Saturday, June 28, 2008

my morning poem

Every morning when I walk out to the barn, if I'm running on time and not late, this is what I see. And every time I see this, it makes me think of that Gerard Manley Hopkins poem that goes "Glory be to God for dappled things..."

Except in my mind it reads: "Glory be to god for donkey things" and continues, "and mares as black as night with one kind eye."

How in the world did GMH keep his poem of praise so short? Mine would go on and on.

And living here, it would have to end with a squeaky bray and a smile:

Friday, June 27, 2008

labyrinthine summer

The summer does feel labyrinthine this year, with lots of things going on, interweaving and moving in different directions all at the same time.


The actual labyrinth is coming along beautifully. I envision it being fully in place just about the end of summer, which will be a perfect time to complete the creation and begin to use it. I already feel the benefits of walking the path. Keil Bay is actively asking to go down the path with me.

I had an image of the wooden sign this morning as I walked up the path, and that will be a good art project for a rainy day.


I also had a major revelation about a garage art project I've been percolating for over a year. The back wall of our garage (the wall you see when you pull in the garage doors) and the stairwell up are both that bland putty color with white splotches where the studs are. It occurred to me awhile back that it would be fun to hire our favorite local mural artist to come work with us to create something magical.

This morning it hit me that what I'd like to do on the garage wall is a mural of our property - a sort of birds' eye view - which is based on what is now, but also includes what will be. An actual visualization of the farm we want to end up with as we live here and improve the place. We can include the labyrinth, the 100-Acre Wood, the Endless Possibility Pool, etc.

I LOVE the idea that instead of a wish list or a dreaded to-do list, I will have a mural. Each time I drive into the garage I'll spotlight the things I hope to create here.


Writing has been labyrinthine too. I worked daily for several weeks and am now doing a bit of research reading, following a whim I had while actively writing. It feels good to be on the path to finishing this novel up and getting it out there.

I do find myself circling back to the beginning and re-walking the story as I edit, and there's such a good feeling to this process of re-working and digging deeper with each circuit. I hadn't thought of the editing process as walking a labyrinth until just now, but the metaphor fits, for me.


One day this week I sent away hair and saliva samples from Keil Bay, for kinesiology testing and a full report and recommendations for herbal treatments as needed to balance his system. I've been reading the stories of a large number of horse owners who use this particular woman and they have kept fascinating records of their horses' progress on the herbs. The course of treatment, if needed, generally lasts from 3 weeks to 11 weeks depending on what is found. I talked at some length with the woman, and between her words to me directly and what she has achieved with these fellow riders, I am very excited about the testing. Once I see how this works with Keil Bay, I plan to do it for myself and then work my way through the herd.

She is running 4-6 weeks behind right now due to the number of clients she has, so it will be the end of July before I get results and recommendations. I'll post as things progress.


I've now started Salina on her rice bran meal supplement, which is added in to her "soup" of soaked pellets, flax, vits and minerals, and kelp. I wondered about this soupy mixture and how she would adapt to it, but she adores it -- and Keil Bay would dearly love to be put on the same routine.

I've reduced her feedings now from 4/day to 3, which is where I'll leave it for the time being. It's been less than a week and I already see she's gained a little weight, which she can afford to do. I suspect she is getting more of the nutrients this way than she was with the "whole" pellets.

The only downside to this is that she gets messy and needs to be sponged off on face and sometimes legs! But that's a small chore in exchange for peace of mind and ease of eating for the Queen.


So... a sampling of some of the paths I'm on this summer. Circling toward the fall.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Say hello to the newest member of the November Hill farm family - his name is Mystic and he was delivered to us this evening by our wonderful massage therapist. Her son rescued Mystic as a tiny kitten and they took excellent care of him until my daughter saw his photo, fell in love, and decided to adopt! She agreed to cover his neutering, gave him the perfect name, and now she is taking him under her wing.

Note in the photo that he is on her computer desk, and the "rack" behind him is meant to hold CDs! That's how tiny he is!

I updated the blackboard in our laundry room yesterday. It lists the names of all the non-human family members here at November Hill. On a silly whim one day, I decided to list them all on the board and it has now become a sort of placard of the menagerie. If anyone is counting, our census is up to 14.

Every time my daughter sees the total number, she ups it by one more. When she saw the big 14 I'd written in at the top of the board yesterday, she immediately said, "WE NEED 15!"

All I can say is... good thing she plans to go to vet school.

Welcome, Mystic. I'm certain you're going to stir things up around here. :)

Arte y Pico award

Victoria over at Teachings of the Horse gave this lovely award to camera-obscura and several other wonderful blogs. Thank you, Victoria - I so appreciate it.

The designer of this award has asked that the following be passed along with it:

The origin of the Arte y Pico Award: "This prize has arisen from the daily visits that I dedicate to many blogs which nourish me and enrich me with creativity. In them I see dedication, creativity, care, comradeship, but mainly, ART, much art. I want to share this prize with all those bloggers that entertain me day to day and to share this prize with those who enrich me every day. Doubtlessly, there are many and it will be hard to pick just a few. The people I will name today deserve this prize, as do the very long serious list of bloggers I also enjoy to read. But I will name the first 10 and leave the rest of the work to all the bloggers that visit other's blogs and are nourished by them.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stillwater - A Reprise

Thanks to a reader's comment, I learned just now that Tasha Tudor, one of my favorite children's authors and an inspiration in many ways, died on June 20th at the age of 92.

I suspect the charm of goldfinches that flew up before me on Friday and followed me from tree to tree down the driveway, chirping like mad, were honoring Tasha. That's just the sort of thing she would notice and love.

Tasha lived simply but surrounded by the richness of her gardens, her animal family, nature, and the many gifts she brought to the world via her books, paintings, and her living example of the very best way to spend a day.

In honor of Tasha, I'm reprising a post I wrote here on 27 April, 2007. As you will read below, Tasha advocates choosing Joy.

Thank you, Tasha. Go well.


"Just for fun, my family invented a religion like the Shakers we called Stillwater. I'm eldress, and we have a big celebration on Midsummer's Eve. It's really a state of mind. Stillwater connotes something very peaceful, you see, life without stress. Nowadays, people are so jeezled up. If they took some chamomile tea and spent more time rocking on the porch in the evening listening to the song of the hermit thrush, they might enjoy life more.

Stillwater believers are very hedonistic. Life is to be enjoyed, not saddled with. Do you know that lovely quotation from Fra Giovanni? He was an old monk from away back who wrote to his patron, 'The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy.' That's the first commandment of the Stillwater religion. Joy is there for the taking."

-Tasha Tudor, from The Private World of Tasha Tudor

*** I discovered Tasha Tudor when we got the corgyn - she has written and illustrated several children's books featuring the corgi. As I looked for more of her wonderful books, I came across her cookbook, which I love, and the above book, which is a favorite, full of her ramblings and the most marvelous photos of Tasha in the Vermont cottage built by her son.

Monday, June 23, 2008

summer solstice, a new star in our constellation, and a very long night

We were very busy on the longest day of the year. We finally met the stellar young miniature donkey Redford, who will be coming to join our family in a few short months. He is a lovely red sorrel with a white star, and very loving and quiet compared to the bold, take-charge Rafer Johnson. (who is also very loving, but Rafer has a more insistent personality, I think)

We have photos, but so many that I haven't had a moment to sort through them. I'll post one as soon as I can.

We were lucky enough to meet several other young donkeys, including one born only 24 hours earlier. All I can say is, never ever go visit donkeys if you don't want your own herd! They are simply adorable and will steal your heart given about 10 seconds. If we had more acres we would have come home owning not only Redford, but three others to boot. What a herd that would be!

Upon return home Rafer Johnson seemed to know we'd been visiting other donkeys, because he turned on the "I am the most loving donkey in the universe and here, let me show you just how many hugs I can give!" He has been all over me and daughter since we got back. I explained to him that Redford is very special and will be a good friend to us all, but that of course Rafer is the first donkey and the one who stole our hearts first.

The longest day turned into quite a long night for us as well. At her evening feed, Salina had a choke episode. We had a very brief and easily resolved choke episode with Cody a year ago, and thus knew what to do in the moment. However, it became obvious that Salina's was not clearing, so we called the vet, who had us monitor for 30 more minutes just to be sure, and then she headed on over.

At one a.m. Sunday morning Salina was sedated in the barn aisle with a tube all the way to the opening of her stomach, which is where the blockage was. It cleared instantly when the tube touched it. Salina was thankfully very calm during the entire ordeal, from beginning to end. Rafer became a little agitated, so I took him back to visit the geldings in the field while Salina was totally "out" and getting the tubing done. As she woke up, I brought him back, and he helped her wake up the rest of the way. Thank goodness for wonderful vets and for miniature donkeys who are as loyal and loving as can be to their human and equine family.

Salina is now having both feed and hay soaked, and I've split her two feed meals into four to reduce the amount going in at one time. I'll probably leave her off the black oil sunflower seeds, but will have to replace those calories with something different. I'll be researching that over the next few days. Her teeth were just checked and were great, so we're assuming this was just one of those bizarre things that happened.

It was a relief to see though that her usual easy demeanor with vet procedures is intact.

Update, for anyone interested in dietary horse stuff: I'll be adding in Max-E-Glo stabilized rice bran meal in place of the black oil sunflower seeds. It will soak well, add the extra fat and calories, and give her lots of good Vit. E and antioxidants. She's gobbling down the soaked hay, and the geldings seem to think it's some kind of treat. They keep grabbing mouthfuls of it as I pass by with her tub.

And Keil Bay is turning into a roping man this week. Every morning he's been taking a lead rope off the hook outside his stall and twirling it in the air while I get breakfasts ready. What a crew!

Friday, June 20, 2008

little gifts at the week's end

In the wee hours of the morning, 1-2 inches of rain.

Happy horses and a donkey full of hugs.

A floral paradise outside my front porch. Petunias, trumpet vines, roses, butterfly bushes, wild muscadine, pokeweed, dandelions, Queen Anne's lace, morning glories.

A charm of finches by the front walk today, who flew up into the sweet gum tree as I went to get the mail, and then followed me down the driveway, flying and chirping from tree to tree.

An exciting new health care partner for humans and horses. More on this in 4-6 weeks.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

new favorite fly spray

Quick tip: I've been using Nature's Defense last summer and again this one, and found we were having to reapply it several times a day. A friend recommended Espree, and I ordered a gallon of the concentrate b/c she's pretty picky and if she was touting this new product I trusted it would work.

We finished out our Nature's Defense concentrate and mixed up the first batch of Espree yesterday evening. It smells wonderful, and has a very soft "feel" to it. It's the first spray, even among the natural ones we've used, that I haven't minded putting in my bare hands and rubbing on horses' bellies and faces.

This morning when it was time for grooming, tick checks, and spraying, the horses lined up. Salina stood in the barn aisle waiting for her turn, and at one point went and touched the Espree spray bottle with her nose. Keil Bay refused to budge from his stall door, rubbing his neck against the top of the door. Cody went and stood at the gate to the small barnyard. They wanted their Espree!

The flies are not landing on the areas that have been sprayed. Salina went out in her paddock to graze (which she won't do if any biting insects are after her) and even out in the sunny barnyard, the green biting flies did not land on Keil Bay once I had sprayed him.

It's early to say I'm completely sold on this, but thus far, I'm very pleased and wanted to pass it on. Here's the blurb from the place I bought it:

Praised by horse owners, this all-purpose fly repellent combined with natural coat conditioners and sunscreens is incredibly effective. Espree's all natural non-irritating horse spray will aid in the control of flies, mosquitoes, gnats and other insects. Luxurious coat conditioners solve insect related skin problems. This gentle yet effective spray concentrate contains Citronella, Eucalyptus, and Cedarwood in a combination of Aloe and Mineral Oil that conditions the coat. Aloe Herbal fly repellent also contains a natural sunscreen.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

charmed by a charm of goldfinches

As I drove into our driveway on my way back from the feed store this afternoon, a charm of goldfinches flew up like a cloud of butterflies (with UFO capabilities, in their quick up and down motion) and then arched up to the top of an oak tree in the front field.

I was completely charmed. I've certainly seen goldfinches many times - they have always shown up when I plant echinacea - but normally I see them one or two at the time. Today it was a charm of goldfinches. And I am delighted to be able to use that term - charm of goldfinches - in a sentence.

I spent an hour or so unloading stuff into the barn, sponged off horses with their fly spray, and did the bit of mucking there was to do. Then I came bouncing inside to read about goldfinches in Ted Andrews' Animal-Speak.

My goodness!

Black and yellow are the colors of the archangel Auriel... oversees the activity of nature spirits -- the fairies, elves, and devas... the presence of goldfinches usually indicates an awakening to the activities of those beings that are normally relegated to the realm of fiction... awakening to that which is normally hidden from view.

Goldfinches like border areas.. the 'Tween Places. Goldfinches are rarely silent, a reminder that Nature is speaking to us constantly.

The goldfinch has an undulating flight pattern... can be used in visualization to help loosen the subtle energies of the aura and facilitate leaving the body... also reflects the ability of the goldfinch to lead us to the inner and outer realms, from human to Faerie, from physical to spiritual.

What a lovely way thing to come home to - I am triply charmed.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

full moon's walk to the labyrinth

It was such an amazing walk down today I am popping in to share it!

On the first portion of the path, there are newly blooming sunflowers that have come up from some undigested black oil sunflower seeds I give the horses. They are in a row, as if planted there on purpose, and as busy as I am, without the time to garden, I view them as gifts.

A few steps from the sunflowers, I looked down and saw a beautiful box turtle digging a hole. It was the same kind of turtle whose empty shell we found the day we first looked at this house and property, and the then owners allowed us to take the shell home with us. We still have it on our nature shelf.

The turtle symbolizes an invitation to enjoy the blessings of both heaven and earth, and also longevity. I gently moved this box turtle off the path, so she wouldn't be in the way of the wheelbarrow. By the time we came back up, she had disappeared.

Further along the path today, in the dusky early evening forest, a branch had fallen and landed in the shape of Kano, the rune of opening and renewed clarity. It often heralds the beginning of a venture, the morning of an activity or project.

As my daughter and I came out to the labyrinth itself, she reminded me that she had heard the crow down there just minutes before. I have continued to see just one crow on a daily basis, and one morning earlier this week, when I walked down with the wheelbarrow, I found the crow literally walking the labyrinth.

As she was telling me about hearing the crow, I looked up and spotted a large doe on the crest of the hill watching us. Deer often call us to new adventures, and if you've ever come across a deer that bounds away, you probably felt the slight urge to follow. She was in the open, and we were pushing the squeaky wheelbarrow and not at all being quiet. The doe stood and watched us for several minutes, as we walked all the way down to the end and formed the next few feet of the labyrinth with our load.

Just as I tipped the wheelbarrow, my daughter exclaimed "Look - it's a crow feather!" The doe bounded away in giant leaps, spanning the distance from clearing to wood line in only a few strides. I looked down and there was a gorgeous black crow's feather, in the middle of the very end of the path, behind us. That we had managed to wheel and step past it without crushing it made it all the more special.

We brought it up, and listened to the horses blowing in the field as they grazed.

I hope everyone is enjoying similarly exciting summertime journeys.

An added note on Wednesday morning: if you are reading this today, notice that the Word of the Day is labyrinthine! What a perfect synchronicity.

Friday, June 13, 2008

the porch beckons

Finally got a shot of the trumpet vine making its way steadily onto the front porch! I'm taking a break from the internet for a bit. Enjoy the season!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

taking another break

I'm in one of those moods where the internet is feeling like a big giant drain. It happens a couple of times a year, and I've found if I shut it off for awhile I get my balance back.

So that's what I'm doing!

Hope everyone stays cool, writes great pages, and has loads of fun with horses and donkeys - see you later!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

rolling with the heat wave

It's been an interesting few days with this heat. Sunday, the hottest day thus far (101.8 in the shade according to my thermometer outside) my husband had to go pick up a refrigerator from my parents' house. They have gotten new appliances and generously offered to let us have their "old" fridge - much newer and more spacious than ours, so we accepted.

So off he went, in the un-AC'd Jimmy pulling our horse trailer to haul the refrigerator home. He had to remove the refrigerator doors, which meant a trip to Home Depot for a specific tool. Getting that thing from the trailer into our kitchen was a sort of nightmare. (especially since it was done in the dark of night) I'll leave the details to your imagination. By midnight, the new refrigerator was reassembled, plugged in, and cooling to get ready for the switchover.

Yesterday, Monday, I woke up feeling pretty good even though the forecast had been revised and we were looking at yet another 100+ day. We had hay, a new refrigerator, and our wonderful massage therapist was due to arrive at noon, to give Keil Bay an equine massage, and then come inside to do a hot stone massage for me.

Sweating through morning chores, I fed breakfast, did waters, gave hay, and walked my long walk down the hill, remembering that I was not dumping manure, but making a labyrinth. This was momentarily cast aside when I saw that the dear husband had taken some liberties with my labyrinthine path. There were several very un-labyrinthine piles in the very path itself. I grumbled all the way back up the hill. It was without doubt the sort of stomping, grumbling walk that screams Out of Balance.

When I got to the barn, there was silence. SILENCE. For a very brief moment I enjoyed it, and then I realized why the silence was unsettling. The fans were off. I had turned them on. Something was wrong with the fans. On a 100+ day.

I checked the plugs, checked the fuse box, and then it occurred to me to check the lights. The power was out. Which meant no more water from the well. I went inside, and found that the power was out in the house as well. Which meant no AC, no telephones. I took my cell phone out to the trustworthy clear-signal-spot on the deck. For five minutes, every time I tried to call out, it switched to roaming status and a recording informed me I could not complete the call.

I finally got calls in to the power company and my husband. Apparently there was a power outage in our entire area, and although they were aware of it and working on it, they had no idea what exactly caused it or when it would be fixed.

I proceeded to spread the virus of crisis to my daughter, who, in her wise way, just looked at me and said "It'll probably be over in 30 minutes. Just relax."

It's a very sobering and proud moment when one's 11-year old daughter comes through with such wisdom and calm in a moment of stress. She does this often, and I took a breath and tried to relax.

When the massage therapist arrived I was somewhat calm. We went out to the barn and decided to do Keil Bay's massage under the huge pin oak by the barn. This pin oak has a lot of good energy. I think of it as the winter solstice tree, and in the summer its shade is where we do most of our hosing off of horses. It's a good tree.

But I was agitated, and babbling about the electricity, a revelation I'd had about Keil Bay's training, and a dozen other things that kept popping up inside my head. I was not centered. Keil Bay would not settle into his body work.

We worked with him for a few minutes and I kept talking. He kept fussing. Then the fans came on, and we decided to go in the barn aisle and try again. This time, hushed by the fans, reveling in the wonders of electricity, I stopped talking. Keil Bay settled down and let himself relax into the motion of H's hands as she worked the muscles and did her magic.

As is pretty common with Keil Bay, he answered the question of the moment - how do I get this horse to stand still? Stop talking like a tape recorder. Hit the pause button on my own mind racing forward. He also answered the bigger issue I've been struggling with about how to proceed with our work together in the saddle. I need to stop trying to hire translators when I already know his language. The work with Keil Bay and me is just that - OUR work. He can teach me what I need to know.

When he was done, he took a walk around the barnyard, showing off his glossy coat, gorgeous dapples, and his characteristic swinging panther walk stride. It was like the exclamation point at the end of a sentence. You Got It, says Keil Bay. In the moment, and in the bigger picture.

Inside, my own massage was wonderful. The stones are such a presence, and H. remarked that she loved seeing all the stones around our house. They are in every room, grounding and centering.

My daughter headed out to the barn as I was beginning the massage, to hose Salina and check on everyone else. The air was blowing, the water was flowing. We'd weathered the morning's curve ball.

If while reading this you had the thought that my stomping up the labyrinth path, angry at a few misplaced piles of poop, just might be connected with the entire area losing power for several hours, you are not alone. I thought that too. My temper flared and it wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that just as I rounded the curve to the uppermost part of the path, let loose with a few expletives, and got into perfect stomping form, the fuses blew. In a many-mile radius. I often find that when I get completely whacked out, the universe obliges me with some very literal metaphors. And to the degree that my little hissy fit contributed to the cessation of fans and ACs and well pumps all over the county, I apologize. I do suspect given this streak of heat we're having there were probably a chain reaction of hissy fits that added up to one gigantic fuse blowing.

Today we're looking at high nineties and hopes for a thunderstorm this evening. We could use it. The thunder and rain and flashes of lightning are the perfect antidote to extreme heat and swelter of southern summer. All my life growing up in the south, the thunderstorms punctuated the heat and the intensity. The temps would rise, tensions build, tempers flare. Hissy fits would be thrown. And then the crashing and booming and hard rain would blow it up and wash it all away.

This is exactly what we need, and I'm going to be thinking about it as the day rolls on. Waiting for nature's cathartic solution to the heat. Saved from another hissy fit by a wise daughter, a good massage, and Keil Bay's "you feel it, I act it out for you" approach.

More when the heat breaks.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

making hay while the sun shines

Yesterday evening I rode with my husband to pick up a load of hay, our first of the season from the favored local growers we love. I had never been to the hay farm before. We went first by the house, where his wife showed me around, offered to give me a seedling of a lovely umbrella tree I admired come fall, and then led us down the country road to the field where the hay was being baled and stacked.

On the way out a great blue heron sailed in and landed on a dead tree in the pond.

The part of the county where we were is simply stunning. It looks like something out of an old movie, and it almost seemed like time slowed down as we drove, slowed down and then rolled backward.

The hay grower's wife helped my husband load bales and I counted. When we were done, and had written a check, she asked if we'd be okay to wait a few minutes because the hay stacker was on its way with another load and she didn't want us to meet on the narrow dirt driveway on our way out. A young man helping out brought a glass of cold water to my sweating husband. We stood and watched until suddenly the tractor, hay stacker, and a cloud of dust came barreling down the lane.

He backed it up expertly and deposited 517 more bales with the already huge number under the gigantic shelter. I don't think I've ever seen that much hay.

To someone who has horses and has stressed over finding good hay, lived through a year of drought, and paid top dollar all winter, this was akin to standing by a bank vault holding millions of dollars stacked in piles. Wealth, indeed.

Even more charming though was the chance to see the hay come in from the field, listen as the men talked about a broken belt that would delay the baling, the thousands of dollars it would cost to replace it, and laugh because what else could they do? Curse, I suppose, but they went with the flow of the moment, which was selling good hay to happy horse folk, who felt the price was more than fair and were somewhat pie-eyed at the sheer amount of the green stuff under that shelter. Not to mention mightily impressed with how much care and knowledge and risk goes into making hay.

There was something quite magical about the evening, hot as it was, with the slight edge of crisis cutting the sweet scene.

My husband asked on the way home if I might one day write a story about him. This is as close as it comes, right now. He careened down the road while I fussed about the speed. We both remarked on how wonderful it would be to live on several hundred acres with all that rolling grass and the big century old trees guarding the farm houses. Dealing with the heat and the rain and broken belts.

We stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up sherbet and popsicles. He was covered in hay dust and wore rubber muck boots, and didn't want to go in. But he did, and the timeless quality of the evening extended a bit further. The way the light was in the grocery and the bits of hay being left along the way reminded me of the open air market my father ran for a brief time when I was little.

So the story wasn't one I'd written, but it was one we lived for a couple of hours, that started years before and made a circle back to itself. Little girl in the open air market eating the rare white twinsicle, who wanted nothing more than a horse. Woman in a small town grocery store, walking out into the hot dusk to a horse trailer filled with hay, carrying lime and orange sherbet and lime bars and hoping they wouldn't melt before she got home.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

extreme heat

We've had unusually high temps the past few days, and today's forecast is 100, tomorrow's is 101, and Monday's is 99. With the humidity factored in, the heat index is even higher.

Thankfully it looks like we'll be back to a high of 90 on Tuesday, with the chance for rain 4-5 days in a row next week. We'll need it by then - the blazing sun and high temps with no rain is doing a number on the pasture.

We struggled with several weeks of extremely high temps each summer for the past few years, and I have a routine for dealing with it. This hot spell caught me off guard though - it's usually August when this happens!

We do night-time turn-out once the daytime temps consistently hit 90, so that the horses can enjoy their grazing during the cooler part of the 24-hour day. I don't lock them in stalls, but I do close up the barn from the sun, turn the big fans on, and give them hay in their mangers so they can munch and rest. Yesterday, in spite of the high temps, there was a breeze, so I also put some hay in the shady parts of paddocks, and they self-regulated most of the day, moving between the stalls and the shaded areas, finding their own comfort.

When it's this hot I also offer cool hosing at least twice during the day. Keil Bay and Salina will nearly always opt to be hosed, and I focus on chest and neck, then groin. Cooling these areas seems to offer the quickest and most effective relief.

On really hot days, when the heat index is over 100, I also offer cold water sponging in between the two hosings. Yesterday even Rafer Johnson, who thus far has not wanted water put on him at all, acquiesced and allowed his chest and neck to be sponged down.

I'm even more meticulous with the water in their drinking tubs than normal when the temps go up. I keep the levels in the big tanks low so I can dump and scrub and refill daily or twice daily, and I make sure their stall buckets stay clean and cool as well. Normally for temps this hot I'd put out big buckets of water with an equine electrolyte mixed in. I've found this is very useful in keeping them hydrated, and they will drink these tubs dry when the weather is this hot.

Today I don't have the electrolyte we normally use - Quench, made by Horsetech, and it's not sold locally so I can't get it. I'm debating whether to go get some Apple A Day from the feed store right now. I love the Quench because it has NO sugar or artificial flavoring or sweeteners. They drink both fine. In a pinch, you can use Gatorade mixed with water.

We muck many times a day during the summer, so the stalls stay clean and comfy.

Fortunately these very hot spells don't last too long, and what feels like incredibly oppressive heat shifts back to just the usual heat of summer.

Friday, June 06, 2008

sounds of summer

This morning when I went out to the barn I realized we've gone full-blown into summer routine and its unique chorus of sounds. First out the gate is Rafer Johnson's bray, which is a combination of "good morning" and "I'm ready for my breakfast!"

In the barn, the new nest of swallow babies chirp madly because they too want breakfast. Fortunately someone else is in charge of that, and her flapping wings are, for now, the next note in the unfolding barn song.

On these warm summer mornings I turn on the fans, and once I flip the switch, the barn fills with the low rush of air blowing. We have three big industrial fans, which are hung up high so they create air flow without blowing directly into horses' faces. The effect is nice, and it keeps the barn comfortable. The sound ends up being much like that of ocean surf - it takes on a constant, background quality that can be quite soothing and hypnotic.

Once I get into the feed room, Keil Bay's melodic voice is the next bit of music to my ears. He has a very special whinny that conveys his eagerness for breakfast and love of all things "food."

Like Keil Bay, I love the little sounds of black oil sunflower seeds being scooped, the shhhh sound as I pour in the supplements, and the snap snap of carrots being divided up between feed tubs. The apples make a satisfying thump.

Depending on how slowly I'm moving, there may be a loud BANG when Keil Bay uses his knee on the stall door to hurry me along.

Even with the fans going, the crunching sounds of four horses and a miniature donkey eating their breakfasts are clearly heard, often in sync. Salina does a brief trumpet call if she finishes before I close everything up in the feed room, signaling that she's ready for Rafer Johnson to return to her side.

After breakfast there is munching of hay and mucking of stalls. The mucking is a relaxing WHUMP sound that becomes more and more muted as the wheelbarrow piles up. By the end it becomes silent. Walking the wheelbarrow down the hill, birds sing and insects buzz, although in the growing heat of midday, things can get very quiet out in the open.

It always amazes me as I walk back up the hill when the blowing of one or more of the horses carries so that it seems they're right beside me.

In no particular order, the morning chorale continues with water from the hose falling into buckets and tanks, the brushing of coats and velcro'ing of fly masks, and the soft whoosh of herbal fly spray being applied. The barn doors on the sunny side of the barn rumble closed, and the metallic clank of the backyard gate latch signals the end of our morning song.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

labyrinthine possibilities

This morning I needed some motivation to walk the wheelbarrow down the hill. By the time the wheelbarrow needs dumping, I'm hot and tired and that long walk down the hill is often hard to take.

Up top at the gate, I envisioned a little wooden sign.

to the labyrinth

I had the idea a while back to make an equine labyrinth down at the far edge of our property, and that's what I've been doing with the muck dumping. Making the beginning of the path. Today I realized I can see the pattern forming, and suddenly, the long walk to dump became a much less dreaded part of the day.

It's funny how having a plan, something to look forward to, a way to make progress elevates the mundane to the sacred. Suddenly I'm not dumping the muck, I'm building a labyrinth!

Just that much excitement set my mind racing. There is room for the labyrinth, and also the possibility of extending the woodland trail so that one could walk down the hill through the woods, emerge into the "open" space of the labyrinth, and then come up a different path through the woods.

The ascending path will pass right by the site of the writing studio I want to build:

While standing in the hot sun pondering all this, I realized the labyrinth is the perfect site for the herbal equine garden I've been wanting for many years now. In between the circuits of the labyrinth, I could plant the herbs that horses can graze for healing and wellness.

On the way up the path I noticed a branch forming the rune Algiz:

Algiz illustrates both the antlers of the elk, and the shape of the sedge-grass herb. To some it suggests the spread fingers of a hand raised in a protective gesture. It is a powerful rune of protection and, spiritually, it symbolizes reaching up to the divine.

Algiz also represents success through endeavour in a search, quest, or other enterprise. Like the fast-growing pine tree, schemes will develop quickly. Like sharp sedge, you are protected from attack. Alertness and awareness will be your guide. Wisdom, vision and clarity of mind will aid your cause.

I pranced back up the hill with the empty wheelbarrow, noting two places along the way where benches would enhance the labyrinthine journey. Places to sit and ponder on the way down, on the way back up.

This evening, I did a test run with daughter and Dickens E. Wickens. We walked the proposed path through the enchanted forest and then made the ascent back to the real world.

great minds think alike

Actually this is yet another example of synchronicity and the collective unconscious, but I got a nice boost from the "great mind" line.

For my birthday, my husband gave me Jane Savoie's Happy Horse training program, which includes audio CDs, a book, and DVDs. She does a wonderful job taking the rider through the dressage levels and I am very slowly working my way through the program.

I've corresponded with Jane a bit about wanting to study dressage without being punitive or harsh or "loud" with the horses, and she created this program for just that purpose. She's written numerous articles about being an advocate for your horse (with punitive trainers, riding instructors, etc.) and I just read that she rode from SC to Vermont IN THE TRAILER with her wonderful horse Moshi, who developed some serious medical issues after they set out to travel from Florida to her Vermont home. The story of how they completed the trip (with conference calls to vets and stops every 1-2 hours to keep Moshi comfortable) reinforced for me how much Jane loves her horses.

Imagine my surprise this morning when my husband forwarded me two emails from Jane. (the mass emails go to him b/c he ordered the program from his email)

The first email was her June newsletter, in which one item has to do with using EFT for conquering a rider's fear of cantering! Apparently Jane has been using EFT with her students for years to help them overcome fears and anxiety. It's possible I "knew" this but since I have only recently learned how to use EFT with my own clients, I did not make the connection earlier on when reading about Jane's work.

The second email was a postscript from Jane answering a newsletter reader's question about using EFT with horses!

She suggests that placing one hand on the horse, but tapping oneself while saying the affirmations, is one way to go.

I still plan to discuss this with my massage therapist, because I have a feeling tapping the horse in the right spots will be very effective. In the meantime, however, if you're interested in checking out EFT practices with Jane Savoie and all her years of experience, go to her website and read the June newsletter. If I'm not mistaken, she covers EFT for riders in at least one of her earlier books.

I'll report back on my own application of EFT to horses next week, but I wanted to share this lovely bit of synchronicity today.

And healing thoughts to Jane's Moshi, who I hope is back to good health and great riding.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

a quick note

Friend and fellow writer A.S. King sent me a post tonight for mystic-lit, and it was so good and so personally useful to me right now I practically tripped over my own fingers clicking over to Blogger to put it up.

Please go read it, if you're a writer, or even if you're not. The message translates to other endeavors than writing.

EFT and horses

This morning I was reading Stacey Kimmel-Smith's blog Behind The Bit, and was struck by her description of having her fidgety horse's mane braided for a show. Using a twitch didn't work, but when Stacey tapped on his nose with the end of the whip, he was mesmerized and calm.

I immediately thought of a technique I have been teaching my human clients, called EFT (emotional freedom technique).

EFT is based on a discovery regarding the body's subtle energies. Basically, it's an "emotional" version of acupuncture but without the needles. You use your fingers to tap various points on your body, in a sequence. I've had success using this method on myself, and clients as young as 5 have reported excellent results.

So when I read Stacy's success story with the tapping and braiding, I wondered: can EFT work with horses?

I'm going to try it later today and see how it goes.