Saturday, March 28, 2015

taking a little break to celebrate...

I'm so proud of and happy for my daughter, who has been accepted to two colleges and offered a merit scholarship at one!  And a good friend has moved to the beach and it was a great time to visit and see her new place.

Lots of birds and wind and surf this afternoon, and videos and photos from husband who is taking care of everyone on November Hill. 

For today, a new view:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

me and Darth Bay

Yesterday was so warm we needed the fly mask to keep the gnats out of Keil Bay's ears. But we are HAPPY to be riding and stretching our muscles. 

I've got a little bit of a Mad-Eye Moody thing going on so maybe it should be Darth Bay and Mad-Eye Me.


Today's ride was cooler and no fly mask needed, so we were back to me and the Big Bay and triple peppermints at the end of some nice work. 

Saturday, March 21, 2015

a cocoa-puff turns 12

Yesterday we had a big birthday party for our lovely Quarter Horse, Cody, aka Cocoa-Puff, aka Coden-Locomoden. He came to live with us when he was only 2 years old and now he is 12. It's amazing to think that he has spent so much of his life on November Hill.

Cody is a sweet horse and a handsome one. He also has PSSM, which is controlled by regular work, a balanced low-carb diet that includes freshly-ground flax, extra vitamin E, and ALCAR (acetyl l-carnitine). For most of his years in the November Hill herd, Cody has been the horse who never pinned his ears, was easily moved away from food or the best spot or pile of hay, and always sent out first to investigate scary things.

The past couple of years he has started to assert himself more. He and Keil Bay are best buddies and he also loves playing tag with the pony (over a fence which keeps him from having to deal with the pony's relentless bossiness) and with Redford donkey with whom he has a very special friendship. Cody was the natural choice to be with Rafer Johnson the first night Rafer came to us as a young 6-month old donkey. Salina was all over Rafer and so intense we felt Rafer needed a calmer buddy for his first night, and that was Cody. He and Rafer remain fast friends. (Keil Bay and the Little Man thought Rafer was something from another planet and were completely out of the running as donkey companions at that point!)

Cody has beautiful movement and is the most playful of the horses. It's been really fun to see him grow up and come into his own in the herd. Under saddle he is sensitive and responsive, a real joy to ride.

Happy birthday, Cody!! Whether in sunshine or snow you're a prince!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

jean luc cornille on compensations

This gorgeous post reveals how we might view our horses as we do ourselves when going back to work after injury, or time off, and also how we might listen to what our horses are telling us when they say no in the ways they can.

We've had our own experiences here with this kind of thing. A pony who needed acupuncture stopped jumping. A QH with PSSM stopped moving. A Hanoverian who needs his chiropractor stamps his hoof when his hip is brushed. 

All of these could be viewed as "disobedience" or "bad" behaviors, and yet these are all good-natured, willing horses. They tell us things with their bodies, they do not use words. A wonderful vet once told me: Assume every negative behavior comes from pain. 

The next question to ask is what's wrong? What's going on? I can all but guarantee you that if you stop and ask this question the horse will give you more information, but first he will drop his head and touch you with his muzzle and say thank you for listening. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

good rides and a gray day

The Big Bay and I have had a couple more nice rides this week. After February's crazy weather and very little time in the arena we are both coming back to work slowly. The first five minutes are not pretty, but we're ending on much better notes. 

I noticed last week that Keil was tracking out slightly with his left hind and am now seeing that is no longer true, so I think our decision to do a lot of walking and a little trotting was the right one.

This week we added the big forward trot work back in, a bit more each ride, and yesterday it felt so good Keil decided he wanted to do more than I asked for. It's always nice when he tells me it's not time to stop. :) 

I'm happy to report that whatever scary things were in the woods the last 5 or so rides we had prior to the snow and ice have departed. I think I've written here that there is a huge amount of logging being done on the other side of the 102-acre wood and many deer have migrated our way. Most days when I'm out I'm seeing large herds traveling on both sides of November Hill and at night they're often right up near the house. The horses and donkeys aren't afraid of them when they're close, but I think hearing them run but not quite seeing them move is unnerving. Or at least it is some of the time. We tend to have a lot of selective spooking around here, meaning sometimes I suspect it's just fun to make something out of ... not very much. 

But last week and this the alertness to the back forest has disappeared and it's making the rides a lot more relaxed than they were. Yesterday Keil's big swinging walk massaged my back and by the end of the ride and then by the end of the day, it felt like I had a lot of good endorphins going. 

Today some rain is moving through so we'll have a break. Right now it's gray outside and through the back window from my seat here on the living room sofa I see a red-headed woodpecker and a cardinal  in the hickory tree, a little morning gift while I write. The bold red against the gray barn makes me think how lovely it would be to have a red door on the house.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

crocuses and spring peepers

Is it official now? Has spring really arrived on November Hill?

It's possible. The deep purple crocuses are blooming, the spring peepers are singing, and the cats are wanting to stay outside all night long. When the carpenter bees appear I'll know we have arrived. Only once since living here have I seen a carpenter bee struck down by a late freeze.

Suddenly I am in a frenzy. If spring is here, it's time to think about gardening and tick control and all the wintertime chores I didn't get to yet. I have a privacy fence idea I want to try out, and that involves cutting down a bunch of red maple saplings we need to clear out anyway. Best done now before they leaf out again. And I had visions of adding stone screenings to several areas, but it's been too wet to do it this winter. 

The barn fans need to come down and get cleaned and checked, and the feed/tack room needs cleaning out. Horse blankets need to be cleaned and stored away. 

But I think the most important thing to do today, right now, is go have a ride on the Big Bay!

Saturday, March 07, 2015

stuck in the mud

Yesterday I went out thinking it was a good day to ride again after all the precipitation we've had the past month or so. We had an absolutely gorgeous day on Wednesday, and Keil Bay and I did some ground work in the arena so I could make sure he was moving well and feeling good, both of which were true. Then on Thursday we had more rain. So yesterday the sun came out and although it was still chilly, it was above freezing, and it was a decent day to ride.

I am almost embarrassed to admit this. I went out and fed breakfast and when I saw Keil Bay I just gave up the idea of riding. He was covered in mud. Mud that had dried on his fur in such a way that it looked like he'd gone to a salon and gotten a mud-tipped treatment. All over his entire body.

The idea of grooming him was just too much. There was still mud everywhere and the idea that I would spend two hours grooming, have a 40-minute ride, and 15 minutes later he would roll himself into the mud again got me totally stuck.

It's interesting because I'm feeling a similar stuckness in a writing project - actually more of a formatting for publishing project - and over the years I've learned that whatever is going on at the barn tends to be going on in my life.

Sometimes I find that when I'm stuck like this it's as much physical as mental, so today I have a massage scheduled - 90 full minutes - and I am going to come home and hope that I can get back in the saddle in all kinds of ways.

Wish me luck!

Addendum, on Sunday:

Would like to update to say that we had a nice ride today thanks to massage yesterday, daughter's very subtle nudging, and a sunny day that was warm and relaxing. Keil Bay got a triple peppermint treat at the end. :)

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

harrowing experience (with thanks to McLeod's Daughters)

Yesterday we had 60 degrees and sunshine and Keil Bay was coated in dried-up ground-in mud from rolling in our very wet pasture. Both sides of his face were solid mud and his mane still has little muddy tips that I simply could not get out without spending hours doing each one by hand.

I gave him a good grooming on his body and legs and opted to do some groundwork to get back in the swing of things. He was responsive and not at all spooky, which was nice after the past month's very reactive behaviors toward the woods behind our back field.

As we worked in the arena I was reminded that it's past time to harrow. There were areas where the horses and donkeys have dug with hooves trying to locate... buried treasure? gold? I'm not sure. There were also areas where they galloped and bucked and dug in deep through the sand and screenings. After finishing up with the Big Bay I served his peppermint (did I write here that I got him a huge bin of soft peppermints and he could not believe his eyes?) and let him head back out with his herd.

Later in the day I got the truck out and hooked up the harrow. It's heavy and it was flipped over to the flat side so I had to turn the entire thing over and then untangle the tines. I was looking forward to driving into the arena - I love harrowing - and opened the barnyard gate and drove through.

It never occurred to me that the barnyard was still so wet and mushy I might have some issues with the truck. I got about halfway through the barnyard and the wheels started spinning. Dear daughter poked her head out of the barn to laugh at me. There I was, ready to harrow, but stuck and getting more stuck. 

I considered abandoning the whole thing and just leaving the truck there until things dried out some. But I hate leaving things unfinished, and I hate leaving messes where there were none before, so I remembered something I saw in a McLeod's Daughters episode and went and gathered fallen pine branches and leaves and stuffed them underneath the rear tires. It helped. I then vaguely remembered Tess McLeod having to stuff actual sticks under the rear tires and that was what did the trick. Off I went into the arena.

I spent a long time harrowing, leveling the footing and enjoying the repetitive circling. The herd came to the arena fence and watched, and I had the truck windows down so I could talk to them as I drove by. I always wonder what they're thinking as they watch me harrow. They seem fascinated to see me circling around and around.

When it was time to go back through the barnyard I hoped for the best and the truck sailed right over the path of branches and leaves I'd made. The barnyard isn't as pristine as it was before I harrowed but I covered my tracks, literally, and at least it looks naturalized again and not like a long ripping wound across the grass!

Everyone in my family makes fun of me for loving McLeod's Daughters but I was grateful for Tess McLeod yesterday and who knows - once I finish my 20th re-watching of West Wing, maybe it will be time to go for my 20th of of Mcleod's Daughters. :)