Friday, February 21, 2014

Pull together, your neighbors and your friends

Yesterday was sunny and warm enough for three bareback rides on the boys. We couldn't go far because the snow is still too deep. I rode Pie first around the driveway and on the packed track over to my mom's house. There she gave him carrots and apples and convinced me to take him out through the woods, but the snow was very deep so we turned around.

Next up was Sovey boy. If you click the photos below you can see three very short video clips of our ride. The noise in the background of the third video is the gurgling of the auctioneer at the auto auction. 

Poor Sovey Van Gogh - in the photo above you can see where Foggy took a bite out of crime on that left ear tip one day last summer. 

I rode Foggy last. No videos of his ride or Pie's ride. Foggy was a little wiggly. He seems very antsy to me lately. I know he is bothered by the snow more than the other two. Foggy needs his grassy pastures back as soon as possible please! Actually, he wants to come into the house.

While I was riding Sovey a truck went by and the people were waving like crazy at us. It ended up being my friends from the company that dug out and installed our fabulous pea gravel. Then, later, as I was finishing up my barn chores my fence company arrived to fix the fences that were smashed in the ice storm. I hadn't seen them for a year or so and it was just like old times catching up with all their phone photos of kids and stories about this winter and fence repair. They even told how they had a fence project in Wellington, FL and how they were blown away by the equestrian communities down there. 

Back at home over coffee with Brian and Maizie I was telling of seeing and talking to my "old friends" today. They always laugh about my "other life" at the barn and how rich and diverse it is, full of social interactions and adventures. I recounted that in the morning, while I was filling water buckets, I had talked about riding in the snow to my friend Anita, the lady at the feed store, and in the afternoon we had to phone Darwin, our friend who owns a tree trimming company because we have another down limb to remove. Then there was the pea gravel friends who went by while I was riding and finally the fence company visit. And that was just one day!

These people weren't our "friends" before this current horse venture on our farm. But, all of them - fence men, pea gravel company, hay farmer, hayfield cutting farmer, apple barstool neighbors, feed store operators, tree trimmers, shed builders, farrier, veterinarian, and of course, all my blogger "friends" - all have come together in my life to make this horse joy possible. It really is magical when you think about it!

I have very big goals/dreams of building a perfect equestrian community some day. The funny thing is that in my daydreams I always knew the cornerstone, the foundation of ever getting anything started would be to find people whom I trust and like and who feel about horses and quality work the same way I do. Unbelievably, everyone I've met are the very people who can help my goals come to fruition. And, now, they are my friends.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Pollyanna or just tremendously grateful?

I rode Pie at nine o'clock this morning in a blizzard and we had a ball! He was clearly enjoying himself and did not want to go back to the barn when it was time to quit. This is a photo of our tracks. The depth around the path is probably about eleven inches, but this track is compact and easier to walk in for Pie.

We had ten inches on Thursday and another five are expected this morning. The deepness is getting crazy silly, but an amazing thing has happened - my horses can finally move around safely, freely. This enormous batch of snow was actually a welcome to our pastures because it covered up the dangerous ice tundra that was keeping them inside for too many hours a day or completely immobile when they were outside. Now, they are able to frolic and run and play and move! 

This morning I was able to ride Pie in a track over to my mom's driveway and back again to the barn driveway, above. We circled many times in each driveway, but he kept wanting to go through the woods and fields. I just didn't think that was such a great idea. He would "dive" off the track into the deep parts and plow through like a snowplow. It felt like my feet were touching the snow! He would have been drenched if I had allowed him to go where he wanted through the fields and around the farm so I made him get back on the shallow (relatively speaking - not actually too shallow) tracks and driveway. But, the best part was how much he wanted to GO! I love when my horse is just as eager as me for a ride. The snow was coming fast and furious and yet I was able to ride him on the buckle. It was sooooo beautiful and I truly felt like I was in a movie (Jeremiah Johnson actually was playing in my mind the whole time - see photo below). 

Here is the good boy after our ride munching some hay. And the brothers are below. Last night was the first night in a long time I could leave them outside without fear of them slipping on ice. They were so happy to be out and I was so happy for them! I brought them inside this morning to groom and check them over and I realized I could safely ride! Wow - riding - now that's a novel idea! I was going to ride Foggy, but Pie was so fussy and nervous - lip-flipping and head bobbing with such fury I knew he needed it more than Foggy. 

After our ride all three were glad I put them back out - even though the snow was still coming down quickly and it is a windy, vicious white out. But they are tired of being in the barn! I checked their sheds and they are warm and clean and cozy and I always scrub their outside heated water troughs daily so they are steamy and perfect. The only problem is the falling snow covers the hay, but I've seen them dig and nudge and find the fresh so I think outside is where they should be.

As I made my way home through the empty streets I was giddy with the afterglow of riding a sweet horse through a deep snowstorm. I was grinning from ear to ear like a lunatic. I started thinking how annoying I must be to you, my intrepid blog readers if any of you are left. Everyone is (rightly) annoyed with this winter, this weather, and yet I am usually posting about how happy I am and how much fun I am having.

I suppose some clarification is in order. I've mentioned before that I philosophically believe in Pollyanna's Glad Game on many levels, but this is especially true where horses are concerned. I do not ride and take care of horses for money. They are not my livelihood. They are my recreation. I do this for fun and relaxation. Therefore, it seems ridiculous to me to grumble about anything to do with the barn and the horses. They make me feel optimistic, grateful, and glad.

In my regular life, I can bitch and piss and moan with the best of them. Just ask my family. But, the barn, the horses, they are my sanctuary. There, all things are good. Truly. Yes, even this winter. 

I am so amazingly fortunate to have three horses at all. Our barn is old and rickety and in need of some TLC but it still is safe enough to give the boys shelter overnight when the ice is too dangerous. The sheds are wonderful and we have good hay and heated water buckets outside that have only stopped working once. 

We do not have a skid loader or any farm equipment at all. We have a snow blower but for some reason it doesn't want to shoot the snow. I see the auger turning and it isn't jammed but nothing shoots out. I turn it on and drag it around the farm until my clothes are wet straight through from sweating and my body aches and I realize that was a huge waste time.

I shovel what I can and then drag the wheelbarrows through knee deep snow and ice to get the hay out to the horses. Sometimes the sweat on my hat freezes and there are icicles hanging down all over my head.

And, honestly almost every single day, through the icicles and sweat I start cracking up laughing thinking what I must look like. Seriously, if someone were watching me from the road, from the auto auction, from the sky, from heaven they would say - Who in the world would do all that? The answer is: Someone who is crazy in love with horses and who is incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to do all this, that's who. I am someone who appreciates days like this morning. I am luckier than most people. I ride almost every day of the year. 

I remember a hot June day in 2009 unloading 200 bales of hay upstairs in our barn. My dad appeared in the doorway and shook his head with a confused look as he said, "You must really love horses." He is gone, but I think of that all the time now. I do. I. Really. Love. Horses. 

We all love something. I love horses and to spend time with them means to be subjected to less than ideal conditions sometimes. I love horses in winter when it is horrid and in summer with the bugs and in lovely spring and in perfect fall. I love the work. I love that we don't have a skid loader, not because I am a masochist but if I wasn't dragging the wheelbarrows through the deep snow my ass would be so big and wide from sitting around inside eating that I would be a poor rider and have to join a gym.

I feel the pain of this winter. It sucks. It really sucks. But, the horses find a way to enjoy it all and through them, I do too. And, most importantly, sometimes I take their joy, their bliss, that Pollyanna-all-is-right-with-the-world-feeling home with me and let it bleed over into my everyday life. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Please Mr. Postman

Look what sweet little Foggy found in the mailbox this afternoon! Oh, the silly games we play when we are grounded and surrounded by a dangerous polar ice tundra. Even my post title is a bit staged. On this blog when I use lyrics for post titles they are from songs I heard that day. I did not hear "Please Mr. Postman" today or probably any day in the past twenty years, but it was too cute to pass up.

The thick layer of ice that covers the deep snow has kept me from riding so I've been leading each horse on the driveway for fun and exercise. Today to spice things up a bit, I hid carrots and apples inside the mailbox. The mailbox is safely located on our horseshoe shaped driveway so the horses can investigate it freely without worry about traffic. 

The mailbox was obviously a huge hit with all three boys, but I only thought to bring the camera for Foggy's turn.

Because of the ice storm we were without power briefly and had to move over to the mid-century ranch house on our farm. Oh what a tragedy - I hate it when that happens! You mean I have to move to the house right in the middle of the pastures where my horses live?!?! I do feel sorry for Brian and Maizie being displaced from our little Nutmeg Cottage, but Noodlebug and I made ourselves right at home! Noodle thinks it is a big adventure going over there. Here she is snuggling in Maizie's bed in our getaway house. Thank goodness our farm is serviced by a different power company than our normal house - it was a luxury to have heat and electric and hot water.

We lost many tree limbs and some of our fence got smashed, but all in all, we were very lucky!

I've been turning the boys out in the pastures from 10 am to 5 pm. The temperature doesn't get above freezing, but they can break through a little during the middle of the day. They don't move around too much because it is an arduous process to walk. Their fetlocks are not ripped even though the ice is razor sharp. They can't stand being inside, but they don't seem too happy outside either. 

Before the ice storm Sovereign was having a big time worrying about a giant snowman that appeared one evening in our hayfield. Every once in awhile a few people would straggle out to the snowman, but they were either very tiny or the snowman is seven feet tall. Their play and singing (think Whoville people circling snowman) was more than Sovey could take. We are going to have an interesting ride out there when the ice tundra melts. Sovey will be on high alert and I wonder what Pie will think of a snowman taller than he is!

The photo below was taken the night before the ice storm and it tells so much about my my horses and their unique personalities. Sovey is far out in the center pasture, on duty as the herd's policeman and sentry watching for the snowman people. Pie has stopped eating to see if Sovereign needs assistance. Yet, Pie is torn - there is much hay that needs to be gobbled and he is not going to get too far away from those piles. Foggy rarely worries about anything and thinks it is a fine opportunity to eat without being pushed around.

I am going to try to ride the boys at the walk on the driveway on Monday. It may be short, but we all have cabin fever. Everyone except Noodlebug, that is!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Periwinkle ponies

Amid all the worry, and all the complaining, and all the work...if I'm honest I have to admit that this winter has been simply...beautiful. 

The blues and periwinkle of today - all day - from early morning until dusk were just like nothing else I've ever seen in real life. Yesterday, as the inches of snow piled up I took this picture of our periwinkle bedroom...

...and then today, the periwinkle was outside in the sky - in all directions and made more vivid because of three adorable bay boys punctuating each view. With the stalls and sheds cleaned and buckets of ice broken and scrubbed, I finally took the time to really look around.

If you click on this one, above, you can see a funny video of Pie trying to roll in the deep snow. He was sleepy and seems ridiculously chubby and slow and lethargic. Of course, my Foggy-boy had to stand tight against me as I made the video so you can hear him breathing heavily into the microphone. 

Tomorrow, with the ice storm arriving, and Sunday with the supposed (_?) inches I will probably eat these words, but...thank you Mother Nature for this lovely winter. It has been hellish and horrible and peaceful and serene and periwinkle all at the same time.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

I don't have to fear it

If there was any doubt, our Sovey boy proved once again that he is a stellar riding partner. A large cherry tree had to be cut down very close to the pastures and on Thursday, while I was out riding Sovereign bareback, the tree service arrived with three huge trucks - one had a cherry picker bucket and one was pulling the limb grinder.

To get back to the barn we had to walk near all the commotion. As we approached, a limb fell and Sovey skittered and acted like he might not be safe to ride any closer. My mom was walking with us and she walked ahead and asked the guys to just stop for a second so I could get back to the barn. I knew I could slide off and lead him by if necessary. 

But, just then, ol' Sovey started marching right down to the machinery all proud and not a bit spooky. I thought we could easily go around to the far side of their trucks, but he had other ideas. He was so funny! It was like he had to show everyone how he wasn't scared. It was kind of embarrassing actually - I didn't think we needed to go right through the area where they had been working, but he was determined. He walked through the middle, stepping around and over larger limbs. He even stepped over fairly big pieces of the trunk. I dropped the reins and leaned forward and basically shut my eyes. I didn't want him to get hurt and I figured he probably knew what he was doing and would end up better off than if I tried to help. 

After I dismounted at the barn, I hugged Sovey around the neck. He would never allow such affection under normal situations, but he knew he had been extremely good so he allowed a hug. What a funny horse he is!