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.