While Gary and I are out of town, Belinda cares for the horses. On their first day together, Ruby challenges her once, but then backs off. Belinda is tickled that all four horses turn their heads away in their ask-please signal when she delivers grain to their bins. She notices Ruby nursing and is surprised that I have not weaned her. It does not seem to me that she nurses much any more. When Zena arrived last December, I told her she could decide when to wean her baby. Belinda does a lot of pen picking for me because the weather warmed while we were gone, and because Belinda is a good person. She tells me she heard coyotes in the park after dark one night. Mid-week, Ruby tries to bite Belinda’s sleeve as she opens Ruby’s stall door. Belinda tapped her with the switch without breaking stride. She says, “Ruby knew that was wrong and she walked away. Smart girl.” The next day, she tried to nip Belinda’s shoulder. Belinda wrote in the barn journal, “Babies!” That’s why I like having Belinda around. She notes that toward the end of the week, Ruby enters both Sara and Sparky’s stalls before going into her own. And, she urinates in Sparky’s! Well, is that a message?!
It appears as if no one missed me while I was gone. Ruby weighs 665 pounds! I am giving her eight pounds of pellets a day. I groom Ruby and pick everyone’s feet, including Ruby’s. Sparky’s white tail is a horrid yellow. I spray shampoo it, which does little good; and lop off four inches of the dirtiest. Ruby follows me around the pen, “helping” me clean. After graining in the evening, each horse walks out of her respective stall - except Ruby. She waits in her open stall for treat. When she doesn’t see me coming, she walks out and stands waiting. When I arrive, she backs, and turns her head to ask. How nice. I toss Sue’s ball a couple of times so Ruby can pick it up for a couple more treats.
On the 9th, I spread the comforter half-open on Ruby’s back while she eats. I clean Sparky’s tail again and lop off another four inches. She is sixteen years old and tends to suffer diarrhea. It is hard to keep her clean in the winter. I wonder whether she is developing mal-absorption - the malady that caused the final demise of my good mare, Buffy, in her late twenties. We dealt with her poor bum for eight years! Crystal is off school today and sits in the tack room with Ruby while she eats her lunch. This is a first for Crystal.
On Saturday, the temps drop to just five degrees - with the farrier coming to trim hooves. He trims Allie in the arena before we get too cold; then all four of the others in the tack room. Bill is astounded - yes, that is the word he used - at Ruby’s good behavior. I bring one of the girls into the tack room each morning for grooming and, when it is not bitterly cold, sit on the wooden box in the arena while they eat their evening hay. Ruby lets me lead her to the box with just a loose rope draped over her neck; then she steps onto the box in hopes of a treat. On Friday, the temps jump to fifty! What an increase! It is crazy, but I am able to clear four barrows of manure from the pens. In the afternoon, I lead Ruby in the arena nicely. On Saturday, it is windy and Gary helps me finish cleaning the pens.
It is Sunday the 21st, and I decide to ask ruby to walk a small circle around me on the lead. First, I ask each of the other three girls to demonstrate. Ruby then walks one nice counter-clockwise circle for me. In the afternoon, she walks a circle in each direction. One of them is a bit sloppy. The next day, she’s good for hoof picking in the tack room, and walks another nice counter-clockwise circle in the arena. We then walk quietly all the way around the perimeter of the arena. I ask her to stop, giving her a treat after five steps, then ten, then 15, 20 and, finally, 25. She repeats this on Tuesday before walking to a pile of hay in the middle of the outside pen - while everyone else is still inside. That’s pretty good.
On Wednesday, there is a truly heavy all-day snowfall so I leave all five, including Allie, loose in the arena over night. Ruby approaches Allie’s hay pile and eats with her. The next morning, Gary is blowing snow around the barn. Ruby WANTS to come into the tack room to check out the noise. I am surprised. There is the stench of the gasoline engine (unless you like that smell, which I sort of do). She watches out the tack room window for a minute before hustling back into the arena. But, then, she walks back in as far as the door from the causeway and listens for a long time. Ruby and I walk in the arena, stopping every twenty paces for a treat. She does well, even with the noise of the snow blower outside. The water tank needs filling in the evening, so I get that done while the horses are eating their grain. I let them out before rolling up the hose. As the reel winds the hose from across the arena, Ruby picks it up in her mouth. I roll a good ten feet of it as it slides through her teeth. No joke! When she drops it, the coil continues to wrap around her front legs. But, she just stands there watching me rotate the reel’s handle. She walks to the end of the hose, where water is dribbling out, and plays there. I wish I was getting this on video.
On Sunday the 28th, the weather pops back up to fifty-five degrees. What is with this weather??? The pens are a soupy mess. In the arena, ruby picks up Sue’s ball, tries to pick up a hoola-hoop, touches a black hay tub, stands on the wooden box, and walks over the teeter totter. ALL WITHOUT A LEAD LINE!
Rain and snow is in the forecast so, on Monday I clean the pens - three barrows from the outside. Ruby plays fetch-and-give with Sue’s ball - retrieving it five times!