Sunday, January 29, 2012

One more thing..

In my excitement over the journey we took yesterday, I neglected to mention one tiny thing. Or not so tiny. Maybe a little huge for us, actually.

By the end of the session, I got a few steps of a sittable trot from my horse. And he got a few steps of a not bouncing rider.

Even better, at least one of us could feel the difference. And what a nice difference it was.

More later. It's Katie and Forrest's turn today and as I'll be unencumbered by horses, I can watch someone else without distraction. More photos and maybe some video later!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oh the things we can learn

Calabar and me, getting ready to learn a few things.

I have had some formal training and lessons. I have also held on for dear life as my horse chased a mechanical cow or galloped up a trail, smiling the whole time. There is a balance in between, I think, and it amazes me sometimes how much I don't know about riding. We're talking basic fundamentals, really. Do this, expect this movement. Do that, expect some other movement. What?

Calabar may know even less than I do, and has not always been willing to learn. Control the situation, yes; learn, no. But something has happened along our journey. He is trying to learn (most days, anyway), now, even when he is entirely unsure what it is I'm asking.

This all crystallized a little more at another clinic today with Ellen Eckstein

We had another mildly rocky start--including Calabar nearly pulling himself loose from the trailer when Lena got out of sight--but what we all learned was so worth it. Even the bout of breakfast-impeding nerves I fought before even leaving the house.

I'll cover the fact that our horses are totally herd-bound later, but let's just say we worked through Calabar nearly getting loose, then leaping above the ground before settling down, all while Lena Rey called to him during most of her lesson. 

Steve and Lena had a great lesson, working on position for both of them. Lena is allowed to have her big, beautiful head up as she canters as it gives her the ability to balance herself and drive with her hind end. I'm sure there was more, but I was busy with the brown horse and missed most of it--including some bucking, apparently. All I saw was the beautifully balanced canter at the end and a happy horse and rider. There are pictures, but they are being edited by a far more talented photographer than I and will be posted later.

Then it was Bar's and my turn. He had settled way down from his antics and was standing mildly at the side of the ring waiting to see what was next. 

What was next was Jess learning to tell Calabar what to do with his body. My goal was to learn how to ride his trot. It turns out we both had lots of things to learn. It's not that I just had to learn to ride his trot, I had to learn to teach him how to trot. He trots off his front end, propelling me out of his saddle with every step. It's kind of a post, but not really, and is rather impossible to ride--let alone ride well. We won't even talk about sitting it. 

Of course, I didn't know that was what the problem was. I thought it was all me and my inability to become one with the jackhammer trot. 

Ellen helped me see that perhaps there was another path we could travel, this horse and me.

Bridging the reins in one hand, directing with both inside and outside rein--WITHOUT over(t) steering. Now switch directions. Then we tossed in a Dressage whip to get a little more life out of my horse. (WHAT?!) 

I know. I had the same fears. If I smack him, how long will it take me to hit the ground? It turns out... he needed smacking. Really? This horse was just bouncing straight up in the air and dancing, why would he need an extra push? Oh. Because he has no idea what to do with those hind legs. And no idea how to turn from behind. And I have no idea how to tell him to do these things. Or I didn't. 

I do now. And it didn't even take more than one good smack. Maybe two. And many, many tiny circles in both directions. "Stop neck reining," said Ellen--more than once, I might add. Apparently, muscling a horse through a turn is not the most effective technique. I've had instructors tell me to use the outside rein to counter balance, but Ellen said, "Don't cross it over his withers." OH! That's what that meant. Hear the little bell going off in my head? Yeah, I heard it too. Quite a bit.

Of course, I also had to learn how to use a Dressage whip properly first. This was not as easy as it may sound. There is switching of hands required so said appliance is always in the inside hand. There is the angle in the hand so there is actual contact instead of just waving. At least until waving suffices. 

Waving was not enough initially. It may be later. I believe Ellen's exact words were, "You need to be more definite." No, I did not cry out, "BUT WHAT IF I DIE??!" though I did maybe think it briefly.

All the while, even when he was confused about what I wanted, Calabar tried and he tried really hard. Even when he got frustrated, he hung in there with me and kept working on figuring out what I wanted. That little piece tells me how far we've really come together, and that is a gift beyond measure.

There is more to learn, always. With horses, with life. Coming come away from a lesson with clearer objectives and a path to achieve that next step is so valuable. Coming away and feeling like you can actually achieve that next step is golden. 

It's like I got Calabar all over again, wrapped up in a big red bow--WITH an instruction manual! How cool is that? 

Pretty cool, I have to say.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If wishes were horses

Calabar and Lena (and their humans) at Slide Mountain Ranch, Oct. 2010

As do most folks I know, I have an if-I-won-the-lottery fantasy. In honor of my dear leprechaun-like father (gone two years as of tomorrow and missed tremendously), I am going to indulge in a little dreaming out loud. It is only because of Dad that I even bother to buy lottery tickets, after all.

If  I won the lottery--and a significant win it would have to be--I would have a place for ex-racehorses to transition. Bar would be the mascot, Lena the greeter and resident cow expert. I would try not to keep all of them.

There would be a trail or gallop or whatever you want to call it around the perimeter of the property. It would definitely (definitely!) not look like a track. It would be a place for walking on a loose rein or for galloping because sometimes that is the only right answer.

There would be a covered arena, large and well-lit for winter and night-time riding.

There would be a jump arena with easily-changed obstacles for all levels of horses and riders.

There would be a large covered round pen for groundwork and lunging.

There would be a deep pit soft dirt and/or sand for rolling. Bar promises he'll share.

There would be cows because I think every horse (or at least most of them) can benefit from a little cow-work.

There would be hot water wash racks for spoiled horses.

I would have all kinds of guest trainers--from Dressage to cutting and everything in between--maybe even some of the famous ones.

I would hire my friend Devon to help the horses ease from the track to their next job. Mostly because she can handle fast horses at racing speed and I can't yet.

I would hire my friend Karen to help with retraining and body work--massage for the horses and Karate for the potential owners.

I would blog and photograph and promote ex-racehorses hopefully as well as Lynn over at LOPE does.

That is all just my starting point--totally impractical and subject to change based on cold reality. But it is still my dream.

Why? Because as bratty as my ex-racehorse threatened to be tonight, he is fun to ride--engaged and thinking all of the time. Athletic, too. I have to be sure to point him firmly in the right direction, but when we get there, we get there together. These horses are worth more than their speed at the track. They have big hearts and a huge work ethic.

Roll that all up and it's a beautiful thing. Almost as beautiful as my ex-racehorse and his soft, fuzzy nose.

This post is dedicated to my father, Patrick Craig Boyd. He was a gentle and intelligent man who understood and accepted the misunderstood and loved us all anyway. I miss you, Dad, though that sounds incredibly inadequate in the shadow of what I feel.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The season of serious rolling has begun

Lena earlier in the year enjoying a dust bath

Calabar, Lena, and Forrest all love a good roll, and they all have plenty of room in their paddocks to indulge in this important horse activity. Forrest particularly likes to coat himself thoroughly in his own, um, leavings. And it's all good until the rain starts and the blankets come out.

Nap time disturbed by photo-snapping owner

They all still lay in the mud, at least when it's not actually raining, but the rolling isn't nearly as satisfactory when their most itchy spots are wrapped in Gore-Tex. So part of my winter-time deal is to always, always allow for rollage before we start to work. I've tried, and succeeded, to ride without this ritual, but since I can totally sympathize from within my seven layers of clothes it seems like a small concession to make.

Winter gear -- good for rain protection, but not for itchy horse bodies

It was pouring rain when I got to the barn the other night. Pouring. Rain was streaming off Calabar's ears and neck as he ate and his very first desire was for me to rub the back of his ears and his head and under his chin. I think I need to renew my supply of old, gross towels at the barn again for just this sort of occasion. 


Not thinking, I took his blanket off before heading down to the arena. And even with my apparently "I melt if water touches me" Thoroughbred dancing beside me, urging me to hurry up and get his delicate self out of the rain, he was plenty soggy when we got to the arena. Naturally, he wanted to roll as soon as he felt the soft dirt under his hooves in the arena, but I convinced him to at least wait until he was inside the round pen. His satisfaction, upon rolling at least five times on each side and coming up looking like a cocoa-dusted chocolate truffle, was palpable. I did get most of the arena dirt back on the ground and made a note to keep him blanketed on the way down next time so at least he'll only get a necks-worth of coating. Unless, of course, I insist on the stylish neck covering that he only wants when it's really bad outside.

Bar's idea of heaven. Slightly muddy, but sunny. Perfect wallowing weather.

It was the driest December in California in a long time, so the rain is welcome. Mostly. As long as I make time for itchy, trapped-in-Gore-Tex-blankets horses to roll, says Calabar.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Retired Racehorse Training Challenge

On the very top of things I'd love to be a part of: The Retired Racehorse Training Challenge

Especially if I got to work with this boy--Four X The Trouble. 

What a personality! And, yes, confirmation, movement, looks, too. And, yeah... if Bar would allow it, I'd take Trouble home in a red hot second. 

I do have to say that even a horse with injuries and legs that are not "clean" can be a horse that can take you to more places than you can imagine. If I did the challenge, I'd include the less than perfect ponies. 

But I'm biased. 

Two cats in the house

Time for a short cat-related interlude on the blog.

Oliver came into our lives in November and has, as cats do, managed to create a space for himself in our lives and our routines. And the sofa.

It took him awhile to figure out he could come in and eat every morning, then curl up on the sofa all day. He's a pro now. However, the first few times Steve went to put him out in the afternoon before heading out to the barn, it was a little traumatic. He wouldn't always show back up for dinner, but he's actually started figuring that out, too. Tuna helped. A lot.

It's like he didn't have any kind of consistency early on in his life, like sometimes things he did were okay and sometimes they weren't--all very arbitrary.

The other thing we've figured out is that he is pretty much completely deaf. He sees well, smells well, and feels vibration, but he doesn't hear much, if anything. He doesn't hear you making the treat noise, so he watches and when you go into the kitchen he makes sure if he's hungry, you know it. He doesn't hear you asking him to go out, but if he sees you make the clapping gesture, he does realize what you want. He doesn't like it, mind you, but he is starting to figure it out.

He is also learning to snuggle. It's hard for him for some reason, but Steve is gentle and persistent. Ollie sits on the Steve side of the sofa out of habit, so has had to learn to share. The head scratches have helped convince him that we are not going to eat him or toss him off the sofa. I am hoping that eventually he will make his way over to my side of the sofa, but for now I'm content to listen to him purr.

Just as I wonder what Calabar's early life was like, pre-Howie, I wonder what has happened to Ollie that has made him the way he is. He is getting over it, whatever it is, slowly but surely learning to trust us and relax.

Steve may be the best cat whisperer I've ever met.

 Ollie says so, too.

Elmer says what is so great about Oliver??!! Look how cute I am playing dead on the floor! But Elmer has also figured out that trying to steal Ollie's tuna is a very, very bad plan.

My horses remind me more of cats than of dogs. What's funny is Lena and Elmer share traits, as do Ollie and Calabar. And yet Ollie is much more Steve's cat and Elmer is much more my cat--as much as a cat or a horse can ever really be anyone's, of course.

Whatever the dynamics, it is good to have such interesting creatures in our lives.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lena cartoon

"She told me she was feeling faint," said Katie. She was describing Lena Rey suckering her out of  a little extra alfalfa the other night.

It made me imagine Lena, batting her eyes, holding a hoof up to steady herself as she fought off imminent starvation. 

Which then led to this silly cartoon. 

It may be a one time thing, but it was fun and it surely captures her essence. I was not as successful with Calabar and Forrest, though I'm entirely unsure why that would be. 

Lena says it's okay, I can practice with more pictures of her.

What would I do without horses?

Sometimes, my mind drifts back to LBH--Life Before Horses. There were vacations to Hawaii and less broken bones. There were jeans that didn't cycle into the barn-clothes pile. There were even cowboy boots once upon a time that never saw horse poop in their whole entire lifetime. (But really, what is the point of that? Poor boots were probably confused!)

But there were also no fuzzy brown horses wearing hats--definitely a hole in my life that needed filling.

Very occasionally--usually when it is blowing frigid wind and rain, when I've just written out a check for board/to the vet/to the farrier and I can remember swimming in the balmy Hawaiian currents--I sigh a little bit.

But just a little bit. Because whenever I do venture out without the ponies, I find myself on a constant search for a horse fix. This has led to disappointment on many occasions because the average trail horse really. Just. Doesn't. Cut. It. At all. Not compared to to Calabar and Lena, a.k.a. the Wonder Twins. When we went out the other weekend, there was no plodding, not a bit of it. There was trotting--maybe a little slow-motion racing, even--as we made our way up the trails. I always hope a rented trail horse might be a little evil, but that has only happened once. (In Hawaii, oddly enough.)

On the other hand, the obsession has also led to some interesting conversations. Like the one I had outside of Las Vegas where capris and sneakers were considered reasonable riding attire (though we didn't have time) and downright practical compared to a supermodel showing up to ride in high heels. (According to the story, anyway.) And apparently, that was not the most bizarre outfit this young man had seen. (Considering we were near Vegas, I can only imagine.) Lena would never tolerate me wearing a show girl outfit, that's for sure. Way too much competition.

 I think, really, it is safe to say I have an addiction at this point. When I get to the barn, even if I don't ride once I'm there, the warm smell of horse and the trail of slobber on my shirt somehow completes my day. When I don't get to the barn, I find my irritability is much closer to the surface, my joints ache more, and I'm just grumpier in general. Really, my boss should insist I go to the barn because I'm much nicer to be around, much more soothed and relaxed, when I manage it. It's like a little mini-vacation every day, only with warm snuffly noses instead of warm salt water.

Both together would actually pretty much be my idea of heaven, I just can't figure out how to get my horses on the plane.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Horse stories

Having seen a recommendation, I am currently reading (and thoroughly enjoying) The Eighty Dollar Champion by Elizabeth Letts.

While inhaling words through my eyeballs, I came across this description of what the Remount Program was looking for in 1912--a "usin' kind of horse." Sounds a lot like Lena Rey, except of course she is a mare and not a gelding or stallion:

"..bred to be well balanced, with well-sprung ribs and a deep heart girth to provide plenty of lung capacity, a well-developed set of withers to hold the saddle in place, lots of sufficient bone to stay sound, and a foot large enough to provide a solid foundation."

It does, however, slightly fall apart with this part:

"...temperament was a factor, with emphasis given to 'a gentle disposition and a willing mind.'" In Lena's case, sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Doesn't matter, I love Lena Rey for who she is. Just as I love Calabar for who he is. And the point of Snowman's story is just that--at least as far as I've read so far: Love them for who they are and what they offer and offer them the same in return.

That is what makes a companion, that is what makes a champion.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jess-2, Fear-0.5

Fear and I are doing a dance, but bit by bit, I'm reverting to my true nature and starting to lead a little more. It has not always been this way, no. There have been many times over the last couple of years when I've let myself chicken out when faced with a situation I think could get squirrely or even one that just makes me a little nervous. Sometimes the scenario mirrors one that caused Bar and me trouble in the past, and sometimes it's just something unfamiliar. I'm not proud of giving in to the fear or hesitation and I could cheat and resort to only writing about the times we are awesome, but we won't start to work past anything if I don't start by admitting I still get scared sometimes.

The thing is, I'm coming back around to the conclusion that I can handle more than I think I can.

Calabar says, "Duh." And, "Phew, it's about time you figured it out."

Over the last couple of weeks, I've faced a couple scenarios that previously would have caused me to back away--riding with folks I don't know, and having another horse in the round pen when I'm working with Calabar. Both cause me anxiety and I've used both as an excuse not to take him out, but I decided to suck it up and deal instead.

Last week, I got to the barn in time to ride, but saw the lights on in the lower barn and a few cars there, indicating I would have company in the arena if I chose to ride. "Urgh," I said to myself. I could just smooch and go home, no harm, no foul. But.....

Bar hadn't been out in a few days and I needed to be a big girl and do this. It would be a learning experience, right? And he's been really good lately. And we both needed OUT. I needed out of my medical-industry-nonsense brain space and he needed OUT of his blanket and paddock.

Yes, please, and thank you. Now.

Being around other horses has been challenging for us, and I'm not sure how much is him and how much is me being nervous because I'm afraid he's nervous and will react to the other horses. I know he's a herd animal and that other horses are interesting, exciting, and possibly competition. He has had good days and bad days, but has gotten progressively better over the years with more and more exposure. That night in the arena, he showed interest in the other horses and riders while we did our ground work in the round pen, but he didn't show off too much and kept his head in the game. I got on and we stayed in the round pen to do our work, during which a little bounce-spin told me that was a good plan. He thought he was done after that, so I worked him some more to show him he wasn't. We finished up our ride and I told him next time he could go out with the other horses if he was good. "I was good," he said. "I suppose you were at that," I sighed, realizing I should have trusted him a little more than I was ready to. Something to remember next time, though.

The other night, after I'd warmed him up in the round pen, saddled him, and gone to get on him, the barn owner's wife came in to lunge her Quarter Horse mare. Bar is particularly weird about horses lunging in the round pen. To put it bluntly, it freaks him out. No, I have no idea why, but I've levitated with him enough to safely say it's low on his list of favorite things.

So I thought it prudent to stay on the ground until I could see how he was going to handle this. Daisy is normally fairly sedate, but she was frisky and Calabar's eyes became large brown saucers. However, he didn't go anywhere and even moved forward a few steps to check out what was going on in the round pen. In fact, he was really good and I was about to get on when he heard someone clang the gate to the outdoor arena and I became the center of a short-lived Thoroughbred tornado. Only one circle, actually, at the end of which he tripped over the mounting block and looked suitably embarrassed.

I did get on after that, and we walked, and he was somewhere else--e.g. not with me. You know. Me. His rider. So I got off and lunged him again a little in the round pen, which he thought was truly boring. I told him I was scared, and that I really couldn't get hurt again and he bumped me with his big head as if to say, "It's okay, I know." Then I got on again and he was most excellent. Once again, I realized I could have trusted him more than I did. "Sigh," says Calabar.

In between those two scenarios, we went on a trail ride that was not only physically challenging for all of us, but provided much-needed non-arena time.

Today there was no scary situation, no hurdles, just lazy Calabar and me in the arena. We did a tiny amount of ground work, then I climbed on bareback and worked on feeling his front feet. He worked on trying to figure out what I was up to and pointing out when I was scrinched over to one side. "You're doing it again," he said. "Crap, you're right," I said, pushing down into my seat bones, pushing my shoulders back, and uncurling my spine.

It was all very relaxed, even the tiny (and I mean tiny) dip-spook he did in the back of the arena because he could hear-and-not-see someone out there.

Bit by bit, I'm taking the lead back from fear. All with the help of my big, fuzzy, brown mirror. And a little faith in myself tossed in for good measure.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Trail ride weather

We need rain here in Northern California, but since it held off yet another day, we took advantage and hit the trail.
The horses were great, and we were all glad for a day out.  Much needed by all of us.

A plan for New York's Retired Racehorses

Calabar by a nose, October 15, 2003

For one obvious, fuzzy brown reason, Off-Track Thoroughbreds and their fates are a subject near and dear to my heart, so when I read the recommendations of the New York State Task Force on Retired Racehorses, I did a little cheer and maybe not just in my head.

These recommendations not only help answer the question of how to monitor the safety and well-being of horses on the track, they offer solutions and support to set the ex-racehorse up for success after the track. How? By training the humans responsible for the horses before the after the track part happens. They even came up with a way to pay for it--taking a percentage of revenue from video lottery terminals and purse accounts.

Being a bit cynical, I realize these are only recommendations and I wonder how we will motivate the industry to take responsibility--let alone even a fraction of their proceeds--for these bright and athletic creatures?

How about a little image triage?

Attendance and on-track betting revenue has been falling for years, and--good, bad, right, wrong, indifferent--incidents like Eight Belles breaking down and being euthanized on the track after finishing second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby pointed a glaring spotlight at all of the things perceived wrong with the industry. 

And then came Zenyatta--a horse that brought a delightful new public face to horse racing. There are so many fine racehorses out there, but Zenyatta's team gave us an intimate backstage pass to the world of racing wrapped up in one classy package. She is a force of nature--not just on the track but with her rockstar personality--and she is so obviously well-taken care of. Her owners and humans all around love her, and it is unlikely she will disappear and end up somewhere bad--a fate that befell Ferdinand, the winner of the 1986 Kentucky Derby who disappeared and was likely slaughtered in 2002.

Unfortunately, hers is not the typical story, and I don't even mean the winning part. Way too many horses wash out on the track and end up in awful conditions. Way too many horses are so banged up on the track they can't transition easily (if at all) to any work. 

That's why this is so important. That's why we need the buy-in and the reporting from those in the industry. We need to support the owners and trainers that take care of their horses and turn the focus on cleaning out the muck.

Natalie, over at the Retired Racehorse Blog, summarized some of the key points she particularly likes:


I agree 100%. Not only will it make their transition off the track smoother, even a little bit of cross-training (say Dressage) would give you a more balanced, athletic and interested horse. There will also be monitoring of trainers whose horses regularly end up in the euthanasia-only category, as well as the trainers (like our friends Devon and Howie) who retire horses who are sound and able to move to second careers. 


Sounds like a "duh" but there is a lot for the TB breed to overcome in the minds of many in the horse industry. Going back to the point above, though, will make these beautiful, smart, and athletic horses more marketable. Using proceeds from the industry to support retraining facilities, places like LOPE in Texas and New Vocations, that give the fresh-off-the-track fire breathing TB time to learn to be a regular horse will also be a huge help.They "get" ex-racehorses and recognize their talent, work ethic, and athleticism can and most often does translate to successful post-track careers. A little PR helps, too, and the many great stories on Off-Track Thoroughbreds are a great example of those successes.


Absolutely. Facilitating this communication is a challenge fairly easily answered in today's world of social media. What if owners started early? What if they began really working with adoption agencies to not only place the horses they create and can't use, but retrain them for other careers? And why not play up that pedigree even if the horse is a non-racer? I know I get a kick out of the fact that Lena has Man O'War in her lineage, so why not have a jumper that has Secretariat back a few generations? Just a marketing angle to think about.

To Natalie's picks, I would add this one as well:


I don't necessarily mean financially, I mean get them involved with the horses. To continue to make money, the world of horse racing needs to attract new eyeballs. The old eyeballs, the devout, won't leave and the treatment of the horses one way or the other may not affect them. For the industry to survive, it needs to hook new people. It needs to transmit the way it feels to stand at the finish line and feel the earth vibrate as the horses fly down the track at you, feeling the thud of the hoofbeats in the pit of your stomach, watching lean muscle sweat and stretch and power it's way to the finish line. The racing industry needs to show people these horses LOVE to run in as many ways it can do that--and there are lots of ways to do that these days.

You're not going to connect with everyone at the track, but using the Zenyatta PR model as an example (on a smaller scale) is not a bad idea. Golden Gate Fields is on Facebook and does a pretty good job of telling us about their Sunday dollar days, but what if they started telling the stories of the horses and jockeys making a living there? What if every track had a blogger? A social media contact that brought out the lifestyles of the fast and fuzzy? How cool would that be? There are more than enough stories to tell on the backside of any track--and a lot of them are about good owners, good trainers, with great horses.

There are many more great suggestions in the report and I can only hope the racing industry in New York actually follows through--and that it then spreads across the whole country. There are good moral and ethical reasons to do this for the horses, of course, but there are some not-too-shabby financial rewards if just doing the right thing isn't enough.

As Natalie says, let's get loud out there!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Bittersweets from 2011

The last year had some high points and some low points--hitting the ground again in April being one of the latter. 2011 also dropped in some heartbreak that is only lessened by the joy of knowing two fine four-legged creatures, however briefly they appeared on the scene.

Remy popped into our lives rather unexpectedly when Katie brought him home in April. We didn't think she should have a dog and told her so, but that didn't equate to "No, you can't have a dog," so in bounced Remington. He was one of the smartest and happiest dogs I've ever known. He could entertain himself and was very trainable. I found myself becoming quite very fond of him, even when he would disturb my morning yoga practice with intense face licking. He died in July after getting into rat poison on someone else's property. It was like a light went of in the house for a little while and I still miss his funny little butt wiggle and floppy eared face.

Heartbreak number two came from another four-legged and feisty creature--a lovely filly named Lacey. She was bred and owned by the people we got Calabar and Forrest from and she was a character. She was ready to race the very first day in her stall, zooming around in the straw while her weary dam tried to protect the humans from the ball of chestnut energy.

Lacey sustained a serious injury to a front leg that never did heal and ended up causing deterioration to the joint. It is the challenge faced by all who raise athletic and curious champions built on long legs, but it was a hard blow for our friends and a sad loss for those of us looking forward to watching her grow up.

Losing both Remy and Lacey was awful, but I will never regret the imprints (paw/hoof) they left on my heart. Really loving means risking losing, so I choose to be glad these two fine creatures passed through my life on their way somewhere else.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

The art of snarfing alfalfa

Our horses love food. All three of them. Forrest gets downright cranky while waiting for his grain since he is last in line, Lena is certain she will be forgotten or have to fight for her meal, and Bar eats the slowest of any horse I've ever met but will lick the inside of his grain tub long after it is empty. For many minutes. Somewhat obsessively, actually. Right before he wipes the grain dust leftovers off his nose and onto my shirt.

Alfalfa is like crack to them, I swear.

Before the price of hay skyrocketed, they were getting alfalfa every third feeding. Unfortunately, that would have more than doubled the hay budget for our barn owner (and in turn raised our board), so they are getting a 3-way that they all seem to like pretty well. Even Forrest, the pickiest hay connoisseur I know, snarfs it all all up. I know Peter shopped around for good hay and did the best he could without selling his first (and only) born child, and the horses are all holding weight and certainly getting enough to eat, so in my book he's done his job for my horses.

But as much as they like the hay, it is not (NOT) alfalfa, so we have been buying some and giving it to them as a treat.

There is an art to the enjoyment of the alfalfa.

Bar likes to toss it and snuffle through it for whatever the tastiest parts are.

The pre-sift toss.

"That's it. That's the best piece."

Lena likes to shove it under her gate and stretch for it.

Such a beautiful long neck.

Snuffle, snuffle, snarf, snarf.

Forrest wants me to just leave him alone with it so he can savor it's tasty goodness.

"Go away, weird lady. I'm savoring."

There is something completely relaxing about the sound of horses chewing. Nom, nom, nom.