Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Thoroughbred rescues

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.

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Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2021 at 8:59 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.

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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 kentuckyderby.com. 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.

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Today’s Lesson

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Today, Cyndie and I are trying to process what lesson we might learn from the ultimate demise of our entire brood of 14 chickens over a span of two weeks when previous years have allowed us so much more time. Whether the most likely threat was coyotes or possibly hawks, we feel completely outsmarted and helpless against these forces of nature.

Yesterday, when the last four birds were taken from us, a leftover pile of feathers in the middle of our back yard, just steps away from where I was obliviously lounging on a recliner beside the fireplace, provided a particularly harsh stab of our inability to protect them.

Should we have changed something about our routine after the first attack? After the second?

It’s a moot point now. Except, there remains the probability we won’t give up trying. After the second attack, Cyndie decided to order an incubator to hatch some of our own eggs. If predators are going to keep taking our birds, we might end up just raising even more.

Evidence pointed to the latest attack playing out in uncomfortably close proximity to the horses whom we are striving to make feel safe and welcome. For now, our focus of attention shifts much more in their direction.

They provide both solace and distraction from our grief over the decimation of the chickens. We are learning how to frame our recent experience losing chickens and trying to soothe the angst of relocated rescue Thoroughbreds.

It may be today’s lesson, but I sense it is going to take a lot more time than a single day to fully absorb.

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2021 at 9:39 am

Hay Delivered

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One of the best parts of our relationship with This Old Horse is that they provide all the support needed to care for the horses, and the greatest relief for us is that we don’t have to find and transport baled hay. Yesterday was magical in that a trailer full of small squares was delivered right to our hay-shed door.

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Since I was conveniently an hour away at the day-job when it arrived, the work of helping to unload and re-stack it in the shed landed on Cyndie. [monotone fake concern…] Too bad I wasn’t able to be there.

Despite the fact it was wintery-cold outside, all I wanted to do when I got home was go hang out with the horses. They were out on the back pasture, so Cyndie and I picked the chore of clearing out two years of overgrowth from within, and around the outside perimeter of the round pen. We were standing where the horses could clearly see us.

Our previous herd would quickly move their grazing to get very near wherever we happened to be, but these mares are much less connected to people at this point. They randomly appear to adjust their positioning with respect to us, though it usually involves maintaining a distance that reflects their understandable caution.

We look forward to showing them plenty of reasons to develop a special connection with us over time, starting with the fact we will be the primary ones serving up their rations of hay.

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Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2021 at 6:00 am

Settling In

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Despite innumerable projects that deserve our attention this time of year, we preserved much of the day yesterday for just being with the horses. We continue to gain insight into the significant difference between these horses who have been rescued from a variety of situations and histories, and the four pampered Arabians who lived with us previously.

As we were sitting in chairs beside a gate to the large paddock mid-morning, the four mares were finding themselves inclined toward taking a nap. A real lying down nap. All four at the same time.

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A short while later, since naps on the ground tend to only last about 5-minutes, they remained spread out and took to calmly grazing where they stood.

Slowly, but surely, Light made her way toward my feet at the gate, closing the distance by halves, then inch by inch as she munched. I purposely left my boot where it was, protruding beneath the gate in the direct path of grass she was working.

 

When she got to my boot, she pressed it gently, as if to make a connection with me. Then she just kept on munching grass just beyond it.

There has been very little drama between the mares, but as they crowd around the overhang when we are about to set out feed, we’ve seen Mix get a little testy with those around her. We’ve also noticed Swings having some bouts of anxiety that cause her to pace back and forth in one specific spot near the first gate they entered.

We watched as Light appeared to intervene one time to help interrupt the routine, getting Swings to break the pacing and walk calmly away with her. 

Cyndie reported this morning there is already a worn path along that fence that is beginning to get muddy.

We have been a little concerned about how much newly greening grass was available to them in the paddocks, but their digestive systems appear to be handling it thus far. Yesterday we dumped the inaugural wheelbarrow load of manure into the compost area. Cyndie and I embarrassingly held a small celebratory moment over the occasion.

Rocky showed up soon after to start scratching into it, knocking down the nice shape I had created.

Elysa and Ande stopped by to greet the horses and then I successfully installed the pump in our landscape pond to restart the soothing sounds of the falling water.

With that chore completed, I feel justified to now spend even more time helping our horses get comfortable with us and their new surroundings. The grass in the paddocks is already grazed to such an extent we are considering opening the gate to the back pasture for them this afternoon.

They’ve already demonstrated interest several times by standing at that very gate and ogling the greenery spread out before them.

I am happy to be able to say we are all settling in nicely to our new, mutually beneficial relationships.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2021 at 9:36 am