Saturday, October 31, 2015

a little book stuff

I've linked my GoodReads "currently reading" list to the blog. If you look on the sidebar to the right and scroll down a little you'll see what I'm reading. 

I do very brief reviews on GoodReads if you're interested in seeing more, and longer "formal" reviews for LitChat (you can find those at under the book review tab). 

For the past year or so I have been reading a little physics every morning. My son is passionate about physics (he's a junior physics and pure mathematics major and looking at physics grad schools now) and hearing him talk about it kindled my young science self. I'm often reading at the far edge of my own comprehension but find it a wonderful way to spend a half-hour or so every morning.

I usually read fiction at night before bed.

Feel free to share your book recommendations here. I have piles of books all over the house and my Kindle is packed. And there are new titles coming out every day. But I'm still in denial that I won't ever get to read all the books I want to read. There's a Many Interacting Worlds theory floating now that means I might well be reading books all over the place, and somehow maybe what I'm reading in those other worlds is interacting with me here. 

For those of us who ride, consider the implications! Keil Bay and I are riding Grand Prix somewhere. :)

We had a nice ride today. Still building up to more trotting. Riding through things like Cody cantering up to the arena fence, tossing his head, and trying to nip Keil Bay on the rump, Rafer Johnson knocking the mounting block off its cinder blocks, and cats dashing in and out of the woods at us. Keil was brave and a solid ride through all that but he spooked after I got off when I crackled the peppermint wrappers! 

And tonight:

Halloween graveyard cake! Made with our own sweet potatoes, cream cheese frosting, and a slew of Halloween candy decor. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

rainy day

We've had a long streak of lovely weather and all the grass that came up from the overseeding needs water! So I'm happy to have a rainy day to enjoy.

Yesterday was cloudy with a stiff wind but Keil Bay and I tacked up and rode through it. Leaves flying, deer crashing, cats dashing in and out of hiding places, hay tent flap making periodic whoosh noises that sounded like silenced rounds from a hit man. (watching X-Files and Homeland lends to this kind of analogy), daughter dropping the muck barrow inside the barn with a bang.  

Even when I reached up and grabbed a low-hanging dead oak branch, thinking the small part hitting my helmet would be all that broke off, and the whole three feet long branch cracked and fell on his hindquarters, he did not spook. He was alert and forward but he took care of me.

Yesterday we did more walking, shoulder-in, turns on forehand and haunches, 20m circles, and increased our trot time. Then more walking. 

We've been avoiding the F area in the arena - not because of spookiness but due to the million and one acorns covering nearly every square inch of that corner. After our ride I spent a little time with the muck rake (oddly it works perfectly for acorns!) and the wheelbarrow and cleared them back a few feet. I'll do more tomorrow and that should do it (assuming more don't fall). I can't figure out if they are just weird to walk on or if he is unwilling to walk on a source of treats. Though this year they're not eating as many as they have in years past, thankfully!

Tomorrow I'm going to get on the three days on/two days off riding schedule, as I think it works best for Keil. We'll build on the trotting and see how it goes. He's muscling up and I'm getting ready to add a mid-day meal into his diet for extra calories. 

Otherwise, the color here is starting to pop. It looks like the first week in November will be the peak - which is exactly where the name November Hill came from. We moved in October ten years ago and when we hit November here the color and beauty of the season blew us all away. It's the perfect name for our farm and our favorite season. Even in the rain!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

a horse and his friend

A couple of days ago I was getting ready to turn the boys out to the front field, which had a month off and was limed, overseeded with spring fescue, and seeded for winter with grazing rye. We had just the right rain at the right time to get it off to a lovely start, and the herd had been eyeing it for several weeks.

I'm not quite ready to turn them on it full-time but for the past week I've been giving them a couple hours out there each day and they've been enjoying it a lot, but not going nuts, which is good. (Nuts would be them pacing up and down the fence line off and on all day and trying to break through the gate!)

Keil Bay came out of the barn first, to the side gate which I had open and waiting. The pony and donkeys had gone out the other way, and Cody was still in the barn. He's moving pretty well at this point; the abscess exit has grown down the hoof about 1/4 inch, but he's not totally sound on that hoof yet. So he was taking his time to get to the front field.

I was standing in the gateway and started to close it just in case the donkeys or pony decided to come through and go to the barn. Not likely with the grass out there singing their tune, but it was a reflex on my part. Keil put his body in the gateway and stopped so I couldn't close it, and when he heard Cody coming from behind, he used his nose to shove the gate wide open - giving Cody space to get through. The two walked off together almost literally into the sunset, with not a bit of space between them.

If you want to look at herd "order" Keil Bay is top horse and Cody is at the bottom. This is why I think the idea of herd order is not quite the whole picture when it comes to horses and the way they operate when they truly live together, in other words, are not separated very much of the time and have access to stalls, and each other close to full time.

Keil Bay didn't rush out to the green grass -  he waited for his friend whose hoof is slowing him down right now, and he didn't insist that Cody follow behind him - he actually shoved the gate open so Cody could join him shoulder to shoulder and walk to the pasture together. 

It's nice knowing the horses have their own relationships with one another and that they make allowances when needed. 

A different day this week I had tacked Keil up in his stall and Cody was standing in the barn aisle watching. Knowing there would be no issue, I didn't hesitate to open the stall door to walk Keil through on our way to the arena, but Keil realized before coming through that he might bump Cody with the door as he passed - he stopped and pulled back into the stall. I got it - and asked Cody to move over a few steps. On we went with no problems. This is one of those times when the horse is smarter than his rider, and I'm happy to listen and adjust my request as needed!

They have their spats from time to time, but for the most part, this herd gets along well. Anyone can turn out with any other one but I think they're happiest all together. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

riding the real and imagined big bay horse

Something reminded me this morning that ever since I was very young, as early as I can remember, really, I rode a big bay horse every time I rode in the car with my parents or anyone else. 

In my imagined ride, I walked and trotted and cantered and galloped alongside the car I was in, on the terrain that paralleled the roadway. There were obstacles. Ditches and fences and forests and things that had to be jumped or sometimes ridden around.

It was me on that big bay horse, everywhere I went. For years and years of my life, until I got my first horse, a chestnut with a wide white blaze and four white socks, and then again when he was sold after I went off to college.

Even as an adult I realized I still rode the big bay, off to the far right of the green minivan, with my children in their carseats in back. I think that big bay became my guardian, or maybe just a reminder that I was born wanting to ride and even during periods of time when I didn't, the desire remained, and was, in a way, fulfilled by my imagination.

It was no surprise that when I typed in my dream horse to I typed in a big bay with a white star. I've recounted that story several times here - the result of that query was Keil Bay, the REAL Big Bay, who has turned out to be the actual dream horse come true for me.

We've been riding again last week and this week after several months off. He is a horse who, when I take him into the arena and drop the rein to go set right a dressage marker that was tipped over by donkeys, marches to the mounting block and lines himself up and waits for me to come get on. 

He is the horse who reminds me that he needs shoulder-in to work out the stiffness, and who shows me that was the exact right thing to do by offering a big lovely trot just after the shoulder-in.

At the end of the ride he lines up perfectly so I can dismount onto the mounting block, and waits patiently while I climb down to the ground and dig out his peppermint from my pocket. He follows me to the gate and goes ahead when I ask him to the tack room door where he waits while I take off his bridle and saddle and give him his Chaffhaye.

He is the horse who, in the midst of eating, which he loves to do, he will stop and turn around and touch his muzzle to my hand, a gesture I can only take to mean something good and kind.

I'm reminded that somehow, even as a little girl, I made up this big bay horse and the spirit of him and the image of him persisted into middle life and then manifested perfectly. When I ride him now I think how lucky I am and how grateful I am and when I get off and give him the peppermint I say thank you and I tell him that he's the best horse in the whole world. He is 26 years old and I know now that every single ride is a gift. Dressage is a not something I care much about these days, but it is a remedy, exercises that sustain us physically, not something that happens in an arena with a judge sitting at the end. Piaffe is no longer in the picture as far as I'm concerned. 

Shoulder-in has become the most important piece of dressage work we do. It supples and seems almost like a healing balm. I see him doing it sometimes along the fence line in the pastures.

I'm rambling here but thinking about how sometimes there is a single line we can draw through an entire lifetime, a thing that has sustained us and been with us and remains. For me it's the big bay horse, always with me, always moving forward. And right now, I'm going to go give him a double pack peppermint and just breathe him in for awhile. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

more rides

Keil and I have had daily rides since Tuesday- he's as happy as can be and moving well thus far. I think the pre and post-alfalfa Chaffhaye meals have added to his riding pleasure. Not to mention the Red Bird soft peppermints. I just ordered a new container - 500 peppermints and many of them are double packs. This batch had a 6-peppermint string that Keil got as a special after-ride surprise. Needless to say, he is a happy horse!

Cody's abscess has finally stopped draining and he's moving normally again. He is back to regular turn-out now and we're all relieved this particular abscess is over with. It's going to take awhile for the hoof to grow this thing out. I'm playing it by ear in terms of riding - not quite yet but he really does need the work. 

Porch plants are coming in for the winter tomorrow as we look for lows in the 30s this weekend. I think it's safe to say it - fall is finally here!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I serve at the pleasure of Keil Bay

Thankfully he's a reasonable guy! 

In other news, Cody's abscess burst and oh my goodness, it is a doozy. He is so much better but that thing is still draining! 

Today I'm off to the feedstore to stock up on Ontario Dehy timothy balance cubes and Chaffhaye. We had cut the Chaffhaye out during July and August due to heat and humidity and availability of grass with no riding being done. Now that we're into fall and work is resuming Keil will get a good serviing of Chaffhaye before and after his rides and that will boost his calories a bit. He's on the thin side right now which is fine for his easy keeping self, but it's time to feed the work and the cooler weather. I just saw that our low for this weekend is 36 degrees!

He's been telling me for a year that he wants to go on the 4-feed-tub-a-day senior meal plan Salina was on, but I have to keep telling HIM that he is so much healthier than she was. He simply doesn't need that much food. But the Chaffhaye is a terrific compromise. 

We're having gorgeous days and as I typed that there was a round of soft relaxed snorts through the open door. They are all really happy to be moving into fall.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

a little more Keil Bay

A little more Keil Bay. And a nice note on my leg. I spoke with my ND today and it turns out she used to be a burn nurse. She reviewed my treatment protocol for the burn and said I did exactly the right things. She did say the skin will be particularly vulnerable for about a year and that adding extra protection while riding is advisable so that I don't risk damaging the skin. 

I'm thinking boot-cut riding tights will help, and I'll wear a leg wrap under my sock.

Meanwhile, enjoying the photos and assembling what I'll need to get back to riding!

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

what we need is here

Daughter pulled some photos of me and the Big Bay from our archives for inspiration. The sun came out this morning, my leg is healing, and I think if I wear a leg wrap for protection it will be okay to start riding, especially since Keil and I both need lots of walking to get back in shape.

It's Wendell Berry season here: wild geese, gorgeous horses, no flies, chilly nights, changing leaves, and forward motion.  ... quiet in heart and in eye clear. What we need is here.