Monday, January 31, 2011

cody update and a new friendship in the herd

When I went out to feed tubs this morning, Cody was playing tag over the fence with Keil Bay, and then with Little Man, so it was good to see that his spirits are still high.

I noticed when he came into the barn for breakfast that he seems even more tender on the hoof, but when he went out after breakfast, he headed straight for the firm (but with some give) footing of the arena, and while when moving he seems more tender, when he is standing he is very purposefully putting himself square and then easing his full weight down onto that heel.

I'm thinking he's getting to that point that Salina gets to when the abscess is close to blowing and there is a need to 'push' on it. I've seen Salina prop her near to blowing abscessed hoof on a tree root and then shift her weight onto it to increase the pressure. And of course she will soak her own hoof in the water buckets on the ground when she feels that's what she needs to get the thing out. 

With Cody today, it appears he is doing a similar thing by squaring up so his full weight goes down onto that heel - but he's definitely easing into that.

He was tossing his head when some herd play started up, and again, I'm heartened to see that even though he's dealing with this abscess, his spirit is still strong.

Which segues me to the second part of the post.

A week or two ago I began to notice that a new dynamic was forming in the herd. The relationships are fairly stable - they all get along well enough in terms of all turning out together. Keil Bay is the benevolent leader, Salina is the not always so benevolent boss mare, and the major play has always been between Keil and Cody, Keil and the pony, Cody and the pony, and Cody and Redford donkey, and of course between the two little donkeys.

Rafer has never really "played" with the big horses or the pony. Redford has been quite the playmate for Cody though, and the two of them frequently have a game going at some point in every day.

Over the last couple of weeks though, I've noticed that the pony has been playing with Redford. It's very interesting, as the size difference is of course not as dramatic as Cody and Redford. Because the Little Man is so much smaller than Cody, the play with Redford can get much more ... fast.

This morning he and Redford were trotting around together, then cantering, then at a dead gallop. And they were prancing, lifting tails, doing the side-to-side head thing, and just generally having a blast. The first clue that major play was in the air though was Salina, who headed in from the back field at a very big walk - she wisely gets herself out of the way when that kind of action starts up.

Rafer was standing in the arena with Cody, and when Cody started tossing his head Rafer joined in the play but inside the arena, running around the rail keeping his eye on the pony and Redford, but also being very careful not to bother Cody. It was very sweet.

It's so much fun seeing a new friendship blossom, especially right now when Redford's main playmate is not exactly able to run with him!

waiting on an abscess

At least we think that's what we're waiting on. We woke up Saturday morning to find Cody lame on the left front. No swelling or heat in the leg itself, some heat around the heel bulb area. He was as eager as ever for his breakfast tub, and went out with the herd for after-breakfast hay.

I walked the back field where they'd been turned out Friday night. There was no evidence of any accident or wildness on the part of the herd. The ground is still very soft and I knew I'd see it if they'd been running or doing anything overly strenuous.

 Fortunately, too, my daughter rode Cody on Friday and I was out there to watch - he looked fine, if anything, better than usual in movement. So it's clear the onset was sudden.

We brought him back in after an hour or so on Saturday morning to soak the hoof, mainly to get it really clean so we could see if there was anything to be seen - there isn't. The primary clues are that he does not want to put his weight back onto the heel, and that seems to be where the little bit of heat is.

He *will* put his full weight on it periodically, and when he does, it doesn't seem like the discomfort dramatically increases- there is an increase until the weight goes down and then it seems to ease. He also seems to enjoy the soaking - puts his weight down into the water.

We've done two wrappings with Animalintex and reconfigured the barn set-up so that at night and for some time each day he and Rafer Johnson share the barn aisle, one stall, and the big barnyard and arena. Salina and Redford are on their side with the neighboring stall and grass paddock, and Keil Bay and Apache Moon are in their regular place, but with three stalls instead of two and their paddock.

Mainly I didn't want Cody to get upset that the herd was out of sight - this way they all get turn-out as usual but they are always where he can be adjacent to them.

During the day they're turning out and he goes out with them for some portion of the day.

The hoof seems to get a bit more tender after the wrapping, so I think the drawing action is doing its job - but the abscess just isn't coming "out" yet.  I've given two different homeopathic remedies - should know today if the second one has had an effect.

The most interesting thing about this is that we've never really had an opportunity to experience Cody as a "patient." He's the youngest of the horses, and although he does have the PSSM issue, we've not had the occasion to treat him for more than the occasional very minor thing.

I'm not sure why I'm surprised at how good a patient he is being. When his hoof is being soaked, wrapped, examined, etc., he is cooperative and very interested in what's going on. He loves the smell of the VetWrap, wants to know exactly what it is we're soaking his hoof in, and he's the most enthusiastic homeopathic remedy taker I've ever seen. He almost seems to be enjoying the special time he's getting.

All that said, I am of course ready for this thing to either reabsorb or burst out so that Cody can get back to normal. If we don't see some positive movement in the next day or so we'll get the vet out.  But meanwhile, I'm taking the time to stop and notice how flexible my herd is. They've all cheerfully switched their routine around to accommodate Cody's needs, and Rafer is being especially good about staying with Cody (when he could easily go through the fence and join the others).

When an equine is sick, or off, time seems to pass differently. It feels like days and days since Saturday morning, but it's only Monday. I've been thinking about spring and all the pre-spring chores that need doing. I've been looking at seeds and sketching out plantings. And getting myself a few months ahead of where we actually are - the middle of winter.

As horses seem particularly gifted at doing, Cody has brought all of us back to the present, where we watch and treat and wait with him for his hoof to heal. And when it does, and the herd is back to the usual routine, I think we'll all be extra grateful for "normal" again. Whether it's cold or hot, too wet or too dry, there's no question that all of those things are infinitely tolerable when the herd is healthy. And we have the luxury to complain about something like the weather.

Friday, January 28, 2011

how my children get my attention

by sending emails with subject headings like this:


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Roomba... fieldba?

Last night I reached the limits of my patience with the state of my house. Not that I kicked into full-blown cleaning gear - instead I sat down at my desk and once again began to look at the possibility of the Roomba.

After a few minutes, which were punctuated with Bear the Corgi chasing, in order, Kyra Corgi, several resident felines, and nothing, it occurred to me that perhaps my thought of Roombas constantly circling and cleaning was... not exactly realistic.

Can you imagine the scene here if I set up a Roomba with a less than one-year-old Corgi in the house? Between Bear and the cats, and Kyra provoking them into action from the sidelines, I'm not sure the Roomba would make even half a circuit.

I wrote on Facebook this morning that maybe the Roomba would work if I could program it to say "leave it, Bear" as it made its journey through the house.

And then, my mind went into overdrive.

A pasture roomba!

That scene would be, I'm afraid, even crazier. Between Keil Bay flipping it into the next county, the painted pony herding it, two donkey boys stomping it, and Cody nibbling it, the thing wouldn't make it to the first pile of manure.

All this is clearly a sign that I am emotionally and psychologically ready for spring. The day before yesterday I spent nearly the entire day harrowing the front field - there was ONE DAY where it had dried out and thawed out just enough to do the job, and rain was predicted for that night, so I had to get it done before the rain actually started. In the midst of it, I ran out of gas, one back tire that has a leak had to be filled with air 3x, the mower blades got packed with soil and mulched leaves, and I had to take a couple of breaks just to keep myself going. But I got it done.

Needless to say when I got inside around 4, the house was a wreck and I had to take son to his class. Yesterday I focused on the house. Hence the dreaming of Roombas and wallbas and all kinds of -bas that would take over and do all the things I feel like I never get to in the process of cleaning.

And what a shock when I realized that the one real thing in my fantasy - the Roomba - is not even a possibility because of the Bear! 

When I start obsessing over things like this, it's a sure sign spring is in the air, even if only as a fantasy. But it's not a fantasy - yesterday I discovered the first bulbs shooting their green heads toward the sky.

It's starting. And now there's a race to keep up - I finally sketched out the garden beds last night and began to think about starting seeds.

Couldn't Martha Stewart loan me her staff for just one week? They might be mortified but they could dig in, get me caught up, and then head back to perfection land.

If anyone has suggestions for coordinating house and barn and fields and all the things that need doing in between, I am all ears!

Friday, January 21, 2011

the Irish RM

A while back Sheaffer recommended this television series to me after I posted some foxhunting photos. I finally finished my second watching of West Wing on Netflix and tonight popped in the first disk of the Irish RM's first season.

Oh my goodness! Episode one gets off to a slow start, but once you hit episode two it is off and running.

I love it!

Thank you, Sheaffer!

Found this for a little preview in case you're considering checking it out:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

very wise words for living and working with horses

Progress in very small increments. Make smart choices in the sequence of exercises. Never ambush your horse. Never skip a step. First establish trust. 
-Faverot de Kerbrech
I read this quote this morning on Thomas Ritter's Facebook page and immediately copied it to print and put in the tack room on my bulletin board. 
I absolutely love the line "Never ambush your horse."  I think much of what we do to horses in the name of training them and dominating them could easily be considered ambush - not so much the what we do but the HOW we go about doing it. 
Usually because we get in a hurry, expect too much, and then blame the horse for being rude or not responsive or stubborn. 
When I get impatient and demanding with my horses, I try to think about what it feels like to them. They know me. They trust me. And yet, it's still rude if I march up and suddenly demand that they do something without engaging with them first - letting them smell my hands, blowing softly into their nostrils (and then breathing in THEIR breath that they are giving back to me), allowing them to smell the halter or the brush or the bridle or the saddle pad or the whatever it is I've decided they need me to do to them in the name of "good horse care." 
What would I do if someone, even someone I love and trust, marched up and said "Get in this box. I'm taking you to a show. Sorry you have to leave your friends. We'll be back soon." I assure you it wouldn't be a very pretty sight.   
Long-time readers here will know that I have a needle phobia, and that one of the things that helped me overcome it to the degree I have was when Keil Bay needed Adequan injections. 
(note: he no longer needs them - I discovered that human grade glucosamine and chondroitin given together at tx doses for his weight works even better and costs MUCH less) 
What most readers won't know is how I got the needle phobia. When I was very young, I was afraid of the shots I needed to get, and at that time it was considered okay to simply hold the child down and administer the injection. They did that to me until I was old enough that I have a very clear memory of two nurses (it took TWO) holding me so the doctor could stick me with the needle.
By gosh, I got those vaccinations! But I also got a lifelong phobia that really needn't have been the result had they only stopped to think:
Progress in very small increments. Make smart choices in the sequence of exercises. Never ambush your horse. Never skip a step. First establish trust.
Funny how the words apply to all of us. And that NOT following them can have similar results whether we're dealing with a child OR a horse. 
How many times in a day of working with our horses do we simply demand that they submit to our will? It makes about as much sense to them when we demand and insist as it made to me when those two nurses held me down. And you can bet I never did cooperate. I fought harder the next time.
Some of us fight harder, others give up and comply - but in some ways that is worse. A little bit of our spirit dies when we have to submit to something we are not sure about. 
Find your own example of a time you were ambushed. And then think about that the next time you do it to your horse. You might be surprised - I always am - at how that impatient, demanding person you've become in the moment simply melts away. And even more surprising - your horse will feel the melt happening and what was difficult will likely become that much easier to accomplish.

Monday, January 17, 2011

an evening with many hooves

Yesterday afternoon I felt well enough to tackle the ongoing chore of hoof care for the herd here on November Hill. We've had many weeks of wet ground and almost as many weeks of sick humans, so after their trims on Friday I was determined to get back in the swing of things.

It was time for Salina's lunch so I got her tub ready first and went to let her in. She was, as usual, waiting by the gate, accompanied by Keil Bay, who is determined that at 21 years of age, he, too, should be brought in for a mid-day meal. Because he was covered in dried mud and clearly needed some attention, I let him in with Salina.

He followed me around like a big puppy, doing his best to look hungry. Salina wisely went into her stall and waited for her tub.

Can you guess how this turned out?

Keil Bay didn't actually get a full meal, but I couldn't resist a small meal of soaked timothy cubes in the barn aisle while I picked his feet. He was about as happy as he could be.

After the two seniors got their meals I realized the paddock needed mucking, so I sidetracked onto that and ended up letting everyone into the big barnyard while I worked.

By this time it was nearing sunset and I had not yet started the hoof cleaning I came out to do!

But it needed to be done, so I set up a "station" in the barn aisle with a tub of soaked timothy cubes inside the wheelbarrow, a hay net to the side of that, my cleaning materials, and brought in Cody so I could get to work.

I've done this in different places and different ways, but I really liked the way it turned out yesterday. I had a big jug of clean water, a flat pan to put the hoof in, my hoof pick, scrub brush and cleaning materials, and my little bottle of oil of oregano in my pocket. We have lots of red clay here, and without a thorough cleaning of the hooves, it's hard to see what the bottom of the hoof really looks like underneath. So I scrubbed and rinsed and treated as necessary with the oil of oregano.

One hoof at a time. Times 6 equines. Equals 24 hooves.

As I finished each horse, I put them into their clean stall with hay for their evening stall time. Fortunately my husband came out and helped - otherwise I might still be out there working!

But what I found, again, is that there is a rhythm to almost all chores, and if we take the time to set up properly, and then look for the rhythm, the chore progresses more easily and with some pleasure.

Yesterday the barn was clean and quiet and DRY, and for the most part the equines were content to have a little meal while getting their feet cleaned up.

I think I hit a little bit of a zen moment as I studied each clean hoof. They began to look like artwork - varying colors and shapes and individual characteristics. A sharp contrast to how they look day to day, the color of the earth they walk on.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

No Kindle? No Problem!

If you're interested in reading the November Hill Press titles I have available on Amazon but don't have a Kindle, there's a free and easy way to access them on a number of electronic devices, including;

your iPhone

your Windows PC

your Mac

your Blackberry

your iPad

your Android

or your Windows Phone 7

All you have to do is to GO TO AMAZON and download the appropriate free software that will work for you.

It's free, it's easy, and the software will enable you to buy not only my books, but many others, including  including friend and fellow writer Dawn Deanna Wilson's wonderful collection of short stories: Welcome To Shangri-La, North Carolina.

Thanks to Dawn for allowing me to use the "No Kindle? No Problem!" phrase. She's brilliant. :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

end of a very cold week and trees of fire

I'm sitting inside while my husband supervises the hoof trims being done this morning. Round two of this very nasty cold is being ... nasty. Thankfully my husband and son are on the upswing now, while daughter and I catch up.

Tomorrow we will get up near 50 degrees so hopefully the still very slick sheet of ice in much of our driveway will finally melt, and we can get on with a more normal for the season temperature.

A few weeks ago I was out at the barn, in weather that seemed gloriously moderate compared to what we've had since, and as I got horses ready for their evenings, I noticed the sky was the most gorgeous shade of delicate pink.

It was the pink of a particular antique rose bush that climbed up and over the old "barn garage" that sat out back behind a beautiful old house my parents rented for a few years when I was in college. The roses were the palest pink I've ever seen, and were simply beautiful.

The sky, in that pink color, with the black silhouettes of bare winter trees in front of it, was breath-taking. It was a sky that changed every few seconds, and I wanted the camera but knew if I went in to get it, I'd miss the whole thing. And then it changed past the pink so I decided to get the camera and see what else might happen.

The horses, donkeys, and Dickens the cowboy cat are very accustomed to me stopping all work and standing to watch something. Often enough they will stop and watch with me, which is always touching - isn't that what we all want, really? Someone to admire what we admire, in silence borne of complete understanding?

We were all quite taken by the trees of fire that formed as we stood in the arena together. A beautiful show, and we were there to see it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

after the ice

Well, not quite *after* yet but getting close as the sunshine today melts things down. It's 36 degrees Fahrenheit and windy, but the geldings came out of blankets to get a break and they are right now standing in the front field in full view eating tree bark. What is it that they love so much about tree bark in the dead of winter?

The pony came down the hill at a very fast trot as I was watching and did the equine equivalent of "pumping the brakes" - I'm serious! Trot trot trot trot - sit back a second - trot trot - sit back a second -trot - halt.

So cute.

I kept Salina and the donkeys in their barnyard and paddock area today so they could go in out of the wind when they wanted to - and also to keep Salina from running with the herd if they happen to start up out there.

We're feeding from the small mesh hay nets this week, trying to reduce hay waste and keep them busy. Although now I see Cody has started in on a small tree trunk and he is rocking the entire tree trying to get some bark. I have threatened to build a track if they keep this up, and ... just might do it for all the great reasons to have a track.

Keil Bay is now craning his neck to reach a branch and pulling straight back with all his might.

And now, for the grand finale before I go finish my chores, the pony has turned and is using a small tree to give himself a nice butt scratch.

I think they're glad to be on the other side of this weather. (although down to 19 tonight, it looks like 50s for the weekend - and please, I'm begging, NO RAIN!)

Hope all are staying warm and safe - I'm seeing so many reports of major snow storms and blizzards in the U.S. - saw yesterday that 49 out of 50 states had snow?!

Monday, January 10, 2011

snow and a disappearing day

Thankfully the snow held off until after noon today, which gave me time to get the horses out for awhile after their breakfast tubs. We took their blankets off so they could go out and roll, and could enjoy the dry day before the wet stuff started falling.

The hoses had been left hooked up and were all frozen and needing thawing. The short hose in the back field was easy, but the long hose in the little barnyard was frozen solid. I unhooked it and stretched it out down the hill, made sure the pump was working, and then went to check the water pump in the barn. The coil hose I have in there had also frozen, but since it's so compact, I brought it inside and thawed it out with warm water.

While I was running around dealing with hoses, the horses went on a parade around the entire property. I'm not sure what they were doing, but Cody was in the lead, then Apache Moon, Keil Bay, and Salina. They were power walking the fence line but there was nothing to be seen or heard, and in fact none of them seemed overly alert. It was almost like they knew they needed to get the exercise in before the weather turned. The donkey boys were still in the paddock cleaning the breakfast tubs.

Daughter and I got stalls mucked and then the barnyards and paddock. Cody escorted me to the back field, the donkeys checked out the muck barrow to make sure it was not hiding anything that shouldn't be dumped, and the other three came and checked things out just to make sure I was doing everything the right way. I spent some time talking and scratching and hanging out with them.

I realized I probably needed to add bags of pine pellets to each stall - of course they were in the garage so I went and loaded them in the truck. One good thing about the cold last night is that the ground is now solid again (only a temporary bliss with saturated earth and yet more snow/ice) so I drove the bags right to the barn door and got pellets distributed and sprayed with the newly-thawed out hose.

While they were sitting I drove the truck out to get the mail - my new Kindle sleeve arrived from Etsy - gorgeous and hand-made, very reasonable price, and even the packaging was lovely - black tissue paper tied with a curly white string. The sleeve had a tag attached by a tiny black matte safety pin, and there were two postcards enclosed - paintings by the artist. Really lovely.

(if you like quilted things - Kindle sleeves, iPhone sleeves, coasters, pot holders, big quilts - go check out Briana Taylor's shop on Etsy.)

Headed back to the barn and finished up the stalls, then went to check on the long hose. It was still frozen but a few snaps against the ground elicited a gurgling sound and then a huge pile of those frozen worm-like things that rush out, making the most intriguing tinkle as they pile together. I got all the tubs cleaned and put back in the feed room, got all the water buckets clean and full, and then topped off the two water troughs. I unhooked all the hoses, covered all the pumps, and noticed the snow was really starting to fall. Daughter's jumping lesson was canceled, my Proust group was canceled, and by this time the herd was canceling their power walking and were all lined up ready to come into clean stalls.

Keil Bay hung his head over and gave his stall the once-over. Sometimes if I keep mucking, getting a little OCD about the last bits of straw or hay or those little bits of manure that defy the rake, he will bang his back door to let me know it's time to move on. Let it go and let him in!

It was 4:00!  Sometimes I don't know where the time goes in a day. But it always feels good when there is yucky weather coming to have everything in order at the barn, and to walk into the house with the sound of 6 equines munching hay still sounding in my ears.

I do not know why seeing a herd of six so content makes me so happy. But it does.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

the last of the elkmont series

I have one more set of photos of one of the cottages at Elkmont to share. This one has a gorgeous stacked stone chimney and its color was lovely among the changing leaves of the trees.

As I've written before, these abandoned cottages create such an ambiance for me. I have fond memories of going on hikes years ago and finding empty farm houses, cabins, and various outbuildings. Usually these have things left behind by the former occupants, and one, which I was able to photograph extensively, had kitchen drawers left open, with eating utensils and cups and such left behind. One day I will go through my huge collection of negatives and re-print some of them. The images were haunting, as these Elkmont shots are.

Thursday, January 06, 2011



Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble, it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. Let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

he gets more handsome every day

Apache Moon nearing the end of his tenth year. Today he lay down outside my window and curled up in the sunshine. How's a gal supposed to get any work done when something so handsome is competing with the computer screen?

snow bear x 2

Sunday, January 02, 2011

R&R greet the new year

They've got it covered from both sides!

I discovered a folder on my desktop today that has a slew of photographs inside taken by husband. Fun photos coming this week, stay tuned!