Friday, May 16, 2008

just another day on the hill

After several years of seeing 3 crows everywhere I go, there has been a shift. For almost two weeks now, I'm seeing 1 crow instead. The crows have always represented my books - when the 3 first appeared, it was when I had suddenly gone from one novel to three. I suspect this shift to 1 has something to do with my intention to focus on the second one until I get it out there. It certainly gave me pause and a very potent reminder when I looked out the window and there was ONE.

Today was a Cody ride, and what a pleasure it was. Sunshine, a cool breeze, and a willing, soft horse. He was quite happy to hang out at the barn after breakfast to get some hay and a good grooming before we tacked up. Keil Bay stood in his stall and reached his muzzle out to me every time I walked by getting Cody ready. He wanted his own ride, but he got a grooming and his own hay, so he was happy.

Even Apollo Moon came to the barnyard to hang out, which is a rare occasion. Dickens (who I today started calling Whickens for no good reason except it was fun to say) was NOT quite sure he liked having his territory encroached upon. Nothing dramatic happened, just this bit of posturing and then the daughter sent them off to sulk at being thwarted in their masculine display.

Cody and the pony went out front, but Keil Bay seemed offended that he wasn't being ridden nor was he being given a special barnyard privilege. So of course I gave in and let him come in with Salina and Rafer Johnson. Rafer was working hard at remembering the good things that come with halters. Butterscotch! You can see how awfully hard he worked.

It's hard to believe he is heading quickly to being a one-year old donkey. Quite the handsome young gentleman.

After awhile of hanging out and watching these three, a storm blew up, quite suddenly. The wind whipped and roared a bit, the sky was that scary greenish-grey, and I opened Salina and Rafer's stall door and said "go." Salina went. My daughter got Rafer's halter off and he went in too. Keil Bay came in the barn aisle and when I took his head and attempted to guide him into his stall, he raised his head and stopped. Will I never learn? I opened the stall door and pointed. "Go on in." And so he did.

We got hay doled out, the other two in, and left everyone munching calmly while the rain started to fall.


Victoria Cummings said...

I know a lot of people leave the horses out when the sky turns threatening and it starts to rain. But I think that most horses really appreciate being able to be inside. Ever since we had lightening strike our fence in the pasture, I'm quick to bring everyone in if a storm is coming. Rafer is so adorable - does he like to be hugged?

billie said...

My writing that I put them "in the stalls" is a bit misleading. I put them in through the barn aisle to get them out of the barnyard, but they all have rear doors to the stalls that open to their respective paddocks, and those remain open.

I close the gates to the fields to keep them somewhat contained when it rains a lot.

Every now and then when we have a terrible storm I do close them in the barn. I have struggled with what is right to do in that scenario. If we had 25 acres of pasture and they had that much space to run and seek their own shelter, I guess I would let them stay out.

But we have much less than that, and every fenced area has big trees. Thus far we've had two big ones come down, one brought a live power line with it. I just don't know if their instincts would keep them safe given the enclosed space and hazards like downed lines.

We've also known of a number of horses to get struck by lightning locally. Sometimes the horses were struck in open fields and other times they were standing under trees that got struck and the lightning went through the tree roots to the horse.

Thankfully we're not faced with the extreme weather TOO much!

Once at our old boarding barn we drove up just as a terrible storm hit, and all the horses were out, including ours. The wind was howling, the lightning was frequent and close, and it rained and hailed. I realized as we got into the barn aisle and got to the back end where we could see the horses that it was not going to be safe to go get them in.

When Keil realized no one was coming to get them, he gathered every horse out there into a cluster and kept them together and calm by circling them. He looked like an Etruscan horse marching around and around. It was the most incredible sight. I've seen him do that same thing one other time when it hailed here and they were way down in front. As soon as the hail stopped, I got him and the others followed up to the barn, but right up until I went down the hill, he kept them together, in a low spot, and circled.

Rafer grunts with donkey happiness when he gets hugs. As cute as he is, he gets a lot of them!

Grey Horse Matters said...

In my experience some horses will come in during a storm. We have run-in sheds, and I noticed all the horses will go in the sheds during a storm except Dusty and Blue the two quarter horses. I don't know if they think they are tougher than the rest. I've stood by the fence and called but no one comes, so apparently they like the rain. Like you we don't get too many big storms but if we do and I am at the farm, I will attempt to bring them in.
Rafer is just too adorable, isn't his little brother coming soon?

billie said...

Arlene, if I were designing my own farm from scratch, I'd have big pastures and deep run-ins, and a barn with a few stalls and paddocks to use as needed. It seems the most natural, efficient, horse-happy way to go.

Keil Bay's instinct is NOT to stay out if there's good shelter and hay available. :)

Redford is coming the end of summer - late August or early September. I can't believe there will be TWO of them here - we're so excited.

the7msn said...

I just want to reach through the screen and wrap my arms around Rafer's neck. You are going to have SO much fun when Redford arrives.

All of my boys have the option of coming in and out of the barn as they please, 24/7. On the rare occasion when it does rain, they will run in to the barn if they're closeby; otherwise, they'll back their butts into a tree and wait it out. When it rained last week, it also got VERY cold, and the horses have shed out their winter coats. By the time Lyle ran up to the barn to escape the rain, he was wet and shivering. I hate it when that happens. So I closed everybody in and tossed them all an extra flake of grass hay. Nothing like a little digestion to warm them up from the inside out.

billie said...

Linda, the shivering thing is another whole issue - I have seen Keil Bay shiver ONE time and it was so upsetting to me AND him. He was turned out at the boarding barn with no access to shelter and no blanket. I was horrified when I arrived and found him standing by the pasture gate shivering.

I know wild horses live/lived with rain and snow and worse, but given that mine are not wild, nor have they ever been, I will not stand by and allow them to shiver in cold rain. For us, that means giving them access to the barn and providing turn-out sheets to keep them dry.

And you're so right - some nice hay warms them up wonderfully!

They do stay out in the rain when it's warm and the rain is not associated with a storm front, and that they definitely enjoy. And I figure, it's a bath, courtesy of mother nature. :)

It's true, Rafer Johnson attracts hugs from people in the know. We've had several visitors who wanted to hug him but had no idea that it was a real possibility. He will stand very still when giving hugs, as well as when he's being groomed. He just loves being the recipient of that kind of hands-on attention.

The other day I was busily grooming Salina in the smaller barnyard and when I looked over at Rafer Johnson, he and my daughter were lying in the sun, side by side. I had no idea until we met Rafer that donkeys are such partners to humans.