Saturday, March 28, 2009

Back Among the Living

I am emerging from the bottomless fog of coughing, sneezing, and nose blowing, but I’m still only moving at half speed. It seems like I’ve been sick forever. I don’t really remember what it feels like to be normal, but I know that when I feel it I will be very appreciative of it. My daughter also got really seriously congested, and she’s on medication three times a day. She had bacterial pneumonia a few years ago, so her doctor was very concerned with this illness. I am really relieved that she is doing great, but I think the worry and stress took its toll on me.

Of course, my husband is away on business, so I’m struggling to keep all the animals fed, clean and happy. I have a new awareness of how many almost unconscious little chores I do all day long. On my way to do one thing, I usually also do two or three other things, whether it’s taking out trash or moving “dog” towels from the washer to the dryer or filling a water bucket. This week, it took all my energy and focus to just do the one thing that I set out to do, and I usually had to go lie down for a few minutes after I did it. Fortunately, I’m able to concentrate a little more now and my multi-tasking abilities are gradually returning.

The horses have been full of Spring Fever. That new gate was a life-saver for me since they can run around whenever they want now. They are a dusty, shedding mess. I can’t quite face grooming them yet. I think I won’t be able to breathe if all that hair and dirt start swirling around me. It’s funny how Siete can sense my weakened energy level and is taking every advantage she can to challenge me. Silk went after her a few times, as if to reprimand her for trying to be too pushy with me. I’ve tried to hold my ground, but I’ve basically been a limp noodle all week. I totally disconnected from the horses at one point, just barely being able to throw some flakes of hay at them and make sure they had water to drink. I don’t recall ever having been that unconcerned about them. I was just to sick to care about anything.

So, I apologize for disappearing and for not visiting anyone for a while. I’m hoping that with a quiet weekend and some more rest, I’ll be back in the swing of things next week. At one point, as I staggered around with a muck fork, I realized that I was missing some great riding time this week. No bugs, dry and sunny but still cool enough, but if I had tried to sit on a horse at that moment I would have probably ended up draped over her neck like a ragdoll. I’m hoping that Spring will give me another chance or two before we roll right into the higher temps and the flies and mosquitoes come back into town.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Small Miracle

I’ve been laid low by this miserable cold/flu/cough for days and days. I feel like I’m 180 years old, aching and pathetic. Yesterday, I was bemoaning how difficult it is not to be able to just open the barn and the gates and let the horses come and go as they want during the day from their stalls to the corral to the pasture. We had this time consuming ritual of walking them with their lead ropes from the corral to the pasture and from the pasture back to the barn, even though they are right next to each other.

It’s been a point of contention between me and my husband. He is the Protector of the Ditch. If the drainage ditch between the corral and the pasture gets blocked, we’ve got flooding. Despite my promises to clean the ditch religiously, I’ve never been able to convince him that we should just put in a gate between the corral and the pasture.

Maybe it was because I was so sad or so beaten down by the flu or maybe he just wanted to let me know how much he loves me, but a small miracle happened while I was napping. Our neighbor had an extra gate that he gave us, and my husband pulled the fence rails and installed it in less than an hour. When I looked out the window from upstairs, I thought I was dreaming. There was my gate, with my horses curiously sniffing it and looking towards the house to see if I was going to open it any time soon.

I staggered out and set them free. They are in heaven. I am astonished by the flexibility and the possibilities suddenly offered to me. It takes so little to make us happy in our little herd.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On the Wings of Warm Weather

I am trying not to be superstitious. Siete has been running around like a healthy horse, so the farrier and I are talking about putting shoes on the normal way this month instead of reversing them on her front feet. I don’t want to jinx anything by saying that we are doing really well, but I’m going to risk it. It’s a way of offering hope to anyone who is going through some of the same scary hoof problems we encountered six months ago.

All that said, today, Siete threw her front left shoe, which is the foot where we had all the problems. So now, I’m going to be calling the farrier first thing in the morning to come earlier than planned. Until he gets here, I’ll use one of the boots that Grey Horse Matters’ daughter let me borrow last fall. Another superstition I’ve secretly had is that as soon as I returned the boots, Siete would need them. Luckily, I heeded that one.

Now that I’ve lived through several years of Silk itching like crazy and Siete developing hoof abscesses and both horses having Lyme Disease, I hope that I’ve learned enough to prevent another round of these seasonal problems. I’m going to be vigilant. I know the warning signs. I’ve got all the sprays and meds and boots and poultices on hand. As bad as winter is, with the cold and the ice and the snow, there aren’t any bugs. When I think about it, the bugs are what get us every time. Isn’t it amazing that tiny insects that are almost invisible can cause such havoc and pain to a 1000-pound horse? This year, I swear I’m ready for them.

The daffodils are coming up. The forsythia and lilacs and azaleas are budding. Can the ticks and mosquitoes and flies be far behind? I hope so.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Honest and Full of Scraps

Kicking me out of my end of winter doldrums, Saddle Mountain Rider honored me with the “Honest Scrap” award. Thanks, oh great leader of the Pony Cousins for including me in your tribe! It seems very appropriate to receive this at a time in my life where I am trying to be true to myself and to conserve every scrap of everything.

There are two tasks that go along with this award. The first is easy. I have to send this award on to seven blogs that deserve it. Since there are so many blogs I enjoy reading, I hope that you will follow these links to learn more about our friends in the blogosphere. The second task is to tell everyone 10 things about myself. Since I’ve been blogging for so long and you know so much about me already, I am going to have to chew on some scraps to see what I can come up with that’s worth revealing.

Okay, I send the “Honest Scrap” award out to:

M.C. Valada at Out of the Darkroom
Detroit Dog at the Doghouse
Lori Skoog at the Skoog Farm
DeeJ at Oak in the Seed
Pony Girl who takes such good care of My Boy
Nuzzling Muzzles and her herd
Jack, his DOR and Freedom at Journeys of Cactus Jack Splash

You guys know how this goes -- Grab the award, paste it on your blog with a link back to me, send it along to seven other blogging friends and tell us 10 things about yourself and don’t forget to be honest!

Here we go:

1. I’ve lost my edge. If you find it, you can keep it. I used to be a driven woman, but now I find my vulnerability is what keeps me strong. Every once in a while, my husband has to remind me to “put on your New York boots” and kick some you-know-what, but I try to avoid it.

2. I always wanted to be a rock ‘n roll star. For years, I sang so off-key that I had to mouth the words to “Happy Birthday” to avoid embarrassment. Finally, I took some singing lessons from a friend’s sister. Now, I don’t croak, but my daughter still won’t let me sing along with her in the car.

3. I love to paint. I started with oils when I was only 7 years old. As I grew older and had less space, I used watercolors. Now, I have the room for it, but not the time. Some day, I intend to pull out the easel and the brushes and get back to it.

4. I really want a greenhouse. My husband has promised to build me one so that I can grow orchids and other treasures all year round. I can’t wait for Spring so I can get down on my knees and start digging in the dirt.

5. I believe that the success of anything you do comes with the attention you pay to the details. I’m a borderline perfectionist, having been raised by one and being married to one. It’s the little touches that make something special.

6. I need a vacation. Haven’t had one in years, and until I can find someone that I trust who will be able to take care of my mom and all the animals and remain sane and happy while doing it, I probably won’t be going far from home.

7. I’m a softie, especially when it comes to animals and especially since I’ve lost my edge. Whether it’s the two red squirrels who live in my tack room or the birds that nest in the barn, I haven’t yet been able to ask them to move on. Mark my words, I’m going to live to regret it.

8. I enjoy routine, both with the horses and in the mundane tasks of running errands and keeping our life on an even keel. I think that Silk especially appreciates my routines and rituals. In fact, she’s the one who taught me the importance of them.

9. Siete, on the other hand, teaches me by challenging the routine. She forces me to stay on my toes and be flexible since I never know what new trick she’s got in store for me.

10. I am never bored. My life is full to the bursting, and when I’m old and grey, I will be happy to get to do all the things that I don’t have time to do now.

Friday, March 13, 2009

In Memory of Ray Hunt

We lost one of the world’s greatest horsemen yesterday. Ray Hunt passed away, and even up until the last moment, the “Master of Communication” was still teaching us how to find harmony with horses. On his website, there’s a clinic he was planning to hold at his ranch in Texas during the first week of April. He was the first person to introduce me to a better way to gain a horse’s trust and cooperation. He was one of my heroes.

What he taught me, at a time when no one I knew even thought about this, was that I had to look for even the smallest try, the slightest change from my horse and appreciate it and build on it.

“Don’t make the horse do all the work. He shouldn’t have to figure you out and learn to get out of your way to get things done. I don’t think anybody should have to get out of anyone’s way in life - a horse or a dog or anything else…. We can learn to understand one another if we listen to one another, if we respect one another’s thoughts.”

Ray Hunt wrote that in 1978 in his amazing little book, " Think Harmony with Horses". Thirty years later, he left this world knowing that a lot of people listened to him and a lot of horses are living better lives thanks to his efforts. My heart goes out to his wife, Carolyn, and his friends and horses. He will be missed by many and long and lovingly remembered.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Siesta in the Sun

Silk had a lovely siesta in the sun today. I came out of the house to find her stretched out on the ground, and all she did was wiggle her ears when I spoke to her. It was very unusual for her to be so relaxed and not get up as soon as she saw me. I stood with Siete and scratched her neck for a long while as Silk continued to nap. Finally, Silk tucked her legs under and waited for me to come over and rub her back.

It was such a contrast to yesterday, when the horses had been running around like crazy. Silk was very agitated about something, and there was nothing I could do to make her comfy. I finally ended up bringing her into her stall and closing the back window so she would calm down and feel safe. Who knows whether they felt the presence of some animal in the woods behind us. Today, whatever it was, it had gone on its way.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Better Days

Don’t tell anyone, but I skipped out for a quick visit to New York City last night. It was a brief escape but boy, did I need it!

My husband held down the fort while I joined a group of my girlfriends to celebrate the birthday of our dear departed friend, Pat. Hard to believe that it’s been a year since she was gone, and as great as it was to see everyone, there was a noticeable hole in the evening. We all cooked recipes that she taught us and exchanged wonderful stories about the thirty plus years that we’ve all known each other. The party was held at a very special penthouse apartment that has extra meaning for me because it’s where my husband asked me to marry him eighteen years ago. This is the view from the terrace.

Back at home, we’ve had good news. Pepper’s blood test came back without any major problems. She’s got a very bad urinary tract infection and terrible arthritis. The tramadol helps her sleep through the night, but if I give it to her during the day she can’t stand up because she gets so woozy. The antibiotics upset her stomach so I give her Pepcid. We’ve got three more weeks of pills, and she hasn’t any appetite. Last night, my husband could only get three of the five pills she takes into her. I’m hoping that the warmer weather will help since we can get her to move around outside a little. I’ve heard about a place that does swimming therapy for dogs, so I’m going to check it out.

It was a glorious morning in New York City. The air was so soft and warm, and the sun was shining. I walked down through Central Park before hopping on the train. But as much as I love Manhattan, I was really happy to get home. Everyone here was so glad to see me -- especially Silk.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day

It’s another snow day, with all of us stuck at home as the white stuff falls, and the wind blows big drifts. Siete is outside in the corral, like a kid playing in it. Silk is sensible and dry, tucked away in Siete’s stall.

Back here in the house, I am marveling at the resilience of my dog’s spirit. Throughout the night on Saturday, Pepper couldn’t walk or even stand up. She barked weakly at 3 am and woke me up. I came downstairs to find her lying in a big mess. After cleaning it up and washing her, I crawled back to bed for two hours. At 5 am, she woke me up again, to a replay of more big mess. Figuring I might as well get up, I sat on the dog bed with her after again cleaning and washing her and wondered what I should do.

I knew the vet had Monday off. I knew that my husband was leaving on Tuesday for a business trip for the week. I knew that if the dog can’t even stand up, it would be really difficult for me to deal with all of this by myself until he came home. I also decided that when it’s time, Pepper is going to die here at home and not in the vet’s office. But was it time? I really felt scared and unsure about what to do. So, I just sat next to my dog and hugged her and thought about all the other times in the last 14 years that I had sat and hugged Pepper when I was scared. She’s good at reassuring me. I call her my “angel dog”.

Finally, she barked again, so I decided to see if she could get up. Not only did she stand, but she walked all the way to the back door and outside on the patio. She took care of her business, and we went back inside as if everything were normal. I wondered if the Tramadol might be so strong that it made her too out of it to stand or walk. I didn’t give her any more during the day, but last night before she went to sleep, I gave her a pill. She slept soundly and so did I. There were no accidents, and even with this heavy snowfall, she’s been able to walk on her own outside three times today. Needless to say, I’m feeling better now that she’s feeling better.

This morning, cruising around on the Internet, I came across the website of Dr. Judith Orloff. Dr. Orloff is an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at UCLA who mixes traditional medicine with intuition, energy and spirituality to teach us how to achieve emotional healing. She has a new book, “Emotional Freedom”, which is getting a lot of attention. I’ve ordered a copy of it after reading the following excerpt from it:

“Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” To tap this, we must appreciate that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. It’s impossible to grasp how we tick emotionally without a cosmic perspective; everything about us, including our biology, is an expression of the divine. Seeing emotions as a training ground for the soul frames every victory over fear, anxiety and resentment as a way to develop your spiritual muscles and be better able to love and cultivate goodness. Anything that keeps you from your light distances your spiritual connection too.”

"Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life" by Judith Orloff

Thanks, Dr. Orloff. I really needed that right now.