Tuesday, July 29, 2008

taking leaps and making pilgrimages

The insects are singing loudly almost around the clock here, and looking at the weather forecast it seems we're notching up heat-wise over the next five days. It's been so nice this past few weeks. I hope we escape the extremes we had last summer.

Yesterday morning while awaiting the trimmer, Keil Bay was exercising in the arena and reportedly cantered a small jump - unfortunately I missed it, but was excited to hear that he is feeling so good. He's been jumped under saddle just a little, and he enjoys popping over small obstacles on the trail. I've seen him gallop over small log jumps in our field, between two trees, as though the logs were huge cross-country jumps. And he did it beautifully. But I've never seen him choose to take a jump in the arena, in play. A great sign that these herbs are working, and a great message for all of us. When we take care of our horses, they surprise us. When we take care of ourselves, those leaps come easily and with a sense of joy.


I was reading this morning about pilgrimages and sacred journeys in Wales and Scotland. It would be fun to pack a bag and set forth on one of those during this hot weather, and I read the tips for making a sacred journey as though I might be doing just that.

(photo courtesy of my husband and his brilliant landscapes)

I realized suddenly that I don't need a passport or a trip to Scotland to make a pilgrimage. The tips are good for our daily journeys as well: to the barn, out for errands, editing a manuscript, anything we do in our day's work and play.

Pack lightly.

I used to take everything but the kitchen sink when we went on vacation, but over the years I have found it easier and better to travel light. This is true even when I head to the barn in our backyard. Some days I walk out with camera, water, hat, etc., not to mention bringing the "stuff" I've been pondering along with me. Fortunately the horses are masters of traveling lightly, so they encourage the shedding of all this baggage.

Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.

A good tip for every occasion. Lately the most comfortable attire for me is a pair of riding breeches, a soft shirt, and my Ariat boots. I've also been feeling quite comfortable in very baggy jeans, T-shirt, and work boots. If I'm dressed for comfort I always end up staying longer in the moment and thus get more out of that little journey.

Be prepared to get dirt in your sandals.

I wonder about healthy people who avoid the heat, or the humidity, or the bugs, or just plain sweat and dirt and grime. If I could stay clean without compromising the experience of being out and about, I would, but there is something therapeutic about sweat and dirt. Dig in and enjoy it.

Less is more.

This is a good tip for me to remember. I often try to do too much, wherever it is I am. Picking a few things and doing them well, enjoying them to the fullest, is the best way. I'm learning!

Let go of expectations.

Staying open to the possibilities, seeing the magic when it happens. This is an art and a gift, and any pilgrimage is enhanced by the willingness to be amazed.

Embrace your shadow.

This is another big one for me. Allow the delays and inconveniences to be part of the magic. Some days I can do it well. Other days not at all. But it bears remembering, and I try to take deep breaths and remind myself that it's all part of the journey.

And in fact, these days, most of my pilgrimages originate from my own back door.

Be thou a smooth way before me,
Be thou a guiding star above me,
Be thou a keen eye behind me,
This day, this night, forever.

-Scottish journey prayer

Monday, July 28, 2008

living the good life

We had two inches of rain yesterday afternoon, but it cleared out with sun before nightfall so the horses were able to go out for the evening and enjoy the very loud symphony of crickets, cicadas, and tree frogs. This morning everything feels fresh and while it's not exactly cool out, it isn't too bad for the end of July.

On the docket today: a trip to the feed store and daughter's riding lesson off the farm. Meanwhile we got barn chores done and can have a leisurely lunch before we leave.

A few other family members are enjoying their leisure as well. Dickens sacked out in a small pile of hay I had put out for Salina and Rafer. Does he not realize he's right in the line of a set of large horse teeth? Fortunately for him, Salina and Rafer decided to go out with the herd to the back field after breakfast.

And here comes the King, who has had his breakfast, his herbal mix, hay, and had panther-walked himself back out to graze. But, and this is the best part, he noted that I was still in the barn and so came back to ask: time for our ride?

This is the Keil Bay I am used to seeing, and boy is it good to have him back.

Friday, July 25, 2008

settled in

Last week the above was the view out my window. It was a pleasure to glance outside and see those gorgeous manicured gardens. The other window in my room overlooked the long beds and the water garden, and I often kept the blinds pulled all the way up so I could have the effect of all that beauty.

Today I'm feeling pretty much settled in. After breakfast, the three horse geldings marched off down the hill to graze beneath the overcast sky and enjoy the quite moderate temperature. Salina stayed up top with me to enjoy her private paddock.

This young man deserves a few photos showcasing his newly one-year old handsomeness. He is on the outside edge of his summer sleekness - if you look closely you can see the beginnings of his winter coat coming in again.

And Mystic is growing like mad. He has been coming out for some time at the barn recently and loves to stalk blades of grass and flying insects and ford the stream from the water hose. Dickens may have another cowboy to keep him company in a few months!

This morning I was eager to see how Keil Bay did with his second batch of herbs mixed in with his breakfast. When I went in his stall to collect his tub, he was licking it clean, methodically the way he usually does, and he lifted his head so I could lift the tub up and hold it while he finished cleaning the sides and edges. He carefully licked each of my hands holding the tub, and cleaned every bit of his good herbal blend, some of which I know is extremely bitter and has caused a number of horses to need molasses and applesauce and pure cane sugar to entice them to eat.

I'm convinced that Keil Bay knows this is what he needs, and that in fact his sampling of tulip poplar blossoms, bark, lichens, etc. this past spring was his attempt to get something he needed to address some deficits in his diet. Now that it's right in his tub with breakfast, he is as happy as can be.

He had a glitter in his eye and walked off down the hill with the satisfied stride I love seeing. Believe it or not, I can see a subtle difference since yesterday.

Apache Moon's persistent advocate marched down the hill, cotton ball in hand, to collect his saliva sample, so he will be up next. My guess is that he won't have much to address, and we can move forward with the next horse in line pretty quickly.

I have to say: there is nothing quite like being home with things in order, stalls clean, horses happy, and the summer being so blessed with rain and moderate temps and autumn around the bend.

It's funny - I met a screenwriter on retreat who is now working on a very exciting novel, and it was fun to chat about Hollywood and movies and TV series. And then I come home and see sights like the one below, and I can't imagine why Hollywood isn't outside banging on my door this very moment. Is Rafer Johnson a movie star, or what?!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

re-entry and a couple of tangents

Update in the afternoon: Keil Bay's box arrived from Patsy in today's mail so he will be starting his regime tonight! I am SO excited.

I also decided to do a round of pro-biotics for everyone in the barn, so no one will feel left out when Keil Bay gets his. :)


It's always interesting getting back home after a writing retreat, where I had no responsibilities except to write and feed myself. Yesterday morning I got up and went to the barn, where breakfast for the herd evolved into a 4-hour marathon of catching up on barn chores. I came in for less than an hour and then it was time for Salina's mid-day feed, so I went back out. By the time that was underway a fairly scary-looking thunderstorm rolled in, and we actually had yet another one later last night.

The regular turn-out routine has been off due to so much rain, so I'm not sure what to call what the horses are doing - they go out when it's not raining and they come in when we have wind/rain/lightning going on. Yesterday morning I expected them to want to be out after breakfast, since it was not too hot, the sun was out, and there was a ton of green grass to graze. But Keil Bay insisted on staying in the barn with me while I did the chores. It was nice to visit. I let him in the barn aisle and barnyard and he kept a close check on what I was doing.

He knows I'm awaiting his herbs and he is ready for the six weeks of treatment. He doesn't know it yet, but he will be getting two feeds/day again while this is going on, and I can assure you he is going to be THRILLED about that part.

I still feel like I'm outside my regular footprints but am getting closer to "tracking up" today.


On another note, I read Marianne Wiggins' newest novel The Shadow Catcher and highly recommend it, particularly if you like the intermingling of history with a contemporary narrative, and even more particularly if you're a photography nut.

I started Lonesome Dove before leaving, and kept reading while I was there, but I haven't gotten very far into the story. I am very much enjoying it, but haven't quite hit that point where I'm compelled to keep picking up the book to see what happens next. It's nice to have that big fat book and not be racing through it.


And finally, I'm very curious as to what the horseowners who visit here are doing with reference to an equine deworming protocol. I've been reading recently that several of the standard dewormers are losing effectiveness to the point of being not worth using in a rotation.

I've also read that with a few of the drugs, it's becoming more important to overdose a bit to make sure of a good "kill" - so the parasites don't become resistant to those drugs as well.

We do an every other month rotation that is designed to both target specific parasites and time with the first frost, etc. to ensure best results. And my horses have always had clean fecals. But it's seeming that the tide is shifting with regards to what is best, and I'm curious if anyone is making changes.

An alternative I'm considering is switching for a year to a non-chemical deworming program that uses diatomaceous earth along with probiotics. The parasites are killed by the action of the DE on their "bodies" - so they can't become resistant.

I've also been advised to use probiotics 2 weeks after every deworming if I continue the chemical protocol.

What are you doing with your horses? And has anyone reading this done your own horses' fecals? We have a microscope and I'm interested in learning to do those checks myself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Rafer Johnson Turns ONE

On Saturday, July 19th, Rafer Johnson had his first birthday!

I was out of town, so his party was delayed until I could get home, and now that I am, we'll be celebrating.

He has been nothing but a joy since he arrived, and I'm not quite sure how we managed before he got here. Was there a time when Salina did not have a constant and loyal companion? Or when we did not get endless donkey hugs? Or I did not have a barn manager to help me perform every chore and task? It's so hard to remember a time without him.

Thank you, Rafer Johnson. You're the very best.

Keil Bay's test results

I spoke with Patsy from Healthy Bodies this morning and she had Keil Bay's kinesiology test results ready. I was so excited to hear from her, and should be able to get him started on his treatment program in a couple of days, when the herbs and supplements arrive and I'm back home.

Here's the breakdown:

low on EFAs
probiotic level is low
he's dealing with systemic yeast and fungus
has a mold allergy
digestive enzymes are low
white cell count is low (probably due to the yeast/fungus/mold)
seratonin is low
he has several beans which need removing

Six-week treatment plan for the Big Bay:

flax - 5 tbsps 2x/day for 4 weeks
probios paste - 1/2 tube 2x/week for 2 weeks (and 1 tube hereafter, two weeks after each deworming)
olive leaf - 2 tsp. 2x/day for 4 weeks
echinacea - 1 tbsp 2x/day for 6 weeks
digestive enzymes - 3 capsules 2x/day for 3 weeks
rhodiola - 1 tsp. 2x/day for 2 weeks (I think - she will send written instructions with herbs)

Total cost for this testing/treatment:

hair and saliva test plus telephone consult - $25.
herbs and supplements: $109.50
re-test in 6 weeks - $25.

Based on everything I've read about Patsy's work with horses (and people) and the kinds of results her clients get from her recommendations, I CANNOT WAIT to see how Keil Bay does. My prediction is that he and I will be in a great place by Labor Day.

Now I have to figure out who's going next - my goal is to work my way through the herd, but I'd love for all of them to head into the fall/winter with their treatments behind them.

I'll report more as I get Keil Bay going on his plan. Once I can report actual results I'm experiencing, I'll add contact info for Patsy. I've heard nothing but good things thus far, but I like to have my own first-hand experience before recommending things.

Friday, July 18, 2008

we are all abuzz here

I wish I had photos but will have to describe - basically, there is a hive of bees living in the wall in the magic mansion, and they've had a beekeeper working for 8 weeks to get the hive moved into a portable hive they can move elsewhere.

This morning I was in the library and saw a bee in the window, inside. A little while later, after I'd left the room, bees began to come in through the closed windows, the vents, and the light fixtures in the ceiling. The grounds manager had to seal off that entire area and call the beekeeper out to see what could be done.

I got a mini-seminar on relocating bees, and instructions on what to do if they come after me, which is not likely but a possibility.

From my bedroom window I can see the bees buzzing around wildly - they are very excited, not angry, because the original hive has now been reopened so they can get their honey out and move it to the new hive.

My husband kindly emailed me some passages from Ted Andrews about bees:

Bees have been mythical symbols throughout the world. . . . Probably
the most consistent symbolism has been that of sexuality and
fertility. . . Bees are also long-time symbols of accomplishing
quests that seem impossible. . .

If a bee has shown up in your life, examine your own productivity.
Are you doing all you can to make your own life more fertile? Are you
busy enough? Are you attempting to do too much? The bee reminds us
that activities are sweeter when we take the time to enjoy them.

The bee is a reminder to us to extract the honey of life and make our
lives fertile while the sun shines.

I am loving the intense, rich activity of these bees.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

on location

Okay - I'm officially on retreat and getting my arrival routine underway at the coffee shop that has internet access so I can check email and blogs before going back to the magic mansion - where dial-up is only for the very very patient.

It's a total pleasure to be back here. Where folks in a few places recognize me and I know my way to all the best spots. And the moment I settle in to write, the flow is there.

Send good vibes for effective editing and a book that takes off like a rocket when it queries.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You know you're starting a good day when...

you're sitting in your "new" bedroom chair, which you have angled just so to be able to see the side pasture out the window, you glance up from reading Lonesome Dove, and see a mini donkey doing morning laps around Salina as she meanders up the hill. Black mare heading to the barn in the a.m. means it's nearing breakfast time. Donkey doing morning gallop means there is a chance he will be tired and mellow for the med he will be taking after his breakfast!

The geldings know that Salina is operating on pre-BCBH time (Billie Changed Breakfast Hour) so they remain down in the front field, enjoying that lush grass before the sugars rise and I close the gate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

power of three

My mom has always said that things tend to happen in threes. We seem to be on that wavelength this week.

One of my favorite math books discovered in our homeschooling journey (Michael S. Schneider's A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe: The Mathematical Archetypes of Nature, Art, and Science), lists some quotes about three:

The Triad is the form of the completion of all things.

-Nichomachus of Greece

But every tension of opposites culminates in a release,out of which comes the "third." In the third, the tension is resolved and the lost unity is restored.

-Carl Gustav Jung

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.

-Carl Gustav Jung

The One engenders the Two, the Two engenders the Three, and the Three engenders all things.

-Tao Te Ch'ing

A whole is that which has a beginning, middle, and end.


three ailments:

Salina - rash of hives on one shoulder, similar to Cody's from two weeks ago

Rafer Johnson - small wound on side of belly and boy does he dislike being the patient!

Mystic - took a pretty hard fall down the stairs

I have been busy with remedies, ointments, and vet consults - assisted by my husband, who came home yesterday and worked from here the rest of the day to help out. All are doing fine.

three lovely rides:

Keil Bay

Keil Bay again


three "just in the nick of times":

DE (diatomaceous earth) - was delivered in the nick of time - I was down to my last half-pound

Carb Guard - feed store was out but just as I was leaving the guy who usually loads me up came running out to say he had a bag

shavings - delivered 4 days late but before I had to go buy bags from the feed store

three nice surprises:

call about the Big Bay's kinesiology results

my husband's Netflix DVD, Lady in the Water

baby birds hatched out in the petunia basket

Schmidt writes:

Whenever there are three, as the three knights, three musketeers, three wise men, or three wishes, there is throughness, rebirth, transformation, and success.

Works for me!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sunday, July 13, 2008

lovely ride on the Big Bay (and a nice day at the horse complex)

Yesterday morning Keil Bay was ready to go back to work, and I decided to put my saddle fit paranoia on the back burner and saddle him up. I had planned to ride with the bareback pad, but the neighbors had all sorts of yard equipment going and I wasn't sure I wanted to be bareback in the arena given the possibility of a spook.

My saddle fit paranoia arose after the chiropractor's visit two times ago, when Keil had some mid-back issues. Given that his saddle was custom made for him and has been regularly checked, it's unlikely there are fit issues. But Keil's saddle fitter is in Australia for the entire month of July, so I haven't been able to get him over here to do a check. We use a different saddle fitter for Cody and the pony, and she'd likely be happy to take a look at Keil - but his fitter is a second-generation saddler who can take one look at the saddle and say things like "are you by chance losing your left stirrup when cantering to the left?" and be right on target. His father fitted Keil's saddle, they sell this particular brand of saddle and are state-wide reps/fitters, and I'm a bit superstitious. So I'm waiting until he returns to get the check done.

I had planned to use the Little Joe until August. But as I said, with all the commotion next door, I decided caution might be in order, so I saddled up, and figured it was a test ride. If Keil seemed in any way sore after, I'd have a bit more info to add to the mix.

My goals for the ride were twofold - I wanted to work on giving the inside rein, and I wanted to work on keeping my legs well beneath me. For Keil, I wanted to see big, reaching strides at the walk and the trot and good forward movement off my soft aids.

I talked this through with the Big Bay while tacking up, and we went in the arena with ears pricked forward and much energy. A good sign.

Keil Bay seemed eager for the ride. He's been off work for a month, and while we've done ground work, and danced together, and explored the labyrinth path, I have not ridden. It was encouraging to see him walk happily to the arena, and to feel him step off with a big stride from the mounting block.

I noted almost immediately that with the focus on keeping my legs in correct position, he was amazingly responsive to the aids. His walk was big and swinging right from the first stride, and stayed that way the entire time. We did lots of walking and changing reins, with me making sure to give the inside rein to him and to keep my legs in place. He was alert, responsive, and clearly felt good.

Toward the end of the ride my daughter did a video so I could check some things. I haven't seen photos of myself riding, much less a video, in awhile, so this was incredibly useful.

I was pleased to see that my legs were steady and quiet. My sitting trot was pretty good. Overall, I was in a good position and not leaning forward. The thing that stuck out were my hands. I've been working on getting them steady and soft. I tend to give away contact in an effort to be soft, and then what happens is my hands move too much. But I can finally begin to work on this now because I've got other issues close to being resolved.

We did some leg yields, reinbacks, and turns on the forehand and haunches. I was thrilled at how crisp and clean many of these were. I'm not sure why it was such a revelatory ride, because the issue with leg placement is not new to me. I suppose it's possible something has shifted elsewhere in my body so I can put my legs back and keep them there. Or the massage may be helping very specifically in this way. I'm not too worried about figuring out why - but am happy one more piece has notched into place.

One of my favorite parts of riding Keil Bay is how mellow and sweet and proud he is as we leave the arena. I always thank him for the ride, because no matter how well or not well it goes, he treats me with respect and accepts my faults with a good spirit. I always loosen the girth when I dismount, and we head to the barn aisle where he stands by the tack room door and allows me to untack him. The hosing off this time of year is really a pleasure after a good ride.

And today, it's Cody's turn!


We had a nice day afterwards at the Equine Extravaganza. There were many clinics and seminars, and tons of vendors, including a number of vendors I've explored online but haven't had a chance to follow through with via telephone. I met and talked with reps about:

split rail fencing and the gate we want for our front drive

Barefoot treeless saddles

Pete Ramey's work (and I finally bought his book about natural hoof care, as recommended by our trimmer, who trained with Pete Ramey)

EquiSpirit easy load horse trailers, which were roomy and very well made

We ran into our pony's breeder and got updates on her family and horses.

We saw a number of Gypsy Vanner painted ponies for sale - my daughter had looked at this breed awhile back and it was amazing to see them in person.

The evening show was... very loud. When I get out to this type of thing, which to be honest, isn't that often, I always get very stressed about the overstimulation and noise and general conditions and how they affect the animals. I'm easily overstimulated, so I feel it very strongly. For the most part, the horses there seemed fine. But there were moments when I worried and knew in my heart that I would never be willing to take any of my horses to such an event.

That said, there were a number of very impressive horses and riders, and I enjoyed the amazing things they did. If I were in charge, I'd turn down the volume quite a bit and create some kind of pasture turn-out for the horses so they could at least have turns being outside in the fresh air while being stabled there.

I was very very tempted by a beautiful red and white polka-dotted halter and lead rope, which I suspect Keil Bay would never forgive me for. There were also halters with matching lead ropes in the most amazing colors, and the halters were so soft to the touch it seemed they'd be like second skin on a horse's face. I am tempted to go back today to buy several - the price was incredible.

Daughter bought clip-on rope reins to use with her pony and halter, and a battery-powered stuffed pony that bucks and rears. We could not resist!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

book suggestions for my writing retreat?

Whenever I go away to write, I like to take a new, knock-my-socks off novel to read while I'm away. I know some writers steer clear of reading while they work, but I never stop reading novels. And when I'm off in a special space to write, I love having something amazing to read when I need a break.

So... I'm just finishing up Leif Enger's newest novel So Brave, Young, and Handsome. I like it as much as I did his first novel, Peace Like A River.

Next in my pile is Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove. I'm looking forward to reading it but am not sure it's the right book to take along.

Another possibility is a re-read of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

There's a wonderful indie bookstore where I'm going, so there will also be the opportunity to browse and just happen onto a good novel.

Any suggestions? Best reads of 2008 you want to share? Old favorites I might not have read? I'd love to have a list to choose from!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

post-chiro notes

We have three very happy geldings who are all pro-chiropractic clients. They all had their own response to the adjustments.

Cody: Okay, I like being first in line, ahead of the Big Bay, but this is very weird. But it feels good. But ow, that's tender! But it feels good. Whoa! Whew! Thanks, Keil Bay, for giving me moral support over your stall door.

He raised his head when she started each adjustment, but immediately lowered it, licking and chewing, when each was finished. He had a lot going on, all on the right side, and I'm so relieved everything matched up with the sore leg from last week. He's off work until Saturday.

Keil Bay: What took you so long to get here? Why did I have to wait so long once you got here? Would you please just get right to the pelvic area and fix that little joint that's out? Okay, that's nice. All better, I think I'm set to go. No, wait, you want to do some more? Okay. Hmmm. That's nice too. But I'm all better now, so I need to go back to my grazing. Oh, there's more? Okay. Oh, that is REALLLLY nice. May I just stop for a moment and say thank you? Are you SURE you're done?

Keil is the most demonstrative horse I've ever known. He is very aware of his body and where the issues are, and he doesn't hesitate to show you exactly where things need work, if you only listen. When she finally got to the final adjustment, she put her arms around his neck and did something that looks very much like a bouncy hug, and he looked at me over her shoulder with the most amazing expression. I can't believe I have to let her do this, but okay, I'll deal with it. His big long sigh of relief at the very end told the whole story. He too is off work until Saturday.

Apache Moon: This is not my favorite thing but whatever. I will stand here. But do you see that my ears are slightly back? One wrong move with those hands and I'll... oh dear, that is very NICE. Hmmm. Well, you'd better watch... oh. Wow. Done already? No, please, not yet! Oh, wait, that leaning thing. My favorite part. Yeah, that is HEAVEN. No, my eyes aren't closed, I just have a very long blink going on. It doesn't mean I like... oh, don't stop yet. What? It's OVER already?

He is so funny. All pony power and Thelwell attitude but underneath the veneer he is a sweetheart who just begs for a big hug. He will enjoy his airs above the ground even more now that those two pesky ribs are back in place.

Salina neighed when the vet drove away. What? Come back! You forgot to do me!

You are first in line next month, Salina, dear.


We had another good inch of rain last night, and more predicted for today. It's wonderful to have this much rain. The sunshine in between and a breeze helps dry things out a bit and gives all the plants what they need to grow. The ground has a spongy feel that hasn't been there in over a year. The front field is resting since last Saturday, and we'll give it another 4-5 days. With all this rain and sun the grass is growing almost visibly. The horses are already lining up at that gate, hoping it's The DAY.

On another note, I was invited to join a group blog comprised of local riders who want some group support in meeting their riding goals. I had the best time reading through the posts last night, and am planning to join. They post pictures and video and fine details of their rides and lessons. It's not only support but a wealth of information. I'm excited.

And finally, the Equine Extravaganza is in town this weekend. Daughter and I plan to go on Saturday and enjoy all the seminars and demonstrations, not to mention the vendors. :)

Next week I'll be heading off to a writing retreat Thursday - Tuesday and I am more than excited about that. I'm right on target with the edit I wanted to get done before heading off to retreat - which I'll begin by reading through the entire novel, and doing what I hope is a final big edit. I'll let it sit (and give it to several readers) until the last week in August, re-read, make any last changes, and query right after Labor Day.

One more note after morning chores:

Keil Bay was much more patient this morning and although he did toss his halter while I prepared breakfast tubs, he did not bang the door. All three geldings had big swinging walks and soft eyes.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

playing horse fairy

This afternoon I decided to play horse fairy. I went out to check on everyone in the barn at 2, horse cookies in hand, and Salina and Rafer Johnson were waiting in their stall for the treat. The geldings had wandered out to the back field, so I set their cookies aside and mucked, topped off waters and hay in mangers, and got tarps ready for shavings.

The geldings usually come in if they see me at the barn, but after all the rain we've been having (as of tonight, over 6 inches in a week's time!) they are glad to be out in the sunshine. So out they stayed.

That was when I decided to be the horse fairy. I fixed the hay in their mangers so the top surface was flat, and right in the middle I put two horse cookies for each one.

Keil Bay, who can sniff out a horse fairy from miles away, came sauntering up to the barn and found his cookies. The expression on his face was priceless.

Around 4:30 I went out and found it pretty muggy, so I decided to offer hosings. Keil Bay was first in line, but then he sidetracked himself into the big barnyard. Cody was second (not the norm, and he may have wanted company more than the hosing) in line, so he and I went into the small barnyard and situated ourselves with a pile of hay, some fresh water, and the hose, under the shade of the big pin oak.

Cody is fine with being hosed, but he doesn't love it like the other horses do. I decided to turn the hosing into a game where he was in total control of the flow of water. I hosed until he indicated he wanted me to stop, and during those moments, turned the hose into a water fountain. He loves that part of hosing, so that became the fun, safe part that magically happened each time he let me know he needed a break. I lowered the hose so he could lower his head to the "fountain" and let him nibble the water and lip the nozzle. When he had calmed himself that way, we proceeded with more hosing. The interesting thing is that he allowed me to gently hose his entire face today, and he actively sought out the water when he'd been given the chance to "play" with the fountain first. He also let me do an impromptu sheath cleaning, which again, he tolerates, but it's not usually something he relaxes into. Today he did. Each time he shifted his hind leg, I went back to the fountain.

After the hosing was done, I sat in a chair beneath the tree and just hung out with him for awhile. It wasn't long before I saw Keil Bay's nose in the crack of the barn doors, asking for his turn. So they traded places.

Keil Bay needs no game to make hosing fun. He loves it. He stood and got his turn, then hiked one hind leg out and into the air, which appeared to be his request for a sheath cleaning. He has never done that before, but when I checked, he needed it, so on we went. Then he grazed while I watched from then chair. By that point, the pony was banging on the gate asking for his turn, so Keil Bay went to the other side of the barn with Cody, and Apache Moon came in for his hosing.

He used to really dislike being hosed, and for awhile we thought he just didn't like the water. As it turns out, Apache Moon loves being hosed, but he really needs to be free when you do it. He stands facing the hose, and then pirouettes in a circle so you can get every part of him. When he's done, he marches straight up to the hose and takes the nozzle in his mouth. All done!

Salina came up to the edge of the barnyard and asked for her turn. I took the hose into her paddock and gave her a rinse. Rafer Johnson took one look at the water and went to the far end of the paddock, then into the stall. We respect his choice to stay dry. :)

The hosing got the excess fly spray off (the oil-based spray can get heavy after a few days of applications) and cooled them down, and was a wonderful way to spend the hot part of the day. I was, of course, as wet as the horses!

Tonight we had another thunderstorm so they were in from 7 until 9 p.m. After the rain was done (and the thunder and lightning) I opened the arena and let them in, and in the soft glow of our arena light (I think we are close to needing a new bulb!) they marched around and stretched their muscles. The night creatures were making a huge din after the rainfall, and the pristine arena footing gradually revealed hoof prints of all the horses. I walked around and tracked them, noting the imprints of their frogs and the basic shapes of their feet, as well as how they're tracking up. This is one of my favorite ways of checking hoof structure and movement. It's especially nice in the cool of night with all of them milling around, coming up to say hello, and continuing on their paths.

I highly recommend taking some time to play and surprise and just be with your horses. I came in feeling the same way I feel after massage or a swim. Totally relaxed.

Monday, July 07, 2008

out of whack

I woke up this morning with an out of whack perspective. Everything seemed not right, not good enough, too much, overwhelming. I walked out to the barn and felt like I might drop flat to the ground from all the things that needed to be done: more, better, differently.

The odd thing is that everything is the same today as it was yesterday, and the day before that.

I still have chigger bites. About 35 of them. The shavings pile is still low. New shavings delivery was scheduled last week for early this week. The horses hooves are packed with damp earth the same way they are every morning after a huge rain. The world is still full of midsummer insects that bite and sting. Our internet was out again, after a power outage yesterday evening. Nothing dramatic had changed in my world.

The only thing that shifted is my own perception. It truly felt like this little world I live in, the one I often write about with great joy and bliss, had become tilted in some way.

This is no great revelation - it's happened before, and will again, but there is always the need to remind myself that things have not gone to hell in a handbasket. It's my view of them that has tilted.

I don't know what actually causes it. It could be biochemical, hormonal, or energetic. Or all of the above.

I did morning chores, and came in for a shower. Our massage therapist was due at noon, and we honored the commitment we both made to Keil Bay last time - that we would be quiet and go slow for his massage. He was a fidgeting mess the first third of the massage. He finally settled down when she got to his back end. The final two thirds of his body he stood in a trance, licking and chewing, eyes glazed over with endorphin rush.

He has some body issues right now. I wish I could solve the puzzle for him, but mostly he seems content. I suspect the homeopathic constitutional is layering back through some medical issues from his past. We move forward together, one day at a time.

Today, after his massage, he panther walked to the water trough, got a long drink, and then headed out to the back field where he promptly rolled and then set to grazing. It was obvious that all was just fine in Keil Bay's world.

Due to the chiggers, which I Freudian-slipped and called "chives" - chiggers plus hives equal chives??? - we opted to do a 30-minute chair massage for me instead of the usual long hot stone massage.

Initially I was tight through the shoulders, which felt like Keil Bay's tension I'd picked up while standing with him during his body work. I talked for a few minutes but at some point I just disappeared. I had the sensation of leaving my body and then sliding back into it. But I was no longer "me." I was a turtle!

I was a turtle whose shell felt out of alignment. Something about the neck and the place where the shell hinges was off. I turned my turtle head back and forth and felt the tightness where the shell wasn't right.

Then suddenly I was on the beach. Back to my regular self, lying wrapped in a sheet in the sun. H's hands were warm like the sand, and the fans in the barn were the surf. There was something quite like an ocean breeze blowing through the barn aisle. I smelled the air and the sea and enjoyed the ambiance. The ocean has always been a healing place for me - the salt water, the warm sand, the mesmer-sound of surf and gulls. I was right there.

H. got to the end of the chair massage with a wisping touch I recognized as the final one. I breathed, thinking how nice it was to end my massage on the beach. But suddenly I was back in the turtle shell. And i realized that as relaxed as I was, the shell was still not right. I turned my head back and forth again. And suddenly H. put her hands right at the base of my neck, on the upper shoulders, right on the part of the shell that was pushing wrong. She put fairly intense pressure on that area and the shell clicked into place.

When she asked "how are you?" I came back to my body. Everything was right again.

The turtle image was so amazingly perfect for how I felt. My little world off its hinge, then righted.

And my time on the beach was just heaven.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

fire works

I was going to write about my own little 4th of July stresses and how one neighbor did indeed manage to set off fireworks but was thwarted repeatedly by a thunderstorm rolling through.

But when I checked email this morning I found one from friend and fellow writer Joseph Gallo, whose tale of July 4th gave me some insights that I think we all might benefit from.

Go to his blog Yarblehead and read his story.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


July rolled in like an autumn day here, after a huge thunderstorm the last night of June. Getting rain and then a preview of my favorite season, midsummer, was like a double blessing.

We spent some time on the front porch and the horses are getting time each day in the front yard, which is a treat for them and helps us avoid using the mower. Rafer Johnson was nearly obscured by the tall grass. He is shedding out and so very muscular and handsome right now.

Keil Bay was in grass heaven. He went straight to the highest, lushest spot and got right in the middle of it. Interestingly, Cody stood on the outside of the same area, and reached in for the good stuff. The pony tends to march around and snatch grass from every part of the yard, as if it might disappear at any moment and he wants to get as much as he can before it does. Salina is not surprisingly more focused on where the other horses are than on the grass she's grazing. She positions herself based on where Rafer is, and where Keil Bay is, and then shifts to the forage.

In one of the hanging baskets on the porch, a small bird has made a gorgeous nest. I was astounded by the weaving skills. I don't think I could match it if I tried. There are 4 eggs, and hopefully all are doing well.

In all this abundance, we are having our share of ailments. Salina got a small wound on her flank, which has required rinsing and treating twice each day. Apollo Moon had a goopy eye, which prompted a call to the vet, who reassured me that it would likely resolve but to call back in a day if it didn't. I discovered that the application of a warm wet washcloth a couple of times helped it heal.

Keil Bay and I took a walk down to the labyrinth, as he'd been asking, and I was ready to show him. He was very willing to leave his herd and march down the hill through the woods with my daughter and me, and was extremely alert and excited. He had a few snacks along the way, and christened the path with his big bold walk. Just at the beginning of the labyrinth itself, he stopped and stood tall, looking one way and then the other, surveying. We marched back up very pleased with the first circuit.

And then discovered that Cody, who had been ridden the day before and was fine, had a patch of hives on one thigh, and was sore in that same leg. He's eating, drinking, walking, and there is no swelling or obvious injury, so he got a dose of Banamine and a number of checks last evening and this morning. It appears to be a reaction to an insect sting. We'll see.

I suppose that's part of high summer - the stable flies are in check, but the big biting and stinging insects are out in full force. Part of the abundance of the season.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

new blog post today on mystic-lit

If you're a writer, head over to mystic-lit for A.S. King's newest blog post and share your take on things. And there are at least two more posts in line over there, so keep checking back.