Monday, January 29, 2018

Riding the crazy horse-woman bus

For the past few weeks I’ve been fretting about Keil Bay. As some of you know, he’s a few months shy of 29 years old, is in amazing good health, and is still sound under saddle. No one who sees him thinks he’s anywhere near his age. He’s always been a horse who stretches. His downward dogs are amazing, his horse version of warrior pose lovely, and he is more in tune with his body than any horse I’ve personally known. He loves body work. His chiropractic vet comes regularly and he adores her. But lately I have seen him do the deepest downward dogs I’ve ever seen him do, and sometimes, when he’s in the field, it almost seems like he falls asleep, then wakes up and goes into a downward dog to “catch” himself. My daughter thinks I’m a little nuts, but she helpfully did some research and found that sometimes a horse will take on the role of keeping watch for the herd to the point of never lying down to sleep.

This sent me into a tizzy of worry. Keil rolls regularly but I can’t recall seeing him lying down in the sun this winter, not one time. Then it seemed like days passed and I never saw him with shavings on his fur either. I’ve been a little obsessed with checking him for shavings. It’s possible he is lying down when I’m not watching, and based on the mud on his body during all the rain and snow we’ve had, it’s obvious he is rolling and possibly also sleeping at a time of day I’m not awake to see. But in December we had dogs barking in our pasture several times, then the fencing began, and I was away for several weeks of days traveling. It’s been a stressful winter for the herd, though they’ve seemed happy enough and healthy. But maybe Keil became more vigilant and stopped lying down to sleep.

Or. Maybe he is having arthritic issues, stiffness, things that would be normal for his age, but would be a first for him. My brain took the ball and ran with it. I put him on all the oral nutraceuticals he wasn’t already on, and plan to talk with his chiropractic vet and the regular vet to see if there is anything more I should do.

Yesterday it was raining all day and the horses and donkeys were in the barn. (Well, the pony was out standing in the rain, but that’s another blog post.) I stood at Keil’s stall door and looked for shavings. None. I’d piled them deep and tried to make lying down in the stall more appealing. But no.

He was incredibly sweet. Snuggly, nuzzling me, letting his eyes go googly, sharing breaths, all the things he does on a regular basis but generally not all at the same time. I asked him why he isn’t lying down, if there’s anything wrong, and ended up coming inside to cry because what if there IS something wrong? What if he’s simply just finally showing his age? That would be a relief but it will also be a hard thing for me to deal with. In my mind, and by the way he acts, he should live forever.

So, all that aside, it rained all night and it rained most of today. I went out to muck stalls and give hay and found that somehow they had opened the gate and the pony was on Keil’s side and Cody had come to the donkeys’ side, so I left them that way and closed the gate back up.

At lunchtime I went out again with a bowl of carrots and apples. I handed them out but they were all extremely greedy so I gave half and put the rest in the feed room. I was mucking again when I heard hoof beats pounding. The donkeys ran in the barn and looked at me - now that Salina is gone I’m the boss mare - MAKE HIM STOP. Cody was galloping around the very muddy barnyard, tossing his head and whirling on a dime. It is so muddy out there right now, and the hay tent literally blew apart in last week’s wind, and while generally this herd is sensible, Cody was acting a little too wild to be safe in that area with the hay tent in pieces. I immediately thought - oh no, what if he’s colicking?

He kept galloping around, so I went to the arena gate and opened it, figuring he would be safer to gallop in the arena. He galloped in and proceeded to go to the middle and roll.

Oh dear, I thought. Now, in the back of my mind a little voice was saying, look, it’s been raining for 36 hours. They’ve been cooped up, he’s just having some fun. And it’s true, he was tossing his head and not sweating (though he was wet from rain, so that was a little hard to assess) and truly, he looked pretty darned magnificent out there, but I kept an eye on him and kept mucking.

The pony went to the arena fence and the two of them played their pretend bite game. I decided to let Keil move over to the donkeys’ side and hang out with them. He was happy to go and I figured that was that. Cody would play himself out and I’d let him back in the paddock with the pony.

I kept mucking. Suddenly I heard many hoofbeats. Cody was galloping around the arena, the pony was galloping up and down the paddock, and Keil Bay blasted through the barn aisle at a full gallop. The donkeys literally got in the stall with me to get out of his way.

Did I mention how slippery both barnyards are?

This went on for about 15 minutes. Keil galloping through the barn aisle from one side of the barn to the other, then doing power trot in big circles, then galloping through again. I admit - it went through my head that we might be having a group colic. Then I notched myself down and decided they were just burning energy, reacting to the cold front blowing in, and ramping each other up. But I couldn’t get any of them to stop and the donkeys and I were, for a while, trapped in the stall because it was dangerous to step out with a 16.2, 1450 pound Hanoverian galloping through.

Eventually things calmed down. I closed up the stalls and went to let Cody out of the arena on the far side, that leads to the back field, hoping he would quietly head around to the pony. But the instant I opened the back arena gate the pony galloped around and went in the arena with Cody, which set off a whole new episode of galloping, rearing, bucking, and general craziness. Which set off Keil again, who proceeded to start back up galloping back and forth through the barn aisle. Thankfully the donkeys were out of the way.

This went on another 20 minutes or so. I decided maybe they’d all gone crazy but in any case their hooves were now as clean as whistles, which I could see clearly because of all the air time they were getting.

I decided to turn them all out into the entire pasture - front and back - and let them take their chances in the mud. I tied open the back arena gate, went around to let Keil Bay out of the barnyard area and into the paddock, and noticed as he walked through: he has shavings from last night embedded in his wet fur.

Well, okay, then! I guess if all the galloping and power trotting didn’t reveal he’s doing pretty well, at least I know he’s lying down to sleep.

They’re all turned out now, mud be damned, and I’m getting off the crazy bus for today.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Snow = mud = I don’t want to go outside at all

We had 8 inches of snow this week on November Hill and now it is melting. The contractor is finishing up the fencing. It looks like a monster truck rally just happened here.

A huge pile of snow slid off the back side of the barn roof and is about 2.5 feet tall right outside the shelter.

Mud. Mud. Mud.

I walked back there this evening. It is a mess. The entire farm is a mess!

I’m ready for sunshine, sunshine, sunshine, and more sunshine. Dry ground.

Meanwhile I went into an inside the house cleaning frenzy. Control the things you can control, right?

Hope all are weathering the winter better than I am!

Monday, January 15, 2018

November Hill farm journal, 44

We just came through a spell of very warm weather and are now roller-coastering back to what is for us very cold. Nights in the teens. I had unplugged the water tank heaters and now we cleaned the tanks and turned them back on again.

Last night I discovered the water hydrant in the little barnyard had been left on (or turned on by donkeys?) while connected to the hose which had the sprayer nozzle on the end. Something froze and burst in the hydrant and the water wasn’t able to be turned off. Sigh. That is first on the repair docket this morning. We’re warming up to 39 as the high today, 48 tomorrow, then another few very cold days with possible snow before returning to our normal winter temps next week.

Our fencing is much further along this week but still not complete. The back field is now safe for horses and pony but the arena is still open at one end so the donkeys can’t be turned out in back since they can and will climb through the arena fence on the back side. I long for the day when I can turn them all out into the entire farm again without having to worry about what is what.

After the snow sucked up a couple of work days and our contractor was able to return, the next discovery was that the entire back side of November Hill is solid rock! He broke his huge auger twice and went through nearly 30 linch pins (if I’m remembering the terminology correctly) digging post holes. We have had to reconfigure the plan back there. In one area he moved the posts in to get on this side of the rock, which initially disappointed me but then I realized that area will be a wonderful site for bee hives. Further down we have opted to have our farm helper do the posts and no-climb woven wire by hand using existing holes instead of trying to dig new ones. In the end it will all be good but the rock really slowed things down.

However - I love rock. One of the things I love about the mountains is the rock. I can literally feel myself being grounded when I put my hands on it, stand on it, sit or lie down on it. So discovering this huge rock formation at the back side of the farm is a comforting thing. I have always been drawn to that back edge and now I know why.

The new gates arrived for the arena and the back pathway but came without their latches. So while waiting for them to be sent the contractor is taking a break this week to move on to his next job. I’ll be happy when everything is totally wrapped up with this but it’s also nice to have some days to just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet. I knew this was going to be a huge endeavor as any fence replacement is when horses are involved. It’s one of those things we will only live through once!

I have to say how proud I am of the herd for their overall sensible behavior during this big job. There is a huge dumpster in front of the front fence, a generator going most days, a tractor moving up and down the driveway, digging and dumping and moving heavy materials, a nail gun, some things wrapped in huge tarps, and all kinds of disruption to their normal routine. And they have handled it so well. I think they can see that the new fencing is more secure and that they won’t be dealing with dogs, coyotes, or other things coming into their territory.

There have been several days when I felt totally ungrounded, without my center, as parts of the fence were taken down, the sounds of machines ripped through the air, and the front gate was open all day long for ease of working. Seeing the barnyard and parts of the pastures zig-zagged with tractor tire prints was painful. I keep telling myself how every winter I think at some point, nothing will ever grow on this ground again, and every year I am wrong. This winter will be no different. The ground will heal itself come spring and by summer I won’t know anything but the memory of how raw it all looks right now.

I’m waiting for these next few winter mornings when it’s both cold and quiet. And I will walk down to the rock and stand there and find my center again.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

After-snow, wintertime blues

We only got two inches, but the difference for us is that the days before and after the snow were well below freezing, so the snow didn’t melt for days, and even when it started to, the ground underneath was still dry. I’m not sure what it is about how the bare winter earth looks after snowfall, but I walked outside yesterday to take a look and became so depressed I gave hay, patted horses, and came right back inside. Granted, I’m still coughing and not myself yet, but still.

I love the winter landscape but it looks awful out there!

We finally broke through the cold spell and today are back up in the low 50s with full sunshine. I expect the rest of the snow will now melt and we’ll have some mud. The only chore it makes sense to do is muck, muck, muck and muck.

Meanwhile the fencing proceeds and my farm and house helpers will be here tomorrow so we should be able to make a dent in the mess.

Just in time for what looks on the weather forecast like days of rain. Sigh.