Thursday, June 16, 2011


Monday, Silk started limping on her back right leg. It was a little swollen and warm. I began soaking it and called my farrier to let him know that if things didn’t improve, I would need him to stop by later in the week. Then, yesterday in the middle of an incredibly busy afternoon, Siete was dramatically lame on her front left foot.

We had a huge rainstorm earlier in the week, after it had been dry for about five days. This is usually the perfect storm for the horses to develop abscesses. So, I was hoping and praying that this was the problem. Of course, you know me, I went to all kinds of other terrible places in my mind. I started with Siete having laminitis, since her foot was so warm and she was standing with her front legs spread wide, and then, I imagined Lyme Disease again. Even the dosing of 30 days of antibiotics seemed like it would be a blessing compared to laminitis. And let's not forget, I also had Silk to obsess about with her swollen back foot. The rough waters of the Sea of Worry were testing me. Like a mantra to calm myself, I kept coming back to “It’s just an abscess.”

Dropping every other ball I had in the air, I sent out frantic calls for Johnny, the farrier, and began soaking and packing Siete’s feet along with Silk’s. I gave them both some banamine, which helped ease the pain, and locked them in their stalls. I stopped feeding Siete any grain and soaked her hay. She only got a small handful for dinner. Johnny told me that he’d come by after lunch the next day. I didn’t sleep well last night, but was heard mumbling, ”only an abscess”.

It was so good to see two red heads poking out of the barn this morning. More soaking, more Animalintex poultices, more banamine and very little hay, but the girls were very mellow about it. I kept promising them that I would make them both feel better soon. I also called the vet and told her what was happening. She said it’s the season of the abscess with this dry and then extreme wet weather. She also told me to call her after Johnny was here and if he didn’t find anything, she’d stop by to look at them.

So, I wandered around for four hours, trying to get things done that I had abandoned yesterday, pretending that I wasn’t worried, hoping and praying, reassuring myself that I had two horse professionals who would help me figure this out today. And then, Johnny came.

It’s abscesses!!! Hooray! Who ever thought I’d be celebrating about hoof abscesses?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Score One for Mother Nature

I opened the gate between the barn and the pasture yesterday and noticed something big and dark out in the grass. To my joy and amazement, it was a large snapping turtle about the size of a dinner plate. You may recall that last year, we had a tragedy when our resident mother turtle, an ancient creature about two feet in diameter, was hit by the school bus on the road in front of our house. I imagine that this new younger girl is probably one of her daughters. The big mama used to travel from the pond in the woods behind our house over to our neighbor’s yard across the street, lay her eggs and trek back to the pond at exactly this time every year for as long as anyone around here could remember. So, seeing another turtle follow her path was cause for celebration. I immediately closed the pasture gate to give her safe passage and called all of my neighbors to tell them the good news.

Then, I pulled Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews, off of my bookshelf to find out what the appearance of a turtle in my life might signify. The turtle is an animal whose magic can help you unite heaven and earth within your own life. It is sometimes known as “the keeper of doors”, crossing between land and water and between earthly and spirit realms. “If a turtle shows up, you may need to ask yourself some questions. Are you not seeing what you should? Are you not hearing what you should?” A snapping turtle may indicate the ability to grab and use the mouth, i.e. your voice, in new ways. “ Turtles remind us that the way to heaven is through the earth. In Mother Earth is all that we need.”

After about a half and hour, the turtle had successfully negotiated crossing the pasture, and I opened the gate so the horses could come out. The sun was shining, the temperature was back down to normal, and there was a great sense of renewal in the air. The night before, we had another huge scary thunderstorm, with two funnel clouds sighted within a few miles on either side of where we live. Many trees were knocked down, and on the other side of town, there was still no power. So we were very lucky, and Siete trotted around like she owned the world.

Everyone is talking about how crazy the weather is this summer, and I thought about a quote that I read in the NY Times from Paul Gilding’s book, The Great Disruption: Why the Climate Crisis Will Bring On the End of Shopping and the Birth of a New World: “When you are surrounded by something so big that requires you to change everything about the way you think and see the world, then denial is the natural response. But the longer we wait, the bigger the response required.”

“If you cut down more trees than you grow, you run out of trees,” writes Gilding. “If you put additional nitrogen into a water system, you change the type and quantity of life that water can support. If you thicken the Earth’s CO2 blanket, the Earth gets warmer. If you do all these and many more things at once, you change the way the whole system of planet Earth behaves, with social, economic, and life support impacts. This is not speculation; this is high school science.”

So, while Mother Nature reminds me that the cycle of life, at least as far as snapping turtles go, continues in good health, I also feel it’s time to start speaking out about how we are damaging the earth and making ourselves sick and scared when we actually have the capabilities to solve these problems that we have created. Denial is a slow seeping poison, and I try to keep it out of my life. I wish that other people would realize the damage that it can do.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Don't Dream Too Small

At 2 am last night, it was as if someone blasted a spotlight over our house and slammed the door on the Universe. The lightning and thunder were so close that it shook me to my core. I leaped out of bed and ran downstairs to unplug the computers. Thank God, I had turned off the fan in the barn. The electrical hook-up out there is so funky that I don’t like to leave anything on while I’m not awake or nearby. It was still almost 90 degrees at nine o’clock last night, so I had kept the doors to the stalls open in front. I saw Siete rush in to be with her mommy, just like my daughter did with me when the next flash and crash struck.
So now, I was wide-eyed and jittery as the storm passed over us, and my child slept peacefully beside me. It gave me a chance to reflect on my life, as I am wont to do when I find myself sitting up in bed in the middle of a thunderstorm. This has been a week of milestones around here. It was our 19th anniversary on Monday, although my husband was out of town working so we haven’t celebrated it yet. Last year, the day after our anniversary was when my mother had her big dementia breakdown and ended up in the hospital. Looking back on how bad and scary it was, I thought that it’s truly a miracle how content and happy she is now. She lives in a nursing home that is so amazing. The people who work there are loving and devoted to enriching the residents’ lives. I never worry about whether she is being well-cared for and safe. And our own home is a much more relaxed and enjoyable place now that we don’t have all that stress and craziness.
In an effort to move on, my husband recently transformed my mother’s sitting room in the back of our house into my office. He set up my desk so I can look out the window at the horses, which gives me great pleasure. As I was moving my files and books, I found a folder in which I had written a list of goals back in 2007. I was sad to see that I had accomplished none of them. At the same time, it was interesting that they were all the same things that I still dream of today. It’s been bugging me, but last night, in between the lightning flashes, I had a realization. For some reason, it usually takes me six years to achieve whatever I am trying to do. I don’t know why that cycle repeats itself in my life, but this week is the beginning of the sixth year that we’ve lived here. So, maybe I am going to accomplish a few of those goals now. I heard a great line from someone yesterday: “Don’t dream too small.”
Meanwhile, with temperatures of almost 100 today, I’m focused on hosing down the horses and keeping them safe. As I’ve told Siete about ten times today already, “Drink water, little one.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

Not To Worry

I was cleaning Silk’s hooves last week when I noticed that she had chipped a large chunk off her back right foot. Our farrier, Johnny, and I have been concerned about the way that Silk’s hoof had grown a strange flair and is angling out. We believe that she had an injury years ago and now, at 23, the arthritis and wear and tear on her back legs is causing it to twist slightly to the right. My old farrier suffered from a bad back during his last few months of working on the girls, and he wasn’t getting under them enough to do the job the way he should have. Johnny has slowly been trying to trim the hoof back to correct it. When I picked out Silk’s feet, I was alarmed that it appeared that the hoof wall was separating away in what seemed like white line disease, only more severe.

I had a small panic. The holiday weekend was just starting. Silk didn’t appear to be limping or in any pain, but I’ve never seen my horse’s feet look like that. There was a thick hoof wall and then a sizable crater. I put Animalintex and a boot on her and called the farrier. When he returned my phone call on Saturday morning, I wasn’t home. My husband explained my concern, and Johnny told him that he wasn’t worried. He said I should relax since it was her flaired back hoof not a front hoof, and that he would call me on Monday night to schedule when he would come out this week. Well, the reality was that I was worried, and Silk kept kicking her boot off and I didn’t like the way her foot looked at all. I even had a friendly neighbor who owns horses stop by to check it out. She agreed that she’s never seen anything that looked like that, although Silk seemed to be walking just fine. Okay -- I admit that many times, when I have other things worrying me, I transfer my anxiety to my horses’ well-being. I come up with some reason like this to stress out and avoid focusing on the non-horse-related problem. So, truth be told, there was some of that going on here.

On Monday night, Johnny called to tell me that he wouldn’t be able to get out to my place until Friday (today). He assured me again that since it was a back hoof, and she wasn’t even limping, it was probably not as bad as I thought. My voice did not sound convinced, and he could hear it. The next afternoon, as I was at the grocery store, my husband called to tell me that Johnny was in our driveway. He had some time in between jobs, and he came over to trim the horses four days early. I raced home and found my husband holding Silk while my farrier worked on her front hooves. It was a beautiful sight. As I’ve told you before, that Johnny is a good man.

It turned out that he had trimmed her back hoof so that it would grow this way to allow him to cut more off of it and not have her be sore. As soon as he pared away the hoof, the scary hollowed out part next to the hoof wall was totally leveled, and everything looked really fine. He was actually very pleased by how well she was coming along. The flair was practically gone, and after one more trim, she should be back to normal. He told me that it was really bugging him that I would probably be upset all the way until Friday, so he figured out a way to come the day after we spoke. I thanked him for being so considerate and pointed out that now, he could sleep later on Friday morning and I could sleep easier tonight.

When something is not okay with my horses, my mind has a tendency to fear the worst. It’s one of the lessons that I’m forced to learn over and over because I care too much and my sense of security is so dependent on everyone in the barn being healthy and happy. I should know by now that I over-obsess about every “off” moment that Silk and Siete have, and that as Silk is in her senior years, these little problems will most likely become more frequent. It reminds me that after decades of taking care of horses, I still have a lot to learn. When I assume something awful is about to happen, and it turns out to be the opposite and all good, there’s not only a flood of relief but also a big reminder that I need to stay open to the possibilities and not jump to dire conclusions.