Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘horses

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

Clutter Rearranging

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With the weather finally making a turn for the better, yesterday Cyndie spoke about possibly cleaning up in the garage to find gardening tools. The May labyrinth Peace Walk is only two weeks away, and she wants to trim back the winter-kill on the plants before the big day.

I spent the morning rearranging the gigantic winter manure pile in the paddock, while she brushed the shedding horses as they munched hay. They are definitely ready to be done with their winter coats.

I hope that means they know the cold temperatures are done for the season.

After lunch, we started poking around in the garage. One thing led to another and pretty soon we found ourselves into a full-fledged spring cleaning effort. The kind that uncovers boxes of things that haven’t been touched since we moved in.

I finally got around to sweeping sawdust off the yard tools stand which had been there since 2014 when we had carpenters build the storage room in our basement. That’s four years of not bothering, for those keeping score.

They did the majority of sawing in the garage, and everything got covered in dust, but that tool stand was right in the line of fire and was buried. With all the rakes, shovels, pruners, loppers, and brushes hanging on the portable stand, the sawdust was deemed harmless and not worth the time.

My Achilles heel of order happens to be flat surfaces. After much of the garage clutter had been pulled out and sorted, Cyndie took advantage of our momentum and went after the workbench in the back corner that is a catch-all to a monumental degree.

Old fluorescent light bulbs, some associated fixtures, screws and brackets left over from purchased assemblies, a broken staple gun, boxes, bags, gloves, old shoes, metal rulers I didn’t know I had, an electronic work light I don’t remember.

It’s great to dig into all of this stuff, but the questions that lead to things landing on that flat surface in the first place still remain. Do we throw away or keep? If we keep, where to put it that will be of any value to us in the future? If we throw, how to dispose of the electronic or hazardous items than can’t go in our weekly trash bin?

Unfortunately, way too much of the stuff that we cleaned out of the garage yesterday made its way down to the shop, where the flat surfaces are now doubly cluttered.

The house garage now looks pretty nice, but it wasn’t really a great clutter busting effort in the end.

It was clutter rearranging.

But it’s a start.

We need to go prune some plants in the labyrinth. The shop clean up will be a project for another day, hopefully sooner than in four years.

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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

Leaning Over

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The heavy rock that took five people to lift into place on the boulders at the center of our labyrinth has survived the worst that winter tossed its way. It didn’t fall out and roll to the ground. However, it did lean over to a significant degree.

I think it might be a metaphor for how Cyndie and I feel after the number of challenges we have faced in the last few months, starting with the unexpected death of our lead horse, Legacy.

Just as we began to think we were coming to terms with one thing, another challenge would blow in on us. It all pretty much tipped us over to a similar degree. It occurred to us, more than once, that one way to avoid falling to earth would be by simply choosing to jump down of our own volition.

It’s funny. In a way, it took a leap of faith in the first place to get where we are today. Now we have wondered about taking a leap right back out of here, to be done with the struggles confounding our original vision.

The thing is, as crucial a part of our dream as Legacy was, I don’t want his dying to linger as the insurmountable disturbance that extinguished the flame of possibility for good. It doesn’t do proper justice to him or his name. Losing Legacy can be a powerful lesson for us to grasp and embrace.

Really, anything we might accomplish going forward, will be in honor of him and all he contributed here.

This past weekend, for the first time since he died, we witnessed the three chestnuts execute a completely unexpected “Emergency Response Drill.” It was a big deal to us. Legacy, as herd leader, used to initiate these surprise escape drills at feeding time as a way to see he could get the herd moving in a moments notice, even if it meant leaving their food.

They all run away with a full-speed urgency that implies all lives are at stake. At about ten paces away, they pull up short, turn around to assess the situation, and then walk back and finish eating.

It’s invigorating to watch, especially when you just so happen to be standing in the vicinity with a manure scoop, at risk of being inadvertently trampled by their frantic departure.

Neither Cyndie nor I spotted who initiated the drill, but simply knowing the herd is resuming their group behaviors was comforting. I don’t know if this will culminate in a clear establishment of a new leader, but I’m pleased to see they are working on some kind of arrangement.

Cyndie reported that the mares initiated another drill yesterday, while Hunter just happened to be rolling on the wet, muddy ground, which forced him to abort his plan and get back to his feet, pronto.

Yes, they are definitely working on something. Poor guy is outnumbered now, so I won’t be surprised if either Cayenne (who has always behaved like a big sister with him) or Dezirea end up filling the role as primary head of their household.

We’ve all been pushed over a little bit since the start of the year, but we haven’t hit the ground.

Knowing the horses are working things out, and having a brood of new chicks to fawn over, helps provide inspiration for us to visualize righting ourselves and doing Legacy proud.

I think we are making strides toward steadying ourselves to lean into whatever might unfold next.

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Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

Manipulating Neurochemistry

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How are your stress levels today? Don’t think about the answer. Feel it.

Cyndie and I have faced some questions about how we are doing lately. It hasn’t been as easy to answer as usual for us. It was a tough winter, but listing our grievances doesn’t feel good to share. It doesn’t paint the picture as accurately as we know it to be.

Our move to the country and accumulation of animals for which we need to tend has put distance between us and our friends and family. Some connections with people and activities have broken, and only a fraction of new local connections have sprouted in their place.

We have gained a brilliant wealth of new relationships with our animals, and precious though they are, it is not the same.

Yesterday we had an opportunity to drive the suburban roads again that consumed our everyday back when we lived in Eden Prairie. The dramatic contrast to our present-day environment was revealing.

Is it worth it? The struggles to cope with the never-ending challenges of weather and the unrelenting daily routine of required chores to care for our horses, chickens, dog, and cat? Some days, more than others. It’s life. It’s something we chose. (By the way, that’s a luxury –having the choice– that is not lost on us.)

Our challenges can be framed as onerous and laborious; burdens that could be lifted by giving up our animals and moving back to the conveniences and camaraderie of our life-long friends and families in the suburbs.

The difficulties of the last few months, and the years of owning and caring for our animals can also be framed as invigorating, rejuvenating, inspiring, and fulfilling. It is adventure of a very high order.

When we choose to frame the ups and downs of life in the positive, we manipulate our neurochemistry in healthy ways. That is a choice we have power to control. I spent an unfortunate number of years manipulating my biochemistry in the opposite direction by mentally framing my life in the negative.

We won’t prevent harsh realities from challenging our decisions by simply thinking positive all the time, but we will be better served to meet those challenges when we give our brains the healthiest balance of on-going positive neurochemical support possible.

Life here is challenging, but we are doing well. Really well. Thanks for asking.

It feels right.

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The Diet

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Not that we want to compound the misery we put our horses through, but the weeks of indoor confinement they just endured have come with the added insult of decreased rations. If protecting them from the ravages of founder (laminitis) means we need to closely control what our horses are consuming, we need to do it regardless of how unhappy they act over the situation.

I am certain that the reason Cayenne was prancing around snorting when I freed her from the confines of her stall on Saturday was because she had grown so agitated over the lack of anything to eat in her “cell.” She had made that clear with the kicking of the wall and pawing at the floor when I showed up to greet the farrier and get Hunter some padded shoes.

The precisely measured portions I had meted out at noon were ancient history and she wanted more. Luckily, she settled down a little bit while Hunter was brought out of his stall to stand between both mares and be fitted.

Later, after the three horses were done thrashing around outside in the paddock, they settled down and took up stations over the hay boxes, where bonus servings had been made available to augment their celebration over the return to the great outdoors.

Now, even though it was a bonus offering, it was still a precisely measured meager portion of a bonus.

It didn’t take them long to show their feelings about the restrictions of this new diet still being in place, even though they have been released from confinement in the barn.

Yesterday, I spotted them grazing on the winter manure pile inside their fence line. It seems there have been a few morsels of hay raked up with the manure.

Cyndie fretted the other day that feeding our animals (and I might add, her family and guests) is one of the ways she shows her love. For the record, she loves me a LOT. It breaks her heart to see the horses stoop to digging through the manure pile for blades of grass.

I’m sure it’s not the first time a restrictive diet has brought on behaviors for which pride gets tossed aside.

In reality, they aren’t really that desperate. They were just checking out the pile for a brief few seconds. I thought it looked funny and snapped the photo. It makes for good story!

The diet is for real, and their adjustment to it is going to take some time, but we are optimistic a new balance will emerge and we will be back on a path to optimal health, soon.

Soon, in a relative sense of the word.

 

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 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