Monday, February 26, 2024

Sad update on the little filly named Faith

 Last week the rescue group and vet team who have taken amazing care of Faith, the little filly who was removed from owners due to terrible physical and emotional abuse, had to make the heartbreaking decision to help Faith go peacefully. Her injuries were too severe for her to live a pain-free life even as a pasture only horse. 

So many people have put time and money and love into giving this young horse a chance to live a healthy life. It’s a tragedy that such a sweet girl has not been able to find stability without pain. 

The couple who bred and abused Faith have had their court case continued numerous times. We all need to reach out to Cumberland County Animal Control and encourage them not to let up with this case. These two people should never own horses again and they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their abuse of this horse. 

You can easily google the numbers to call, write, and you can also help by sharing this far and wide and encouraging others to call and write. 

Thanks for your help in speaking out for Faith. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

November Hill farm journal, 205: A New Adventure

 This Friday my birthday present on this 16th leap year birthday is a saddle fitting for Cody. He and I are going to begin a new adventure in riding. Years ago, I did a period of weekly lessons on Cody to try and expand my adult body skills while also learning about what he needs from a rider to offer the relaxed, beautiful movement we see him exhibiting in free play. 

Cody is light years different from Keil Bay: different breed, different build, different movement, but also different training. Keil was trained by someone who bred, trained, and competed upper level dressage horses, and it was very clear that Keil had been encouraged to use his body and not constrained by his rider. Keil expected, trusted in, and received competent riding his entire life. 

Cody came to us as a fully trained under saddle western pleasure QH. We thought he was 4 years old. Still early in a horse’s life to be fully trained under saddle, but we planned to take it easy until he grew up a bit more. When his papers arrived in the mail, we learned he was TWO years old. He had a weekly ride for the next year and a half to let him grow up some more, and a very specific kind of ride - with an English saddle and encouragement for relaxing and using his body. His gaits were tight, mincing western pleasure trained movement, nothing we wanted to continue. He figured it out, and with a sensitive, quiet rider he really shines. Too much use of rein, leg, and weight and he tenses up and reverts to the old learning. 

I’m not an intentionally loud rider with the aids, but I’ve had to work as an adult to regain some of my youthful balance in the saddle. Keil Bay was always very forgiving of me, and big enough not to care too much. He took care of me with his own impeccable athleticism and elegant movement. 

Cody needs what I call butterfly aids. For me, that means I have to focus on keeping my legs off him more than on him, as even the lightest touch is for him a big cue. What I learned in my lessons on Cody was that if I could lighten in every way as a rider, find my balance, and most of all remain relaxed, Cody would follow suit. And what came then was beautiful. In a way, Cody taught me more than Keil did because he needed more from me to get to the good place where both our bodies moved in harmony. 

It’s time for us to work together again. With Keil Bay only being ridden in my dreams (it is happening, and I treasure it) and my visualizations, I am craving being on the back of an in the flesh horse. Cody has PSSM, which likely exacerbates his sensitivity, but consistent work also helps his condition. So my job will be to get as light and as balanced and as relaxed as I can for him. In return, his balanced movement will do wonders for my fitness and my back and hips. We are going to be a team, and he is actively participating in this as we move toward Friday.

Last week he had a chiro appointment, and unlike Keil Bay, it’s not his favorite thing on the planet. But as if something had shifted, he relaxed into his chiro adjustments and began to offer behaviors that were exactly like Keil’s during his chiro time. Cody turned his neck many times to look back at his chiro vet, something he’s never done before, something Keil Bay did constantly. Cody nudged me when I was talking about something not related to him, as Keil Bay always did. And when the work was done, instead of being eager to walk away and rejoin his herd, he stopped and turned to his vet and touched her arm with his muzzle. A signature Keil Bay move. 

Is Cody channeling the Big Bay? I don’t know! But the change was unmistakable. I think he’s probably stepping into Keil’s role in the ways he noticed Keil behaving all the years they lived together, which was most of Cody’s life. 

I’m so happy to be on this new adventure with him. I hope we both get a lot out of it. More to come as we move forward into 2024. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Happy Birthday, Redford!!!

 This February we have two sweet 16 birthdays happening. Redford turned 16 on the 19th and I will have my 16th Leap Year birthday on the 29th. I’m very happy to share this milestone with Redford, who has been and remains the caretaker equine on November Hill. 

When he first came to us around 6 months of age, he came earlier than planned to help keep Rafer Johnson, who had a broken leg in a big cast, company. Salina had gone temporarily awol due to hormones and Rafer needed a companion at the barn. Redford came and took the role beautifully. Of course, once Redford came and Salina saw him, she immediately reverted to mama bear and would not leave the donkey boys, so then we had the trio who became deeply bonded until Salina passed away at age 30.

As the herd reconfigured Redford began to attach himself to Keil and Cody, always offering to stay with either one of them if needed. When Keil developed EPM, Redford stayed by his side and that continued until Keil’s passing in October. 

The herd is still settling into its new order after losing their long-time leader, but Redford seems to float between Cody and Little Man and Rafer Johnson. I’m sure he’s going to the one who needs his company the most - that’s just who he is. 

Since Salina’s death, Redford also tends to me. He began to leave the herd to come be near me around that time, whenever I’m out doing chores or just spending time with the herd. He has been sticking to me like glue when I’m at the barn since Keil’s death, and I appreciate his presence and his care. He is such a special little donkey. We’re honored to have him here, keeping his eyes on all of us. 

Here he is last week, sticking close as I worked in the back pasture. 

Happy sweet 16, Redbug! We love you so much!

Monday, February 05, 2024

November Hill farm journal, 204

 Much work in the upper pollinator bed this weekend, removing some winter foliage and thinning out the potentilla, which is native but can get overbearing. I also ripped out many tall/Canada goldenrod (native and terrific but have taken over this bed and need to go!) and several Japanese honeysuckle vines. Not done but unearthed many of the original native plantings which had gotten overshadowed by the tall goldenrod. 

No photos yet!

Spent time with the herd yesterday afternoon and dear husband did hoof trims for the donka boys while I groomed. I visited Keil Bay’s grave this morning and stood awhile with, for the first time since he passed, no tears. I had a visceral image of him coming up from the grave, shaking, jumping into the arena and doing a very fancy dressage test while I watched. This is how I remember him, the beauty of his movement, his amazing personality, and how happy I felt and still feel when I see him go. 

It’s a beautiful February day that started when I woke up early to find an acceptance email for my flash fiction piece titled She Wants To Swim With Narwhals. It is forthcoming in Permafrost Magazine, and I’ll post a link when it publishes.