Thursday, November 29, 2012

pony portrait and another difficult day

Apache Moon, aka the Little Man, heading up the hill to check out the photographer. I love seeing those pony ears pricked forward. :)

Yesterday we had another rough day on November Hill. Husband fed hay before he left for work around 8 a.m. Around 9:15 the Corgis started barking. I went to the front first and saw nothing, then went to the side and saw nothing. When I looked out the back door, the geldings were standing in a perfect circle, heads in, surrounding Salina, who was laying flat out on her side.

It looked like some kind of sacred tribal ritual in progress, and it was so sweet it just about made me cry. I went in the bedroom to throw on some clothes and when I glanced out the window Keil Bay and Cody came to the field right outside and began marching around in a big circle, as if they were trying to get my attention.

When I got out there, Salina was okay but not able to get up. Fortunately she was in a sunny spot, on fairly soft ground, and she wasn't struggling. I opened the front gate to let the geldings into the paddock - Keil and Little Man came running over and headed to the barn. Cody refused to leave Salina. He stood over her, right where she could see him, and kept guard. The donkeys were still forming the circle.

I coaxed Cody into the grass paddock and left the donkeys with Salina, then called my husband and he headed home. My daughter and I tried to get Salina to get up on her own. She tried a few times but her hind legs seemed very stiff and she couldn't get enough "oomph" to get up. I got breakfast tubs ready, hoping that might help, and she did try again, but still couldn't get up.

When my husband got home, my son came out too and all four of us tried various things to help. Nothing really worked. I gave her a dose of Banamine. As usual, I started asking the question no one wants to hear: is this the time when we need to make the call to let her go?

As usual, I promised Salina that I would take care of her donkeys if she was ready to go. 

We touched base with the vet, tried a bit more, and finally decided to have the vet come out and help us decide what to do. The vet on call was a new one to us, and I appreciated her compassion and her practical approach. After she checked vitals, all really good, and flexed the legs, she said this: let's see if all of us can pull together and get her upright, then see if she can get up from there. If not, we'll talk about what to do next.

It worked. It took a massive effort on the part of dear husband, but we got her upright and once we did she managed to get on her feet and walked off, not quite steady, but not injured. She was immediately ready for some breakfast. Rafer Johnson once again came up to me, put his head up to my chest, gazed into my eyes, and said, as clear as day, "She's OKAY."

Today she is moving slowly, I'm sure she's sore, but she's eating and doing all the things she needs to be doing. She was asking to go out with the big boys but I said NO. She and the donkeys stayed in the grass paddock and barnyards all day and she was out grazing most of the time - but in her stall looking at the kitchen window when her meal times rolled around.

They all had hoof trims this morning and she was able to get hers done - though we made a little "step" for her to prop her hooves on instead of asking her to put them up on the hoof stand. She's moving better with her toes trimmed back, and I'm hoping the stiffness is less tomorrow. We're having a little warming trend here which might help with that.

There's never a dull moment, it seems - I'm feeling grateful for the vet practice we use. They are so good at times like this, and we're lucky they rotate a dedicated on-call person 24/7 who does nothing but emergencies. Even though she's fairly new, she had Salina's history on the laptop when she drove up and walked in very informed. We needed someone to set out a short, to the point, plan of action. It was impressive.

Here's hoping we get some boring, slow as molasses, low-stress days as we move into December!

Friday, November 23, 2012

keil bay - new portraits

I love these two of Keil Bay - they look like paintings to me and really capture the king-liness of his personality. Thank you again to dear husband for taking such beautiful photos of the equines. So often these days I just can't be bothered with the camera, but he can, and I'm the lucky recipient.

glamour donks

Celebrating two of the most handsome donka boys in the whole wide world, Rafer Johnson and Redford. Photos courtesy of dear husband:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

giving thanks 2012, and a sad day

I got home from my writing retreat on Monday, unpacked, walked right out the back door to the barn, and tacked up the Big Bay for a ride. He was ready for some attention and it went really well. Tuesday I went out with the same idea but when I went into his front stall door with the halter, he walked right out the back door and kept going. Down the paddock, through the gate, down the hill in the front field.

I'm not sure if he was mad at me for leaving for a week or just wanted to hang out instead of ride, but I let him make his choice and I spent the time grooming Salina instead.

It was wonderful getting a week to write and relax, and it was wonderful to come home again. Going away always makes me thankful for my family and all they do when I leave, and for this farm, which is such a great place to come back to.

Today I'm thankful for all the good memories I have of our sweet polydactyl cat Moomintroll. He came to us around age 13 or so and the vet said a few months back that he suspected Moomin was 18 or 19 now. He had seizures when he arrived, but lived a good, mostly healthy life until this year when he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism.

The past month has been hard and he's been in a state of decline. Yesterday was a good day for him and last night he snuggled in with me and husband the entire night. This morning around 4 a.m. something happened - he woke with a huge jerk and when he got off the bed he had lost the use of his hind legs. He became increasingly agitated, so at 5 my husband and I went to the emergency vet with him.

He had a severe arhythmia and most likely 'threw a clot' - which caused the paralysis. He came back to his full feisty self his last few hours of life after being somewhat docile these past few weeks. He ended up purring in our arms as we said goodbye. And now he has joined Keats and Chase in the back yard, under the butterfly bush.

Although I'm really sad, I'm also aware today, again, how much love and joy these animal family members bring to us, and no matter how hard it is on days like today, I would do it all over again.

Moomin was a complicated character but he was also the most loving cat I have ever known. I'm going to miss him.

Give your family members big hugs today and enjoy whatever way you celebrate this holiday. We are cooking up a storm and enjoying the doling out of home-baked horse cookies, Corgi biscuits (and the biggest turkey neck I have ever seen) - it makes me happy that Moomin got his special kit-meow Thanksgiving yesterday - I made chicken broth and he got all the niblets of chicken, one of his most favorite things.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Anja Beran, on training, from Eurodressage

I really really love what she has to say here:

Training horses with lightness and great feeling, Anja knows the importance of creating a relationship with our equine partners and says this is crucial if we are to really dance with our horse.
"Only a rider with emotions can show the brilliance of the horse. The rider should be completely in love with the horse! A rider who is “empty” and cold can never present the horse´s beauty with pride. This rider will show just boring, not touching work!"
Aside from helping to draw emotion from the audience a rider, who feels and is sensitive in training, will also give the horse self-confidence.
"A horse should not learn to adopt the emotions of the rider, but trust them and trust who they are," Beran explained. "It can help a great deal if a horse can learn to trust us, and trust in our relationship.However, this will only happen when we are riders with stable characters in the saddle!  If we are afraid of the horse, nervous, or insecure, it is better when the horse doesn´t listen too much to the rider. Through positive emotions, on the other hand, we can transmit all our positive feelings to the horse!"
Certain that horses have emotions of their own, Anja knows that each horse has a unique personality and the key to top training lies in getting to know each and every one.
"Some horses have more happy emotions, while others are always afraid of something and some feel always nervous," she admitted. "It is important however, that we recognize the horse's character, and understand that he does not use his emotions for or against us in training, it is just part of who he is. Horses are like they are! They don´t play games with the rider. We have to learn to handle them as they are."
Therefore, to be a rider of an elite level, we must learn to understand the horse emotionally and physically, so we can train with him as equals, not be all the time acting as his master.
"That is what makes the quality of the rider, the ability to go deep inside of the horse's personality and to listen to the horse. A rider of this ability will try to get influence in a positive way and it means they are a rider that is sensitive and understands his horse," Anja explained. "Only when a rider starts to understand, can he work with, and try to get the best out of, his horse."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

retreat and rain

I left November Hill yesterday to come to my week-long writing retreat, where overnight a cold front blew in and today, in front of a backdrop of beautiful autumn color, a steady rain falls. 

For the past two weekends we worked on clearing November Hill of maple leaves, and have taken several big trees down in an effort to reduce the number of potentially fatal leaves that fall and/or blow onto the pastures. It was hard work, and interesting because in recent years the act of raking has been hard on my back. This year I had an important reason to rake, and I managed to do the work without suffering much of the usual consequences.

I don't like taking trees down, but this felt necessary, so we did it. I realized as the trees fell behind the back fence, and the clear space where they had been opened up, that between the lightning and this cutting, the area for my writing studio is now clear. Suddenly my mixed feelings changed to pure relief and then joy. Once again circumstances worked magically to end up in something that feels right and good. The best possible outcome. 

I don't know when we'll be able to build the studio, but now the space to do so is there and waiting. Even the idea of a small, integrated into the woods' edge cottage with a front porch that opens right out into the pasture itself makes me happy. Can't you see Keil Bay coming to hang out with me while I write? And the donkeys walking right into the cottage itself? I already hear Salina calling to them to come back out to her. Maybe if I make the doorway large enough even the Big Bay can walk through. Just that thought fuels everything I'm doing down here on my writing retreat.

My husband overseeded the back field with winter rye yesterday, so today's rain is perfect. I don't know, but I hope the herd is in the barn right now, munching their hay, and trusting that the missing member in their herd will be back soon to help with their care.

I'm here with two good friends and writers and we're all working hard on writing projects that mean something to us. That kind of writing not only boosts the spirit but it creates its own wonderful collective energy that is truly a balm and a fuel for the creative self. We feel lucky and grateful to be here together in this November rain. 

Sunday, November 04, 2012

what we're up to this fall

Kyra Corgi is getting older but she still loves her special hikes. We carried her about half the way so she wouldn't get tired or sore. The last stretch she rode in the front seat of the truck and let Bear get the rest of his boundless energy out. 

Rafer Johnson at dinner time, really wanting Salina's stall door open so he can go lick out her big red feed tub. He periodically uses those lips to work on the stall latch and we are in big trouble the day he manages to get it open!

The lovely senior mare Salina, who is in good spirits and seems to be getting a slightly naughty streak this year. She's been tipping buckets, knocking things down in the barn aisle, and then, just when you think maybe she needs to lose barn aisle privileges she does something charming like this. A few moments further on she probably came halfway in and started pulling things out of place, but you know, I love seeing her bold spirit and sense of humor coming out. She has earned the right to play a few jokes after so many days and nights tracking those silly geldings!

Bear is the youngest animal family member on November Hill and although he can wear out the patience of a saint with his boundless energy, he is a sweetie too. There is something to be said for having some "young'uns" in the family.

In other news we are trying hard to keep the red maple leaves out of the pastures. There are a number of trees coming down this weekend, and neighbors are working with us to help out with the maples along the fence line.

And Moomintroll is having a bad weekend with no appetite and some difficulty using the bathroom. He is getting on in years too and I'm worried about him. Vet trip in the morning and then we'll see.

Daughter rode in the annual hunter pace today and her team took second place in the long course. Son took the SAT on Saturday and is awaiting his results.

The theme of all the above: time races on. Puppies and children grow up in the blink of an eye. Horses and cats too. Stop and enjoy the moments along the way, and celebrate every single second of youth and good health.