dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, January 30, 2015

Fool me once

If you've been following my blog you know that Irish can be a bit, well, foolish.
thank heavens he's handsome. Because some days.....

Two days ago I came home from work, changed and headed out to have a quick snow shoe before doing my chores. The horses are used to me coming home and heading out to the barn to work, not head off for my own amusement. Irish watched me leave with a surprised expression on his face.

I was only gone for about 45 minutes. When I returned I started on my chores: getting the two stalls bedded for the night, changing the water, filling hay racks, etc.

Lexie and Irish hung around outside as per usual. I then relied their supper. Irish was in his stall so I hung up his feed (I use a portable feeder for him that hangs over the door) and went into his stall to shut his outside door. At this point he bolted out and took off across the snow covered field with Lexie hot on his heels.

I sighed and carried on. Then began 20 minutes of the two of them galloping down to the barn only to bolt off again.  Whenever I came near them Irish would take off like I was satan himself.

It was getting dark, I was cold and hungry. And getting peeved.

I went back to the barn and grabbed my lunge whip. I then went out to the field and cracked it. Irish began running around. I stayed still. If this didn't work I was planning to leave them out and head inside for supper.

Finally Irish ran by me and headed  down towards the barn I followed cracking the whip. I had them 'penned' in the small paddock. Lexie was, of course, uncertain of what was next. Irish however, knows the drill.

With a flip of his head and tail he ran into his stall. I closed his door. Lexie sheepishly headed into her stall. I gave them their ration and grumbled my way back to the barn.

Yesterday when I was doing chores both stayed down by the barn and when it was time for supper they came into their stalls as meek as  lambs.

Today both horses were in the little paddock as I puttered away. I then noticed Irish getting restless. He started running from the little paddock to the field and back. Lexie ignored him. As I worked away he began to ramp up like two days ago. However, this time Lexie was having none of it.

As I was getting the grain ready I heard a small commotion- I looked outside to see Lexie with her ears pinned spin he butt to Irish. Her whole body language was 'piss off!'

I poured her feed into her bin and she came in nice and calmly and began eating. I closed her in. Irish was in his stall but when I began to close his outside door he bolted out.
"fine" I said. "I have no problem leaving you outside"

With that, he came into his stall and I closed him in.

Lexie is turning out to be a highly intelligent mare.
Unlike some geldings I could name....

so why are we running around exactly? 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Baby Steps

To be clear- my life is not a sinking morass of misery in which I wallow. I am getting on with work and my social life and finding comfort and fun in my daily activities. While I am sad at times I am managing.

There were a few leftovers. For the longest time I couldn't drive by where Steele died. This made my commute longer. Every day I would get in my car and say to myself "I'm going to turn left. I can do this" and when I came to the end of the driveway I turned right. On my way home I would say the same thing and then drive right by the street that would take me the shorter way and go around.

Then one morning I was running late. And it was dark. So I turned left. And the world didn't end. I felt a little dizzy but I think I was holding my breath. On the way home at the end of the day I drove by again. I swear I felt Steele cantering beside the car as I drove by the spot. Make of that what you will- self-delusion or whatever, I felt better. So now I go by and it gets easier every time.

I've been going out the barn and taking care of the horses. As Ed says - we are returning to the new 'normal'. Yesterday was a warmer than usual day. Lately it's been -10 C and colder. That makes it hard to linger. But Saturday it was over 0 and mild. It seemed like a good day to get some chores done around the barn that I had been putting off. Ed wanted to help so we went out and cleaned, restocked hay, washed buckets and generally puttered. Lexie hung out in the barn watching. I gave both horses a good grooming which they thoroughly enjoyed.

As I puttered away I realized that I was humming.

It seems that peace has returned to the barn for me.

take care of horses and they will take care of you

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Last weekend I attended a workshop about "The Alexander Technique" and riding. It was really interesting. Essentially it's about learning to use your body without excessive tension. Some more information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_technique

The lecturer was not a rider so he began by asking us about the essentials needed to be a good rider. We all called out our ideas. The list included things like:

  • relaxation
  • balance
  • calmness
  • an ability to make good decisions in the moment (without anger or fear)
There were a lot more- I just forget them all. As the lecture carried on I kept returning to the list. Something was missing and it was bugging me. Finally it hit me what was missing: Love. As soon as that word crossed into my brain it felt right. 

(feel free to stop reading thinking that I'm going to descend into maudlin ramblings)

Still here? 
Okay. I've spent the past few days reflecting on why this seemed to essential to me. Horses are not machines or tools to win ribbons/medals. They are beautiful living, breathing creatures. I believe that to be a good rider you need to love them. this does not mean that if you love horses you will win or that George Morris will say that he has nothing more to teach you. But it does mean that you will always be trying your best to establish communication and a partnership with a creature who is as different from you as could be. Horses have no intrinsic drive to show, win or do any of the things we ask of them. But they try it anyway. Because we ask them too. While none of us are perfect riders and we make mistakes. I believe that if we truly love the horse we sit we will be okay. This love will make us try, take lessons, fail and yet return to the saddle again.

Imagine my surprise to see this  quote on FB from Nuno Oliviero:

“Hay creo, dos tipos de jinetes, los que aun con habilidad, utilizan el caballo como un instrumento, y los que le aman y le permiten expresar la brillantez de la que es capaz. Los primeros, no son menos expertos que los segundos. Estos Ășltimos, son probablemente, los “poetas malditos” de este Arte.” Nuno Oliveira.
' There is, I think two types of riders, those who still up with Skill, use the horse as an instrument, and those who love him and allow him to express the brilliance of the one who is capable of. The first, they are not less expertise than the latter. These last, they are probably, the ' cursed poets ' of this art.' Nuno Oliveira.

 It is the love that makes it all worth it.

No matter how that may hurt in the end. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Winter is Here

After a bunch of fits and starts, winter seems to be settled in. This year has been a bit easier because of two things:
1. heated water buckets. I can't say enough about them. It helps to ensure that the horses get enough water and that I'm not engaged in breaking ice out of buckets.

2. Putting sliding doors on the outside of the stalls. As much as I loved the look of the dutch doors they turned out to be impractical for winter- the snow would build up and keep me from opening them without shovelling and beating out ice mounds.

the first year the barn was built, before we painted them

sliding doors- requiring only 4 inches of clearing
The critters seem to be enjoying the snow. I'm hoping to get some snow shoeing in this weekend

Our youngest addition has been named Simon and has taken over the house with charm and confidence.
cutest present every

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Finding the Joy

"...keep knocking, and the Joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who's there."

In the past the barn has been my refuge. It was the place I went to when I needed to restore my soul. It was a place that I could find comfort in simple tasks- sweeping a floor, cleaning a water bucket, organizing tack.  I loved the smells of the hay, shavings and horses. The sounds of horses eating always brought a smile to my face and a feeling of peace in my heart.

When Steele died the barn became a place of pain, not of solace. I felt like I was spinning- the first place I would normally head to feel better was taken away. I would go to the barn and do what needed to be done and then head back to the house. It was very draining.

Last week I had a very bad day. I spent most of the day flooded with tears. Fortunately it was a day that I could close the door to my office and hide. Ed phoned me to talk about something and he could tell right away that something was wrong. "Come home" he told me. I didn't go home but I decided that I needed to try to take back my joy. So that night I made myself go out to the barn and spend some time. I puttered. I took Irish out and gave him a good grooming. Lexie watched over her door. She has the most steady gaze, it's amazing. After I finished Irish I brought out Lexie and gave her a good going over. She lapped it up. When I put her in her stall I headed back to the house. I won't say that I felt restored but I felt a bit better. Or at least not worse than when I went out.

Ed commented about my time in the barn. I told him that I was trying to see if I could find the peace I used to find when I was out there. That I decided that joy wasn't going to seek me out but I had to see if I could find it. He listened carefully and said "you know if you can't find it here any more and want to sell and move, I'm okay with that". I was stunned by his offer. It made me stop and think. This place was my dream but became his as well. I'm not ready to run away yet.

So I've started running again. I go to my Zumba class and curling.

Yesterday I picked up the framed painting of Steele. I know that I'm biased but it is stunning:

It was a gift to me from a  person I have never met in person. Years ago I sold a saddle to a woman in the next province. We 'knew' each other from a dressage bulletin board we both belonged to. She also had a young gelding she was bringing alone and we shared our hopes, triumph and progress over the past year. When she heard about Steele, she sent me a message asking for my home address. I gave it to her expecting a card in the mail. Instead I opened a package to find this incredible painting of my boy. She has captured his beauty and spirit perfectly.

It is hanging in my dining room and I see it multiple times a day. And every time I see it I feel not just the grief of his passing but the joy that he existed. It makes me smile through tears.

I need to keep knocking.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sugar & Spice

I have very little experience with mares. It's not that I have anything against them- I've been acquainted with many lovely mares. But I have only owned and/or ridden geldings.

So Lexie is new territory for me. Irish loves mares so since she arrived he's been smitten. And she's been very good for him.

Last week I was cleaning out the small paddock and Lexie came down to keep me company. She just hung around with me keeping me company but staying out of my way. I stopped to give her a scratch and while she was enjoying this Irish came down to share in the love. Or perhaps he suspected that there were carrots. I gave him a wee scratch on his nose when Lexie pinned her ears and swung her head in a 'get lost' gesture. Irish backed up and stood looking at me with a 'what just happened' expression. I had to laugh because he used to do that to Steele.

I went into the house and said to Ed "I think that Irish is learning that he's no longer in charge"

 Ed laughed and said "of course not. He's got a girl now"
"what do you mean by that?"
"nothing. Nothing at all"

I've been watching and Irish is definitely no longer in control. Little Lexie has him exactly where she wants him. All she has to do is cock a hind leg and he moves away. At supper time she will come into Irish's stall while I prepare the feed. Steele used to do that too. When Irish had enough he would tell Steele to get out and Steele would leave quickly. It's different with Lexie. Irish hangs around outside
"ahem. Um. excuse me but I think that you're in my stall"
Lexie ignores him
"not that I mind, of course. But the servant she's got these ideas. I'm sure that you understand what I mean?"
Lexie swishes her tail
"I'm okay staying out here. I can wait. I could even use your stall. I mean, if that's okay with you." 
Irish casts an imploring look my way and I take Lexie over to her stall.

Lexie gets first choice of the hay. She lets Irish graze with her on the side she doesn't want.

Most days she doesn't go into his stall now.

 But every now and then a girl has to make a point.

Thursday, January 1, 2015


I wasn't going to do a 'year in review' post. It seemed that to hold only bitterness and loss.

But on further reflection that seemed to be wrong.

2014 was a big year for me. I can honestly say, without exaggeration, that it contained some of the best moments of my life and some of the worst.

First of all I turned 50 this year. I'm not sure why this seemed like an important marker for me but it was. When I was younger I thought that I'd have it all figured out by the time I was 50. That turned out to be wrong. I have figured out some stuff but I'm not even close to having it 'all' sorted. However, it turns out I'm okay with that.

Ed and I went on the trip of lifetime.

And Hawaii

My work is going well. I got a new boss who's fabulous. My kids are doing well and I'm very proud of them. Despite all odds my mom is holding her own with her health and has a positive outlook. Over the past year I managed to get back in shape and go down 3 sizes. 

I realized the dream of starting Steele under saddle. I had so much fun riding him. It was not always perfect but we were always moving forward. 

When I would look at him in the field I could not believe my good fortune to have such a wonderful creature in my life. I loved him body and soul. Even when I was ready to kill him. And I believe that he loved me. I will never forget that he was able to overcome the severe pain of a broken bone and get up out of that swamp. Because I asked him too. 

My mother, who is a big fan of my blog, was always after me to put my stories into a book. I found out the Blurb has software that allows you to download your posts and put into a book. So I spent a few weeks doing that as a Christmas present for her- revising the layout, deleting some posts, editing typing errors. This was, of course, all before everything went so horribly wrong. I also go a digital copy of it. I thought that doing this as an annual year book would be fun. (http://blur.by/1za2YE2). It's a good idea for you bloggers out there to keep a record. 

The books arrived Dec 23 (one for me and one for mom). I had to give her a heads up before she opened it. She decided to wait to unwrap it. I have not looked at mine yet. 

People wonder how I'm doing. The truth is that I'm dealing. I still have flashbacks to that horrible day but right now I suppress them. I know that one day I will have to take those memories out and deal with them but not right now.  

I likely will have another horse at some point. I just don't know when that will be. I have found that when you lose a person or animal that you care about you don't 'get over it'.  It becomes absorbed into your being. The loss of this magnificent horse is settling into my bones. 

I am a different person for having Steele. 
And I am a different person for having lost him. 

Who that person will turn out to be remains to be seen. 2015 will help to reveal that.