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Posts tagged “ponies

Curmudgeon Report

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This photo was taken two weeks ago. Nothing has changed except the snow on the the barn roof slid off, creating a 5 foot wall of snow the entire length of the run-in. This happened an hour after we spent three hours plowing and shoveling the paddock, the drive and various paths. *Sigh* For weeks I played the blanket game: blankets on, blankets off, double blankets at night for the mare, no blanket for the buckskin during the day. It about drove me to drink. And if that didn’t make me woozy enough we had endless days with sub-zero temps. One morning it took three attempts to get everyone fed, blankets sorted out and the paddock picked to my liking. I had to keep running inside (and I do mean running) because my fingers and toes were on fire from the cold. I’ve learned that while it might not look pretty, it’s possible to run wearing ice cleats! I may have invented a new Olympic sport.

My house is now leaking, my back yard is a skating rink and I hold my breath every time I let the dogs out. Speaking of which, they’ve coped pretty well with being cooped-up for so long. That can only mean one thing: they’re getting old.


Escape Artist

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There’s no excitement quite like hearing your dogs bark, glancing out the front window and seeing one of your horses walk down the street!


Burn

 

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Waiting for the fog to burn off.


Wary

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The horses have been more wary than usual since being run through the fence by a loose dog. Because we get plenty of hikers who go by with their dogs unleashed, they spend a good portion of the weekend watching the trail above with alarm. Time, and no further issues should help their concern abate, but for now they’re still on high alert.


Oops!

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My father-in-law’s surgery went as well as could be expected. He survived the actual procedure, now for the long arduous road ahead. My mother-in-law sounds a bit better too, though she’s still struggling with some mysterious type of back pain. This is a bit odd given she’s never had a back problem. But it very well could be related to all the stress and tension they’ve been through recently. Getting Pop ready for this surgery was nothing short of a monumental feat and I think they were at a different doctor’s office nearly every day for the last two weeks. At 82 and 83! God bless them. So now we hope for a complication-free recovery, however lengthy. Pop’s a trooper and I’m sure he’ll do his best to prevail.

In the meantime, as some people know I own a small farm that abuts a Rails-To-Trails hiking Trail. The trail is better known in these parts as the Airline Trail because it’s actually an old abandoned railroad bed that’s been converted into a hiking and biking path. Over the last few years I’ve been seeing more and more people using the Airline trail with their unleashed dogs in tow. Every single day I see hikers, bikers and even cross country skiers on this trail with dogs running yards ahead or behind them. This leaves the dog owner with no chance whatsoever of grabbing and restraining their dog should they happen to encounter equestrians, wildlife and hikers, who often have their own dogs (either leashed or not) and/or young children in tow. This is not only a potentially dangerous hazard for the dogs running loose, but for whomever or whatever might have the misfortune of encountering them on the lam.

Yesterday as I was waiting for an update on the ongoing surgery I happened to glance out my kitchen window and see a hiker’s loose dog bolt through the woods, down an embankment and into my horse pasture. This very large dog then began to chase my two horses so aggressively that the horses were forced to suffer being shocked by the electric fence as they bolted through it. The only good thing about the entire scenario was that the horses didn’t break out of the pasture and run down the road, but instead, they were trapped in a closed off part of our summer pasture. I immediately flew out the front door and with no thought of personal risk or injury to myself, managed to capture the loose dog before it chased after our horses again. Had I not done this who knows what might have happened? (The dog’s owner was calling the dog from up on the trail, but to no avail) What if I hadn’t been home? What if the dog just kept chasing after my horses? What if the horses had gotten loose and run into the road or ran off into Salmon River state forest? What if the dog cornered my horses and they kicked it, severely injuring or even killing it? What if the dog attacked and injured me? What might have happened if my three dogs had been outside at the time? Any of these questions could have come into play in the blink of an eye. Even more frightening, had I chosen to go to the hospital that morning I wouldn’t have been home to witness this horrible scene or to intervene.

As a result of being chased by the unleashed dog and crashing through the fence, Dharla sustained a significant injury around her eye and a deep rope burn wound to her chest. I have no idea who the dog owner was … I quickly delivered the wayward dog to it’s owner, then ran to my barn to get what I needed to catch my horses. By the time I grabbed halters, lead ropes and ran down to the far end of my property to try to quiet and catch my horses (which wasn’t easy since they were both completely terrified) the person and dog had vanished. A “hit and run” if you will, before I’d even had a chance to assess my horses for injuries!

It’s outrageous to think our horses can’t be safe on our own property simply because we live in close proximity to the Airline Trail. And it’s frustrating to think we have no recourse for the injuries my horse has had to endure. Although I’ve sent an Email (with photos) to our town manager and the head of the department that manages the upkeep for the trail (Parks and Rec dept.), I’m going to assume there’s no way to protect our animals or keep this from this happening again. I’ve tried numerous times to get the town to address the problem of loose dogs with trail users, but they just bounce my concerns from one department to another until ultimately, I get frustrated and give up. It’s been a few years since I’ve rattled anyone’s cage. Time to see if anything’s changed.


Pluck

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The Ballivanich Reel/ The Boy In The Boat/The Stone Of Destiny by Lúnasa from the CD

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When I was a young girl my parents occasionally used load us into the car and pack us off to some remote country fair. To be honest, I have no idea how my folks even knew where half these events were, but they managed to find them nonetheless. Upon our arrival they’d press a few dollars into our outstretched, sweaty palms and send us on our way with a curt warning to mind our P’s and Q’s. They’d tack an additional parting addendum to my warning, reminding me to stay out of the way of the farmers and not to be a pest. They knew the minute I was unleashed I’d bolt for the pony pulling arena, where I’d stay glued to some poor hapless farmer for the next five or six hours.

I don’t remember how old I was when I first realized I adored horses. I think I was born that way. I don’t recall ever having any fear of horses and my earliest memory of being around them is strongly linked to fairs. I was the kid who begged my parents relentlessly to do the pony ride again and again and again, until eventually my parents simply left me to hang out with the poor attendant who was in charge of the ride. I say “poor” because at the same time I was also a relentless chatterbox.  I’m fairly certain I drove the poor attendant nuts with my horse and pony related questions. Between rides, that is. I do remember being told (on more than one occasion) that I had to give the other kids a chance to ride!

When I got a little older I discovered pulling. The pony pulls typically started in the afternoon and were immediately followed by the horse classes that ran late into the warm summer night. As much as I fantasized about owning my own horse some day, I really grew to love the pony pulling the most. Ponies tend to be more animated than their larger cousins and their unique personalities seem to compensate for their lack of size. To put it simply, ponies just have more pluck. Not to mention that their smaller stature made it much easier for me to pet and brush and …. well, pester them as they stood tied to their trailer or hitched to the rail. By pester I don’t mean irritate. No, my idea of a good time was to simply be around them so I could shower my love on those ponies.

The farmers who owned the pulling horses and ponies were incredibly tolerant. Back in those days parents didn’t hover over their kids and so I was loosely supervised by whoever was around the pulling arena. The outsider might think pulling is just a fun form of country entertainment, but it’s serious stuff to the folks who are involved. While the camaraderie may be abundant, the competition is fierce. Every contestant is there to win! So there I was, a child, smack dab in the middle of all the betting, cursing, chest pounding and laughter and they were some of the happiest times of my life.Several farmers took me under their wing. Many of the same teams and owners do the summer fair circuit and so I got to know the men and their horses well. They began to teach me how to handle myself properly around horses and gradually allowed me to do more and more with their teams as my confidence and experience grew. By the time the end of the summer rolled around I was spending the better part of the afternoon and evening at the pulling pens. And I couldn’t have been happier. I didn’t care a whit about the rides the food or anything else, I just wanted to be with the ponies and horses.

I never outgrew my love for summer fairs with horse and pony pulls. I don’t get involved in the politics of pulling, I just enjoy watching the dynamics between the teams and their drivers. Pulling was one of the very first events I tried to shoot when I bought my camera and I had a fair amount luck considering I was a rookie photographer at the time. The next summer my plans to get out to shoot some pulls fell through and I didn’t get a single picture. This summer I’m hoping to get back out there and spend some time at the pulls. I can’t wait!


Happy Trails in 2012!

 

 

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My cowboy! Yesterday we had a nice last ride of 2011 together. I can’t think of a better way to end a long and trying year. Here’s to lots of fantastic trail rides and happy, healthy horses in 2012!


Hey, Good Lookin’

 

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I went to the Equine Affaire again this year. Last year I took my camera, but I decided against taking it this time. It was just as well … it was cold, windy and threatened to sleet. Overall, this year I spent as little time outside as possible. But last fall I happened upon a man out stretching the legs if this young Gypsy Vanner colt. The colt was quite fresh and was giving the man a hard time. Personally, I think I would have throttled the colt, but the man was willing to put up with a lot more crap than me. The problem with most youngsters is that they’re cute, which means they sometimes get away with all kinds of bad habits. Oh, and the man was a relative rookie horseman. Yikes.

This year I noticed the breed barn was heavy on “pretty” and light on everything else. I guess that reflects our current infatuation and emphasis on anything glamorous and our tenancy to overlook the working class. Interesting, that!


Waiting

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I haven’t, for one reason or another, been to any fairs yet this summer. I’d like to attend at least one, just so I can get a few photos of the horse or pony pulls. There’s only a few more fairs left before we move into the fall, at which point I’ll have to wait until next year for the chance to shoot a pull.


Lineup

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Things horses never think about: Does this angle make my butt look big?


Light

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What a difference a day makes! Yesterday’s dew point and humidity had quite an effect on the light … versus today! (Below)

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When shooting some subjects I actually prefer the conditions in the first photo  …  it’s probably more forgiving … or something.


New Shoes

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Time for new shoes, which becomes a bit of a group project around here!

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Everyone wants to get in on the action.

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 A little togetherness … just because we can.

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Almost done.


The Nose Knows

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The Bean: Old, wise, patent. How many times have I kissed the warm, wrinkled soft spot, the dimpled valley of skin between his nostril and his mouth? Thousands. I can close my eyes and I’m instantly transported back to a stall, a pony and a hot summer day. To a time when the hours that stretched limitlessly before me were never enough time to spend with my horse.


Moo

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Dharla’s an easy keeper. In other words, she’s fat. I’ve had to close off the back pasture or she’d just eat constantly. Besides, the ground is so wet, the horses will make a mess of things if I don’t close it off to them for a bit … or at least until things dry up a little again. It’s nice to have an easy keeper, but the problem is that our “senior” is a hard keeper, which means I’m always trying to get him to eat more. Bullet’s an easy keeper too, so between Dharla and Bullet, they’re always looking to eat anything they can get.  If I put extra hay out for Beanie, he’ll just walk away from it when he loses interest in eating. Guess who grabs it then? Yeah. It’s a three ring circus.

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So now every time I step out of the house Dharla’s head swings around and she nickers at me. It would be nice to think she just likes seeing me, but I know better. She wants more chow. Oh well … she’s on the austerity program until further notice!


Nifty Fifty

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Well, my husband finally turned fifty. It’s about time. Almost all of his friends have experienced this rite of passage and so it only stands to reason that they’d want to throw a little celebration so they could rib him about it. The plan was that Randy and Aldo would head out for their usual Friday evening ride. Easy enough, since grabbing a Friday night ride is their norm whenever they can. And  sometimes that ride includes making a large loop and stopping at various friends houses along the way. Well, to hear some tell it mooching a beer is more the purpose of their visit than anything else. But the fact is, suggesting they stop by Jake’s for a beer wouldn’t raise any suspicions. None whatsoever.

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Huh? Is there something going on at Jake’s? Hey, let’s just ride in and find out ….

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Wait a minute there ……

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I think this shindig is for ME! Oh crap! Ya got me!

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Out comes the honorary birthday hat. Yes, the one you laughed at when everyone else had to wear it!

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As always, he’s a good sport!

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Lynn and Randy got the horses squared away so the party boy could just relax. (At dusk I rode Bullet up the hill with Randy and Rocky, then came back to the party)

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Good times, good friends!

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It got dark fast though. After we ate I left to take Bullet back home. When I got back: Best. Cake. Ever.

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This was by far the yummiest cake I’ve ever had!  A one-of-a-kind creation like this normally takes two to three weeks notice to make, but Hope whipped this up with less than 48 hours notice! She rocks! Thanks to A Little Imagination Cakes for going that extra mile to help us celebrate this fun occasion!

Later, Aldo’s real acoustic guitar came out and everyone talked him into playing around the campfire. I’m still amazed that this quiet, say-it-in-three-sentences-or-less man will actually play a guitar and sing in front of an audience, but he will and he did. it was a lot of fun. The guys really came through and did a nice party for Aldo. I’m very touched and I know he feels blessed to have such a great group of friends.

So happy fiftieth birthday, Aldo … it’s all downhill from here! 😉

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P.S. I apologize for the poor quality of most of these pictures … I don’t shoot people very often and it shows!


Goofball

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Anyone with multiple pets or kids has one: the silly, face-making goofball. Bullet is our resident funny-face. It seems like every time I take my camera out to the barn Bullet has some goofy expression on his face. Dharla? Serious. Beaine? Grumpy. But Bullet always has an assortment of looks and faces he tries on me whenever I’m around. He’s a bit of a Forrest Gump;  A simple, steady-Eddie. But the minute I walk out with the camera he immediately turns into Mr. Personable and determinedly walks right over to me. (No trouble catching that horse, no sir!) Getting Bullet to stay a few feet away and hold a pose is like asking the Mona Lisa to smile. When I went to take a few pictures yesterday Bullet was quietly eating from the hay rack on the back side of the barn, but true to form, as soon as he heard me coming he made a B-line straight for me. Goofball!


Seniority

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Baring the ever-dreaded health concerns, I truly love senior animals. There’s just something about an aged dog, cat or horse that tugs on my heartstrings. Perhaps it’s their wisdom that I like, their unflappable demeanor that comes from having weathered life’s ups and downs. As seniors, they know when to respond, what to ignore and they have a good fix on what’s really important. Like elderly people, aged animals have some pretty distinct likes and dislikes and they’re usually not shy about making their feelings known.

Beanie (above) is by all standards a senior equine. He’s 28, which is not ancient by Arabian standards, but he’s certainly well into the golden years of his life. For the most part the Bean is easy to love: he can be patient, wise and he usually shows good common sense in most circumstances.  But he can also be cantankerous, fussy and mercurial and he doesn’t have any problems letting the other horses know what he thinks. He may be old, but he demands respect. The picture above was taken in the first few days after Dharla’s arrival. The Bean was willing to share a pile of hay, but Dharla was being cautious all the same. Smart girl!

These two horses have formed a nice bond, but Dharla still gives the Bean the right of way. She likes to hang out with him and you can tell she’s a little hesitant to leave the Bean when Bullet starts to walk down back. Beanie seldom leaves the barnyard anymore, but will stand in the run-in shed and wait for Dharla to return. Sometimes he’ll whinny to her just to let her know he’s waiting. Oddly, he seldom whinnies when I take Dharla out for a ride. Again, I think that in his wisdom he understands the difference between wandering down back to graze and going off to work.

Dharla has definitely taken to the role of lead mare. Obviously, she doesn’t have any competition here, but God help the poor mare who thinks she can come in here and challenge her. I’m pretty sure Dharla would kick some serious horse butt. She’s no weenie, that’s for sure! Thankfully, my three all get along. Sure, there’s some pushing, shoving and tooth and hoof threats from time to time, but generally speaking they all seem to know their place … and Bean’s place is always at the top!


Wild Horses

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I love this whimsical metal horse that I found at the Brimfield Antique show! It looks right at home in my flower garden!


A Good Fit

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I’ve owned Dharla exactly two months today. I’ve only had her home with me a little over a month and when I think about how far we’ve come and how many “firsts” we’ve experienced together I’m pretty amazed. We’ve been very busy girls! I will say one thing; having a new horse is a very good way to step out of your comfort zone. As much as I loved and miss my dear Tia, I didn’t realize how easy life had gotten with a horse who fit me like an old pair of slippers!

That said, I’m really growing attached to Dharla; her personality makes liking her easy. Dharla is affectionate, easy-going and seems to enjoy being with me. Sometimes she can be a bit willful, but for the most part she’s a team player and wants to please me. She’s got common sense and good dose of self-preservation, which in a trail horse means she isn’t prone to doing anything stupid.  For example, last weekend we did our first big river crossing. Since most Arabians have an extreme dislike for water, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve worked very hard on getting Dharla to cross everything from small puddles and little trickles of water to medium-sized streams, but a big river crossing is a completely different animal. Having been through this before with our other Arabs I figured she could either go to great lengths to avoid crossing (anything from a hissy-fit to a mule-stubborn outright refusal), try to jump the river (another avoidance tactic) or simply give in and cross.

Some horses learn well from observation, so we followed Aldo and Bullet down to the edge of the fast-moving water and watched them calmly walk in and stand about halfway across the river. Dharla firmly planted her feet and looked around with an alarmed expression on her face as I sat and encouraged her gently with my voice. After about a minute or two of letting her access the situation I lightly squeezed her sides with my legs. I felt her start to gather herself for a leap, so I quickly checked her with my hands and she responded immediately by stepping carefully into the water. Granted, she was still nervous and not sure what to expect, but she was willing to trust my judgment and didn’t attempt to take control or make a scary situation turn into something truly dangerous! Now that’s the kind of horse sense I like!

Our trees are finally getting all their leaves, which changes our trail landscape dramatically. I’m looking forward to getting Dharla back out in the woods to see how she handles things  now that it looks so different again.


Wash Me

Me? Dirty?

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I was wondering if anyone noticed how filthy Bullet was in the last group of pictures? I’m kind of self-conscious about his filth because it’s not like I don’t brush him or anything. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: I brush him several times a day! But for some reason Bullet is like that dirt-seeking kid who just can’t seem to keep himself clean for more than a few minutes.

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Mr. Sweet Cheeks

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He’s so serious about his filth that he makes a point of grinding his face in the dirt when he rolls. That’s pretty darn serious!

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Latte al la grunge

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I used to be embarrassed by Bullet’s constant covering of grime, but I’ve come to believe that some horses  just don’t care how they look. If the bugs are biting or they’re itchy, they’ll roll and not think twice about how it makes them look. That doesn’t make for dreamy equine photos, but I’d rather my horses act like real horses than perfect photo subjects any day. So you can expect to see plenty of pictures of a certain dirty cream-colored buckskin in the near future, but rest assured, that doesn’t bother him one bit!


Grasscapades

Dharla & Bullet chow down!

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The horses have been getting antsy for green grass. Because we are a small farm we have to limit our horses access to our precious pasture. From late fall to early spring, they are restricted to the small paddock around the barn. But by spring, they’ve worn that down to little more than dust, which promptly reverts to mud the minute it rains. I’m sure it’s a bit of a tease when the grass on the other side of the electric fence starts popping up. This time of year I’ll often glance out the kitchen window and see Bullet or Dharla doing their best to nibble under the bottom strand of the fence.

We finally got a few days in a row where it didn’t rain and I decided it was time to open the upper part of our pasture. We’ve split the connecting fields into three sections and will open them gradually over a period of a week or two.  It’s easier to limit the horses access and not have to go traipsing all over the property to find them and wrangle them back up to the barn when they’ve had enough. Since they don’t get grass year-round I’ll let them start by having access for about forty-five minutes, and then I work their time up from there. Eventually they’ll have free rein to wander the pasture as they wish, but for now they’re on limited exposure.

Yesterday I walked the lower fields to pick up sticks, check, clear and secure the electric line and tie ribbon markers here and there to increase visibility for Dharla. In years past, all three horses would go tearing down the fareway when we opened up the back pasture. There’s something about the long gentle slope of the fields that just makes them want to run and kick up their heels. They usually go streaking out of sight, then circle around the bottom pasture and come roaring back up to the barn as fast as they can. They usually do this about three or four times in a row before Bullet has had enough and settles down to eat the green grass. Bullet was raised strictly a pasture (herd) horse with little to no time spent indoors, so he’s pretty serious about his pasture time. Not much distracts him for very long from the business of eating green grass.

Oddly, not all horses like having the freedom of a pasture. I never knew that. I thought all horses liked to eat grass. We spent the better part of ten years clearing our heavily wooded land only to discover Beanie  would much rather stand right next to the barn. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it’s because he was never allowed to be an outside horse when he was young. I think he feels insecure when he’s away from the barn. We got Beanie when he was just four years old, but by then he was a confirmed cribber and really didn’t know how to just be a normal horse. We tried to expose him to normal horse things, but he’ll still opt to stand right next to the barn if given a choice. Granted, he prefers to be outside rather than stuck inside in a stall, but his spot of choice is to stand in one of the two run-in sheds that are attached to the barn.

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Beanie: "What? Leave the Barn? Are you NUTS?"

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Like Bullet, Tia always loved having a pasture and couldn’t wait for us to start opening things up. Often, the three horses would wander down back in the wee early hours of the morning, then Beanie would head back up to the barn where he would stand and watch the other two horses eat.  I’d go out to feed breakfast and have to call to Bullet and Tia to come up for their grain. Tia loved grain as much as grass, so she’d always come running, but Bullet prefers pasture over anything else and I’d practically have to stand on my head to get him to come up.

It will be interesting to see where Dharla falls on the spectrum of things. I know she spent a lot of time outside with a small group of horses, but the farm where she was raised is a lot different than ours. So far she’s shown a distinct preference for being outside and she seems willing to hang out with Bullet when the pasture is opened up. Which is good, because if she hesitates to accompany Bullet down back then she’ll end up just hanging out with Beanie by the barn. Then Bullet would end up having too much pasture for one horse. Given that Bullet is an “easy keeper” he certainly doesn’t need that. Oh, the logistics of having farm animals  … who woulda thunk?

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Bullet: "Alright already! I'm coming ... sheesh!"


Achy Breaky Hearts

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I know my heart is healing. Today I flipped through pictures and when I came upon Tia’s photograph, I didn’t weep. It still hurts, but the pain is shifting. Society encourages us to get over our feelings of grief quickly, yet I struggle with that idea. I find it difficult to rejoice about moving on and leaving an important part of my past behind. Instead, I want to savor the emotions I feel about Tia, even if it means having to experience my grief a bit longer. At some point I know I’ll associate Tia with wistful, happy memories, but for now my feelings are still a mixed bag.

I thought my first few rides this spring would be fraught with emotion, but Dharla has kept me focused on the present. Oh, the joys of riding a young, green Arabian! Yesterday’s ride was the first time I actually let my mind wander a bit. I’ve tried hard not to make too many comparisons between the mares, but there are certainly a few similarities. When I went to cue Dharla for our first canter together I couldn’t help but think of Tia and her beautifully collected, rocking horse gaits. Dharla’s comfortable … not as collected as Tia was, but she’s young. She’ll get there.

As Dharla and I rode along a large shadow passed over us and when I looked up, I saw a hawk soaring close overhead. Again, I thought of Tia. Hawks will always be connected to my memories of Tia. So often they silently shadowed us on our rides. When I see a hawk now I wonder if it’s Tia’s spirit guide, come to make sure Dharla and I are doing well? I know that sounds goofy, but I’ve consistently noticed the close presence of a hawk on several key occasions since Dharla arrive. It seems a little odd to be just a coincidence. I’m usually not one to buy into mythology or fantasy, but if spirit guides do exist then I hope it tells Tia I miss her, but that Dharla and I are doing fine.

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Sept 14, 2010. 8:28 PM EST.

Canon EOS 7D

ISO: 200, 50mm, 1/800 sec, f/1.4

Lens: Canon 50mm 1.4


A New Start

 

 

It’s hard to believe Dharla is here! She arrived late this morning after an uneventful trip from her home farm. This is the first time she’s ever been away from her birth herd and home and she’s a bit nervous. The boys are curious  … hanging around her stall and trying to either check her out or pester her. She’s not going to take much crap from either of them, I can tell.  There isn’t too much I can do to ease her worries except spend some time with her and let her know I’m there. She really responds to that. I’m sure that in a couple more days the stress of the move will be behind us and we can focus on getting her integrated into our herd and start thinking about riding. Activity will certainly help. Sadly, the weather forecast is for CRAP … cold, rain, and possibly even snow, so that’s going to throw a wrench into our plans until it clears up.

 

 


Nap Time

 

 

There’s not much cuter than a brand new little filly! This one is just four days old and wondering what one has to do to get a little peace and quiet!