Ruby 2016 11 November

Kim and I start the month off on the right foot – or hooves! Such a beautiful morning. I am taking a picture of Kim taking a picture!
Zena relaxes with her bitless bridle. I could not imagine going back to metal bits – archaic!

November 2 ~ It is peaceful in the barn this morning. While the girls eat their hay, I groom all of them. Soft brush, then leg scrub, then mane & tail – from one to the next to the next.

The horses watch us load old fence planks out of the barn. Mostly, they are getting in our way.

November 8 ~ Election Day – OMGosh – Donald Trump is president-elect?!?!?! The entire nation should have been reading Betty Friedan!

November 9 ~ The weather is good and Kim’s friend is still in town. We spend the entire day working on the perimeter fence between Showgirl and us; making sure it is as secure as possible. We use every length of scrap fencing I can find stored in and around the barn. It seems like the neighbors would have shored up this fence row before bringing Showgirl home. It is their property line, too. At any rate, it makes for a good, long work day; and I end it by asking Gary to take me to Old Country Buffet for dinner. I eat healthy – plus meat – plus dessert. I need comfort food after the presidential election.

November 11 ~ I host a NOW meeting at my home – National Organization for Women – and invite Amy to meet my friends. There are fourteen women and one man in attendance. It is maybe the best NOW meeting yet – everyone says so. We share great food and good post-election bemoaning. But, as Amy leaves, she quietly tells me that she voted for Trump. I say, “So, did my brother and two of our four kids. We’re still family.”

November 12 ~ I have a good friend named, Marsha. Years ago – like twelve years ago – she brought her granddaughter to Riverbank for riding lessons; and then began riding with me, too. She had experience from her teen years; but had been away from horses for decades. Since closing the stable, I only see her once a year or so but, today, we share breakfast at a local restaurant so that I can hear about her new horse – a ten-year-old paint mare named Lucy. She has found an extremely clean and well-organized boarding stable very near her house. I hesitate when she tells me it is a reining horse training stable – nasty bits – but  I don’t say anything. She’s only boarding; not training.

November 13 ~ I bring all of the horses into the tack room for grooming, one after the other. Maybe, from now on, I will bring one horse in each morning; so that each gets well-groomed every four days throughout the winter. In the evening, Sam, a former riding student, brings her two children to visit – seven-year-old Tony and five-year-old Lexie. Sam rode under Belinda’s tutelage when she was sixteen. Now, she is married with children – and Lexie would like to ride horses. Once Tony sees the horses, he does too. But, Sam says he has a motorized mini-bike. He has a motor of his own, too – loves to race around the open arena on his own two feet! They help to put out hay and sit in the “king and queen” chairs on the mounting box while the horses eat. Lexie does not have pre-school on Fridays, so Sam will bring her back this Friday.

November 14 ~ Kim, Zena, Sara and I enjoy a beautiful walk in the park. When I saddle Sara, she moves away more than once. That is unusual. She generally stands quietly, untethered, while I tack her up. And, when I tighten the girth the second time, she really uses her body to ask me to please not do that. Is this because she has become rotund; or is it because we have ridden so little this year? I would ride her bareback; but I am sixty-four-years old with a note from my doctor saying my bone density test came back poorly. I let Sara pick the direction of our walk and she surprises me when she heads west off the back of the property, instead of east. We never head in that direction. When we ride past the bike track and head toward the river, it is apparent that Sara knows exactly where she is going. There is a small area of lush grass that we had enjoyed on our last ride – maybe a week ago. But, we came to that spot from the opposite direction, near the end of our ride – not the beginning. Sara appears to understand, spatially, where the area is, independent of our previous navigation. I think that is impressive. In the evening, Amy and I play with each of the four horses at liberty. She walks each horse over the poles, and between the barrels and the wall. We sit cross-legged on the ground amidst the three adult horses. This is not something I have done in years past.. Amy rewards for a muzzle touching the ground, or for pawing; but we are a long way from having a horse lay down with us. We walk with Ruby, one on each side; but we do not sit on the ground with her.

November 15 ~ I work in the barn and field all day! Do not even have breakfast until 4P. The office is clean – took down bulletin boards, horseshoe bridle racks, everything I do not need. Remnants of my thirty-five years as an instructor disappear, one-by-one.

November 16 ~ It is mid-November and the weather remains beautiful. Kim’s daughter owns a pallet party business; and Kim steals away from her pallet making to enjoy an afternoon ride. Sara is with me; but Kim opts for Sparky. Sara tells me in such a big way that she does not want to be saddled. Her face is filled with a million expressions that are so easy to read. I tell her the saddle must be tight or I will fall off; but I know she would rather just stay home. In the park, we skirt the east perimeter; walking through foot-deep orange and crimson maple leaves. The swoosh of the leaves around the horses’ legs is so incredibly loud that we cannot hear each other talk. We have not had Sparky under saddle for most of the summer; and Kim comments that she had forgotten how enjoyable it is to ride her.

In the evening, I take each horse out of their stall after graining; with just a thin twine around their neck. It is my hope that each will walk at my side, stop, back, and walk in and out of the blue barrels. Sparky does well enough; although she keeps trying to shake her leg or touch her muzzle to the ground for her treat. These are leftover motions from when I was unsuccessfully trying to teach her to lay down. I suspect you have long ago guessed that I am neither consistent nor persistent. I could never be a professional trainer. Sara is not very cooperative. After just one walk and stop, she wants to leave me; so I return her to her stall. She would rather head out back for hay; but the twine helps to keep her from debating the issue. Zena does surprisingly well; even in and out of the barrels – calm for the most part. But, there are times, especially around the barrels, where she looks at me with an almost aggressive face. I am surprised. What is she saying? Ruby and I walk forty feet, stop, and enjoy a treat. She enjoys the treat; not me. But, she is not interested in doing more. She turns to face me with what I perceive as negative energy. I quietly walk to the tack room, get my switch, and quietly walk-herd her around the arena. My energy remains low. She walks a short distance, and then tries to turn to face me; but I guide her on. She eventually walks herself into her stall. I slip the twine off her neck; give her a treat and leave. After putting the hay out, with all four horses eating, I quietly use my switch to move Ruby off her hay four times; each time standing in the spot she just left. On the fifth move, she walks away before I lift my switch. I give her a treat and leave for the night.

Lexi returns on November 18 to play with Sparky. She is a natural.

I have started a routine where I bring one of the four girls into the tack room for grooming each morning so, every four days, they get a scrub with my bumpy-gloves, a soft brush, hoof pick, hoof moisturizer, mane and tail detangler, spray tail shampoo, and Vaseline on their chestnuts. I spray detangler below Sparky’s vulva because she drips soft stools on her white hair. The lanolin in the detangler softens it; and then I use adult-size wet wipes to wipe her clean. Sara is the only one that wants to leave the tack room and return to the other horses as soon as she finishes her grain. The others enjoy eating the hay in the tack room, hassle-free. It is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. TSC has stall mats on sale and Gary buys me eight for Christmas. Well, he pays for them – I bring them home. It is a chunk of change; but a perfect early Christmas gift. I put six in the tack room so the horses will not slip when they spread their front legs to eat hay off the floor; and two in the causeway between the tack room and arena. Sara is the first to walk on them. I have to offer her bits of carrot to convince her they are safe. I am not sure where she sees the correlation – carrots can kill rubber mat monsters? I am now bringing Ruby into the tack room every night for as much as an hour. I don’t groom. I have been reading Sharon Wilsie’s HORSE SPEAK aloud and following her advice regarding rocking with Ruby; helping her become comfortable with my hands on the nose of her halter; and encouraging her to more comfortably accept the lead rope. For the past two nights, when I attempt to even lightly hold her noseband, she immediately responded by trying to play “thumb tag” – my hand on her muzzle, her muzzle on my hand…. Tonight, she holds still for just a moment – long enough for me to step back and return to the O position – zero emotion. I am able to do this three times.

The weather is particularly good today – sunny and 58-degrees by afternoon. Wonderful for this late in November. After putting the horses out with their morning hay, Gary, Skipper, Cat, and I enjoy a particularly slow stroll around the ten acres. When I return to pick the arena, Ruby wants to play. I really have not played much with her since starting to read the Carolyn Resnick materials. I am waiting for information about her follow-up to her Water Hole Rituals. We play Go Fetch with the red rope-ball a half dozen times. Three times she picks up a trot with me on the way to retrieve the ball. That is a first. One would think she would trot on her own. Maybe, she is growing up and settling down. Wishful thinking. Time passing has not caused her to forget how to play. We play walk-around-the-arena together; then follow-my-pointing-around-the-hay-tubs. She does great and I am thrilled – best ever. We walk to the brown mounting box, and she sidles up close. I lay way over her back with lots of weight on it – the most ever – and bite off pieces of carrot to feed her on her far side – for a good long time. When I am done, she still wants to play. So, I set up the four blue barrels to see if she will weave through them. She starts to intentionally knock one over, but I tell her “no” and she listens. Then, following my pointing arm, she weaves perfectly through all of the barrels; with me standing off to the side. She turns at the end and comes to a stop. We perform this simple but beautiful little pattern four times and, again, I am thrilled. I let all four out for the entire afternoon. They wander back and forth through the arena to both sides of the yard. I cannot count how many times I see Ruby running and kicking in glee – sometimes by herself and sometimes unsuccessfully trying to get one of the older women to play along. During evening feed, I hold her lead all the while she eats, run my hand up and down the rope, as Sharon Wilsie suggests and, as earlier, is able to lay my hand on the noseband of her halter for a moment more than once. This sounds like it should be simple; but dominant horses do not like their heads confined. Because she has been out all day, she is not particularly hungry. After finishing her grain, she mostly wants to investigate whatever is on the window sill and saddle racks.

Zena enjoys hay the tack room. No one is driving her off her pile!

November 30 ~ What a wonderful day. I have to journal right now, even before I strip out of my barn clothes. This morning is Sara’s turn for tack room grooming and, as before, she really does not want to spend any extra time in there. As soon as she finishes her grain, which is a scant cupful, she walks to the door and waits. But, I have only finished brushing. I still need to clean feet and tail. She stands near the saddle racks and looks forlorn. I adopt to my Sharon Wilsie O position, going to emotional zero, and wait for her to come to me. She does! And, I quietly clean all four feet.

The temps reach 50 and it is sunny most of the day. I text Kim to learn whether she can ride; even though I am also wanting to work on my website. She is not available, so I put the horses out for three hours of afternoon grazing while work at my computer.

This morning, Gary and I had healthy fruit and nutty cereal for a late breakfast. This afternoon, I cooked up healthy tomato soup with vegan sausage and beans; with a huge side of thinly sliced and braised carrots. It was so good. The sun has just set to dark when I whistle the horses up from the back for dinner. Ruby is WONDERFUL in the tack room. I sit with her on her lead line while she eats her grain. I read a little of HORSE SPEAK, and then spend the remainder of her grain time breathing softly from my chair. When she is finished, she has no interest in the hay because she is full from grazing on the back ten. So, we stand around the tack room, nibbling the cantle of a saddle and pulling a package of wet wipes off the window sill. She does, not me. But, tonight, she lets me lay my hands on her noseband for a good couple of seconds at a time and clearly understands when I go back to zero. After a half dozen nose band interactions, we sit and near-snooze for two or three minutes – maybe more – before returning to the arena to put hay and horses out for the night. There are only five manure piles to pick. They must have left lots on the back ten!

I seem to be finding a schedule that will work for me this winter. I get up anywhere between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. to work on my website, before going out to feed at 9:00. Each of the four horses comes into the tack room for grooming once every four mornings. During evening feed, Ruby spends quality time in the tack room with me. I still need to organize an arena play schedule for her; and time for learning her ABC’s. Tonight, I walk on my treadmill for the first time in years – just a quarter mile at two mph with a 10-pound barbell in each hand; and another quarter mile increasing and decreasing between three and four mph. It is a total of just thirteen minutes. But, as I walk, I feel it in my arms, core, and butt. I want sixty-four to still be young.

Lexi wants a leg up to offer Ruby a carrot.
Ruby stands in her bin to eat hay. Whatever.
“I stand in my hay bin just because I can.”
Amy sits with Sparky.
Ruby is the first to drink from the trough after we bring it into the arena for the winter. Now, we can shut the arena sliders when it is too windy or terribly cold.
Zena caught in the act; opening Sara’s stall door.
The yard pond in late fall.
Pies from garden pumpkins.