I continue to bring each of the four girls into the tack room every fourth morning for a pleasant grooming. Today, after applying Miracle Groom no-water shampoo (not sure that I would buy that brand again) and detangler, I added some liquid anti-fungal to the topside of the base of Sara’s tail (aka dock) – because she rubs her tail. After massaging it in and brushing it through, I use an adult-size wet wipe to clean a small amount of dried manure from the area where her hair meets her vulva. As I do, I notice lumps tucked in the outer folds of her vulva. She has never given birth, so it is a pretty tight area. What I am discovering are smaller chunks of old manure – none as large as a pea. As I work them out with my wipe, I can see that some are whitish on their underside; appearing to have been then for some time. No wonder she rubs her butt! I expend two wipes and a good five minutes dislodging the debris and cleaning the area. Sara stands perfectly still for me. When each wipe is expended, I walk it up to her face so she can smell what I have accomplished
The grass and clover bale I had thrown down last night seems a bit heavier than usual; so I made note to check for mold this morning. It is not moldy, musty, nor dusty; and has no white residue. It is just blah. I put four flakes in the outside pen; thinking I will put four more inside – because there is a chance of sleet today. I let the horses out and pick the outside pen, before heading in to pick the arena. While I am at the far end of the arena, ready to open the gate to the dumpster area, I hear a horse come from behind. I expect it to be Ruby looking to play – because she is the only one to get enough grain to fill her tummy with little additional hay. But, when I turn, I see Sara, followed by Sparky and Ruby, all walking directly toward me. Sara plants her feet five feet from me and just looks at me. I small-talk a little, wondering why they have come in, before Sara steps up and touches the gate to the dumpster area. The dumpster stands in the middle of an open slider. If the gate were open, it would be possible to walk around either side of the dumpster and into the parking lot. Is Sara saying she wants to go out? That would be bizarre. She would normally only ask later in the day when there was no available hay. I walk back to the near end of the arena, open the hay stall, and pull out four flakes of good green alfalfa. I walk it outside and put a flake next to each of the blah piles. They set to munching and are quite content. It is absolutely clear. With her little troop of supporters in tow, Sara had come in to inform me – their waitress – that their breakfast was inedible. They know the restaurant; and knew the cook could do better!
I finish picking the arena, and roll the barrow to the ramp at the dumpster. As I glance past the bin, a lanky red-brown fox lopes from the brush on the south side of the parking lot, across the lot – clearly watching me – and disappears under the big pine on the north side. She is in my view for the ninety feet across the lot. I talk to her as she trots by. When she reaches the far side, she turns, watching and listening to me, for a good ten seconds before disappearing into my back ten. (A different) Amy, who lives across the street, had mentioned that her husband shot a fox last week because they caught it with one of their chickens in its mouth. I enjoy purchasing my eggs from them; but am not excited about their shooting fox. They are good people. I wish they could afford enough fencing for their entire yard.
Our first snowfall of the year comes late – seven to ten inches expected! I closed the girls in last night so, when I open the back slider this morning, they are surprised to see the white – especially Ruby! All cantering on out, Ruby rears and bucks in the scant two inches; brushing her muzzle with white glitter. Sara brings them right back in because I have their hay divided into four large inside tubs. I have left all of the sliders open so that, in the afternoon, as I am typing at my computer and they have finished their hay, I see them walking slowly out the causeway door to snoop around the yard. It is snowing heavy now, making for a pretty picture. I am guessing their water tank is drank down low (has been drunken down low?) enough that I should head out to clean and refill.
Evenings have been peaceful and rewarding. With the tack room heater keeping the room at forty, I spend quality time sitting with Ruby. She munches hay at the end of a lead rope while I read Sharon Wilsie’s HORSE SPEAK. Per Wilsie’s instructions, I have handled the noseband on Ruby’s halter; with Ruby becoming a little less combative about my messing with her head each evening. We have stepped backward and forward in time with each others’ legs. When Ruby wants to investigate the saddle racks, whatever she pulls off I put on her back
I have been closing the big slider at the far end of the arena, by the dumpster, after dumping the morning barrow; and holding the evening barrow down there until the next morning. But, as it gets colder, the manure begins to freeze in the barrow overnight. I think that if I drape a wool three-quarter horse blanket over it, it might work like a carport, and keep the manure thawed. But, Ruby watches me unfold the blanket and has other ideas; so I put it on her instead. The classic navy blanket with green hem covers her hips and drapes her shoulders. After considering both sides, Ruby wanders back to the other horses – all three of whom give her due attention. Eventually, I remove the blanket and lay it over the barrow but, in the morning, the manure is frozen solid and stuck to the barrow. I guess the worthy blanket will not serve such an unworthy purpose.
After my putting out hay one evening, Ruby suggests she wants attention. I stack the four blue barrels into two sets of one on top the other – but she wants nothing to do with them. They are, after all, as tall as she. But, on the first night it try this, Sparky is near. So, I ask her to touch the barrels; and she does. Good girl that she is. On the first touch, she gets a treat. The second attempt, I indicate that I want her to actually push the tower over – a scary thing indeed – and she does. Good girl! Still, the other horses want nothing to do with it. Two nights later, we play again. Sparky earns a treat for touching; and for touching harder; before I touch for the final push over. All the while, Ruby stands very near to the second tower. After much conversation between and among the three of us, Ruby touches the second tower. I give her a treat before I slowly push the tower over and walk away.
The next day, with snow on the ground, I observe Ruby chewing on a pine bough. That is not going to work. She is not hungry. Tree chewing will be punishable by arena and pen containing for the duration of the winter.
Kim and her long-time friend, Bob, drop by so Ava can sneak in a ride between the holidays. I tell five-year-old Lucca to scramble into one of the big hay tubs so the horses won’t step on her; but Sara tries to climb in with her. How funny. Ava is looking good on Sparky. I am sure she will be able to field ride with us in the spring.
Amy manages to make it over for a late holiday visit. She has been either busy or sick since I don’t know when. Ruby is munching on hay in the tack room as Amy and I groom. I point out horizontal stress crevices around all four of Ruby’s hooves; and tell Amy they are an indication of Ruby’s summer run-in with the forsythia bush.
When she has had her fill of hay, Ruby goes investigating. Anything she pulls off the saddle racks goes on her back. Tonight, she has four blankets and a girth piled on. I put them all back on the rack; but she is looking at more stuff. Now, she’s wearing the blue three-quarter wool blanket and the youth western saddle. After further snooping, Ruby pulls up a blue plastic tarp. She is shaking it rambunctiously all over the tack room, so I say it is time to send her out to the arena where there is more room for her to play. By the time I put everything away and walk into the arena, Amy has the tarp draped over Ruby. This is the first time she has worn anything so big and noisy. Sara and Sparky walk up to investigate whether treats might be involved. But, when Ruby swings her head around and begins to pull the tarp from her back, Sara rushes off. Sparky hangs around because she is more confident; and the anticipation of treats is a strong pull.