Friday, February 8, 2008

The Roller Coaster

We’re riding the weather roller coaster this winter. The ice and rain prevent the horses from being able to get any exercise. Then, it melts and feels like Spring just to torture us. They are able to run around like crazy and get their “ya-ya’s” out. As soon as they are done, the rain and freezing pellets deluge us again. The horses get “cabin fever”, and Siete is bored out of her mind. By the time we can turn her out again, she’s ready to explode.

The longer I live with horses, the more reassuring it is that these behaviors are normal. Siete’s not being a “bad” girl. She’s young, and she’s expressing her frustration about not being able to do what a horse likes to do best. Running, bucking, rearing and teasing her mother are at the top of her list, closely followed by grazing on green grass or soft hay. I know that by the time we are able to go back to work, she’s going to be a real handful.

This morning, I woke to a light layer of snow on the ground. Fortunately, the farrier came yesterday and trimmed the girls. Silk was an absolute angel, which tells me how good my farrier, John, is with my horses. When we lived in California, Silk really liked the farrier. In Virginia, she suddenly hated to have her feet trimmed. I was always there with her, and I could see that neither of the men I hired paid any attention to the horses. They were totally preoccupied with themselves and their schedule. Get in and get out as fast as possible was their motto. The horses’ feet were done correctly, but the farriers had no patience for any of us.

Now, when John comes every six weeks, he takes his time. He really likes my horses, and we always have good, interesting conversation. He’s a team penner and plans his vacation in Montana where he can work cows. “I love to get up every day and go to work,” he told me yesterday. How many people can say that about their jobs? Silk always gets a warm greeting from him before he gets started. She stands quietly and never complains.

Siete was a bit of a powder-keg yesterday. She didn’t blow up, but when he was trimming her front right hoof, she pulled it forward unexpectedly, and he cut her frog. My husband held the horse so I could see what had happened. I was surprised by how bloody it was. I trust John, so when he assured me that it would stop and that it would be okay, I stayed calm. He was very apologetic and offered to come back right away if she started limping on it. Today, she’s walking normally. There are pads and borium shoes on her front feet, so I can’t really see how her frog looks. I’ll just be aware of the situation and try not to worry about it.

That’s a big step forward for me, since I am a born worrier. I’ve been trying to let it go and not bring bad “juju” onto things by thinking of the worst. Still with horses, I always like to anticipate what might occur. If I think things through and plan ahead, I am much more successful than just barreling forward to get it done.

As I held Siete’s lead rope while John took care of her feet, I kept thinking about a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, “Love in Action”: “Without doing anything, things can sometimes go more smoothly just because of our peaceful presence. In a small boat when a storm comes, if one person remains solid and calm, others will not panic and the boat is more likely to stay afloat.”


Grey Horse Matters said...

The truth of it is, that worrying won't solve anything, but you may be a candidate for sleepless nights and ulcers. Not to say that you should never worry about anything ever again, that would be unrealistic. However, I feel that in our everyday lives we should make an effort to live more in the moment and work with and enjoy what we have. If we don't spend a lot of time obsessing about what may happen, it might make us more mentally prepared to deal with any unexpected situations that may arise. I agree with what you said in your post wholeheartedly, stay calm and don't rock the boat.

billie said...

I'm sorry to hear about the cut frog - it sounds like it's doing fine so far.

I so relate to the worry about feet - I know less about the feet than any part of the horse's body, and for some reason, every little thing about hooves has the potential to freak me out.

In November I finally decided to take the hoof by the horn (ha) and remedy my lack of knowledge. I called it "assess vs obsess" - and brought in a new trimmer to consult, as I was getting on the far edge of our farrier's level of interest with my detailed questions and need to know.

The new trimmer is amazing. He spent 3 hours doing the free consult, during which time he got to know each horse, went over their feet with me blow by blow, and told me what he would do to address the fine points I had concerns about.

We discussed the "whole horse" - and he left asking me to think about it before making a decision to hire him, and to let him know.

I did. He's done one trim thus far (all our horses are barefoot, by choice) and the trims took 3.5 hours versus the 1/2 hour it used to take. He goes hoof by hoof, stopping many times to talk to each horse, to show me every single thing he's doing and explain it (this was by my request, as our end goal is that I will learn to trim my horses' feet myself) and although my horses are all easy to deal with in general, they ADORE this man and are totally involved with him while he works on their feet.

He's coming Monday for the second trim and I'm so looking forward to it. One of the things he said to me, when I revealed how freaked out I am by all things hoof:

"The horse's hoof tries its best to grow healthy, Billie. It's working with you, not against you."

This made such a difference in my thinking.

Here's to healthy feet and moderate weather for all of us!

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh my gosh, I love this blog!

I love our farrier too. She's a proponent of barefoot, which makes sense for us since we don't do any jumping or hard athletics and very little road riding. Her day job is with the humane society. I used to be nervous that our old barn and clay mud would set off alarm bells but she assures me that the horses are healthy and our place is fine. What a relief- see? Don't have to worry so much! She is so kind and understanding with our horses but never lets them get away with bad behaviour.

I have had an awful 6 mnths with my gelding's hooves. He lived on sand last year and we have clay, plus I don't think he adjusted quickly to his new home. Our mare has always had a trim every 8 weeks but he can't go that long. We've got it under control now.

I'm known for being a hardcore worrier. Whew. I need to go look at that lovely picture of blue sky and tree branches!

Farm Girl said...

I can relate to these comments about your farriers. I have been unhappy with my previous trimmer and just two weeks ago found another that is soooo much better, both with the horses and in knowledge of barefoot hooves. My horses are barefoot by choice also. Just with one trim, I can see an improvement, but he said it will take 4 or 5 trims to get them back to a good place.

Bill Evertson said...

I seriously read all the comments of the horse owners/lovers that respond to your blog; I keep coming back because of the life wisdom I am learning with each post. A few years ago I attended a lecture by Thich Nhat Hanh in NYC. Your blog is about being present in the moment to learn the lesson. Thank you.

Rising Rainbow said...

I think good farriers are hard to find. Good to me is one who knows what he's doing AND likes horses and isn't a bully.

If he does a good job but the horses don't get along with him, it's just not a good combination. And it's especially important because I raise babies. A bad experience to start off with can mess them up for life.

I hope the foot heals ok. I always worry about infection whenever there is blood. Not obsess, just worry as in watch closely just in case.

I really don't want you to worry, just to be aware.

Callie said...

Mine don't have the pasture right now but they have continuous access to turn-out area and you can see the walking patterns in the snow. I'm sure they are a bit stir crazy because they love the run of the pasture. I'd rather them in for they're safety!I'm sure they disagree!

Strawberry Lane said...

Cut frog, blood, ... your horse. Yes, I'd be upset. Glad everything is fine.

There is nothing better than a good farrier that takes time, and nothing worse than a farrier in a hurry.

Also, my farrier has to be willing to put up with my always being there. I don't say much, but I watch everything. Actually, it seems I am the one listening.

Funny how the farriers stand up, stop everything to tell their latest whatever.

Thank goodness Royal is the patient kind that usually takes a nap during these sagas. Wish I could.

Those beauties of yours will soon be out romping. Keep thinking ... sun.

Victoria Cummings said...

Thanks, guys, for all the great comments. I am still concerned about Siete's cut frog. There was a lot of blood, but John says that happens. As soon a she stood on it and put pressure on it, it stopped bleeding.

Yes, MiKael, infection - so what would the symptoms be besides limping? Swelling? Heat? I can't take the pad off to look at it or clean it again.

And Bill, I agree that I do have some really wise and thoughtful friends here.