My mind returns to the issue of fencing. I have old and now unused electric wire along my top boards and am sure that has to go. My twelve-year-old granddaughter, Crystal, helps me pull it down. She’s good that way. Last summer we spent a week together, just the two of us, ripping grape vines from the trees and bushes along the property line. Grape vines are like creatures in a sci-fi movie – they grope onto everything. Crystal is a good worker. She likes getting in touch with her girl-self using the snippers, loppers, and limb saw to hack away at the vines. Today, she is using the fencing tool and a small crow bar to pull electric fence fasteners from the posts while I wind the errant wire. Now, if Zena leans on the fence, wondering whether she can reach the grass on the other side, at least she will not get tangled in old wire. And, yes, she IS leaning on the fence these days.
On April 12, I take Zena for a long lead-line walk in the park. Kim walks along, leading Sara. Zena is now ten months pregnant. Gary and I complete some minor fence repair in the afternoon, and discuss the suitability of the fencing for the foal. Her (or his! – oh, no, I want a filly!) birth is just a month away.
We now walk all three horses on leads in the park often. One day, a long-time friend trailers her horse over. I saddle Sara and the four of us head into the park. When we come to a small stream, maybe two feet across and just six inches deep, my friend’s horse refuses to cross. I think the sunlight sparkling on the babbling water disconcerts him. As she has done in the past, my friend goads him with heel and crop to step on over. Maybe, just because it is spring, the more she urges, the more he resists. Exasperated, she asks if I want to go ahead. I say I will as long as she agrees to not chide me if I decide to dismount. I long ago decided it is neither enjoyable nor fruitful to argue with a horse who is telling me she has some reason for resisting – even though this is contrary to everything I have ever learned about horse training – and even though many a friend has disagreed with me. To me, it stinks of misogyny – “She just needs to be more afraid of me than of what I want her to do.” Of course, Sara’s been standing there watching her buddy. When I ask Sara to step across and she defers, I do not ask a second time. I dismount, lift the rein over her head and step to the stream. I look at it for maybe fifteen seconds, then step quietly over. Turning to Sara, I ask her to follow – and she does. I quietly remount and we walk on. My friend’s horse steps over and follows.
On April 15, I am thrilled with a visit from Morgan Szikszay. Morgan came to me as a riding student when she was ten and has since graduated college. She gets the all-time award for being the nicest, most positive person in the world. A couple days later, after doc administers four-in-one vaccinations, rabies shots, and draws blood for Coggins tests, Morgan, Kim, and I take all three girls for a walk in the park. By now, you must be thinking that this is a very good spring. A week later, Debby comes over and the two of us take Zena for a walk in the park without another horse. Unlike Sara, she does not call for the other horses – possibly because the Amish fellow inured her to driving alone on the road.
I also start giving all three horses ground flaxseed every day. They spend a good deal of time in a dirt pen and, in the past, Sara and Sparky were susceptible to dry skin and summer grunge. I had already been administering pelleted psyllium husk because they often eat their hay off the sandy ground. The psyllium is gelatinous – it becomes wet and sticky in their stomach – and any accumulated sand adheres to it; and is then discharged in their feces. In the months ahead, I am happy with this decision. The flaxseed is a valuable addition to their diet – no grunge and they are shiny!
This is Zena’s udder on April 30.
The weather is especially pleasant at the beginning of May and Emily and Maddy, my GRAND-nieces – yes, I am not young – take Sara and Sparky out for their first trail ride of the year.
In the short video below, I am showing Emily and Maddy how to ask their horses to step quietly over a large log. This skill is first taught at home by asking the horse to step over a caveletti or much smaller tree trunk laying on the ground – one foot at a time, and in response to the verbal request “one, two, three, and four.”
We never know what the winter might have left along the park trails. The girls come upon a very large fallen tree – just high enough that they need to dismount to walk under it. This is an example of why our horses need to understand “stop, please” and “back.”
May 4 ~ This is a good morning, just ten days before Ruby is born.Somewhere around time spent with horses, I paint my second-hand porch furniture and prepare my gardens for spring planting. There is a light rain on the morning and it is a phenomenally beautiful evening. I write in my stable notes that I am living in the Garden of Eden.
The video below was taken in the early morning on May 5. I sit quietly and watch Ruby move inside her mother….
I spend May 5 at our state capitol in Lansing, visiting with legislatures for the Humane Society of the United States’ “Humane Lobby Day.” I feel a bit like a duck out of water because, for having very strong opinions, I am not very good at expressing them to strangers. And, the issues being discussed are not horse related. But, I meet a fellow who says his aged Appaloosa died of mal-absorption. I realize that this was probably what afflicted my Grulla Quarter Horse mare, Buffy, who died a couple years ago. For the eight years I struggled to keep weight on her ribs and diarrhea off her bum, and all the useless dietary advice offered by my nationally respected but aging vet, why had I never heard the name of this likely cause?
Back home, I hire a couple high school boys to tear the tongue-and-groove wall out from between two ten-by-ten stalls; and begin to paint the now enlarged stall a light yellow. It is my childish plan to make it look like a nursery. It ends up costing me three times as much time AND money as expected because the twenty-year-old boards and the cracks between them really soak up the paint. My son, Andy, and eleven-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, help paint the details. I do not give them any ideas – just let them have at it. I know I will be happy with what comes from their imaginations.
I realize you may think this is silly; but I am a non-competitive person. And, I have been blessed with a son and granddaughter who are also non-competitive. Painting the nursery stall seems like a wonderful way to spend horse-time together.
Our painting effort is beginning to blossom. And, by the way, this is an activity that you can do with your horse. Check out the video below. And, take a moment to think about what Sara is doing here. There is no horse-related motive for Sara wanting to join us. If you spend enough down-time with your horse, you will realize they are more like dogs than many would care to admit.
And here is our finished product. Taylor, who has no horse handling experience, brings Zena in to enjoy a little grain in her new digs. I know. How can my middle-school granddaughter have no horse experience? It is not the thirty mile distance between us. It is just parents whose schedules do not make her available to me. It is my loss.
We are not any too soon because, the next day, Zena’s milk sack begins to fill.