Friday, June 26, 2015

memory of a feisty mare

Kate over at A Year With Horses posted today about her mare Missy and a "scrape" she got into yesterday. Thankfully Missy is fine and her story reminded me of a similar tale that happened years back with our sweet (read on for the feisty side) Salina.

She was always turned out with our geldings and she and Keil Bay were best buddies. She tolerated Cody, adored her donkey boys once they joined our herd, but she and my daughter's pony, Apache Moon, aka Little Man, always had a hard time getting along. 

When Salina first came to us she seemed to like Little Man. But she liked him in the way a mare loves her foal. She tried to mother him and he didn't like that one bit. This mama bear behavior continued for a week or so and then one day I witnessed her trying to herd him away from the geldings. He whirled around at her, and she let loose with a double barrel kick. One hoof connected with his rump and a hoof-shaped piece of white fur literally flew through the air and landed at my feet. 

Miraculously she had managed to connect her hind hoof so perfectly that only the fur with the very top layer of skin was removed. He had a bald patch on his rump but it was not even down to the pink skin. It looked like he had been gently peeled.

From that day forward the battle of wills was on between those two. 

They were fine during turn-out but I always kept them on opposite sides of the barn. Salina was on the near side to our house with her two donkey boys and the three geldings, Keil, Cody, and Little Man were on the far side. 

By the time Salina was in her late 20s we had started allowing her and the donkeys to have the run of the barn aisle during "turn in" time. This allowed her to stand in the barn aisle by Keil's stall, or hang out in her beloved "middle" stall across from him. She and the donkeys had the run of the barnyard and their grass paddock. On the other side of the barn the three geldings could go in and out of their three stalls into the paddock behind the barn and out to the larger fields.

This worked perfectly for a long time. But one day while I was out doing chores, the pony came into Keil Bay's stall and wouldn't leave. He stood just far enough away from the stall's front door so that Salina couldn't reach him, but he stood there staring at her with an evil gleam in his eye.

She got madder and madder. She paced up and down the barn aisle, fuming. He was in Keil Bay's stall, Keil Bay didn't want him there, (though not enough to actually do anything about it) and Salina, as was her way, intended to repair this problem. She flagged him with ears pinned and teeth bared. She lunged at the stall door. He stood as still as a statue, knowing she couldn't reach him. I felt her anger rising. That whippersnapper - who did he think he WAS?

And then after 5 minutes of this she did a whirl in the barn aisle. Which was amazing considering she had arthritic knees and by that point was totally retired from riding and had slowed down quite a bit. She double-barreled the stall door and her hooves went right through the oak. I saw 8-inch shards fly through the air like little missiles.

The stall door had a hole in it I could put my head and shoulders through. Salina had minor scrapes on her hind legs. The door was ruined.

And the Little Man stood in the same exact place he had been. Shards of wood were tangled in his mane and forelock. He still had the evil gleam in his eye, only now it was both evil AND triumphant. I had to lead him out of Keil's back door and close that stall off for the rest of the day. It was a hazard with its sharp fragments.

Salina? She was fine. The pony might not have backed off even a centimeter but guess what? He no longer had access to Keil Bay's stall. Neither did Keil Bay, but sometimes that's just the way the stall door splinters.

I miss Salina. The interesting thing that has happened since her death is that the pony has become sweeter. Whether this is age or relief I'm not sure. And the most interesting thing of all - he has become best buddies with Salina's donkey boys. He treats them with the same love and respect she did, letting them share his hay, hanging out with them all in one stall, and teaming up with them in the field if the neighbors' dogs run loose. He has stepped into her hoof prints. I wonder if that was what she was preparing him for all along. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

record-breaking continuous heat (and how we're coping)

According to our local weather channel we have now broken the record for the most continuous days with heat over 95 degrees. It's interesting that the first thing I thought of when I read that was the winter we came close to breaking the record for the most nights in a row below freezing. Clearly the message is this: it's hard to have extreme weather in either direction that seems to go on and on and on. The cumulative effects are the hard part.

Thankfully most of these very hot days on November Hill have been accompanied by a breeze. Some days the breeze is cool, others it is simply warm air blowing, but it does help, and if I wet the horses down, scrape them off, and let them stand in the breeze they seem to feel so much better. The same holds true for humans. Even Rafer Johnson has stepped into the spray a few times at this point, and we all know donkeys don't generally like baths!

I've been making sure the water in their troughs and buckets is clean and fresh, I offer hosings at least once a day but sometimes twice, and I've been feeding wet hay to get more moisture into them. Late afternoon a favorite thing is to serve their daily ration of Chaffehay sopping wet. They love that and it's so easy to do.

If any of the horses seem really hot I hose down their fly masks with cold well water, squeeze out the excess, and put the fly masks on them. The fans in the barn and/or the breeze on the hill helps to cool them down. I got this idea years ago when I discovered that a cold wet cloth on my head and under my hat in the summer makes a huge difference in my own comfort level in high heat. I don't do it every day but save it for extreme days when I know I have to be out longer than is comfortable for me. They seem to like it too.

Anotther issue we've had this summer is Cody's sheath swelling. Keil Bay had this a couple of years ago and I determined the swelling came initially from a tick bite and then "dropped" to the lowest point, which was the sheath. Add in hot weather, less movement, and it can get worse. 

I developed a protocol for Cody which has worked really well. We instituted cold hosing and 5 minutes of easy walking in the shade 3x/day. I also alternated the homeopathic remedies Rhus Tox and Silicea, at first one in the AM and the other in the PM for 5 days, then notched back to alternating them in the mornings for another 3 days. The swelling became much better after I started the remedies and he's a lot more comfortable. 

When I choose homeopathic remedies for horses I use my Miranda Castro homeopathy book as well as George MacLeod's book The Treatment of Horses By Homeopathy. It's a terrific resource and makes it easy to narrow down the remedies that might be useful. In classical homeopathy it's very important to choose the right remedy for the individual person or animal. Sometimes if I narrow down to a couple of remedies I'll alternate both to get a quick response. In this case I think the two worked well but it's generally best to get the one best remedy to get the very best results.

It looks like we'll get a break in this high heat on the weekend. One day's high is predicted to be 79-80 degrees and I feel like that's going to feel like heaven after these very hot, stifling days! Last night on the weather radar something went wrong and it said the low was going to be 32 degrees. I have never wished for freezing temps more! That would have been like nature turning on the AC for all of us. 

I hope everyone is weathering your own versions of summertime blues! 

Friday, June 19, 2015

college orientation: a slight rant

Just got home from attending a college orientation. Without going into personal detail, let me just say this: it sucked.

When did college orientation turn into such canned, fun and games on social media programming? When did it become okay to actively circumvent engaged parents and family? Where are the academics in academia?

How about this:

Model genuine sensitivity and diversity awareness. Ditch the canned check-boxing of "issues" and pushing students to overshare. Just treat the students with respect and model sensitivity. There's a fair amount of research that this works best.

Talk to parents about remaining engaged and supportive as their young people launch into the larger world. I can't believe what was said about pushing kids out and forcing them to solve their own problems. 18-year olds all the way up to 22-year olds need our guidance. They need our support. Administration: how about looking up the rate of suicides among college students? Look at sexual violence on campuses. Look at success among students whose families remain involved. If you ask me, it's the university administrators who need to get kicked out of the house. 

Where did academics go in all this? University level study is not about scavenger hunts and posting "selfies" on Facebook. Bring back time with professors and useful how-to information about campus resources and library resources and research. Forget social media. 

For that matter, just forget the cutesy names for everything. Drop the marketing 101 stuff someone learned in some stupid workshop and took seriously. Substance, not silly names.

Skip the canned team-building exercises that involve making strangers touch each other. If you're serious about diversity awareness and sensitivity, you know that this kind of stuff needs to be prefaced with some talk about the fact that it's optional and that it's perfectly okay to opt out. Better yet: just don't do it. You risk triggering the 1 out of 3-4 who have been sexually abused. What about students with small personal space bubbles? Having students write and paint and create and not having to share every personal thought with one another is equally powerful. And no one gets put on the spot. 

If you're in the business of teaching college students you need to not only be serious, but have actual knowledge and expertise in managing their behaviors and issues.

Asking students to share their sexual orientations and gender/pronoun preferences as a rote exercise? Too much information. Invite sharing. Don't require it. 

Instead of talking about campus safety, how about actually facilitating it? Puttting orientation students in the most remote dorm with no staffing during optional evening social activities on the other side of campus? Ridiculous.

Get rid of stalkerish staff people. I am not kidding. Especially when they're directors of things. 

Back to regularly scheduled blog posts on Tuesday, I swear. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

my new list of "things to do"

Somehow the list didn't show up, so here it is:

1. Do one thing at a time.
2. Do it slowly and deliberately.
3. Do it completely.
4. Do less.
5. Put space between things.
6. Develop rituals.
7. Designate time for certain things.
8. Devote time to sitting.
9. Smile and serve others.
10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation.
11. Think about what is necessary.
12. Live simply.

This came from Sara Walpert Foster's blog and I wanted to share it here because I love it so much. She found it someplace else so I'm not sure who to credit for the list and the artwork. Thank you! to the person who made this image! Go check out Sara's blog to read more. I only read the one post so far but am looking forward to digging in over there.

I'm so overwhelmed with things to do right now. Most of them are good things, or there to be done for good reasons, so I'm not complaining. But the sheer number makes me seize up when I think about the list, which is broken down into smaller lists in an effort to reduce my stress.

I've been telling myself that I really only have to do one thing. The next thing. And I can do it slowly, carefully, completely. I can immerse myself in that one thing. I can let all the rest go.

It works.

Today I had a long list of errands in town, on this, the hottest day of this year thus far. My daughter and I went together and did them, and we lingered. We meandered. We did not rush or fret. By the time I got to the Habitat Restore I was feeling the rhythm of the one next thing. Inside I found a big Ziploc bag full of Michael Lloyd flatware. It's not exactly like the wedding flatware (my husband and I just celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary) but it's in the same family and I loved it. There wasn't a price on the bag so I took it to the register and the volunteer said "Is $2.00 too much?" With today's 20% off that came to $1.72 for about 40 pieces. I think going slowly might just have its own magic.

We made a list this morning of barn chores and we took turns doing a few every hour or so. Amazing how much easier the day was when all I had to do was go out and do the next thing and maybe the next and then come in for a glass of water and some cool air. The barn was a mess by the end of the day. Keeping the herd hydrated and comfortable was the priority. Going slowly made it so much easier. 

Notice that one thing on the list above.

Do less.

That's my new mantra until this heat breaks. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

summer barn routine

With temps this weekend going into the mid-90s and then up to 97 by mid-week, I'm into the full-bore summer barn routine. 

I'm  always pretty meticulous about the water tubs and troughs but I notch that up during summer heat. I don't want any of them having any excuse not to drink! Keil Bay notches this up from his end too - he uses the troughs to self-cool by sticking a hoof in and splashing wildly. His herd gathers around him, soaking up the cool water while he splashes.

The millipedes this time of year also make daily water trough cleaning a must. 

I try to get the waters done first and then move on to making sure the barn is closed up on the sunny side, that stalls and aisles and back covered area are tidy, and then it's on to tick checks.

We're finding fewer ticks at this point than we did in May, and even at the worst this has been a pretty light year in that regard, thankfully.

Every few days I put tea tree gel in horses' armpits and groin areas and along the mid-line of their bellies. Then I massage it in, hose them off, and all the itchy parts are soothed. It seems they get less ticks and less gnats when I do this, so while it takes extra time, it's worth it.

They all get a quick brushing and fly spray, and this week the fly masks came out of their bin. 

They come in and hang out in the barn with hay and fans usually from 10-11 a.m. until 7 p.m. - that's when the biting flies go to bed. And with this herd of easy keepers, it keeps them off the grass during the peak sugar time!

I try to do de-webbing inside the barn a little bit each day. I mix a bucket of Dr. Bronner's peppermint soap and water and go around the stalls with a micro-fiber mop head that fits the telescoping light bulb changer. The metal stall guards and ledges I do with a cloth by hand. It smells heavenly. 

By the time I get back inside, it's time for a shower and lunch! And it looks like we'll be entering 2-shower days with this heat wave. On days when it goes above 90 I go out in the afternoon and offer cold hosing. For horses, pony, and ME. :)

Saturday, June 06, 2015

mini retreat

At a friend's lovely apartment for a weekend writing retreat where we are working on book three in the Little Shoppe of Colors series. We spent this morning on the beach and the combination of surf and sand makes me feel like I just had a massage. Good friend, good food, good writing, good location. 

Can't wait to get this book out there. It's going to be good. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

motherhood and time travel

For the past few weeks I've been shopping thrift stores and keeping my eyes open for things my son might need. A rising junior in college, he's officially moved into his first apartment. I spotted a set of Denby dinnerware at the local Habitat store, thought of buying it outright, then pulled back and decided to check in with him before I made the purchase. Days passed, the set remained, and finally I got photos and messaged him, then ran an errand across town while waiting to hear back.

Yes, he texted, get the set. So I headed back to Habitat, not 20 minutes later, and found it had just been purchased and taken away!

At week's end I made another thrift store run. A truckload of bedroom furniture was going his way on Saturday so I had one last day to shop. He had asked me previously to find a blender and I'd broken the news to him that I had never seen a blender in all my years of thrift-store perusing. On Friday I walked into the PTA thrift store and as I walked down the home aisle, spotted not only a blender, but a Waring blender, that was definitely old but looked like it had never been used. It was $4. and when I plugged it in, it worked!

My 25-year old Waring blender wasn't a thrift store find, but it was a steal. I was living in Hollywood and working as the in-house proofreader for a Beverly Hills court reporting firm when I got a call (not on my cell phone because there was no such thing at that time!) from my best friend. Someone was at William-Sonoma and there was a crazy sale on Waring blenders. They had over-ordered and were clearing them out. I had a choice of colors or classic chrome. I chose the chrome. We made every kind of frozen cocktail imaginable over the next month or two and that blender is still used on a weekly basis in my kitchen. 

I messaged my son that I had found a blender and several very nice pieces of cookware and headed over to Habitat. 

There was a lovely set of Franciscan dinnerware marked to half-price. I called son, told him to watch for photos, and he quickly approved the purchase. It took two boxes and a lot of paper to hold all those dishes, bowls, cups, and extras!

I picked up more cookware and called it a day.

All my excitement faded on Saturday morning as I helped my husband load the truck. The dresser in my son's room was going, and as I removed the drawers I burst into tears. This was the same dresser I had found in a thrift store the year he was born, as I was setting up the nursery. It was the dresser I stood in front of 20 years ago and folded onesies and other tiny pieces of clothing into the same drawers. It seemed unimaginable that the dresser was going now to a 20-year old's first apartment.

Surely, I thought, this is some kind of Dr. Who episode, and I am in a parallel universe seeing the future.  The dresser must be still in that nursery, filled with onesies and cloth diapers. 

Motherhood is its own form of time travel. We go forward and back in our minds on a dailly basis, remembering our own childhood memories, those with our children, through the years forward and back again. It can be bittersweet and sometimes sad, but it's also a gift that brings joy.

If we're women who love horses we remember our first rides, the names of the ponies, the names of the horses, not only for ourselves but for our children as well. There is a place somewhere, a magical barn, where all those equines live, and if you're like me you walk down that barn aisle from time to time and visit.

I have a daughter who is heading off to college this fall and yesterday while I was out at the barn checking an antsy QH for ticks in the nether regions, with her help, I thought wildly, There is no way I can manage all this without her. My mind spun forward, trying to fathom being here without either of them, son and daughter, and then of course my mind had nowhere else to go but backward, to the time when I was a single woman who didn't yet have children. But there were no horses then either, so I had to travel all the way back to my own girlhood to the summers when I was dropped off at the boarding barn to spend the day taking care of my horse, and riding, and helping out with the other horses. 

More time travel. I could spend entire days traveling the years back and forward and back again.

I think sometimes we focus too much on child development. It's fascinating, I studied it in great detail during my undergraduate and graduate years in college. Somehow we imagine that we grow up and all that development stops and we're fully-formed adults going about our days with nothing to learn. Just things to do.

Clearly as mothers we live it all again, watching and nurturing children through their own early years, then as they launch forth, we have to learn how to let them go, what to do with our own thoughts and feelings, our older selves.

The time travel is part of that. I'm thinking of it as my PhD, this wild cosmic ride through time. 

And as Joni Mitchell sings it, And the seasons, they go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down...