Monday, August 20, 2012

Horse keeping

A solid trail horse is more than safe for their rider. They exude a calm that can help every horse in it's company. Woody is one of those horses.

The few times he has startled, it's been so surprising, he seems quite chagrined about the experience.

He also has a funny side. He loves watermelon. He swings his hips in the water like a salsa dancer. He now likes to actually swim a bit and we are giving him the nickname Michael Phelps.

Even Mireya, who is still a bit cautious about the horses, actually rode him in the water, and proclaimed it the best day ever. She asked if  we could go every single day.

He flips his feet out in the trot, bending his head at the poll, looking like he belongs in the Queen's livery.

He and Lily have worked through hay sharing, and Lily will buck and have a fit if she doesn't get to go with us. So more often than not, I ride with both, ponying one or the other, and they stay in synch. It's lovely, really.

I've learned a great deal in this first horsekeeping experience. For example:

  • Scorpions hide in hay at night. Wear gloves.
  • Mud in egg butt shoes turns into concrete in 6 hours. Pick out often.
  • A black horse is impossible to find at night.
  • Mud must be rolled in. Period.
  • Manure disintegrates quite quickly. Unless your horse rolls it into his coat.
  • Fly predators work.
  • Round bales last longer, but some are baled in a way that makes them impossible to pull hay from.
  • Grooming becomes less important than simply being with your horse. Especially after they rolled in the mud.
  • Riding is just one goal. 
  • There is such a thing as too much twine, netting, and wire. Stop hoarding.
  • Alfalfa is harder to get out of your boots than hay.
  • Horses at home are pretty affordable, if you ignore the added cost of the land. :)

I look forward to the day when horse keeping is a permanent fact of my life and not merely a fun summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The joy of horses at home

There are certain things you revel in when your horses are at home with you. Things I never experienced when boarding. I imagine everyone list is different, and I certainly hope you will share yours with me, but here are two I've found.

The power of scent.  Because I can see my horses anytime at home, and because it not about riding I do things I'd never take the time to do at the boarding place. I head out to the pasture and stand with the horses, then lean over and just inhale. Suddenly I'm soaring back to my first ever trail ride as a child, riding nose to tail on a sorrel horse through the desert trail in Texas. The smell of horse, the salt, the coat, the sun, the slightest hint of wind, they wrap around my mind in a thousand dazzling lines, all telling me that this is where I belong, with this animal, borrowing a bit of its straightforward view of the world, of its appreciation of things that are simple. Water. Grass. Blue skies. I am back, yet here, Both the past and present meld into one.

Giving. When I am home, working, I step out and go deliver a carrot, or some watermelon. At first the horses looked at me and moved away, convinced that there was work. Sometimes there is. But now, because I come out as often with something to give as well as work, they are curious, often crossing the entire field to greet me.

I would love to hear your thoughts...

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our Summer at the Ranch

The title of this post is purposeful. Because we will be here for the summer, and no longer. I've spent a very stressful few weeks learning about eviction law, making last attempts with our tenant, facing the fact that we are moving back in a month or so.

We have and continue to enjoy our time here. The adventures have been many.  I'm going to start sharing a few of them here so I don't forget them, so that each is tied onto the chain links of this blog, charms of bracelet of my humble horse life. I share them with you because you've been with me on so much of this journey, I can't imagine going on without you by my side, so to speak.

So here is one story.

 I've grown close to the big black horse, he's dropped some of his stoicism. It all happened when we went on our first ride away from home.

Woody and I met the old crew at the lake, but we were early. Early because I didn't want to go, not really. It had been a bad few days, and I wasn't in a good place. I hadn't yet taken Woody out on the trailer since we loaded up at Trail Riders. That trailer loading hadn't been smooth. So I made a deal with Woody. If he wouldn't load, then we'd just work on loading and I wouldn't go riding.

I hooked everything up, backed up the trailer, got Woody out of the paddock. He snorted at the trailer, put a hoof in and took it out. I smiled, and got in the trailer, preparing my self for a trailer loading session. Then he followed me into the trailer, shifting himself into position.

Damn. Apparently we were going.

You know, technically this means you can't put your horse in the lake and then go trail riding...

I had given myself a 30 minute lead time for trailer loading, 28 of which we didn't need. We got to the lake early, and I was happy to learn that Woody had no issue with being the only horse around.  We milled about, and I took him by the water, mostly to see his reaction. He was curious, but not eager to walk in. After a time the crew arrived and we proceeded to have the best trail ride ever.

Riding a calm and experienced trail horse is a joy. A true, incredible joy. We stayed with a few friends who had more challenging rides, serving as the calm influence. Our ride back to the trailer and parking location was simple, quiet, lovely. We unsaddled and prepared for the lake.

We followed our group to the shore and went into the water. Woody was reluctant, but I walked in, just as I had in the trailer. And he followed me.  Soon he was moaning, swinging his hips in the water, playing, loving the lake. I saw something change in his eyes, something in his spirit.

On our way out of the water he did something, something he does now every time we do something special together. He gave me the tiniest little bump with his nose, not aggressive, not pushy, a tiny bump, like I've seen him give Lily, the precursor to affection.

I laughed, and we had both had lunch before heading back. Knowing that things between us were very different.

And it made me smile.