Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘rescued thoroughbreds

Visiting Mia

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Saturday afternoon brought us visitors who wanted to see how Mia was doing and their first impression was oh so rewarding. To hear people say how good the horses are looking is wonderfully validating of our intentions and efforts.

This family had owned Mia when she had her eighth and final foal in 2018. After a thoroughbred broodmare is done having foals, the level of attention and care drops significantly. This owner was already living up in this region and Mia was still in Kentucky. Confident the horse would receive better care up here, they worked with This Old Horse to move Mia north.

When she first arrived from Kentucky that year, Mia hadn’t had a reason to naturally develop a heavy growth of winter coat and so she needed to wear a blanket through the cold season. Seeing the healthy growth Mia now sports brought them much comfort.

We have finally learned the foal count for each of the four horses we are fostering:

    • Swings  –  4
    • Mia        –  8
    • Light      –  3
    • Mix        –  3

It has given us a new perception of what Mia lived through after her racing career.

I wouldn’t say that Mia was overly demonstrative of recognizing her previous owners, but she was definitely more “present” than normal. She stayed at the gate in contact with us, while we chatted and gave some attention to the other three, for much longer than she ever does when it’s just Cyndie and me.

Since our visitors were eager to know what kind of place Mia had landed in, I guided them in a short walk around the bend of the back pasture to see the labyrinth. They showed great interest and were eager to spend some quiet time strolling the route to the center.

We had segretated the horses so that the chestnuts only had access to the hayfield and the other two could be on the back pasture, but my wish that horses would show up to stand close while the visitors were in the labyrinth didn’t pan out. The four horses had stayed up by the barn, which actually made it easy for our guests to connect one last time before they departed.

They are happy to see Mia has landed a good place and we are happy to know Mia has people from her past who still care about her.

I am extremely pleased to know that others believe our horses look healthy and appear thoroughly content with the home we are providing for them.

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Written by johnwhays

November 22, 2021 at 7:00 am

Staying Put

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Upon seeing Ward’s comment on yesterday’s post, I realized I haven’t written about our decision to keep our rescued Thoroughbreds through the winter. It’s actually been a gradual process for us to come to this conclusion. Recently, Cyndie affirmed our intentions with “This Old Horse” and this set in motion preparations for winter horse care.

They are fully supportive and provided contact information for some volunteer caretakers living near us who we didn’t previously know about. If we find ourselves needing coverage during a time we will be away, “This Old Horse” volunteers can step in.

We might update the horses’ feed rations or nutrition for the winter. “This Old Horse” will bring us heated water buckets for in the barn stalls. We will be contacting their hay supplier to coordinate a plan for when we will be needing more bales.

It is a wonderful partnership that serves the horses’ best interests and gives us the support that enables us to provide them a long-term retirement home.

We are very happy to report the horses are staying put for the indefinite future.

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Written by johnwhays

November 17, 2021 at 7:00 am

Middle Two

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As long as I’ve set off on the topic of featuring the horses residing with us since April, I would be remiss to stop at only the youngest and oldest. In the middle are Zodiacal Light (Light) and The Yellow Sheet (Momma Mia).

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These two chestnuts prefer each others’ company more than hanging with the other two horses. At the same time, when we moved Swings and Mix inside the barn for their turns with the vet for teeth work, Light and Mia became very unsettled at the separation, whinnying and hurriedly moving about.

In addition to similar coloring, they share equal subserviency to Mix’s demonstrations of dominance over them, accepting the situation with little complaint.

The easiest way to tell them apart is by the markings on their faces. Light has a “round star and stripe” and Mia sports an “irregular stripe.” We usually need to wait for them to turn around to look at us before we are sure which horse is which.

Mia is a little smaller than Light and she’s the older of the two. Born in California in February of 2000, Mia is about 63 in comparative human years.

Sometimes I think she looks older than Swings. Mia reminds us of our previous horse, Dezirea for her acceptance of the lowest position in the hierarchy of the herd and for being quick to react startled by many things.

Light was born in British Columbia in the spring of 2003. She shows a bit of caregiver trait in looking after the sensitivities of the other horses. She was actually rescued twice from kill pens, one time with a foal at her side.

Light and Mia are the perfect middle two for the herd, creating a wonderful balance of four different horses that together project a precious equine energy.

The rescue organization, This Old Horse, did a masterful job of selecting them as good candidates for our land when we expressed interest in the possibility. It’s been only five months that these horses have lived with us and with each passing day they seem more and more comfortable with the situation.

I think it would be fair to say the same thing about us.

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

Swings Photographed

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I didn’t set out to capture portraits of all the horses the other day. Moments after capturing the image of Mix that I posted yesterday, I turned to find Swings uphill from where I was standing. I had to change my position a couple of times to remove my shadow from the frame. The result provided a shadow of Swings that, for me, makes up for the other aspects of the shot I don’t like so much.

The background robs some of the definition her outlines deserve but I’m not discarding the image just because of that.

I like the way her shadow stands up against the wall behind her.

I like how the shadow appears to have its own personality.

I like how the outline of the head of the shadow is better defined than her actual head.

I like how Swings’ physical features and coloring come through looking totally defiant of her actual age.

Swings’ full Thoroughbred racing name is “Gate Swinger.” She was born in Kentucky and started racing as a two-year-old. Over her four years of running she earned $116,812. Swings is currently 26-years-old. That is approximately 75-and-a-half in human years. She is the oldest of the four now living with us.

When the horses arrived at Wintervale last April, one of the things we noticed about Swings was anxiety that led her to pace back and forth along a short distance of the paddock fence, from the barn overhang to the gate through which they arrived. At one point, I tried walking with her from outside the fence. She gave me a look like I was weird, but kept pacing.

I changed my tactic and switched to walking opposite her direction, back and forth so we passed each other in the middle. It caused her to give up for a while, but then she soon returned to pacing. I saw the other horses occasionally interrupt her pacing, as if to break the spell she was under.

After a few days her anxiety and that habit of pacing seemed to dissipate. Now she seems like the calmest of the four of them. As the eldest mare, she could easily take the role of herd leader because she presents herself as the most regal, but she doesn’t show a need to hold that complete dominance over all the others.

In fact, the order of hierarchy among the herd is a little complex. Swings will take over Mix’s feed pan in a gesture of dominance and Mix holds command over both Light and Mia, but Light is able to move Swings off her pan without any fuss.

The average life expectancy of Thoroughbreds is 25-28. Swings looks so good and has settled into such a zen-like calmness now that we will be very surprised if she doesn’t thrive well beyond the average range.

I will have plenty of opportunities to capture a picture of her that properly reveals how gorgeous all her features really are.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2021 at 6:00 am

Mix Photographed

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I didn’t set out to write about Mix today. It’s just that I took this picture of her over the weekend that I really like looking at and I wanted to use it in a post.

There is no specific story to go along with this image. It was early in the morning and the sun had just risen over our horizon. The horses had finished chomping their servings of feed and she was probably contemplating what to do next. As Mix turned her head, this moment was captured.

I like the way the sun highlights her tail, but with the addition of the fence shadow breaking it up.

I like how she is pointed toward the open gate to the hayfield.

I like how the hayfield is illuminated by the low-angle sunlight.

I like the two directions of fence line that accent the scene.

I like how attentive her ears look.

Mix’s full Thoroughbred racing name is “Pleasant Mix.” She was born in Ontario and started racing at age three. Over her three years of running she earned $213,420. We were told all four of the horses became broodmares after they were retired from racing, but we don’t have any of those details. Mix is currently 17-years-old. That is approximately 53 in human years. She is the youngest of the four now living with us.

When the horses arrived at Wintervale last April, one of the things we noticed about Mix was how she demonstrated food aggression. When feed pans were being prepared, she would chase off the others and paw at the ground. They all continue to work on their comfort level around feed time and are showing good progress about moving beyond any issues.

Mix takes multiple deep inhales to learn people’s scent. She is now showing a propensity to be very present with whoever shows up to visit. She loves attention and demonstrates a kind of quirky sense of humor about ways to get it.

For those of you who remember our old herd leader, Legacy, there is no denying that they share a very similar appearance, both being Grays. We feel they share a little bit more than just color.

I think that is one more reason I like this picture of Mix so much. I think I see some of Legacy’s spirit coming through.

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Written by johnwhays

September 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

September Eleven

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Twenty years later, I’m pausing to remember my trauma of that day, witnessing so many other peoples’ trauma over the unimaginable death and destruction unleashed by fanatical terrorists hijacking commercial jets containing passengers to use them as explosive missiles.

I spent the first moments, and then the unfolding hours, trying to grasp the reality that such things could be happening. We didn’t learn of the events after the fact. We witnessed much of it as it was happening. I’ve never really liked hearing the sound of a commercial jet flying overhead after that day twenty years ago.

This morning, I turned on some of the television coverage of memorial events being held at the three locations where the planes crashed. In Minnesota, they read the names of people from the state who were killed that day, as well as Minnesota members of the military who died in the wars since.

Thinking of John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine there’s no countries…,” how many more names would need to be recited if loved ones from Afghanistan were to read the names of all who died in the twenty years since.

Meanwhile, in the idyllic surroundings of our home on this beautifully warm September day, we are living life in peace. The first hints of color continue to slowly transition in the panorama of trees along the edges of our woods.

On this third day of being the only person feeding our animals, they are all settling into my way of doing things. On Thursday evening, the horses demonstrated a fair amount of uncertainty navigating the feeding routine, but as I have adjusted my methods and they’ve responded willingly, this morning was as serene as ever.

Having watched Swings lose as many pellets out of her mouth as she consumes, I’ve started soaking her servings in a little water first and that seems to be making it easier for her. We had hoped having their teeth floated would help her more than it appears to have done.

This morning I decided to try again to use the hay boxes I built. They were powering through a single bale so fast the last time we tried using these that we switched to providing the net feeders from which they were used to eating.

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If they make it through a bale too fast today, I’ll plot a modification to the grate that might slow it down to something comparable to grass-grazing speed, if I can guess what that actually is.

It seems illogical to me that they would prefer dry hay bales over the two large fields of fresh grass that we provide them full access to day and night, but I’m not a horse. I trust they know why they make the choices about what to eat.

As rescued thoroughbreds, they know about memories of trauma.

Today we are soaking up the peacefulness we have been afforded and adding another day of distance from the source of our past traumas.

We will never forget, but we will always seek that world where we all be as one.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2021 at 10:01 am