Saturday, November 29, 2008

november's billet-doux

It's one of those November days I love, gray and misty and chilly but not quite cold. Most of the trees are bare, but those that still have leaves have them in the beautiful burnished colors of autumn: tobacco brown and burgundy offset by evergreen.

I went out to get the mail and had to come right back in for the camera, which was mercifully on my desk and charged.

As I stood collecting mail, a kettle of black vultures suddenly settled into a tree overlooking our driveway, forming a venue, or committee. They made quiet little chirping sounds and stayed there while I took photographs. One decided to leave, stirred by the horses galloping up the hill, and singly, as if on cue, the vultures flew away.

The two handsomes set their burnished coats against the landscape, in the season I think fits them best:

Each month of the year has its own special gifts, but today is November's little love note to me.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

giving thanks

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

-Melody Beattie

(with gratitude to matthew for his lovely photograph)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

quite the crazy day

When I glanced out the window this a.m., Cody's blanket was hanging the wrong way on him - think sideways instead of front to back. I have NO idea how that happened!

By breakfast time what felt like the entire world of November Hill was a whirl of sound and movement.

On one side, a huge cement mixer was spinning red, white, and blue. Workmen were bustling all over the place, in white coveralls and hats.

On the other side, a strange tree limb trimmer was crawling along, extending its long white arm high up to the tops of trees, whacking away.

The horses and donkeys were not quite sure what to make of all this. Breakfast was served in the "safety" zone of the front field and grass paddock, where the herd clustered together, on either side of the inner fence line, trying to eat and monitor all this action at the same time.

How all this came to pass the day before Thanksgiving, I don't know, but I DO know there will be one big thankful herd come tomorrow morning when the world is quiet again.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

we three

For some reason it caught my eye this morning that these three were sharing a hay pile, even though there were plenty more to eat from.

I started snapping, and then got caught up in Rafer Johnson's handsome self.

Notice that young Redford never looks up, but takes the opportunity to move in on the hay pile!

I love this one, when Salina realized I was taking photos and decided she wanted a nice head shot too.

Monday, November 24, 2008

most fun of the day

was watching two little donkeys play musical mats in the barnyard!

Rafer would get on one, then Redford would follow. Rafer would move to the next one a few feet away, then Redford would get on THAT one. Hilarious!

This was after they walked up to meet the shavings man, who wanted to hear the entire story of the broken leg and how they interact with Salina, and how they got their names. They stood side by side for pats, ears high, noses soft and gentle. Ambassadors in training!

We managed to get shavings in before the rain, and Keil Bay timed his return from the field perfectly. He went at his manger and when I asked if he liked the new shavings, he lifted his head, looked at me over his stall wall, and nodded about four times.

These are an especially NICE batch, very fine and soft.

The putrid stall is drying out nicely. It needs another day and once those mats are back in I'll have a blast filling it with totally new, clean shavings, banked high and deep. At least the final part of the stall debacle is fun.

On another note entirely, head over to mystic-lit and follow the link to a blog supporting authors.

monday morning

Yesterday afternoon, following the pony dancing exhibition in our arena (he was truly dancing with my daughter, it was amazing!) I discovered that the end stall had a disgusting spot where the mats had separated over a depression in the stall base underneath. Every time I stepped on the mat putrid black sludge oozed up and out.

I was horrified, and with the help of my husband and daughter, we got the stall mucked, transferred the clean shavings to another stall, and then stripped the mats out so we could address the mess underneath.

There were actually two spots of black sludge. I used some sawdust to soak it up and then mucked that out. Now it's stripped, the mats have been washed, and the whole thing will air out for a day or two before we put a new layer of stall base in and level it out so the mats can go back properly.

This is one of those chores that stays on my "to be done" list, but almost never gets done until something (like black sludge, for example) carries it directly to the top. The mats weight over a hundred pounds each (and each stall has SIX!) and are incredibly difficult to lift and move. My idea is that maybe we can get this stall done and then tackle one a month until we get through the rest of them.

After getting horses set up for the night, my husband and I made a run to the grocery store, and when we got home, it suddenly occurred to all of us that we hadn't seen Dickens E. Wickens all day. The search ensued. He did not come to anyone's call, but was suddenly heard crunching cat food in the laundry room, thank goodness! He slept on my pillow for most of the night.

Today I have a load of shavings being delivered, FINALLY, and will spend some time getting stalls comfy for the coming week.

Hopefully we can get rides in before the rain arrives. OR if I'm lucky, they're WRONG and we won't get any rain at all!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

saturday's riches

A pony who has been in treatment for sore hocks, floating around the arena at the trot, breaking into the canter out of sheer pleasure, head and neck rounded, tail lifted and swinging softly, hindquarters fully engaged.

A donkey whose leg was broken putting on his special "donkey trot" - nose lifted, head turning from side to side, proudly sailing across the arena, with his best buddy right behind him.

A new round bale of hay, plus mustard greens and fresh eggs from our hay grower extraordinaire.

Temps above 40!

Friday, November 21, 2008

a friday evening in november, cold, but look at the light!

Today was pretty bitterly cold. The horses kept their blankets on, and I actually let Salina and the donkeys have the entire barn as back-up if they wanted to get out of the biting wind. They alternated, taking some sun during part of the day, and getting out of the elements the other.

A huge tarp blew into the fence mid-morning from our neighbor's yard, and while we have our own tarps flapping about, without any disturbance, the "strange" one seemed to un-nerve the equines. Salina was spooky when I fed her lunch, and brave "low man in the herd" Cody was issued forth to walk through the gate, meaning he had to face down the tarp, which had blown along the fence line and gotten tangled yet again.

Once he made it through safely, Keil Bay and the pony came through too.

I moved Cody to the near side of the barn, put Salina in with Keil and Apache, and gave the donkeys back their barn aisle, making the executive decision that it was nearing 4 p.m., they had been out in the wind all day, and maybe some quiet stall time with NPR and hay-filled mangers was what they all needed.

An hour later, I was in the laundry room switching out laundry when I happened to glance out toward the barn. It looked cold, but the barn itself seemed to have a nice warm glow. I could see Cody's rump through his back stall door, and across the barn aisle, Salina's head over the stall door, where she was communing with her donkey boys.

Not sure about the dusky light, I took a second one, using the 'night shot' feature. And look how it came out:

My image of peace and safety for my family, herd, and friends always includes a circle of white light. And there it is.

Here's to a safe, peace-filled, warm weekend for us all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

morning meditation

After my bath this morning, I glanced out the window and was met with this little scene.

I caught this morning morning's minion..., from Gerard Manley Hopkins' poem came to mind.

These darlings of the farm, soaking in the sun.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I knew it was going to be cold out today. Before going out to feed breakfast to horses and donkeys, I finally got around to cleaning out the front closet, which was stuffed with coats, gloves, hats, assorted and sundry used shipping boxes, plastic inserts, etc., as well as a few games, a bag of clothing needing to go to the thrift shop, and AC filters.

I made up four more bags of thrift store donations, two bags of trash, and matched up all the gloves. There was a barn jacket that fits me and I have no idea where it came from.

Son, daughter, and I all bundled up and went out to do morning chores.

It was nice feeding a warm breakfast to the equines. I'm somewhat fanatical about them having their blankets unbuckled up front while they eat feed, so we got them all undone, let them eat, then buckled them back up again so they could go out and face the very strong, cold wind.

It wasn't bitterly cold, but the constant wind made it seem a lot colder than it was.

On the way to the feed store to buy shavings (this is what happens when you let the shavings pile get down to the dregs and call for a delivery at the last minute... then it rains for three days and he doesn't want to deliver until the ground dries out) so everyone would have a fresh warm cushion for tonight's hard freeze.

When I pulled into the thrift shop parking lot, it started snowing!

By the time I pulled out of the feed store lot down the road, it was snowing hard, and combined with the wind, it was almost like a blizzard. We don't really get blizzards here, but this was close. Of course, it only lasted about 10 minutes, but for that span of time, it was like I'd moved someplace else entirely. I had flashes of Little House on the Prairie, which we read out loud, every single volume in the series, several times when the kids were young.

I couldn't wait to get home to see what the horses and donkeys were doing.

They were eating hay in the field and grass paddock, business as usual. A few minutes later the sun was out, blue skies were back, and our little afternoon blizzard was over.

I created a bit of excitement with a syringe full of crushed digestive enzymes and molasses. Cody was the recipient, and after getting about 2/3 of the dose, somewhat enthusiastically, he decided the aftertaste of enzyme wasn't worth the sweetness, so he took off down the hill. Keil Bay and the pony, ever ready to taste anything, bellied up and shoved their open mouths at me. The pony gripped the syringe in his teeth and tried to run with it, but I wrestled it back and gave each a taste. They tasted, they flapped their lips, and they walked off. Cody came back, thinking that maybe I had switched out the original syringe for something more tasty.

In the barn, the donkeys had their turn. Only Salina, the wise one, resisted. I suspect her 25 years have taught her that nothing good comes from a syringe.

But wow - that pill crusher works great!

Monday, November 17, 2008

updates on the hill

Monday morning dawned COLD here, and it looks like we have at least four more nights of below freezing temps to look forward to. I spent some time this a.m. doing a chore that almost inevitably means "cold weather." Taking the butt straps off horse blankets and rinsing them off so they can dry before blankets go back on tonight! Fun, fun. Oddly enough, the pony's butt strap always stays clean. It's the entire rest of his blanket that gets muddy!

The sudden shift from warmer temps to much colder ones left Salina with a slightly swollen left knee yesterday. I had put some of her "Buff B" powder in with breakfast, because these sudden changes to cold often mess with arthritic joints. The Buff B mix is a wonderful, buffered, apple-flavored powder our vet offers for horses who might need more than just the occasional dose of Bute. I don't use it daily by any means, but for Salina, I use it the night before and the morning of her hoof trims, and also when we have these crazy weather changes.

After I'd given the Bute, I realized her knee was a bit swollen and I wished I'd given Banamine instead. This morning I let her eat breakfast and then some more hay, water, etc., and then I gave her the dose of Banamine. She followed me into the stall after taking the Banamine, and I came inside worrying a bit about her. We barely made it in the house before my daughter told me to go look at Salina, who had walked back out to the paddock, taken a nice roll, and jumped up into a beautiful trot. As if to say - no need to fret. I'm fine.

I have her homeopathic remedy mixed up and will give that this afternoon and at bedtime.

The donkeys are fine. The only issue with the donkeys is that they are so cute it is almost too much to bear! Rafer is moving well, continuing to use his leg and rest it as needed. We have begun to re-introduce the concept of "halter does not mean vet" and "touching your leg only means hoof picking." He is a bit tentative about the opposite hind being held up for picking, which is understandable. Redford continues to be in the pocket of all of us. He trots around like a little dressage star. I don't know how in the world we got so lucky to find two lovable, handsome, sweetheart donkeys, but we did. This is what they're up to, right this moment:

The pony is currently in the paddock because he is insufferable with his grazing muzzle on. He goes after Keil Bay and will NOT let up. A certain amount of this roughhousing is fine, but at some point the Big Bay deserves to graze without the rubber muzzle of a pony being thrust into his face. So the Little Man was led into the dirt paddock and there he will stay until lunchtime.

Keil Bay and Cody are both doing well. It's Adequan injection day for the Big Bay, and Cody is having his supplements AM and PM. If my daughter and I can brave the chill outside, we'll be riding the two boys in a bit, practicing the Training 1 dressage test. I have got to find some riding gloves! I know there are a pair around here somewhere.

Meanwhile, I'm keeping the woodstove going and thinking already how warm today will seem once we get to tomorrow, when the high doesn't make it out of the 40s.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

saturday at sunset

We went out just before sunset to get horses in for the night. Keil Bay came up from the front field, and Cody and Apache Moon soon followed. I was picking the Big Bay's hooves out before he went into his stall, when my daughter told me to look at the sky.

Facing the house, this was the view:

And facing out over the arena, this:

I couldn't fit the entire double rainbow in the frame, but it was stunning for about a minute, and then began to be obscured by clouds. But it was nice to see - double rainbows have long been a special sign.

When we came in I learned that the tornado watches have been cancelled, thank goodness. There is rain coming, with some wind, but not the damaging, potentially devastating winds many folks experienced last night.

I have the back door open so I can keep an ear to the wind, book mss to read, and expect to soon smell Victoria's ginger cookies in the oven. Hurry over for her recipe, and you, too, can join the Saturday evening fun. Thanks, Victoria!

And if ginger cookies aren't enough, go check out the Ginger Darlings. Go back into the archives - you'll not regret the lovely photos.

Friday, November 14, 2008

rain expected all day

The rain started yesterday, but at least it started late so the horses had time in the field and the donkeys had some time in the paddock before they all had to come in. It let up some just before dark, and my daughter took the geldings in the arena and did a group free lunge session so they could get some exercise, giving me three empty stalls to muck and top off with new shavings.

Today it's supposed to rain pretty much nonstop, and it's always a challenge to keep everyone in the barn content.

I don't like anyone to have to stand in stalls for too long without moving around a bit, so we play musical stalls and give everyone a turn on the side of the barn with the shelter. The donkeys have the barn aisle to march around in, but that gets old when it lasts an entire night, a full day, and another night. But at least they're not stuck in stalls all that time.

If the rain lets up we try to give some time in the arena. The footing drains really well out there, and the screenings mixed in with the sand do a good job of cleaning the feet out.

We'll listen to NPR and feed hay and keep waters topped off and clean. And since it's so warm right now, I won't fuss if the geldings choose to go out and stand in the rain in the field. Tomorrow the cold front comes through, and hopefully sunshine with it, as the hardest combination is rain and cold wind.

This is one of those days when I'd love to have a barn with double-sized stalls and adjoining paddocks with partial shelters, that all opened to a central area, where I could have some comfy chairs, a desk, lamplight, and a small kitchen to make horse cookies and hot tea.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

saddle fitting and a funny sign

Keil Bay's saddle got checked yesterday and I have to remind all you riders - if you haven't had yours fitted in awhile, or if you have been having funky little things happen like finding a foot repeatedly floating in a stirrup, a saddle pad bunching up or jamming down, feeling unbalanced in the saddle, etc., it could be something easily solved by a simple saddle fit check.

I've been noticing for a few months that Keil Bay's pad ends up jammed down over his withers by the end of a ride. One day it was so bad he was stretching down and turning his neck and shoulders trying to free himself up. I got a new, stiffer pad with more "swoop" at the withers and that helped but did not solve the issue completely.

My saddle fitter arrived yesterday and I was tacked up and riding when he drove through the gate, so he could see what happens. He had me remove the saddle so he could measure the Big Bay's Very Broad Back and compare notes to the last visit. Keil has gotten a bit narrower through the withers, and the wool flocking in the front of the saddle had gotten very soft. The combination of those two things meant the pommel was tipping forward when I rode.

Well - I didn't feel so much like *I* was tipping forward, but have noticed myself having to put my legs back further, which I suppose was my effort at maintaining the balance.

Keil Bay stood and watched while David worked, completely intrigued with the plastic bag of wool flocking, the crunching sound that I suspect he thought *might* be indicative of a treat, and the satisfied look of a horse being fitted for work. Keil Bay loves being fussed over.

David fixed the flocking and tried the saddle on sans pad. He worked some more, tried it again, and showed me that it was totally stable. He then saddled Keil Bay up for me (a rare treat) and sent us into the arena to try it out.

Wow! I was back in my comfy deep seated saddle again. My legs were perfect. The rising trot was smooth and forward and easy. The pad stayed right where it was supposed to be.

I was lucky that when I bought Keil Bay his previous owner agreed to sell me his custom-made saddle, which happened to fit me perfectly too. I didn't know until I had David out the first time, but it was actually his father who fitted Keil with this saddle originally. The saddle fits him well, as long as I keep a check on it and get things adjusted as needed.

A badly fitting saddle can do terrible things to a horse's back and a rider's position, which in turn throws the horse further off balance.

If the subtle issue I had addressed today made such a huge change, I can only imagine how dramatic something bigger would be.

On a totally different note, I woke up this morning and sent out some emails regarding the current novel. The very instant I sent the last one, the phone rang. I didn't get to it in time to answer, but the caller ID said Feature Film Inc. There was no message, and I'm sure this was some sort of sales call, completely unrelated to anything. But I take it as a sign of something good to come for this novel.

Which, by the way, I feel would make a QUITE FINE feature film, so if you know anyone looking for a project, send him/her my way. :)

woohoo wednesday

I had the dreaded dental appointment this a.m. and was very pleasantly surprised that all he had to do was put the crown back in, properly, using the proper materials. I'm as good as new with no trauma involved.

This was inevitably helped by the two-hour long hot stone massage I indulged in yesterday. H. was due to come anyway, but I selfishly co-opted the equine massage time and added it to mine! I decided that Apache is getting enough attention right now with acupuncture, warm towels on hocks and warm water bag on hips. Cody is getting the supplements and is moving like a dream. Keil Bay gashed his face yesterday a.m. and while he might have done well to get a massage, my gut feeling said he needed some ointment, some arnica, and an afternoon of soaking in the sunshine while he munched on hay and grass. Salina and the donkeys seemed so peaceful I decided not to mess with that.

All excuses, I admit, but H. agreed - it was time for ME to get some indulgence.

The massage was, as usual, incredible, and I hereby swear never to let myself miss one again.

Yesterday after the massage I got an email from my saddle fitter, saying he could swing by today to take a look at the Big Bay's saddle. He's impossibly busy and usually it takes months to get on his schedule, so I seized the opportunity and will be out riding Keil at 3 today so that David can see what his saddle pad is doing and fix whatever it is that's off.

And then, the week's scheduled events are OVER. I can ride, write, read, clean, hang out, and not have a single thing to "get ready for."

My favorite way to hit the end of a week.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

big strides and a bobcat

Yesterday's ride on Cody was quite good, once I got past the initial struggle with a pair of stirrup leathers that had to be put on his dressage saddle.

The moment I mounted though, things were good. He walked off with a HUGE stride, markedly different than his normal gait. Cody has had some tendencies to not use his hind end well, and we've always done exercises to work on that. Getting the shoes off was the first positive step, and then finding our current trimmer, who doesn't take much sole off those hind feet.

We have encouraged Cody to really stretch out and use his body, and to forget the small, mincing steps he learned in his Western Pleasure training. He's made tremendous progress but has always needed praise to "walk out." He seems to enjoy it but is also anxious that he's doing the wrong thing.

Anyway, yesterday, after not riding him myself for a month or so, I was struck by the movement of my seat when he walked out. It felt much more like riding Keil Bay, who has a huge stride, and it was relaxed and rhythmical from the first step.

I knew from watching my daughter ride that he's been looking quite nice this fall, but yesterday's ride went even further. After a long walk warm-up, we trotted, and the big relaxed stride carried through. He did well at the transitions, and I could feel in every single stride his back moving up and through.

He's on day 5 of his supplement to deal with the kidney stone, and I'm wondering if that is being dissolved and his hind end comfort is rapidly improving. In any case, I'm thrilled with his progress.

Later in the evening, while getting everyone set up for the night, the Corgis started barking like mad and in response there was, right at the woods' edge by the back yard, an odd shrieking bark-like sound that was so loud and intense I marched over to see what it was.

I actually thought at first it was my daughter playing with the Corgis, pretending to bark at them, but then I saw her walk by the glass doors inside the house, and realized then it was an animal.

My husband came out and went looking with a flashlight. Dickens came marching out of the woods, totally calm and not at all scared, and in a few moments there was a bounding crunch of leaves as something ran along the fenceline. Shortly after that a small herd of deer bounded by.

We never laid eyes on the shrieking creature, but I'm almost certain it was a bobcat. I've been finding bobcat scat and I guess last night the bobcat had a confrontation with Dickens.

Bobcats are solitary and symbolize secrets and silence and the power of the life force. They also represent clairaudience and the ability to know what isn't being said.

My first response was: "I want it relocated."

Which today makes me laugh, because wouldn't that be convenient - being able to relocate the "messages" that make us uneasy!

Monday, November 10, 2008

a coloratura day

It's 50-something and sunny, with a slight breeze that is perfectly wafting leaves of various hue through the air and to the ground. I've opened up the barn for the day, and put the geldings in the front field where they are walking around, stopping for hay breaks, and taking mini-naps in the warm sun.

The sun makes squares and rectangles of light in the stalls as it moves across the sky. I often feel like making a sort of clock that tracks time by the movement of the shapes through the barn over the course of the day. NPR is playing in the tack room, and alternately the classical station.

Salina and the donkeys are in the dirt paddock for a change of scenery, with their own hay and the same sunshine. Rafer Johnson and Redford are quite happy because there is some activity going on next door involving tools. They immediately went to the far end and stood side by side and alert, surveying the action.

My daughter's dressage lesson got canceled for today, so suddenly we have nothing on the agenda except a run to the feed store later and our regular chores. We'll be riding and then it's time for me to tackle Keil Bay's hooves in what will be my first effort at a minor trim. I have sketches from our trimmer, and a rasp, and hopefully Keil Bay's cooperation as I work.

Cody is not at all liking the digestive enzyme tablets, so for now I'm making sure he gets the other supplement. He is willing to eat his food out of my hand with the enzyme in, but that takes a LONG time and I think it will be easier to mix up the crushed tabs with some blackstrap molasses and syringe it after he eats. I want him to enjoy his meals, and while he will eat it from my hand, it's obvious he doesn't like the possibility of that bitter enzyme exploding in his mouth. Even Keil Bay flapped his lips at the digestive enzyme! Funny, because he slurped his right up, but this is a different kind, and it's intriguing that he won't eat it. I think on some level they know what they need.

I'm reading through the novel, which I've set up in a corner of the living room by a window that looks out onto the forest. Wild muscadines have climbed across the screen, and the shadows of the leaves make beautiful patterns on the curtain and my legs.

The Word of the Day email just popped in and what a fitting word:


Indeed it is.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

sorting from the saddle

My Thursday was spent driving to dental offices and even after the tooth had been temporarily fixed, it fell apart again before bedtime. My dentist was out of town, so now I have the prospect of another day next week spent driving and having the permanent fix done. Thankfully, I'm not having pain or discomfort, and the procedure itself is not one of the more traumatic dental procedures.

I used up some unnecessary energy Thursday feeling whiny, as I had planned to ride that day. When I got home in the late afternoon, it was sunny and there was time, but I chose to focus on what I had not gotten to do earlier and didn't make the best of what was right there in front of me.

Friday I had the choice to drive another hour and a half round trip to get the crown once again affixed temporarily, or just to leave it out and stay home to ride. I decided to ride.

Keil Bay was more than ready to be groomed and tacked. I told him during breakfast that I would be riding him, and when I opened stalls for turn-out after, he remained in the barn. He enjoyed a long grooming and checking over. I asked him the questions he loves to hear: How did you turn out to be so handsome? How did I manage to find the most handsome horse in the world to be my partner in zen?

And then we went into the arena. I needed to open the gate to the back field so we could alternate arena and hill work, and he followed. Keil Bay likes having a routine, and he seems to prefer being ridden in the early part of the day so he can then go out with a sense of accomplishment. His demeanor is entirely different when he's been ridden - there's an aura of pride, a certain air of satisfaction. He's the kind of horse that offers a reward beyond the ride itself.

Surprisingly, it didn't feel like we had been off work as long as we have. We warmed up and did mostly walking, but he was very responsive to the leg and we decided to trot and make good use of that. It was sunny and leaves were blowing gently in the air. The back field is awash with color right now, and my daughter was on her pony, so it was a joint effort. (the pony is feeling so good he kicked up his heels when we broke into a canter!)

The one piece of evidence that the Big Bay and I haven't been working were some rough transitions - especially canter to trot. I was out of balance, he was out of balance, and we kind of bumped our way back down, but even that felt good. Something to work on over the next few rides.

I don't really know why riding makes things feel so much better. It's almost like the "sort" option in the email tool kit. I love that tool. Click it and select how you want things arranged, and order appears in the inbox.

When I put riding into my day, everything seems to magically sort itself into place. I have no idea why I allow days without it! And yet I get caught up in the busy-ness of chores, the assorted minor ailments of two middle-aged bodies (mine and the Bay's), the torpor of too much to do and feeling an odd compulsion to get it all done.

My guiding rule is to ride first and then do chores, but I can get pulled away from that thinking into: just do these few chores first, then ride, then finish up. The chore list around a barn is a black hole. Get within a few feet of it and you will be sucked right in. I know this - but still I think I can manage "just these few chores."

Oddly, making the ride the goal of the day seems to melt the compulsion and I still end up getting things done. But my mood is completely different. There's a mellow feeling that pervades the work.

We had some rain this morning but the sun did come out, more lovely leaves swirled, and I made another choice to sort the day from the saddle.

Keil Bay was more than ready. We did a long warm-up with lots of walking and BIG walking to really stretch him out. I focused on a couple of things - keeping my elbows back and using half-halts.

When I started feeling him really marching and moving through, we (daughter was riding Cody today) did some focused work on transitions. I often use the dressage markers to help give me visual "points of change" so I don't have to think about that part of an exercise. We rode the entire arena, changing gait at each marker. Walk to trot, then trot to walk, and so on. My plan was that if Keil Bay didn't respond pretty instantly to my up transition aid, I would chase him into the canter, and then resume the walk and ask again.

I didn't have to chase him one single time - he was incredibly responsive and the half-halts became the focal point of the exercise, getting myself to use them clearly so he could be prepared to do exactly as I asked and we could get very crisp, clean transitions.

We did this both directions and then made it a bit more difficult. Trot to canter, canter to trot at each marker. Wow! Keil Bay was incredible. The repetition helped me get very clear with my cues and he responded on the nose each time.

I was ready to walk him on a loose rein and call it a very successful day, but of course my daughter demanded that we do a canter victory lap. So off we went. Coming down the long side on the final stretch, Keil cut the corner to catch up to Cody and we sailed over three ground poles that had gotten clustered together. Keil Bay was as happy as could be, and after a bit of walking to cool down, we called it a day.

When I went out to get the horses in tonight, Keil Bay was already up at the barn. He walked with me out into the darkness to call in Cody and the pony. We had a few minutes standing in the moonlight together, listening for hooves crunching through fallen leaves and just breathing. It's nice to get back to the connection that comes through working together.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

look what she made while I was noveling!

I noticed on Halloween Eve that there was one last writing spider left alive on the front porch. She was in her web all day long, and when it got dark she went up to the top of the porch. I thought she was getting out of harm's way during the party! But when I went out the next morning she'd made an egg sac.

Since then she has made two more egg sacs, each one in a single overnight session.

I learned tonight that the argiope aurantia makes up to 4 egg sacs each year.

The idea that she is out there working so hard while I'm inside making my own creation makes me happy.

Apparently come spring we will have literally thousands (based on the number of egg sacs I see out there!) of the lovely writing spiders hatching out.

I just printed out the novel and hope it hatches into its own thousands of copies.

And I celebrated the ms being back in business by buying the Pretenders' newest album on iTunes, which is playing right now. Love love love it.

november on the hill

We've had several days of rain now, with gray skies and misty fields. The brilliant splotches of deep color and the rustlings of various creatures in the woods. Each time I walked down the labyrinth path with a wheelbarrow load, a small flock of birds (Eastern Kingbirds?) flew up and then settled again, their tiny wings batting the drying leaves and making the most lovely sound.

Yesterday my daughter and I spent hours keeping stalls clean and comfy, while the geldings cavorted in the drizzle of the back field, rearing and bucking and squealing like hyenas.

Salina paced and fretted whenever her donkey pair ventured from one end of the barn aisle to the other and she couldn't see them. We put her on the far side of the barn so she could walk and stretch her legs more, and the Little Man ended up on the near side for the evening.

Redford has convinced Rafer Johnson that rain is not so bad, and the two donkeys made a number of forays in the rain: one to check up on Salina, another to the round bale (which was woefully covered, so they made that trip for nothing!) and a final one to visit the pony through the arena gate.

Ken and Marty sent Rafer Johnson a beautiful new (and larger) halter, in black, and I know it is going to look so handsome on him.

I also got a call yesterday from Patsy with Cody's kinesiology test results. He has low digestive enzymes and a kidney stone! She sent two supplements to address these things and I updated her on Keil Bay and the pony. I'm relieved Cody has so little going on, and intrigued that the kidney stone could be the culprit for some hind end weakness he has sporadically.

Everyone is doing so well right now I rescheduled our chiropractic visit until December.

On other fronts, I hit the flow with the novel over the weekend and as of this morning have re-sequenced the entire 325 pages. Later today I will try and squeak out all those pages on my just-starting-to-fade printer cartridge and begin the page edits I've been wanting to do for two months.

As is usual with my creative process, it happens in layers, and I often don't know why I'm drawn to peel one layer away when it presents itself. It's only after I trust myself enough to do what presents that I realize I had to peel that one away to get to the next one down.

I've also been having some personal hormonal chaos, and I think one thing I've learned is that for me, soy is like a medication and I need to use it judiciously. I'm now reading food labels and focusing more on what I put into my body.

The other thing I learned, or more accurately, remembered, is this:

No riding, no writing, crazy me.

Let's reframe that.

Riding, writing, balanced me.

Monday, November 03, 2008

barn cat in training

Mystic has decided he wants to be a barn cat when he grows up, so Dickens, Barn Cat/Cowboy In Charge, has put the mystical kit into his training program.

Mystic is out at the barn off and on all day and night lately, while Dickens comes inside to take long, luxurious cat naps.

The barn cat in training had an interesting lesson yesterday. I think it had something to do with passing muster by the two donkeys who keep things in order at the barn.

Rafer Johnson did the first inspection. Then he sent Redford out for a second one.

Redford decided he wanted to see how the barn cat moved. Once he'd assessed that the cat's legs do work, he called for some back-up.

Mystic passed - and to celebrate, he proceeded to climb up a tree in the barnyard and put himself in a position most cats love: being above everyone else around.

You may have noticed that Rafer Johnson is totally naked. His leg was stocking up with the splint, and when we took it off per the vet's instructions, the leg immediately began to look better. For now, Rafer is going without it, and we're keeping him contained and also keeping an eye to make sure he's using the leg normally at least part of the time.

So far, he is being the wise donkey we know he is. He uses his leg carefully, rests it as needed, and lays down to sleep and roll. We still have a couple months to go while everything continues to heal and strengthen, but for now, he's looking almost normal again!

The thing I am loving most about photos of Rafer Johnson these days: nearly every photo I take reveals a halo of light. He's always been a special donkey, but I think he earned his angel wings when he broke his leg.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

through the doorway of Samhain

November 1 is the Celtic feast of Samhain. Samhain, Gaelic for "summer's end," was the most important of the ancient Celtic feasts.

A chant for Samhain that I love:

A year of beauty. A year of plenty. A year of planting. A year of harvest.
A year of forests. A year of healing. A year of vision. A year of passion.
A year of rebirth. A year of rebirth. This year may we renew the earth.
Let it begin with each step we take. Let it begin with each change we make.
Let it begin with each chain we break. And let it begin every time we awake.