Wednesday, October 31, 2012

no matter how hard I try

Into the barn Pie goes to wait out the storm...if only it were that easy!

Everyone here at Honeysuckle Faire is doing really well after Hurricane Sandy. Thank you for the kind emails checking if we are ok! Horses and people and buildings and trees are all still standing. We had a small amount of flooding in the pasture and Brian, Maizie, and I lost power at our home for 10 hours, but our farm had power the entire time. My thoughts are now with so many others who weren't so lucky. 

I started preparations on Sunday by getting the stalls bedded extra thick. We had no idea what was in store since Hurricane Sandy's path was projected to pass right over us. My mother's name happens to be Sandy too which caused us to giggle a little every time a forecaster said, "Big Sandy" or "Frankenstorm Sandy" or "Superstorm Sandy" - much to my mom's chagrin. 

The plan was to put the horses in at 5pm on Sunday evening. I do try to stay flexible with weather however. If there is anything I have learned with these horses is that weather is unpredictable and the best indication of what is actually going to happen is by listening to their (the horses') cues. Sunday was a very calm and quiet day and I kicked myself later for not riding. I try to ride at least one horse every single day, but I just had so much to do in the way of getting emergency preparations ready at the barn and our own house that I couldn't find the time. By 5pm there was no rain and no wind and the radar maps were showing that conditions would remain fairly good through the night so I left the horses outside. That was a tough call, but it ended up being the right one. Phew.

On Monday, the plan was to put the horses inside the barn by noon. I got to the barn at 10am and filled water buckets and put a small amount of grain in each stall with a ton of hay. I went out to get the boys from a far pasture but instead they took off cantering into a shed. Just then it started raining so I went into the shed with a halter to lead Pie into the barn. Pie would not budge. He would not move an inch. The wind started blowing a little and I was feeling rather ambivalent. I put the halter on Sovereign and he was equally cemented to the ground inside the shed. Finally, I tried Foggy. Same thing - not moving - no matter how hard I tried.

My heart sank because I had worried all night about what is the right thing to do during the storm - should I leave them out or bring them inside? I try to think through everything I do with horses because I am endlessly suspicious of what we, as humans, think is "common sense". Most of what I had previously believed as "good for horses" in the past is actually horrible for horses so I tried to think this problem out thoroughly ahead of time. We have many different safe pastures without trees that will not flood and access to two sheds. But, we also have three stalls inside a bank barn. The bank barn is old and has large trees near it. What if I brought them inside and the barn collapsed? What if I left them outside and their sheds collapsed or a tree fell on our fence and they escaped? 

After much conversation with Brian about the structural integrity of the barn, I had decided to bring them inside, but their uncharacteristic unwillingness to come into the barn was making me rethink myself. It was noon and I was drenched so I left them in the shed and drove home. 

The wind whipped throughout the afternoon and it rained pretty much horizontally, but I kept sane by telling myself that the storm was not as bad as our torrential rains in September of 2011. At 4pm I went back to the barn, this time, though, my mom volunteered to help too, so together we headed out to the shed with two halters. Pie still refused to walk in, but mom was able to lead Sovereign out and started up to the barn. Foggy followed on his own and I was finally able to drag/lead Pie out of the shed. Hooray! He was a handful and practically pranced on me the whole way into his stall. We toweled everyone off and they seemed genuinely relieved to be inside which helped me feel like we did the right thing by forcing them to come in.

The night was wicked and we lost power at our house, but the barn was still standing in the morning and so were most of our trees. When I put the horses out yesterday Pie was kooky wild from being cooped up all night. He jigged as I led him out and took off at once after I removed the halter. I like how he stands quietly for halter removal even though he is ready to blow. They all frolicked and raced around in the deep pools of water that had flooded the pastures. I brought them in later for grooming because it was still raining and a sloppy mess. Pie was still freaky wired so I decided to ride him. It was the last thing in the world I felt like doing because he was a nut for grooming and I was cold and it was lightly raining, but I knew it had to be done. He would feel better and treat his pasturemates better after. Also, I was afraid I would have to keep them inside again all night because of the flooding. 

Sorting out an unruly mane on a sunny, calm day. No mane sorting for yesterday's ride!

Riding Pie when he is wild like that is like riding a spring. I breathe deeply and keep my seat light on the saddle. I keep my reins loose and try to convey nonchalance with my body all the while keeping him between my legs and seat and hands. It is a tough go at first, but about 1/4 mile into the ride he snorted a relaxed sigh. Later, at the far southeast corner of our property he spied a canoe (one he has seen 1000 times) and whipped around toward the barn. I started talking to him, telling him anything that popped into my head like I was having a conversation with him. He came back down to me. My mom usually walks along when I ride and I think our conversations keep the boys relaxed. Since it was raining, she wasn't walking along so I had to create a conversation. I told Pie of the entire menu I served at a recent party. When I got to the crudite part I stressed the word carrots. No reaction, but he did like the word "triscuit" - it must have sounded like "treat" because he kept turning his head around to get one.

As we got close to the barn I could feel Pie completely relax. I was cold and shivering, but he was calm and the sweet Pie we all know and love. I did end up keeping the horses in again last night because the pastures were saturated, but Pie walked out for turnout this morning like a perfect gentleman. 

Today I am counting our blessings - it could have been so much worse. I feel unbelievably grateful for our barn, house, electric and water and I am thinking good thoughts for those who were not as fortunate.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Long as I remember

Today is Maizie's 14th birthday! These two photos were taken when she was three years old. She is on Skipper, our friend's horse.

Maizie has perfect attendance so she decided to stay home from school today to spend time with us. We slept in until 7:30 (decadent!) and then had coffees and gift opening. We all got ready to go running, but it started raining so Maizie wanted to play poker! Poker on a Tuesday birthday morning and she actually won.

Next, the rain had stopped so we headed out for our run on an old time deserted road that looks like something out of The Waltons. But, at the end of this road sits a Target store! Brian loves the time-travel feeling of being on a road that seems like it is from the 1940's and then popping out to the consumer world and back again. The road is 1.5 miles long so our out-and-back-run was supposed to be three miles, but Brian wanted to run around the Target parking lot (ick). Therefore we ended up going four miles total. Here they are starting out...(they came back for me as soon as I took this picture!)

...and after the run.

Next, we had lunch and celebrated with pies that I made. Maizie isn't a big cake person so I baked pies for her birthday.

After lunch we headed to the barn! I rode Sovereign and Maizie and Brian played pool. Here they are posing with a pool cue. Mom is gracefully bending over in the background petting her Eby dog.

Sovey takes me through the fall leaves bareback. We are using the halter only again - not for long - the cold wind is coming!

After the riding and pool playing, we all played tennis. The court was full of leaves and still a little wet from the morning rain, but it was fun hitting anyway. There was a captive audience watching our every move on the court - the three silly boys!

Of course Pie wasn't so captive - he was busy eating!

Happy Birthday Maizie girl! It is hard to believe you are 14 years old!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wishing though I never could

On Wednesday my dear friend, Melanie Berra, met me at the barn for a quick three mile run and then volunteered her photography skills to capture my gorgeous boys. Melanie was tapering for a half marathon that she ran this morning in Hershey. She ran a 1:55 and that isn't even her PR!!! 

At my barn she took 100 photos on my phone and more on her own camera. I will share other pics soon but this one, below, cracks me up. I am bending over so it is a little distorted, but you can get an idea of just how big Pie is - at 5'3" I look like a tiny munchkin beside the gentle giant. Kristen, over at sweet horse's breath mentioned that she can mount from the ground. I stood beside Pie the other day and looked at my stirrup and starting laughing so hard. I have to put my foot up practically to my shoulder to even attempt to mount from the ground. Lowering the stirrup doesn't really help much. My father-in-law is going to build me some mounting blocks this winter for bareback riding. The green, three step plastic mounting blocks work well with the saddle, but so far, the barstool is the the only thing that works when I get on bareback. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

gentle sweet singin' of leaves in the wind hands look too high and goofy, but I can't help loving this picture of my Pie on our sunlight ride this afternoon. Remove a glove and Pie paws the ground which makes me giggle so he paws all the more. The light was honestly this beautiful...

...and Bittersweet climbs the tree behind us...

...and high contrast shadows everywhere you look. 

Even with his silly pawing, Pie is my easy picture-taking boy so the pictures are always of him, but Sovereign and Foggy are sharing all the autumn spotlights too. Our rides have been numerous (everyday!) and lovely. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

I feel the wind blow, outside my door

Late afternoon ride a few hours ago after Maizie's cross country invitational. Pie first and Foggy second. The day started gray and wet and humid and warm and then it suddenly got windy and blew in autumn proper. By the time I got to the barn it was chilly and beautiful and the light was...indescribable. I tried to shoot some pictures, but I could not capture what I was seeing. 

Between rides I gave Pie a post-ride graze. I pretended that I was not rushing him, and acted nonchalant, but really, I only allowed him to graze for two minutes. I timed it - two minutes. That way, he thinks he is getting some lushness like the other boys, but his belly doesn't add the unnecessary heft. 

And speaking of heft! Look at the heft here!!! Long shadows make Pie-Pie look worse than he actually is!

The actual is a little round.

My ride on Foggy was equally breathtaking. Fall is the best season ever. The light, the temperatures, the leaves, the grass - just perfect.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Horseless weekend in NYC

On Saturday I left my boys happily grazing in the pastures and took a weekend trip with Maizie and Brian to NYC. Brian had to deliver one of his lovely tables outside of the city, so we combined our outing with a visit to Maizie's mecca, Yankee Stadium. Baseball, in general, and the Yankees, in particular, is Maizie's current passion. (She also happens to have a huge crush on Yankees catcher, Russell Martin, which of course, helps fuel this interest.) Maizie doesn't play baseball or softball, but she loves to analyze the strategies and numbers of the game. She is a walking encyclopedia of baseball facts and figures - not history, but current information. At thirteen, she aspires not to be the first woman president of the United States, but the first woman field manager in Major League Baseball.  Here she is practicing from the Yankee Dugout. Watch out, Joe!

Old school mode of travel - truck with a bench seat - three across! We borrowed Brian's dad's truck and put the table in the bed. This gave us tight family time. I had to listen to baseball talk and they had to endure my squeals of delight at every horse farm we passed. The family who purchased the table placed it under a pergola in their garden with an adorable donkey and many sheep right outside the garden gate. Their farm is surrounded by gorgeous equestrian properties. 

 Maizie looking young and pensive with her "Golden Ticket" to Yankee Stadium in hand.

Maizie and Brian in the dugout.

Back in Manhattan I took a street scene of the Empire State Building at night...

and another in the morning.

Maizie and Brian in Times Square on Saturday night.

Monday morning it sure was good to be home and groom the sweetie pies and hop on Sovereign for a much needed ride! I felt the frenetic nature of the city melt away. I can't live too many days without horsey breath. I noticed that their coats had gotten thicker and fluffed up in just a weekend.