Saturday, February 09, 2008

evening with horses, solo

Today when I got home from my novel-writing workshop, I went straight to the barn to finish up chores before dark. Salina had refused to eat her breakfast because I've added a new supplement, so I gave her a second chance and she was ready. I have to separate her from Rafer now, or he'll nose in and eat right along with her!

I turned the radio in the barn to NPR, promised the geldings I'd come let them out of the back field in a minute, and mucked out my last stall of the day while Salina ate.

It was near 70 degrees and a pitch-perfect Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining, horses were happy, and there was no place else I had to be. When Salina finished I put her back in front with Rafer and then let the boys join them. I tossed some more hay, and decided to scrub water troughs and watch the herd. Yesterday I took a chair out to the front field and sat in the edge of a little copse of trees. Rafer stood with me much of the time, his head on my shoulder, and Salina stayed close too. Today, though, I watched from the water troughs.

It wasn't long before the galloping began. I kept my eye on Rafer, to make sure he was able to stay safe with the big guys running. At one point they all ran down the hill, out of sight. As they circled and came back up, all I could do was listen to the thunder of hooves and hold my breath, hoping Rafer was out of the way. When they crested the hill I saw all the horses in one long line, and little Rafer was in the lead! It was hilarious to see this tiny donkey leading the way.

I finished my chores just as dusk fell, and everyone came up to the barn, ready for quiet time and hay. I love when I've gotten everything set up ahead of time, and all I have to do is open the stall doors and let them walk in. Keil Bay loves having his hay waiting for him.

As much work as it is solo, there's also something gratifying and very peaceful about doing evening chores alone. Nothing else quite compares to walking the little path from barn to house, knowing they're all settled in, safe and satisfied.


Victoria Cummings said...

I am so in love with Rafer- He sounds like a cross between a horse and a dog, not a little donkey. Your quiet time is so necessary for balancing all the other hectic, although interesting, activities in your life. With rain and snow here yesterday, I long for those 70 degree days that you are describing! And that feeling you describe of walking back to the house, knowing the horses are safe and happy is like tucking your children cozy into their beds.

billie said...

Victoria, I wish you could visit with him in person. He does this thing, when you're down on the ground or in a chair, where he positions his head and yours so he can look with one of his eyes right into yours. He will just gaze and gaze, like he's reading your mind and transmitting love. It's more dog-like than horse-like - I get a similar thing with the horses but it doesn't always come through the eyes, with them. Rafer really loves being close that way.

We experienced this when we visited him on his farm - our visits were always in the pasture with he and his herd-mates, and they would make a circle around us and take turns walking up to look us in the eye and lay their heads on our shoulders. Rafer, even from the beginning, at a month old, would insist on being with us and he'd cut in front of the other donkeys (his mother, even) to get close to us.

It was clear right away why miniature donkeys are used in therapy sometimes, and taken to rest homes, etc. They don't mirror so much as they just transmit Love.

Perfect for clients who need to go back and do work on attachment issues, and the very early bonding process.

Rising Rainbow said...

I watch the mini donks on marestare during foaling season. They are so sweet with their new babies.

billie said...

What is marestare??

Rafer's mom, Contessa, was such a sweet one. She's black, like Salina, so I wonder if that helped him settle in so quickly.

Matthew said...

Thank you for doing all the animal chores so the kids and I can be in the mountains this weekend. See you soon!

Grey Horse Matters said...

Rafer sounds so loving and wonderful, I am considering getting a mini donkey, but don't know how the horses would treat one. I wouldn't want a little guy to get hurt. But they are so adorable.

billie said...

Rafer's breeder does not normally sell miniature donkeys as companions to horses - she takes it case-by-case and I think what convinced her to give us a try was the fact that we have a 12.2h pony and I went into huge detail with her about each of our horses and their personalities. Ironically, the pony is the last one to accept Rafer!

She does have a clause in the sales agreement that if Rafer doesn't bond with the herd w/in 30 days we would give him back to her with a full refund.

We have taken the meeting process very slowly. The first day, one of us was in the paddock with Rafer at all times, while he got to meet the horses two by two through the fences. We brought each horse individually into the paddock on a lead line toward the end of the day and Cody was the most respectful of Rafer's space and yet curious at the same time. So he was allowed off the lead line and the two of them bonded enough that Rafer stayed with Cody for the night - in a stall open to a paddock so they had plenty of room to move around and get out of one another's space if they needed to.

It went on from there - meticulously turning the horses out w/ Rafer one by one and then two by two. It's just this Friday that they had a few hours all together, with me in the field with them, and again yesterday. Today they were all out all day w/o me being right there, and it worked fine.

They haven't been allowed to be together with access to the stalls, though, b/c I don't want them to trap him inside a stall - either inadvertently or on purpose. It will be awhile before I trust them all enough to do that.

You could always get more than one mini donkey and keep them separate from the horses. :)

billie said...

Oh, and Matthew, you're welcome. Hope you're all having fun!