Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You can't take me for granted and smile

Today Pie reminded me that I can't take his good nature for granted. Yes, he is usually a relaxed boy, and yes, he is...ahem...slightly chubby and lazy. But, our cool temperatures and wind had him twirling and whirling throughout the weekend and yesterday. In fact, all the horses have been acting especially feisty. Sovereign has been leading them in races in the pastures and Foggy has been bucking his cute little bunny bucks all over the place. As I groomed Pie this afternoon and tacked up, he jumped and twitched at every little noise. He was covered in mud, but I realized that any real grooming would be impossible. I decided to brush lightly where the saddle goes, and get the rest off later after our ride. I cleaned his feet and did not hurry, but I also didn't expect the sleepy, calm grooming session we usually have.

Once I was on, I balanced him between a slow, relaxed dawdle and a forward extended walk. After 20 minutes with very little sidesteps or shies, I asked for a trot and he was relaxed and happy. Oh, thank you, Pie, for getting your wiggles out and keeping me on! We ended up having a super great 50 minute ride all over the farm and in the woods. And, I was able to get most of the mud off in our post-ride grooming time. Pie was a completely different horse.

I drove home with a huge smile on my face. I am so lucky to have these horses. They take care of me and allow me to ride them almost every single day - even when our conditions are less than favorable. I was still beaming from all my horse love when I reached our driveway and met up with Brian and Maizie as they headed out for a run. They had just got the mail and in it was my acceptance letter into the State Museum's juried art show, Art of the State 2012!!!! My watercolor, Coke, was accepted! Hooray!

Monday, April 23, 2012

There blows no wind but wafts your scent to me

It is pouring rain today, but here is Pie on a sunny ride last week with our special lilac bush in the background. This little shrub is in full bloom right now, bursting with periwinkle flowers. I was mucking the pastures and could smell its heavenly scent in the wind. Maizie and I played tennis twice last week and she remarked how fragrant it is. I have always loved lilacs so when my sweet Black Labrador, Jet, passed away in April 1997, I planted this lilac for her. 

Jet was the perfect Labradorable sweetie pie for 10 wonderful years. Here she is, above, in 1991 on a trip to Yellowstone. I got her as a puppy when I was a sophomore in college at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Jet and I lived alone in an apartment there, but we spent our days with a group of students who also owned dogs. There was a field on campus and we all gathered to study while our dogs played. USF at that time was a low-key kind of place and everyone brought dogs to class, especially in the art department. Jet was my constant companion. Once, I was walking across campus and someone yelled, "Jet!" I turned to look and this guy said, "I am sorry, I can't remember your name, but I know your dog is named Jet."

Dogs were not permitted on local beaches but one park had an island/sandbar within swimming distance of the shore where dogs were allowed. My friends and I would swim out there with our dogs beside us and carry our towels and coolers on our heads like baskets. It must have been dog heaven for our pups as they tumbled and raced in the sand and surf of the Gulf of Mexico all day. I know that my memories of that time seem to me to be a dream - it truly was magical.

When I was finished with college and graduate school, Jet and I moved home to Pennsylvania. I wanted to move us to England but the quarantine prevented that. Wouldn't my life be different if we had been able to go!?! Instead, we discovered that our Pennsylvania house was near a 12 mile valley stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The trail here is flat and gorgeous and full of English-looking woodland. Jet and I walked everyday on the trail. She also accompanied me on daily rides on my mare, Penny Lane, on our farm. Jet was a super great horse/barn dog. She followed behind me on all my rides without frightening my horse or running around. I learned to be a good mommy to Maizie and the horses by being Jet's mommy first. She taught me so much!

Jet loved to lie in the shade by the tennis court and gaze off in the distance. I always joked that she was writing a novel because she was so pensive and meditative. When she passed away from cancer we buried her beside the tennis court, her favorite spot on the farm, and planted the lilac bush there.

The enormous puppies I own now had a great week of riding. The weather was superb and the trails are lush and very pretty. Here Pie is making his way through a small path. I cut this open but it still is a tight squeeze for my big boy.

Thankfully chubby boy can grab some sustenance after such an arduous trek!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

he said that his friends would all drop by

April in Pennsylvania isn't always this beautiful, but we have been very lucky this year. You can see some sort of fruit tree over Pie's head in the woods on a recent ride.

One lone tulip is blooming beside the lush green grass. 

The grass got so long and green in this small paddock that I opened it up for a strictly timed (20 minute) gobble fest for fat Pie and the skinny brothers.

Day 2 of gobbling - now the grass is at a reasonable height. Thank you, boys!

It was a great week of riding. Our weather has turned windy now, but we sure had some nice sunshine for horses and tennis. Maizie had off school for five fantastic days! She and I played some sets and she also hit against the backboard while I rode. I like that the horses aren't afraid of the "boom, boing" sound the tennis ball makes when it hits the backboard. They could care less. 

Maizie had to bring in brioches for a French project right before the holiday, so she and I baked these little yummy, buttery, luscious treats! She wanted to tackle croissants, but I convinced her that brioches were more our speed. They still took us three days to do properly. I think real croissants take seven! She was certain that all her classmates were making their projects from scratch so we had to also. I admire her innocence, but I am sure that some moms smartly snuck off to a bakery for their goodies. She was deaf to my pleading so our kitchen became a patisserie each evening. Let's just say with that heavenly bread smell, we all were running extra miles that week.

Speaking of heavenly smells, here are the little pink blossoms of the horses' favorite apple tree at the barn. Their smell right now is unbelievable! Sovey pulled me over there today while he was grazing and I just inhaled...mmm.

This is a little Crabapple tree that a friend planted last year at our Kentucky Derby Tree Seedling party. Our record rainfall year (2011) was a blessing in disguise with all our seedlings. I would estimate that we have a 90% survival rate so far. Silver linings abound. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

You say you don't spook easy

What a sorry sack of photographs I have for this post. I brought the wrong cell phone and it has gone wrong. Yesterday was gorgeous with spring colors and they were only captured in a blurry, watercolor-y style. Sorry. If I can get good ones today, I will substitute them in. This is Pie, above, on our ride. It was windy and chilly, but he was a good boy. 

Last week I was missing from the blog because we had plumbers out to run a water line and electric from my grandmother's house to a pasture. We did a similar project previously and have been spoiled in that pasture by not having to carry water buckets. Also, in winter, the electric allows for a heated 16 gallon tub to be used. If Sovey didn't swim in that tub, all would be perfect.

This new project was not as easy. My grandparents' house was built on a concrete slab so the plumbers had to guess about the location of various underground pipes. The good news is that somehow their backhoe missed the septic tank and they missed the drain field pipes. They avoided the Dogwood tree roots, Maple tree roots and septic line. Hooray! But, they hit the water main line coming into the house from the street. A geyser of water plumed upward for a few minutes until the water company could come out. Adding to the excitement, the state highway people had paved over the turn-off valve so the water company had a treasure hunt when they arrived. 

The whole week-long process was monitored by three attentive foreman, Pie, Sovereign and Foggy. They thought we had kindly installed a great big television for their viewing pleasure. It was turned to a comedy channel, I think. Between backhoes and geysers and water pipes and plumbers and electricians there was much activity to watch. Every day when I arrived at the barn, my three horses were clustered around the plumbers and they didn't want to come in to do anything. 

I rode Foggy bareback the first day and almost went off. He doesn't shy at anything and I knew the plumbing project would be nothing for him. Stupidly, though, I left Pie and Sovey out in the pastures when I rode. I felt bad dragging them into the barn when they were obviously having so much fun watching the plumbers. As Foggy approached the water pipe ditch and backhoe, (bored and yawning), Sovey decided to act like he was suddenly worried and he raced away. Pie joined him and Foggy was determined to get me off his back so he could go with them. I was outside the pasture (I never ride in a pasture with other horses) and I was near the road. Foggy isn't too tall and falling off wasn't my biggest worry. I just didn't want sweet Foggy to get out on the road, which made the whole ordeal a bit terrifying. Foggy bucked and reared and bunny-hopped and wiggled. I slid off and managed to get him into a pasture gate. Ugh.

This is the location of the fuss up, although this photo is from last November. The road is behind me. I rode Pie the next day and put the brothers in the barn! Pie had no problems with the plumbers. They are amazing horses not to get too worried about machinery at the farm. I didn't think I would ride last week, but it ended up being a non-issue to them.

Today's project is figuring out a way to secure this hideous looking barrel at our new water pipe location. Our plastic horse water troughs, perfect and lovely hunter green, are turning out to be a muddy disaster because of our pawing swimmer boy, Sovereign. I was kindly given two blue plastic barrels like this one with their tops cut off. I need to weight them down with rocks and then insert our troughs in the top. This is all I can figure out to keep Sovey out of the water. Until we can build him a swimming pool, we will just have to hose him off daily by hand. He dumps and muddies everyone's water all day long, summer and winter. Foggy is my biggest drinker and his adorable, tiny front feet both have a small area of white line disease according to my farrier. I am treating him for it, but the year-round mud hole around the water troughs doesn't help. So, a layer of pea gravel, two blue heavy barrels and elevated water (ridiculous for horses) are all I can come up with for now. Oh, Sovereign, you make my hair grey.