August starts with the heat in full force. I ride Sara around the ten acres, her whinnying all the way because the other horses are left behind. As I ride along the west property, I meet our neighbors, Amy and Joe, who moved in last summer. She tells me she showed 4-H Western when she was thirteen. She had come down to meet us twice before, but wasn’t sure whether she should come through the yard gate to knock on our door. So sad – we could have met a year ago. She says she had seen the horses when they had wandered the back ten. I hop off Sara and invite Amy through the gate. Looping Sara’s rein around her saddle, I let her trot back to the barn – because Ruby is loose up there and I am afraid that, if we walk up with me on Sara and Amy on the ground, Ruby might accost her. When we reach the barn, Sara was standing on the grooming pad and Ruby is chewing on her rein. Amy’s work keeps her away twelve hours a day during the week. But, I usually feed late so I tell her, if she’s not exhausted, she is surely welcome to stop in.
Ruby checks out Sara’s Saddle.
August 2 ~ I order Carolyn Resnick’s book, “Naked Liberty” and her DVD, “Waterhole Rituals” for $74.85. It is pricey but little do I know how this woman’s writing will tie together with such simplicity what I want for my horses and me. www.carolynresnickblog.com.
August 3 – 90 degrees today ~ Via Facebook, I receive the following message: “My friend Lois Magisano bred Aquilla’s Zena, and another friend was the assistant trainer at the time, who broke her out. She was sweet and willing, but injured as a yearling, I believe, and never healed quite right. She was catchy behind, but was always very agreeable. Jerry & Vikki Acklin bought her from Lois, and I never knew what became of her. She was shown hunt seat. I believe just at The Buckeye Morgan Challenge but perhaps another show or two.” Maybe, it would be nice for these people to know Zena’s is doing well; but they discarded her because of her gimpy leg so I suspect they wouldn’t have an interest.
Amy comes down for evening feed; saying that she visited Ruby’s Facebook page during her noon hour to get to know her. I show around the barn. She spends time with Zena on a lead out on the lawn, helps me grain and put out hay, and lets the girls out of their stalls. In addition to having a long ago 4-H experience, she spent two summers working at her aunt’s riding stable near Houghton Lake. I am concerned that she might underestimate Ruby, but she has a good head about her. And, she meditates and understands the power of Now. That’s a bonus. I give her copies of the two Vanessa Bee books, Three-Minute Horse Training and Horse Agility; and a copy of Beautiful Jim Key. That should keep her busy. I look forward to sharing the horses with her.
Before heading off to bed, I order a copy of “I Am Mr. Bowersox” by Jorg Huckabee-Mayfield, a self-published book about a rescue horse. It proves to be a fair-enough read. In fact, with a little editing, it could be as good as “Black Beauty.”
August 4 – ANOTHER mid-90-degree day ~ I offer Ruby her morning grain in the middle of the arena; while brushing her, and cleaning her feet. She is not excited about having her back feet lifted; and gives me particular angst with the back right. But, I can see that that nasty cut is open or at least open-able, so I take her into the office to apply Red Oil. She does not enjoy my handling that foot. I need to keep Zena separate from Ruby so I put Zena and Sparky in the back yard nearer our house for grazing. The lawn is longer and less weedy; and Gary says he doesn’t have a problem with them being there as long as they don’t run and leave divots. I lock Sara and Ruby in the back pen where Ruby whinnies for her mom, while I fill the water tank and de-cob-web the stalls. I leave Sparky and Zena out. I am watching them from my window now, as I type.
August 13 ~ How nice – it rained most the night. It is humid, but only 75-degrees. I give Zena her hay with water in her stall this morning – figuring she will lay down afterward. I distribute three flakes of hay around the arena for the others; but open the doors at both ends in case they want to go out. An hour later, while sitting here at my computer, I see Ruby come out the front door by herself. She grazes a little then walks back in; and then repeats the out, graze, and back in. I am impressed that she comes out on her own; in spite of the pull she must feel to stay with the others – a small sign of independence.
August 16 ~ At 15 months, Ruby weighs 770 pounds and is 14-3 hands tall. She has grown two inches – like overnight!
August 17 ~ I watch a 14-minute YouTube video by Nadine Lindblom where she demonstrates how to get a horse to lay down naturally. I think it iss not the horse’s first time because she mentions that, the first time, she walked up to give him a treat too quickly, and he popped back up. She asks him to put his head down, then to walk with his head down, then to paw the ground; because that is the natural laying down process I keep wondering how the horse figures out she wants him to lay down. Still, Amy and I work with Sparky for fifteen minutes; including our getting down on the ground. She puts her head down and paws; but we can’t get her to go down.
August 18 ~ I work with Sparky again this morning, probably for a good half hour, encouraging her to lay down. I am down on the ground a lot; working hard to keep myself in my “quiet place”. I know – I’m not supposed to work hard; I’m supposed to relax. She lowers her head and does a lot of pawing, and even some sleepy-face – but, won’t lay down. I bring Ruby out to work on some Carolyn Resnick walking. If Ruby walked with me at her ribs, she gets a treat. If she turns into me, I use my switch to move her away and then drive her quietly with the switch. If she stops when I stop, she gets a treat. We work for a good ten minutes.
OMG!!! I never dreamed the day would end like this!!!! While Sara and Ruby are grazing near the barn, Ruby decides to fart around in the forsythia bushes along the arena windows. She snaps a forsythia branch and the stub that remains sticking out of the ground totally trashes her leg. I am talking major stitches! It is a truly horrible wound.
Doc Jim shows up with his I-have-never-like-him assistant whose name I will not include here. I will simply call him Surly – because that is what is always is. He runs roughshod over Ruby, yanking her lead and whacking her hard upside the head with his hand a half dozen times in rapid succession before administering the first sedative. “Just to let her know who’s boss,” he says. Doc Jim has to call his long-retired brother, Doc John, because his own hands are no longer steady enough for stitching. These lift-time vets are in their eighties. When Ruby needs a second sedative in order to inject more Lanacaine to finish the stitching, Surly instead just twitches her. I have not had a twitch in my barn in over twenty years. What better way to lose someone’s trust than to pinch the softness of their nose until the pain is so excruciating that they cannot bear to move – no matter the pain elsewhere. It’s a standard tool in many, if not most, horsemen’s first aid kit. I just wanted Surly out of my barn. But, he’s been with Doc for decades, and I need Doc. Before they leave, Doc fashions a bib from a bundle of used twine – says that will keep Ruby from messing with the bandage. Needless to say, I have to cancel a much anticipated trip to see my old horse-friend, Joan, who now lives three hours away. Instead, I sit in Ruby’s stall with a crossword puzzle and books. When I get bored, I wash her walls.
Amy comes over in the evening and rides Sara. It is her first ride in about twenty years. She tells me that she’s put over ten thousand miles on a Harley! Well, that’s a bonus! It gives her the benefit of both balance and speed; and will make her return to horseback riding that much easier.
August 19 ~ Doc comes to check on Ruby, but I never see him. He leaves a note indicating he gave her an antibiotic and will bring antibiotic pills tomorrow. Amanda Richards hears about Ruby’s accident and drops in for a visit. Later, with Gary’s help, I arrange some wooden boxes near Ruby’s stall so I can set up my laptop. Ruby can listen to and watch my ten-minute video repeating two flash cards bearing the letters “A” and “B.” Silly me.
August 20 ~ Today is a very good day. It is the first weekend day that Amy is able to come down early. While leaving Ruby to watch her A-B video, we saddle Sara and Zena and walk the trails on the back ten. Amy figures out how to put the bitless bridle on Sara, and she does her own saddling. When we return, we let Ruby out to wander the arena for a half hour. Doc is supposed to stop by with antibiotic pills, but I never see him. A potentially strong storm is supposed to roll through in the afternoon, so I keep the horses in. I remove the second grid panel from the front of Ruby’s stall. In the early evening, I let Sara, Sparky, and Zena out for a couple hours. I put the two fetch balls and four cones in Ruby’s stall to keep her from getting bored. I return the girls to their stalls, turn on the Lori Line piano CD, and let Ruby out for an hour. She lays down and rolls in the dust before she and Zena allo-groom over Zena’s stall wall for a long, long time. When I returned her to her stall, I give her a good grooming with a soft brush before heading in for the night. It’s nice outside. I could have slept in her stall and been perfectly happy. I have spent a good part of today thinking about Surly and clenching my jaw. I’d like to have the balls to tell Doc I don’t want him on my property; even if it means I may lose Doc. I send an e-mail to a vet in Goodrich, telling her I’d like to pay for an introductory farm call. Doc has been my vet for over thirty years….
August 21 ~ I still have not seen Doc. I don’t see any antibiotic pills lying around; so am guessing he has not been here. A text comes in from the Goodrich vet saying she only does dentistry. But, she offers a couple referrals, including Dr. Ryker in Ortonville, who has a number of equine vets at his clinic. I visit their website and decide to call. Even though they are the next closest clinic, I am still outside their area by ten miles. That means $75 farm calls. Drat. I book an appointment for a meet-and-greet with their youngest, newest vet. This is her first year out of MSU. Every day, I’ve been letting Ruby out with me while I sit on the stool and read – performing Carolyn Resnick’s chair ritual according to her “Water Hole Rituals” DVD. I’ve also been leading-from-behind and Ruby is giving me a good response. She’s also been listening to the A-B video twice today. As I head off to bed, I note that my jaw has been clenched all day – surely my unresolved frustration with allowing Surly to hit Ruby upside the head.
August 22 ~ I have Ruby’s stall almost washed and ready for re-painting; but need to wait until she can stay un-stall-bound long enough for the paint to dry. I take her feed bin down, groom her, and read to her. I am sure part of her attempts to nibble me is related to her desire to allo-groom. Yesterday, she chewed through the front of her bandage enough that I could see two stitches. She can reach the bandage if she puts her foot on a step or if she lays down. Twice now, I’ve added more bandage. Doc’s office manager calls to say Doc is on his way over to check on Ruby. I ask whether Surly is coming along. Obviously, I don’t call him Surly to her. She hesitates at the question and then says, “yes.” I really care for this woman, but I reply, “You guys are going to lose me over him.” There is a pause before she says, “What?!” I repeat, “You guys are going to lose me over Surly and I’m not making a joke.” I am not sure how she could have responded, but she just says something like, “Well, okay.” I head out to the barn and am near distraught as I wait for Doc. This fear of confrontation building up in me is very much like the fear I sensed knowing I was about to have a confrontation with one of my husbands. I’m sure this is what all this painful jaw clenching is about. When Doc drives his truck into the arena, Surly is sitting is riding shotgun. He is always surly looking; but this time he stares right at me in a way that lets me know there has been a conversation at the clinic. When I see Kelly, the lanky young woman who helps around the clinic, in the back seat, I know there has been. As they get out of the truck, Ruby leans over her stall, picks up an orange cone, and waves it at Doc. I open her door and attach a lead so Doc can take inspect her bandage; explaining that the little bit of wetness he sees is from her trying to itch or rip the bandage; not from anything oozing from inside. He is surprised to hear she has been able to mess with it while she had her bib on. I inform him that I have added additional bandage three times. I can see Surly at the back of the truck preparing a syringe. When Doc says they are going to take the bandage off, I explain that I do not have a problem with their sedating her if they think it is needed, but I do not want Surly knocking her upside the head. Doc mutters something like, “Well, she’s afraid of the needle.” I ask, “How do you know? Surly didn’t give her a chance to become comfortable with him.” Doc asks how I managed to add extra bandage and I reply, “She was standing loose in the arena with no halter even. I just showed her the bandage and asked her if I could put it on; and she stood still enough.” He shakes his head in quiet disbelief and tells Surly to put the syringe away. He instructs Kelly to hold Ruby in her stall while I take off the part of the bandage that I had put on. Then, he asks me to hold Ruby while Kelly uses her specialty scissors to remove the main bandage. Ruby only does two things while Kelly works. She turns her head down to watch what Kelly is doing and, when Kelly tugs on the part of the bandage that is stuck to the wound, she winces and moves her hip over. But, she relaxes when I ask her to, and Kelly finishes her job. I don’t think Kelly has experience with bandaging because Surly is offering instruction. Doc studies the wound with a flashlight for a couple minutes, commenting that it looks good and dry; and that he does not think we need more antibiotic – says he gave her a good dose when Doc John did the stitching. Surly enters the stall to put new gauze and bandage on – purple this time – and Ruby stands quiet. When everything is done, Doc says, “She’s a good girl.” I do not gloat until after they are gone. Then I fall all over Ruby, praising her for being so good, and telling her how much I love her.” I am so proud of her!!!!!
August 23 ~ Ruby is loose in the arena. I sit on the stool in the middle of the arena and read from Caroyn Resnick’s “Naked Liberty” book. Ruby visits up close constantly, but I only send her away when she lips at my clothes. I read a full two chapters. I find myself constantly torn between being in the house working on my website and being in the barn with my horses. I could fill my days full doing either. And, Gary is in the background doing not much – which is not good. I am concerned that a mild depression has plagued him since his retirement from university teaching.
August 24 ~ I again read a couple chapters from Carolyn Resnick’s “Naked Liberty” while sitting on a chair on the mounting box in the middle of the arena – Ruby around me. My farrier’s son, Liam, comes by to help me repair rotted wall boards in Zena’s stall. It is really a little too small a stall for Zena but, when we get past Ruby’s leg injury, all of the horses will be in their stalls only for eating their grain. The skill saw buzzing within five feet of Ruby’s stall does not bother her one iota. One very funny thing that has come from this injury, and the requisite twine bib, is that Ruby is getting the best of Sara. It has become extremely easy for Ruby to drive Sara because Sara is afraid of Ruby’s bib! When Ruby chased Sara with a tree branch a while back, she clearly learned that Sara was afraid of the branch. I am not so sure that she realizes Sara is afraid of the bib; but it is definitely giving her leverage! Gary and I enjoy a date to see “Pete’s Dragon.” Well, that’s about as close to animal consciousness as one can get! It is a wonderful movie. I get goose bumps a couple of times and a tear in my eye at the end. And, I inhale two full tubs of movie popcorn.
August 25 ~ Kim arrives at 7:30 for an early morning ride – she on Zena and I on Sara. It is so muggy that we question whether we should go; but it is not yet hot and, once we are away from the barn, we agree we made the right choice. The park staff has poured black sealer along the cracks of the metal girders that run across the drive-over bridge. Zena steps onto and over the girders without question; but Sara is wary. I ask her to step over them a couple of times but she quietly refuses. I dismount, walk over ahead of her, and remount. On the way back, she questions it again but steps over. It begins to rain, so we trot slowly most of the way home. It is only ten o’clock. The young vet arrives from Dr. Ryker’s clinic for an introductory veterinary meet-and-greet. The farm call costs me $75. When Ruby meets us at the door, the women scrub her itchy head in hello. They are not Surly, thank goodness. I explain that I would like to stay with Rooker while Ruby’s leg heals and then will transfer to them. I am not happy that my nearest vet will be two towns away. In the afternoon, Doc Jim comes over to check Ruby’s bandage. And, guess what – Surly is not with him. Instead, Doc has a vet named Lisa, who worked for him twenty years ago before moving to California. She checks Ruby’s bandage and adds a different kind of bandage over a spot that Ruby has chewed. Doc says the gauze peeking through looks like puss, so I guess he really is losing his sight. Lisa suggests that this tape might be harder to chew through. As they leave, I ask Lisa whether she is visiting or staying on. She answers with a facial expression that suggests it is her hope that she will be staying on. Damn-it-all! Why didn’t he bring her a day earlier – before I spent the seventy-five dollars! Amy comes over in the evening. Ruby has Doc Lisa’s new tape rolled down, yep, so Amy asks Ruby to stand while I apply more blue sticky tape. I ask Ruby to stand quietly on the lead while Amy grooms her; and then Amy practices moving her from behind while I pick manure. We both agree that Ruby is becoming more tolerant of being maneuvered. If something good is going to come of this gruesome injury – along with Resnick’s Waterhole Rituals – maybe it will be that Ruby is becoming more tractable – good, obedient, dutiful, well-mannered, polite. We manage to get in our ten-minute A-B video session at the very end of the evening; with Ruby eating hay and not paying any attention.
August 26 ~ I turn the hay cart upside-down and let Ruby eat her morning grain from the “tray” formed from the bottom of the cart, while I pick the arena. Afterward, I walk her into the back yard, up toward the house, to graze on the yet-to-be-mowed grass. It is the first time I have had her on a lead in the yard while the other horses are in the barn. But, she appreciates having grass after abstaining for a full week. She lifts her head to watch the road when trucks rumble by but is, otherwise, well-behaved. I keep her out for twenty minutes. Inside the barn, I clip her to the wall for the first time and leave her while I put Zena and Sara in the west pen. I return and unclip Ruby without incident. She had stood quietly for the duration and I am thrilled. I would like to take a moment to tell you how much I am enjoying Carolyn Resnick’s “Naked Liberty” book. This is not written as a how-to book. Resnick states in her prologue that she chose to write it as a memoir of her childhood. My guess is that she is now in her early eighties. It is written through the eyes of a four-year-old, and eight-year-old etc. I am enjoying it partly because it is taking years off me! And, of course, I am highlighting passages. In the prologue, she says (p.15), “I had to be likable and gain favor as a leader with the horse I was working with, which caused me to communicate with him only when he wanted me to.” I put a lot of thought into that – with regard to both horses and humans – because one would think communicating when I wanted to would set me as the leader. She is saying that only sets me as the dominant player. Her premise is that, first, she develops the bond so there is harmony. Then the horse will be willing to follow her lead. Here is a second worthy passage (p 16): “I was lucky growing up with a family who had horse sense and raised me to find my own way by allowing me to learn on my own as they monitored my experiences. What my family knew was that the most important thing was to shape my character and judgment. It is important to be made of the right stuff to be effective in what we want to achieve in life. I don’t think we necessarily need to be born with the right stuff. It’s more that we stuff ourselves rightly and know that the demeanor we choose will lead to our success or our failure. A helpful quality for a student to possess for the stuffing I am speaking of is to be able to surrender to the processes of learning.”
In her Introduction (p.25), she speaks of a kindred spirit among all animals – a connection that comes naturally to almost all animals, some adults and many children – a universal language that all animals understand. On p.26, she writes that “when humans remember to keep the sense of community in the act of communication, rapport is the result.” This kind of reminder is helping me with Ruby. Maybe, I am finally reaching the point where I will never respond in ways that are from my buried past. She talks about “one-mind consciousness,” “fish swimming in unison,” and “movement as a system of communication,” stating that “the relationship between trainer and horse must spring from likeability, companion energy and magnetism.” Finally, she says that “no horse should be made to perform. We must seek his permission and fulfill his requirement for companionship.” This is so different from what I learned and what I taught. Ihope that I can do this for Ruby.
On pg. 34, she writes, “There was an aura left behind from these first settlers, a freedom in the forties and fifties that went unnoticed and now is lost forever. There was an unexplainable freedom when boundaries were flexible. There was no need to know right where your property line was. There was friendship and understanding between neighbors and residents. When rapport was the common condition, there was no need for fences. My relationship with animals was developed from the freedom that existed in that time in history.”
As I read this book, I am doing the Chair Ritual with Ruby. Her stitches bib is leaving dirt on my pages. That is, before I back her up, of course. On pg 60, Resnick writes: “Many Sundays, when it would come time to peel and chop the onions, there were none to be found. My mother would have to drive to the market and sometimes there was no time for that. We couldn’t ask my father. My father would be cleaning the pool or washing the cars or working on a broken-down tractor – whatever he was doing, it was a bad idea to interrupt his work. My dad worked as if he hated what he was doing. If you interrupted him, he would turn on you like a mad badger, spewing cuss words, kicking what he was working on, and saying in a very loud voice, “what do you want?” – which meant, if you told him, you’d be sorry. I never told my father what I wanted. It just brought on a whole bunch of unnecessary trouble.” I have to ask, How many kids have had to put up with that? And, how many wives continue to put up with that? How sick and sad. It’s sad and funny, what unrelated information can be pulled from a book. Or, maybe, it’s not unrelated.
On page 73 she talks about teaching a horse to tie at the time of day when they normally take their nap. That makes sense.
Crystal just called to say she’s ready to come over, and Gary offered to go get her. Nice. Back to Carolyn’s book…
On page 75, Resnick is still talking about this fellow named Tashay and what she learned from him. She writes, “He told me that he felt that he could do anything he wanted to accomplish because he knew how to get help from the universe that surrounded him.” (I am a totally logical and skeptical person; and metaphysics is totally new to me.)
On page 89, Resnick is writing about a sandstorm she endured. She is remembering the storm through the eyes of a child and maybe it wasn’t as bad as she describes. Regardless, she writes about leader horses possessing a personal power that calms the rest of the herd, “I learned in the sandstorm with Mustang that there is no greater ally than to have personal power in any and all circumstances, a personal power that cannot be shaken” and that under the leadership of a good horse, other horses “became relaxed and trusting and stayed focused on the tasks at hand.” And, that when something needs to get done, fear is not our friend.
August 28 ~ My good friend, Charlie, just had a heart catheter with two stents inserted. Goodness, we are getting old! Kim brings Ava to take a lesson on Sparky and, for the first time, Ava carries a small crop while she rides – never uses it, just carries it. She is thrilled that Sparky gives her just a little more respect; including a trot independent from the longe line. When Doc Jim visits, he checks Zena’s udder and says we can put her back with Ruby. Ruby is raucous, attempting to suckle milk from her mom. Finally, Zena runs back into her stall, like, “I’m going back to bed!” It is funny.
August 29 ~ My good friend, Judy, arrives in the evening, on her way home from visiting her out-state daughter. It is good to see her.
August 30 ~ Judy and I enjoy a wonderful morning trail ride – she on Sara, who is very good for her, and I on Zena. We take the trails past the playscape and through the tall pines. It is a beautiful ride.
August 31 ~ Last night, my third cat, Maxine chose to sleep on Judy’s bed. Maxine has never been happy as a third cat. Judy convinces me to let her take Maxine home with her. It proves to be a good match. Doc Lisa and Kelly come to change Ruby’s bandage. They do not sedate her – good girl. I would rather have Ruby sedated than have her remember humans causing her pain. But, the sedation is sixty-dollars each time they opt for it. The wound is looking better. They fill it with Wound Dust before re-bandaging