Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let the Dancing Begin

I’m not a big one for New Year’s Resolutions, but recently I’ve been thinking about what I can do to make my life with my horses more enjoyable. We’ve had so many health problems these past months, and it has diminished the time I spend doing things that I like to do with Silk and Siete. I’ve felt more like a nurse and a pooper scooper than anything else.

If you’ve followed our adventures, you know that in the darkest hours, I’ve questioned why it is exactly that I own these expensive, delicate creatures. Freezing my fingers while I use the syringe to give Siete her meds or shoveling frozen nuggets out of the corral as the wind whips through me, I ask myself how much longer can I keep this up. I often remind myself that when I decided to get this horse, and to keep her baby, it was for better or worse, for as long as they live.

Yet, every day, I take note and really appreciate the patience and the trust that Silk and Siete show me, even when the weather or physical discomfort becomes severe. They stand quietly in their stalls when it’s too icy to let them go out. They don’t have their winter shoes yet since it snowed before the farrier could come. I warn them not to run and slip on the ice, and they listen. At night, as I walk through the snow to the barn to throw them a couple more flakes of hay, their heads poke out of the top of the stalls, and they nicker happily to give me the warm, good feeling that I’ve done the right thing.

The past year has taught me that I don’t need to be out riding to be fulfilled by the time I spend with my horses. My consistency and efforts to stay calm no matter what is happening pay off when my horses willingly respond to whatever I ask them to do. Just the other day, as my husband and I led the horses into the pasture, my sister-in-law’s 120 pound dog ran up unexpectedly and raced in circles around us barking. Neither horse moved or showed any anxiety. The rest of my life can be rocking with turbulence, but out in the barn, I am always welcome.

So, my resolution is to take this relationship to the next step with Silk and Siete. I’ve been studying how people train their horses to follow them and dance together. While it intrigues me, I’ve been afraid to try it. I’ve worried that without a halter and a lead rope, Siete will get so excited that she’ll trample me. I’ve been concerned that Silk will refuse my request, and I’ll feel like I’ve failed. During the past 12 months, we plodded along, and we made it through. In 2009, I’m ready to start dancing.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Have a Merry Merry!

Merry Christmas! Here’s our cowgirls’ Christmas tree, full of sentimental ornaments. I’ve still got the one that my first grade teacher, Mrs. Foy, made me about a hundred years ago. And a mitten that my husband made in kindergarten. And the wedding bell off the cake from my grandparents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. Of course, there’s chili pepper lights, cactus and horse lights, lots and lots of horse ornaments. The one in this photo is Siete, made by my daughter when she was eight years old.

Hope your day is merry and bright! Love you guys!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

View From the Barn

This is the view from our barn at 6:30 this morning. I’m too tired from shoveling snow to write anything, but Silk and Siete wanted to tell you about it:

SILK: Mom was really upset yesterday morning. She says the reason it snowed 10 inches is because we were scheduled to get our borium shoes put on for the winter. The farrier couldn’t come so now I’ve been telling that crazy kid of mine to be careful not to slip.

SIETE: It’s so cool!

SILK: I couldn’t figure out why Mom was putting on our blankets in the middle of the day but about an hour later, the snow really started to come down. Siete stood outside in the corral and got soaked. I tried to make her come into my stall, but you know how teenagers are. She just won’t listen. The snow even came in the back doors of the barn. In the middle of the blizzard, Mom came out and fed us and locked us in so Siete could dry off before the temperature dropped for the night. Oh, I miss California right now!

SIETE: When can we go out and play? Where are the other kids? Where are the sleds?

SILK: When she gave us breakfast, Mom was muttering about another storm coming in tonight with more snow. Thank heavens for heated water buckets and people who trek out here with carrots.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What A Moon!

Did you see the moon these last few nights? I've been saying how much I loved looking at it. My husband took this photo and surprised me with it in my email this morning. I get a “Full Moon Update” each month from a friend of mine. For December, it is recommended to move to a new and better place in your life, entertain the need to do something new that you love to do and honor your intention.

I was listening to an old Paul Simon album, “Hearts and Bones”, the other day and came across these lyrics in a song about the moon:

“If you want to write a song about the heart,
and its ever-longing for a counterpart,
write a song about the moon.”

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catching Up

I’m sorry that I’ve been slow in responding to some awards and invitations that I received this week. It’s been a mixed bag of blessings and curses around here. We were fortunate not to have to endure the ice storm that swept through the upper part of New England on Thursday and Friday.

We did get about 6 inches of rain, and Silk’s stall flooded. I bailed it and filled it with horse bedding wood pellets. This morning, poor Silk was hiding along the back wall when I came out to feed her because the bubbling ooze had come up again. At 6:30 am, I was out there shoveling and adding more wood pellets. Good thinking on my part yesterday that I didn’t use all the bags since I had a feeling that the ground had more water
it would share with us. The temperature dropped into the teens last night, so everything froze. There’s a very thin layer of ice on the puddles in the corral, which makes it really unpleasant for horses and people to come and go from the barn.

On the good news front, Siete has lost about 60 pounds -- only 40 more to go. I’m looking forward to ending the daily dose of thyroid meds, but Siete actually considers it her “dessert”. She waits eagerly for me to appear with a syringe of vanilla yogurt and medicine after her dinner every night. It’s strange that she won’t lap the stuff up from a bowl, but she loves the syringe. A good lesson since she used to hate even the sight of a syringe and now, she’s happy to see one.

So, on with the awards, etc:

I really really appreciate the “Share the Light” award from Arlene at Grey Horse Matters, and thank her for the kind words explaining why she gave it to me. “This award was created to share the light and inspire others. Sharing the light is simple and costs nothing and by inspiring others, it adds goodness in this world and encourages others on their journeys.
So share this award, as I will with the people who inspire those around them and Share the Light.”

I am passing it along to four blogs that I read on a regular basis:

Janet Roper’s blog about talking to animals and her experiences as an animal communicator.

Tree’s blog, “Decadent Tranquility”, which is an amazing Sci Fi love story driven by his gorgeous artwork.

Bill Evertson’s “Under Construction/Art Contemplations”, exploring his journey as an artist.

“Unseen Dharamsala”, a beautiful blog written and illustrated by Tibetan refugees living in the Indian city where the Dalai Lama is in exile.

Next, I’ve been asked by Kim at Enlightened Horsemanship to tell you 6 things about myself. Here are the rules of this meme: Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Write six random things about yourself. Tag six people at the end of the post. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know your entry is published. Since I’ve been reading this meme on lots of blogs, I’m just going to play and ask anyone who wants to join in to participate.

Here are six things about me:

1. My favorite time of the day is the hour before the sun rises. It’s the only time in my day when I’m alone with just my animals. There’s nothing that quiets my anxieties better than sitting in front of the fire with my kitties and my dog before I go out to feed the horses.

2. I love to spend time with my 13-year old daughter just talking about her life. We find a quiet moment every day where she can just tell me what’s going on and I listen. My mother has never really listened to me, so I know how important it is to really know and accept my child for the remarkable person that she is.

3. Our house is always full of music. We have very eclectic taste. Over the years, my husband and I have collected a really fun, wide range of holiday music - blues, Cajun, old Swing versions, jazz, classical. Right now, you can hear everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to Beau Soleil to Ella and Louie to Taylor Swift, the Pretenders and the Jonas Brothers singing about sleigh rides and Santa Baby and all that Christmas joy. My husband’s family plays many instruments, and we love to have jam sessions and drum circles.

4. As I breathe, so I have the need to write. I also enjoy painting and playing with color and light. If I don’t find time in my life to do these things, everything else starts to fall apart.

5. Kindness is really important to me. The world has become so harsh and a “bully mentality” has flourished over the past decade. I am optimistic that this aggressive, selfish period of time is finally changing and that we are moving into a more considerate, generous era that is united for the common good of our entire world.

6. My horses continue to be a spiritual grounding rod for me, always presenting me with new lessons and ways to face my fears and move forward with greater understanding.

The other game that has been floating around the blogosphere is to pick the sixth photo out of your library. I had to show you what came up for me when I did it. I love this picture. This was taken when Siete was 3 months old and my daughter was 7 years old. A little girl with her little horse - or a little horse with her little girl?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Crazy Making Weather

This morning is the beginning of a heat wave. Last night, it was 12F degrees. I went out to the barn before I went to bed to be sure that the girls had enough water and some extra hay to keep them warm. Just when I was getting used to not being able to feel my fingers, the weather is flip-flopping. It's up to 30F degrees already. By tomorrow, they are predicting it will be in the 60’s.

‘Tis the season for colic. Around mid-day, I’ve been offering Silk a bucket of warm water. She likes to drink it while I’m holding it, and at least I know that she’s drinking. One good thing is that the snow will melt today. The girls don’t have their winter shoes yet. We’re not scheduled to put the borium on until the 19th, so I’m hoping that we will get through safely until then. I will dig out the ditch around the barn today because we’re also supposed to get an inch of rain tomorrow- How crazy is that! - and I don’t want any ice to clog it up.

I’ve always said that I love owning horses, and my girls are being particularly good and sweet through all this bad weather. Yesterday, as I was trying to pry frozen poop out of the muck bucket while my face was burning from the cold, I imagined what I would be doing if I didn’t own horses. Drinking tea? Eating bonbons in a cozy warm house? Still when Silk nuzzled my arm after slurping up a full bucket of warm water, my heart melted and I knew that there was nothing better I could be doing at that moment.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like.....

I’m having some time management issues. I just can’t seem to keep up anymore. Now that the daylight begins at 6:30 am and ends at 4:30 pm, my horsekeeping duties seem to be throwing the rest of my schedule off. It’s just so much easier to take care of Siete’s feet and give her the medicine when it’s not pitch black. There are lights in the barn, but when it’s so cold and I have to keep schlepping back and forth to the feed room which is under our house, chores become more like some kind of punishment.

Earlier this week, Siete and Silk had a fantastic play day in the pasture. While I was so thrilled that Siete was moving like a normal horse, I also thought I really needed to restrain her so she didn’t hurt herself. The only problem turned out to be a lost shoe. Even wearing bell boots, she knocked it off. Unfortunately, it was the one on her front left tender foot. I put the soft boot on right away and called the farrier. My eagle-eyed husband was able to find the shoe after I had spent well over an hour combing the pasture for it. So, balance has been restored, and my little horse is walking comfortably again.

The holidays are rolling in so quickly. Last night, we went to the annual town party for the lighting of the Christmas tree in the big pasture near the skating pond. It’s a gorgeous event because they line all the roads in town and around the pasture with luminaries. The high school kids cut out a special design every year on literally thousands of paper bags. The chorus sings Christmas carols and there’s free donuts and hot cider. Everyone turns out in their warmest festive hats and gloves. It was 17F degrees here, and my fingers were numb even with my gloves.

Today, I raced through my horse chores because the Rotary Club had a holiday pancake breakfast. My daughter and her friends were the waiters. According to my schedule, I intended to get out the Christmas decorations and put up the lights outside when we got home since tonight we’re supposed to get some snow. Instead, my entire family ended up napping on every available couch after all those pancakes.

I love Christmas in New England. Tomorrow, all the old houses on Main Street will be open, and they’ll be serving tea and cookies and selling homemade crafts. All my neighbors already have the little electric candles in each of their windows. As I told you, I’m behind schedule. It’s so darn charming that my California-born and raised husband can’t get over it, even after almost five years. His California brother and sister will be here next weekend to enjoy an early celebration with us. And it looks like we might have some snow for my two California horses to kick up their heels. Hopefully, Siete will manage to keep her shoes on.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Award Time Again!

I'm so flattered to receive another award - this one is from my friend Lori at the Skoog Farm. She's a very artistic, big-hearted garlic-growing horse lover, and I'm so glad that I've connected with her.

It's always a difficult decision to figure out how to pass this along and choose among all of you great bloggers. I console myself by knowing that the people I give it to will give it to other friends of mine as well so it will float out far and wide. You're supposed to say something about each person that you award and then tell them to click on the award and paste it onto their blog and pass it along to other beloved bloggers. So, that's what I'm doing:

I'm sending this award along to Arlene at Grey Horse Matters, Linda at the 7MSN and Billie at Camera-Obscura because I start every day with a cup of coffee and a visit to their blogs. Life wouldn't be the same without you guys.

And to Callie at MidWest Horse and Mrs. Mom at Oh Horsefeathers because they are both smart, fun and full of heart.

And to Lisa at Laughing Orca Ranch, to the DOR at Cactus Jack Splash, Pony Girl and her Spotted Boy, and to my Pony Cousin at Middle of the Road since all of them make my life a little brighter and happier each time I visit them.

And to Mikael at Mikael's Mania because she doesn't even stop blogging when she goes to the hospital for surgery and I love her determination and spirit. May she feel better fast!

So let's send this beautiful butterfly all over the blogosphers!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Still Giving Thanks

I received this beautiful bouquet of flowers from two wonderful blogging friends. One was given to me by Nor'dzin at Ceffylau in Wales. Thank you so much! I hope that I will have a chance someday to meet her in person since I value her friendship very much. She is wrestling with the difficulties of caring for two horses and trying to make some hard choices about whether to keep them. I hope that Nor'dzin and O-dzin know that they are not alone in their predicament and my heart goes out to them.

The other bouquet - I feel so lucky- was a gift from Mikael at Mikael's Mania. I really appreciate her friendship and I should be sending this to her since Mikael is going in for some surgery this week. All my positive thoughts and good energy will be flowing her way for a quick and successful recovery.

Every time I go to the feed store or put more hay into my horses’ stalls, I feel grateful that another week goes by in which I am able to care for them and give them what they need. Every time I watch Siete walk normally, I appreciate how much better life is now that she’s not limping. Every time it rains really hard like it did last night, I am thankful that the roof over the barn is not leaking and no stalls are flooded. And every time I get another email - and I’ve had so many recently - from someone who is desperate to find a home for a horse they can no longer afford, I say a little prayer that I will be able to always keep my girls.

So, I’m going to pass along these lovely flowers to three blogging friends who have something to celebrate:

Over at Oak In The Seed, deej has gone back to riding and found a great new barn with a good teacher and some new friends. Bravo!

In Niger, Africa, a little filly named Isolde is celebrating her 3rd month on this earth so I’m sending her mom, Esther Garvi, some virtual flowers since I can’t send carrots.

And at the Doghouse, Detroit Dog deserves some flowers for rescuing Quasar, who obviously loves him new home.

I’m sharing my flowers with Siete, who is feeling much better - Dare I say that? I hope I don’t jinx it!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Grace

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I really enjoy cooking dinner, using recipes that are a sentimental combination of my family, my husband’s family and my friends. My mom still makes her famous cranberry/raspberry compote. My mother-in-law taught me how to do the stuffing and the gravy. My godmother, who is no longer with us, still has a place at our table with her sweet potato and green apple casserole splashed with cognac. A dear old friend gave us a fabulous recipe for pumpkin cheesecake, and my husband is such a cheesecake addict that he has to be restrained from eating the whole thing.

After dinner, friends of ours from India will join us with lifelong friends of theirs who are visiting this country. It’s all about being grateful and appreciating the warmth and love of family and friends, interspersed with some quick trips to the barn to let Silk and Siete know how much they mean to me.

I love the word “grace”. One of my favorite sayings comes from author Ann Beattie:
“What will happen can’t be stopped. Aim for grace.”

So as I wish all of you a peaceful, joyful day, I will share with you the grace that we have said at our table for many, many years:

For food, for friends
For happiness, we give thanks.
For our animals and the beauty of our earth,
we give thanks.

May those of us who have plenty
Help others who are hungry and suffering

We give thanks today for unknown blessing
already on their way.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Awards & Updates

I’ve got too much on my plate, and we’re not even talking turkey yet. A few days ago, Callie at MidWest Horse honored me with a wonderful award. I haven’t been able to get the file to load because Blogger kept telling me that it was “corrupted”. So, at last, my computer wizard husband was able to help me.

So, a belated thanks to Callie, who is a million dollar friend with warmth and wisdom that radiates all the way from Wisconsin to cheer me up. It’s hard, as always, to choose which of my blogging buddies to pass along this award since I wish I could give it to all of you.

I’m going to send a big hug and the Million Dollar Friend Award to:
Linda at the 7MSN
Billie at Camera Obscura
M.C. Valada at Out of the Darkroom
LJB at the Horsey Therapist
Marvel at Strawberry Lane
and I’d send it to Arlene at Grey Horse Matters, but Callie gave her one already.

You guys are always there for me and know how to make me feel better. Thanks for being my soul sisters!

A quick update on Siete: She got her “reverse shoes”, which are exactly what they sound like. The horseshoe is put on so the open end is in the front and the back of the hoof is supported by the round part of the shoe. It is giving her good support and relief. The ground is so frozen since we’ve had this cold wave. This morning it was only 16F degrees when I fed the horses. I’m just hoping that she will heal and lose weight and that I can stop writing about her feet.

I’m so swamped with work. There’s a video to finish by Monday and two new projects that I’m writing. So that’s why I haven’t had time to blog, but once I get through to Thanksgiving, I should be able to breathe again and catch up with all of you.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Cozy Time

My daughter and I are snuggled up on the couch reading our books while eating ginger cookies and drinking tea. It’s raining and raining and raining. The horses are tucked in their stalls. The dear old dog is asleep at my feet. Aaaah!

I thought I’d share this recipe for Shaker Spice Cookies with you. It is very special to me, and even people who don’t like cookies fall in love with these. During my childhood, growing up in the Midwest, these cookies were part of fall and winter. After raking leaves or going ice skating, I remember always finding a plate of warm ginger cookies next to my cup of hot chocolate. When I grew up and moved to New York City, I asked my mom for the recipe. She told me that she had lost it!

For over fifteen years, I tried every ginger cookie recipe I could find but none of them hit the mark. Finally, one holiday season when I lived in California, in the Los Angeles Times, I found this recipe. Oh comfort and joy - it was the right one. So, as the leaves come down each Autumn, my family and friends begin asking me, and the cookie sheets start filling up. Since I can’t send a batch to each of you, here’s how to bake them. (Don’t over-cook since they’re better when they’re soft.)


Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

2/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
1 egg
2 cups of flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 tsp. of cloves
1/2 tsp. of ginger
1 tsp. of cinnamon
1/4 tsp. of salt

Put the oil, egg, molasses in a mixing bowl and beat until well mixed. Add the sugar.
Then, add cinnamon, cloves, ginger, salt and baking soda.
Mix in the flour 1/2 cup at a time - sometimes, towards the end, I use my fingers to really mix up the dough.

Cover 2 cookie sheets (or better yet, 4 sheets if you have them) with parchment paper so the cookies don’t stick. Roll little balls of the dough and drop 12 on each cookie sheet, spaced apart so they don’t run together when they flatten out.

Bake five minutes with one sheet on each rack of the oven. After five minutes, take out the cookie sheet, flatten each cookie with a fork and sprinkle a little sugar on it. Switch the cookie sheet to the other rack - so it browns on both the bottom and the top. Don’t let the cookies over bake or they won’t be chewy - about 3 to 5 more minutes.

Yields 48 cookies. Store them in an airtight container - if they get hard, you can wrap them in a paper towel and microwave them for 10 seconds to make them soft and chewy again.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Following the Plan

Today, it was raining and Siete was just sore all over. She started to ache in all four legs yesterday, and I mentioned it to the vet when I spoke to her. This is an on-going problem every time the weather gets bad. It’s the exact same type of thing that was happening last year at this time when she had Lyme Disease. On instructions from the vet, I gave her Banamine, which helps although she still isn’t able to walk normally.

This was a difficult day for both of us. Both the vets agreed yesterday that there’s a very slight indication of laminitis in her front left foot . We’ve come up with a plan. I’ll do the insulin resistant diet until she loses the weight. Once Siete is better, we’ll test her for insulin/glucose. The vet and the farrier spoke, and they have decided that “reverse shoes” would be the best thing for Siete for now. I picked up her radiographs so the farrier could see them and get the correct measurements for her trim. I’m soaking the hay and cutting back to 10 pounds a day, which seems like not enough but I’m keeping to the program. I can’t find the supplement that the vet recommended, but I’m tracking it down. I’m syringing this thyroid medicine into her. And it poured, and my little horse was sore. What I want is 30 days of doxy for her but the new vet is still doesn’t want to give her the antibiotic. She did mention Lyme Disease without my prompting, saying the ticks were really bad right now. I asked for the doxy but she said that if we give it to her now without the blood test showing positive it will make it ineffective when she really needs it. Do I seem frustrated?

All the friends I talked to today were also calling to tell me about hard times in their lives. So maybe it’s the way the planets are lined up or something. Silk understands that her baby is hurting, and she’s radiating this loving energy to both me and Siete. I thought about how much more complicated this would be if the horses were boarded in a barn. All day as the rest of my life roared around me, I was at least able to go out every couple of hours and check on Siete in her stall. Tonight, the rain had stopped and the Banamine was working. She seemed more comfortable. I felt less anxious. I’m hoping that tomorrow will bring us some relief.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

B-days and Anniversaries

Your concern and well-educated, helpful responses to my last post made me realize yet again how lucky I am to have such a great group of friends in the blogosphere. This week marks the one year anniversary of this blog, and I’ve had over 50,000 visitors. When I started writing it, I really had no expectations about what I was doing here. Honestly, I often see my blog as a wonderful warm-up exercise for the rest of my writing that I do each day. The great bonus was to meet all of you, from all over the world, and confirm daily how many really good people there are who care and help each other and see things from very unique and wise perspectives. You are a gift to me.

Sunday was my birthday, and a very dear old friend of mine drove 900 miles to celebrate with me. He just left this morning, so life will go back to its usual bumpy, chaotic state. Siete is still on stall-rest with orders from the vet to feed no grain, no carrots, and only 9 or 10 pounds of first-cut hay a day. What an unhappy horse! I’m waiting to hear from the head vet at the practice about his views on her radiographs and the recommended treatment. Hopefully, I’ll know more by the end of the day. It’s making me pretty antsy, but I’m grateful that he’s getting involved since I really trust his opinion.

I did have a crazy un-horse related thing happen last night. It made me realize how life can change in an instant. While I was cooking dinner on the stove, I put two pie crusts in the oven at 450 degrees for five minutes to brown them like the recipe said. Suddenly, I looked down and saw that the oven was on fire! Some of the crust had dropped down into the heating coils of the oven. I put out the flames and sat down on the kitchen floor, just shaking. If I had been in the family room or upstairs, the whole kitchen could have caught on fire. My husband is away on a business trip, so I called him. He said he was very happy that I was sitting on the floor in the kitchen as I talked to him and not standing in our driveway with the fire department. It reminded me of how fast something can go wrong and how fortunate I was to have been in the right place at the right time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Ups and Downs

It’s been quite a week. Some positive things occurred and some negative. Typical of my horse-oriented logic, I can draw parallels between what is happening to my country and to my horse’s feet. Go ahead, call me crazy.

On the positive side, the election is over, and we can move forward. It’s going to be difficult, but there’s so much good energy that I believe we will become a better, stronger nation when all is said and done. The response to Obama’s win from around the world was really incredible, making me proud to be an American.

Yesterday, they did the radiographs of Siete’s feet. There is indeed still an abscess in her front left hoof that needs to drain. While the vet wants to look more closely at the results and confer with her colleagues, there’s not anything dramatic and really horrible.. She does believe that there are some possibility of laminitis in the front left leg. She wants Siete to lose weight, although my horse weighed 1095 pounds yesterday. Frankly, that’s not as bad as I thought it would be, but the vet wants to get her down to 900. For the last month. after the vet told me to give my horses the Platinum Performance supplement to build their immune system, I’ve seen a noticeable weight gain in both of them. I even decreased the dosage. Now, she wants me to stop giving it to Siete and prescribed some medicine for hyperthyroidism to get her to lose weight. My little horse is also getting Banamine for a few days and I’m going to continue to try to drain the abscess. Siete is on a no-grain, no sweets, no grass regime. Of greatest concern to me is that the vet said that my horse is insulin resistant.

Now, that might eventually prove to be true, but I was really freaked out when she announced this right at the end of our phone conversation last night. It started to really sink in after I hung up, and it reminded me of something that happened years ago with Silk. When we lived in California about eight years ago, I arrived at the stables one day and found Silk totally lame on both front legs. My regular vet was on vacation, so his partner came out. He took one look at Silk and pronounced that she had laminitis. I went through a terrible weekend, worrying and crying. On Monday, when my vet came back to work, he looked at Silk and said there wasn’t any laminitis. She had just been trimmed too short by the farrier and her feet were sore.

So, to tell me right now that Siete is insulin resistant seems kind of premature. As I understand it, there’s no accurate way to test for this until her feet are better. I think it’s a good idea to treat her like she has this condition for the moment, but why frighten me by putting it so definitively? And believe me, it did frighten me real good. I wouldn’t have reacted so strongly if she had even told me that there’s a “strong possibility” that Siete is insulin resistant and we should explore it. To some, that might be splitting hairs, but to a worried horse owner who knows what insulin resistance is, it was a big statement. I calmed myself down by deciding that before I automatically accept this diagnosis, I am going to look into it a lot further.

So, like the new president is moving forward cautiously yet with as much speed as possible, I am learning this new lesson with my horse. Siete is going to be fine because I am going to do everything I can to find the best course of action to solve these problems. It's going to take a while. I slept better last Tuesday after the election results were announced. And knowing that Siete’s coffin bones have not dropped down in her feet made me sleep much better last night.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Please VOTE

We’re all up early in our house with a case of Election Day jitters. As soon as the morning rush hour crowd moves through our polling place, we’ll be heading over there to vote.

I read something that struck me as the perfect description of where we are right now in this country. Ted Sorensen, former counselor to President Kennedy, recently said, “This is an unprecedented mess.”

Let’s all do the one really vital thing we can do to help all of us get through this crisis. No matter what the weather, no matter how busy your schedule, please make sure you vote.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

It's All About Siete

Yesterday, the abscess in Siete’s front hoof moved down so the pressure was excrutiating. She couldn’t really walk, and it was really scary. Her back right hoof was also very sore because she was shifting her weight onto it. My farrier had predicted that this could happen since he thought the abscess was high up in her hoof. While I was pretty sure that this was the problem, part of me was still kind of freaked out. Siete was in agony, and I knew that I had to do everything I could to be sure that the abscess “blew” and released the gunk inside it.

So, I gave her Banamine and soaked the front foot in Epson salts and warm water. Then, I booted both of the sore feet with poultices in the soft boots. Thank heavens I have those boots and two rubber soaking boots. And I agonized over how she was doing all day long as I ran errands and prepared food and family to go to a big party that our Indian friends were having for Dewali, their New Year and Festival of Lights.

She got some more Banamine and soaking and fresh poultices at dinnertime. I could see a slight improvement, so I took a big deep breath of trust that she would be better in the morning. I have to admit it weighed on me all through the party so I couldn't really have fun. Coming home late at night, it took all my self-control not to stop at the barn to check on her. I figured that she would be lying down, and if I woke her up, she’d try to stand. It would be better for her to not have to get on her feet again.

And lo and behold, Princess Siete is much better today. She’s standing firmly on all four feet. I did the same drill again with the soaking and the boots. I reminded myself that this is a very sensitive little mare. Her pain threshold must be pretty low. She’s the “Princess and the Pea” of horses. When she was so miserable, her mama stayed glued to her side all day, standing quietly with Siete in her stall. Poor Silk has been seriously ignored. Now that her daughter is walking again, we’re going to have a good grooming/massage session so Silkie knows how much I appreciate her.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Whatever It Takes

The commitment to owning animals cannot be minimized. Anyone who considers getting a pet needs to be willing to go the long haul. Yesterday was a crazy day, mostly brought on by the ailments of my beloved Pepper and Siete. It started early with a visit from the farrier to help me with Siete’s feet.

He didn’t find any new abscesses in her back hooves and said that the old ones appear to be healing. She does have bruises on both her soles, which would make her sore. More important, she has a small abscess on her front left foot that he drained. That could have made her put her weight on her back legs enough to make the problem appear to be in the back, not the front. So, I’m booting and soaking, and thank heavens, a new shipment of Animalintex arrived yesterday because I had run out. I have to schedule an appointment to have the radiographs done next week. My farrier still leans towards the notion that it’s being caused by Lyme Disease, since it’s systemic and never completely leaves your body. The new vet is adamant that this is not the problem. I’d like to think it’s Lyme rather than anything else, but mostly I’m hoping that these expensive x-rays will give us an answer.

The other animal drama in our house is with Pepper’s left eye. Suddenly, the lower lid has drooped and her eye looks like it’s rolling back in the socket. She doesn’t seem to be in pain or bothered by it. Still, when there’s anything wrong with an animal’s eye, we go to the vet. Of course, getting the poor old dear in the car and into the vet’s office is a big ordeal. It’s amazing that Pepper is still alive, and I’ve gotten used to the intensive amount of time and effort that goes into caring for an old dog. Every time she wants to move, someone has to help her, and that’s usually me. She’s off and on incontinent, which requires lots of clean up.

Last night, I thought about my friends who don’t have animals and tried to imagine my life without my pets. I could just pick up and go when I wanted to without worrying, and there would be considerably more money in our bank account. Yet, our life would feel empty, and a lot of the joy would be missing. After I washed the dog bed for the second time in one day, I sat on it with Pepper, and she happily rested her head on my knee. I love both her and Siete so much that even though caring for them takes up a significant part of my day, I can’t imagine not doing it. If you love someone, two or four-legged, you don’t just dump them when times get tough and they require a lot of attention. For better or worse, you’re in it for the long haul.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dreary Day

We’re hunkered down here as it rains, with wind gusts up to 40 mph, and maybe even some snow flurries tonight. My daughter stayed home from school with a sore throat. The horses hid in the barn all day. The sound of the wind in the trees sound weirdly like waves crashing in the ocean.

Siete’s feet are sore again. It started on Sunday, with her back right foot and her front left foot. She’s wearing the boots and the poultices again. The farrier is coming on Thursday morning so we’ll see how things are then. The vet and I decided to do radiographs to look in her hooves to see what’s going on. Yesterday, she was mysteriously better. Today, she’s in her stall so it’s hard to tell how she’s doing since it’s too yucky outside to go for a walk. Luckily, she doesn’t seem to be in pain or mind being indoors. Who would on a day like today?

This depressing weather is a stark contrast to Monday’s sunshine. I had a fun lunch yesterday with some of my favorite bloggers. LJB from the Horsey Therapist was heading this way, and Arlene from Grey Horse Matters, along with her daughter, Jacquie, joined us. It always feels like I’m getting together with old friends whom I’ve known for years when I meet any of my blogging buddies face-to-face. I wish that all the rest of you could have been there. Maybe we need to have a global get-together via web cameras or something some day.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but today seems like the kind of day when I need a good quote to raise up my spirits. I can always count on Jack Kornfield to give me something to think about:

“Though it seems simple, letting go is an advanced practice. It is demanded in the greatest trials of our lives and in our final moments. It is here that the heart learns the secret: that to let go is also to embrace what is true.”

Thanks, Jack. I needed that.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Apples and More Apples

Today, I stayed home and played with apples. I brought back so many varieties of apples from my day of videotaping Thursday at the U Mass Cold Spring Orchard. It was really interesting to learn about the research and the techniques that they are using to try to grow better apples with less use of chemicals. One thing that really surprised me is how even organic apple growers usually use some chemicals because there are so many bugs and fungi that love apples as much as we do. I keep reminding my daughter to never eat an apple without washing it first.

So, I baked some pies and made an apple/carrot salad for the horses for a treat. I’ve been using this nutritional supplement called Platinum Performance. I sprinkle it over a little mix of low-carb grain, Triple Crown Lite, and a scoop of Fiberpsyll by Select. Add a dash of cinnamon because Siete doesn’t like the taste of the Platinum Performance and mix in a few apple chunks and carrot bits. It makes up for the fact that it’s so rainy and windy today.

Inside the house, I’ve got the fire blazing and the oven going. I used an apple pie recipe that was my father’s favorite. It was given to me by an old family friend, Ginny Carey, who used to live in Belchertown, Massachusetts. By amazing co-incidence, that’s where I went to shoot at Cold Spring Orchard. All the way home, I’ve been dreaming about making Ginny’s pie recipe. I’ve mixed in Rome, Granny Smith, a Golden Delicious and a couple of Honey Crisps.

I took a snooze in front of the fire while the pies baked. I’ve got some French Vanilla ice cream and some caramel sauce that I made, which I’ll warm up and drizzle on top. Can you hear Lyle Lovett singing in the background? Feels like Heaven to me!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Whirling Wind

Today, Siete was an angel. I especially appreciated it because the wind was wild. Neither horse seemed to even notice the ten foot tall swirling cyclones of leaves in the middle of the pasture. When a huge branch broke off a tree and fell about twenty feet from us as I led Siete into the barn, she didn’t even blink. She was totally calm and on perfect behavior. I’m hoping she got my message yesterday.

The wind really rattled me. I’ve been forgetting things and feeling really disorganized. I’m just jumpy. It reminded me of the Santa Ana’s from the California desert and the Mistral from North Africa when I was in the Greek Islands. Only this wind of ours caused the temperatures to drop big time.

I’m off again tomorrow to shoot more video at an apple orchard in Massachusetts. I pulled out my fuzzies and my warm hat and gloves. It’s going to be a long day. So, why don’t you join me right now by the fire.....

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Nice and Naughty

This is a tale of my two horses --the nice one and the naughty one. Can you guess which is which? Some days, I wish that Siete wasn’t quite so smart. You might even say that I long for a dull, boring horse. I’ll get into that in a minute.

First, I want to tell you about this lovely little ritual that Silk has created with me. When I was in the barn, cleaning the stalls a few weeks ago, she came over to stand in the ditch in the pasture and stare at me. She clearly was asking me a question. I realized that she wanted to drink out of the big bucket that was on the other side of the fence inside the corral. Seeing that she couldn’t reach it, I brought her a small bucket with the hose in it that kept filling so she could really slurp up a lot of water. Both my horses enjoy drinking water out of a bucket while I hold it for them, and I know that if I approach them with it, they act like they’re getting a treat. So, there was something really warm and satisfying for both me and Silk as we stood on either side of the fence. I held and filled the bucket and she drank and drank and drank. Then, she nuzzled my hand that was holding the bucket with her wet nose to thank me. And I got some horsey kisses.

Every day since then, Silk does the same thing when she sees me in the barn. She waits until I clean Siete’s stall and then wanders over to her spot along the fence. It’s my cue to stop what I’m doing and bring the small bucket and the hose to her. There’s a full bucket of water about ten feet away from her in the pasture, but it’s just not the same. Some people will undoubtedly tease me about how I spoil her. I don’t see it that way at all. Silk knows that I take care of her, and she obviously appreciates it, When I’m riding her, she takes care of me. It makes us both really happy when I hold the bucket for her, like we’re having a secret meeting.

Now, her daughter is definitely feeling better. Going out to the pasture this morning, Siete pranced around impatiently and let out some little, excited squeals while I unlocked the gate. We had to wait and back up, which she did without exploding. As soon as I stepped out of the way and closed the gate, she began bucking and running in circles. Her mama ignored the whole performance when I led her out. Coming back into the barn yesterday with my husband, Siete tried to race into her stall and pitched a hissy fit because she was dying to get to her lunch. He wouldn’t let her, and she was not a happy camper. I had a feeling that I was in for more of that nonsense when I brought her in today.

Sure enough, Siete began carrying on as soon as I opened the pasture gate. Silk stood perfectly still, ground tied. The little horse danced and I stopped her and backed her until she was calm, over and over. Finally, we made it all the way into the stall, facing the back window, before she decided she couldn’t stand it one more moment and had to buck. I knew it was coming, so I was ready for it. What’s difficult is to let her know that it’s not okay, settle her down and then turn her around in this small enclosed space. She’s smart enough to have figured that out, so she times her misbehaving for the exact moment when claustrophobic me is up against the wall. I think we’ll have maybe one more attempt at this on Siete’s part before it sinks in that she’s not going to win. Call it the change of season, with the cold weather, or the willful challenge of a healthy young mare, I don’t look forward to these punky horse games. I keep reminding myself that when I first got Siete’s mother, Silk used to pull these stunts and look how good she is now. It only took us eleven years to work it all out.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ghosting It Forward

Eeni-meenie-jelly-beanie- The Spirits are about to speak! I’ve been tagged for a game of “Ghost It Forward” by my voodoo sister, Callie, at MidWest Horse. I’m really touched by her choosing me, since I often wish that she lived down the road so I could drop by and hang out with her. Here are the rules of this fun new blog-tivity:

1) Have a Ghostly Image to pass along.
2) Tag three people on your blog, with links to their blogs. Tell about what great folks they are, or offer to send them a Ghostly Treat.
3) Include a link to Ghosting It Forward in your blog.

But first, here’s my ghostly picture and story:

As you know, my mother is 94 years old, and her eyesight and hearing are failing. Over the past year, she has been seeing animals and people on our property where no one else does. Increasingly, she has gotten more adamant and annoyed at me when I tell her that there’s no one there. One of my friends, who writes horror novels, thinks that because she is closer to the “other side” than all of us, the spirits of the dead reveal themselves to her. Now, ordinarily, this would freak me out. Weirdly, living in this particular place, it doesn’t. It’s actually kind of soothing to think that we are being “watched over”.

Mom keeps telling me that there’s an old man out in the back by the barn and on the hill. This hill has a grove of cedar trees with an altar or maybe a grave on it. While I’m out there doing my chores, my mother will often stand in the window or outside by the back door and sort of spy on me. It used to drive me crazy to have her lurking around all the time. Recently, she’s been insisting that the old man is there with me. I suggested that if she sees him, she should go talk to him. That’s made her think that I can see him too, and she gets even more upset when I tell her that I can’t.

I was talking to my next door neighbor about heirloom apples last week. She said that when she moved here 15 years ago, she was in her kitchen one day when this old man appeared with all these branches and started doing something to her apple trees. She went out and asked him what he was doing. Very matter-of-fact, he said that he was grafting the old trees onto the younger ones. She learned that he was Mr. Goldberg, the man who had owned this land and built her house, ours and the one next to us. For as long as he lived, he would come over and take care of the trees because to him, this was always his land and he was its steward. He died several years ago.

So, I’m thinking that maybe my mom really is seeing Mr. Goldberg. I asked her more details and she told me that one day, she saw a whole group of people standing on the hill looking at our house. Maybe he assembled all the other spirits of this neighborhood to stop by and meet us. Every morning when I go out to the barn, I say, “Good morning, Mr. Goldberg - how are you doing?”

Okay, so now to pass these ghostly vibes forward:

First to Linda at the 7msn, who makes me laugh and jumps in to help out with such talent and enthusiasm, and who must have some good New Mexico ghost tales (and tails) for all of us.

Next, to Billie at Camera Obscura, who lives a life of grace and kindness that I much admire. Billie is always there for me with insight and great advice. I know she’s in sync with this kind of thing and I look forward to seeing where she will take us.

Third, to Ewa in her garden in Poland, my friend who connects me with my mother’s roots. Ewa has already taken us on some great spiritual adventures, so I hope that she has fun with this one.

Callie already tagged Arlene at Grey Horse Matters, but if she hadn’t, I would have because I’m so lucky to have her as my friend nearby.

Okay, you go girls - Ghost It Forward!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Thanks Cactus Jack!

I’m so flattered that Cactus Jack Splash (and his mom, the DOR) gave me an award. Jack, who is one handsome horse, is running for President on a very equine appealing platform. I hope you check him out and see if you might want to change your vote - You are voting, aren’t you? Please register right away if you haven’t already.

So, I am going to pass this award on to some of the blogs that I have recently started to read. There are always great discoveries and new friends to be made out in the blogosphere. I can’t possibly include them all, but I want you all to know that I love your blogs too. It’s a wonderful way to travel around the world while sitting in front of the fire in my living room drinking my cup of coffee each morning.

I am sending this award out to:

Saddle Mountain Rider and all her Pony Cousins.

Juli Thorson for her rescue efforts with Keller, the blind horse, and her magazine, Horse & Rider AND Mikey, the horseshoeing housewife, for leaping in to drive Keller to her new home and on a daily basis, saving all those other horses and dogs .

Spartacus Jones who is romancing a cute filly named Brandy.

Lori Skoog who gets up just as early as I do but has a lot more work to do on her farm, not to mention her efforts at the Senior Center and with her art projects.

Cheryl at Desert Horses for rescuing so many great animals from the feedlots.

Please click on the award to pick it up. And I think you know what to do after that. I hope everyone who isn’t familiar with these blogs will pay them a visit. And Silk and Siete want me to give you a message: Vote for Cactus Jack!

PS. So, maybe you guys don't know what to do - Click on the picture of the award, save it to your computer, drop it in like any photo on your blog. mention me, choose some other blogs that you enjoy and recommend them to all of us to check out. That's how you do the Award Dance. Oh, and then I usually bop out to the barn and tell the horses that we got an award..

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Super Charged

Brrr! It was cold last night. I forgot my gloves this morning when I went out to feed the girls and my fingers were numb. After I put the hay in their stalls, Siete strolled out to investigate whether her mama got more than she did - smart little horse. I stuck my head into her stall to see if I needed to fill her water bucket, and I guess Siete thought I was trying to eat her flake of hay. She spun around on her back feet like lightening and thundered back into her stall. Luckily, I leaped out of the way in time, and although it wasn’t a move that I approved of in any way, I did feel a moment of pleasure knowing that Siete is feeling better.

There’s been some frisky horse play and running in the pasture. I was too busy holding my breath to pick up my camera. Hopefully, no one will bruise any hoof on a stone or disturb the healing process. Maybe I should be confining them so they can’t run and hurt themselves, but I’m going to take a chance because I know how badly these horses need to feel normal again.

Watching them, and listening to only the sound of their hooves and the wind rustling the leaves, I was grateful to escape the din of voices of doom and gloom. Driving home from Vermont in the dark Wednesday night, I listened to the debate and pondered the non-stop barrage of bad news that bombards us almost everywhere we go these days. Clearing my brain this morning as I enjoyed the graceful dance that Silk and Siete were doing, I found a way to align myself with what the horses have recently been teaching me.

They have shown me this too shall pass. Through the pain and extensive care caused by their hoof abscesses, I found great value in the ability to “just keep on keeping on”. It’s not helpful to whine or worry. Don’t think, don’t complain, just do what I need to do. Siete’s punky resistance transformed into an understanding that I really was making her feel better. She waits for me at the gate now so I can pick out her feet and quietly stands still while I soak them or paint them or boot them. I don’t need anyone else to hold her. I feel really good that I persevered on those days when I really didn’t want to mess with an irritated horse with sore feet. I’m proud that she and I worked out our differences by ourselves instead of relying on help from someone else.

So, for me, the understanding that healing takes time, doesn’t always appear to be working and is well worth the effort one puts into it can also be applied to some other aspects of our life, especially in the financial realm. The information overload keeps on clamoring that the Recession is going to go on for a long time, but maybe this is also the beginning of something that we can’t quite see just yet.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shooting Apples

I’ve just come back from a quick but intense video shoot in Vermont. My friend and I are putting together a short project for a non-profit organization called Red Tomato. They help farmers find better distribution outlets and encourage them to use more beneficial ecological growing methods. We spent a wonderful day at Sunrise Orchards, with a great family of apple growers. They work unbelievably hard, with boundless love and enthusiasm for what they produce and for the land.

I was stressed out and nervous to be leaving my mom, my daughter, my old ailing dog and my two gimpy horses while my husband was also out of town. Luckily, my sister-in-law stayed here to help me out. The horses were on their best behavior. She loved taking care of them. So, even though I got home after midnight yesterday, everything was calm and happy here.

Being in the apple orchards was really soothing. There was a sense of the majesty of the horizon, with the mountains in the distance and the incredibly vivid fall colors of the trees. It gave me that same kind of combination grounding and freedom that I feel when I’m out west in New Mexico or the desert.

I ate an insane number of apples - at least a dozen, with a wide and exotic range of flavors. The Hodges, who have three generations of family living on the farm, all said that they never get tired of eating apples. I can understand because I was delighted to come home with a big bag of many varieties and exerted a lot of will power to only eat three Honey Crisps today.

It was interesting to learn that the Red Delicious is the most popular apple in this country. It’s probably the only one that I didn’t like. I think that even the best Red Delicious tastes kind of like a potato, and it’s really sad that most children in the United States associate that flavor as “apple”. I see it as a metaphor for what has become misguidedly important - and what’s wrong- with so many other things in America - It’s valued for its beauty, rejected if it’s blemished, thick skinned and lacking flavor. Still, it’s the one that is held up as the favorite.

I didn’t take many still photos because I was so busy shooting apples on videotape. Luckily, I managed to snap one of my new best friend, a great Golden Retriever named Junior - who is one apple lovin’ dog.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Squirreling Away

I’ve been so busy this past week taking care of my horses’ feet that I’ve hardly noticed anything else around here. Silk is stoic about wearing the rubber medicine boot. Siete lets me put the soft boots on her back feet without anyone else holding her or helping me. I just keep doing what I need to do religiously so that they will heal and get feet as hard or even harder than all those rocks.

So, when I staggered out to the tack room in the dark this morning to get the feed, I found a surprise. We have a family of red squirrels living in the old beech tree on our patio. Apparently, they decided that the tack room, which is under the porch, would be a perfect pantry for the winter. I hang the horse blankets from hooks in the ceiling. The entire wall behind them is piled knee high with chestnuts. One of the red babies was snuggled up in the corner, guarding the goodies. We both jumped when I stepped into the darkness and turned on the light. I tried to get a picture of my little buddy, but those guys are fast.

I don’t want the squirrels to decide to taste the horse blankets after they get tired of eating chestnuts. What do you think? I hate to disturb all that hard work. Maybe I’ll just move the blankets to the other wall and “squirrel proof” the tack room, if that’s possible.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The "R" Word

Let’s talk about rearing. It’s the ultimate “no-no” in the horse world, and most people don’t want anyone to know that their horse has done it. Of course, it’s also very scary and dangerous, whether you’re on the horse or holding onto a lead rope standing next to it. Worst case, which I’ve seen, is that the horse loses its balance and falls on the human. Yet, the reality of rearing is that it’s a natural instinct in a horse.

Both my horses have reared up while I was on the ground holding onto them. The first time, Silk had been injured, and the vet didn’t want me to ride her or let her run free for six months. So, by the fifth month, she was feeling better, and I had a powder keg on my hands. I was hand walking her, without wearing gloves, when she reared up and the lead rope tore all the skin off my right hand. It was intensely painful and for a long time, I was terrified of my horse. Eventually, we both healed, physically and emotionally. Silk has never reared again. I think that she was just so frustrated and didn’t think I could understand what she was trying to tell me.

When Siete was born, I used to joke that her mother told her, “If you want to get our human really freaked out, just rear up.” Sure enough, when my little horse was only a few months old, she reared up and got her leg caught in the lead and slammed down on the ground, bruising her shoulder. Fortunately, it wasn’t a serious injury and she scared herself enough to not do it again for a long time.

Unfortunately, last summer, while we were working with a trainer here in our own backyard, Siete started rearing again. It wasn’t a wild, frantic rearing. It was more dainty, like a circus pony. But, Silk was right. It totally freaked me out. The trainer didn’t know what to do. She asked her “mentor”, who was a very well-respected dressage trainer, what she does when a horse rears. The woman replied, “I sell it.” That was the stupidest response I’d ever heard. I knew that my horse was trying to tell me something and I just couldn’t understand it.

I videotaped the trainer riding her and sure enough, my horse reared again. When I watched it several times, it appeared that she was using her legs, urging Siete to go forward, and at the same time, pulling back on Siete’s mouth. That was the end of that trainer. Soon after, it was also determined that Siete had a bad case of Lyme Disease, which was causing a lot of soreness in her legs. While I was taking care of her illness, I decided that I needed to learn more about what to do when a horse rears.

I discovered that there’s not much helpful advice written about it anywhere. Most books just say it’s very dangerous and you should hire a trainer right away. The most important thing I learned was that when a horse’s feet move forward, it can’t rear. So, if you can catch that moment of anticipation before it happens or if you can push the horse forward while it’s happening, you’ll just have a prancing horse and not a rearing horse. Circling the horse is also good because eventually the horse slows down when it gets dizzy. Most important, and most difficult, if I’m on the ground, I step towards the horse’s shoulder. Every instinct makes me want to jump away, but that actually just gives the horse more room to keep rearing.

Siete doesn’t rear often. I can count the number of times she’s done it. Most recently, in the last week, we’ve had two incidents. One was when she wanted the carrots that my mother was waving at her and I insisted that we had to go into the barn. That time, we were in an open area, and I took a deep breath, stepped towards her shoulder and as her front feet hit the ground, I made her move forward in a circle. It was a huge moment for me, a real milestone.

The second time, again after my mom was waving more carrots, I managed to get Siete back to the barn. She reared when I was in the stall with her and I instantly yanked on the lead rope as hard as I could and yelled at her. She put her head down, licking and chewing. My heart was pounding. The next time I led her into her stall, at that same spot, she thought about it again, but I found some kind of energy force in me that was as strong as I could muster. I could tell that she felt it and backed down. Since then, she’s been calm and everything is normal again.

When I read White Horse Pilgrim’s blog the other day, the subject of rearing was being discussed. An inexperienced owner in the barn where he boards his horses has a fancy dressage horse that has begun rearing. This owner was told to find a young rider, make the horse rear and then beat the horse. How insane is that? There was a great response from JME that really reassured me that I was not alone in my feelings on this subject. The horse is doing what it’s instincts tell it to do when it gets so frustrated that it can’t communicate any other way. The people are the ones who need to take a long hard look at what they are doing to cause the horse to respond this way.

My horses have reared, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to sell them or beat them. I’m going to figure out what’s wrong, try to help them feel safe and find the courage to deal with this scary problem. Horses rear, and rather than act like it’s some kind of shameful black mark against them, it would be more helpful if the “experts” in the horse world gave some good advice about what to do when it happens.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Abscessed Or What?

Woe is me! I don’t even know where to begin on this hoof abscess saga. On Monday night, I noticed that Siete was very sore on her front feet. The right one seemed warm. I bedded her stall heavily and gave her a little Bute. That was about all I could do but I worried all night that she was having a laminitis attack. Tuesday morning, her right front was cool, but her left front was warm. Her back left hoof looked like there might be a return of the abscess from last week.

Grey Horse Matter’s daughter, who is a saint, lent me a pair of soft hoof boots called Soft-Ride. I put some Animalintex pads in one and velcroed it on to Siete’s back left hoof. I gave her a little more Bute. She seemed much happier, but I could tell that the other back foot was bothering her. I decided to wait to put both boots on since John, the farrier, was coming today.

So, what I certainly didn’t expect this morning was that Silk would be completely lame on her front right foot when I went out to the barn. I just fell apart emotionally. When something is wrong with Silk, something is equally wrong with me. As you know, she is my soul sister. I put the other soft boot on her front foot with some Animalintex and kept my fingers crossed that John would find an abscess when he came. All the while, I was walking around trying to figure out what’s causing all these abscesses.

I ran over to my local tack store to see if they had any Animalintex. The owner didn’t, but she told me that she’s been having trouble with abscesses too, and there were a couple of other women in the store who also were there for the same reason. They all told me that with the wet weather, the dirt has drained off the pastures and there are so many stones and rocks. The store owner recommended an iodine based hoof disinfectant and hardener by Sore No More. She swears by it, so I got some.

John, the farrier, is such a good guy. He was gentle and sympathetic and most of all, so fast. I told him that if there was ever a contest for who could trim a hoof the fastest, he’d win. With all these sore feet, he had to be quick because neither horse could balance herself for long. We started with Siete. He reassured me that he didn’t think she was foundering. He found bruises on the soles of both her back feet. He said that she was putting so much weight on her front feet since she couldn’t rest on the back ones that the front ones were sore now. He strongly urged me to use an iodine and sugar slush in the soft boots on both back feet. That’s what we used in Virginia. It draws the abscess and toughens the hoof. So, that’s what I’ve done. Siete isn’t thrilled by it, but she’s got no choice tonight.

Silk was so sore that she could barely walk out of her stall. John couldn’t find an abscess, but I think it’s just up deep inside and will come out through the coronet band. He mentioned navicular, which sent me into a small panic. We decided that if this lameness comes and goes, I need to check out that horrible possibility. Silk was so good. She leaned her head and shoulder on me, pressing her face firmly up against my heart while he worked on the sore foot. I was almost crying because I felt how painful it was for her. Amazingly, she let him trim the other three feet, and he did it so deftly that I was really impressed. She could hardly walk back to her stall. I gave her some Bute and put the clunky rubber medicine boot with Animalintex in it on her front right foot. When I came out to feed the horses their dinner, Silk was in Siete’s stall, seeking comfort from her daughter. As she walked to her own, she was definitely putting more weight on the sore foot so I think the Animalintex is doing its magic.

So, we’ll see how they are both doing in the morning. I’m considering buying these Soft Ride boots for all eight horsey feet and just putting them on each time I turn them out. Siete was trying to rub hers off tonight. I’m so tired and emotionally whipped that I’m going to crawl into bed. I’ve got so much other real work right now that tomorrow needs to be spent concentrating less on horse hooves and more on writing and preparing for a documentary shoot next week. Enough obsessing about abscesses.

Thursday morning update: Both horses were standing on all legs and hungry this morning. I'm in a much better frame of mind - It rained during the night, but the ground absorbed it so there's no mud or puddles. I'm grateful for small victories right now.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What Can Happen

Now that I have a few days distance from it, I can write about what happened with Siete on Thursday and Friday. It doesn’t seem as horrible now as it did at the time, so I’m trying to get a more philosophical perspective on it. Here’s the story:

Thursday afternoon, before my husband was rushing out of town to work, I begged him to help me put “soft” boots on Siete’s back feet. The vet really wanted me to use the poultices on both feet at the same time. So, I put together these very nice little booties of duct tape, vet tape and Animalintex. I discovered that the sound of duct tape being pulled off the roll is one of the only things that has ever spooked Siete. We managed to tape one bootie on her back right foot. It was getting late, there was a train to catch, and most of us were getting very testy and tense. Suddenly, my 94-year old mother waltzes out of the house waving carrots at us, wanting to “help”. I yelled at her to go away. Siete saw the carrots and reared up trying to show her enthusiasm. Yes! Carrots! No! Booties!

The battle began. I wasn’t about to let her have the carrots after she behaved so badly. There was no way that the other bootie was going on her left back foot. She was really mad at us. My husband was pretty steamed too. He managed to get her back in her stall, but she reared up again when he was in there with her. She freaked out rolling and struggling to get the duct taped boot off. Finally, she managed to break through the bottom of it so that it was wrapped around her ankle like a bracelet. It was a nightmare. Fortunately, no one was hurt. I drove my husband to the train station and decided to leave Siete with the bandage around her leg until morning. My mother refused to believe that she had done anything wrong. She called me a control freak.

Friday, when I was all alone with the horses, Siete was a perfect angel. She stood still while I took a scissors and cut the bandage off. I finished all the hoof related doctoring that needed to be done. I did some groundwork with her, and she responded like a good girl. Then, it was noon, and Silk wanted to come in from the pasture for her lunch and a siesta. The horses were at the gate. As usual, Silk stood ground tied while I led Siete out first. Again, my mother appeared out of the blue, shouting that someone had called while waving a cordless phone and a handful of carrots at me. Siete noticed before I did. I yelled at Mom to go back in the house, but she’s almost deaf. She was determined not to be dissuaded from her mission. Siete was prancing like crazy. I was turning her in circles. My mother was feeding carrots to Silk. I couldn’t see letting Siete have a carrot while she was so riled up.

I managed to lead her into the barn. Amazing that she went with me. Again, once inside the stall, facing the back, she tried to rear up. I just lost it, yelling at her and jerking the lead rope as hard as I could. She stopped, snorting loudly and I was able to turn her around so I would eventually be able to get out of the stall safely. I didn’t really want to reward her by letting her go eat out of her feed bucket, so I made her stand still and wait. She wasn’t happy, but she didn’t try to push me out of the way. I counted to thirty and then let her eat.

I was shaking when I got out of the barn and went back to Silk who was still standing patiently at the gate. My mother had huffed back into the house, angry at me. After leading Silk to the barn, I stormed into the house and had a big argument with my mother. She has no clue what she did wrong, and I realized that there’s no way that I can make her understand that she must not do that carrot waving thing again EVER!!!

So, I’ve waited until my mom was napping to bring the horses in for the last two days. Fortunately, she usually takes a siesta herself every day. I’m going to try to sit down with her and explain why what she did was dangerous. Unfortunately, it’s like trying to talk to a child. She is so stubborn that she can handle herself around the horses and mad at me that I don’t allow her to help me anymore. The reality is that she has very fogged vision from her macular degenerative disease and refuses to wear hearing aids so she can’t hear what anyone says. I appreciate that she wants to keep pretending she’s fine, but it terrifies me that she - or one of us - will get hurt.

Siete’s feet are doing much better, and she’s not being a punk. I understand why she reacted the way that she did, but I don’t want her to think that she can behave like that. I must work on her stall manners. I pride myself on having horses that are safe to be around. It’s amazing how fast that can change and a bad habit can develop.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Needing A Digression

I had such a rough couple of days with my mom, which carried over to things that she did to cause problems with Siete. Added to the drama, Velcro, my cat, brought up a live mouse from the basement and for twenty-four hours, it was a crazy battle in my dining room between both my felines and the very fast, clever fellow. I kept trying to help the little guy, but he refused to let me catch him so I could put him outside, alive and free. Instead, this morning, I had to dispose of a dead mouse at 5 am.

So, I spent a few hours while the rest of the house was sleeping, reading my favorite blogs and discovering some new ones, just to change the channel around here. I don’t know if you are feeling this way, but as the seasons change, I’ve been starting to cook and bake more. There are some good old favorite dishes that everyone in my family looks forward to each Fall. I tend to work seasonally in my kitchen, trying to use what’s fresh and most interesting at the local farms.

I want to share some of the cooking blogs I’ve found because I’m so amazed by the talent of some of the people who are so generous and entertaining about sharing their cooking secrets. So, if you like to cook, check these out: orangette, smittenkitchen, the Wednesday chef and Matt Bites. I’m going to be baking some stuffed tomatoes, looking for Hatch chiles and cippolines (onions) and creating a magnificent chocolate peanut butter cake for my husband, thanks to their recipes.

I also am so glad to be part of the horse blogging community. All over the country, I see so many of you stepping forward to help unwanted and starving horses. I see bloggers giving horses to each other and getting together face-to-face or over the telephone to help one another. It’s really wonderful, and I am so proud to be part of this ever-growing group of friends who care about each other and share their experience and wisdom. The Internet has become a vital, exciting and comforting place for me to visit each day in these chaotic, troubled times. It’s a real oasis out here on the Net. And did I mention the gardening bloggers? They’re a very cool group too. The world is certainly a richer and more connected place to live since I’ve discovered the blogosphere.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My New Barn Buddy

This is my new barn buddy. She is a child of Siete’s bunny that I told you about earlier this summer. My daughter has named her BunBun. Over last week-end, BunBun began to appear when I was mucking out the stalls. She sleeps and hides under the barn and in the day lilies next to it. I chased away Benjamin, the black cat who lives next door, last Saturday because he was lurking in the drainage ditch and I knew what that meant. I guess BunBun decided that I was her guardian angel.

So, each morning, as I pull up my bucket and fill up my fork, the little rabbit comes closer and closer to me. It’s almost like she wants me to pet her or pick her up. Today, she let me sit next to her and take her picture. I gave her some carrot bits. I’ve started to be very aware of the noise I make when I clean the stalls. I try to stay as silent as possible so BunBun won’t get frightened. She stays with me until I’m done and then disappears into her little hole under Siete’s stall.

I looked up what it means when a rabbit comes into your life in Ted Andrews’ “Animal Speak”. He says that you should be aware of 28 day lunar cycles, since that is the fertility cycle of a bunny. Ask yourself what the cycle is manifesting. Also, while many associate fear with rabbits, they are also wonderful at defending themselves. Given the battles I’ve been having with Siete, I can see the relationship to that quite clearly. They are good at not giving themselves away, so he suggests that they symbolize the importance of planning for possibilities and foreshadowing of my moves. They are also extremely fast, indicating that there may be opportunities that present themselves and must be acted on quickly.

“Rabbit can show you how to recognize the signs around you. It can help you to attune to the lunar cycle and recognize the tides of movement within your life. This in turn will enable you to become even more fertile in your life.”

I just hope that BunBun is fast enough to avoid Benjamin.