dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Creature Comforts

 It has been quite the week. 

Irish is doing well. I was quite worried at first because he seemed to be really struggling to eat and drink. I was worried about impaction colic with the lack of water intake. But each day he has been incrementally better. I had Ed pick up some senior feed for us because I figured it would be easier for him to chew. He's diving into it with great enthusiasm. For Irish this is unusual- he's not a food fan unless it's grass. So I suspect I'll keep him on it. 

in happier news the solar panels were installed 

My half-day vacation on Tuesday was a bust. But I had a half day on thursday as well and I planned to regroup. And then we had an issue with our well. As in no water but a bunch of water in our dug basement. Did I mention there was a major winter storm coming for the weekend? And the ground was frozen? 

Anyway... the plumber came, determined that there was a break in the line somewhere between the well and where it came into the house. We are very fortunate to have a guy down the road with a small digger and he came up to open up the hole. 

Wells are great. Until they stop working

To recap: Irish wasn't eating well and was scared of the ice. We had no water and there was a major snow storm bearing down on us. 

I was not in a good place thursday. Julia came and we were to get the horses and give them some TLC. I figured that it would do me good but I wasn't really feeling it. Julia brought them in and Carmen was looking at me. When I went over she nuzzled my head. I ignored her and went to check on Irish. I brought her out and in the aisle she kept putting her muzzle on me and blowing in my ear. The third time I gave a little giggle because it tickled. 

you should see her face Julia said, she's looking really smug about making you feel better. 

And it was true. She had a very satisfied look on her face. 

For the first few years with Carmen, if I was not in a good place emotionally she wanted nothing to do with me. At all. Now she sees me and wants to connect. It felt good.

It's nothing big, really- just a horse showing affection for her owner. But I felt better. 

Oh and the well was fixed, just in time for the storm. We got a lot of snow but at least it took care of the ice. 

Winter is tough

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Circle of Care


Irish, January 2020

Yesterday there was an incident with Irish and it is hitting me hard. Spoiler alert: we're okay. Well mostly. You'll see as I tell my story. 

I had the afternoon off yesterday and I was looking forward to some down time. I figured I'd walk Guinness, feed the horses their afternoon hay and then go have lunch. Followed by some yoga and reading. 

In the winter I divide the hay feed  into morning and afternoon. For the afternoon I usually put the hay on the ground up in the field so that they have to do some walking and not just stand at the buffet all day. I was careful about where I put it and made sure that there was a clear path without ice. Which Carmen took. However, Irish did not. He opted to go a different path that had ice under the snow. 

I heard a noise and I looked to see his hind end out from under him and him scrambling to get some purchase. Carmen was looking at him with her eyes bugging out. He almost got it and then his feet slid again and he went down, hard. 


Carmen ran around him and then spied me and came up running full tilt. I went and grabbed a halter and lead and walked out to Irish. I put the halter on and tried to help him get up but he couldn't do it. I was all alone but had my cell. I called Julia who didn't answer so I figured she was working. I shot her a quick text and then called Ed. He was at the shop getting tires replaced on the truck. I told him what happened and he said he'd be home as soon as he could. He went to the desk and said there was an emergency could they please hurry. 

Irish tried again and with me putting some traction on the lead got up and I started to lead him carefully away from the ice. And then his feet went out and down he went again, really hard. 

And this time he stayed down. 

I knew I was going to need help so I called Tanya. She and her husband ran out of the house and came right away but she's not next door so there was time. I ran and grabbed some sand and shavings and put it all around Irish. He tried again but really couldn't do it. I told him to wait and that I was there. While all this was going on it started to snain (that rain/snow combo). 

Once again I was holding the lead of a horse that could not get up and I was all alone. I could feel emotions coming out and, as that happened, Irish began to struggle. I stopped and took a number of deep breaths and pictured myself holding Irish in my hand (like a baby bird) and I sent that image to him. He settled back down. I noticed that his tongue was hanging out and his eyes were closing. Carmen hovered around and then went to eat the hay, watching us all the while. 

sorry for the graphic photo- I took it in case I need to 
contact the vet and she had any questions
(don't judge me) 

Ed came zooming in the driveway and I told him to put Guinness in the house and grab some boots with traction (he was wearing sneakers). Then Tanya and Larry arrived. Both of them are awesome in a crisis. I gave Larry the lead to keep steady traction on which Tanya and I harrassed, encouraged and supported Irish to get up. 

And he did get up and stood there shaking. I took the lead and slowly we creeped over to the a bare patch and got him into the stall. Carmen tried to stay super close. She was in the way and I shooed her but let her be beside him for moral support. 

Irish was in his stall, wet and shaking. People we talking but it felt like I was in the bottom of a well. I could hear them but couldn't make out what they were saying. 

just a minute I said and walked to the trunk outside Irish's stall and sat down. And then I began to cry. I felt relief, guilt and worry all at the same time. Ed gave me a hug and I got up to change his blanket and get the stall organized. 

When I got back to the house I felt like a wrung out dish rag. I jacked the heat up to get warm and spent a couple hours on the couch just reading and trying to get the adrenaline out of my system. It doesn't take a genius that I was dealing with both what happened and the memories it revived. 

That night I gave him and Carmen a good groom and double check on how he was. He felt good enough to snark at Carmen in the barn aisle. 

Last night he really didn't eat and his mouth looks a little funny so I wonder if he bit his tongue. This morning he had clearly stall walked all night. I gave him some Gastric F/X and turned him out. He  carefully followed the path to the hay and is behaving himself. 

can you tell his muzzle looks wonky? 

Carmen is doing okay with the current footing so I think that Irish, with his neurological issues and poor hind end just can't cope with winter footing. My plan is to get him through the winter and evaluate if I should be subjecting him to another winter. But like I like to say 'that's a problem for a different day'. 

I am so fortunate to have a circle of people that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I can call when I'm in trouble and they will drop everything and come. There was no way I was going to get Irish up on my own. It is so important that these are the people in your circle. As I age, I am consciously choosing these people to be the ones I call friends. I hope that they know that I would drop things for them if they need me. 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Sense and Sensibility

 Like much of North America the past two weeks have been frigid. In between though there has been rain and thaw. This has led to ice everywhere.  

yes this is my riding ring. Anyone have skates?

I have ice cleats permanently attached to my boots. Otherwise I would not be able to walk the dog or do a lot of chores. I am grateful for them but they are not super comfortable on long walks. Ice is always a worry with the horses. Both Carmen and Irish are shod in front and those have cleats on them. I watch them and they are quite careful about where they put their feet. 

I had been spreading sand and shavings outside to add traction. Unfortunately, the ice had become so hard and smooth that neither would stick. On saturday I tried sprinkling warm water on the ice and the the shavings to help them stick. It worked but not great. I asked Ed to go and buy some bags of salt for me to put down outside their stalls. He asked 'isn't salt hard on their feet?'  'Maybe' I replied, 'but I'm more worried about them slipping and injuring themselves'. 

While he was out, Julia came and we brought the horses in to give them a good groom. Irish's back legs were bloody. It seems that he slipped on the ice and banged up his legs (probably trying to get up). He was walking very badly too and I was worried he might have seriously injured himself. Hosing his legs showed superficial cuts that we dressed. But he was still walking badly. Not lame but shuffly. I started him on bute and hoped for the best. Nothing seemed dire enough to warrant a vet call- he was eating, enjoyed the attention, just wasn't walking well. 

I love that Willow joins Guinness and I on our walks

Sunday morning I kept the horses in for a bit while I sprinkled more salt. Irish came out and even tried to prance.  Later, when bringing him in we were able to determine that it was his back that was sore. By that time enough of the driveway was clear that we could walk the horses a bit and he loosened up pretty quickly. It would make sense that he would strain his back trying to get up. 

Now the outside is coated in salt and sand and the footing is much better. 

I said to Julia that Carmen, although clearly  wanting to stretch her legs, is very sensible with the footing. She quite enjoyed the walk up and down the driveway. This is when I really want an indoor- they need a place to exercise and their paddock is not okay for that. However, I realize how much I count on how 'sensible' Carmen is for her handling and not trying to injure herself. I don't have that same faith in Irish. It's very possible he fell trying to have a little canter around. 

With riding off the table I have been taking Carmen out and have been doing some stretches with her. She's pretty used to the side and stretch down carrot stretches. I've added in getting her to allow me to passively stretch her front legs. It's interesting in a lot of ways. 

First of all her response to this is curiosity and a little resistance. But not over reacting or freaking out. I am careful and I have approached it slowly, as soon as she softens I quietly release and reward. I can feel her start to stretch into the front legs. Her hind legs are a little more tight. But she's figuring out that she feels good after. I completely trust this horse on the ground. I need to also expect the same common sense from her under saddle. Because clearly she's capable. 

We're near the end of January and then we just have to endure the 18 weeks of February.....

the horses enjoying the sun on their backs

Monday, January 17, 2022


 Ah winter. 

It is not my favourite time of year. Don't get me wrong- I can appreciate the beauty of winter. And I do like the concept of seasons. I also know that living where there's winter means that our summers are beautiful and pleasant, not searing and hellish. 

An old photo of our home. It looks different now

But the truth is that looking after the animals in winter is harder. And sometimes unpleasant (old post called 'The 5 stages of Winter" if you are interested) . Now that January has hit winter is full on. We've had a couple storms and dealt with them as per usual. Last friday we had a wicked storm that started as freezing rain and ended as snow. And then the temperature dropped, freezing the snow into a hard mass. 

the snow was good for snowshoeing

Today the temperature began to rise. After a calm morning, a blizzard started at noon. I brought the horses in and stocked up their hay and water on my lunch break and then headed back to work. The temps kept raising and the snow turned to rain. And then became really heavy. Now I knew that this was going to happen and was resigned prepared. After work I went out and grabbed my shovel. I spent the next 30 minutes digging the now softened ice/snow to allow a path for water to run. I then cleaned out the stalls, swept and fed the horses. 

Now when the the weather is bad the chickens leave their coop and make a beeline for the barn. Where they spend the rest of day. The analogy I use is 'teenagers at the mall'. They hang out, squabble, demand treats and generally make it clear that they own the barn and the horses are simply tenants. 

enjoying a sunny spot

While I was doing my chores the girls were clucking around looking at me expectantly. I figured that they wanted to go back to their coop so I opened the barn door. They looked out at the teaming rain and howling winds and flatly refused to leave. I figured that if I waited a long enough they would go. Turns out I underestimated their stubbornness. I believe that I now understand how a chicken says 'no way!' and 'we'll stay here'. 

I realized that I had two choices- let them hunker in the barn overnight. That felt like a bad idea. Carmen concurred. Or I could do it myself. With a sigh I picked up the first chicken- Beth. she's my most gentle and friendly one. The others protested and required me to chase them around the barn. Four times I trudged from the barn to the coop, clutching a chicken under one arm, trying to not fall on the mix of ice, slush and water while the wind buffeted me around. Guinness, ever the loyal side kick traipsed back and forth with me, looking a bit bemused by this new chore. I deposited each hen into the coop and told them to go to bed. 

I believe that he often thinks I make bad decisions

When I finally came in I was wet and chilled and questioning my life choices. 

But not really. 

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Playing with Fire: 2022 Goals


I've been spending some time thinking about what I want to accomplish this year. Last year was a time to regroup and pull into myself. This year  I feel more motivated to develop goals and to invest my heart into them. I have a good understanding of the pandemic, I am triple vaccinated and I want to stop hiding and go live my life. I am careful- I mask in public, etc; but at this point it feels like Covid is going to be part of our lives for a long time. Maybe we were optimistic to believe that we could contain it.  I saw this a lot on my FB around NYE: 

Screw that. I'm going in and tackling the year. I'm going to be loud and disruptive. Be warned. 

So here are my goals for 2022. some of them are measurable while others are more qualitative. I am quite fine with that. Not everything with meaning can be weighed and categorized. 

1. Unlock Carmen's gaits. I spent a lot of time suppressing Carmen's 'wild side' and as a result her gaits have become short and shuffly. I need to undo that. I understand why it happened- often her bolts arise out of her tension and going fast.  In wanting her to not rush I lost the forward. 

I've been working on getting her to go forward and use her power. It feels like I'm playing with fire. Which is why sometimes it goes too far and we fall apart. But I know I can do it and I need to accept that, as I play with the line of forward/ too much I will go too far. I've had this happen already and no one died, so there's that. 

2. Solidify our second level work. This is a goal that will need #1 to be successful and a lot of help with lessons from Jane:
    a. improve longitudinal and lateral suppleness
    b. carry  more from behind and not load the forehand
    c. improve counter canter and canter-walk transitions
If I can get that solidified I can then start stretching into 3rd level work. 

3. Improve my riding skills: 
    a. improve sitting trot 
    b. be consistent in contact (get off the inside rein)
    c. have consistent lessons and follow up homework.  I am pretty good with this anyway, but I want to have a plan for lessons with the destination in mind. 
    d. make use of my Pivo to improve my riding skills both within and outside of lessons but not obsess.

Carmen: I can get behind that goal

4. Continue to work on my partnership with Carmen. I know that I often post our conversations, but I swear we are having real conversations now. I am working on loving her fire and power and not trying to make it go away. This will include going to at least one Trail clinic. 
    a. I know that I have a tendency when I'm riding to not push Carmen on things I know she can do. I suspect that also shows up in my ground work so I want a set of outside eyes to help me with that. 
    b. work on liberty and time together- I am really enjoying that work
    c. go on hacks off-property

5. Push my comfort zones. 
    a. go to shows (assuming there are shows) 
    b. stop micromanaging Carmen as a way to be in control. 
    c. Go to other places for lessons to practice hauling in, working, hauling home and not having the world end. 
Carmen: Control is an illusion

6. Keep working on my fitness:
If I want to be a better rider I need to have control over my body parts. I don't care if I can run 10k or do 100 pushups. But I do want to be able to isolate and control my various muscles. I work almost full time and I have 2 horses to take care of  and home/farm chores. Not to mention the very demanding chickens....I won't ever be the person that works out 2 hours every day. But I can be dedicated to not becoming a full couch potato. To that end, I want to keep doing yoga at least 3 times a week. 

So there it is- the larger goals of what I want to accomplish this year. I suspect we'll have some set backs but I am going to dive head first in and embrace the fire. No more tiptoeing. 

Sunday, January 2, 2022

Of Dragons and Divas

 I have ridden more over the Christmas break than I managed for the rest of December. We have been having mild, albeit gray, weather and I've been trying to make the most of it. 

The ground is still pretty soft

Most of my rides have been pretty good. I've been trying to be conscious of the tools Jane has given me and I'm happy to report that they are working. My friend, Cynthia has moved back home and I invited her to come out and have a New Year's Eve ride on Irish. I had been going on and on about how great both horses have been and how happy Julia and I have been with them. 

Guinness turned 5 on New Years Day

Ed and I have decided to convert to solar power and the panels are going on the barn roof. The work crew showed up to start the install that morning.  I am not sure if that played a role but both Irish and Carmen were lit. Irish literally pranced sideways up to the ring while Carmen was her old distracted, fire breathing dragon self. I tried to work her in hand and then to free lunge but she would just bolt to Irish which was no help for Cynthia. I went back and got my lunging stuff and worked her for a while. I rode and we ended on a good place. While Carmen was pretty hot and was feeling her oats (as they say) I was able to ride it out. 

Carmen: Who me? I'm an angel

I heard that a lot of other horses were pretty fired up too. So maybe it was the weather or maybe they sensed the passing of Betty White. 

Julia came out on New Year's day to ride and the horses were in a far different spot. Carmen started off really well. She did get a bit strong and then wired up about the chickens who joined us to forage in brush. Irish spooked which set her off and I just steered her in a circle at the canter until it felt like work.  

I have to confess that I'm enjoying her dragon-ness, especially now that I can ride it rather than cling and hope to still be on when the dust settles. 

Carmen: she just doesn't get my humour

Sunday I was riding by myself so I brought up my Pivo to record the ride. And I was thrilled with the ride. Carmen was calm and happy and really trying to figure out what I wanted. Karen had given me a piece of advice- she speaks out when she thinks something is good so she can look at the video later. I decided to try that and to make when things were not good. I was so excited to check the video but when I dismounted I saw that I had forgot to start it recording. Ugh. 

But I did grab a shot to show her foamy lipstick. 

Nice lipstick

The weather is going to be cold again and riding will slow up but it was a good way to start the year. 

How was your New Years?