Monday, June 28, 2010

if only you believe in miracles

This ended up being a long post - sorry - grab a cuppa and get comfy-bode somewhere.
Pie is back to his sweet, secure self. I rode him alone a few evenings in the ring asking him to bend and listen to my signals at the walk and trot. This must have re-established our bond as horse and able rider because he is confident and secure again out on the trail. I have to mix this in every week or so. Unfortunately, our temperatures haven't cooperated with much riding over the weekend. The evenings "cooled down" to 87 degrees so I have just been grooming and grazing both bleached out horses. They like the attention and Pie enjoys the brisk currying to remove the day's salt and dirt. Sovey's skin is thin so I slowly use the soft brush to remove the salt. He insists on planting himself in the forebay to be tacked up, but I just can't face the prospect of tacking and riding in the heat. I think our temperatures are to get back to normal tomorrow (Tuesday - which is today now, because it has taken me so long to post - blame summer!). I drive over to the barn each evening in the crankiest mood in the world from the heat and tiredness of the day. As I groom the horses, I feel the nasty mood just melt into thin air. The miracle of horses.

Afternoons in the air conditioning have left me time for contemplation and I have been thinking about a few interesting horse related and non-horse related "miracles" that have brightened my days. I already posted about "Sovereign's Miracle" (click here) and there are more.
This is a photo of the tables Brian builds with antique French chairs grouped to the side. The table is in the field next to our house (not at the farm where our horses are located). I adore this photo because it shows the lovely meadow that is part of the farm, Ryegate, where I took lessons. You can read about my lessons here. My horse, Penny Lane, was boarded at Ryegate when we bought her and I rode her out and around the fields a few times before we brought her to our farm. Amazingly, when I was in 8th grade, I rode her right across the front lawn of the house I live in now without ever knowing that it would be my future home!!! Ryegate was a show barn in the 70's and 80's. Sadly, the barn burned in 1992 and some horses were lost. After that, the farmhouse was rented to many different tenants. In the summer of 2005 when I was firmly in the middle of being an attentive mommy to little Maizie (translation: no horses in my life) I would stare longingly towards Ryegate and reminisce about my horse days there. I knew I would have horses again one day, but there were times when I just wanted to smell a horse's breath or groom a horse. That June, my thoughts were particularly horse-filled, and then, on June 27th an older lady pulled her car into our drive and asked if we knew anything about horses! She was the mother of the people who were renting Ryegate's farmhouse. They went on vacation and left her in charge of 2 mares and a stallion kept in make-shift stalls and she couldn't handle them. Miraculously, for 2 weeks I walked morning and evening through this gorgeous, fragrant, meadow to groom and turnout the three horses! Can you believe it?!!! They moved away now, but what a fortnight of fun for me just when I needed it most.
This summer, I have been lamenting the fact that I don't live where our horses are located. I would like to wake up and see them, or spend time with them during the day. Our yard is only 3/4 of an acre so it is impossible. There is a small fenced pasture behind us where another neighbor keeps cows. I told Brian and Maizie that I wish we had a donkey in our yard. Then, about two weeks ago we heard this loud honking noise. Brian said it was a peacock, but I know peacocks, and this wasn't a peacock. We went outside in the early morning sun, and there was a donkey in with the cows!!! We kissed him and fed him grass and loved him up. We found out later that he belongs to our neighbor's brother and he fights with another donkey so he has been sent out with the cows for a few weeks. We are so lucky to get to visit with this sweetie pie!

Here is another amazing summer miracle. This one starts way back in 1976 when I was in third grade! The photo above shows me to the left looking like a goofball. I am not sure why I am making that face, but I am with my friends, Lynne and Gary and our teacher, Mr. Mason. Mr. Mason was the kind of teacher who changes your life. The three of us were lucky to have him as our teacher for three years. He was brilliant - as in really, really intelligent. He forced us to think artistically, philosophically, mathematically, in ways that I haven't since. He shaped who I am as an artist and a thinking person. I lost touch with him when we went to middle school. In 1998, when the internet was in its infancy, I decided to look for him. I found a man with his name and an address right beside my sister-in-law and we were going to her house that very night! I couldn't believe that it was really him so I didn't pursue it. This year, though, when we arrived at my sister-in-law's house for my niece, Emma's, graduation party, I was met at the door with the above photo! I was shocked to say the least. It ends up that Mr. Mason does live beside Brian's sister and when they went to ask him for extra parking room, they made the connection and he gave them this photograph. Brian, Maizie and I went directly to his house -what a happy reunion!!!!
The last uncanny happening involves a coyote on our farm in May. I have hesitated in telling this tale because I know coyotes can be troublesome and even have brought terrible sadness to some blogging friends. I will just relate our strange encounter.

This past winter, my mom kept finding a black leather glove on the trail in the woods. She would move it to the side, but the next day, it would be back out on the trail. We would ride and see the black glove and laugh because she thought someone was playing a trick on her. In a few weeks there were more black leather gloves and they would be piled up in the hay field. We really were having fun with this. My mom decided it was a skunk playing with the gloves! (How she came up with that, I will never know, but that is my mom!) I kept saying that it was my dad visiting her, because my dad had so many leather gloves for golf and winter. He definitely had an obsession with leather gloves.
The next thing that happened was that Pie and Sovey's Jolly Ball was taken out of their pasture and was in the hay field near the gloves. Mom thought the horses "threw" it out there, but it was too far to have been tossed. Everyday I would put it back in the pasture, and the next day it would be back out in the field. Then, one day, the handle of the Jolly Ball was chewed up like a puppy had grabbed it.
In May, Mom was walking her dog, Eby, on the bridle path trail and they saw a big coyote. Our farm has had coyotes for many years, but they are usually the smallish, sickly, scraggly-looking ones, barely bigger than a fox. This one, was very large and healthy and fluffy. My mother was scared to death. Well, that explained who took the Jolly Ball and was assembling the gloves, but now what? I was worried about the horses, my mom was worried about Eby, and the neighbors were worried about their cats.
Around that time, I was grooming Pie one morning and I saw a large, German Shepherd-looking dog trot into the pasture with Sovey, nibble on the mineral tub, get a drink and start in my direction. His eyes were golden yellow, his ears were pointy, and his trot was too light and airy to be a dog. It was the coyote. As soon as he spied me, he flattened his ears and acted scared and slinked away under the fence.
The next evening I received a frantic cell phone message from my mother. She was screaming so loudly that I couldn't understand the beginning of the message. Then, there was silence, then, my mother said, "oh, it's ok, they are playing." It ends up that my mother and Eby went over in the evening to check the horses' water and feed hay and the coyote was in the pasture too. Eby ran immediately into the pasture and the coyote and Eby together ran out into the hayfield. They sniffed each other and then, miraculously, started running together and playing. My mom said that they were each assuming the dog "Play Position". They played the entire time she watered and fed the horses. Every time she would go to try to collect Eby, Eby would growl at the coyote so mom just went home and they kept right on playing. Eby came home and from then on, the coyote would make appearances here and there. Mostly, it stayed in the pasture right between the horses, although Sovey would often chase it out. We joked that the coyote was my dad because he was the most dog crazy person that ever lived and he loved Eby so much and, of course, he loved gloves. The coyote disappeared now, with no ill reports from the neighbors of any damage that he caused.
Whew, after writing all that, it is 1pm on Tuesday. It is less humid and not as hot, so with luck, I can return to riding and I promise less lengthy, horse related posts!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I'll walk right out into a brand new day

I have some exciting news.
It is true and unbelievable to me all at the same time. Above is a snowy photo of the cute-sweetie-pie-boys the week before they came to our farm in February 2009. This photo was taken by Sandy Pikulski from the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. Sandy dropped off the horses, Sly Pioneer (Pie) and Suave Lord (Sovereign) on a cold and windy February day. I remember that they looked too big for their large stalls and when Sandy and her husband drove away, I thought, "hmmm...what the heck did I get myself into?" I quieted my addled brain with the thought that I was only a foster home and that it would all turn out ok. Secretly, though, I had never seen horses so big or beautiful in my entire life and even on that first day alone in the barn with them, I could not imagine watching them walk back out of our barn and up into another trailer to leave if they were adopted by someone else.

Our journey began quietly and cautiously. I started the blog so I could chronicle what I was doing with the horses in case someone wanted to adopt them. I comforted myself with the fact that if anyone contacted me to adopt, I would ask TRF if I could foster two more and retrain them too.

Retraining is a funny word, I think, because as any horse owner knows, the training process is happening every single second of every interaction a horse has with a human. I am just adding my two cents to their early memories. I knew that as a foster owner I could give the horses a good foundation for any future pursuits. I also knew that the only riding I personally was interested in doing would be to ride everyday bitless without lunging and without "working down" in anyway. I wanted them to understand that we might walk, trot, and eventually canter and jump small fences, but that mostly a daily ride around the farm of 1 hour or so in all weather was all I expected of them. I do not believe in rushing a horse and I was in no hurry to accomplish any "goals". That said, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be able to have my leisurely rides so soon and so consistently. We have minor steps backward every once in a while, but overall, I happily ride each day just like I envisioned. In addition, my mother, my husband, and occasionally my friends are able to join me on these perfect rides.

The horses seem happy to me. They are very interested in human contact and interaction. Sovey practically calls to my mother to come outside her house each day to visit him. I am so jealous that I don't live on the farm so that I can see them every second, but I suppose you can't have everything!

To say that these two horses have brought us joy is the understatement of the century. We sadly lost my father last July and without Pie and Sovey, I am not sure my mother and I would have survived. Every day their antics make us laugh and wonder and marvel and sigh.
I will still blog about our journey. I am glad to change the wording on my sidebar so that it doesn't encourage their adoption. They are our horses, now and forever.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Little sisters of the sun lit candles in the rain

Tomorrow is historic "Jubilee Day" here in our town. Jubilee Day is supposedly the largest outdoor one-day street fair in the world, but that claim might be exaggerated by our enthusiastic Mayor. Maizie and I get all excited when Jubilee Day is approaching, because it seems like it is finally summer when it is Jubilee Day. To be perfectly honest, the fair is really just a lot of greasy food and carnival-looking crowds, but we love to walk in anyway and people watch!

I took this photo of Sovey and Pie this morning. The auto-auction is in the background and you can see some of the Jubilee Day rides (orange and red to the right) waiting until late tonight when they will move into town to be assembled. I am not sure if you can see in this picture, but Pie and Sovey are bleached out orange in the shape of saddles and girths. I guess that is their version of a farmer tan - a rider tan.

Mom and I write notes on our blackboard about which buckets we have scrubbed and filled. Sovey snuck in and added his own note.

Noodlebug was waiting in the window for me when I got home from riding this morning. She has her two little back bunny feet pressed up against the screen! So cute!

Maizie's last day of school was June 9th which explains my lack of blogging. When Maizie is in school I am lucky that I get to ride pretty much every single morning. Now that she is home, I run and bike with her in the mornings and ride the horses in the evenings after dinner. At least, that is the plan. Mother Nature and her evening thunderstorms have had a few things to say about my evening rides! All the changes to our routine have made Pie and Sovey a little confused. Horses love routines and ours hasn't been consistent for a few weeks. I rode Pie on Monday night and Sovey last night and then Mom and I rode this morning because Maizie has a riding lesson tonight. Pie has not been his easy-going self these last few rides. He is anxious and becomes frustrated easily when I ask him to walk in a direction that he doesn't want to go. I find it so interesting how differently Pie and Sovey react to uncomfortable situations. Last fall Sovey started to become anxious when riding out alone without Pie. Click here for that post. Sovey's reaction was to rush and nervously crane his neck around. By starting out again from square one, like he had just arrived at our farm, I was able to work through his insecurities. It didn't happen in a day, but it worked. Sovey is completely quiet and secure now without Pie. I can ride anywhere on Sovey alone and he is having fun again! Now, Pie is displaying his insecurities in a very different manner from Sovey. Pie stamps his foot and backs up and throws a temper tantrum if Sovey doesn't lead on the trail. Re-reading my old post about Sovey makes me feel that it is time to start again with the Pie-Pie boy - at square one, like he just arrived. This is why riding is so addictive. Everyday is new and different and requires thought and patience and consistency and repetition. I love it! So I am now on the "get Pie to smile again" plan.
And, on the colorful poster are two sweet puppy posters I had the opportunity to design for an Etsy client as a surprise Father's Day gift. Harry and Oliver...even their names are adorable!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More Poster News

Above is a poster I secretly designed for our niece, Emma, for graduation. This is of her jumping her lovely horse, Max. I thought she just might need something to spruce up that dorm room in the fall!

I was thrilled to easily find a poster frame that fits the 11" x 17" poster perfectly.

Another new development on the poster first advertisement is in the July/August issue of Young Rider! Of course, I am freaking out with excitement!

And...I finally got my act together and worked on the page links at the top of the blog. Hooray! I have been meaning to do that since March. Blogger sure knew what they were doing with these page gadgets - they are completely addicting. I happily worked on them all afternoon!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun

We had a very warm and eventful Memorial Day weekend. There was much riding and too much eating! Here is Pie getting it all started with a treat. Maizie took these photos of me riding him without tack. He is a sweet boy to let me do this. He and I both look rather round in these photos! I don't think he really is that sway-backed and I am hoping that my butt isn't really that big! lol!

Above, we are burning some calories trotting. I have a saddle on at this point, but I have been trotting him bareback (with the bitless bridle) and his trot is super smooth.

Our roses looked perfect in the morning before our Memorial Day picnic. I was an avid gardener back in the time before horses. Some of the flowers are forgiving and allow me to pretend that I am still a gardener. These roses are one such flower!

Noodle had the right idea all weekend. We rested in the cool breezes of the afternoons. I hope your holiday was fun too and full of horsey rides!

Below is a silly video of me riding Pie without tack. Turn your sound down. Look at me holding on to his mane like it is reins!