Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Arabian horses

Getting Nipped

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It wasn’t clear at first, but after repeated scrapes of similar appearance and orientation, Cyndie and I have come to the conclusion that Dezirea is getting bitten. Most likely, as a function of hierarchy “negotiations” within the tiny herd of three horses.

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A pattern of bite-sized scrapes is showing up on both sides of her rump with an unfortunate regularity of late. We haven’t caught anyone in the act, but I have seen Hunter pinning his ears back and moving her around enough to suspect that it’s him taking things to the next level when we’re not around.

I take some solace in remembering the time I was standing right next to them when Dezirea leaned forward and let loose a kick with two back hooves, landing them with such impact on Hunters chest that even I felt the energy. She knows how to dish out her own discipline when the situation calls for it.

If the evidence of biting continues, we may cover Dezirea with a blanket to give her hide a break, but for now we have chosen to see if they can work this out as nature would have it.

Cyndie already saw some interaction during yesterday afternoon’s mealtime that revealed Dezirea is not simply playing the victim. The elder mare moved the other two off each of their food, showing she can exert some control of her own.

Heck, it could be such behavior is why she is getting bitten in the first place.

This all tugs at our ongoing ache of missing Legacy, seeing them without the strong leadership he always commanded.

There were plenty of times when the three chestnuts would test things between each other, but it never went on for more than a brief time before Legacy would pass judgement and direct them all to knock it off.

In two months, it will have been a year since Legacy died, and the three are still searching for a new normal of life without him.

In plenty of ways, we are, too.

Reality bites.

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Written by johnwhays

November 20, 2018 at 7:00 am

Various Snippets

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There are days –I bet you have them, too— when there isn’t one main story of the moment to tell. Just random tidbits that may, or may not, be related. Snippets.

Starting Thursday after work last week, Cyndie and I had a goal to get a lot done in preparation for World Labyrinth Day the following Saturday. I had it in mind to relocate a cold compost pile to a low spot we are building up. I told Cyndie it would just be 4-6 wheelbarrow loads. It turned out to be double that.

While huffing the loaded wheelbarrow up to the dump spot, I saw the stack of 15 pallets waiting to be stowed. By the end of Friday, we had built the fenced courtyard for the chicken coop, raked the round pen with the ATV, put the cover on the gazebo, raked, pruned, hung hammocks and a dozen other small simultaneous tasks.

It occurred to me that the number of spring chores we accomplished felt equivalent to annual Work weekend at Wildwood, except instead of a full community of six families, it was just Cyndie and me.

During one of my passes by the paddock that Friday, I stopped to take a picture of Hunter taking a serious full-sleep nap. I thought it was funny that in his complete unconsciousness, his relaxed lips produced a pearly white smile.

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As soon as I set down my tools and pulled out my camera at the fence, Cayenne walked up to meet me. Dezirea was quick to follow suit.

Yesterday, I was walking Delilah past the chicken coop when she reacted with unwanted interest in the chicks milling around inside their fence. I decided to try an exercise of getting her to lay down right next to their enclosure in calm submission.

The plan was to get her to engage directly with me, and disregard the (incredibly enticing) chicks. It was comical watching her struggle against her insatiable predator urge. This exercise will take a LOT of repetition if we have any hope of ever lulling her into a state of being able to regard the chickens as “friends, not food.”

Back to thinking about Wildwood again, while walking Delilah through the woods near the house, I paused to search for signs of our transplanted trillium blooming.

For the last several years, while up at the lake place for Memorial work weekend, we have collected samples of the trillium that carpet the forest floor around the property and brought them home to plant as ‘starters’ in hopes of replicating a similar display here.

We always plant them in sets of three in a triangle shape to help keep track of our success ratio. The results have been pretty good.

If you look closely at the image, there is a non-flowering trillium just behind and to the right of the lone blossom commanding all the attention.

It will be a thrilling sight when we finally find evidence of new sprouts from spreading rhizomes showing up among our original groups of three.

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Deeply Sleepy

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I mentioned in yesterday’s post about my turning the compost pile in the paddock while Cyndie brushed the horses, but I completely forgot to describe the startling incident we witnessed while there.

While we silently toiled amid the unparalleled calm of a windless spring sunny day, Dezirea was wafting off to sleep. I wasn’t paying direct attention to her as I huffed over heavy pitchfork lifting, but that changed when she suddenly jerked.

“Did you see that?” I asked Cyndie.

She had.

Dezirea was standing on the slope just beyond the overhang, facing downhill. In the warmth and serenity of the morning, she fell into a deep enough sleep that her front legs buckled. In the same way I do when my head jerks in inadvertent loss of consciousness when unplanned sleep surprises me, she startled herself back to alert.

Sort of alert, that is.

Seconds later, she did it again, except this time, she actually dropped all the ways to her knees. We both tried to encourage her to simply lay down for a serious nap.

In our thinking, we could be trusted to watch over the herd while she slept. But I can understand her hesitance. My attention was not as aware of our surroundings as it was on what I was working on directly in front of me.

Struggling to get back on her feet, instead of going down the rest of the way to the ground, Dezirea made her way around so that she was facing uphill, where she resumed the usual upright nap that horses deftly accomplish.

I didn’t take any pictures during this drama, but I do have a series of images to share. I was intending to get a shot of Hunter’s mane, which he somehow finds ways to crop short, but he picked up his head and provided these views of his munching hay, instead.

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Bon Apetit!

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2018 at 9:43 am

Horses Endure

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Our horses seemed about as pleased with the monumental April weekend of snow as we were. Despite the weeks of being confined to stalls at the beginning of the year, the relentless onslaught of blowing snow had them eager to get back indoors again.

In the picture above, you can see that Cayenne seems to have stepped up to the front position, which hints at her moving into the leadership void that was left by Legacy’s departure. We’ve noticed several instances lately where this new hierarchy appears to be normalizing. Dezirea, the senior mare, looks to be comfortable maintaining her usual position as the assistant manager, overseeing things from the back of the line.

There was a fair amount of urgency in their attitudes when it came time to bring them in each afternoon. Once inside, out of the wind and wet, the horses calmed significantly.

In the mornings, they willingly step out again for some fresh air, but after a few hours in the storm, they start to look for signs we are preparing to bring them back in.

When we didn’t get to it as quickly as they wished on Sunday when the snow was falling fast and furious, we started to hear a fair amount of vocalizations from them, expressing rather clearly that they felt they had endured enough of the harsh conditions.

It’s going to be a muddy mess out in the paddocks for a while now, but I think the arrival of some sunshine today, and again later in the week, will go a long way toward soothing their recent frustrations.

As it will for us all, I’m sure.

I can’t wait for April weather to actually get here for real.

As for this “Apruary,” we’ve had enough.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

He’s Out!

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It started back in January with a two-week prescription from the vet for Hunter to be confined to his stall as part of a treatment regimen to address symptoms of laminitis. In the days following Legacy’s death, the three surviving horses were visibly distressed over the abrupt departure of their herd leader. Hunter’s stress manifested in an inflammation in his hooves.

After two weeks of limited improvement, the order was extended another two weeks. After that, a plan to have a farrier see Hunter added more time due to schedule conflicts and our weekend away to Florida. When a new farrier was finally able to come, the result was to take pressure off Hunter’s front hooves with reverse shoes, but keep him in the stall for another two weeks.

Yesterday, it was a relief to hear the farrier, Marcus, report Hunter looked to be moving much better. Hunter is still showing clear tentativeness when turning, but Marcus said the inflammation seems much less, and Hunter’s feet aren’t overly warm.

Marcus added a leather pad to the front hooves and Hunter was granted a chance to step out into the paddock for a much-needed break from confinement.

It was quite a scene to witness. Hunter was so thrilled to be out he even leapt into the air and kicked before heading down the slope to roll in the snow.

I was busy bringing Cayenne and Dezirea out for their own break from the stressful extended weeks indoors keeping Hunter company when Marcus reported Hunter looked good getting back up on his feet with ease after his roll. Every affirmation was so soothing to hear.

The stressful struggles our horses endure become stresses that weigh extremely heavily on us.

Cayenne expressed her huffiness over yesterday’s long day inside (the mares have been granted daily excursions outside while stalls were cleaned) by doing her very best Arabian prance, trotting around in the snow, snorting, with her head held high and tail up.

Their relief was our relief.

Hunter spent the night outside for the first time since the middle of January. Hooraaaay!

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Written by johnwhays

March 11, 2018 at 10:17 am

Hangry Horses

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Cyndie had me laughing on Friday with a message that Hunter and Cayenne had busted one of the 2×8 boards on the shared wall of their stalls.

We have had pretty good luck with minimizing the gnawing of boards on our fences and the stalls in the barn over the first four years with our horses, but in this latest stint of their being forced indoors day after day, while also getting precisely measured reduced rations of hay, the wood is finally taking quite a (b)eating.

Although it has seemed like Hunter was doing the most damage in recent days, Cayenne is not an innocent bystander. She has some history from a couple of years ago, when that board came off when Legacy was in the stall next to her. There wasn’t a lot of chewing going on, so we surmised she had simply pushed it off into Legacy’s stall.

Back then, I was able to reuse the board and put it back up, securing it with longer screws.

This time, they had done enough damage that I needed to get a whole new board.

We decided to add a metal edge to discourage a repeat performance.

The tightly controlled diet they’re on is probably going to last for a long time, if not forever, so “hangry” is something we will need to help them resolve.

It’s been a blissful treat watching them graze our pastures in years past, but the accumulating results of that luxury has not been healthy for them. Wild horses that need to cover a lot of ground to search out food and water while also moving around to manage herd safety, expend a lot more energy than our fenced herd.

Our three don’t get enough exercise to offset the abundant and lush grass that grows in our fields. They are going to need to get used to living on much smaller portions from here on out.

More immediately, I’m just looking forward to Hunter getting free of the hoof pain and being able to stay out of the barn for everything but the worst weather.

From the “hangry” wood chewing we are seeing, I’m confident in saying he is looking forward to it even more than me.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2018 at 7:00 am

What Led?

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The weeks that have followed the unexpected death of Legacy, our Arabian gray who was the herd leader of three chestnuts, have been made even more difficult by some extreme winter weather, the death of a colleague and friend whom Cyndie worked with during her years as Principal of Eden Prairie High School, and now signs of some laminitis lameness in Hunter.

Among the many contributing factors listed for laminitis, we found that hormonal imbalance caused by stress of moving a horse or the loss of a field companion spoke directly to the situation effecting our remaining three. Sadly, this recent heavy snow accumulation, followed by the dramatic thaw, has added another risk by making the uneven frozen footing in the paddocks hazardous for bruising or mechanical damage to the cellular bond between sensitive laminae and the hoof wall.

On top of these issues, this weekend Cyndie and I were smacked with the reality that her car is in need of cost prohibitive repairs. Logic indicates it is time to shop for a different vehicle for her.

Roll all these issues together and our grieving minds both came to a similar thought: has our dream of making Wintervale Ranch into a functioning business met with defeat?

Life was a heck of a lot less complicated for me when I lived in the suburbs and only had to deal with maintaining the house and our tiny lot. I hate to admit there are aspects of that which look desirable in comparison to our current situation.

Our unpredictable and decidedly inadequate combined incomes do not make shopping for a replacement vehicle as simple as it once was for us. Right now, shopping for a different car seems to be a tipping point for our analysis of this whole crazy move to the country to build a self-sustaining retreat and learning center.

What led us here in the first place?

We found ourselves revisiting the series of inspirational events that sequentially fueled our passion and groomed our decisions. From the magical trip to spend two weeks with Ian Rowcliffe in Portugal, to Cyndie’s apprenticeship in Linda Kohanov’s Eponaquest workshops, to our discovery of this gorgeous property and log home in west-central Wisconsin, the mid-life transition we embarked on seemed supernaturally ordained.

Where is that inspiration now?

Instead of the surprisingly achievable answers and solutions that have blessed us in response to all the incredible challenges that arose throughout the early years of this adventure, we are increasingly noticing a lack of income-generating response to our offerings and an increase in stressful difficulties with our animal partners.

Obviously, the most dramatic stressor being Legacy’s sudden death.

Just like all that has come before, we know there is a lesson for us in this. Even though he is gone, Legacy still has something to teach us.

At the center of it all is, love.

We grieve because we love and experienced a loss, but loving is how we got where we are today.

We believe it is possible to rediscover the love and inspiration that guided us here and we are seeking to re-attune ourselves to more of the surprisingly achievable answers and solutions that have graced our journey thus far.

What led us here is exactly the same as what will lead us to what happens next.

Please keep your seat belts fastened and your arms and hands inside at all times for the remainder of this wild ride.

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Relative Sadness

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There is an aspect of grief that I visualize as wrestling an octopus. You can be engaged in the action for an immeasurable amount of time without ever having a clue if you’ve come close to pinning his shoulders to the mat.

Where the heck are octopus shoulders, anyway?

I’d love for nothing more than to have an official slapping their hand down to declare the match complete, or at least to call time on the end of a round. The clock never runs out though, and the round goes on endlessly while grief and I just keep wrestling and wrestling.

It occurred to me yesterday that I was somewhat unconsciously avoiding going out to the barn since last Sunday when Legacy’s life ended there. It’s a struggle, because I normally find great comfort in standing among the horses, but there is currently a profound disturbance of energy here. I’m feeling little capacity toward consoling our other horses and even less confidence in my ability to contain my own sorrow while in their midst.

Between the understandable waves of tearful sadness, there remain the troughs of intangible gloom. I recognize that space well.

It defined the bulk of my adolescent and early adult life, which was shrouded by dysthymia.

At least now I am armed with much greater knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of these mental squalls, and I recognize the current grief casting a pall over our lives is completely situational. There is unending love cradling our sorrow and it is nurturing our healing and growth.

After Cyndie and I walked Delilah around the property yesterday afternoon, we all ventured to the barn to look in on the horses.

I worry they might be feeling neglected after the intense attention paid to Legacy, and then his sudden departure followed by this incredible void.

They seem to me to be in a state of shock. All we can do for each other is vibrate our energy of sorrow and loss.

I’m not crying; you’re crying.

Dezirea actually stepped away from me, as if she couldn’t handle my grief. Hunter and Cayenne tolerated my attempts to give them some loving scratches, but I didn’t get a sense that either of the three of us felt much solace out of the exchange.

Cyndie spent a little more time with Dezirea. I think Dezi seems particularly sad. I am wondering if she is feeling some stress over the possibility she will inherit the ultimate responsibility of a leadership role, being the elder mare. It could just as easily be filled by any one of them, or maybe they will devise a perfect balance of power across all three.

It’s just that the four horses that were organized into a little herd over five years ago worked out so tremendously. They were a band. An ever-shifting combination of two sets of two. It was incredibly, preciously perfect.

Beyond our ability to fully appreciate when they first arrived.

Now they’ll never be able to get the band back together again…

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Aww, here comes another slippery hold from that octopus, dagnabbit.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2018 at 7:00 am

Remembering Legacy

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He was a consummate leader, our Legacy. He arrived to our care in September of 2013, master of this group of 3 chestnuts with which he had been matched. We quickly came to recognize his gracious control of the herd as their benevolent dictator.

In the last couple of months we noticed signs something might be up, hints that maybe he was aware the end was near.

Yesterday morning, Cyndie found him in very bad shape out in the pasture. He had been so uncomfortable he had wrangled out of his blanket, and thus ended up matted with balls of iced-up snow.

Whatever was causing him pain, it was now exacerbated by his nearly freezing in the overnight sub-zero cold. Cyndie was able to get him up and walking back into the paddock before coming to get me and contact our vet. Legacy was heroic about letting us attempt to get him warmed up and responding to some meds, but his age, and condition, and the cold all conspired to keep the interventions short of being able to extend his time.

After a couple of hours waiting to see if he would feel better, his behavior was very clear. The vet returned and gently guided us through the process of helping Legacy through this transition.

Before the vet arrived, we had walked Legacy out of the paddock to open space in front of the barn. He was pawing the ground in response to pain and so Cyndie walked him to pass the time. He did really well for a brief span, but then picked a perfect spot to stop and calmly lay down.

He curled his legs underneath him and sat quietly, no longer needing to paw in pain. He accepted our hugs and condolences and patiently awaited what was to come.

When the truck pulled up, Legacy laid his head down, as if fully aware of what came next.

His amazing spirit is threaded indelibly throughout every single aspect of Wintervale Ranch, right down to the outline of his face in our logo. There are so many amazing, beautiful memories we have and hold of his time with us. He is irreplaceable and we will be challenged to figure out how to manage the days ahead, guiding Dezirea, Cayenne, and Hunter through their grief, while struggling to cope with our own.

Thank you to all of you who are supporting us with your love and kind condolences. Send our horses love. They are visibly disturbed by his departure, yet they mustered strength to provide some loving equine understanding to Cyndie as the vet drove away.

Legacy, (7/18/1996-1/14/2018), we send you off with all the love you fostered here, and more. May your spirit soar!

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

Animal Magnetism

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For most of my life, it was a struggle just to take care of myself, due to a condition of undiagnosed dysthymia. The additional responsibility of caring for pets every day was a burden I found ways to avoid.

Now I know why people who love horses become so passionate about it. I’ve spent the last five years learning what it is like to own horses, and it has changed me to the point I think it would be hard for me now to live without them.

It’s kind of ironic that caring for animals has contributed significantly to my healthier life. The very thing I was avoiding turns out to be therapeutic for what ailed me.

Yesterday morning, Cyndie captured this wonderful moment as our four Arabians made their way along the fence line of the hay-field back toward the barn in the enticing soft light before sunrise.

She and Delilah had just come out of the woods on their morning walk along our trails, a situation that signals to the horses, breakfast at the barn will soon be served.

As powerful an energy as the horses are for us, Delilah radiates her own compelling magnetism. She looked absolutely stunning after a grooming appointment yesterday.

When I walked in the door and reached down to pet her while she was leaning into me in her overly affectionate greeting, I asked Cyndie, “Did you just brush her?”

Oh, no. That was a full-fledged professional job that gave her the silky smooth coat.

Later, I glanced at our beautiful Tervuren under the old Hays family table and caught her paw draped over the antler chew she found in the woods.

Yeah, it can be a lot of responsibility, but I think I’m getting the hang of this animal magnetism they seem to have.

What a rewarding blessing it is to be healthy and have the added benefits of the positive energy our animals inherently provide.

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