Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Mentally Preparing

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Today is my last workday before I leave for my bike trip and it is obvious to me that I will not have all my work done before I go. When you can’t change something, acceptance becomes an attractive option. There will be plenty to do when I return.

Yesterday after work, I did some of the dustiest mowing in my life. The dryness resulted in clouds of soil dust covering me and the tractor. Much sneezing ensued, but I am very happy to have that task checked off my list.

I’m mentally preparing myself for being away from our animals in the coming days by thoroughly appreciating every moment with them before I go. As I mowed along the perimeter of the back pasture, the horses came over very intentionally to graze near the fence as I passed.

We are definitely developing a bond with them.

The area around the chicken coop has been receiving increasing pressure from the raccoons during the nights. We’ve reached the point where we might have to give up on this idea of coexisting with the masked bandits.

Both groups of chicks continue to grow so much every day it seems like the Rockettes will never catch up to the older Buffalo gals.

It’ll be Cyndie’s decision if she decides to try merging them while I am away, but I’m guessing that will be unlikely.

She may be too busy trying to keep up with the produce coming from the garden. Salads have been locally sourced lately.

Those peas are so prolific we almost have more than we know what to do with already.

The lettuce is superb. What a treat!

Meanwhile, my mind is trying to run through all the things I need to gather for successfully tent camping and biking for days in a row. It’s not like I haven’t done this trip before, but it has been an extra year since the last one.

The clock is ticking on my days of planning. Tomorrow, Cyndie will drive me to Hastings and drop me, my bike, and camping gear off and I’ll consider myself on vacation.

It’s a green vacation, too. All these people riding bikes for days instead of driving their cars.

We haven’t had any measurable rain for weeks. What are the odds that will change while we are on the road?

I need to mentally prepare for the possibility.



Written by johnwhays

June 17, 2021 at 6:00 am

Horse Approved

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Last evening, I stopped off at a paddock gate after one last attempt to ride my body into preparedness for the adventure that begins on Saturday. I wanted to give the horses an opportunity to understand why I would suddenly disappear from their lives next week.

They took turns inspecting my mechanical steed.

Mix wandered over first, approaching from the far paddock. She smelled the handlebars and then the bag on the back. Her curiosity satisfied, she moved aside so Swings could have a turn.

Same drill. Handlebars and then bag, and that was that. All good.

Mia showed up next but she had to wait while Swings stood facing away from my bike and contemplated things.

After Swings yielded her position, Mia resumed her approach.

Lacking the same confidence as the others, Mia got just close enough to decide my contraption was startling and she quickly altered her course toward one of the hay bags hanging near the barn overhang. It was as if she was attempting to pretend that was what she intended to do all along.

I think all of the horses could tell that I would never be able to pedal that cycle as fast as they used to run. It poses no challenge to their stature.

Next week I will be sure to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to feed or clean up after my bike every day.



Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

Self-Directed Shower

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Last week on one of the hottest dry days of the hot streak, Cyndie dragged out a hose to spray water on the lime screenings and surfaces under the overhang. The horses kick and stomp on the ground to shake off flies which raises clouds of gritty dust that soon covers everything inside and out around the barn.

While she was making her way along the width, waving the spray back and forth over the dusty ground, Mia made an intentional approach and stopped just short of the shower of droplets. Cyndie held still and watched to see what Mia would do.

Very tentatively, Mia let the outer spray from the nozzle coat her whiskers. A moment later, she reached her face further in to get her chin. Another pause, and then she puts her nostrils and muzzle in the flow. Each time, moving into the flow and then out. Forehead, out, cheek, out, neck, out, withers, out, shoulder, out.

On Sunday afternoon, I was present to witness the same scene play out another time. Mia behaved just as Cyndie had described. It reached a point where I encouraged Cyndie to become more active and direct the spray over Mia’s legs and sides. When Mia took a step, the first impression we got was that she had enough, so Cyndie moved away.

Then I sensed Mia wasn’t stepping to get away, she was turning around to present her butt! Cyndie moved the spray onto Mia again and it was gladly received.

When Cyndie went in to get a scraper and towel, I watched Mia shimmy and shake to shed the water and then stand contentedly to let wetness drip off of her. As Cyndie finished drying Mia, I wondered aloud if this would be a time to try brushing her mane.

While Cyndie was back in the barn locating the mane brush and some conditioner, I watched Mia walk down the slope to the dusty black dirt where she laid down and rolled to finish drying. That was the sight to which Cyndie emerged.

Mia did let Cyndie brush out her main after standing back up again. After that, Light accepted a little mane grooming, as well.

It surprised us a bit that none of the other three horses showed any interest in the attention Mia was receiving with the cool spray of water. I’m guessing they don’t like baths as much as she does.



Written by johnwhays

June 15, 2021 at 6:00 am

Sweaty Horses

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We are on our umpteenth day in a row of high-heat weather and the stress on growing plants is getting visible. Overnight Tuesday we were awoken by a brilliant flash of lightning with its associated crack of thunder that one would assume to equal rainfall. We received no noticeable moisture from the atmosphere.

Where we haven’t kept up with watering, our plants are suffering.

Our animals all seem to be tolerating the heat, but the horses are a sweaty mess. They almost look like they’ve just finished running a race. [slight exaggeration] To add a little flamboyance to their appearance, they take turns rolling in the dusty dirt to create a little mud pack that seems to provide some protection from the hot sun and biting flies.

The chicks don’t seem to care about the heat because they have those fabulous grassy courtyards covered by shade where they can romp all day long. We are in the phase of chick-rearing that requires forcing them back into the coop by hand because they haven’t properly developed that natural instinct of going inside on their own for the night.

Chick wrangling is not one of my favorite tasks. They don’t make it easy.

When we finally got to the last couple of the older bunch, they actually chose to run up the ramp themselves instead of succumbing to the grasp of our scary hands. It inspired me to next time devise a method of corralling them into an ever-shrinking space that funnels directly to the ramp so they can practice getting back inside without being grabbed.

By the time all the chick chasing was done, it was the humans who were sweaty.

We chose to pass on the rolling in the dirt thing.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

Precious Sight

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We are so lucky to have these beautiful horses living with us. It’s been a month and a half since they arrived and each day brings them a little bit closer to recognizing us as well-intentioned caregivers. Seeing the four of them quietly grazing together without any fuss is a precious sight.

Just the change from how they originally stood well out of reach when we showed up at the fence to now greeting us with their heads over the top board to smell our breath and accept some touch when we arrive is such a demonstration of their increased comfort.

We’ve taken to temporarily closing gates between pairs during the times we set out feed pans to minimize food related interaction among them, but immediately after open all the gates to allow total freedom of movement. They don’t always regroup and wander off together as a foursome, but when they do, it warms our hearts.

A much less precious sight was discovered upon our return from the lake on Monday. The little pine tree that we transplanted on the rainy Thursday before heading north looked thirsty, with the sprouts of new growth all sadly toppled over. As I was watering it, I suddenly noticed there were two branches smothered with caterpillars that were devouring the older needles.

An internet search revealed these to likely be larvae of the sawfly. The dang things have denuded the upper half of the tree.

If this little pine survives I will be very impressed. We yanked it out of the ground just as it was sprouting new growth, we let it get too dry in its new location, and then it gets infested with needle-eating bugs.

Maybe it will make a good “Charlie Brown Christmas tree” next year.

That could actually turn out to be a precious sight… at least, for fans of that classic 1965 animated television special.



Written by johnwhays

June 2, 2021 at 6:00 am

Engine Failure

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When we first made our move from the tiny suburban lot to our acres of rural property, one of the concerns I had was the reality that I would need to deal with small gas engines. I’ve never had a knack for mastery over the secrets of gas-oil mixed fuel, filtered intake air, carburetors, and electric sparks. If an engine doesn’t start on command, I am basically stumped.

There’s always the old “It’s flooded” explanation. When and why that phenomenon occurs evades me, as does the trick of not simply flooding it again on subsequent tries. I can pull the spark plug and pretend I know what it tells me, but that didn’t produce any desired results yesterday.

For the first time since we started buying gas-powered equipment after moving here, one of the machines foiled my plan to trim the growth on our trails by not starting. My original concern was finally realized.

I’ll try a new spark plug, but if that doesn’t bring it to life, I will be paying real money to have a professional service the trimmer.

It is a special blessing every time one of our engines starts without hesitation in the moments we seek to use them.

This makes me long for the ability to use a manual push reel mower to cut our grass. That was a machine that I understood.

After I was well frustrated by being foiled in my attempts to get that dang engine to fire, I decided to go stand among the horses. That is a priceless antidote for what ailed me. Cleaning up manure and turning the compost pile aligns much better with my abilities.

The horses continue to seem increasingly comfortable with their accommodations. Even the skies appeared to reflect how idyllic it is around here lately.



Written by johnwhays

May 16, 2021 at 9:08 am

Mostly Calm

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Life for our new horses has settled noticeably into a mostly calm satisfaction with their situation. I think enough days have passed that they are getting the sense these fields are theirs to graze and we are looking after their best interests.

Yesterday morning the temperature tip-toed around the freezing point but the clear sunshine warmed things quickly. The herd was serene and polite as I set out pans of their feed rations, which is an improvement over previous occasions. Mix is the mare who has shown the most aggressive outbursts when food service is pending, but we have taken to adding a temporarily closed gate to discourage unnecessary rambunctiousness.

It appears to be helping.

After dinner last night, Cyndie and I walked out to spend time with the herd. They were mostly over the hill out on the hayfield but Mix always shows a keen awareness of our presence and suddenly bolted into a sprint toward us. Cyndie stood tall but at the last minute repositioned just enough to assure Mix wouldn’t just run her over. The mare slowed a bit, avoiding Cyndie, and continued on toward me a few yards beyond. She stopped a few feet away from me as I gestured my desired boundary.

Then Mix closed the distance to bring her nose up to mine. It feels like such a special sign when a horse-human relationship begins to happen. In general, these four rescues have been slow to show much love for us. They haven’t even shown a lot of love for each other.

Earlier, around mid-day, I found Swings and Mix relaxing together in such close proximity to each other that it is hard to imagine it as revealing anything but a mutually nurturing relationship displayed.

Every time I see the horses allowing others to get in their space without feeling a need to put their ears back to signal dissatisfaction is an encouraging sign. We are seeing enough progress toward this calm coexistence among the herd and between them and us that our hopes are high for achieving our desires of helping them live out their time with us as healthily and happily as possible.

In the meantime, mostly calm is a welcome start.



Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2021 at 8:59 am

Push Pull

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The world is in the midst of a bizarre pandemic contrast of simultaneous good progress and bad outcomes. The calamity of skyrocketing cases that are overwhelming hospitals and crematoriums in India has been widely reported at the same time we hear about travel opening up in the EU. In the US, states are ending mask mandates, and relaxing restrictions.

I heard a story on NPR about the lack of vaccines in the Philippines creating a massive crisis of surging cases. In Colombia, violent rioting has erupted, triggered by a proposed tax fix for their pandemic-battered economy.

Things seem to be getting better and worse all at the same time. I suspect there will be a time lag of ramifications that continue to appear for quite some time.

The US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, made a good point advising that people not focus so specifically on the percentage number of citizens vaccinated (be it 70% or 80%) toward achieving herd immunity. He pointed out that it doesn’t work as a switch when a specific percentage is achieved, suddenly ending transmission.

Realistically, there will be a gradient of improvement, one we appear to be seeing early hints of locally. It feels odd to be enjoying the reduced pressure to isolate when other parts of the world sound like they are getting so much worse.

Causes a real push-pull on the senses.

 I suppose it’s not unlike a lot of things in life where good things and bad are in perpetual interplay.

While our horses are showing good signs of becoming more comfortable with their situation here, Cyndie needed to call for the vet yesterday to check on Light who appears to have a possible sinus infection. While he was here, Cyndie was able to confirm our suspicions about Swings suffering from a bout of rain rot, a skin infection.

A little odd that they both seem to have an infection at the same time, but we are told they aren’t related.

I hope they don’t tell us the horses should be wearing masks.

You can bet that would be a real push/pull.



Written by johnwhays

May 5, 2021 at 6:00 am

Slowly Becoming

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We sat beside one of the gates to the large paddock with friends yesterday afternoon and looked in on the four horses as they grazed. They showed awareness of our presence, but little in the way of interest in interacting with us. There have been enough other interactions where they chose to walk near us as we stroll around the perimeter of their pastures that we sense the early hints of a relationship between us.

In the weeks they have been here we have become increasingly aware of the differences between these horses and our previous herd of four well-loved Arabians.

One issue that Mix is experiencing is food aggressive behavior around feeding time that could easily be a relic of being starved sometime in her past.

Our old herd would commonly show up at a gate for social interaction and treats when people would visit. These mares show no sense whatsoever of this concept of “treats.” It’s a little sad to imagine the neglect they might have endured that has left them so uninterested in what humans might have to offer.

I suspect that too much of their experience with people in the last half of their lives has been negative.

These rescued Thoroughbreds have now become familiar with all the borders of their new confines and appear more than satisfied with the accommodations. They seem to understand that we clean up after them and serve pans of feed pellets for supplemental nutrition. Also, they now sense we aren’t a threat, but I don’t know that they are interested in making any hasty leap toward framing us as completely trustworthy.

While I was standing in the field among them around nap time the other day and three of them decided to lie down, I pulled out my camera to record the moment. While I was filming Light and Swings in front of me, I started hearing some strange sounds from behind me.

When I turned around to check, I found Mia’s snout was resting on the ground and it was causing a sort of whistle on her inhale, and then she snorted upon exhale. She was sleeping so soundly, she was snoring!

I took that as a great sign she was thoroughly comfortable with her surroundings and also, my benign presence in the middle of all of them.

We are slowly becoming connected to this herd and they are slowly becoming adjusted to us and our fields.

I anticipate this summer will provide plenty of opportunities to use idle time to continue deepening our precious connections.



Written by johnwhays

May 3, 2021 at 6:00 am

Two Minutes

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It sure seemed like the fastest two minutes. Yesterday afternoon, Cyndie and I watched the Kentucky Derby with a new perspective. We have four horses living with us now who started their lives as racehorses but went on to become neglected and ultimately taken on by a rescue organization.

Ultimately, we are not supportive of the breeding of animals for the purpose of racing them for a few years. At the same time, we recognize the fascination with the power and speed of Thoroughbreds.

The Derby is referred to as “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” The 2021 winner was “Medina Spirit” with a time of 2:01.02.

Check out the images posted on The beauty and athleticism are mesmerizing.

It’s intoxicating. Until we consider the rest of the lives of all the horses at all the racetracks around the world.

We are giving our hearts to four rescued Thoroughbreds with the hope of allowing them to reclaim their wholeness as equine beings, living safely and comfortably for the rest of their lives.

If they choose to run, it’s a brilliant spectacle. Given their own choice on our property, it has never come close to lasting two minutes at an all-out sprint.

We’ll probably watch the next two Triple Crown races to see what transpires, but it is with conflicted hearts. After yesterday’s race, we walked out into the field with our four Thoroughbreds to recalibrate. There was nothing but walking and grazing happening, but they were no less impressive creatures.

Zodiacal Light, Pleasant Mix, The Yellow Sheet [Mia], and Gate Swinger are all champions in our eyes.