Friday, March 30, 2012

barn time and a gift

March has been one of the busiest months of the year thus far - usually April is the busy month, followed by May when spring hits a crescendo and my brain feels too full, but this year everything seems to have happened early.

Thus far in March we have: completely cleared and pruned two large flower beds, done more pruning around the farm, moved compost into one of the beds, started the seasonal mowing, survived one donkey gelding, cleared a few closets in the house, attended a tack sale (which required going through all my horse bins), cleared the kitchen island (this sounds like nothing but it hasn't been clear in YEARS), done much stone work, had what feels like a gazillion appointments and various and sundry other obligations to be somewhere at specific times.

We've had two equine birthdays - Cody is 9 and Salina is 29!

And finally, yesterday, for the first time in what feels like months but has more likely been weeks, I went out to the barn and lost track of time. But even more, I lost track of my to do list.

The pony had a lesson yesterday with one of his little riders, who ended up giggling uncontrollably when at the end of the lesson, coming in from a mini "trail ride" we'd taken, I stopped to open the gate and the pony did one of those full body shakes like they do after rolling. This little rider has gained a very nice, balanced seat though and he stayed right with the pony and thought the entire thing was a blast.

Everyone wanted to come into the barn with fans yesterday, so I set them up in a slightly different configuration than usual. Keil and Cody got to share two stalls and the shelter, Salina and the donkeys got to share two stalls and the big barnyard, and the pony got one stall plus the grass paddock. Once I got done with chores and had them set up for the afternoon, I went to the feed store.

I always enjoy going to our feed store, but yesterday was especially fun because I had the little propane tank filled for the first time - the tank that goes with our newest farm helper: The Red Dragon.

Our arena has been inundated with grass and weeds this year - the worst I've ever seen. There were years when we got some weeds, but they were few enough that we could just pull them out by hand. This year it looks like a lawn is trying to establish itself in there. When I talked to the feed store owner about what to do, she showed me the organic products she had for weed control - several different sprays - but said she thought I would end up spending more than what The Red Dragon costs. She suggested I look online at Johnny's and think about it before I started spraying.

This is one of the reasons I love our feed store - they always tell me the best thing to do even when it means NOT buying something from them!

The Red Dragon arrived a couple of days ago, and the propane tank is now filled and ready to go. This weekend the arena is returning to its weed-free state.

After the feed store I went and bought a load of stone so we could continue our plan to reduce muddy areas and offer some hoof-building areas for the equines. I got a quote for a delivery of screenings for the arena (once it's weed-free I'm going to top off the footing) and then came home.

Back out at the barn, it turned into one of those timeless evenings when everything flowed. Husband came home and started unloading the stone while I worked on getting the oak droppings out of the arena. They fell this week and with a few windy days got strewn all over the place, making tumbleweeds. I've discovered that the muck rake works for scooping acorns, small sticks and twigs, and oak droppings - and with huge oak trees at H and F this is an ongoing chore.

The horses and donkeys all went to the bottom of the front field and just before dusk they all came galloping up the hill. I heard the hoofbeats before I saw them, and called to warn my husband, who had the truck parked in the gate that they'd normally be running through. As they crested the hill, I walked over to the fence and warned them so they would pay attention (as if they needed me to tell them a big white truck was blocking their path!) and then I stopped and just watched.

Cody, Keil Bay, and Apache Moon were in front, not quite three abreast, but close, and at full gallop. They saw the truck, and saw me, and all that forward motion literally circled underneath them, just like you read in all the dressage books, and they went from full gallop to huge, extended trots in a few seconds' time. They shifted their path from straight into a huge circle at the top of the field, and for about 45 seconds, the three geldings floated around. All their power and energy was channeled into pure suspension.

Salina and the donkeys crested the hill just as the big circling started, and I called to Salina to hang back so she wouldn't end up in the midst of the action. The geldings did a figure 8 and changed direction to steer clear of her.

And a couple of minutes later, everyone was grazing again. All that energy had been used up. It occurred to me that when horses are out, in an area large enough to allow this kind of movement, they are perfectly able to maintain equilibrium. They can spook, use up that energy, and return to "neutral." And for horses, this is the built-in, pre-wired, natural way to balance themselves.

After years of watching the November Hill herd self-regulate this way, I think some of what I've come to think of as "barn time" is me following suit. When I go to the barn, all the internal noise falls away. I forget about time and if I stay long enough, which I almost always do, I enter a different zone altogether. All the things I have written down on the to-do list fall away, and in yesterday's dusk, as the pony went first through the newly-graveled gateway, and the rest followed, everything looked pretty perfect out there.

Even the oak droppings in the arena light looked like some grand design instead of a chore to be done.

Somewhere in that big beautiful circle of floating trots and schwung, they erased my need "to do" and took me directly to "just be."

A fine gift indeed.


Anonymous said...

Just lovely - thank you.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I don't remember if I wished Cody and Salina their Happy Birthdays but Happy Birthday to two wonderful and special equines.

It does seem that Spring is early this year and so all the work has started early too. Everything at your place sounds under control. We've got to get lots of stone work done this year too for the pastures.

I love the description of your floating trots and how they all watched out for Salina. As you say it's nice to forget the lists and just be in the moment with our herd.

billie said...

Thanks, Kate - much appreciated!!

billie said...

A, it always sounds under control but it feels way out of control. :)

I can't believe that we started fly masks, fly spray, and tick checks in MARCH. :0

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Wonderful description of the geldings impromptu dressage fest - so clear I could see it. :)

That red dragon weed dispenser sounds like a handy tool. Plus - who doesn't like dragons.

Glad you were able to let the to do list fall away for a while...

Matthew said...

Just a lovely, peaceful, wonderful description of "barn time". Thank you for writing it!

billie said...

C, it is so clear to me when I see them move the way they did where dressage came from - we made it up after watching horses dance and do their thing.

Unfortunately I think we turn it into something far too structured and defined when we try to recreate it under saddle - interesting b/c this winter when Keil Bay and I found such a wonderful riding space together it came from him. I think all I really did was get control of my body and ramp up my abilities enough to get out of his way.

billie said...

Matthew, you are most welcome.

Victoria Cummings said...

A perfect description of barn time - really magical the way that the horses anticipate and flow together! We've been looking at the red dragon, so I'll be interested to hear what you think of it. Can't believe Salina is 29 - when was her birthday? She's one of my favorite great ladies. Hugs from me to Ms. S. and Mr. Cody.

billie said...

V, thank you for the hugs!

Salina turned 29 on March 27th. She is doing pretty well - started shedding first as always, and although we started with the funky, scurfy shedding along her back, that stopped before getting as yucky as it sometimes has in the spring. I've been wanting to give her a full bath, but although we've had some warm enough days the timing hasn't been quite right yet.

She's having a wobbly few days this week, which I suspect is a pelvic rotation issue - chiro coming tomorrow so hopefully we'll get that situated.

The Red Dragon is extremely powerful - a well-named piece of equipment that seems like professional grade in terms of quality. It got its first run this past weekend.