Thursday, December 31, 2009

new year's eve day, 1 p.m.

This morning, upon return from barn chores, I found these lazy bones, Kyra and Wickens, sleeping in - please ignore my messy unmade bed!

Now, sitting here at the computer, I look out and see Keil Bay and Cody looking in:

And when I turned to open the window, I realized they are ALL out there! I suspect the equines would be nudging me as I type, if they could only get inside.

Alas, when daughter went out to feed Salina her first lunch (or second breakfast, or onesies, as we sometimes call it) and give hay to geldings, they promptly abandoned me and my open window.

Off to the store. I haven't left here in a week!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ending the year on November Hill

Daughter and I took some photos today as we worked, marking the end of this year on November Hill. Redford asks, you want to take WHOSE photo?

Here is Rafer Johnson, who I believe wins the award for the kindest eye:

No barnyard is complete without a cowboy, and here you see the thoughtful demeanor of our resident "desperado."

Not much more to say than this - I give you... the diva and her donkeys, whose favorite pastime is tipping round bales.

For those who don't know, Rafer Johnson is an aspiring medical professional, thus his nickname, The Amazing Dr. Johnson:

The ice I removed this morning from Salina and the donkeys' water trough. Note the donkey sized nose hole:

I titled this one Redford sky. But it basically denotes who seems most dominant in the herd right now, in terms of which equine puts himself front and center NO MATTER WHAT!

I love Rafer Johnson's photos, which often reveal something that gives away a secret - one that I've told here before. Rafer is a being of light, and lest you doubt it, look at the beautiful light fairy hovering near him here:

This is the Rafer Johnson version of Matthew's magnificent Tree of Life Bay photo which turned into my profile picture:

The wonderful humor of donkeys:

And Redford against a winter blue sky. The spirit in that small body is just about that big!

More tomorrow, with more of the amazing animals on November Hill. They make our days bright, and I'm looking forward to another year with all of them!

Need to add on the Keil Bay story that probably summarizes the overall wisdom of the Big Bay and the ongoing human-ness of me.

This afternoon I was cleaning his hooves and applying oil of oregano to frogs. He is quite taken with the scent of the oil of oregano, and can barely contain himself when I'm opening the bottle to get the drops ready.

Today, he kept craning his head to the bottom of my barn jacket, and I kept saying "what? there's nothing in there." At which point he would look at me and then crane his neck again, gently inserting his muzzle beneath the hem of my jacket and lifting it up toward me. I kept offering to let him smell the oregano, which he enjoyed, but then he'd go back to the coat.

I just thought he was being treat-obsessed, after all the Christmas goodies I've been doling out. But I felt in the pocket and found nothing. He gave a big sigh and went to wait by his stall door.

Lo and behold, when I came in just now, and did my ritual cleaning out of barn jacket pockets, I found a lone apple treat that had worked its way down into the lining of the pocket, and no surprise, really, the Big Bay knew what he was after all along!

Tomorrow I will let him sniff it out again and this time I'll listen.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

one december evening, impromptu in the arena

I was out at the barn as night came, and had a sudden brainstorm. I read someplace earlier in the week that a training level dressage test is about a half a mile if you tally up all those long sides and circles and such.

I had opened up the arena to the geldings' paddock, thinking they might enjoy some non-muddy footing to stroll in tonight, and the arena light came on with dusk. Suddenly the arena seemed inviting and I felt like some exercise.

So off I trotted, to enter at A, on foot, to get a half-mile work-out before heading back inside.

I was soon joined by a painted pony, who met me at my halt at X and continued on for a bit of the test. Then Cody the QH came in and took up where the pony left off. We did 3 runs of training 1 and then Cody and I did our own thing for awhile with the pony watching closely.

After a little longer, Rafer asked to come in from the barnyard, but as soon as I went over to let him in the geldings crowded the gate and I asked Rafer to wait.

Cody and I took another turn around the arena and Keil Bay decided all this was too much to resist, so he sauntered in and joined me. At one point he, Cody, and the pony were all standing at different parts of the arena and each one would accompany me for part of my round.

Rafer Johnson could not stand it. He shoved through the gate and joined the fun. After a few minutes of greeting he engaged Cody in a rousing game of tag. The two of them trotted and tossed heads and cantered and danced from one end of the arena to the other, while the rest of us watched. Finally, Keil Bay realized hay was being served and he headed out the gate to his stall. Cody did another round with me, the pony joined for one more free walk, and Rafer got a face rub before we all went in and I opened the clean stalls that had mangers piled with hay.

Rafer did a very tidy run-through when I opened Cody's stall door into the barn aisle, so he could join Redford and Salina.

It is still muddy and damp, but we had a sunny day, no need for blankets, and the evening's impromptu arena party was one of the best times I've had this week.

a horseman's duties to his horse

This is what I'm thinking about today, regarding new year's resolutions and horses and our commitments to them. Sadly I see many of these responsibilities being ignored on a daily basis.

I try to keep them in mind for myself and the horses, pony, and two handsome miniature donkeys who live with me.

And being bold and somewhat outspoken, I would add to this list:

10. Spread the word about your commitment to these duties through example, and by upholding them even when other horsepeople don't. Speak out for other horses when you need to, clearly and with respect, but most importantly with conviction.

From the German National Equestrian Federation books:


1. Anyone who takes charge of a horse assumes responsibility for the living creature entrusted to his care.

2. The horse's management should reflect its inherent needs.

3. Whatever the horse is used for, the utmost importance should be attached to its physical and mental well-being.

4. Every horse should be treated with the same consideration, irrespective of its race, age and gender, or whether it is used for breeding, leisure or competition.

5. Our understanding of the horse's history and lifestyle, and our knowledge of handling and dealing with horses are part of our cultural heritage. They should be safeguarded and passed on, and handed down to future generations.

6. Contact with horses makes a lasting impression and has a character forming effect especially on young people. The positive effects should be encouraged and built on.

7. The rider, who is the horse's partner, must submit both himself and the horse in charge to a program of training. The aim of this training is the greatest possible harmony between man and horse.

8. The use of the horse for competition or leisure riding, driving or vaulting must be in keeping with its type, its ability, its training and its level of fitness. Trying to improve the horse's performance through the use of drugs or unhorsemanlike practices is unacceptable.

9. The horseman's responsibility for the animal entrusted to him continues until the end of its life. The decisions made must always be based on what is best for the horse.

Monday, December 21, 2009

winter solstice 2009

I started thinking about this post on Friday, imagining something grand and wonderful, with accompanying pictures that would perfectly illustrate my words. A number of ideas came and went over the weekend, mostly related to music.

I heard Polyphony's rendition of the Donkey Carol and had thoughts of putting that music to a short video of Rafer Johnson and Redford, doing what they do best - running around the entire front field, taking turns pushing and resisting and holding the crest of the other by the teeth, firmly enough to guide, but gently enough to leave no mark.

For most of November and December I listen to George Winston's December cd, and his rendition of Pachelbel's Canon is one that makes me want to overcome my block regarding playing the piano, which I studied for 9 years as a child/teen and then gave up. Now I can't remember the left hand notes. The only thing that would compel me to struggle through that is playing the Canon the way George does. I had a brief fantasy of having a grand piano delivered to X in the riding arena, where I would play Pachelbel while horses and pony and donkeys danced in circles around me. Wouldn't the video of that be a perfect winter solstice post?

Given the fact that I would need an entire year to acccomplish that led me last night to looking for you tube videos of George Winston playing, or videos using Robert Frost's Stopping By Woods poem as the theme. In the end, I abandoned the keyboard to watch way too many episodes of the first season of West Wing, which I watched on DVD a few years ago and have now decided to watch again. I love the writing and the pacing and the way the cast brings the show to life. There was something winter solstice-like about the entire show, and when the first disk came on Friday, with EIGHT episodes, I knew there would be a binge at some point.

This has been an odd year for me. A number of milestones that most of us go through as we live our lives. The death of a parent, the death of a beloved dog, a physical injury that stopped me in my tracks for a few weeks. Caring for an older mare who seems bent on teaching me that aging is a process, and sometimes what seems catastrophic is just a bad day. And that there are not always clear answers to the question "what do we do now?"

I was holding her head on Friday, just being with her and stroking her eye. Salina is a black horse, perfect symbol for the winter solstice, and yet when I stood there holding her head in my arms what I noticed most were the silvery white hairs that sprinkle her face, much like the dawn of the day that follows the longest night. The days that grow longer, bit by bit.

This morning the first images of the winter solstice out my window were Keil Bay and Cody standing side by side in the front field, eating together from a small pile of hay. Now, as I look out, Keil Bay is standing alone in the morning sun, gazing directly at my window, his white star brilliant against his red bay coat.

There have been sounds of various cats growling and stalking, monitored closely by Kyra the Corgi, who likes order and wants them all marching to her Corgi drum.

It's chilly, but the day promises to get warm enough that I can do chores without a jacket. We have a special meal planned, and dessert, and a new box of white candles to light this evening. Today I plan to take a walk in the woods, and maybe I'll take the green velcro sleigh bells out and attach them to a halter or bridle just to hear the jingle and think of Robert Frost.

Tonight I hope to have a small bonfire. I have a stash of big stones by the labyrinth path that I've been collecting to make a fire pit. And sometime today I will set aside an hour to write another chapter in the pony book, which grew by many pages during my writing retreat, but is coming more slowly now.

In years past I have posted poems and excerpts meaningful to this day, and I think I'll look back in the archives and read them again. Mostly, I want to mark the passing of this year, and focus on the coming year, which I think will be a good one.

Happy winter's solstice to everyone. I hope you find something today - a moment in nature, a photograph, a piece of music, a poem - that invites pause enough to stop and reflect on the year that's passed and the year that is coming. How darkness grows and then the light comes. How marking the passage of things makes us human.