Saturday, May 29, 2010
News quickly spread about this filly’s arrival and the excitement grew as Face book spread the word and the video of her first steps in her new world. Joline has had a long list of folks who were already her fans and there were so many happy to see the newest arrival and sent well wishes and congrads on the filly power. The filly was lovely, feminine with her large soft eyes and three white stockings and wide blaze down her aristocratic face, and she was uphill and elegant.
Then later, as this lovely filly was laying on the ground in the paddock and snoozing a bit I took advantage of the moment to check out how the navel was drying and happened to notice something I had not seen earlier, a mysterious hole right behind the navel, just where there would be one, IF, this filly just happened to be a boy with those parts. I quickly lifted the tail and checked what I should have checked earlier to determine sex, and found conformation of her not being a filly. So what the heck? No boy parts showing and no girl parts either. My mind raced at the possibilities of some freak oddity here at work, or worse, this was a medical situation requiring immediate surgery on a several hour foal. A bit of googling this situation and I called my vet who said not to worry that sometimes boy horses just don’t show their parts until a few days older and if he/she was feeling well and all was normal, not to panic.
This was absolutely epic news to me as I have never come in contact nor heard of any male, of any species, that wasn’t very proud of that particular anatomy and who wasn’t proud to show it to anyone, any time. To find this colt shy of presentation, for whatever the reason, and who was also very pretty so one could rightly say he was a filly to look at, blew my brain. I have been breeding horses for too many decades now to have never heard of this of seen it. So by golly, what a surprise, to say the least. This pretty filly was indeed a colt, and is a colt, will be a colt, forever. All of those great filly “f” names got thrown out the door. Now we need boy “f” names…Frank, Floyd, F’up…the possibilities are open to new doors, so bring them on.
A new day, this foal is twice his age today. Today I turned them out and off they went in the paddock and all the stress of the worry of him getting here, and the sex change, melted as I watched the unfurling of those long legs moving with grace and lightness (in his loafers) as this boy danced around galloping with enormous extravagant leg action, like a water bug skating over the waves, effortless and oblivious to gravity. He is still beautiful and graceful, still has the same enormous, black rimmed eyes, perky sharp ears, and so much chrome that he will always dazzle the crowds. He is not a blithe filly, but he is strong, uphill, well built, curious, and a fast learner. This I learned yesterday with our first halter lesson before heading to the paddock. My shoulder is still in spasms of pain from the bouncing around we did. Today he walked like a seasoned traveler to and from his stall to the larger paddock where he gained some freedom to show his other stuff, besides all those reluctant parts.
Joline defends her boy from the curious dogs and other horses with dedication and conviction. She is such an experienced mom, and moves with such care around her sleeping foal knowing exactly where each matchstick thick limb lays with total abandon in peaceful slumber having filled his tiny belly with the rich milk of a mare.
It is a sublime experience to watch a progression of a young animal and no animal is more gratifying than a horse because of the nature of their needing to be mobile so quickly in the wild that they can transform from the staggering drunks of yesterday to the graceful gazelles of just one day old horses, able to keep up with a full size galloping mare if needed, and then later and beyond to becoming performing athletes and partners. This is what I treasure and what keeps me coming back for more.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
There are good, well founded reasons for the drugs that make you drowsy to have warning stickers about avoiding driving, or operating dangerous equipment. I know that they do fog your brain and make you do silly things and some things that aren’t so silly. Reaction time is muddled, so whatever silly/or not silly thing you get into, can get pretty dicey quickly. So the case was, the day before yesterday when in my muddled fuzz I thought I would use the time to ride the lawnmower around and tidy the yard.
Things began well enough for me riding around getting instant gratification at seeing how nicer the grass looked shorter. I had to cut around the pear trees out front tho, and their fruit is already weighing the limbs way down low, so I had to do some acrobatic driving to get under these obstacles. I began to notice a pronounced smell of gasoline and in my fuzz wondered what it might be but didn’t think to look to see what it was. Another round of the yard and the lawnmower was sputtering a bit. Then I did look back to investigate and nearly dove off the machine.
The plastic tank that sits behind the driver, normally, had been knocked off its holder by a low limb and now was hanging by its fuel line and was spewing gas from obviously having been run over by the mower. I hit the brakes and got off, and then picked up the tank, (bad plan), and the spewing gas then proceeded to cover the very hot, and very much still running engine. The gas hissed and popped as it ran over the fly wheel down into the engine housing. Remembering that this was a combustion engine and finally reacting to the horribly dangerous situation I was in, I thought to put the tank down and turned off the key. And then I took some seriously fast steps backward to see if the thing was going sky high any time soon. My heart was doing some racing at this point at the realization of my slow reactions and lack of decision making ability, and my near demise. After a few hours of tank replacement and repair, I finished the mowing with care and considered myself lucky on that one.
Since then, I did thankfully catch up on some sleep and my brain is running back again fairly normally, relatively speaking. I have had several really good rides on my mares, have worked on a few new paintings, moved a truck load of hay, and have kept a sharp look out for Joline to see any signs of an on coming labor and delivery. So far, nada.
Jack had actually lost 5 pounds since then, a 5% loss of total body weight. Do the math on yourself, that’s a huge amount for something this size, or any size. The vet was thrilled to see the boys progress and said to keep it up, if I could, that is the keeping Jack from over eating every thing he sees. As long as I keep Jack inside a lot more, that keeps the potential calorie consumption down and his belly svelte.
Another night and another chance for Jolene to make it happen, I will keep watch on her tonight and hope for relief, for her and for all of us here on the farm. I will herald it loudly when, and if, it does happen but I have to admit that at this point I have my doubts.
Friday, May 21, 2010
This will make Joline's 5th foal here on this farm. I know she had three in Holland before she was imported to the USA by my good friend Lisa, who is an intelligent horse woman, with a keen eye for quality in a horse. These European three have done exceptionally well over there in various sports, and one of them an Elite daughter has produced a KWPN stallion, Scandic, who is doing very well in international dressage competition.
Here her babies have all been beautiful, and well put together, and all possess brains that are wired with intelligence and spirit. The first was Wizard, by Darwin, a colt of deep burnt chocolate with an irregular blaze, a super fellow so pretty it was so easy to look at him, alot, precocious, had a keen sense of play, and it wasn't hard to watch him move. Then came the lovely Avalon, by Juventus, a super model bay filly with the thinnest of stripes down her wide, seductive face with huge liquid brown eyes. She could bat her thick eyelashes like a Southern Belle, and moved like a ballerina.
Barishnikov came next, a breeding that happened because a breeder in Holland, who happened to have bred his stallion to Joline over there and knew of her quality, contacted me to see if I would breed her to Contango for him. I did and he bought this weanling and took him back to Holland as a potential stallion for the KWPN. Barishnikov was also a dark brown with a bit more white than Wizard, a bit rounder in body type, and was possibly the most sensible young horse I have ever handled. He was just wise. And he could also move well.
Cistine, now 3years old, a dark bay filly by Flemmingh, she is of the same brain as the rest, very intelligent and engaged with humans, a very funny girl. She is quite tall at 3, being 16.2h now and still growing, still a bit lanky but is really fancy.
The foal that is supposed to happen here at any moment will have a name starting with an F, and will be the offspring of a horse I have liked for a long time from the videos I saw of him when he was a youngster, Farrington. I hope this foal shares his uphill elegance and Joline's je ne ce qua in the brain department. I know if will be pretty whether a filly or a colt. For right now I want good health for both mom and foal...and
I WANT THE DARN SUCKER TO GET HERE. and I want sleep.
Got my alarms set on my trusty Iphone and am ready. Come on Joline.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I have been a witness to countless deliveries of new foals in the course of being a breeder for 20 some odd years and each experience is amazing to me. It is the transition point of the arrival of a new being from one realm into another. To this point in time, this foal has only existed in its safe cocoon in the mare’s womb for 11 months or more, floating in the warm darkness with zero stress, a world of peace, in a sensory deprivation chamber with no idea of what will be once the gates open and it is pushed into this bright and noisy world.
I have had the opportunity several times now, with my vet’s guidance, to reach inside a pregnant mare to feel the shape of the unborn foal and that is a trip. Reaching across realities, to touch and connect with a living thing from the future, a being not yet in our reality, and yet is, gives me thoughts of wondering where exactly the line of life really begins, and ends too. They seem to get closer and fuzzier.
On the farm here and now, we wait, and wait for this new foal. First and foremost is my concern for the mare and her health, and her foal’s. Joline is not a spring chicken and is moving slower with each day and each foal that she brings into this world. She waddles from her shed to the water tank and ambles back to nibble some hay she overlooked and sighs. I check constantly for signs of any sort indicating a coming delivery. Since most mares like to foal during the wee hours of the night, this checking is more frequent then. When she is good and well ready tho, it will inevitably happen and hopefully all go well. New life will begin for this foal. Joline will be a mom, again and do all the duties that moms have to do to get their offspring introduced to this reality, and how to survive it.
Today is also the 25th birthday of my second daughter, Collins. I remember each moment of the day she arrived and just how beautiful she was from the beginning. Her full spirit and her high level of energy were apparent from the first moment they handed her to me and this wonderful characteristic has never changed. It can be like pure sunshine pours in when she enters a room. I am in disbelief too, that it has been so long since she arrived, and yet it was, only yesterday. Collins lives in Colorado and so won’t be here for a birthday blessing with the cake and ice cream with us, so I hope that she gets to really celebrate it there with her friends.
All births are so unique and special points, marking our beginnings in this world’s reality. We have such a limited and unknown quantity of time here that I think that each passing birthday, for everybody, should be celebrated and heralded to the fullest possible way with hats, whistles, balloons, and all the fluff. It is important to connect to that place we came from, celebrate our inner child, and be happy to be here.
Just maybe Joline will be kind enough to give us a birthday present of a new filly, or colt today to mark and celebrate Collins’ 25 year celebration. That would be neat, but that's up to Joline and we shall just have to wait and see on that.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
After heading into town for a much needed appointment with my bone crusher, chiropractor, good witch, saint, healer, Dr. Brock, I came back home and let the afternoon unfold into various computer chores and stuff around the house. When it came time for afternoon feeding all the dogs were once again geared up for our ritual, barking, running, and being nuts and off we went to the barn.
I caught a glimpse of two red ears perked our way as we got closer to the barn, sitting quite still at the edge of the woods, so I knew at least one of the foxes was still in the neighborhood. During the course of my tossing food to the horses Marley went to check out the den area and found the foxes and once again it was game time for foxes and dogs. Their exchange was mesmerizing, a game of the foxes first running away from Marley, then stopping as they had done before, turning to face Marley, coming back towards her and then they would all sit and stare intently at each other. At one point there were two adult foxes and Marley sitting about 20 ft apart in a triangle, just watching and waiting.
I had really worried about the German Shepherd, Heidi getting involved with these critters and actually catching one and worse, when she gave such serious chase the other day, and I had given her the riot act for disobeying my come back orders. So when I heard her bark this time, I went over to the den area and hollered for her to come. She didn’t. I was really mad and frustrated at this point, ready to give her holy hell when ever she came back, and then turned to go back to the barn and nearly tripped over her sitting very attentively at the back of my legs. She had this really puzzled look on her face, like “What Lady…? Lost your mind again?” I apologized to her and obligingly gave her a good long scratch on her belly and she seemed ok with this.
It is probably a really good thing that most of us have dogs before we try to raise real children. There is just so much room for errors and mistakes in the discipline of either. Our first dog, another Australian Terrorist, Almyrie, was raised in our apartment and would from time to time get really pissed off at our leaving him alone and would take vengeance by destroying something or letting a big number two in a place you would least expect. He once managed to pull an enormous potted fern off a wire rack, onto the floor where it broke into a massive pile of dirt, shards of pottery, and leaves, somehow escaping it landing on his head. This type of thing was typical of his rants.
Then one day we came home and found him sheepish about something. A quick check of the apartment found a huge brown pile of fresh poo on the far side of our bed. Mark and I were both livid and hollered at the pup, rubbed his nose in the offensive stuff, tossed him out the back door, and I got a paper towel to clean it up. Uupps. It wasn’t poop. Thick brown yarn, from a throw pillow that had seen better days, but looked every bit the part. We had a hard time convincing the poor bewildered puppy that we were really sorry to have made such a big deal punishing him over that yarn. If he had been a child we probably all still be in therapy, but that’s what I love about dogs. They are in the moment and are such good forgivers.
Back at the barn, the foxes and Marley were continuing their games, when suddenly Jack, the previously scribed “Poor Puppy” caught sight of the fun, had to get him some, and took off. Out of sight went the two foxes leading the two terriers at full speed. The foxes kept messing with the dogs, pretending to tire, encouraging the dogs to keep trying, they might make it. After quite a while of this and a lot of running, the two terriers gave up the chase and finally made it back to the barn. Both of them were totally spent, tongues as far out of their mouths as possible, panting harder than I have ever witnessed, laid out on their bellies on the concrete floor. I thought, great, back to the vet with Jack, this time with a coronary. Jack did finally recover his breath. Marley was faster since she is more active than he, but both spent the evening not moving, seriously resting.
The evening also marked the first night of real foal watch for my elderly mare Joline, who is due any day with another baby. I have the remote camera set up in the barn and a wireless receiver on a tv here at the house, where I can wake up every few hours and take a peek and see what’s going on, which is way easier than the hourly walks to the barn all night, or dozing there. A new foal is always exciting to welcome to the world, to see whether filly or colt, what color, if it’s healthy, and what does it move and look like. Then there is also the name to pick.
The social changes will transform the herd dynamics for about a week and the mares will be silly and there will be much whinnying and carrying on, so not much riding will get done. I will most likely take advantage of this and get back to doing some more paintings in preparation of our new gallery opening at some point in the not too distant future. I had stopped painting after the death of Atlas, the studio felt so sad and the air was so heavy. With a bit of incense, a bit of extra light in the room, I think I am now ready to press on. Life does seem to work that way, with its ups and downs. It rolls on no matter what and I am just glad to still be on the ride.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Yesterday afternoon I watched the last trailer head out of my driveway, taking the last rider and horse away from a four day dressage clinic with Jeff Moore and suddenly felt very tired. It had been a fabulous 4 days of intense instruction from Jeff, a total immersion into the psychology, physiology, and bio dynamics of both horse and rider, using tactics and techniques to entice the horse into compliance with our dressage wishes.
Very little that Jeff teaches is main stream, typically taught dressage banter. Some call him the dressage heretic because of his unconventional teaching and training methods, and yet what he shares with us has results with horses that move better and riders that become more than mere passengers with no influence, and without doing battle. He pushes a rider to think independently about how to address the animal, and the issue, prioritize, then keep whimsically trying something until the horse figures it out. This clinic was amazing in that all the horses and riders made such dramatic improvements and had so many "ah hah" moments. It was just a great time, but my post clinic martini was a chilly and welcome, soothing balm to my tired, wind, sand, and sun battered self.
Recently I had been hearing from a very nice lady to whom I had sold a very nice and promising colt a few years back, about some problems this colt was now giving her with his training, and that the relationship had soured to becoming confrontational. The lady was understandably frustrated with him and it sounded mutual. I had encouraged her before the clinic to bring this fellow to ride with Jeff to see what he could do to help, but a busy show season took her priority instead. She then wrote me to tell me that she had now decided to sell him. This was very sad news to me both as a friend to this lady, and as the breeder of this wonderful horse.
Breeding horses for a business means that most of the relationships I make with a horse will be limited to the time they stay here, until they sell to a new owner and move away. They come into this world in my barn and I am the first human they encounter. I become a surrogate mother and new boss mare, after they are weaned from their dams, and I lead them into becoming usable horses for someone else when I start them under saddle. When they arrive they are a blank black board and develop their unique personalities as they are handled and grow up in the herd. Daily, I watch them and know how they operate and what they like and don't. They are my creation, a living form of art using genetics instead of paint. I have a deep love and bond for each horse that I have bred or spent time training and when they move on to new owners my hope is that they will find friendship and a good working relationship along with a compassionate and caring home situation. I want them all to find a better spot than they were born with. I want the new owners to feel the same or better about their horse as I did when they were mine. Regrettably this doesn't always work out. I know this lady was taking excellent care of this boy but there is a clash of something going on here. It is very disappointing to me and I wish things could be different for her and for this horse, and I do hope they can find a way to work it out still.
Classical dressage style, which is the norm for most dressage riders here in the USA because that's what got filtered over here from the Germans, who were once the leading winners in the riding world . The basis for most of the techniques they used were designed long time back for the cavalry and for men who would be riding very strong, and very strong willed, horses, not for women with different body types, and not for the sensitive type horse. Its premise follows a path that has little room for innovation and creativity, rather dictatorial in a "You vill do as I say, or else" mentality. That's fine as long as it fits the rider or that particular horse.
When it doesn't fit, things can get very stuck in the training progression and it's usually right there when the horse is working up to doing 2cd level work when higher degrees of collection and expression of the horse's gaits are required, as well as more agility, strength, and precision. This is the point of doom for many horse and rider combinations and that's precisely where this lady and horse are regrettably. So something has to change, and it may be a new owner or it could be a change in routine, or method.
Jeff Moore is a very different teacher as I have said. His mentor was the late Baron Von Blixen, (yes the same Von Blixen family as were portrayed in Out of Africa). The Baron once had two horses in the Olympics that he had trained, in two different disciplines. Since rules didn't allow riders to compete on two horses then, a friend rode one and the Baron rode the other. Both won the gold. His training was based on the thought that if you can control the placement of the feet of the horse, especially the front ones, then the rest would follow in balance, without the forced "drive them until they get lighter in front" of the classical way
I have seen folks, been one myself, take lessons with either the Barron and with Jeff, and whose brains had been thoroughly loaded with the classical stuff, have the light bulb come on when this radical approach to the issue was given to them and, if they tried it, found the results were amazing. I have also seen folks leave the ring in tears because they couldn't let go of their model of how they thought it must be. For some, being outside the box is scary and humiliating. My first years of riding with Jeff were a total puzzle to me as to the why of it all, but I saw such dramatic improvement in the way my horses went and I became a believer in the heretic's teachings. What I love the most about the thing is, Jeff always says to try stuff and if doesn't work, try something else, and above all else, be whimsical.
Whimsy. Think outside the box. Training horses is never a straight path. Most relationships of any sort are on uncharted paths. They take work, thought, and creativity to grow and change together. I sincerely hope that this horse and lady can find a new path from the one they are colliding on and make it work, and be happy and competitive once again.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
This drawing is the oldest drawing I have that I did when I was maybe 9 yrs old, and you can see where my head was then, and still is. Horses.
There has not been a Derby run that I have missed watching the live race, via tv, since I was in junior high at least, and that's been a few decades give or take. This Saturday, tho, I very unintentionally, managed to miss the whole thing.
Mark and I, very regrettably, had obligations to be somewhere this particular afternoon, and so we first figured that we could take a small portable tv and hope for a signal, but then, not wanting to count on this working and have it not, we figured to let our home tv just record the whole thing, not turn on any media or listen to anyone who had seen it, and then we could experience the whole thing a bit later when we got home.
Once home from the outing, we looked to finish the evening off with a blissfully ignorant watch of the Derby. Mark turned on the tv and guess what, no friggin recording on it. Gone. Nothing. Like missing Alabama win the championship. Well, that's up for debate. Our intelligent tv had super ceded Mark's assigned recording this event, and it had by itself chosen something we might like more...ahahhahahhhhh, I thought without uttering the scream I wanted. Mark felt terrible, but it wasn't his fault. Just a sheer technological nightmare, and I was thinking thoughts of Hal telling "Dave? Don't do that, Dave...Daisy , daisy..."
This week has been devoted to getting the farm, and the horses ready for the Jeff Moore Dressage Clinic, I am hosting here running Tues thru Friday. I have been cleaning stalls, tack, horses, bush hogging acres and acres, and have been trying to cover all the thousands of details coordinating incoming riders and their horses, and a clinician, so that the next four days might run as smoothly as possible. I had been hoping the weather gods would smile our way. They have by sending four inches of rain which dampened the sand arena before it mostly drained into the pond. This was a seriously much needed dampening after Sunday's howling winds which had whipped the dry sand into tall billowing tornadic shaped cones that rose and the left for parts unknown.
Last night I got the dreaded call from a very weary clinician, somewhere on a Texas runway, had been for 7 hrs, to tell me that he wasn't going to be here tonight. So I will pick him up from the airport in a few minutes and we will get started whenever. It does take flexibility to run or attend a dressage clinic, citing "the best laid plans" mantra. We will all enjoy this total immersion into our passion for learning and working with these horses during these next four days, but it does come at a price, work and stress.
It is such a luxury to be doing something so fun like riding in a dressage clinic and focusing on that, and to enjoy things like watching horse races on tv. There is a real world out there, tho, still churning, and for a while I will try to put out of mind my rage over the insanity of the ecological disaster that is happening as I write, that has no real answer or and no quick cure. The carelessness of this BP oil mess is ruining one of the largest eco diverse niches on the planet, and for what. So we can postpone the fact that we must change how we view our stewardship of this big green rock we call home, Earth, the mother ship of all of our lives. The people whose lives this will crush, all the poor animals that will die, and the huge area that will be a dead zone for who knows how long, just makes sick to think about.
For now, today , and for the next four, I will compartmentalize, do the things I need to do to keep this small system on this farm going, feed and look after these animals, keep the details of this clinic going, and hope no one falls off their horse or cries, or has any problems at all. I will also keep thinking and remembering, very seriously, about just how lucky and privileged I am to be doing so.