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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back to Basics

Yesterday, I asked George to turn his head, and he did. It was kind of a big deal.

I have all these grand ambitions for George - you know, fancy moves like walking forward, turning, backing up. But I also have found a quiet, peaceful place with George which I would like to preserve undisturbed while asking these things. Sometimes this can be quite a contradiction.

Yesterday, I went into the field to spend time. I put the halter on George. I re-discovered that he really doesn't like to have me touch his chest/neck/shoulder with any kind of intentionality, other than friendship. This gets back to the scar, put there by an angry pasture-mate, who was fed up with George being so stubborn about refusing to move his shoulders over, the scar which George's previous owner likes to point to as evidence of how much force is needed to make him understand the necessity for capitulating on this point.

I understand, from my limited exposure to Parelli, that the system works by breaking through such barriers in the horse. If you discover an area of resistance, you work through it. Again from my very limited, and possibly not very typical, experience of watching Parelli work in action, it looked like the resistance was broken through more or less by force, albeit mild force. In other words, the horse was not given a choice. Lack of choice = force.

Yesterday, every time I put my hand on George's chest or shoulder, he pinned his ears and looked very sour. My intention in putting my hand there was to ask him to release his shoulder in order to move toward me with a lengthening back. He trusts me quite a lot, and yet it was too much to ask.

I didn't insist. How can you insist on a release anyway? Instead I stopped to think. I stood by George's shoulder and pointed to it. I said, "Look, I'm only pointing, I'm not touching."

I applied a tiny amount of pressure on my end of the lead rope and felt a concrete barrier on the George end. I could tell that if I brought his head toward me, his shoulder would come with it, the whole head/neck/shoulder one big piece of fused hardness. So instead, I put my hand on his nose, and said, "You need to release this, so that when you turn towards me, your shoulder can release away, so that your back can lengthen - and it's all about the back, right? You want your back to feel good, don't you?"

After spending a little more time deconstructing the situation, I touched my finger to his shoulder while thinking about his head. George's shoulder melted away from me as his head curved towards me.

It was so beautiful, it brought tears to my eyes.

I took the halter off, and we spent time together in his favorite pose, with me on his left side. Afterwards, he was very nice about letting me go and interact with Rose and Bridget.

When I left, he followed me and kept looking at me after I'd gone.

So, gosh, things like, I don't know, a collected trot seem to be just a little bit far off. However, I remembered something KFH said in, I think, What Horses Reveal. He said that if you're doing it right, the result will be beautiful. Although you can't aim directly for the result, if you don't get the result, then you're doing something wrong. He says that when a toddler performs ballet even though the execution is simple, and maybe a little awkward, it can have a beauty of its own, appropriate to the level attained by the young dancer.

I guess George and I are in the just-learned-to-walk-never-mind-dance group of toddler babies, dressed in our bunny costumes - but yesterday, George offered something that, in its own way, was as lovely as a dance can be.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another Hour (or Two, or Three) with George

This morning, George resumed his fence-standing, which means that there's no longer enough grass in the pasture to keep him happy.

So I took the hint and brought him out to graze. I decided that we would graze for just as long as he wanted, and then, when he was satisfied, I would work on his hoofs.

I sipped a cup of coffee while he grazed, and time passed pleasantly. He enjoyed eating the dandelions, as well as the lush grass, and also this plant:

The dogs hung out with us, and George even managed to sniff a tail before its owner realized what was happening. Lucy was busy with her bone and didn't care when George came close.

Kitten was brave too:

Last time I let George graze for as long as he wanted, he changed the subject after about an hour and went exploring. Not today.

After an hour and fifty minutes, I thought he was finally interested in something else:

but he only wanted to scratch his nose.

Good grief, my humanoid brain cannot take any more grazing. Two hours after we began, I have to go inside to the bathroom, and it is time to take George back to his field.

"No! I need three hours of grazing!"

I get George back inside his pasture and take the halter off. Whereupon he walks way. "Hmph," I think, "how heartless!" But I was mistaken - he walked off a few feet to drop some manure and came right back. It then became apparent that he really was quite satisfied with his feast after all.

Sleepy George

I leave the field, intent on my own lunch, but George says, "Where are you going?" So I come back and scratch his head for a while.

Well, maybe I can put off going inside and just run and get the trimming stuff. When I get back he's waiting for me.

When I introduce the idea of maybe picking up a foot for me, he gives me a stinky look, but I persevere politely, and pretty soon he's quietly giving me his left hoof. I get a little bit of both front feet done, but he's not very keen on holding his foot up for more than a few moments at a time.

He looks very alert when he sees the mares come cantering over from the far side of the field, but he stays with me, physically and mentally. At one point he walks off, and I think we're done, but again it's because he's headed off to the poop corner to drop some more manure, and he comes right back. Don't get much more done after that, and he starts off toward the mares. He stops, though, and looks back at me a couple of times. So I start running toward the mares, passing George, and then wait. He rejoins me.

Now it's way past my lunchtime, I really have to go to the bathroom, and it's starting to rain, so I say goodbye to George. I thought he got the message, but after a moment he turns and follows me back toward the gate. He stops half-way, realizing that I'm going off into that other world whither he cannot follow.

It's a good thing I don't have a job.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

George Loses His Peeve

This afternoon found me out in the horse field with a halter and leadrope. When George presented himself, I put it on him and decided to do a tiny bit of "work."

Having been turned out recently into a new pasture, the horses have been happily grazing for a few days. So they're not so obsessed with getting out to eat. (Alas, we're getting near the end of the new pasture too.) I stayed in the field with George, and so he had no expectation that this was all about going to greener pastures. Also, having the halter on gave a signal, I think, that we were doing a little work, and it helped to keep a connection going between us. Liberty work is nice, and probably ideal, but I think sometimes both horse and human can find the halter and leadrope reassuring.

We only worked for a very few minutes, but I discovered that George doesn't mind backing up in the least if you stay shoulder-to-shoulder with him, facing the same way, and walk backwards beside him. Also, in this way, I found that I could ask him to soften his head to the left while moving his shoulder over to the right as we backed up. This is something I could never get him to do before.

After I took the halter off, he wanted me to stand beside him. So I did. For about an hour. I was determined not to go away as long as he wanted me to stay there.

Little Bridget really wanted attention, and she crept as close as she could without arousing the George stink eye, a distance of about two horse lengths. She stood there for ages, waiting for him to go away, but finally gave up and went off to graze with Rose and Chloe.

As time went by, I gradually moved up closer to George's head. He likes having his ears rubbed. He is so peaceful and gentle and soft at times like these that I realize how important, and how difficult, it is to allow action and movement to arise naturally and softly out of this peace.  At one point, his head was drooping almost to the ground; he flicked an ear and gave my shin a tiny nudge with his nose. I took that as a request to rub his ears some more. Who knows if I was right or not, but he was happy with the resumed ear rubbing anyway.

After we'd been standing there for about an hour, he started nibbling some grass, then caught sight of one of the dogs lying on the ground and went over to check him out. The dog is not so brave without a fence in between them and didn't stick around to be inspected. Then George went over to the water trough. I stayed put, but thought that he was ready to go off and do something else. However, after having a drink, he returned directly to my side. We stood for several more minutes, and then George moved off a little to graze.

But it was apparent that we were now in a different configuration - namely the mares were one group over on one side of the field, and George and I made up another little group in our corner. We stuck together for a while until I left the field, the better to pick the longer grass on the other side of the fence and hand it to him. But once I was out of the field, he quickly lost interest and rejoined the mares.

All this goes to show that despite George's reputation as a ladies' man and patriarchal oppressor, what he really wants is a buddy, which is, I suppose, how he came by his original name.

More importantly, this time with George made me re-remember that it's not all about making the horse do what you want. I could read Resnick and Hempfling and Rashid and still be in the mindset of trying new and ever more subtle ways to get the horse to do my bidding. Yes, I do want the horse to do things I ask him to do. I think that would be fun and useful. But I have to remember that this cannot be the only, or even the primary, motivation behind my desire to have a relationship with this creature.

It's an Ill Wind ...

As I was sitting in the back yard, peacefully contemplating the beauty of the afternoon, all of a sudden I heard the sound of thundering hoofs. Getting up to find out what was going on, I discovered Rose galloping about the top field. At first I thought she was playing, as I saw her bucking at Chloe. Closer investigation, however, revealed that she was somewhat distraught. She ran to the gate when she saw me, as if to say - "Get me out of here!" And she refused the grass I picked to offer her.

One of Rose's less endearing characteristics is that she tends to blame the person standing closest for whatever is disturbing her. Hence the bucks at Chloe, and when she had gas colic, she would pin her ears at me when she felt a twinge. So I went in to the field and tried to figure out what was up from a distance. I thought for sure it had to be the mother of all horse flies, or a giant tick.

It didn't take long to see what the culprit was: a hovering bot fly, trying to land on Rose, which she just couldn't shake no matter how fast she galloped.

It's interesting that horses dislike bot flies so much. It can't hurt when they deposit their eggs. Yet those eggs have the potential to be damaging to the horse, and it seems horses have been given the ability to recognize the danger.

Rose calmed down eventually. Maybe the bot fly had its way and left. Or maybe she finally managed to kick it to pieces.

But there may be another side to the bot fly. For a couple of years, George had a round bald scar, about an inch and a half in diameter, on his shoulder - put there by an more-dominant pasture mate. Then a bot fly larva chose that handy spot to burrow into George's flesh. A lump appeared. We didn't know what was causing it, but before we got around to calling the vet, the barn owner discovered that there was a bot fly larva inside and removed it. The lump went away - and hair started growing again. Now the bald patch is gone. Perhaps it was a coincidence.
Hair growing back a different colour
Bot fly larvae, when they burrow under the skin, secrete an anti-biotic which protects the host from infection at the site. We once found that a larva had burrowed into the neck of a pet rat; after the larva (huge compared to the rat's neck) was removed, the gaping hole healed up in record time, with no infection. 

So maybe those pesky little flies aren't all bad.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Equal and Opposite

There's a section in Hempfling's book What Horses Reveal which shows various horses getting overly friendly with their owners. These owners are generally rather sweet-looking women, unable to stand up for themselves. The horse might have his nose shoved into the woman's face, while she looks long-suffering and amused in an anxious kind of way. (Sorry I gave away my copy, so I can't give page numbers.)

KFH says something to the effect that these horses need to be given boundaries, and that one shouldn't be made to feel put-upon by one's horse.

Well, yeah, I guess, kind of.

But here's what I realized today. I was hanging out with Bridget, and she shoved her nose into my face, as is her wont. And I experienced two possibilities - one, I could just be rather quiet and try to enjoy having this large mouth (containing large teeth) making free with my physiognomy. Or, two, I could respond with equal enthusiasm and force. (Of course, there's a third choice - to shoo her off, but I did not experience that as a possibility at the time.)

So I grabbed hold of her nose and blew raspberries onto it, and rubbed it hard, and kissed it, and blew at it. And she was very happy with this, and so was I. All potential feelings of put-upon-ness vanished in mutuality. And I find the same when she bumps her butt into me to make me scratch it. I just bump right back.

Not all horses are so benign as Bridget, and I know that there are times to object when a horse comes into your space. But if the horse comes at you with all this warmth and communicativeneness, I don't think the choice has to be between going all nervous-nelly or making them get away.

Here comes Bridget,

and here comes her leg to play the leg game.

Moving George

Videos of Resnickers sharing space and moving their horses generally show a person moving calmly but confidently, sometimes waving a wand. When this person's intention is to move a horse, she walks toward it, and the horse magically moves away.

I have had a problem moving George in this way. The only times he moves away from me is when I'm angry at him. (This has happened on a number of occasions.) I just can't summon up enough chutzpah to make my aura move his, without resort to some form of violence - e.g. raising my voice, waving my arms or a stick, or getting mad.

But I've discovered I can make him move. I go up to him, and I say, "Ahem, George, excuse me, would you mind please stepping back - or to the side or towards me or wherever." And he will comply. Not with the best grace, admittedly, but hey, you can't have everything all at once, right?

Today we were hanging out, and he really just wanted to chill and have me stand by his tail and protect him from a rear attack (I guess?). I spent time doing this, but I also asked him to practice a little bit of moving for me. He was very good at this, and every time he moved, I'd skip away back from him to take the pressure right off; then he'd come up to me again. He got tired of this after a while and wandered off, looking slightly peeved. Oh, George, you are such an emotional roller coaster for me.

Anyway, when I was thinking I couldn't move George, I guess I was thinking about it wrong. What I can't do is move George without first establishing a connection to him. I think the next thing is to try action-at-a-distance. And I think I might try using treats, as although the thought of treats does make the poor boy go quite demented, it also is a sure fire way of currying favor with him.

Or, I should just forget "working" with George, because he is my daughter's after all, and what he seems to really want from me is just affection and intimacy. Whereas little Bridget seems keen to "do things" and she's the one who's supposed to be "my" horse. So maybe George should be my grand-horse, and I should do the things which Grand-people are supposed to do - namely spoil him. I dunno.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Straight Toes

Our yoga teacher is also a reflexologist. She returned from her latest reflexology conference ready to "read our toes."

Apparently the big toes can say a lot about a person. Toes which point straight ahead mean that you are on the path, not easily distracted or influenced. Guess who has toes like that? Not me. If you guessed my youngest daughter, you'd be right.

She likes to put George into her schedule. She'd pencilled him in for today. Sure enough the weather was fine when she got home from school, and off she went to get him.
Here they are getting ready, while I lurk, as usual.
I happened to go outside just after she'd mounted. I heard that George had been a bit cranky about mounting. I figured he was cross because he just wanted to eat all that green grass. I was filling the trough while they were heading down the drive - or rather trying to head down the drive, as George was refusing. When I saw my daughter hauling on his mouth, I broke my vow of non-intervention and told her she couldn't do that. She thinks I'm a hippy weirdo, so I assured her that even the most traditional riders frown on mouth hauling. (Good grief, what would Jill Crewe think of such a thing?) I told her to just find another way, and that he was refusing because all he wanted to do was eat.

So - she got off, lead him down the road a little way, brought him back, remounted, and then set off again - this time he went willingly, and they had a good half hour's ride before returning.

Ride over, George sees me and heads toward the fence to remind me that it's dinnertime.
My daughter told me that on their travels they'd encountered those dreaded beasts known as cows. When George saw them, he got so tense that my daughter said it was like he was "pulsating." However, they survived the ordeal together.

So my daughter made a plan, set a goal, dealt with the obstacles, accomplished her aim - bingo.

Yours truly here has big toes which are just wonky. It's not from tight shoes. Although the reflexologist says that the shoes you wear reflect your choices, so you can't use that as an excuse. She also says the way you feel about your feet reflects the way you feel about your life. Ask someone what they think of their feet, and you'll find out a lot about how they view themselves. (Only don't tell them why you're asking!)

I am now on a mission to think very positively about my toes.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why We Like Horses

In an excellent new book by Lou Markos, Restoring Beauty: the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in the Writings of C.S. Lewis, I just came across this quote from C.S. Lewis's "The Weight of Glory":
We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words - to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Grass May Be Greener, but the Sky Isn't Bluer

I love where I live. But it's not perfect.

Some days my ungrateful mind will dwell on one of the reasons in the litany of why not: oh, I wish we had a proper creek; I wish we had a pond; I wish there wasn't a drought every summer; it would be nice if the soil were better; I wish we were nearer the sea; we need more trees; it gets too cold in the winter; the mountain isn't very tall; life would be better if there were no copperheads in the woods. And so it goes.

But there's one thing we have here which is perfect - the sky. I think the sky in our little corner of the Earth is the most beautiful sky in the whole world.

Every day the sky has a different mood. This is how it was today.

As for the horses, I know we have the best horses in the world.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Time to Trim

With shaley ground and a long drought, you can get away with avoiding your trimming duties for a while. But eventually, the hoofs cry out for attention.

Today, George was conveniently out with my daughter and a friend, so I tied Bridget up to the fence inside the pasture with a pile of hay in front of her.

I tied her up as a sort of signal that we were taking care of business rather than recreating. Because I don't generally insist on things with Bridget, I wasn't sure how it would turn out. If she wasn't going to give me her feet, I wasn't going to make her. But she was very helpful and picked each foot up with alacrity when asked. I couldn't hold on for all that long, but I kept circulating from one foot to the other and got quite a lot accomplished. I keep my ex-rasp to use on dirty feet - that way I don't have to spend ages cleaning the foot if I'm trying to act fast, and I don't worry about ruining my new rasp.  I finally unclipped her from the fence and finished up at liberty.

Chloe wandered up, and I asked her if I could do her hind feet, as they are starting to get way too long. The last couple of times I've tried to trim her she was tied up in the barn in Mississippi, and she was very uncomfortable/unwilling. Today I just went up to her in the field with the rasp, and she was perfectly lovely and let me do her hind feet.

The way I was trained to do feet involves measuring, marking, exfoliating, nippering, rasping - all in a very  systematic way. You can only really do this if you have a horse who stands nice and still with its foot in the hoof stand. The way I'm trimming our horses - "borrowing" a foot for a few moments at a time - makes it difficult to stick rigidly to the method. I just have to keep to a few basic principles and try to make some quick improvements.  I think eventually George, Bridget, and Rose will become more placid about standing for longer periods of time for trimming. Meanwhile, I'm doing the best I can.

Bridget's New Game

Bridget has devised a novel entertainment for us.

When she gives me her right foreleg, she still likes for me either to stretch it out (she gives a little grunt), or to scratch it (I think).

But she's been experimenting with some freestyling when she gives me her left foreleg. Sometimes, she'll brace against me with her knee and lift her other foreleg off the ground too. Or, she likes to have me hold her left foreleg while she hops along on the other three for a step or two.

I was thinking again of something Sandra said about her two mares.  She realized that each mare approaches her differently, and that this personal style reflects the way that each mare would like to be approached herself.

Bridget just loves physical contact. If you vigorously rumple her ears and face with both hands, she laps it up. When she positions herself to have her hindquarters scratched, she plonks herself into position beside me with a big ker-thump. But for her, that isn't rudeness, because she herself likes to be ker-thumped. (Funnily enough, I have a daughter like that - if you want to make her smile, you start punching her!)

George, on the other hand, for all his tough-guy persona, is very careful not to bump me at all when he maneuvers me into position beside him. And he in turn prefers to be approached delicately.

I've also been working with Bridget on a couple of things out in the field - backing up towards me, backing up away from me, moving hindquarters towards me, coming towards me and stopping in front of me. Those things work pretty well. Moving shoulders towards me sometimes happens. Not so smooth is moving hindquarters away from me. I don't want to accomplish that by physically pushing - I want to use energy. On the lead rope, we're also working on halting when I lift one arm in the air and say "ho."

I read with interest Kris McCormack's latest blog entry about Thunder the wonder horse. Although Thunder knows what's being asked, and remains engaged and cooperative, he still might choose to say no to a request. With Bridget, most of the time (there are exceptions involving her or my safety, for example) I want to work in such a way that she is free to say no. Often, my explanations are not clear, and a refusal amounts to saying - "Could you re-word that, please?" Nothing I'm "training" her to do can be enforced. If she refuses, or doesn't understand, we'll just try again, either right away or another time.

Bridget and Rose appeared both to be in heat this morning. George was acting uncharacteristically subdued. He let first Chloe, then Bridget, then Rose come up to me, without asking for attention himself.  He claimed the first pile of hay as usual, but didn't bother to also claim the others before finally settling down to just one.

Sometimes when food first appears, Rose will try coming at Bridget with a fierce snaky neck, flashing eyes, and bared teeth. Bridget has discovered exactly what to do about that. She wastes no time on rancor, but simply turns around and starts backing up toward Rose. And she can deliver a very precisely-aimed kick. Rose has not found a way to counter this threat - Bridget's back legs trump Rose's teeth.

Most of the time, though, the two of them get along just fine -

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Another Pretty Day

Today I took George out to graze on the hay field for half an hour. Amigo sat on my lap while George was eating.

Mollified by his feast, George was relatively benign when I took Bridget out and returned her half an hour later. The effect had worn off, however, by the time I'd taken Chloe out for a little stint. He stood pawing at the gate and made faces at her when I brought her back. However, after letting us know that he was Not Happy, he was gracious enough to move aside and let us get in without any problems.

Rose declined to come out when I asked her, although earlier on she'd come up to me and seemed perhaps to want to go out. Her front leg is much better - the swelling has gone down, and she's walking almost normally again.

Out and About on a Beautiful Day

After a spell of cold, cloudy weather, we've had a return to summer. It was a good day to go and rake manure in the pasture. All summer long, I took the blue sky and sunshine for granted, but on a day like yesterday, when you're not sure how many more the year holds in store, you just have to lie back on the grass, look at the mountain and listen to the wind.

I came across three empty birds' nests on my circuit of the field -

I also found puffballs growing -

Unfortunately, they were all past their best, so I didn't bring any home for dinner. Our horses used to like to eat the little ones in the field. Lately, there's been a bumper crop of what I take to be field mushrooms, but I've never picked field mushrooms here, so I'm not risking it. The only mushrooms I'm confident about in this area are puffballs and chanterelles. Home in Scotland, my Dad and I used to gather field mushrooms, horse mushrooms, puffballs, chanterelles, wood ear, boletus, shaggy inkcap, and others.

The dogs accompanied me on my manure-raking expedition. Here is Roger, the lost Schnauzer (only I guess he's pretty much ex-lost) -

My most faithful companion was the intrepid and aptly-named Amigo, a friend's chihuahua whom we're babysitting this weekend. There were some hawks circling in the distance, which made me think - uh oh, he is a very burly, tough little chihuahua, but really he's not that much bigger than a rabbit, is he? I was glad he stuck close, and I kept checking the sky.

When we got back to the house, there was George, demanding to be taken out -

Observe the dog gap between the posts.
George had half an hour of grazing, then it was Bridget's turn. There are delicious wild chives growing in the lawn, thanks to the extended period of no mowing, caused by the drought. Bridget ate them with relish.

Then my daughter went to her Homecoming dance, chauffeured by a friend's father, in the following vehicular conveyance:

Oh, and we began the day with a seminar at the alpaca farm down the road. Those are some strange and endearing creatures. Fortunately, I am not tempted to get any. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rose Doesn't Want Her Medicine

Rose is a bit lame in her off fore. (I have decided to revert to archaic nomenclature - ships get to have a special word for it, why not horses?) I pulled her out of the pasture to have a look and to have another go at trimming her feet.

She's puffy around the tendon. I fear she's pulled something in her fetlock because the ground is so heavy in that field - but it's the only field with a shelter. Her legs and feet worry me. Her hind feet have what I suspect might be what Ovnicek describes as "negative palmar angle," which is when the coffin bone tilts the wrong way. You suspect NPA when a line drawn along the hairline on the rear foot would extend forward to above the knee on the foreleg. It goes with very flat pasterns. I really don't know what all are the consequences of this problem, but when you look at Rose's rear legs in action, it's rather anxiety-causing - the pastern flattens out completely, with the fetlock dropping very close to the ground. It looks like there's way too much strain on the whole system. I guess careful trimming over time can improve things, but there's no easy fix.

Here is a hind foot. This doesn't show it at its worst, but it gives an idea.

I thought maybe some banamine might be in order. I don't mind if her leg is sore, as that could help to keep her careful. But the banamine could also reduce the inflammation, which might be a good idea. Poor Rose has had so many treatments and procedures in the past that as soon she sees a medicine tube coming at her, she removes her head as far away as possible. So I resolved not to hold onto her head at all, no matter how gently, and let her dictate how things would go. She let me get pretty close, even allowing me to squirt a tiny bit into her mouth:

But that was all. Although she got comfortable with me rubbing the tube all over her head and over her lips, she wouldn't let me squeeze any more in. I tasted a tiny morsel to see what it was like - chalky, and a little sweet. I decided the banamine wasn't necessary, and it was best to leave it alone.

Because she has a sore leg, of course it's hard for her to stand on three legs during trimming. In the end I let her graze on the lawn and tagged along after her, waiting until it was comfortable and convenient for her to give me the foot I was currently working on. She could manage a few moments at a time, so I made some improvements - although it's going to be a long-term project.

Well, we didn't get a whole lot accomplished, but it was quite a nice bonding time for Rose and me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

No Problem

With all the mental and emotional gyrations I go through with George, it's amazing to me how very easy-going he is a lot of the time.

Today on returning from the grocery store, I found George and my daughter out for an evening excursion.

Later, from the pasture (where I was enjoying some very low-stress, George-free time with the mares), I saw them in the distance trotting up and down the alfalfa field (ahem, I think they're supposed to stick to the edges).

Then I heard a loud cry of "Oh gosh!" (I am not sparing the delicate ears of my readers - that's the actual expression she used.) Not a good sign. However, it was followed by a whistle and the sound of the dogs' names being called, so I figured it was a dog-related problem, usually preferable to a horse-related one.

Finally, they returned, my daughter leading George - again sometimes a sign of misadventure - but in this case it was because she had to carry a dog part-way home - namely the lost Schnauzer we are harboring until either a) his owners show up, or b) he goes to live with my daughter and son-in-law in North Carolina.

My daughter said George was very nice the whole time, and was no trouble at all when she was distracted with chasing and picking up dogs. He also had no complaints when she mounted. Gold star for George.

Gold star also for Bridget for keeping a cool head when she got her foot caught in the wire:

We had this fencing put in ten years ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and none of our horses in those days ever pawed at anything. Rose and Chloe never paw at things, but I think Bridget and George must be Italian or something because they are given to expressive gestures with their arms.

Anyway, I heard a commotion and looked out to see Bridget struggling, her foot caught by the wire. As usual, I overreacted and shrieked. Which caught Bridget's attention, and as soon as she realized I was on my way over to help, she stopped struggling and just stood there calmly with her foot stuck off the ground in the wire. You'll admire my humanitarian restraint in not taking a picture of the situation before relieving it.

P.S. Today one of the pastures was drilled and seeded with a pasture mix (30% brome, 30% orchard, 30% blue, 10% alfalfa), sown at half rate as there's already grass, to improve things next year. The horses will be kept off it until the spring, and then we'll re-seed one of the other two pastures. The hay field also had some seed added. On schedule: liming (all three pastures plus the hay field) and fertilizing (mostly the hayfield, as manure has helped keep the potash and phosphorus levels good in the pastures). Everywhere needs nitrogen though. When it comes to farming, I am a regular Blanche Dubois. Fortunately the strangers upon whose kindness I depend (the neighboring farmers and the lovely folk at Agronomy) are mensches one and all.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I went back to the miniature horses today to see if we could finish their wee hoofies. (Yes, the sight of a 3/4" long frog automatically induces me to start babbling baby talk in a very undignified fashion.)

Hooray, hooray - we got all eight feet done, even on the squirrelly one. I think they need to come down some more, but I got the curled-under heels removed, and the duckbill toes all lopped off, and everything looked much better. I imagine it feels better too. Once the the babies got the feel of relaxing with someone holding their foot up, they turned into pros.

One of them reminds me of George - he wants to keep you right in front of him and is self-protective. He has a habit of nipping and biting, which his owner is gradually coaxing him out of. I swatted his nose today when he bit my arm, but he came right back to me unafraid; his oral explorations thereafter were more mild-mannered.

There are many advantages to working on such diminutive horses - you can trim sitting on the ground for one thing; and when the George-like one was reluctant to relax into giving the last foot, I had a feeling the best thing to do would be to just hold onto it while he jumped up and down on the other leg. After a moment, he suddenly relaxed and gave me his foot long enough to finish. With both of them, I didn't lift their feet up; I just indicated which foot I wanted and waited for them to pick it up, which they did immediately. They are very intelligent little horses.

When we were done, the two foals were turned out together, and we stood watching, entranced, as they gamboled and frolicked like spring lambs. Now that their heels aren't curling under, the frolicking should have the desired effect of widening their feet, excuse me I mean their widdle footsies.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cuddling Chloe

It is very hard to resist Chloe when she's standing all alone at the fence by the house, waiting for the gate fairy to come and open the portal to lawn-grazing shangri-la. Or when she makes eye contact with me from half way across the field and hypnotizes me to meet her at the gate.

Chloe, of course, is the one who least needs the extra grazing, but she's the only one reliable enough to be entrusted with the freedom. I used to worry about her weight, but although every summer she gets as fat as a burrito, she has never shown any signs of sore feet. So now I cautiously allow her a little indulgence. After all, she is Chloe.

When out foraging, she's all business - nothing can distract her from maximum grass consumption. Once  back in the pasture though, she is ready to socialize. The other day, after putting her back after a spell of lawn mowing, I sat on the stone step by the gate, and she stayed with me. We sat for a long time, knee-to-knee, Chloe allowing me to lean my head on her shoulder.  I need that pony to come in the house. I think she might enjoy watching Nanny re-runs with me.