Sunday, May 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, Siete!

Siete is 7, and I can tell it’s going to be a great year for her. I decided to list seven characteristics that make her the irresistible little girl that she is:

1. Loving - can’t get enough hugs and kisses
2. Fearless - never spooks, can stand next to a noisy chain saw and ignore it
3. Sensitive - responds to anything instantly
4. Challenging -ready to stand on her own two feet - notice I said two not four
5. Devoted - to her mother, to my husband, to my daughter, but not to me yet
6. Hungry - an equine vacuum
7. Joyful - a happy bright spirit

Happy Birthday, sweet horse, you are our spunky shining star!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Here I Am

I’m sorry I haven’t been spending any time in the blogosphere this past week. Losing Pepper brought up for me the realities of our impermanence on this earth, and it has been a difficult but important time for me. Both our cats got sick this week. Our old black kitty has hyper-thyroid disease. Velcro,our orange cat who was raised by our dog, is so stressed out from missing Pepper that he developed a block in his urinary tract. So, I’ve been back to the vet much more than I’ve wanted to go. They’ve been really great to us though, so I’m grateful for that.

The horses are missing my attention. Silk developed a few sores from the Cashel fly mask she’s been wearing. I don’t recommend them and I am going to buy her one of the Farnam double-closure masks with ears that I have for Siete. With the long weekend, I intend to spend a lot of time in the barn, and hopefully, on horseback. I think I need a good dose of loving from my girls.

And some time tomorrow morning visiting all of you at your blogs to catch up. I’ve missed you!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Love In Loss

I am so grateful for your kind and compassionate comments. They are really helping me get through this incredibly difficult time of grieving. There’s a huge hole in our lives right now where Pepper lived so gracefully. Every time I turn around, I am reminded of her. Siete has really stepped up to offer me some strong emotional support. I don’t think I’ve been this upset since my father died. For 14 years, Pepper has been my constant companion, especially in the difficult moments when I needed a soft furry doggo buddy to hold and to offer me love.
A friend sent me this quote yesterday and I wanted to share it with you.

Thanks to all of you for your understanding and support.

"To live a meaningful life, each of us must step outside the familiar, confining walls of ego defenses and enter our own wilderness, our own charnel ground, to face honestly the truth of impermanence and loss. In the strange cemetery of imagination, mourning ourselves, we suddenly stumble upon what’s most essential. Facing loss, we find love."

–Lorne Ladner, from The Lost Art of Compassion (HarperSanFrancisco)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Pepper, We Will Always Love You

Our beloved dog, Pepper died yesterday. She was 14 years old. Her mother was a black lab, her father was a springer spaniel and Pepper was 100% Angel. Words cannot express how much we all miss her.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Message to My Daughter

Hold On
Hold on to what is good,
Even if it's a handful of earth.
Hold on to what you believe,
Even if it's a tree that stands by itself.
Hold on to what you must do,
Even if it's a long way from here.
Hold on to your life,
Even if it's easier to let go.
Hold on to my hand,
Even if someday I'll be gone away from you.

A Pueblo Indian Prayer

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Etiquette of the Gate

I knew when my husband acquiesced to my demands for a gate between the corral and the pasture that I had to be careful. There would be no opening the stall doors and throwing open the gate so the horses could trample me and do something horrible to their legs by falling into the little drainage ditch. The last thing anyone needs is an injured horse. Plus, the deal was that the drainage ditch must be preserved so that the barn wouldn’t flood. I’ve been really good about watching out for that and shoveling the ditch each time the horses push too much dirt into it. What’s been more of a challenge is the urge that they have to go thundering back and forth between the corral and the pasture.

The purpose of the gate is to allow the horses to come and go from the barn as they wanted. I was tired of the shenanigans of them waiting at the gate to go in and then pacing relentlessly in the corral shortly thereafter so they could go back out again. Bringing Siete in from the pasture to the barn had turned into an opportunity for her to battle with people over who was in charge. I was worried that she would hurt one of us as she raced into her stall to get to her feed bucket. I wanted less drama about something as simple as going back and forth from corral to pasture, especially on days when I’ve got other dramas to handle.

The first time I tried closing the stall doors, opening the gate and then opening the stall doors, the horses got so excited that they exploded out of the barn, stumbled across the ditch and raced around the pasture, back to the corral, into the barn, and then back out to the pasture again. It took my breath away. Clearly, that approach wasn’t going to work.

I also discovered that if the gate is open and I go into the stalls to muck, my curious little monkey, Siete, rushes in to see what I’m doing and whether I need her help. As soon as I shoo her out, her mother has to come and check on us to make sure that she’s not missing anything. Of course, Siete returns to join us. So there all three of us are, in one stall, stirring things up and making my cleaning job that much harder.

So, our safe and sane routine is that I lead the horses out one by one to the pasture, just like I’ve done before the new gate was installed. The gate stays closed, and they enjoy the pasture while I muck. Then, I carefully open the gate, making sure that neither horse seizes the moment to race back into the corral and the barn. After I’m safely out of the way, occasionally they run in to see if there’s something new and important in there. Over time, they’ve learned that I don’t like the running in thing, so now, they meander over. They usually find a flake of hay in each stall, and Silk always goes to Siete’s room instead of her own. Siete eats in her mom’s stall until I show up with their feed buckets. Then, they politely switch and stick their heads out eagerly to show me that they are in their proper places.

You may be wondering why I would bother telling you these mundane daily rituals. The truth is that it endlessly fascinates me to watch my horses interact with each other and with me. Everything they do tells me something about them, and often about myself too. It is remarkable how their inner clocks know exactly when it’s time to go to the barn to eat the hay since that triggers me coming out to feed them. Siete is really learning that it’s not okay to be rude and pushy and run into the corral and the barn. I can tell that she’s trying to please me, and she does. She gets praise and encouragement from me, and she obviously likes it.

Everything is not always perfect. What’s interesting is that when one of the horses does react by running from the pasture into the barn, there’s always a reason. Sometimes, it’s a bug that won’t stop biting or a little argument over territory. I can see how the consistency of what we do helps to ground them.

It reminds me to apply some of the same principles to raising my 13-year old daughter. Navigating around one physical boundary has given me a better understanding of new ways to establish safe and healthy mental and emotional boundaries for horses and people. It’s not just whether the gate is open or shut, it’s all about how we react to it.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Dodging A Bullet

Siete is not IR, just overweight!! You can imagine how relieved I am to get the news. All week, in the back of my consciousness, I’ve had this nagging nervousness as I waited for the results of her blood test. Finally, yesterday, I couldn’t stand it and I called the vet. She was out and about and didn’t get back to me until after dinner. The results had just come in and my chunky monkey is just plain old fat. So, we’re both on diets, beginning our exercise routines. I’ll show you a “before” photo of Siete, but don’t expect to see one of me until I'm at least ten pounds lighter.

I’ve been occupying myself in my precious few free moments reading Mark Rashid’s new book. I have to say that I am going to finish it and immediately go back to page one to read it again. It’s a winner. LJB at the Horsey Therapist reminded me that we should order it directly from Mark, not from one of the big booksellers. So, here’s the link:

There are two things that he mentions that really speak to me. First, don’t be afraid to make mistakes with your horse. I put so much pressure on myself not to “ruin” Siete. Since Silk was abused before I got her, I’ve tried to be so careful not to do anything that will screw up Siete and make her distrust people. Yet, despite my best efforts, both trainers that I selected after much research and consideration, did things that really caused behavioral problems that didn’t exist before they schooled my horse. So, I’ve grown overly cautious about teaching her bad habits and hesitate to really commit myself to engaging with Siete. She is the only animal that I own that doesn’t have a strong bond with me.

I am so connected to Silk, and I often sense Siete feels it so she becomes jealous. She challenges me over and over, forcing me to reach into places inside myself that are hidden pockets of self-doubt and fear. Of course, I see that this is why she is a great teacher for me, but it makes it hard to let down my guard and have fun with her. My lack of trust in her and in myself is like a high fence between us. As soon as I can get over it, I have a feeling that Siete and I will be able to bond.

The other thing that Mark Rashid said which resonated deep for me is this:
“There is no magic, and training tools and techniques are only as good as the person using them. For me, what it’s all about is getting involved and giving guidance….trying hard, making mistakes, getting it right…falling down, then getting back up again… and most of all becoming part of the process. In short, just learning how to get better at seeing, doing, feeling and understanding.”

I’m going to hang those words in my barn, my kitchen, my bedroom, on the bathroom mirror. What a smart guy, that Mark Rashid.