dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Taking it Slow

I realize that I'm falling into the post-a-day club and it will probably slow up but for now I have so much to share (including photos).

Barn Name: Charlante is a beautiful name. I really quite like it- it's elegant and sophisticated. But Ed wanted a barn name that was easier for him to say. If you have read my blog from the beginning you know that we did this with Steele as well. Since we are a partnership it seems a small thing to choose a simpler name for her 'barn name' or every day name. That's not easy as it needs to capture her personality, be simple to pronounce and not be too cutesy. I had considered 'Charlie' but she's really not a Charlie. I tried out 'Sugar' for while (given the molasses required) but that's more of a pony name. I visited baby name sites, dictionary sites and horse name sites (those are interesting).

After much thinking and discussion with Ed, we settled on 'Carmen'. I like it- it's a strong name, not cutesy and it means 'song'. It seems to be sticking so that looks like we have a winner.

Eating: She's eating like a normal horse and enjoying her feed and hay. I plan to weigh her weekly to make sure she continues to gain.

Companions:  Irish and Carmen are hitting it off very well. She really tolerates a lot from him- I'd have given him a kick but she's very gentle with him. He's taking his job of showing her around quite seriously.

I accidentally over exposed this photo and this is the result. I kind of like it. 

Irish taking the lead for his 'mare'

Learning the Ropes: I've been exploring what she understands and showing her how I want things. I find her to be quite smart. I think that not being able to ride right now is a good thing. It gives us time to become acquainted without too much pressure to perform. I like to do a little bit with her every day and see what she thinks of things. In the cross ties she is very calm but if you're not grooming her she becomes impatient and paws. I've been correcting her by a verbal 'no' and small tug on the lead line. I have a lead line on her in the cross ties just in case she gets loose and it gives me a way to correct her even if I'm at her rump. I simply have it in my hand. Last night after two corrections I saw her pick up her foot, pause and then gently put it down. good girl. 

I don't like for horses to get ahead of me when I lead nor do I like to keep pressure on the line. She's good 90% of time on this unless she's worried about where Irish is (like in the morning heading outside). But the correction is really minimal. Our trek outside is kind like a wedding march- step-pause-step-pause. She manages to suppress her impatience very well.

Yesterday when it was time to come in I brought her in first. She came well enough (her manners at the gate are impeccable) and hesitated slightly going into the barn. When we came to her stall she slammed on the brakes.
What do you mean no?
I'm not going in there. I want to be with Irish. 
It's time for you to come in here. 
Rather than get into a fight with her I wanted to see what she would do if I didn't argue with her. So I just stood there inside the stall with her outside like I had all the time in the world. I could have battled her and won but I didn't want her to associate coming in with a fight (although if she had escalated I would have had to). She looked at me. I shrugged and breathed out. She lowered her head a bit.
come on Carmen. Trust me. It will be fine. 
I gave a gentle tug on the lead and she came right in.

I went and got Irish and she's figuring out that it's okay. There is, however, lessons on separation in her future but one step at a time.

Today out in the turn out I was doing some work in the small paddock. She hung out with me and I scratched her wither. A few minutes later she came back and gently blew in my face (it's how horses say 'hello'). I blew back and then we carried on.

I am falling in love. Or may already be there.

look at that beautiful face

a photo of Irish, just because. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Thank You Lexie

Lexie went home today. It was time for her to go back.

My vet was wonderful to loan her to us with no strings attached. But I know he wanted her back. With the snow and ice it seemed better to take her this weekend because the horses don't have a lot of room to move around and three horses in a small space can be problematic.

Ed and I managed to get the trailer dug out of the snow bank and ice. This morning she loaded like the good girl she is. It was a slow journey because the frost is coming out of the roads creating bumps and craters. She unloaded well and we took her back to the barn. It was bittersweet, I said to her owner "If we kept her much longer she was going to be staying". I also told him that if he needed her to come back that would not be a problem.

Lexie was the perfect horse for Irish and I at a time when we were reeling. She was kind and gentle and easy going. Irish was so calm with her around he was like a different horse. I know that he will miss her.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Getting Outside

The spring melt finally seems to be happening. With all the snow and ice it's also bringing it's share of challenges but since it's going to happen anyway we shall just grit our teeth and get through it. I'm continuing my work out regime of ice chipping with the 20 pound pry bar. It works well but when I'm done my whole body feels the workout. 

Charlante is not appreciative of being inside by herself. Yesterday I let out Lexie and Irish and stayed in the barn to keep her company. She paced her stall and called but began to settle. I brought out the saddle to give it a clean and as I was cleaning it I heard chewing on the wood door that leads from her stall to the outside. I growled at her. She came over to the stall door and looked at me innocently. We repeated this a few times. I then heard the latch rattle. 
wait a minute- that latch is on the outside
I headed outside. There was Lexie standing outside her stall trying to open it!

Let me out!

I'm trying! I need opposable thumbs! 
Growling at Lexie did no good so after a bit I brought the two of them in. I will get Charlante used to being alone but I don't want my door chewed off. Irish was above such shenanigans and simply grazed on hay. 

Unfortunately an attempt to turn Lexie and Charlante out together did not go well. Far too much excitement for my peace of mind, so I brought them in. The snow was still too deep and too close to the top strand of tape. 

It rained last night and Irish's stall flooded. Sigh. With the ground frozen the water had no where to go. I've done yet more trenching and seem to have it sorted. I hope. However, the snow was down significantly so I decided to try Charlante and Irish together this morning while I cleaned out his stall.  I wanted to be careful so I gave her a bit of Ace in her morning feed (it's a light sedative) to take the edge off and gave it some time to work. She's now diving into her food like a true starving Andalusian so she ate it all. I brought Irish out and then Charlante. 

It went perfectly. As you know Irish can be a bit silly at times but he was very quiet and calm. She stayed close to the barn. She stepped off the path that the horses had made and sunk up to her knees and decided that she wouldn't venture further. Good girl. Irish tried to convince her to go up to his napping spot at the top of the hill but she politely said no thank you. There was no running about, no squealing or kicking or actions to make my heart stop. 

After about 2 hours I brought them both in. 
total non-event. See, we're behaving! 

I can see that I have a lot of fence tightening in my future. I also hate how dirty the snow looks but I'm stuck with it for now. 

I love her.....even if she does lay down in the dirty spots
This is what Irish always used to do with Steele. It does my heart good.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The First 36 hours

Well we all survived.  The first night I slept really well (after a night check). Charlante laid down through the night and there was fresh poop and pee in her stall. She didn't dive into her breakfast but rather picked at it.

I had to go to a course for the day (it had been rescheduled due to weather) but Ed said he could handle it. He turned out Irish and Lexi but we left Charlante in. While she was good about being alone she wouldn't eat or drink while they were out so Ed brought them in at 1:00. He said that they were happy to come in.

When I came home I put on a lead and halter and took her for a walk. I wanted to show her the paddock. the problem is that the snow is so deep and she didn't know what to make of it. She was getting upset so I brought her back in. We have a good 3 feet of snow in the field. It's beyond ridiculous- we never get this level of snow! Until it goes down quite a bit I can't turn her out- I don't want her to get hurt as she doesn't know how to deal with it.

I fed the horses their supper and Charlante picked at it again. I know that you're dying to know what I'm feeding. Since Charlante was on the road and only getting hay (5 days in total) I thought that it made the most sense to gradually introduce her to my system gradually. I decided to start her on a mix of soaked alfalfa and beet pulp with a wee bit of oats. The idea being that I would gradually increase the oats. Because beet pulp has had the sugar all extracted often molasses is added back in but  the stuff I buy is unsweetened. In looking at what she ate, it seemed that she was not liking the beet pulp. It is also possible that her system was out of whack from the travel. I know mine was from the trip to Australia!

In the evening I went out the barn and brought Charlante out to the cross ties. She was a little nervous at first but has excellent cross tie manners. As I groomed her she began to relax more and more until she was blowing. I have this little curry comb that is excellent at getting out the loose hair and she loved it. I picked out her feet and she was really good about lifting her feet. A few times she tried to take it back but when I held on she just stood there. As I went to the next foot she would lift it up. I love a well mannered horse.

I stood at her head and held my hand out. She sniffed it and pulled back a bit. I just waited. She sniffed again and then softly lowered her head and place her forehead against my hand to rub it. Which I did. I'm allowing her the space to come to me and not trying to push it. We repeated that a few times.

As I was with her an idea hit me. I put her in her stall and headed back into the house. I grabbed the molasses out of the fridge and headed back to the barn. I drizzled some molasses on her food and stirred it in. She dove right in.

This morning I fed her soaked alfalfa, oats, vitamin and a drizzle of molasses. She dove in and ate it all.

Turns out the Princess has a sweet tooth.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A New Journey Begins

Charlante left for her journey to Oakfield Farm on Friday morning. She had a few days outside of Montreal and then was picked up on Monday to come home.

It has been the longest two days of my life. I really thought that she would be here yesterday, late. Instead she arrived at 5 p.m. today. I know in my heart that it was in her best interests- they shippers took lots of breaks, hand walked her and made sure that she ate and drank. And I'm happy about that. I was also screaming internally.

Do you remember how excited you would be on Christmas eve? And it seemed like Christmas morning was never going to arrive? And then it did but your mom said that you had to wait for Grandma. Who went to church first. And then wanted tea?

It was like that.

Fortunately for Ed my friend Cynthia came and babysat me. Literally. She took me for lunch and help me stay amused with chores.

In one conversation the shipper said he'd spoken with the driver who said it was a gelding on the trailer. "I thought you said it was a mare?". I freaked out. Fortunately, Cynthia arrived in time to calm me down.  This was a worry I did not need.

I brought in Lexie and Irish before she arrived to minimize the excitement. When I saw the trailer I squealed. Yes. I did.

I must confess that I was worried about her coming. What if I was mistaken? What if I couldn't love her? But when she came off the trailer and I looked at her I was smitten all over again.

Yes. I thought. This is the one for me. 

Here are some pictures:

are you serious? is there always this much snow? 

okay, where are we going? 

She did not want to go by my trailer. I think she was worried that she was getting on another one. After a few minutes she trusted me enough to come with me. 

I had to bribe her into the stall with carrots. As soon as she got in she made herself at home. She drank, started in on the hay, peed and had a roll. She was very calm and relaxed about the whole thing. James (shipper) said that she was like that on the whole journey with him. 

Irish looks pretty smitten too
I stood gazing at her over the stall door and my eyes teared up. I said to Cynthia "I think that Steele would approve" . She gave me a hug and we stood there for a bit.

I came into the house to give the update on FB. I think all of FB was waiting for the update! And then I sat down to eat supper that Ed made. I couldn't really eat. But I tried. I said to Ed "I feel like I drove every mile of her journey"  He nodded "And I was your passenger".  Oh yeah.

I went out after to check on her. She had been laying down sleeping. She had pooped and drank most of her water. I groomed all the horses leaving her to last. I decided to groom her in her stall. She stood stock still and savoured the currying. She would delicately reach around and snuffle me.

I topped up her hay and water and put on a warmer blanket for the evening. It's one of Irish's and a little big for her. It's also beat up. Now that she's here I'll have to pick up a blanket for her......

And to end my post here's Miss Charlante eating calmly and quietly in her stall:
I love the sound of horses eating

God knows I never thought that my journey would go this way when I started this blog. I miss Steele still but I am excited to start a new journey with the stunning creature.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Getting Ready

I've spent this weekend getting ready for Charlante's arrival.

Ed and I spent saturday clearing snow out of the small paddock. With the weather finally getting ready to thaw I didn't want this huge pile of snow melting towards the bank. Surely to heavens this bitter cold cannot continue.

I have purchased a new bridle for her. You may recall that I was looking for a black bridle that did not have a flash permanently attached. Holly at Bits N Bridles found one for me that is really cool. There is a flash but it comes off and there's no little bit of leather hanging down.
with Flash
without flash. 

 I also have her new halter.
isn't it lovely? 

Today I got her stall all ready.

In going through my stuff I realize that I need to hang more hooks in my tack room (is there ever enough hooks?)

I'm also selling two cob sized bridles. One is black (never used) and the other is brown. I had bought them for Steele but they are too small. Let me know if you're interested.
black bridle never used

I've been in touch with the place where she's boarding. They assure me that she's fine.  I believe them but I'll feel better when she's here.

It's good thing that I have to work today. Well good for me. Not so good for work.....

Saturday, March 21, 2015


It turns out that buying a horse far away comes with a bunch of logistical problems that I never really appreciated.

Until now.

There was a lot of stuff I knew and stuff I didn't know. And I didn't know I didn't know it. But now I know not only what I didn't know but I also know completely new stuff.

Sorry if that made your head hurt.

See to bring a horse into the country you need certain paperwork in order. This includes a vet health certificate. Once you get this health certificate you have 30 days to get the horse into the country. If you miss the 30 days than you have to get a new one.

This means a bunch of stuff has to align:

  • vet check on the horse
  • health certificate & current Coggins test (to be honest I don't even know know what 'Coggins' is but it seems a big deal in the U.S.) 
  • insurance (which you can't get until the above two are done)
  • payment for the horse
  • and shipping. 
I am an organized person - I've organized horse shows and work events. I've been show secretary and organized setting up a chain link dressage ring. Thank heavens I've had that training because I needed all of it to coordinate this. 

I innocently thought that I would contact one of the many shippers advertising and determine the best one and go from there. 

Some of you are probably chuckling at my naiveté. I only had one person get back to me. One. Fortunately, he was the one that came the most highly recommended. He can bring her as far as Quebec.  So after talking on the phone and arranging a tentative shipping date I put the first four items into motion. And I arrange for her to be picked up in Quebec. 

 Then there was weather which meant that the vet check had to be postponed. And then there was more weather. Fortunately for me the seller arranged to take Charlante to an indoor to have the check done. And then I had to wait for for the vet certificate for the insurance before they could insure her. But the office closed in Virginia due to weather. And now it's friday. I'm talking to a truly wonderful person at the vet clinic who made sure that everything was done on time so that insurance could be arranged. We made it right under the wire of 4:30 because of everyone pulling together for a stranger trying to buy a horse. 

With vet certificate, insurance and bill of sale all in hand I'm ready to finalize the shipping. But the shipper keeps saying 'he'll get back to me'. And then goes on vacation. 
how I was starting to feel
Turns out the vacation was a blessing in disguise- this meant that his office assistant took over and she was fabulous. I signed all the papers I was supposed to. Sent along proof of sale and vet certificate. It was all done. When the shipper came back from vacation I contacted him for a confirmed pick up date. 

I'm at work when I get notification that the person he arranged to pick up Charlante had a car accident so it might be next week. 
excuse me? 

Um. No. This would mean that I had to start over with the Quebec to Nova Scotia shipping. Plus I arranged for vacation for when she arrives. I'm in my office having kittens. I vent to my friend Karen. 

Karen is good in a crisis. She calms me down and says that, if necessary, she will unbury her trailer from the snow and we'll hit the road. I calm down. The shipper is also bringing a big rig of race horses up from Florida. If I can arrange for Charlante to meet him along the highway he can pick her up. His rig can't handle back roads. 

I send out a plea to the seller. And she's all 'no problem.' 
I'm as happy as a dog with a stick at the beach. 

What does this mean- this means that Charlante was picked up at a Wal-Mart parking lot off of I85 at around 5 a.m. Thursday. She's now in Quebec resting for a couple days and will continue her journey here monday.

I couldn't have done it without help from the seller, her agent, my friends, April at the vet clinic and the insurance agent. Oh and Ed. Poor Ed had to keep my grounded. 

I might almost be ready for wedding planning......

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Neither Rain nor Snow

On my last post I showed the snow forecast for Wednesday. We got double that.  Yesterday Ed and I did a ton of snow removal.

Last night the wind blew it all back. 

Not cool Mother Nature. Not cool. 

Saturday it's supposed to rain. 

Today we started over. As I was finishing up Ed stopped the tractor and asked me what I was doing. 
'Are you trenching?'
'Yup. I did all around the barn and your garage. This is the last bit.'

He looked at me with awe. Wow

He then pulled out the mail. We actually had a delivery today. 

It was Charlante's papers. 

. It's making it all very real

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Five Stages of Winter

Despite a mild start the Winter of 2014/2015 has gotten fiercer as the season progressed. Last year was a hard winter and so has this one. It's been difficult because we've become used to a more temperate season. I've worked my way through the five stages of WinterGrief:

1. Denial- A complete and unsubstantiated belief that the weather people are exaggerating for effect and "it's not going to be that bad"

I tell myself that I live in Canada and snow is part of my DNA. We have shovels and a tractor. Really, we can cope.

I greet the first storm with open arms. A lovely day spent inside reading, warm and cosy while the storm rages outside. Maybe I'll bake cookies.

Denial does not last long.

This seems like a lot of snow
I should have been adopted in Florida. 
Denial comes in two stages. The one above and then the 'what? Really? NO. They did not say that much snow would fall.' 

2. Anger
As the snow piles up, the next stage emerges.
This leads to an impressive display of vocabulary. Words that I won't repeat here. At 6 a.m. I hang on a frozen barn door while it flatly refuses to open. The air turns blue and I am convinced that the door is mocking me.

I keep the local hardware store afloat with salt, ice melt and an ice scraper. My anger finds outlet in the flailing at snow and ice to make sure that the inevitable rain that falls has a path to escape.

One can only flail for so long though.

Endless rounds of shovelling, ice breaking, barn cleaning for ungrateful wretches my beloved equines take their toll.

Books remain unread and cookies are not made.

3. Bargaining: During the 4th or 5th relentless storm I turn to Ed, gaze lovingly into his eyes and say "I'll give you $1,000 if you'll go out and take care of the horses" 
"no" he says.

So much for bargaining.
It's a short stage.
But our marriage remains intact.

4. Depression. I can't believe that there's more snow falling. And freezing rain. And snow.
I have no energy to tackle it. I make myself go out and deal with it. It's like sitting in the dentist chair. There's no going around, there's only through. So I persevere.

Again the horses are supremely ungrateful for my efforts. Life has shrunk to shovelling and desperate attempt to find places to put the snow.
I worry that soon the horses will be able to step over the fence as it disappears into the drifts.

Intellectually I know that it's pretty.

But I am unable to summon the emotional energy to appreciate it.

And then I realized. I have tipped over to the final stage:

5. Acceptance

Bring it on.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Signs of Spring

Well that title might be a bit optimistic. The last few days have been sunny and above freezing which is leading to a thaw of the snow. I am cheering it on enthusiastically.

I know that this means that there will be mud but right now I'm okay with that.

(feel free to remind me of that when I start complaining later)

Other signs includes shedding. Yesterday when I brought in Lexi and Irish I saw that they both managed to somehow get dirty rolling. They must have pawed out a patch in the snow. I gave them both a good groom. It's easier to stay in the barn when it's not frigid.

Today it was in the double digits. When I came home I began to make sure that there are trenches for the run off of melting snow and ice. I then brought in the horses. Irish was nice and clean but Lexi was even dirtier than yesterday. I fed them and carried on with my obsession job of removing ice.

I noticed that she was keeping her eyes on me with a bright expression. I went over to say hi and she snuggled in to me.

In case you haven't noticed, I am awfully muddy. 

Yes I see that 

I really should be cleaned

She batted her doe eyes at me.

So I brought her out and gave her a thorough clean. She stood stock still absorbing the attention. As I gently brushed her face she took her head and snuggled into me.  I rubbed her ears and she purred.

It's a good thing that she's going home soon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Belle Gets Stuck

I don't write too much about Belle. She prefers to keep it low key.

Belle is my Australian Shepherd. We got her through a breed rescue when she was 4. It was clear that she had issues that indicated bad experiences in small spaces and with teenage boys. We've worked very hard with her over the years and she's a happy, bouncy girl most of the time.

Last week I went snowshoeing and took the dogs. I usually cut across the bottom field and go into the woods. The snow is so high that, in places, it's above the second strand of tape. I could just walk over it. Belle had some trouble figuring it out. She usually just runs underneath quickly enough to not get zapped. We got through and carried on. On our way back she decided to run around the field rather than risk a shock.

Fast forward to yesterday. I went through my usual routine of chores before heading into the house. d'Arcy was there but not Belle. As I was taking off my winter gear I called her and saw her running through the front paddock. And then she stopped. She started running up and down the fence. See, while she was in there I turned it on and they can hear it. I waited for her to figure it out. But she didn't.

help! I'm trapped! Don't leave me!

Come on you can do it

Nooooooooo. The fence will hurt me. 

So I put my boots on and headed back out. She would run to where the gate was and then turn back. I saw the problem- the horses were there eating hay and she's very respectful of them.

In the end I had to walk out to the field wearing my pjs and winter boots and encourage her to come up to me by the gate. Which she did. Muttering I headed back to the house.

I hope you learned something from this. 

Yes. You will always come and rescue me. 

Well, yes. That too. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

A New Journey Begins

Charlante's vet check was yesterday. There was also a snow and ice storm scheduled. But the seller trailered her to an indoor and the vet promised that he would be there. Despite the nasty weather it all went ahead and the vet called me after with the results- she passed with flying colours.

I was so relieved. I called Ed right away and told him. I then sent a message to Karen who has been helping me on this journey. I then started to cry. I've cried lots of tears since Steele died- tears of pain, rage and heartbreak. These felt different. These felt like a release- an easing of pain. I still miss him- I will always miss him.

After my tears, I posted to FB and then contacted my shipper and the insurance company.

Very very soon this lovely creature will be coming home to me:

Last night I slept like a baby.

If anyone is looking for a horse I know where there's still a lovely mare and stunning  gelding available....

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hearts Ease

After I posted my last blog entry I received tons of support from my blog readers and friends on FB. I want to thank all of you for reaching out to me.

With the unerring perception of horse people two of my friends reached out and offered me a ride on their horses. More than that they offered me companionship. Funnily enough they were both at the same location. Ed thought that it was a fabulous idea. So on Sunday I put on my riding clothes and drove out to Red Phoenix Farm. I was excited. 

Karen kindly me allowed to ride her stallion, Kalimo. He's a stunning bay Andalusian and I was thrilled to have the opportunity. Sitting on him was like sitting on a powerful sports car. Kalimo is a very serious horse and he worked very hard to figure out what I wanted. As I rode him all my worries disappeared because I became focussed on figuring out how to establish our communication. I'm not one of those people who leap at the chance to ride someone's horse. I like to take my time and get to know a horse. This means that it's usually the 3rd or 4th before I feel truly comfortable. But Kalimo was not only a serious soul, he was kind and well trained. Karen left us to our own devices and we puttered around the indoor. He could have cared less that there was a mare in there with us. As we rode I could feel him gaining confidence in me. It was fun.

After I was done Karen said she's put him away but she was busy teaching and I said that I would do it. I had no worries about being in the stall with him. After I gave him a groom and a carrot he gazed at me calmly with the most beautiful eyes.
"thank you" I said. I believe that he said "you're welcome"

After I had a short ride on Steele's aunt- Flamante. To call her a character would be an understatement. She was a challenge in a completely different way but also fun.

You can see the family resemblance. 

After we had a wonderful lunch at a local restaurant- I had 'cinnamon, french toast casserole'. All I can say is 'yum'.

Friends, horses and food. It does a soul good.