The opinions expressed in previous entries may or may not express the current opinion of the author.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Hello Goodbye

Today I went to the barn to pack up and label our stuff so that it can accompany the horses in the truck on their journey north.

Bridget and Chloe and George were very nice and didn't upbraid me for having neglected them for so long.  In fact, Chloe did something she's never done before - she came up and mouthed me to initiate grooming.  George seems to have decided he's part of the Chloe/Bridget team, albeit over the fence, which is good as they will shortly all be living together.

I said hi/bye to them and explained that we would meet next time in a far-distant location.  I think they're looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Our family is in the throes of moving, and chaos reigns.  Every time I think I might sneak out to the barn, someone needs a car to go buy more boxes or go graduate from high school or something.

Admittedly, there have been times first thing in the morning when, instead of limply sitting at the computer, I could've summoned the energy to go out for a visit.  Sed deteriora sequi.

The humans are moving in three days; the horses are moving in a week and a half.  And then - for the first time in five years - we will all (horses and humans) be living in the same place.  Which will compensate somewhat for the fact that for the first time ever only three of us humans will be living in the same state, the others inhabiting North Carolina, Mississippi (two) and Texas.

We are returning to the house and land where we used to live and which we hung on to, despite the financial foolishness of it all, because we hoped we might return one day.  Fate intervened, my husband lost his job and found a new one in DC - and so back we go to Pennsylvania.  We will have the summer together before oldest daughter gets married in July and the others go/return to college.  George's owner will be the sole child left at home.

We're all tired of packing, tired of saying goodbye, tired of feeling sad, tired of being tired.  What I'm looking forward to most is the moment when, after the humans are settled in, the truck rolls up the drive and the horses step out.

In the meantime, I think we need a few more boxes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

What's up with this funny game?

Bridget is a contact sport kind of a girl.  She's always leaning on me, chewing on me, bumping into me and - her new craze - pawing at me with her forelegs.  The gesture is not at all demanding or impatient but rather seems seems playful and curious.

I can feel the movement welling up inside her before it happens, and if I look at her leg, it seems to be beginning to, I don't know, vibrate or something.

When presented with a leg, I feel I must respond with appreciation.  Clearly this is an interactive, friendly overture and as such deserves a friendly response. The habit has begun to spread: yesterday, I moved down her side toward her hind legs, and lo and behold, she raised her right hind and poked her foot at me.  There was no resemblance to a cow-kick - the movement was calm, controlled and slow.

I have the feeling that when she does this, she is not saying something specific, that she is being generally outgoing with her limbs, that it is a gesture of connection. Or maybe I'm wrong; maybe she means, "I'd like fries with that."

Whatever it means, it's rather fun.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Sweetie and Katie

We've all seen those photos -- the doting horse owner smooches her helpless pet while posing adorably for the camera. The expression on the horse's face often tells a different story - like, "Omigosh, woman, what is wrong with you anyway?"

Here, however, is a picture which tells a different story.  This is Sweetie (not the one at my barn but another nurse-mare foal, a former playmate of Bridget's) and her new friend Katie.  I think Sweetie looks very content, don't you?

Photo by Natalie C. West

From Lucifer to Lassie

At our old barn, Chloe used to be known as Devil Pony.

Today at the barn, one of the boarders came out and said, "Did you know your pony's loose?"

Another boarder who was there said, "Oh that's just Chloe, she's like a dog."

Today Chloe reciprocally groomed me for the first time.  As she's not used to scratching humans, she got a little ouchy with her teeth.  I stopped scratching whenever she got toothy and said, "Ow." Then I remembered to not be thinking about what she was doing but to concentrate on feeling relaxed and unbitten.  She got the hang of only using her upper lip.

Today I also was inspired to ask George to do some moving sideways with his back legs and front legs.  Sometimes he doesn't want to listen, but today for some reason, perhaps because I was filled with enthusiasm, he kept his attention on me.  When he did what I wanted, I overreacted with praise and congratulation, which I think he rather enjoys.

I trimmed Bridget's feet today.  It took for ever. She was very squirrelly.   However, fresh from my trimming weekend in Colorado (more on that later), I am all alert to the Dangers of Unbalanced Feet, and so I put my own foot down, and we finished all four of hers.  I paused many times in the process to recall the pair of us to friendship and tranquility, so I hope the experience was not too negative.  Probably a bit like having to go with your mother to the laundromat.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

True Story

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it.  Although, really, there's no reason it shouldn't be believable.  It shows just how smart horses are, and how interested they are in participating.

Armed with a rubber curry comb, I had gone out to the paddock where the nurse-mare foals lived.  I started currying one of the babies, when along came another, demanding to know what was going on. I offered her the curry comb to inspect.  She took it in her mouth and proceeded to turn to the other foal and bang on his neck with the curry comb.  After a short while, she dropped it.  I picked it up and returned it to her, whereupon she resumed currying her friend. She dropped it again soon and after that was not interested in another attempt.

This happened a couple of years ago, but it has stayed with me like a talisman, reminding me that just as you wouldn't wish for your kindergartner to grow up and work on a production line, so we shouldn't limit the future of these dear, clever foals by our "traditional" ideas of what it means to be a horse.

Kris McCormack's most recent blog entry contains several wonderful examples of how much more there is to the Horse than he is generally given credit for.  It's a must-read!

I think cross-ties are the ultimate emblem of how we shackle the horse, both physically and mentally.  A horse in cross ties not only can't move, but he can't act. In the past, we have thought of the horse as one whose movements are potentially dangerous, relatively meaningless, and useless unless they are at our behest.  We have not thought of his movements as mindful actions. In cross ties, he can't run away - but neither can he, say, pick things up, scratch himself, see who's coming up behind him, relax by dropping his head, defend his human against stray bears, or meaningfully consent to what is going on.

I don't remember which of the foals curried her friend's neck - it might even have been Bridget - but whoever it was, I'm grateful to her for the glimpse she gave me into a world much wider than the one we horse people have been crammed into for so long.


Re-reading my last post, I realize there is an inaccuracy.  For some reason, I suddenly remembered that when I first touched George's leg to pick it up, he didn't respond right away by lifting it.  He responded by moving forward.  He moved forward at least a couple of times before I convinced him that's not what I was after.  I don't know if it was an evasion or if he thought that's what I wanted. After he had quit moving forward when I touched his leg, then he did pick it up right away when I asked.  Either way, it's a reactive part of his body.  I wonder why.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Back to the Barn

Back to the barn today after an absence of four days (too busy/too sick/out of town/out of town).

I went out to fetch George in from the pasture ....

I like to walk along the path made by the horses.

I worked on his feet, practicing my "hoof mapping" by drawing on his soles with a Sharpie marker.  He's not a big fan of having his feet held up, but since he and I have been becoming more intimate, we're more trusting of each other. When the time came to look at his back feet, which in the past he has been very protective of, I stood by his head and pointed to his back leg and explained that I was going to ask him to pick up that foot.  I slid down his side and touched the leg.  He picked it up immediately.  I could tell he felt a little insecure, but we found a position, where his foot wasn't very far from the ground, that he found comfortable. Fortunately the back feet didn't really need any work, so we quit while we were ahead.

I had a nice visit in the field with Chloe and Bridget.  We so often spend our time going out for a grazing walk, which is serious business, that it was nice to just hang out in the pasture.  I'm thinking I might have to insist that Bridget be nicer to Chloe when we're all together.  She usually shoves her out of the way and tries to get between us.  I suppose I could shoo her away when she does that and allow her to come back as long as she lets Chloe be part of the social circle too.

Bridget and I kind of roughhoused a bit today, if you could call it that, if that's what we were doing .... I think that's kind of what we were doing.  Anyway we were bumping into each other and getting tangled up and pushing each other.  It was quite fun.  She reached around toward me a couple of times with her mouth open the way horses do when they playbite. Sometimes she reaches out to me with a foreleg - don't know what that means.  Maybe she's seen Chloe do it.  When she does, I pick it up and congratulate her.  I figure that if it's a "naughty" gesture, that'll make her think of it differently.  However, I'm sure it's a perfectly lovely gesture.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Little About Bridget's Background

Here is where Bridget came from:

Last Chance Corral Foal Rescue

Along with 23 other nurse-mare foals, she was brought to Mississippi in the spring of 2008 by my friend Stephanie Billingsley, who runs Mississippi Horses.org. The more youngsters removed from Last Chance Corral, the more they can take in.  Stephanie has now found homes for all but two of the original 24.  I think she's planning to head out to Ohio to bring home some more!

Of course the problem will not go away until the practice of using nurse mares in the racing industry comes to an end. Every single one of those foals was smart, beautiful and loving, and every single one would have been thrown in the trash had it not been for Last Chance Corral.

Stephanie dedicates huge amounts of time and resources to sheltering unwanted or abused horses.  She has a beautiful, spacious facility at Twelve Oaks Farm in Madison, MS where the horses receive loving care and training until approved homes can be found for them.