Thursday, December 31, 2009

lonely sailors pass the time away

Maizie and I headed out this morning for a New Year's Eve kayak trip. The temperatures were warm and the water was calm. At least it was calm in our inlet! We hit a fierce wind as we made our way south. We certainly earned our breakfast! Our local McDonald's is on the water and provides boaters with a handy dock. As we tied up our little crafts, other boaters were docking for their New Year's Eve breakfasts too. Our trip back was quick and easy as we were with the wind. I am shocked at how much kayaking is like riding. Maizie on her "horse" and me on mine. We are out in nature enjoying secret views. It is probably not like riding at all, but I am horse deprived! I went to see dear, sweet Thoroughbred Red yesterday. She nickered and nuzzled me up. It is going to be hard not to ride this year! As I was tying up the kayaks after we had finished, Maizie kept apologizing for not helping. I laughed and explained how easy it is to "tack" and "untack" the kayaks! They don't wiggle or move like Pie and Sovey! Below is Maizie in all her cuteness!

Here is the view from our porch. I just love how the sun glistens off the water.

Can you see the bird on a branch in this photo below?

It is a Cormorant and he (or one of his relatives) caused us a heap of trouble on New Year's Eve in 2004. I guess we caused our own trouble because of our lack of Cormorant knowledge. That entire Christmas week we had observed Mr. C. sunning himself, wings outstretched on this very branch, below. As the New Year approached, it seemed to us that he never left the spot. He must be stuck we reasoned. Why else would he stay in that exact position? No bird, we thought, would purposely stay with wings outstretched for hours on end, days even. On New Year's Eve, Brian and I began to seriously worry that we had no choice but to "rescue" this bird from certain death. He must be caught in a fishing line and would die from dehydration and starvation. (My imagination can get rolling and I usually am able to bring Brian right along with it.) I frantically phoned the local bird authorities. No answer - it was a holiday. All our neighbors had headed north, but I left nervous messages on their answering machines anyway, asking for help. Brian and I got into our bathing suits and geared up to dive off the dock to make a swimming rescue. We had scissors and wire cutters and shoes and gloves. The very second we went to dive the bird just took off - it flew away!!!! It wasn't stuck at all! We learned later that the Cormorant is known for finding branches to stretch out on and staying like that for hours! Duh! I was terribly embarrassed about my messages, but what else is new? I can just imagine the employees of the seabird rescue station returning from holiday and falling down on the floor laughing at my breathless plea.

Brian is demonstrating, below, our usual position on the back porch. The porch is like a beach cabana, keeping wind at bay and allowing us sun and shade and perfect weather no matter what is really happening outside. We also have a radio out there and we listen to a silly, soft, easy listening station that plays sappy songs from the 70's that bring tears to my eyes. It is nostalgic and relaxing and everything a vacation should be. You can just see my iced tea glass and coffee mug and book in the photo. The book is The Pink Motel. Right before we left home, Maizie's school library was giving away the "old" books to make room for new. Maizie and I are obsessed with old children's books. Often the stories are so much better than the new fare. Maizie inhaled the book whole on our trip down here. She said that it is ironically a mystery set in sunny Florida. It was written in 1959. I can't wait to begin. Happy New Year everyone!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another song, another mile

After we dug out from our snowstorm last week, Brian, Maizie, Noodlebug and I safely made our annual trek to St. Petersburg Florida. In addition to showing how dirty our windshield is, this photo I took sort of captures the sad, long December shadows on I-95 through the Carolinas. I always feel very melancholy at this point in the trip. I look forward to the Florida sun, but it is sad leaving everyone behind at home. Especially this year. My mom is staying behind to be with her dog, Eby, and has graciously (and bravely) taken on the horsekeeping of two giant Thoroughbreds, Pie and Sovereign. Brian made changes to the barn so that turnout of the boys would be “easier” but with the snow, and now mud, nothing is easy. Every report from my mom has been excellent about how the boys are behaving, but the weather has been simply awful. Our lovely pastures are nothing but mud because the snow melted so quickly. In addition, she has the daily stall cleaning and bucket scrubbing. When we return, we will take over Eby’s care and Mom will come down to Florida for a hero’s well-earned vacation.

Staying in my family’s condo is like walking into a time machine. Everything is exactly as it was in 1973, when it was built. It is so much fun. Here is a painting I did of the kitchen. The counters really are orange. The appliances really are avocado. There is a dome light ceiling. We love the contrast from our English cottage lifestyle at home.
The most magnificent part of our vacation is the back porch. The condo is on an intercoastal waterway. We have a dock and a back porch that is warm and private and has an island bird sanctuary directly across from us. We spend most of our time out there reading and playing games and just soaking in the sun. Dolphins often swim up! We haven’t taken Maizie to Disney or any place like that. The condo is part of a retirement community. Maizie really gets on well with all the elderly people. We play shuffleboard, tennis, bocce ball and we use the putting green. We bike to the grocery store, library and beach. To us it is idyllic, but I am sure it would be boring to other people!

Here is a photo of Maizie and Noodlebug taken right before we left. I love both of them so much! They are such good travelers. Both ride in the van without any complaints. Maizie made a cd for all of us to enjoy on the long trip down to Florida. She is 11 years old now and so intelligent and sweet and athletic and all the things a parent could ever want to brag about. Yet, as I was listening to her cd, I started to laugh thinking about how I want to brag about how cool and eclectic her musical taste has become. Isn't that goofy of me? I just love music and I am so glad she "gets" it. I hope one day she gets horses the same way!

Here are some of her Christmas gifts. This adorable dollhouse furniture is from Pottery Barn Kids. Maizie doesn't have any dolls to fit - only animals. Isn't the puppy too cute?

I rode a wonderful Thoroughbred mare named Red while I was here last year. You can read my December 2008 and January 2009 posts about her. I will probably visit Janet and Ted and Red and all my horsey friends here, but I am going to spend most of my time catching up with Maizie and Brian. They have been so kind to share me with Pie and Sovey this past year!

Here is the list of songs on Maizie's cd in case you are into music like I am. I think her order of songs adds to the strength of the choices. What a great mix!! (Thanks for letting me brag!)

1. Brandy - Looking Glass
2. Fell on Black Days - Soundgarden
3. Sabrina - Jellyfish
4. Life is a Highway - Tommy Cochrane
5. Helpless - Neil Young
6. Shambala - Three Dog Night
7. Bastard - Ben Folds (I don't think she knows what this word is!)
8. Ghost at Number One - Jellyfish
9. Sunshine - Matt Costa
10. Peaches - Presidents of the United States
11. Half Breed - Cher
12. Cold December - Matt Costa
13. Long December - Counting Crows
14. Rhinestone Cowboy - Glen Campbell
15. Save Tonight - Eagle Eye Cherry
16. Play That Funky Music - Wild Cherry
17. Crackerbox Palace - George Harrison
18.Crooked Teeth - Death Cab For Cutie
19. Closing Time - Semisonic

Sunday, December 20, 2009

with jingle bells and fairy tales

Today is December 20 and it is exactly one year that I have been blogging. That first post featured Pie's head and I said that he would soon be coming to our farm. I was in sunny Florida when I wrote that and I didn't even know Pie. I had just received the photos of Pie and Sovereign. I remember being excited and scared and elated that the two boys were actually coming! So here it is, one year later, and I envisioned this post being from sunny Florida again. As you can see from the photo above, we are not sunny and we are not in Florida!!! We got snowed in!!! Our bags were packed. The last minute details about horse care was all finished and we were ready to go. And then the snow fell, and fell and fell.

Before the snow, I had perfect rides all week on the boys. Each ride was a little depressing, though, because I knew I was leaving them for Christmas. Now, I may still be here! Maizie and I slowly drove to the barn yesterday and turned the boys out. Then, we went cross-country skiing with mom. It was blizzard conditions but we had fun. After, Maizie and I sledded down a big hill near our north pasture. Pie and Sovey watched in disbelief. They just couldn't understand why we were moving like that on our big blue sled. Our whoops and laughter was just too much for them. They had to dance and play too!

This year with Pie and Sovereign has been better than I could have ever imagined. They have brought joy to our lives in so many ways. (I just hope they continue to bring joy to my mom's life while she is taking care of them - the little imps!) Have you ever seen anything as lovely as two Thoroughbreds racing through the snow?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

from every bend in the road

Yesterday started out sunny and mild. Our temperatures reached 47 degrees. It was balmy and a perfect day for a ride. The footing wasn't too good though. I had barn chores to do anyway. I moved 63 bales from the top of the barn to the bottom. We are getting ready for our annual holiday trip and I want to make feeding as easy as possible for my mom. I also moved 350 pounds of grain. Pie and Sovey only eat a small amount of grain for vitamins so that should last them well into February. The entire time I was working, Sovey kept looking at me to see if I was coming out to get him. We had such a fun ride on Sunday and I think he wanted to go again. Both he and Pie remained clean until 3pm. Then, they just couldn't stand it another second. I was still working and I couldn't stop. Off they cantered to the muddiest spot they could find. Above is a shot of Sovey's muddy rump. I honestly have never seen more mud in all my life. Ugh.
Later, when Maizie returned from school, she told me the cutest story ever. I have posted before about how she "teaches school" to her stuffed animals. You can read that post here. Well, Maizie told me that she was reading to her group and Noodlebug nonchalantly walked in and delicately picked up the littlest stuffed animal and casually walked out. Maizie found the little animal at the foot of her bed. In the past, there were other animals that she had noticed that had been "kidnapped - catnapped" but she didn't know what had happened to them. This time, she saw the naughty thief in action! That Noodlebug - she is a silly one!

The little robin in the bottom corner had a friend beside her, but it is missing.

Here is the little friend!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don't fly, Mister blue bird

Here is our "little" friend, Zoe, who stays with us when her family is away. She is a Bernese Mountain Dog. Bern, Switzerland, is a cold place to be from, apparently, because Miss Zoe always prefers the great outdoors to our snuggly cottage. I took this photo of her this morning as she rolled around in the snow. Our kitty, Noodlebug, loves when Zoe comes to stay. Noodle steals Zoe's food. Zoe is a gentle giant and puts up with so much from Noodle. Over Thanksgiving, I found Noodle in Zoe's bed more than once. Zoe has a huge heart and is very good at sharing.
Another gentle giant is one silly Pie-Pie. He is very big and very full of himself now that the temperatures have dropped. Yesterday was too windy to do much of anything, but somehow our "I'm just going to mess around with Pie a little" evolved into a long ride around the property! I am not sure how this happened, but it worked out wonderfully. Our weather has been snowy/rainy followed by cold, howling winds. The snowy days were too wet and muddy for good footing and the windy days have been too wild to keep Pie and Sovey's feet on the ground. I snuck in a ride on Sovey on the 7th, but Pie was only grazed and groomed and walked on a lead. He was starting to become a big imp. I knew that he needed some more attention. I stuck the boys out yesterday morning and went for a run. The wind wasn't too bad at that point even though it was 28 degrees. I groomed and grazed Pie and practiced his leading. He was good, but antsy. I tacked him up anyway - just in case! The wind started whipping and I decided that I would get on and just walk in the ring near the barn. He was so good so we walked a little farther. Then, more, and before I knew it we were out through the fields. I had a ride like this last fall on Ellie, a QH. She was young, but pretty good. I often reflect on that ride as being so windy that I couldn't believe that I made it through. It seems like the wind can just start at any time and then you are out there...stuck! Never, ever, did I think I would live to tell of another windy ride like that - especially on Pie! He is wound a little tighter than Sovey and that wind was treacherous. His good behaviour was rewarded - we found FOUR apples on the barstool yesterday and my mom provided yummy carrots as we passed her house! Oh, Piggy Pie was in heaven! Every time we faced west, the wind was coming so fast and furious I worried that he would just bolt and dump me and take off. It was crazy like that - it made me want to run and jump. He held it together, though. I think it was so windy that he could only feel me. It was like we were in our own little wind tunnel world. The wind shuts out any other sound. He had to listen to me because it seemed like I was all he had. After our ride, Pie was calm and relaxed. He really needed that exercise. Later, I felt a little guilty for taking him out in that and asking him to be so good. I guess the test of a great horse is when their "person" does something stupid and they are able to hold it together anyway. I am so lucky to ride two nice boys like Pie and Sovey.
Last evening, when the boys were tucked away safe and sound in the warm bank barn, Maizie, Brian, Zoe, Noodlebug and I all settled down to a nostalgic (for me) viewing of Bing Crosby's Christmas Specials. With big bowls of popcorn and the wind howling outside, I felt very content. My favorite part is Bing's duet with David Bowie. Sigh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

what I want to know is are you kind?

This snowy picture is from Saturday morning. The boys are barely visible in the pasture. Brian and I planned to ride thinking it would be very picturesque, but I soon discovered it was nothing but rain in snow's clothing. I told him that I would never ask him to ride with me during a rain storm so we postponed our snow ride for a "real" snow day!

Above is our little house, "Nutmeg Cottage" in the same Saturday morning snow.

I rode Sovereign this morning and we had a lovely time, other than the fact that I was freezing! All my blogging friends are dressing smart for winter riding, but I was not dressed properly. It was 31 degrees, which isn't so bad for December 7th, but it was overcast and penetrating and I was cold.
When we finished, I grazed Sovey and philosophized about my "problem" with being "too nice" to animals. Twice last week, I was told that I am too nice. Last Wednesday, my farrier trimmed the boys. My farrier is quiet and kind, but he is admittedly partial to Quarter Horses. He doesn't understand what I see in Thoroughbreds. I can't really explain it to him, so we muddle forward with our monthly appointments. Pie and Sovey stand well, but it is apparent to me and to my farrier that they are antsy within their bodies. My farrier slowly and calmly tells me stories about shoeing horses and I hold each horse on a lead. They stand and submit to him with little fidgeting, but I know that they are wound up inside and wish he would hurry. I try to calm them, and I think I am very successful, but they are not asleep like a Quarter Horse might be. They hold their legs for him, but I don't think they want to be there one second more than they have to. When they are finished I walk them into the stall. On Wednesday, Pie had had just about enough of being good. He walked into his stall and calmly turned around. He lowered his head and I slipped off his halter and I walked out of the door and...then...he reached forward and bit my arm. To say I was stunned is putting it mildly. Here is the part about me being too kind. I don't know what is wrong with me, but I was born without the knee-jerk reaction of hitting or slapping. I don't stop myself - it just never comes. I can't do it because it just doesn't happen. I never react that way and I never have. I think I would be ok, morally, with performing a slap across the chest of a horse that just bit me, but I can't do it. It doesn't "happen" naturally. I just stared at Pie in disbelief. He backed up and I shut the stall door. My farrier said, "You are too nice. You have to show him who is boss here." Now, I agree with his assessment to a point. I agree that horses are looking for a person who they can trust to lead them through difficult and scary situations and that person can't be wimpy or weak. But, I have a problem with the hitting part. I don't actually believe that would convey my strength. If anything, I think that would make me look little, especially the way I would do it because it isn't me. I would be a fake. I just can't muster enough anger to hit. I am not proud of this fact. It just is.
Now, stop there, and fast forward the same idea to the next day. My father-in-law has started keeping chickens. He has 4 hens and 2 roosters. He asked me to take a few photos of them for his Christmas cards this year. I got a few good shots and one of the hens befriended me. She doesn't seem particularly bright, but she was sweet and friendly and kept "snuggling" up to me. Well, "Big-Man-on-Campus-Rooster" was having none of this. He started attacking me (I guess it is called flogging in chicken circles). He was really driving me into a corner with his jabbing and flying. My father-in-law was yelling, "Kick him," in between his hysterical, doubled-over fits of laughter. Again, the "kick him" reflex was absent. I just could not kick that rooster. I made my way over to a stick and sort of held him at bay. I walked to the gate and got out. It just seemed ridiculous to kick the rooster. My father-in-law said, "You are too nice".
Now, is this true? Am I really too nice? I have a very strong disposition. I am occasionally "bullied" by aggressive people, but I only take so much, and then I am definitely not "nice". I can be a real bitty, if pushed, I think. So what is this all about with animals? My father-in-law claims that the rooster would never do that to him. And, I know my farrier would say that Pie would never do that to him ever again. I don't know if Pie would bite me again, but I admit that I did nothing to tell him that the behaviour was unacceptable. I am not sure what I should have done.
I was thinking about all of this as I was freezing, grazing Sovereign, after our fabulous December 7th ride. I only walked and did not lunge or do anything to make sure Sovey was calm. We rode without a bit all around our farm. I believe that both horses are good for me under saddle because they do trust me and they do think I am a strong leader. They both put an enormous amount of trust in me, if you add up all we have done so far. I suppose it could be argued that that old rooster doesn't think too much of me, but is it true, can you be too kind?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Let's go living in the past

Above is a picture of my mom jumping the horse "Prize List" on the outside course at a local horse show sometime around 1959. Below is Mom and Dan, a friend from the barn where she rode. Dig Dan's cigarette! Very James Dean in the days before smoking was passé. Poor horsey pie - hot ashes - ouch!
Mom had a circle of friends from the barn she would see often over the years. As a kid, I remember spending a ton of time hanging out with them and hearing all their old horse stories. Every October, the Pennsylvania National Horse Show was held in Harrisburg and my mom's whole barn gang would reassemble for a week of horse watching, and like old army buddies, would tell their "war stories". Ann, Joyce, Mary, Terry (Mary's daughter), Dolly, Maxine and my mom would laugh and tell me about all the horses they rode and loved. Understandably, Maxine could only pop in occasionally, because she was busy schooling her son, Greg, who went on to become the Greg Best, (two-silver-medals-at-Seoul-Greg-Best). It was a rowdy bunch with many funny stories of their time with horses. All these years later, Mary, Terry, Dolly and Mom are the ones left telling the tales, and now, Mom has new adventures to share about her rides on Sovereign.
On Saturday Mary and Terry came to our farm to meet Pie and Sovereign and Terry and I had an amazing ride all over the farm! Terry is a wonderful rider and I was so excited for her to see the boys and ride with me. Terry's passion is jumping out of airplanes - she is a certified instructor - so I knew she wouldn't hesitate to join me for a ride! It had been so windy in the morning, but the wind quieted just as we started out. We had such a great time. The trails were golden and the sun was shining. Pie and Sovey were two characters. I think Terry liked their personalities. We enjoyed our barstool apples which Terry thought was adorable. A neighbor was cutting the grass and Sovey jumped and cantered a few strides. Pie jumped and I was hanging off the side, laughing, thinking, "oh well, here I go", but I managed to stay on. I was on bareback and was lucky Pie didn't throw in a buck for good measure or I would have been off for sure! That was the only ripple in our perfect November ride. Even so, we agreed that, for Thoroughbreds, Pie and Sovereign are fairly bombproof. I told her that I always dreamed of having a police horse, like Mike, the retired police horse that her mom, Mary, had as a girl. "He wasn't afraid of anything," I said, and then we said, in unison, "except for ELEPHANTS!" We both started laughing as we remembered the "Mike and the elephant" story we had heard a thousand times. Apparently, our moms would ride Mike all over the town double bareback because Mike was so trustworthy. As a retired police horse he never shied at anything - until the infamous day when he saw an elephant at the ballfield when a traveling circus had come to town! He took off with the two of them hanging on for their lives. They somehow got Mike to stop, and they still tell that story as if it was yesterday.
As we were grazing, Terry remarked that as she was driving up for Thanksgiving from northern Virginia she saw horses in the fields and wondered if she would ever ride again. Never did she imagine that she would ride on the weekend! She mused how much fun it was just to groom and tack up and ride through the woods and fields rather than all the other "stuff" we used to do as horse show people. This is my experience and opinion exactly. I spent so many years lunging and schooling and jumping, and honestly, I was always waiting for the time when the lesson was over and I was free to do the cool down on the cross-country course. At 42 years old, I am so thankful that I am no longer in that old "horse show" routine. I ride now to share the light, the trees, the trails with my horse. Everybody has to do what thrills them, and that thrills me.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

make the best out of the bad just laugh it off

Yesterday continued our wet, soggy, rainy, theme of the week. I groomed the boys before I put them out in the morning. Here is Pie around 10 am, sleek with rain. They both look at me like I have the power to turn off the rain. Please...they coax.

Around 3pm the sun came out and the light was so beautiful! I hurried over to the barn for a ride and I found this...

and this...

I realized that there was no way I could ride. The mud wasn't dry - they must have rolled as I was pulling in the driveway. It was wet and sticky and a total mess. I was so disappointed. I tried to "groom" Pie first, but it was just like I was making mud pies. Then, Sovey - same story. But the light! It was too great to miss! What was a spoiled, horse crazy woman to do?!? I looked Sovey right in the eye and told him that I was sorry, but I really think we could go anyway. He agreed. I promised, no saddle because I didn't want the mud to hurt him some way with the girth or saddle pad. So I slipped on his bridle and hopped on bareback. It was misty and muddy, but oh, the light was so gorgeous!

These two are blurry - we were slipping around in the mist, but you can see some of Sovey's mud and the sunset just as it was fading. Wow. How lucky we were! Pie happily munched in the pastures while Sovey and I enjoyed a fun ride. I am so thankful for these two horses. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

the newsman sang his theme song

I am finally retrieving old photos off my phone. The photo above is from August and it is of Sovereign's pretty ears. He was a sweetheart yesterday for our ride. Maizie and Mom were on big ladders cleaning out gutters and Sovey never flinched. He is amazing! I walked him around the property and trotted in the field. He was perfect.

The photo above is from today of Pie and my shadow in the field. I love his wild mane. My phone is apparently filthy compared to what it was in August! Sovey's picture is so crisp and clear. These two of Pie, taken this afternoon, are murky. Pie was a good boy today, but we had a brief upset. Just as we were walking home a line of bicyclists zoomed by in bright colors. He threw a wing-ding and I somehow got a rein over his one ear! Oops. I fixed it quickly but I was slightly embarrassed (as if the bicyclists knew what happened!). We were out near the road and I was freezing at that point and I really wanted to go back to the barn, but I knew it was time for some quiet, calming circles and figure-eights. Pie usually doesn't mind about bikes, but it really had cooled off fast and maybe he was feeling bouncy! I can't complain about it "cooling off" - we had such a mild weekend for November with temps in the upper 50s. It was a perfect horse-riding weekend! And the circles were just the thing - Pie lowered his head and walked back home like the sweet boy that he is.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

a bustle in your hedgerow

I have been so lucky to have amazing rides this week in spite of one naughty puppy named Eby Lee. She is in the photo above, looking like a dusty barn dog after rolling in the dirt. I thought I would feature Eby today, since this week she managed to cause me to fly through the air above the saddle of one Pie-Pie boy. I did land back in the saddle, (just lucky) and did not actually "fall off", but I certainly wasn't with my horse. Eby causes many upsets in our horse world, but we love her to bits, so it is only fair that I tell her story.
As you can see by her white muzzle, Eby is hardly a puppy. "Puppy" is my favorite term of endearment for horse, husband, daughter, kitty. Pie and Sovey are my "puppy-ponies", Maizie is my "puppy-pumpkin-girl", Noodlebug is my "puppy-kitty". You get the idea. So Eby is not a true puppy. We estimate that she is 11 years old. She was a stray who made her appearance at our barn when Maizie was just a year old. Our barn has been a magnet for stray dogs and cats over the years. We always try to find the owners, but usually end up with a lifelong pet when it is all said and done. We phoned the nearby Humane Society when Eby arrived. They told us that one morning that week, before they opened, a car drove up and the people threw a Lab/Chow mix out the window and drove off. The Humane Society workers tried their best to catch her, but no luck. Our farm is close and the dog obviously made her way to us. She lived on manure and apples until we managed to convince her to trust us. Mom named her "Ebony" after the dark, strong wood. Mom always spells her nickname like this - "Eby", which makes Brian laugh because he thinks it should have another "b" so he calls Eby "EEE-BEE".
One of the things I love most about my family is how much they adore animals. When Eby arrived my grandmother was still living and she and my parents all lived on our farm. Eby was immediately welcomed and became part of the entire menagerie. She spent her days walking between their two houses enjoying snacks and back scratches. Maizie was just learning to talk so my parents' names, John and Sandy, were never learned. Instead they became "Grandma Eby and Pap-Pap Eby". My mom is still Grandma Eby. I told that to someone once and you could see their disdain - named after a dog. But, to us, animals are what it is all about.
Eby was very ill-behaved right out of the box. She would jump up on our horses and bite our shoes and cross-country skis. I had to work with her on a leash for a few months to teach her to not jump up on people or horses. In addition, her Chow nature is defensive and is constantly fighting her Labrador nature. She wants to be nice, but she can only be nice to us, her family. We tell everyone who visits to not look at her and it usually works out ok. If you are a stranger and you look at her even one time, she will bark at you for your whole visit. If you don't make eye contact, she will ignore you or curl up on your feet. She is mellowing in her old age.

Above is a view I see most days. A black spot with a round donut-shaped tail, lurking around the farm. Pie and Sovey are fairly used to her antics, but this past week, Eby was especially troublesome. Mom and I rode on Sunday and Eby was in and out of the woods chasing squirrels and rabbits. Pie was jumping this way and that as Eby spooked around the trails. On the other days of the week I alternated riding each horse. Eby was underfoot around the barn and in the woods causing jumps and flighty behavior in both Pie and Sovereign. Everything culminated at the end of the week. Brian was working at my grandmother's house and Eby was hovering around Maizie's playhouse. Pie and I walked by and the next thing I knew Pie was bolting down the hill. We turned around to see the siding ripped off the playhouse, but no Eby. At that point, I didn't know what Pie had seen. All the action was behind me, but I knew that the siding hadn't been ripped off the first time we walked by. I mentioned it to Brian, but he didn't know anything about it. Next, Pie and I walked around a different direction and all of a sudden he flew into a rear/jump/slide/buck maneuver. I was in the air with my face contorted and the reins flying, but I did manage to land in the saddle. Pie wheeled around at the end of it all, snorting with his heart beating. Out from under a bush comes the black licorice stick with her donut tail looking like she did nothing wrong. There are huge divots in the grass now where this happened so I know it was bad. I rode Pie out around the farm and he did finally calm down. I was really proud of him for pulling it together. At one point, we even met up with my mom's cousin, Rob, who was cleaning the boat that had given Pie some problems earlier this summer. Pie loved stopping to visit with Rob even though Rob was on the deck of the boat and eye level with us. Pie was genuinely unaffected by the boat. When we returned we walked by the playhouse and now the siding was back on! I was beginning to think that I was losing it. At this point, Eby was down by the barn and she was scurrying around the chicken coop. I dismounted, untacked and was grazing Pie when I heard this huge commotion. Eby was barking furiously at the bottom of the chicken coop (empty - no chickens) and she started ripping the wood siding off the building and spitting it out and then ripping more!! Sovey, in the paddock, and Pie, with me, both started jumping around. What was going on?!? It ends up that some animal must have made its way from under the playhouse to the chicken coop and she was stalking it. Apparently, she had ripped the aluminum siding off the playhouse earlier, causing Pie to shy. Then, when I was gone Brian fixed the siding. Next, Eby decided to rip the chicken coop apart to get to the animal. She never did get it. She is nutty sometimes! I do think she gives me many opportunities to practice my composure with Pie and Sovey. Even today, Eby tested us. I started this post this morning and now, just returned from a fabulous ride on Sovey. Eby was out in the fields with us, peeking out from the hedgerows at every turn. Sovey knows what she is about. We all love her, though, especially Maizie. Here is a cute picture of the two of them on the trails last January.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

living on reds, vitamin C and...caffeine

Here is Sovey this afternoon, trotting like a giraffe with a 700lb rider on his back. Ha! Actually, he soon relaxed his head and neck, and, I just look like I weigh 700lbs! Although it was 58 degrees, I have a ton of layers on and a huge jacket. Brian, Maizie and I have been fighting the same illness, the one that will remain nameless, since the end of October. Fever, sore throats, and barking coughs. I call it the plague, but I think we all know what it is. My solution is to wear so many clothes that my fever feels normal - like I am just "hot". I really am feeling a lot better, and I can't bear to miss a day of riding.

Sick or not, could you stand to miss one day with the cutie above...or the mudball below?

I had groomed Pie first thing this morning, but both boys were completely covered when I went to ride after lunch. Sovey loves his grazing/grooming routine now which helps. After my ride on Sovey, I groomed Pie again!

Here is a fall puppy, Eby, in the leaves.

Some pretty shots even though it was a grey day.

Below is Sovey, eyeing up the church across the street. He is certain it is a shedrow at a race track.

I hope you are all feeling well enough to ride this weekend!

Friday, November 6, 2009

give me silver blue and gold

I have a Page-a-Day horse calendar that I read each morning when I am making my coffee. Yesterday's page had a photo of two horses grazing on a hillside. The horses were far apart in the photo and the caption said: While grazing, horses prefer to keep a few feet apart from one another in case they are startled and need to move quickly. Pie and Sovey never got the memo about this necessary horse safety trick. They graze on top of each other all day long. Their feet are often entwined like they are playing Twister. If startled, they jump on each other. It is really quite comical. I have had people tell me that when driving by our farm they refer to our horses as "the twins" because they are always tight together in the pastures. Here they are, above, performing their synchronized grazing last evening. It was one of those beautiful evenings with lovely ochre light in the west, and pink, cotton candy clouds in the east.
I think it is funny that I never know what type of horse will greet me when I go to bring them in each evening. Sometimes I pull in the driveway and I see two gorgeous, dark bay Thoroughbreds, obviously off the racetrack, all muscled and sinewy. Other times, they look like two old plugs, out to pasture in a farmer's field, rounded and sway-backed and muddy like no one has cleaned them for years. I love them either way, but it is amazing how different they can look at different times of the day and in different stages of clean. Last evening they were the ratty, unkempt, muddy boys. I like the wildness of Pie's mane in the photo below.

Below is a Nosey Parker named Sovey who just couldn't keep away from the camera lens.
Evening is my favorite time of the day in any season. Unfortunately, I am a nighthawk in a family of early birds so I rarely get to enjoy the evening. With the time change, though, evening comes early, so I get more of what I love. My whole family ended up at the barn one day this week around 4pm. Brian had to make stall changes inside the barn and his dad needed manure for his garden. Mom and her dog, Eby, wandered over to chat. Maizie was raking and jumping into piles of leaves and I was grazing and grooming the boys outside of the pastures. The sunset was incredible and I hoped it wouldn't end. Right then, just like someone was answering my wish, Brian said that he couldn't finish for 1/2 hour and we couldn't bring the horses in yet. I grabbed my bridle and hopped on Pie bareback. Maizie was on foot and she wanted to walk along so we headed out through the fields. The sky was a magnificent pink and orange and Pie didn't seem to mind that it was difficult to see. He knew he would be able to smell his barstool apples when he got to them! On our way back I could still see the sun setting, and Pie was snuggly warm under me, and Maizie was walking beside us, and Brian was in silhouette at the barn. Just as we got back, two fluffy foxes bounded out into the field. Growing up, I loved the Small Faces song, Itchycoo Park because of the lyrics, "But why the tears there...because it's all too beautiful." That is how I felt that evening - this is all too beautiful.