Well, ha, I start the month out with a prankster in the barn. Someone has carried a cone from the line and dropped in into the stay-box. I wonder who…
My first two weeks of July are spent enjoying my family on Drummond Island – “the gem of the Huron.” It is a ten minute ferry ride off the east coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula; at the northern end of Lake Huron. You could Mapquest it – and then rent a cabin, if you’d like a beautiful summer retreat. My good friend, Belinda Esterline, cares for the girls while I am gone. She served as an instructor here at Riverbank Farm for a decade, so I have no problem trusting her with the horses and facility. The day after we leave, Ruby manages to cut up her forehead on something; and Belinda has it doctored before even giving me a call. The garden grows by leaps and bounds while we are away; and it is a tickle to see it upon return.
July 16 ~ My surprise homecoming gift to Zena is that I decide to separate her from Ruby, so her milk can dry up. Zena’s been making motions to keep Ruby from her nipples for a while now; but Ruby gets pushy. I put Zena in the round pen while the others are free-grazing. Ruby hangs nearby with her brand new yearling halter. There is a family wedding today; so I do little more with the horses.
July 17 ~ Poor Zena! Her udder is engorged with milk. It surely must be painful. It would be easy to put Ruby back on her; but I resist. Instead, I have a wonderful morning with Ruby in the tack room. I have not had her in there in over a month; but she quietly eats her breakfast while I groom. I clean all four feet, and spray condition her mane and tail. She spends time after breakfast investigating the bridles and saddle pads on the racks and pegs near the door. Just for fun, I cover her completely with her bedspread and, later, walk her into the area with the blanket still draped over her back. I put the hay out for the day; but Ruby comes back in and asks to play. So, of course, I oblige. She doesn’t want to stay in the stay-box – a square of white poles on the ground. I suspect I am confusing her because, before I left town, I rewarded her for staying; but I also rewarded her for backing in and out. At any rate, we walk around the barrels and roll the ball through the barrels. She gets a tiny (really tiny) bit feisty because she doesn’t yet get that the ball has to go between the barrels in order to get a treat. She allows me the pleasure of wrapping the weight tape around her while she is standing loose in the back pen. At fourteen months, she weighs 750 pounds and is 14-1” hands high. My life-long Morgan of 25 years, Stormy, was 14-1″ full-grown. I think Ruby is going to be a tall girl!
July 18 ~ It’s going to be hot today. The flies are already buzzing when I come out for morning feed. Each of the girls stand quietly unhaltered in their stalls while I apply fly wipe to their ears and eyes; and spray their bodies. Good girls – they get treats! It is truly hot again the next day, so I do little with the girls. But, I take my granddaughter, Crystal, to the Tractor Supply Store – TSC – to get a new pair of boots – because she’s a good girl, too.
July 20 ~ A hot day again. Crystal comes over early and we saddle Sara and Zena. After trotting them around the outside arena for just a little while, we walk them along all three single paths on the ten acres; and then trot all the way around the ten. It is the longest and fastest trot Crystal has ridden because her Sara was simply keeping up with my long-legged Zena. After putting the old(er) girls away, Crystal plays fetch with Ruby and the red ball. In the evening, I put Zena in the round pen and let the other horses graze. At some point, Sara gallops out back with the other two following. They return on the far path to the parking lot and barn drive – all jumping and snorting. They stop, spin, and run through the arena and back out to the round pen – still bucking and snorting. I am wondering whether they were startled by a deer. Aside from that little party, Ruby is gentle and good all day. Makes me feel good.
July 21 ~ Hot and humid again. Kim and I take a morning ride on Sara and Sparky. When we return, Ruby wants to play (she probably wants treats) but, because of the heat (is it because of the heat?) she is frustrated, nippy, and in our face. I halter her and lead her nose up to the wall. She offers a nice side-pass to the right when I ask; but she wants nothing to do with a return to the left. So, I simply stop and tell her to go outside. She absolutely does not want to – no matter how much we wave her out. Alas, we just leave. So much for you, smarty pants.
July 31 ~ Today is a real growth day. Mid-afternoon, I saddle Sara before letting Ruby out of her stall. I want Ruby to follow us, but am afraid of getting hurt. She wants to (1) play, (2) steal attention from Sara, and (3) investigate Sara’s saddle and bridle. As I’ve done in the past (but not often and consistently enough), I lead Sara around and use my switch to keep Ruby away. When she can’t approach, she instead picks up a cone and stands on the box. She wants the attention and reward. I ignore her and, when she is far enough away that I feel safe, I mount Sara – and the routine begins again. Ruby picks up the red ball-on-a-rope and trots toward us – with it swinging from her mouth! Sara being Sara, she responds with something between hops and a little bolt. I hurry her to the far end of the arena, hop off, toss her rein over her pommel, and run to retrieve the ball. Well, I have to give Ruby a treat – she’s just trying to play with us. I put the ball in the storage area, hoping she won’t trot down to Sara before I return. I remount Sara and, at some point am able to give Ruby a treat for standing quietly by us – and give Sara a treat for tolerating Ruby! Eventually, and this is a first, Ruby stands by us investigating Sara’s bridle, blanket, saddle, stirrups, and my boots. She muzzles and lips everything; but I reprimand her when she tries to bite or chew. Every so often, she takes a break to talk to Sara. I wish I understood the conversation. I eventually ride off to find a good time and place to dismount. I swing the saddle off quickly in order to hide it behind the causeway door before Ruby makes it over to us. I play with Ruby in and out the cones, and put all the horses out. All in all, I was able to stay reasonably calm; and Ruby eventually became the calmest she has been thus far with her three or four attempts at in-and-out the cones. I wish I had pictures, but my hands were full with the task at hand.