grateful for. I cannot imagine the hole in my spirit that I would feel if disconnected from all this and my animals, by having to live in the urban, concrete, sterile world that so many have to endure. I am, so lucky.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


After seeing the date of my last post and having heard from several of you folks who actually take time to read my stuff and have asked for more, I thought I might try to carve out a few minutes to babble. Since I started doing this blog I have found that, like many things in life, it takes a deliberate approach to find the time to do it. It is just frigging amazing how many distractions and time killers there are in a day, a life, for me. There are so many animals to feed and tend to, human, equine, canine, and whatever birds are, oh yes, avian. There are phone calls of little importance to answer, the solving of the various mini-crises that arise. There are all the multitudinous tiny things that make up living each day at a low level of creative output that frustrate me to no end.

Add all that with three weeks of nearly solid rain and mud to the now pressing holiday commitments, everything from present buying and wrapping, food buying and prep, and various visits to and from relatives and friends, throw in a funeral, a dog fight or two, a face plant on the hardwood floor trying to prevent a dog fight, resulting in a cut lip from hell, and the ongoing needs and hospitalizations of my aging parents.

It all means getting almost zero time for riding and training my horses, doing any biographical work on the life of my famous dress designer uncle Wilson, making any more leather bags, or any sewing, painting, welding, and now, writing blog entries. Stop this crazy ride, I want to get off.

I do remember very well as a young kid the mercurial sense of time. Time floated gently by and drifted around the pleasant distractions of the day. It was irrelevant to me whether it was 9 am or 4 pm. I woke up to no alarm, I ate breakfast and watched Captain Kangaroo on the TV, and then the rest of the day lasted indefinitely. There seemed to be a flow to it like a lazy river meandering and sliding its way along. There were moments, who knows the actual length, where making mud pancakes swept my imagination away. There was unknown length of time spent playing in between the sheets hanging to dry on the clothes line, watching the sunlight patterns shift like paint on canvases as the sun dried them. And time spent watching pill bugs crawl and then roll up into their safe secure little balls. I still wish I could do that. Making forts was an especially fun thing for me to get lost in. I used boxes when available, appliance ones being treasured, laundry baskets, blankets draped on chairs, and chairs themselves proved very handy for many similar projects.

All of this was time spent with absolutely no regard for the time being spent, or wasted. It came with no guilt about not getting something else more important done mainly because there were no expectations yet for getting anything done. Homework hadn't' entered my life yet, and all the other thousands of things that happen as you get older and have gaining responsibilities. It just was an endlessly soothing part of my life in the past.

So how to return even a bit to such a quiet and peaceful way. I don't know yet, but I will be thinking more about that as we get thru this bloody holiday season and look to the new year. Simplify and slow down and enjoy the moment, will be my attempted mantra.

Now I am off to the barn to feed the anxious equines. I will finish the wrapping and cooking, and try to get all of the stress out of my mood. I look forward to a Christmas day tasting of our newly made Bourbon soaked oak chips, Oatmeal Stout beer. Yum.

Not much philosophy on the horses today, nor news about Jackapotomus. Just some time spent on scribblings. But I am truly wishing every one a much slower and mellow, and appreciated Christmas season, and many more to come. Cheers.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just when i thought it was safe...

It was time for one of these after my trip to the barn yesterday. I had been giving serious consideration to dropping next year's insurance for injury and mortality on all of my horses as I sealed the envelope on the final installment for 2009. Like so many years I had paid the premiums but just didn't have any claims. So...money being tight, I was thinking why bother.

This was still in my mind as I went out to do afternoon feeding. From the carport I could hear hooves galloping and I figured that Atlas, my young gelding, was doing a bit of pre-feeding time excess energy burn. When I walked around the corner, though and saw the real situation, it was an "oh crap" moment. There were three horses in the same pen, where there was only supposed to be one. I saw that the not turned on hot wire between Atlas and his huge mom, Robijn, and elderly very pregnant mare, Joline had been knocked down and run over.

There are very few things that worry me more than the putting horses together in the same field, even if they have already known each other across a fence. For some reason when you turn them loose together, they tend to just lose it for a while. I suppose it is the herd way of establishing the new social pecking order. In the wild they can do all this posturing and cavorting and have room to gallop away and sort this problem out without to much damage being done to each other. In the smaller paddock without the grace of room to move, those horses making the social errors can get their knees kicked off, get bit, or slip and ruin a nice set of legs with a tear or sprain. This scene here was all happening in a small space with very large,very fast animals on very slippery ground.

My first glance was to see Atlas sniffing towards the rear end of Robijn. Dumb. The definitive equine social faux pas. Sure enough, up came the rump and Robijn's two hind feet came flying backward in his general direction. She missed, but sent my heart rate even further up. Then off they all went full tilt, thundering down the field, mud splattering, hooves slipping and sliding. In my mind was the sight of the inevitable very large vet bill to come from this scene playing out.

I went to get halters for the mares, my first plan was to catch Robijn as she was the one creating the majority of the havoc, but, not to her plan. Then Atlas turned and came galloping full speed directly towards me. I figured I was to become one with the mud covered with his hoof prints. Just at my last moment of consciousness though, he slammed on brakes and put his head low for me to put the halter on, like he seriously wanted to get out of there and looked to me for rescue from the chaos.

After I got him out of the field and put in a stall, I fixed the fence, turned the juice back on to the hot wire, and got the mares back where they were supposed to go, every body began to settle down. Then as I was walking back from feeding Tony the pony I nearly tripped over a black thing that streaked by my feet. Following it came a very frantic Jack, the terrier, moving as fast as his short legs could comply, shrilly yelping at the top of his range. The other dogs vectored in from the barn and all gave chase to a poor cat who'd made a nearly tragic mistake of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She made it up a tree in time but this further activity did give the horses one more excuse to lose it for a bit and it kept my heart rate up for another few minutes.

I did enjoy the solstice of the martini when I finally got back to the house. I decided too, that I will pay the insurance again, try to keep the hot wire on, and hope for more peaceful moments on the farm.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Stuck again...

It another soggy and cold one outside and in the immortal words of the great donkey Eyor, I am "stuck again". Another vacation day for the horses. It's amusing to see Facebook postings from my other horse friends all bemoaning their frustration of being inside with no way to remedy the situation. Trapped with major case of cabin fever. My guess is that riding, and training horses is like an addiction to a fix of some sort. There is just a part of me that has got to be in that moment with a horse where my focus is right there and no where else and to that end I must spend some time there on a very regular basis to keep sanity. I think it was Churchill who said that the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man. How true it is for me and apparently I am not alone in this bearing this illness.

I used to tell my kids that when mommy is riding do not bother her for any reason. None. Zero. Let the house burn, whatever could wait. It was my dedicated time and they, I think, understood that mommy was a nicer mommy after she had had the time to ride. Then one day as I am riding back towards the barn I can see that my daughter Emily is hanging upside down on the swing set or play house. This was odd and definitely not a normal position for her as she was not fond of any type of position or thing that involved fast movement, being swung, merry go rounds, being held upside down by her feet etc. Not a big fan of going to the fair to ride the rides or doing cart wheels. To see her doing this gave me a startle. So I rode the horse over to where she was and asked her what was she doing. Emily responded by telling me she was stuck in that position and being the almost ever obedient child that she was, she knew I would be angry and not have wanted for her to disturb me while I rode. I have no idea just how long she had been hanging or how long she would have stayed there had I not come along and gotten her feet loose and her standing back right side up. I did loosen the rules on mommy disruption from then but it still had better be an important reason to interrupt my meditation on horseback.

On an even earlier occasion in Emily's life of having to sit on a blanket and eat Cheerios while I rode, I once again started my daily ride on my then horse Jason. At some point later I did look up to an empty blanket and no Emily in sight. She was maybe 3yrs old at this time and the place where my horse was boarded was on a major road for very fast traveling big trucks carrying coal and limestone. Somehow I made a good guess as to where she had headed and jumped off the horse and ran down the driveway towards the gate by the road. Emily was there standing about 3 or 4 feet from the edge of the road with trucks roaring past her. This one scene of my life is permanently etched in my mind and it still gives me chills to think how close she was. I caught up with her and I can't remember what all I did say as I grabbed her and got her moving away from the dangerous trucks, but I do recall telling her she had better jump like a bunny rabbit all the way back to the blanket. This term of how to travel was a saying that my father used on me when I was a kid when he was very serious about my making quick tracks or changing what I was doing. So as I am still hyperventilating from fear and major adrenalin, I see that this cute little kid, who was very nearly a hwy 19 grease spot, is crying and now hopping, just like a bunny on her way back down the long driveway. It was extremely hard not to laugh at this point from the comic relief but I did manage to hold on because I really wanted her to remember this lesson. I guess she did.

With remaing hopes for a sunny day soon I think I will go do something productive like clean the stalls, maybe oil tack, groom Jack the dog of terror... ha. well maybe that's a fantasy for him, and try to lose some of this buzz to get on a horse and meditate.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Relax and lie like a dog

It is Monday morning, post Turkey Day weekend. After a long holiday weekend I had looked forward to an opportunity to get to the barn and ride and possibly work off some turkey and dressing today. I had some pent up energy to burn and felt the pressing of the lack of time to ride from last week.
I looked out the window to see the sky to the east and was sunny and full of promise for a nice day of riding. The western sky though was a deep periwinkle blue, which made for a nice backdrop to the remaining colored leaves but looked a bit more ominous. That blue then invaded and spent a few hours heavy with rain. Rain mostly departed, but the sky has remained dark and gloomy and not worth the risk to get my lovely Stubben saddle soaked.

My daily life here on the farm generally revolves around what the weather is doing at the moment or is going to be doing. If it is nice then the first thing I like to get done after coffee and animal feeding is to work the horses. Some days that includes riding all three that are working under saddle. I also try to get ground work/manners basic in with the two 2 yr silly fillies. All this is dictated by priority of which one needs the education/exercise the most, and what kind of energy level I feel. If its like today and the weather directs me elsewhere from the barn, then I attack the most pressing thing that hasn't gotten done for a while inside the house.

Today's goal was try to figure out what the heck was going on with our sleep number hammock/bed. It seems that the middle of the bed has recently lowered to a good half foot below the edge and won't re inflate making a good night sleep absolutely impossible. That turned into typical series of events loosely involving the initial purpose. The bed got taken apart. The sheets got washed, vacuuming done behind and under the bed, sorting through the pile of magazines and books on the floor, and dusting, a bit of internet research on sleep number bed pumps, and more dusting and multiple trips to the trash can. There also was the underlying frustration tape running about how I wasn't doing what I wanted or felt the need to be doing at the barn with the horses.

After realizing that I had worked myself into a good little frenzy on this multifaceted mission and letting my stress build over the idle ponies out there munching their hay, I thought, "Where is the cleanup police and where is the barn gestapo? " There isn't anyone pressing me for the speed cleaning award. I am not a clean freak. I like clean, but when there is so much else to do, then why obsess about getting it all done now? Whether I get three horses worked today or not will also not go into the history annals and they certainly won't care.
So it may well be another decade before I go on a cleaning rampage and who will notice or care. I doubt there will be writing on my tombstone about my not being a great house cleaner. I will just have to be hopeful and patient for a nicer day tomorrow or some time soon, to enjoy a day at the barn. For the rest of this day I may try to be a bit more like Memphis, the white lab in the header shot. That dog understands what our dear late friend Emmit Patton used to say when things got dicey and stress levels were edging upward. He would just smile that wonderful smile of his, and say "Maintain Margaret. ( or to whoever he felt needed the prompt)... Maintain."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jack Hates Spinach

Jack is laying at my feet. I am standing at the stove waiting for the spinach to cook before I make my favorite thing, spanikopita. Dropped spinach is not his favorite thing but he remains hopeful for better. While spanikopita is not among our family's standard Turkey Day grub, I thought it would make a nice change from slimy green beans cooked in canned soup. It is also one of my parents' favorite things to eat. My mother and I were taught how to fix it by a very tiny elderly Greek lady who was a friend of my mothers. It was important to this woman for us to learn to make this dish and she had us come to her house to see how it was prepared and by doing this, passed along a bit of her heritage. Spanikopita is a laborious mixture of spinach, lots of onions, butter, oil, dill weed, obscene amounts of feta, riccotta, and parmesan cheeses, more parmesan cheese, and eggs. The beauty of it is its finish. It is topped with a layer of a multitude of paper thin pastry sheets of phillo dough, each carefully coated with a brushing of butter. Cooked until golden it becomes a dish of most pleasant thoughts and comfort. Jack still waits for better spillage but I can't think of one.

Outside I see the horses are all waiting not very patiently for my morning walk to the barn for their relief from nocturnal fasting. A lovely fall day with a hint of moisture in the air to soften the edges and brighten the colors. There is a solid wall of gold from some unidentified tree putting on a splendid show just off the back porch. A slight breeze continues to send flurries of acorns to the ground where they lay like the scene in the cartoons where ball bearings are spilt to thwart the bungling efforts of the bad guys. I am amazed Jack hasn't resorted to woofing these down too.

It is Turkey Day Eve. This afternoon I will cook the bird on the Green Egg. Maybe I will put the sweet potatoes in there with it to let them smoke a bit before mashing them. Then there is the must have salad to be made. Then rolls and the gravy. I forget, the dressing has to be in there too. And dessert? How does one keep a Turkey Day spread small? There will be once again, more overeating and months of leftovers to be creative with. What a wonderful dilemma to keep repeating.

Monday, November 23, 2009

over the river

Short week now here with the stress of the gathering of food and the clan. Turkey Day in my mind, has long been a day of just incredible boredom and disruption. It has long been a day of basic misery to me, full of obligations, expectations, and feelings of guilt for any noncompliance. By tradition, it generally has required someone travel a long distance, which tends to ruin a usually nice day or weekend, to wolf down a huge amount of food at a weird time of day. It also required someone working their butt off for a week to make the traditional spread happen and then having to spend the time cleaning the mess up. Is has been about eating mounds of casseroles and green beans to a painful level and then some. Its about getting kissed by dry lips of ancient women, listening to all the annually repeated family stories followed by the journey home of the equally long and boring opposite direction, while trying to digest all that with the scent of the aftershave and powders of the old ones traveling with me.
Now all those folks, those grandparents, those faces, those stories that made up my childhood memories of Turkey Day, are gone. The things that once seemed so annoying, and so ridiculous to me, and so eternal in their pattern were really fleeting and ephemeral. I am wondering just how many more Turkey Days will I have to share with my aging parents, and with my husband and kids. Such a stupid holiday devoted to the gorging on a dumb bird and how absolutely precious it is to share it one more time. This year, I will appreciate it all.
On another note, the wonder dog, Jack sends thanks for all the kind remarks that were sent. He has had a very nice and pleasant week inside the house. For a first, he doesn't reek of some dead thing that he hasn't gotten to roll on that gives him that special odor that sets him apart. That is good, for us. Not for him. The fissure in the roof of his mouth is healing nicely and the bleeding toenail is healed as well. Perhaps with another day or two of not hitting the goodies at the barn and chewing sticks and staying on the canned dog food, then life can go back to normal for him. Poor puppy. I can see that the imposed inability to supplement on his part has had good effect. There is a definite waist line to be seen on the boy. Jack has got a pretty good wiggle going now. I am sure this svelte outline will be temporary as he is already scratching at the door to follow the pack to the barn where all the delicacies await his undiscerning pallet. And too, there are all the nice Turkey Day scraps coming up.
So over the river and through the woods....have a nice one.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Poor Puppy

Poor Jack. Jack is our circumferentially enhanced Australian Terrorist. Breed standard says he should be around 14 lbs. Vet scales yesterday put him at 24.6lbs. Yesterday was a bad day for the pup. He had been doing some pretty weird face scratching after drinking water the day before. I opened his mouth and couldn't see anything and thought maybe a tooth issue was going on. It happened to be time for his thyroid re screening, hence his weight problem, so called the vet to take him in for both situations. Upon vet's exam with three helpers holding the dogs jaws so he couldn't chomp the vulnerable fingers, it was revealed that there was pencil size stick caught between the back molars of Jack's mouth. Since it was so far back and so deeply embedded in the roof of the mouth Jack got a quick dose of sedative so that work could be done to remove it. The good vet took the stick out with a set of forceps and rinsed the bleeding and cut off bad tissue. Nasty. The bone of the roof of the mouth was exposed it was so deep of a cut. I was told it was to be a week of house arrest and canned dog food for a week for Jack.

Poor puppy is right. You have understand that even tho this boy is way over the supposed to be weight limit, he is not slow. He can catch lizards with ease, and birds and whatever small rodent he might come across. Bugs, frogs and now apparently sticks are part of it too. Jack's days are spent in the quest for more things to eat and the great outdoors holds no end to the smorgasbord. The initial reason of the vet putting him on the thyroid medicine was to help with his sluggish metabolism and hopefully help him lose weight. It did pep his spirits tremendously but no weight was lost because he just got to the food faster. Jack is a serious supplementor.

Anyway, back to our sedated pup. Jack is laying there on the stainless table with tongue hanging out and a stupor in his eyes while we waited for him to start shaking off the juice. There is a bit of blood coming from his mouth, but not bad. So the girl assistant decides to take advantage of his situation and cut his toe nails. She got two of them done and then struck the quick on the third. Now we have major gusher. Poor puppy again. The vet comes back in, sees the mess, rolls his eyes and grabs some gauze and tape to fix the flow of crimson.

The hemorrhaging contained with bright green flex wrap and white tape up to the elbow, Jack starts to come back to the planet. I was told that this type of sedation tends to make them do a funny behavior upon trying to awaken. The behavior actually is called the "Stevie Wonder Syndrome". It is a side to side wagging of the head that really looks just like what the famous singer does. Should have had a video camera. Opportunity for fame and fortune on You Tube was lost.

Jack is now home from the clinic and will be an inside dog for the week while his mouth heals. For a week there wont be any trip to the barn to pick up spilled grain from the horses mouths, or the stuff from the other end. No sticks either. Jack is adapting well to his incarceration and is getting used to this pampered life of luxury pretty quickly. Sofas do make pretty good dog beds and there is a neat dark cave to hide in with lots of soft cloth things to lay on just past the water bowl that the people sit on. The food is great, real canned chow with beef and rice instead of the dry chunks. Yup life is rough. But I think Jack is just doing quite alright with his poor puppy status

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mr Murphy's Laws and Pattern Breakers

There is no doubt that the immortal words by Mr. Murphy about his overwhelming pessimism about how things never go as planned, were written because he had a farm to run and I bet he had horses. My husband, Mark and I were laughing recently with a visitor to our farm, that on any given day to begin any project, chore, or activity it would be absolute certainty that things weren't going to get going in a smooth, straight forward way to easy completion. There are no straight lines to being productive on a farm. Each intended move requires multiple precursory moves to even begin the said project. The tire will need inflating, which will require rewiring of the air compressor plug because it shorts out, which requires finding the screw driver, wire cutter, and the new plug which we bought and put in a safe place, which we have forgotten, to be able to find it latter when we got around to needing it. The screw driver can't be found because it got used and left at the site of the last project, which we can't remember what it was and where either. The battery will need to be jumped off, if we can find the cables. The list of hurdles to complete, or begin, any project are so daunting that most don't get started. So life on a farm mostly is a continuum of making lists of things to do, losing the list, and not getting everything done.

One way to deal with this cycle of frustration is to bang your head on the wall. The other is to accept the idea that everything is going to take longer than expected, will not turn out exactly like you planned, and might lead you down a totally different rabbit trail altogether. You just have to accept Mr Murphy's Laws and be content in its uncertainty of outcome.

Dealing with and training horses is a prime lesson in the value of this pessimistic philosophy. If you think you have absolute control over what you plan to train that horse for today, you are living in a fantasy land and are going to be disappointed. Hardly any day at the barn goes as I think it might or should. There can be goals to aim for, for sure, but the best laid plans tend to have a mind of their own. It seems best to have rough ideas of what you want to play with. Then if the wind is blowing gale force and your horse is a bit fresh, or there is a herd of cows (not yours) coming up your driveway, or any other distraction that will impede your initial plan , you try to roll with it, using a healthy dose of self preservation instincts, and use the moment to teach the horse something new about how to deal with these strange happenings and get on with their work. I might, for example, get off the horse and use this opportunity to practice ground driving and basic manners to get the horse to approach this horror, or at least accept it. This just might show you where in your training you have a gap that needs to be addressed, ie. the horse has less respect for you telling him to get in front of you than he has fear of that scary thing. Not a safe relationship.

Such is the way it was this morning, the winds having blown in a new batch of cool air. A fact, that with each decrease in temperature comes a doubled proportional decrease in the momentary IQ of a horse. Normally feeding time comes with a bit of excitement but today there were many tails lifted high and many snorts and blows and some truly spectacular movements shown by all of them. Even Tony, the ancient Shetland stallion, was passaging around his quarters, tossing his locks and looking quite spritely. The dragon head that guards the broodmares and which is totally ignored most of the other 364 days du year, was being snorted, kicked at, and run away from with great bucks and head throws... and this was by my 18 yr old broodmare Joline and her normally laid back side kick Robijn. So it was no surprise when I brought the silly two year old fillies in to their stalls that suddenly the towel laying over the rail outside Cupcake's stall was a sudden source of terror. To that she decided she needed to leave and was considering going over my head and body to do so. Taking advantage of this situation we then schooled "better be more afraid of Margaret than the towel". That was about respect for my space and a focus on me. I can't expect for her to not have fear of things, but I do expect that I don't get trampled because of it.

When things don't go as we planned then we have to address the change and break our pattern. Pattern breakers and moments like this morning are great ways to see other perspectives and to notice gaps, and to learn and teach. It is so easy to get stuck in a safe little rut of repetition and think you can avoid the unknown results of change. You have to use the tests and take advantage of the things you don't expect. The only thing constant is that there will be change. It is how we deal with, adapt and modify that allows us to progress. It does make life, and dealing with horses, more interesting to look at it with Mr Murphy's perspective.

Friday, November 13, 2009

our anscestors must have been nuts

We have just been watching a show on the tv on the
evolution of humanoids and it showed the usual bits about
when tools were first used and made etc. all the
basic national geographic blah blah about what
was the reason for our ancestry's success and subsequently our being here. What was not mentioned was that somewhere along the line of this evolutionary changes one of these humanoids must have blown a fuse and decided they were sick and tired of carrying their mate's stuff around on their backs and started to use their newly increased brain size to figure a way to make their lives easier. They must've looked at that herd of early horses and said "how hard could it be to domesticate that horse over there and make it work for you." Right. That's a kind of the screwy logic ... the part about the horse being scared of everything with a strong tendency to leave, or fight with its hard hooves and some sharp teeth, must've been a small point to them. And like I wrote yesterday about those defensive tools to survive.... who the heck first got one of these animals to stand still long enough to get a rope on,, oh wait was rope even invented yet. Probably not. Then how do you communicate with an animal with a brain of grossly smaller capacity than homo erectus and no rational thought patterns that could bite, kick, buck and turn your day into pure misery, if not kill you? It amazes me that anyone ever got horses domesticated without the entire group attempting it dieing and not being able to pass along techniques that make it possible today to continue this madness.
Today I rode my young gelding, Atlas, who is doing remarkably well with his training. He is biddable and sweet and fairly uncomplicated. That being said he is where he is in his training because I have spent an enormous amount of my time and adrenalin to get his brain to run in a slow mode where his thought patterns now move at a snails pace instead of light speed, which is where it was when I first began work with him. He was scared of things , imagined or real, and he left. Fast. Not good for my neck but good business for my bone cracking chiropractor.
It is such a long road to train a horse for our uses, farm, dressage, pleasure. It is the first months which are critical to it becoming a "good" horse or a "bad" one, or totally useless. The folks who ride who have never started a young one from scratch have zero idea of what has to happen to make this creature safe enough so they can buy this nice young prospect and then take it to a show and come away with a blue ribbon.
Every time I start a new one down that road to being a useful animal in my world, it takes such an enormous amount of my physical and mental energy to just try and get it right. I try to limit mistakes that will set the training back or doom it. How did our ancestors do it with no books nor instructors.. and bigger question is why try. I suppose the mate breathing down their necks with lots of stuff to get carried around was high enough motivation. I am glad they did and were successful. I do have to admit there is nothing like the communication between with an engaged horse that has learned to learn and is relaxed and comfortable in sharing the job with you. That is sublime.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

horses are buddhas, and so are folks

one thing that i have learned about animals, and that includes humans, is that there are no such things as perfect relationships. all are flawed and all have limited perfections because of our expectations and perspectives. non can live up to all of our hopes and some can be nothing but disappointments. but if you can get past that and recognize beings for what they are, imperfect in whatever way you perceive them, then they can become the teacher. they are the Buddha.

in working with horses it is a fact that they are wired for their survival. first and foremost. and to deal with that wiring we must understand that even tho they show affection to us at times, love has nothing to do with their wanting to avoid being potentially eaten by something. to this end they will run away, bite, kick, buck, rear, and do whatever needed to fulfill the defense mode. does this make them evil, flawed, or imperfect. no. they are here because one or more of their ancestors was perfect at self defense, thus passing on the gene pool that got this creature here. the problem comes in where this defense mode tends to get us riders hurt. i don't like that part. so it becomes our job as riders and trainers to understand this about them and to help them learn that all that is not familiar is not necessarily a threat and doesn't require that behavior to survive. it is also about purposely using the unfamiliar and scarey things to teach them to have trust in us and do what we say despite the scarey thing. and if they trust us and learn to bypass that survival behavior, then we judge them as "good" horses. a "bad" horse is one that has learned that these defense tactics for survival work to make ineffective riders scared and go away. oh do they quickly learn which buttons to push. we all do.
if we are close minded to the process of change and judge only from a moment of a behavior, an act perhaps made in fear, anger, or an emotional misunderstanding, then the relationship is doomed to not improve. relationships, between whatever the species, are ongoing processes. they require the openness to a difference of perspective, and a real sense of adventure and humor to learn to dance together. it is a journey, the learning to communicate, that makes the relationship become a partnership.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

the day after ida

well for a hurricane that wasnt supposed to be anything much, ida certainly brought on its share of the gulf of mexico. is there an end to the words used to describe mud? slop, mush, pain in the butt. just when the barn yard had dried to an almost liveable, tho not arid, condition, now here we are back in the caked on legs, faces, sloppy footing, cant get a wheel barrow thru it, mess . i whine certainly. horses are best and most fun under ideal situations and weather makes a huge difference. how much fun do you really have a show or an event when the sky is opening up its guts and landing it all on you while you try to do your best and look like you are having fun so the judge up in their dry little shelter gives you that score you want. life on a horse, and horse farm, is so much nicer when the air is mild, almost cool, dry and there are no bugs left and the leaves are colorful. that is what fall is supposed to be about. the easy time to be owner of a horse farm. but as in most things...this too shall pass. wasnt it a few months ago we were in serious drought. and i could whine about that but it has passed and life is short. and there are muddy horses nickering for dinner