Monday, September 29, 2008

ergonomically speaking, with a jungian twist

I now have about one-half of my ergonomic set-up in place. My laptop is on the bigger desk in the living room, with a new chair that adjusts every which way you can imagine. I have the sapphire blue wrist rests. I've picked out the new keyboard and once that's plugged in I will raise the monitor and get a foot rest.

I can feel the difference with each change, which is a good thing. Maybe I can finally get back to the books!

In the midst of this ergonomic upgrade, my laptop has been acting up (it's old, and has been great, but I think it's on its last legs). I'm replacing it with a desktop, as the portability issue is much less now that it has been in the past.

I'm looking forward to the big screen and the ease of typing.

All that said, not writing for these past few weeks is turning me into the Grinch. I've said before that when I don't write, I start to feel like the top of my head is going to blow off, much like a volcano erupting.

I've been feeling that way lately. The horses keep me from getting to the far edge of blowing, but it's like having my energy at low boil. I'm ready to move on and get back to the page.

Last night I dreamed I was going into a department store. I was shopping for exercise equipment, shoes, and clothing. The exercise stuff, you might guess, represents the need to write. Between the ergonomic stuff and the not writing my body is feeling all out of whack. So in my dream world I was heading out to fix it.

I was very excited. Hopeful. I stepped into the elevator and while trying to figure out which button to push - floor 2 or 3? - women kept getting on the elevator. It ended up being packed. And when we pushed the button, finally, the elevator didn't move. There were windows, and we could see we weren't moving. Stuck!

But then something happened and the elevator began to lift. There was a moment's relief and then we all realized something was wrong. The elevator was buckling. That word - buckling - was the word used in the dream, and we all kept shrieking it. "It's buckling!"

I'm not quite sure what that means yet, but I'm sure it carries its own message. (I just read that in engineering, buckling is a "failure mode." Exactly how I've been feeling with regards to writing!)

So the elevator was buckling and then the bottom dropped out. Another moment of panic. Then I realized as long as I kept my arms and feet in the right place, (aha! hands and feet!) I wouldn't fall out. I was safe.

Someone managed to call for help on the phone, and they said "is the elevator buckling?" Duh - but they also said they were on the way.

By this time the elevator had left the building and was twisting and turning out over the parking lot. We could see all the workmen and machinery gathering to help us. They managed to get the elevator to go back into its "tunnel" and we were able to step out into the second floor.

Right where we had been heading all along.

However, I realized it was the wrong floor. I had misremembered where the exercise stuff was, so I needed to go up to the third.

Obviously I took the stairs! But this too had its own danger. Every stair step was piled with big bags of food, spilling out. Beans and cookies and flour - all the ingredients anyone would ever need to create pretty much anything. It was all out of place, too much, unusable in the way it was being stored. I stepped around it and made my way up to the third floor.

Which was flooding!

There were pools of water everywhere and a clear, perfect stream of water was spilling in from a high-up window, like a fountain. The sales clerks were walking in circles, trying to figure out what to do.

I decided to head back down to the first floor.

I navigated the stairs full of ingredients. I got caught up in a crowd of women trying to get to the first floor and realized in the crowd, with all the junk on the stairs, I had lost my shoes.

There was no way I was going back to find them. I felt sad for a moment - I liked those shoes - but then decided I would buy new ones, better ones, and it would all be fine.

Then, as I walked toward the first floor, down a long passageway, I realized my shoes had miraculously found their way back onto my feet.

Back in my own footprints - this is one of my images of being centered. I use it for myself and with clients. Get in your footprints. Get centered.

And then I woke up.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

we hit a category 5 here tonight with Hurricane Rafer

Latest report from the barnyard:

Rafer Johnson bucked tonight when it was time to go back to his stall!

Wouldn't it be fascinating if we could have radiographs that matched his progressing activity?

It's pretty clear he is ready to be back to a normal donkey routine.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

little storms

I was amused to see that the new tropical storm moving about at sea is named Kyle. My daughter and I speculated after Josephine that the K-storm would be Keil Bay. And it's pretty close!

Last night I was standing in the barn aisle taking a quick breather after my ride on the fanciful Keil Bay. I had let him out in the front field for a last hour of grazing before coming in for the evening. Salina and Rafer Johnson had been let out to the barnyard to graze.

Yesterday Rafer Johnson went through the fence (the non-electric part) two times, in order to get himself into the paddocks closer to his herd. He is definitely making moves to be back in the normal routine here. He will take any opportunity to leave his stall - no more leaving the door ajar as you muck him out - if you do, he might not be there when you turn around!

I was keeping a close eye on him for that reason, but he sneakily went into the little barnyard, which is fine, but then eased through the fence into the grass paddock, which is also fine, but separated from Salina.

I should have known what was coming next, but I didn't. Salina suddenly realized Rafer was nowhere to be found and she went trotting into the big barnyard to look for him. I opened the stall up that leads out to the grass paddock, and she trotted through there. Suddenly a flash went by. I saw the blur and felt the breeze. Something whirled past me into the big barnyard. It was only when it stopped that I realized - it was Hurricane Rafer!

He had heard Salina and they'd missed each other in the grass paddock. He tucked back through the fence and galloped through the barn aisle to find her.

It took me a few moments to even remember that Rafer Johnson has a CAST on. How the heck is he managing to gallop?

Three weeks and counting to what I hope is a smaller cast and a bit more freedom.

And may Tropical Storm Kyle be kind as he moves by.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

opening new eyes to old problems

Yesterday we had the acupuncturist/vet out for the pony's second acupuncture session. This time she had me lunge the pony at a walk/trot in each direction so she could take a look at his movement, demeanor, and overall willingness in the arena. What she saw was a decent representation of the issues we've had with the Little Man.

He is a sharp looking pony, and he can be absolutely stunning both in the field and under saddle. He is talented, and a good soul, but he can also be stubborn and tense.

After the movement, she did a physical examination of his hind legs. She found mild soreness in the hocks, primarily in the left, and feels this is not due to a recent occurrence, but something he has been dealing with for a while. She thinks we may be looking at mild arthritis.

I was shocked. This pony is 8 years old. He's had many, many people involved in his care and training and performance. No one has ever looked to the hocks as the source of problems. I suspect we've been fooled by the good and bad days he has. When it's good, it's really good. And when it's bad, it's not bad enough to assume something is really wrong. We have never gotten past the 'pony' attitude or the tightness in his neck and shoulders. We never looked at what might be "behind" these other issues.

After I got over the shock yesterday, I began to think of things he does from a new perspective. He stretches his hind legs straight out behind him on a regular, near-daily basis. I've never seen a horse do this before - it looks like he is doing pony yoga. That now makes perfect sense. Think of the older folks you know with arthritis in their hands, and that measured, drawn out stretching they do with the wrists and fingers. It's exactly the same thing.

His grumpiness makes perfect sense if he has been experiencing mild pain. And the fact that he comes out of the arena soft and mellow fits perfectly as well. Once the hocks are moved and warmed up, they feel better.

I began to note how he stands, the way he shifts his weight, and suddenly it all clicked.

This vet specializes in Chinese medicine, and has a background in dressage. She asked me to try to view everything to do with the pony from the perspective of his hind legs - and the instant I did that, I began to see many, many things I hadn't seen just one hour before.

She suggested we continue with his work under saddle, but that we pay close attention to the warm-up period, that we let the hocks guide us. Walk him in big figures, with no sharp turning, until the stride lengthens from behind. She assigned me the task of watching for this while my daughter rides. Once he's not only tracking up, but getting some over-reach, we can move to trot work. And the trot work should continue until I see that lovely, soft swinging tail that makes the S-shape as it moves. It will only make that shape if he's moving through, with balance and rhythm and suppleness. Only then can more "work" be done.

I knew exactly what she meant. I've noted that tail movement before when my daughter rides, but not realizing what a useful clue it is in assessing soundness.

For now, as we continue assessment and treatment, which will include acupuncture and probaby x-rays, we'll back off jumping and galloping.

I feel relieved and grateful that last year when he was jumping 2'9" and then went sour to jumping, we LISTENED. There were a few folks who felt he should be made to do the work, but we backed way off. I wonder now what damage we would have done, both physically and emotionally, had he been made to continue jumping that height.

We did the warm-up exercise this morning. It took nearly 30 minutes for the walk stride to track up. It took 10-15 minutes for the trot to become balanced and the tail to swing in that characteristic way.

The vet also suggested that we apply moist heat to the hocks, mostly to let the pony know we now understand where the issue is. She said when he realizes we understand where the pain is, and show him that, his trust will increase, and he will relax and allow us to work with him to make things better.

My daughter and husband applied the moist, warm towels yesterday afternoon in the back field. The pony loved it, they said, and stood calmly while they wrapped his hocks in what I hope transmitted warmth, love, and the nurturing attention that comes from being heard - not only by the hock, but his whole pony self.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the week thus far

We've got a pony getting ready for an October full of Pony Club happenings. My daughter is keeping him busy with riding and practice loading onto the trailer. She loaded him 3x on Monday, and by yesterday afternoon's third time he walked onto the trailer with her without a halter or lead rope and stood there until she asked him to get off again. Pretty amazing, considering last year this time he was just recovering from some trailer trauma imposed by a few folks who thought forcing a pony onto a trailer with a rope behind his butt and waving a lunge whip around was the right way. We like ours better.

The pony has his second acupuncture treatment today. I think we are already seeing some change in his demeanor and movement. I'm eager to see how he does after this second session.

We have a donkey who has figured out he can ROLL even with his cast on! Rafer Johnson lowered himself to the ground two nights ago and proceeded to do his favorite donkey grooming duty. I was shocked to see that he managed to get the casted leg up and over so he could rub both sides of his body in the dust. This Friday marks the 3-week point since he was cast - halfway - and the plan is to radiograph and re-cast at 6 weeks with something smaller. My secret hope is that he will be so healed we might not need another cast at all. We'll see how it goes!

Keil Bay and Salina got chiropractic work on Monday. It wasn't supposed to be Keil Bay's turn, but as usual, he backed his big rear up to the stall wall and convinced me he needed a look. And as usual, the Big Bay knows his body and knows when he needs something. He had several fairly major things out, and he closed his eyes and let the chiropractor do her job. By the end, he was smiling.

Salina had one big thing out and she too was smiling by the end of her adjustment.

The chiropractor and I decided that when Rafer's cast comes off she'll take a look at him to make sure things are in place.

Cody did a wonderful job free-lunging on Tuesday, and also getting loaded onto the trailer. With all the characters we have in this herd, Cody is the picture of reliability and balance. No drama. Just doin' my job, ma'am. I think every herd needs a horse like Cody to balance things out.

Last night a cold wind blew in, and it's still here this morning. I was shivering as we sat in the barnyard, listening to Rafer Johnson and Salina grazing, while the geldings munched hay in the paddock. We listened to the night creatures, and my husband pointed out a satellite moving slowly across the sky. My daughter was talking about Halloween, and suddenly it felt like summer is truly gone.

Monday, September 22, 2008

the autumn equinox

I know the lands are lit,
With all the autumn blaze of Goldenrod.

-Helen Hunt Jackson

Today is the autumn equinox, a time of transition and opportunities to make changes in one's life. It is also a time of harvest, reaping what has previously been sown.

For me, autumn is a favorite season, and I always feel energized and excited. It's more of a "new year" feeling for me than the beginning of our calendar year.

Lately the labyrinth path has been marked by the tall, swaying goldenrod, which is said to have healing powers. Ted Andrews says that goldenrod helps us discover our own sacred quest, strengthening the aura so that we can remain true to our essence and our dreams.

On Friday, my daughter and I found an owl pellet in the dirt paddock. Owls swallow their prey whole, and the indigestible parts (fur, bones, claws, teeth) are regurgitated in the form of pellets. I noticed the pellet thinking it was an odd-looking piece of horse manure, and when I saw the white, I wondered what in the world one of my horses had gotten into. Upon closer inspection I recognized it - the fur, the tiny joints and claws - as the remains of an owl meal.

Ted Andrews says the owl regurgitating the pellet is a very symbolic act.

In the swallowing of the prey head first, the owl takes into itself the wisdom and energy of the prey. The regurgitation reflects its ability to eliminate those aspects that are unbeneficial and unhealthy for it.

This was the perfect thing to find on the threshold of the autumn equinox, the symbol of taking in and letting go, transmuting.

How well I know what I mean to do
When the long, dark autumn-evenings come.

-Robert Browning

Friday, September 19, 2008

rafer's big adventure, and how can anyone not believe in fairies?

Yesterday afternoon late, a series of earth moving machinery arrived at our neighbors' house, along with a huge dump truck load of red dirt. As we were also having a group of kids and parents over for a gathering, I decided I'd better check on the equines and see how they were handling all the commotion.

Keil Bay was on the near side of the barn, having a fit because he was separated from his herd. His hyper-alertness was getting Rafer Johnson all wound up. I decided to move Keil over to the back paddock with the pony and Cody, open up the back field, and let them remove themselves from the barn to graze. That calmed things down quite a bit, but Rafer was just too wound up inside his stall - he couldn't see what was making all the interesting noise, and it was making him crazy!

So I let him come into the barnyard with Salina, which seemed to do the trick. Once I made sure things were settled, I dashed up to the front porch to let everyone know I would be hanging out at the barn for awhile. When I got back to the barnyard, there was Salina, but Rafer Johnson had disappeared!

I kept looking over the barnyard, left to right, along the edge of the woods, behind the trailer, making sure he wasn't blending in. I checked the stalls. I checked the little barnyard, both paddocks, the back field. He was nowhere to be found!

Then suddenly I stopped my mad dashing and simply looked at Salina. When I followed her gaze, there he was. He had gone into the arena, marched all the way to the end, and was completely intent on watching those earth-moving machines. I opened the gate so Salina could join him.

There was no way he was coming back to his stall right that moment, and I figured since he was calm, we might as well sit and enjoy the show. I pulled up a dressage marker bucket and sat. We watched three abreast. I have never seen such focus - Rafer could not take his eyes off those machines!

When the workers took a break, Rafer went and got himself a dressage marker bucket, tipped it over, and rolled it around the arena. He went over to the back side of the arena to say hello to the geldings. He marched through a stand of weeds at the arena's edge, letting them tickle his belly. He stepped in a fire ant mound and immediately trotted over to me so I could get the few off that were on his leg.

And yes, you read that correctly. Rafer Johnson was trotting around in his cast. I convinced him that a walk was more suitable, and then panicked when he marched up to a cross-rail jump my daughter had left up. He walked right up to the X, looked back at me, and then casually walked around the jump.

I eventually managed to get he and Salina back to the barn doors where I could muck his stall and get it ready for the evening. By that time it was nearing the barn dinner hour, so I got Rafer's halter on, and began to walk him to his stall. Salina, in an uncharacteristic move, surged in front of us and pooped in the middle of Rafer's stall - now, this sounds pretty rude, but it was the first time she's been able to do this since the accident, and Rafer Johnson was beside himself with excitement. FINALLY - he could march in and deposit his contribution on top of the pile! He was ecstatic. I opened his back door, hurried Salina out, and turned just in time to see her hind hoof kick the full bucket of water over. Rafer was in the midst of depositing his pile, and a solid sheet of water went cascading toward him.

He skittered out of the way, and I got the water up.

Needless to say, when I went out to the barn today, this is what I found:

And, apropos of nothing, look up top at what replaced the sunshine mushroom literally over night! Nothing but the work of fairy folk could possibly have made that happen.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Yesterday was one of those days when everything seemed new, special, and unique. My daughter and I headed out to the barn mid-morning and didn't get back inside until dinnertime.

One of the first uniquities I discovered yesterday was what I'm calling the sunshine mushrooms. We have many unusual things popping up this year with all the rain, but this one is my favorite. There was a smaller one that looked even more like nature's rendering of the sun, but I lost it!

Apache Moon got his first acupuncture treatment. I was pleasantly surprised to see the "needles" - they actually resemble very thin pieces of wire. He was a good patient, nervous a few times, but willing to work through that. At the end of the insertion he had a double row of needles going from wither to rump. It was quite odd to see, but within about 10 minutes he fell asleep!

The needles in the areas that correspond with the triple heater meridian came out extremely bent and twisted. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it. The others came out perfectly straight. So Patsy was totally on target with her kinesiology results. The acupuncturist/vet also pointed out to me that he tends to stand right foot slightly forward, and that his left front hoof is wearing unevenly to the inside. Given that the massage therapist found tight shoulders, all of these things are beginning to fit together. We arranged a schedule of treatment to see if we can clear this blocked meridian and impact his overall movement and comfort.

Interestingly enough, when I tacked Keil Bay and rode him yesterday afternoon, he did beautifully at the walk, but at the trot it felt like something was going on in the right front. We did a little more trotting and then ended with some lateral exercises and stretching. Will keep an eye on him.

On a different note - we got a truck! I can now haul more than just the pony!

And finally, a favorite sign of approaching autumn:

Monday, September 15, 2008

honey bees and baths

This morning after feeding, mucking, and giving full baths to Keil Bay and Salina, I went dripping down to the labyrinth path with the loaded wheelbarrow, tired but hoping the outer loop would energize me.

My husband went down yesterday and did some weed-eating to make the path passable again, and as I went down the hill through the woods (passing an assortment of mushrooms I've never seen before in my lifetime) and walked out into the sunlight and the path, I was completely taken aback by the 8-foot tall yellow wildflowers swaying in the breeze.

It was like walking into the color yellow. Dazzling.

I walked onto the outer loop and realized suddenly that the flowers were full of honey bees - it's the first time in over a year (other than my time at the writing residency) that I've seen honey bees in the wild.

I'm absolutely thrilled that they're out there, and although I was hoping to take the geldings down one at a time to walk the outer loop, I've decided it's a better idea to let the bees have the labyrinth undisturbed until the blooms are done. They were so focused on their work. They're so important to the earth.

As this is the last in a string of warm days for at least the rest of this week, I'm giving horse baths. Keil Bay got soaped up from head to hoof, as did Salina. This afternoon we'll do Cody and the pony. Rafer Johnson would probably enjoy a good dust bath, so perhaps I'll get a few handfuls and rub it into his fur for him. He can lie down, but he doesn't seem to be able to roll! I'm beginning to see just how important those rolls in the dust are for good donkey hygiene. His fur isn't quite the same as normal since he hasn't been rolling - even though we're brushing him each day.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


The week started in some chaos but it has ended with a number of milestones. As you can see, Mystic the kitten has learned not only how to get out of the cat door but how to hang with the big kits up on the rail by the butterfly bushes.

Apache Moon has learned to put the little hole in the bottom of his grazing muzzle to good use. He is grazing and drinking water and for the most part acting like it's no big deal. Except for when he realizes any of us are looking at him - then he picks his head up, stands, and looks pitifully in our direction. Ponies!

Rafer Johnson is beginning to put weight onto his casted leg more and more. Tonight when it was his time to graze outside his stall, he turned right instead of left and marched straight out to the gate. Just as if it were any other night and he was ready to be turned out. All the way down the barn aisle and across the barnyard he was walking with a perfectly normal gait - each foot bearing equal weight.

The outer loop to the labyrinth is complete. When I walked down this morning, I realized that four crows were in four trees - one in front of me, one behind, and one on each side. They were calling to one another round-robin style, and when I stopped and listened, I realized they were marking each direction. North, South, East, and West. It felt like they were doing a location check for me. Here's the labyrinth. Here you are. Here's where you are on the earth.

cats and donkeys

This is why we don't worry too much about Rafer Johnson being lonely.

There is almost always a pal close by.

He got another wonderful card today from Ken, Marty, and Redford. I'm heading out to check on everyone and put it on his wall.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

rainy days, a writing spider, and a much-loved donkey

We've had more rain today, a rather soft but steady rainfall that sets the tone for a quiet, peaceful afternoon.

Last night when I went to let Keil Bay out of his stall after his dinner, there was a huge and lovely writing spider with her web right at the handle of the stall door - there was no way I could miss it.

At first I took her presence as a sign that I needed to write about Keil Bay. Then, that I should write about the horses instead of the novel. Then, that I should just write, period. It has been a dry week in that regard. But finally, I wondered if perhaps Keil Bay has a book in him, something that might be snatched up by HBO and made into a series, putting me into early retirement and the Big Bay into the limelight.

Later in the evening I was in Rafer's stall. His mood was very perky and mischievous, and he gently butted me from behind as I was fluffing his hay pile. This morning my good friend emailed to say that last night, the entire Reiki group she leads sent Reiki to Rafer Johnson! I think it worked!

This afternoon I managed to get the camera out in honor of a USPS delivery that arrived after lunch.

Check out Rafer Johnson's Wall of Love!

He has a beautiful card from his family of origin: Ken, Marty, and Redford. Inside, the card says "Heal." What a perfect mantra for a donkey growing new bone!

He has his branch to de-bark, his Jolly ball, his lick ball (in the white tub to keep out flies and ants), and a cardboard box full of balled up socks (they even have horses on them!)

But, the piece de resistance is the new Sheaffer poster that came today. The caption says: My excellence confuses you.


And as you see, Rafer Johnson was thrilled. He took a moment to pay homage to his good cyber-friend Sheaffer.

Even Keil Bay came to check it out!

I also got a Sheaffer mug for coffee. Head on over to Sheaffer's place and you can follow the link over there if you'd like to support donkey rescue.

Monday, September 08, 2008

some random notes to begin the week

I feel like I hit this week with far too many loose ends, things to do, and things to play catch up on, so my day and my thoughts have been scattered.

The pony is somewhat horrified by his new grazing muzzle. He is an opinionated pony and yet he is not really expressing his opinion wrt this thing we've strapped onto his head. I expected him to tear it off, rub it, fuss and complain. Instead he stands and looks pitiful. Dare I confess that we could not even leave it on all night so far? I actually brought all the geldings in to the paddock at midnight last night b/c I couldn't bear to leave the pony standing in the field w/o the ability to graze. So far we are managing to keep him off the field altogether during the day, limiting his grazing at night, and giving him a few hours of the grazing muzzle in the hope that he will figure it out.

Another random pony note: when we left him the night before last he was a dark brown mud color all over due to rolling in the paddock. When we went out yesterday morning he was perfectly clean (and he is a painted pony, white and brown, so it's somewhat amazing that the white was... white again). I maintain that there are pony fairies who travel from farm to farm, taking care of their smaller pony friends.

Rafer Johnson is doing well. I know he would like to be out running around but he's handling his confinement pretty well so far. He loves his time out to graze in the evenings and he also loves his licking ball.

Why is it that when Mom becomes overwhelmed and types out detailed chore lists, all the kids in the household disappear?

I awoke from a horse dream this morning - a natural horsemanship trainer had come to do a trial session with our herd. I looked out the window and he was out there with the entire group of 4 horses and donkey in the arena at one time, directing all of them simultaneously through a series of walk/trot/canter and airs above the ground moves. He had Keil Bay doing some sort of dance that involved Keil going down onto his knees and then coming back up again. He had built a wall of big rocks and the horses were climbing it for him, like giant mountain goats.

I went out and proceeded to interview him, as if I were only moderately impressed with these feats. He wanted to know the entire history of each horse and donkey, and I was impressed with that, and proceeded to tell him, while the horses continued to show off all the new tricks he'd already managed to teach them.

If dreams are wishful thinking, I suppose that's what I longed for just before waking - a day where everything went as directed, gracefully, breathtakingly in sync with my commands.

Let me assure you - that is NOT happening.

It's one of those days when I can identify that the chaos is inside ME, almost at the cellular level, and the world around me only SEEMS out of control. Tomorrow the chemistry will have shifted and I'll be back to the regular perspective.

There is an ongoing discussion on several different horse forums right now about feeding practices. A man from Scotland typed in what I feel is the most elegant, simple, natural feed routine I think I've ever read. The fact that it happens in Scotland certainly must be adding to my romantic idea of how perfect it is. And he has herds of cattle to graze fields before putting horses onto them, to break the parasite cycle and to bring the grass down for the horses so they can graze round the clock without getting too much.

Still, his use of barley and green leafy things such as shard, some vegetable oil, salt, molasses for those who need it, seems wonderful.

He tapes each horse every week, puts the data into Excel, and creates a spreadsheet so he can track weight gain/loss accurately over time, rather than eyeballing it and guessing. Guess what went onto my to do list this morning?

We have hoof trimming tomorrow, I have a 3-day spread of client sessions, a meeting I'd like to attend on Friday morning, and all the regular stuff on the agenda. Maybe the extra activity will counteract the chaos!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

riders on the storm - not

I had a post all planned, called riders on the storm, and I was going to take photos of our bravery as we faced thrashing winds and torrential rains. However, thankfully, we got about 5 inches of rain but had no flooding, no branches or trees down, and by mid-day today the sun was shining.

The grass in both fields is growing faster than the horses can graze it, so the big event of the day was buying a grazing muzzle for the pony. August and September are hard months for him weight-wise, and with all this wonderful rain it's either lock him up or muzzle him. He was not very impressed with the muzzle, aptly titled the My Best Friend.

I think if you put a sketch of a fat pony snorting steam out his nostrils you'd be closer to the truth.

He went in the trees and tried to get it off once - although there might also have been a horse fly after him so we weren't sure of his intentions.

But after his ride tonight, and his dinner, back on it went and we'll see how this approach works.

Rafer Johnson is doing well. This morning he was flinging his feed tub around the stall, which is one of his favorite things to do when he finishes his breakfast. He had a little time outside his stall tonight to graze and enjoy the evening air. It's time to add in another item of intrigue, I think, so tomorrow I'll be surprising him with a new toy.

I hope Hanna was as kind to everyone as she was to us.

Friday, September 05, 2008

good omens and a good day

This is what I woke up to this morning. It's a whole new take on the glass half-empty, half-full idea. Ours is full and brimming over with Muffine Eloise energy, which I took as a fine portent of the day to come.

After horse and donkey breakfasts, I turned the geldings and Salina into the back field, with the intention of normalizing things well before the vet's truck pulled in. It worked. There was some neighing and braying but it settled down and by the time the vet arrived, everything was calm.

On my way down to dump the wheelbarrow, I discovered that the wild muscadines in the back field are ripe, and made a detour to sample some. Down in the labyrinth path a deer bounded forward and then stopped to watch me through the trees on the other side. I stopped for a moment just to breathe and enjoy the wildflowers, pink and lemon yellow, mustard and white.

Back up the path there was a lovely gnarled tree root beside a smooth rounded stone. I was tempted to bring it in, but decided it made a nice tableau right where it was.

Up at the barn, I checked in on Rafer Johnson, filled all the water tubs in preparation for Hanna, and fixed the tarp on the shavings pile. By that time I was soaked in sweat, so I went in, husband and daughter went out, and they got started with the vet while I took a shower.

He was just finishing up when I got out there. The cast looks beautiful, and can actually stay on for 6 weeks so long as there are no pressure sores. Rafer did beautifully, and after he woke up and got his legs back solid to the earth, walked into his stall.

He is a bit subdued, but I expect this to pass as he adjusts to the new feel of his leg.

I've been to the grocery store, there is Rescue Remedy in horse water buckets, and everyone is settled with some hay. We're ready to ride out the storm.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

it's a wonderful day in the donkey-hood

And we badly needed one!

Rafer Johnson has been in great spirits all day long. He brayed for his morning hay at 8, he brayed for his feed and supplements at 10, he brayed when he heard the wheelbarrow coming up from the labyrinth path, he brayed for Salina's lunch at 3.

Around 5, I took out a late afternoon treat of melon and carrot chunks to tide everyone over until the big horseflies go away. Rafer ate a few melon chunks but decided he preferred the crunch of the carrots, so he got most of those.

Salina and Keil Bay ate a number of melon chunks before deciding that perhaps they were a bit weird.

Apache Moon and Cody said, hey, we'll eat anything! And they finished off the melon.

Rafer and Salina shared some hay at his front door. You can see Salina's blind side here, although to be honest, she is pretty savvy about knowing what's there even without the eye. Rafer Johnson loves nothing more than sharing a pile of hay with her, so I'm glad we figured it out so they can still do that while he's stalled.

He is in fine Rafer form - making faces at the camera. You can see his peg leg at the rear of the photo, wrapped with pipe-insulation foam to keep it from rubbing. The stall is very shadowy this time of day, but the wall to the right is where his licking ball, water tub, and salt lick are.

He got a get well card in the mail today and I'm going to put it on the back wall for him along with a few surprises. I figure we'll add one thing at a time to keep him guessing.

Sheaffer, Dougie Donk, Ginger, and Fred have all given me wonderful ideas for more donkey toys and items of interest to keep things hopping out there.

Tomorrow he gets his cast - so I hope once that's done we can settle in and let the healing continue.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

weathering storms

We got the surgical consult recommendations today - the surgeon at the local vet school recommended surgery to fuse the bone, insert a plate, and cast the leg. Rafer would be at the vet school for 2-3 weeks, and would then be on stall confinement for 3 months. The cost would be upwards of 7k by the end of the hospital stay.

The alternative recommendation was to have our vet cast Rafer's leg here at our farm, under general anesthesia so he could be lying flat out for the casting. He would be re-cast every 4 weeks for 12 weeks or so, and would be on stall confinement for 6 months total to give the bone plenty of time to fuse completely. His turn-out would be limited for one full year, and we would not be asking him to bear any weight or learn driving, etc. until he is 5-6 years old.

We've decided to do the casting here and deal as best we can with the long confinement. The idea of sending Rafer to the hospital for up to 3 weeks, and opening up the leg/joint to possible infection when the end results will be basically the same is too much.

So... our vet told us to leave the leg wrapped as it is until Friday when he will be getting his casting done.

Rafer had a tough day today - he was subdued and seemed sad to me. I sat with him for a couple of hours and cleaned bridles, and he moped around the stall. Salina gave him a nuzzle at one point - he perked up for that. But it was when I came in from the barn that I got the vet's call and it was hard to hear the two options. Neither seems ideal. But we'll manage.

Tonight he was much brighter. Maybe on some level he knows there is a plan, and that he won't be going anywhere. As boring as the stall is hour after hour, it is close by his herd and we all pop in many times during the day and evening.

I also want to say that Rafer's breeders have been amazing throughout this process. Not only have they offered ideas and shared their many years of experience with donkey care, they have graciously agreed to let Redford stay with them (and his large donkey herd!) until things are settled here and Rafer is ready to welcome his new donkey pal. It has meant a lot to us not to have to worry about Redford - he is in good hands and he will come when the time is right.

On Friday we'll be getting Rafer's leg ready for the next 4 weeks of healing. Saturday we'll be weathering whatever Hurricane Hannah brings our way.

I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.

-Louisa May Alcott

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

donkey montessori

Rafer is doing pretty well - his mood is somewhat subdued, but he doesn't seem depressed. More like he can't quite believe we're keeping him in a stall.

Today I took the grooming kit in again and let him select what he wanted me to do. We went through each brush, curry, etc. and he picked the ones he liked best. We have a little rubber mitt that is very soft but nubby and he loved that one on his neck and back. He liked the big soft brush and the face brush on his face and cheeks. He also loves having the insides of his lovely ears brushed very carefully and will stick his neck straight out in pure delight.

My goal was to get as many happy donkey sounds out of him as I could - those soft little grunts that I initially thought meant he had a cold!

I took a trip to the tack shop and feed stores today to see what I could find. We added a mini salt block and a hanging ball that looks like something a bird might like. Rafer stared at it for awhile, and then he smelled our hands after we touched it, and finally he decided to walk over and give it a lick, and discovered he likes it.

My daughter took him some hand-picked grass mid-morning, and this afternoon he got some apple and carrot chunks. Tonight we brought in some new hay, so he was able to monitor that.

Tomorrow is the big day - the changing of the leg wrap/rig - and I'm a bit nervous that we won't be able to get it just so like the vet did. But I will be glad to let that leg air out, look it over, and see how he's doing under all those layers.

A question - anyone know where to get a hay net with tiny holes, as recommended by jme? I can't find one locally and the only ones I'm seeing online are in the UK.

Keep us in your thoughts tomorrow morning, and visualize dexterity with various wrapping materials, a cooperative donkey, and a stabilized leg! :)

Monday, September 01, 2008

the next day - keeping the little donkey happy

I meant to take a few pictures this morning while the light was good on the convalescent corner of the barn - will try again tomorrow!

We managed to get things set up yesterday in a way that I think works well for this period of confinement for Rafer Johnson. He has the front corner stall, which has a front door, back door, and window to the barnyard.

We were able to put a much smaller stall door on the front so he can see over and under, and get more air flow. I've also closed the middle stall (right next door) off to the paddock, secured the door to the barn aisle so it stays open, and removed several boards from the wall between the two stalls. This allows Salina to stay right with Rafer. She can hang her head over the stall wall now, and they can touch noses and talk. She can walk around to his front door and hang out with him there. This morning she stood with her head resting against his flank, and it was obvious her touch made him very happy.

She also has access to the barnyard where she can both graze and get some movement, which is important for her 25-year old arthritic knees. Last night she grazed a few bites at a time and then stuck her head into Rafer's stall window to nicker softly to him and let him know she was right there.

I think this set-up will keep Rafer happiest, and Salina, and will make the days not quite so difficult for him.

He's been getting Arnica since yesterday afternoon, and I've been doing a visualization for the bones to heal well. White light and Linda's (the 7msn) blue sky have been the primary components. Somehow I think it's working.

We keep a camp chair handy so we can take it in and sit with Rafer. This morning I took the grooming kit in and let him play with the brushes and rubber curries while I gave him a good brushing. He has his Jolly ball and I'm looking for something called an Amazing Graze treat dispenser. Someone suggested I actually put his day's worth of pellets inside so that he can play with the dispenser and have something to work on all through the day.

Dickens (the cowboy cat) can now walk under the stall door, and since he is one of Rafer's best buddies, he too is visiting and providing some distraction.

One of my biggest concerns was alleviated this morning, when we discovered that Rafer can indeed lie down and get up with the rig he's wearing. I was so worried he wouldn't be able to do this, and would get tired. But he can do it, and it's nice to see him stretched out sleeping just like normal.

So far his appetite is great. At some point we will get some kind of portable corral so he can join Salina in the barnyard for some grazing but still be confined safely.

It's still hard to imagine this going on for four months. But the vet reminded me yesterday: "It will be a tough four months, but that is nothing compared to the 20+ years you have to go with this wonderful little man."

On other fronts, the pony is doing a most surprising and hilarious thing with regards to his herbal mixture. He seems thrilled that he gets something morning and night now, and is intensely interested in the mix. BUT - while he sniffs and looks and pricks his ears toward the tub, he will only eat the mix if I feed it to him from my hand!

He stands right by me and I hold the small rubber tub in one arm. I scoop up a handful of the wet goopy mush and he licks it out of my hand, then licks my hand clean. Then we do another handful, until the tub is empty and I have scraped every bit from the bottom and sides. It amazes me that he is engaging this closely with me over his food, and that he trusts me enough to eat something that clearly smells very odd to him. I have a feeling this whole way of eating it is part of the treatment and the solution.

His massage was good, and we should have the acupuncturist here tomorrow or Wednesday.

All of this reminded me earlier today that one of my favorite books when I was young was Dr. Dolittle. It kind of feels like that here this past few weeks. So much going on, so much learning, so much conversing with these amazing animals.