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.


Grey Horse Matters said...

They do make us crazy, I admit that! It sounds like they were all blowing off a little steam with all their pent up energy after this winter. I’m sure you’ll get a good report from the vets. Glad you noticed the shavings that means he is lying down and resting. Hang in there.

billie said...

It was mayhem! The donkeys were so funny - standing behind me like I was somehow going to block them from these big horses galloping around. Keil is a tank and seeing him whirring past through the barn aisle was intense. When I went back out at 4:30 they were all lollygagging by the barn, ready to come back in with hay. I think you’re right - they just had a lot of energy and it needed to discharge. The vet will probably say I need to find a calming supplement for MYSELF. LOL.

Matthew said...

I can't even imagine!

billie said...

Well, you have seen them go wild before but I do think they reached a new record yesterday. I love how sensible the donkey boys are. Amidst the craziness they were right there on either side of me and then backing me up. :)