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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bright and Frosty

We woke up today to a hard frost, but the day was clear and still. Amazing how much warmer it feels when there's no wind and no moisture in the air, despite the lower temperature.

It was also the first day of rifle hunting season, which meant the dogs had to wear their orange.

The sun lulled the horses into a laid-back mood, and when I went into the field, Bridget was in a mood for socializing. I scratched her, she licked my ears, we played footsie, and she practiced pulling my zipper up and down.

George ambled over and dozed nearby.

He pricked up his ears when he heard a distant rifle shot, but remained otherwise motionless.

This behavior is part of the New George - he stays close by, relaxed, and doesn't come over to claim attention for himself. He came over today once, briefly, and then wandered off to find a pile of hay.

Amigo is visiting again. It's nice to have a lap dog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A New Challenge from George

I was just remarking the other day that George had - for the time being - stopped challenging me. He has been extremely accommodating and placid recently, leaving me alone when asked and keeping a much lower profile.

Today, however, he came back with something a little different. I went into the field with a pocketful of treats, gave George a couple, and then went over to let the mares have some. When George followed, I asked him to give me more space and allow the mares their share.

He did give me more space, but each time I headed over toward the mares, George happened to be in the way. At first, I hardly noticed what was going on, but after a couple of times, I suddenly realized what he was doing. Then, instead of walking around him, I told him I knew what he was up to and walked straight through him. As soon as I directly addressed his new tactic, he backed off considerably.

I pursued the mares with George lurking nearby. They edged away, looking nervously at George, and going "No, no, really, it's fine, I don't need a treat." Meanwhile, I'm shoving my hand under their noses, going, "You're going to have this treat, young lady, and you're going to enjoy it!"

If George was in the mood to interfere, he always used to be right up in my face; or if that failed, he'd try to intimidate the other horse into leaving, using mean looks and veiled threats. This is a creative new maneuver he has come up with - blocking my access to the mares, but subtly - not getting into my space, but positioning himself in my path. What goes on in your wee head, Georgie?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Homeopathic Pills

I'm waiting for Rose's equine eye homeopathic remedy to arrive, but in the meantime I'm giving her some homeopathic pills which are supposed to help with oedema (localized or general).

As they're sugar based she's quite willing to eat them. However, because of their tiny size, she usually ends up knocking most of them off my hand.

So I've been taking a large piece of apple or carrot, cutting out a plug, enlarging the bottom of the cavity, filling it with the pills, and then replacing the plug. The plug usually stays in pretty well, even in my pocket. I can then give the whole thing to Rose without spilling any pills.

All this treatment is not really helping so far. She's better than she was at her worst, but doesn't continue to improve. I'm also looking into an equine herbal uveitis treatment, which I'll try if the new homeopathic remedy fails to help. However, she's not light sensitive, which I believe argues against uveitis.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lazing on a Sunny Afternoon

A recent article appeared in the New York Times online called "Findings: When the Mind Wanders, Happiness Also Strays" (John Tierney, 11/16/10).

Apparently we are much happier at times when are mind is not wandering. It's not that an unhappy mind wanders; it's that a wandering mind brings on unhappiness.

I went out this afternoon - an unseasonably warm, sunny afternoon - and spent time playing footsie with Bridget, scratching Chloe and talking to George. Just enjoying the day in an aimless, tra-la-la kind of way. But after I'd left, I realized that the whole time I was there, I was really there - my mind had not been working on solving any great problems or observing any important phenomena, but it had been present, with the horses - not scurrying off into the back room to pore over dusty thoughts in the dark, leaving the real world behind.

I think Bridget may have reached 14:2 hh
Chloe is shaggy.
 I think these are probably the cutest ears in the world.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


That's what my daughter was - to take George out for a ride in the chill wind of the late afternoon when she got home from school.

I came upon them grazing on the front lawn.

My daughter explained that after tacking up, she'd let George graze for a while. Then he had been rather disgruntled when the subject of mounting came up. Presumably he resented having his grazing interrupted, and she reasoned that if she let him go right back to grazing after she got up, he would have a less dim view of the matter in future. Makes sense to me.

This is his you-are-a-mean-girl-to-make-me-stop-eating face. However, he cheered up quickly and they set off down the drive.

There were no further arguments, and she let him stop for a quick nibble half way down to the road.

Then off they went for their ride. My daughter told me afterwards that he had been a little jumpy and kept wanting to canter, which I reckon is about normal for a young horse on a brisk windy day. They looked relaxed when they returned.

What a Night

We went to bed last night to the sound of the deluge continuing for the second day in a row.

Around midnight I awoke to a crashing, flashing storm. After running downstairs to unplug the computer and tv, I went back to bed, where sleep was slow to return, besieged as I was with thoughts of the horses out there amid the mayhem. My daughter appeared at the door, just like in the Sound of Music, and I was grateful for her company as we snuggled down under the duvet.

Finally, as the booms of thunder grew more intermittent and distant, I drifted off to sleep. Only to be woken by a mighty wind howling and lashing the house, its fury persisting unabated until morning. Not much sleep to be had with the gale whirling around outside my head and thoughts of the horses agitating the inside.

The wind is still blowing this morning - it's not a cold wind, though, as I discovered when I stepped outside. The horses were grazing, and as so often after a storm, the light and the clouds were particularly pretty.

Looking East
Looking West

Although the horses were jumpy in the wind, Rose was calm when I administered her eye treatment. This morning, the pendulum said no to the banamine, so it was pretty easy. Her eye looks the same as yesterday.

Well, the pendulum didn't actually say no. I take a counter-clockwise rotation to mean no, and a clockwise rotation to mean yes. But sometimes the pendulum swings side to side or back and forth; I don't know what this means. For the banamine, the pendulum swung side to side, which may mean something like - it's not actually counter-indicated, but there is no need at present. I am a rank amateur at this and am kind of making it up as I go along. I've heard that you can "program" the pendulum to swing whichever way you choose. If you prefer counter-clockwise to mean no, then that's what it means.

I believe the pendulum's ability to diagnose is simply a mechanism of nature that science has yet to understand. But lawks a mercy, it sounds like voodoo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Rain

Twenty-four hours of rain, and the bigger horses are still dry underneath. Although I don't know what another twelve hours will do.




The rain had found its way all around Chloe's torso but had not managed to penetrate to her skin.

Those lighter areas are actually dry. Meanwhile my "waterproof" jacket was completely soaked, with the rain making inroads into the next layer underneath, and every time I bent over, water ran down inside my jeans.

I'm leaving the horses where they are for now as it's not that cold. I put their hay under the meagre canopy of some small leafless trees, on lower ground, so they could eat in relative shelter.

I wasn't looking forward to doctoring Rose in the fading light and the rain, but she let me catch her after only one or two tries. She took her banamine like a champ and visibly composed herself so I could administer the antibiotic ointment into her eye. She is a very dear creature.

Rose's Eye

Rose's eye was a little better after the vet's visit. Then it got a little worse, and now it's a little better again. The puffiness has gone down a bit, the tearing has stopped, and the area of cloudiness has shrunk slightly.

The owner of the tack shop recommended an herbal eye wipe solution, called Calm Eyes, so I added that to the arsenal. I thought Rose could benefit from something just soothing and cleansing.

Rose does not appreciate this barrage of interference: atropine, banamine, anti-fungal, anti-biotic, fly mask (required by the atropine and the anti-fungal) and now eye cleanser.

Ok, the atropine was only to be given for three days, so that's over. But that still leaves four or five steps to be gone through twice a day.

In the wild, a horse will instinctively seek out the appropriate healing plants and minerals. It doesn't dose itself with additional remedies just in case. I don't want to put Rose through any more discomfort and annoyance than is absolutely necessary. She is already becoming very reluctant to be caught.

Enter the pendulum. My view about the pendulum is that it works in the same way as the horse's natural instinct tells it what to eat - the horse's body receives information from the plant and decides whether or not it will be helpful. In the case of the pendulum, the person's body acts as a go-between, receiving information from the energy (or whatever word you want to use) of the substance and from the energy of the patient, and the pendulum swings one way or the other to indicate whether the substance is desirable.

So, obviously, I was hoping that the pendulum would say ixnay on everything except the nice all-natural easy-to-apply-without-making-Rose-upset eye wipe solution.

I was disappointed. It did have a negative reaction to the anti-fungal, but it was all gung-ho for the banamine (Rose hates banamine) and the antibiotic - as well as the herbal eye wipe. So since yesterday, that's what I'm doing. I don't really know how to break it to Dr. Justin that I'm discontinuing the anti-fungal because my pendulum says so. I think perhaps he doesn't need to know this.

Here is Rose's poor eye - photos taken at the behest of Dr. J, who is a very conscientious vet and asked me to send him pictures today when he called for an update. The line of moisture on her face is from rainwater running off her forehead, and not from her eye.

The sore eye is closed more than the other one.

Monday, November 15, 2010


The only occasions I've seen George conversing with the mares (as opposed to yelling at them) have been when I'm holding one of them outside of the pasture fence, and George is on the inside.

George and the mare of the moment will then dare to touch noses over the gate. Usually squeals and strikes follow.

Today, I was inside the pasture, with Rose on a halter and rope to put her eye ointment on. George kept following us around. Finally it occurred to me that perhaps he'd like to say hello to her, that possibly the leadrope could function like an intervening gate, giving them both confidence to greet each other.

So I retreated to the far end of the rope and let George approach Rose. They touched noses. No squeals, no strikes. Then George curled his head around hers and opened his mouth playfully, but gently.

I think at that point, Rose decided she'd had enough, and after that she didn't consent to any further rapprochement. But that was a big step for both of them. George looked cheerful and inquisitive and not at all threatening. If he means to continue in this vein, I wonder how long it will take the mares to trust him.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Is it just me, or is there a change in George?

I think I'm beginning to see a sense of humor, or mischief. Today when it was time to administer Rose's eye medicine as usual, I took some carrots in for the horses to share. Of course George wanted, if possible, to have them all. I made him keep away and allow the others to have some, although he did bag the lion's share, as I went back to him after visiting with each of the mares.

He stalked me around the field as I doled out my pocketful of bounty. His characteristic m.o. has always been to aim his wrath at the other horse, brushing me aside as he lunges at his victim. Today, however, he didn't threaten his rival, but focussed on me instead. He kept looking at me, in an arch kind of a way, as if to say, "Here I come - more treats for me!" When I asked him to back off, instead of a sullen glare, I got an "All right, here I go, that means a treat, right?" Today, for the first time, he misinterpreted a gesture as a "get-back" signal and retreated a half-step. To move him back by accident? Without first summoning all my Jedi powers? Unprecedented!

Yesterday, when he kicked at Rose, it was very different from his usual attacks - head-on strikes, totally disrespecting my presence. Yesterday, he was aware that I was up at Rose's head, and he slinked off and let loose a sneaky little "Hmmph!" kick at her hindquarters.

He showed less desperation today in his eagerness to get hold of the treats than in the past. He seemed more happy and excited at the prospect - and not as if his life depended on it.

This evening, I had to go into the field while George was eating his dinner by the fence, his back legs pointing toward the gate. As he is rather reactive at dinnertime and likes to kick at imaginary mare incursions, I stopped and asked him (using only my words) to move over before I entered. He immediately, and without making a face, rotated 90 degrees.

Here's the thing - I think this subtle change in George may have been wrought by my determination to be more, well - bossy. On the other hand, I think I've had to earn some trust first, before exerting authority.

George is always a challenge - I know it's not suddenly all going to be sunshine and roses. But I like this glimmer of humor and fun I'm seeing - I hope to see more of it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Day with George

My day with George began when I went to administer Rose's eye medicines.

The first order of business was a search mission around the field to locate the missing fly mask. George followed me on, and the mask turned up near the fence. Rose probably used the fence post to rub it off.

After I had retrieved Rose, George of course wanted to be in the thick of things and, if possible, to interfere. He hovered close by, while I summoned my best schoolmarm manner, admonishing him to keep his distance. After a little while, he did something which I thought was very nice. He turned and placed his hindquarters towards us. I felt that in this position he was clearly taking the pressure off us, and also possibly standing guard. Rose felt relaxed too and stood quietly while I applied her ointments.

The day's next George episode was in the afternoon, when I went out to trim his feet. I brought him out of the field, tied his rope to the fence, gave him a bale of hay to nibble, and told him that his feet were definitely going to be trimmed and no nonsense thank you very much.

He was the best he's ever been about letting me keep his feet up for longer periods of time. I even managed to go through all the required stages on the front hoofs - exfoliating, measuring, marking up, nippering, and rasping (inside and out). His back hoofs were, happily, quite nicely worn and only required a little rasping. After finishing one back hoof, I walked around to the other side and found the other hoof already lifted up and waiting for me.

When I went to wipe fly spray on his back legs (not wishing to be caught in the cross fire between his hoof and a fly), he was annoyed, and I gave him time to relax before proceeding. There is a time to insist - "George, you really don't have to put your foot down yet" - and a time to back off and breathe - "Ok, it's fine to just stand here for a while." I don't pretend to always know when it's time for one and when it's time for the other, but I reckon the important thing is to be aware of both options.

After feet, we had some grazing.

Later, at the time of Rose's evening dosage, George once more lurked close by. This time, when I asked him to back up a little, he sidled away, turned around and bounced his back legs at Rose. This was not the tooth-bared snaky-necked get-out-of-here George; it was a cheeky, almost flirtatious, little kick. I chased him away very emphatically. He drifted back, looking innocent, and kept his distance until I was done.

Then he came over and plonked me into the happy spot, where we stood quietly for a few minutes, breathing peacefully, returning to simple friendship at the end of the day. Thank you, George.

Meanwhile, Bridget discovers a more entertaining purpose for the fly mask.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another Visit from Dr. Justin

Well, Rose has always had this eye scar, and it's gotten worse - oedema and tearing - so Dr. Justin was called in again.

Rose put up with lots of eye interference, and I was left with a bunch of pharmaceuticals to administer. It's probably not moon blindness, there's no ulcer or abrasion; it may be a fungal flare-up. Anyway, we covered all bases. One of the meds was atropine, which enlarges the pupils, and so the vet said to put a fly mask on Rose. I'm afraid to leave nature to take its course with an eye problem.

When I returned Rose to the field, everyone went goofy and tore around galloping. I do love the sound of galloping hoofs on the turf.

Later I went back to administer the evening doses, taking treats. Of course George knew something was in my pocket and followed. I was very firm, however. I did let him share, but I kept him at bay while dealing with Rose's eye and giving her treats. Rose was almost afraid to eat her treats in front of George, but she managed. I find it easier to be tough with George now that we have more of a connection. Like when I say, "Look here, you...", I'm actually addressing the "you" to him, rather than just trying to stave off an impersonal force of nature.

Rose is very sweet. I'm going to have to get my husband started riding her. 

p.s.  Of course she's already lost the face mask.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


In the last few days I've been over to my friend's house twice to trim hoofs. While I was there both times, a third friend, of suitably diminutive stature, came over to work with a pony brood mare, the idea being to polish her up into a riding pony to keep her from the fate of returning to her less-than-ideal prior living situation. She was supposed to be "broke," but it's not clear that she ever was.

So, from upside down underneath a horse's belly, I observed Chicky being worked with on two consecutive occasions. She was lead, lunged, saddled, and mounted on both days.

The first day, you could see she was thinking that it was all rather unprecedented and random - being pulled and pushed (gently, mind you) all over the place, and then having this person sit on you. She looked stiff and confused. The second day, her expression was different - softer, more inward looking, more tuned in, more thoughtful. A light seemed to be glimmering in her face, as if she was becoming aware - "Oh, there's actually something meaningful going on here."

Lately, I've started training our two dogs. They know how to sit and be polite and all that, but I want them to know a little more. I think it's good for them. My previous experience with dog training was in Chicago, where our friendly neighbourhood dog trainer was of the Koehler school, a teutonic and draconian method, which delivers remarkable results. I am using a much watered down version of this with Malcolm and Lucy.

The first few days I took them out, they were like Chicky on the first day. They had no clue something meaningful was occurring, although they submitted to my strange behaviour as best they could. Then something clicked. Their eyes became brighter and more focussed, their responses sharpened, and they became eager to participate.

This got me thinking. There is being with horses, and there is working with horses. The two can overlap; but while the horses know all about the former, only I know about the latter. And I think it's an activity that can be fruitful for both horse and human. How are they going to find out about it if I'm always being apologetic and never present it to them as a thing but only tiptoe around the subject?

With this in mind, I took George out of the field today and said, "Before we graze, we're going to do some practicing for, hmm, let's see - fifteen minutes - well, no, maybe ten."

For starters, he was very distracted and alert about Something Going On on the far hillside. I was confused as to whether I should just let him look as long as he wanted or ask him to pay attention to me. I pretty much opted for the former. (I had the disloyal thought: "Hmm, I bet once you start grazing, you lose interest in what's going on over there." But, in fact, while he was grazing later, he kept stopping to look up at the hillside.)

Despite the distraction, we got in some practice backing, moving hindquarters, and relaxing the head down on request. This all went rather smoothly. Next we turned to the prickly topic of turning towards me while releasing the shoulder away. After the second successful attempt, I decided he could graze. Six minutes is long enough to practice, right?

Again, whilst grazing, I periodically asked George to return to me and relax for a moment. He does it quite nicely now. Not that he says, "Oh what a great idea, June - I feel it will be so good for me to centre myself for a moment!" No, he says, "Ok, here we go again, I get it, this is what you want, right?"

In none of this is there a sense of George awakening to a realization that we are engaged in an interesting project. But I'm hoping that will happen eventually. (Um, maybe if we actually do something he considers interesting .... !)

He is such a prickly character. It would be so easy to work him in a round pen, at a safe distance. I'm sure he'd do great. I know he would, as I've worked him in the round pen before. And maybe, eventually, he'd soften and become trusting. Maybe I'm doing things backwards - I'm starting at a soft position and trying to build up something dynamic. But, backwards or not, this is the trajectory I'm committed to.

I also feel that to some extent, I'm making myself more vulnerable by working close to George. I mean, look, I got bitten already. Sometimes, when I'm next to him, I can almost feel electricity coming off him, like you could get a shock just by getting too close. It's not that he "misbehaves" - for example, he behaves well with my daughter. I've been wondering about that, and I think it's because she's very business-like, and he can maintain his armor undisturbed when she works with him. And if I'm in a hurry and just want him to get on and do something, it's not a problem - but in that situation, he also can preserve his protective shell.

However, he knows that I know his weakness. I can put my finger right on the nerve. He trusts me, but is still very reactive and self-protective, and we're working around an acute awareness of that exposed nerve. Do I even know what I'm talking about? Good question.

George gets on with the important business of the afternoon.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is Someone Trying to Tell Me Something?

This is the second time it has happened. I come over to the horses' field and find this feed dish sitting on the opposite side of the fence from where I left it. (You can see another bucket in the distance, still there from breakfast.) Somebody is picking it up and throwing it over the fence. Hmm, what can it mean, I wonder?

Now if I could just teach them all to do that, and maybe load the dishwasher while they're at it ....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

George is Still Worried About Food

Today, I took George out to graze again.

He is once more giving off an aura of raw vulnerability. I really don't feel I can approach and touch him except on his head. His defensiveness has returned, brought on, I believe, by the onset of winter weather and a fear of starvation.

My husband was out with us, chatting with me. At one point he was heading towards George's hindquarters, about eight feet off - not actually intending to go towards George, but going in that direction by happenstance. George stiffened and pinned his ears. Oh my!

As I did yesterday, I practiced occasionally  asking George to stop eating, raise his head, and be quiet beside me. The first couple of times he was pissed off. He really wanted to nip me. Then he turned his head away and tried to walk into me with his shoulder. I avoided getting annoyed, and persisted. He quieted fairly quickly.

The third time, I thought I would really just ask and not tell. I kissed to him as usual, and tugged gently on the lead rope, but waited for him to respond when he chose. It took a few moments, but he did stop grazing, and quite kindly brought his head towards me.

The fourth time took longer and was a little grudging, but he didn't get angry, and he stood quietly in a resigned sort of a way for a moment, until I invited him to eat again.

I don't understand what's going on with the horses' eating habits. The grass is down to bare bones, but they're not finishing their hay. It's the same hay they've been getting all along, and they start out eating enthusiastically when it first appears, but they soon lose interest and wander off to pick at the meagre grass. A couple of weeks ago, they were inhaling three bales a day between them. I wonder if the new feed I'm giving them is actually filling them up quite well. I've gone from giving pelleted feed to a much larger portion of non-molasses beet pulp and chopped forage. We switched a couple of weeks ago at least, but I wonder if it's taken this long for the extra nutrition to really make itself felt ... ?

With George in this don't-touch-me mood, I was happy to hear that while I was out, my daughter had taken him out, saddled him up, put one of her friends on him for a walk around the fields, and that he had comported himself in a gentlemanly manner throughout. Go figure.

An Anxious Few Moments

I was sitting at the hairdresser's, quietly reading People magazine while waiting for my husband to get a haircut, when my daughter texted me. (Her phone has malfunctioned, and she can't actually use it to make voice calls.) Her message read: "All the horses are lying on the ground and Rose is making really weird noises. What's that about?"

Now anyone who has read Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived (and if you haven't read it, you should), knows that overnight, all your horses can just, like, drop dead, so her message was not calculated to enhance my hairdresser waiting experience.

I texted back, asking her to go in and see if they got up. No, they didn't get up. People magazine by this point had totally lost its charm.

I texted back: Throw something at them. I waited for a reply, and then, unable to stand the suspense, finally called the phone of one of her friends who was with her, and asked her to put my daughter on:  Yup, we threw sticks at them, they got up, they're fine.

Pumping my daughter later for further information, I found out that Chloe had not been lying down, but that the other three had all been sacked out within three feet of each other. The weird noises Rose had been making were probably like the noises George made the other day when he was lying down. Kind of snoring. My daughter and her two friends had gone in and stood by the horses, who had been quite happy to lie there despite the girls' presence, until the stick barrage ruined their beauty sleep.

So. Wow. What's up with all this lying down? I've seen Chloe lying down in the distance once. George was lying down the other day. Rose and Bridget lay down when they had gas colic. But that's it. And today three of them were lying down together. On the one hand, we have a whole new level of food competition going on between them, and on the other hand they're all having a cosy nap together. You just never know what's going to happen next.

Friday, November 5, 2010

George is Worried About Food

Colder weather has arrived, and George can't think about anything except where his next meal is coming from. Even while his current meal is in front of him.

He is not cold; he is not thin. But he is apparently very anxious about starving to death.

The other horses are acting normal - that is, they get enthusiastic when food appears, but they can still can spare as many brain circuits as before to devote to other topics.

George has started trying to stake a claim to all the food buckets when they arrive. He doesn't succeed, but whereas he used to get his nose into his own bucket and stay there, he now runs over to Bridget's as soon as it hits the ground (hers is second in the chain), which causes Bridget to go over to his bucket, and then it's musical buckets for the rest of feeding time.

He looked very cross at me today when I patted his neck while he was eating hay. If you go in to talk to him, he has only one question: "Did you bring me something to eat?" And if the answer is no, he walks away.

Last winter (our first winter with George), we didn't face this issue, as we were in Mississippi, where the weather stays mild most of the time. Although I think maybe we put a rug on him, as this was before I started hearing about how much better it is for horses to regulate their own temperature. Perhaps he'd feel safer if he had a rug.

I think this is all psychological. He is clearly getting enough calories. Cold weather must bring on a fear of hunger for him.

I don't know whether to give him more food. Sometimes, he'll even be worried while there's hay on the ground (still edible, as the horses are eating it). Today I took some treats in, and the mares didn't even bother coming over to hover in the background. They were like "Nuh uh, that George, he crazy, we aren't going near him when there's food around."

We're dealing with some some issues here, that's for sure.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


The other night, I had a dream. I dreamed that a knobby-kneed, reddish brown, small skinny horse came and sat on my lap. The dream was very vivid; I could feel the horse's shaggy coat, and its bony limbs. I can't quite recapture the emotion associated with this dream, but I remember the sensation of its folded-under legs, evoking a feeling of the horse's vulnerability, and a desire to enfold it.

I thought no more about the dream until yesterday morning during mass, when it dawned on me that I had this dream shortly before coming across George lying in the field. And that George was very probably the color of the dream horse when he was a foal, as he is now dapple rose grey and likely had no grey markings on him at birth. I remember as I sat beside him as he lay there, what struck me most was how sweet his legs looked, folded under him, in a way I hardly ever see them.

The dream horse had seemed old in its frailty. But maybe it was a foal who had to grow up too fast and so became old before its time. Maybe it was George.

I wanted to ask George about this dream yesterday, but he was in a bad mood, and I didn't think it was the time. I'll ask him later.

Nature's Raincoats

This morning, as I lay in bed in the dark listening to the rain, I felt sorry for the horses, as they are still out in the pasture which has no shelter. We can't afford to put up another shelter right now, and so I have a choice of putting them in the muddy pasture with shelter, or the dry pasture without one.

When I went out to feed them breakfast, the depth of water in one of the buckets let me know that it had been raining for some time. But I was relieved to find the horses placidly grazing, and as they approached I once more observed how well their coats are designed to keep them warm in the rain.

The hair lies in such a way that the water runs backwards rather than downwards, and their undersides and chests stay dry.

Chloe's raincoat

Bridget's raincoat

George's raincoat

Rose's raincoat

I returned later with a bale of hay, after a couple more hours of heavy rain, and found the horses still staying pretty dry.

After another two hours of heavy rain
I used to put a warm rug on our skinny old mare in the winter, and also on our thoroughbred, who did not keep weight on well. However, I'm hearing (although I still have to fully understand why) that it is better for the horse to regulate its own temperature.

The only times I've seen our horses shivering have been on days when wet snow is falling, which piles up on their backs and then melts down into their coat. Also, although they're staying dry now, if the rain were coming down hard at an angle and there was a chilling wind, I think they might end up getting too cold. So if I plan to sometimes keep them over the winter in the no-shelter field, I might resort to using waterproof sheets.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


When I went in to see the horses today, I was expecting a phone call which might call me away; so I didn't want to take George out to graze, only to have to return him a few minutes later.

He badgered me about going out, tugging on my jacket, and nudging me. It was a bit aggressive. So I said, "I don't really want to be with you when you're like this." He walked off in a bit of a huff. Bridget came over, and George shooed her away.

She soon returned, and we played together. She got the hang of pulling my jacket zipper up and down with great gusto.

Eventually, George came over, and Bridget left. George planted himself beside me, somewhat grumpily, as if to say, "Well, ok, I'm still your friend, but I'm not in a good mood." We stood; I scratched him a bit. Finally, he pawed the ground and snatched with his teeth at the paltry bits of grass still growing: "Do you expect me to eat this???"

It was clear and communicative, and reasonably polite, so off I went to get the halter and rope. We got some grazing in before the expected phone call.

In the late afternoon, after I'd fed them dinner, I went back and took George out. Every so often, I asked him to stop and be still for a moment before resuming his eating. At one point, he reached out in frustration and nipped at me. Without thinking I whacked his nose, and was surprised at how almost instantaneously calm returned to me. George was not offended.

I felt a certain clarity about what I was trying to do. During one grazing pause, George pawed the ground. I said, "I know what you want, and you're going to get it, but I want something too, and it's something I want from you." I want him to be able to let go of whatever it is that's bothering him - in this case the desire to eat, which is a great anxiety producer for George. He is very afraid of being denied access to food. I wonder if perhaps he was weaned too early or had to fight for his share of food as a youngster.

George himself has shown me a place of peace and calm. And now I, in turn, need him to trust me and come to that place when I ask him. For another horse, asking them to do things might work better to distract them from their worry and help them center themselves. But with George, I feel we need to turn down the volume on all fronts and bring ourselves back to stillness before moving forward. It's too easy to lose the connection; busyness pulls it apart, whereas quietness re-establishes it.

It was cold, and the mares were careening around the field in response to some obscure commotion on the distant slope of the mountain, and George was distracted. But I felt he was beginning to be more accepting of what I was asking. With George, it's generally three steps forward, two steps back--so I'm not looking for straightforward linear progress. But, with his help, I feel I've identified a way to work together. I don't think he fully understood the real import of what we were working on, but I think he could feel it a little bit.

 He wasn't in a great mood today, but we managed to have a conversation nonetheless.

Monday, November 1, 2010

An Afternoon's Activities

A new record - George and I hand-grazed for two and a half hours, at which point his grazing didn't stop but became much more desultory.

After I put him back, I went to retrieve Chloe, who had been out with us. George hardly moved from his position by the gate when I attempted to return her to the field. I opened the gate, however, and Chloe (who knows what George is thinking) proceeded to enter confidently. Sure enough George just stood there.

He was nice and let me take Bridget out. When I returned her, he moved aside, but Bridget didn't trust him, and wouldn't go in through the gate. George returned to his troll-under-the-bridge post, and I had to wait several minutes until he decided to get out of the way again. This time, Bridget believed him and went through. George was nice and left us alone to get the halter off.

While I had Bridget out, she trotted along with me several times, doing her pretty Arab trot, tail high, neck arched. I just hold the very end of the lead rope and give her space so she feels unimpeded as she moves along. It's fun. We ran down the driveway together to greet my daughter coming off the school bus.

I'm conscious, when I write about George "letting" me do things, that such a viewpoint is anathema in most circles. I think even KFH would not approve. However, the way I see it, it's not so much that I'm allowing George to control me. It's more a case of just giving him enough time to choose to do the right thing. I'm not willing to be prevented from going through the gate - but I am willing to go through later rather than sooner.

A new way of leading Bridget

Yet Another First

But a good one this time.

I was outside this morning and looked over to see George lying down in the field.

I went in and gingerly sat down close to him.

He didn't move so I crept closer until I was sitting by his head.

After a while he stretched out flat and grunted for a few minutes. He lifted his head,

and then stretched out flat again, his eyes closed, before finally getting up. Bridget was standing close by, also in a tranquil mood.