Tag Archives: Horses

Confession Number Fifteen: My Final Confession

 

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An unexpected epiphany:

I am no longer The Novice Horsewoman.  Make no mistake, I am still very much a beginner with horses….but no longer a novice.

The past two and a half years have scorched and refined my very soul both in life and with horses.  Now, I take ownership of all I have learned and move on to the next steps in my horsey adventures. 🙂

The best horse people I’ve encountered, even those with decades of experience and expertise, are the first to tell me how they have SO much more to learn about horses.

Thus, I take on the mantle of “beginner” with humility.  It is already amazing to me to be at this point.

When my journey began in January of 2014, I started at “square one”, not knowing how horses were fed, watered, groomed, bathed, haltered, led by a lead rope or even how picking stalls/mucking was done.  It was somewhat like a child in pre-school 🙂

I devoured every bit of knowledge…then as now.

Plus, God saw fit to give me a “crash course in everything horse” The “course ” started when a few weeks after meeting and leasing the glorious mare, Serenity, she sustained a severe wound that required daily care and attention.  Her wonderful human, a single mom, was working three jobs, juggling them with the needs of a five year old son

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My first horse kiss😊

So, novice though I was, I took over Serenity’s daily care and learned “on the job”.

Serenity was a marvelous teacher….as was her vet, who, when the time came, gave me the task (and honor) of removing Serenity’s last bandage all alone and all by myself.

Those days with Serenity, quietly hanging out with her during her stall rest, grooming her, massaging her, administering her meds, hand grazing and hand walking her, are forever in my memory as some of the sweetest days I’d ever experienced.

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The glorious mare, Serenity, and I share precious moments❤️

Then, for a time, Serenity was “lost” to me.

So I turned once again to a dream of horse rescue; but wiser heads prevailed, and I was introduced to my incorrigible gelding, Spirit.  Had the “wiser heads” been more forthcoming, they would NEVER have recommended that a greenhorn like myself, take on a three year old gelding…. and an Appaloosa at that!

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Appys can be looney-toons sometimes! 🙂

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Mr. Big Boy Pants!

But, again, God had His plans.  I was thrown, feet first, into the waters of dealing with a brilliant, humorous, virtually untrained, greener-than-green little boy horse.  The learning process with my beloved boy is still underway in ever-changing  high gear…but dealing with a virtual baby, while knowing nothing, advanced my novice-hood at lightning speeds.

And yes, green on green DOES equal black and blue (as experienced horse folk are fond of saying) Yet, my noble-hearted little Appy never once let me fall off of him, even in the midst of his worst bolting off at a full out run, with me on his back!

My black and blues were mostly broken pinky toes and nipped-arm bruises.  Nothing a little Arnica and ice couldn’t take care of 🙂

At practically the same time as Spirit came into my life, the beautiful and wondrous mare, Baby Doe, found her way to me as well. Who could have guessed that this exquisitely bred horse, who, nonetheless turned out to be unusable for the designs traders and trainers had on her, would ever be mine?

Yet again,the hand of God, weaving His enigmatic web, allowed me to honor her whispered plea to me, “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse.”

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Horse whispers to human…

Through my time with her I’ve learned massive amounts about colic, navicular disease and horsey “boos boos” (both small and humongous) that seemed to appear on her fragile being on a WAY too regular basis.

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Colic never gets easier…

 

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Baby Doe’s boo boo from last October is STILL in the process of healing…

During this time I learned to manage a barn with all the trials and errors that my barn buddy, Phyllis, and I encountered, as life gave us the opportunity to be solely responsible for the barn, our horses and others’ boarded horses for many months.

I also learned about the various quirky folk one encounters in the horse world…and, eventually, how to deal with them.  This process is still ongoing.  I thought I had encountered, shall we say, “unique” individuals during my opera career, but the horse world matches the high level of “uniqueness” quirk by quirk 🙂

Ultimately, I found my beloved Wyoming ranch and was filled with joy, trepidation and overwhelm as I moved my horses across country to a completely different climate, lifestyle and horse knowledge.

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My glorious Wyoming!

Shortly after arriving in Wyoming, beyond all hope, Serenity’s human asked me to take Serenity to be mine!

Serenity joined us in Wyoming…on my birthday!

Then there were Three…:)

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Through events beyond my control, I was left completely alone on my 80 acres of ranch to care for my Three Beloveds, with some help from local young people.

My “crash course in horse” escalated to an entirely new level.  A level that was light years beyond what I had yet experienced.  I also experienced an aloneness in the vastness of the Wyoming landscape that shook me to my roots.

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We Three Horses From Florida Are…. Brrrr…..

My Three became my only teachers during that time. (As well as did my darling cats) And, oh, how they taught!

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During all this, my beloved cat, Hercules, was dying of lymphoma. He taught me how to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances…

I also learned that, no matter what I may want or plan, God usually has other ideas, and I was once again humbled and brought to my knees as I came to the realization that I, alone, could not give my horses what they, at that time, desperately needed.

So we packed up and moved temporarily back to Florida.

Florida: where Baby Doe’s navicular pain (sometimes agonizing pain) could be more aggressively managed, where the mystery of Serenity’s lameness could be solved and where my boy, Spirit, could have uninterrupted and necessary ongoing training with a kind and very knowledgeable trainer.

And, much to my surprise, during this time in Florida, the calling that had come to me almost four years ago began to crystallize into shapes that I had only glimpsed at previously.

So, as I end this stage of my horse education, I will travel back and forth to Wyoming and keep developing my land and honoring my stewardship of it.  The Three will stay in Florida until next Spring.

I will, openly and humbly, learn more about and practice the special gifts of energy work horse healing and communication that I had previously suspected were mine, but that are now being called into usage.

The Novice Horsewoman may just show up in book form in the future.  The “Beginner Horse Woman” may indeed start sharing this next part of the journey upon which she is NOW embarking with open heart and gratitude…

A wonderful author, in helping me conceive of an ending to a potential “Novice Horsewoman” book, gave me the idea of passing the novice torch onto another novice horsewoman, when my own novice-hood came to an end.

But now I see that, actually, I will be passing on this torch to YOU who are Courageous, YOU who are willing to Learn,  who are willing to Fail as well as Succeed, who are willing to let yourselves look like Fools and…. those of you who are willing to have your Hearts broken….freeing  them to soar to unimaginable heights!

Yes, to you, Brave Ones, I pass this torch!

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Blessed Wyoming!

Confession Number Fourteen: “Happiness Comes In On Tiptoe…It’s A Quiet Thing”

 

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Unexpected Tender Mercies:

There is a simple, exquisite song from the musical Flora the Red Menace by John Kander and Fred Ebb , “It’s A Quiet Thing”, that speaks of dreams coming true; but instead of drumrolls, bells and fireworks…”happiness comes in on tiptoe”, taking one by surprise.

I have been having such moments with my horses.  This novice horsewoman is finding tender, small moments with her horses that she couldn’t have known were possible.

But they are indeed small moments.  Tender mercies.  Quiet things.

Happiness walks in on tiptoe when my irrepressible gelding, Spirit, and I find games that we like to play together.  They are simple, silly games.  He knows them, knows the rules and initiates them.

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One of our silly games came about because, though getting infinitely better, he might still bolt when he gets playful and sassy.  Thus, although I will graze the mares outside their paddocks, my concern that he could hurt himself or others if he should bolt out of my hands when outside his paddock, limits my hand grazing him.

One day I sat just outside his wooden fence and just started picking grass and offering it to him by hand.

Oh how he loved that!  I would find succulent roots, delicious blades of fresh green and un-nameable types of grass with which to tempt him.  But the rule is, he may not get the grass by being above me over the fence.  ( I don’t want to do anything that might encourage his dominating tendencies.)  He has to come down to the first or second board up from the ground to get his grass.

(Have I mentioned that he has plenty of lush, delicious grass to graze right there inside his paddock?)

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He’ll certainly try to get it from above, by being irresistible and flirty.  But I sit firm. And then he bends down and gets his yummies just the way we agreed upon 🙂

So when I’m walking by or coming to greet him and he assumes the “this-is-where- I-need-to-be-to-have-her-hand-feed-me-grass position” with his head reaching just above the bottom board and his dear lips protruding out to say, “Let’s play”, the happy tenderness that fills my heart is as big as the sky. ❤

Another silly game we play is “Drink Water Out Of The Plastic Water Bottle That Mom Always Carries With Her”.  He is hilarious.  Most of it spills right out of his mouth.  But he knows it makes me laugh and laugh when he does it.   Over and over, he invites me to play this goofy game.

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Ah yes, a quiet thing, a small thing, a tender thing.

Baby Doe is another story.  Our happiness and quiet thing happens when I sit under a tree in her paddock.  She may be eating hay or grazing around, sort of ignoring me. But then, being a horse, she must check out what I am doing there.

In the past, when she would come over, I would usually get up from my cross-legged seated position into a squat or on my knees, in case I need to get out of harm’s way from an accidental kick or stomp.

Just recently, I’ve dared to remain seated cross-legged.  I look in her eyes and at her body language and I know I’m safe. (Granted, I’m also on the look out for a bee that might sting her or something that might make her startle, thus finding myself on the wrong end of a hoof.)

But this most recent time, she came to me softly and slowly.  I just sat.  I released fear.  She came closer and put her muzzle in my hands and just stood there.  We just looked at each other for many minutes as I had her sweet lips in my hands and felt her warm, moist breath.

It was a quiet thing. A tender thing.  A thing that filled me with more love than I ever dreamed I was capable of feeling.  A thing that filled me with awe.

We also like to take walks together in her paddock.  Totally at liberty. No halter, no rope.  We just stroll together.  If I stop, she stops.  We check things out.

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Last time, there was a tiny bunny in a little hollow in the back of her paddock.  As we stopped to check him out, he just looked up at us and didn’t budge.  Often, when we are quiet together, there forms a gathering of bunnies, squirrels, blue jays and sometimes a crow or two. I feel like Snow White when we get that kind of animal gathering on our walks!:)

No bells, no trumpets. It’s a quiet thing.

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And then there’s the glorious mare, Serenity.  With her, the quiet is profound.  The gentleness of her being almost unfathomable.  Her soft eyes and nose are so tender.  Her love and her acceptance of my love so generously given.

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When I’m grooming her and brushing out her tail, which is her favorite thing, she just cocks a back hoof, licks and chews and sighs.

 

When she chooses to be in her stall, I’ll come and sit on the stoop of it and lean against the door jam.  She will start breathing heavy and slow and doze off.  Before I know it, in the peace of afternoon warmth and her rhythmic breath, I’m dozing too.April 2016 Horses 25

“Happiness comes in on tiptoe.  Well, what do you know….It’s a quiet thing. A very quiet thing”.

 

 

 

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Confession Number Thirteen: The Novice Is Taking It To Another Level

March 23 (2)An Unexpected Shift:

Although I will be a Student of Horse the rest of my days, I feel something in my novice horsemanship changing.  It is somewhat intangible. Writing about it will be very challenging because much of this shift is in the realm of the unseen, the realm of intuition and spirit.  However, the manifestations in the physical world that I will describe may help illustrate the strong yet gossamer thread of complete confidence in the world of the spirit that is becoming a constant in my life with horses and in general.

On a practical level, having had the “crash course in horse” experience the past few years, I am now in a place of understanding; I’ve been exposed to so many elements of horse handling, horse health, horse training, horse care and many different horses, themselves.  This has enabled me to make informed decisions on my own, without needing to believe and trust that every opinion, or what folks claim is horse gospel truth, is actually true.

What is true is that there is no complete “right” when being with horses.  They are all so different; with such different backgrounds, personalities and temperaments that it would be akin to thinking “one size fits all” when it comes to humans.  There are, however, many “wrongs” in the world of horse.  And, then there are simply the grey areas…

Interestingly, however, in this time of “the sleeping bear”, this time of peace, this time of having time in my life, I am finding a new level, a “something else” as I am with, not only my horses, but any horse.

A big part of this this “new level” is occurring because I am spending so much time just being with my horses.

I am resisting the ever-present temptation to bathe them (their favorite thing being to get damp in a bit of drizzling rain, then pick the dirtiest dirt in the paddock and have a marvelous, groaning-with-pleasure roll in it), obsessively fly spray them (organic, of course!) in the Florida bug-ridden tropical weather, love on them, give out way too many treats…all the fun but busy things we humans enjoy with our horses…and instead… just sit there under a tree in the paddock.  They might come over and sniff me a bit or ignore me totally but there we are…together.  I don’t “do” anything.  I don’t even pray, do energy work or send mental or verbal messages to them.

I just… sit.

Don’t get me wrong,  I DO groom them, pick hooves, brush out manes and tails and observe their training and care, as any horse caretaker must do, but not as the heretofore primary agenda when I am with them. 🙂

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I do admit to needing to kiss Spirit’s cute nose sometimes, before I settle myself down…

 

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Sweet Serenity, so quiet and kind, with just a touch of sassy.  Sometimes I sit and look into her eyes and she stares right back, her lips trembling with relaxation.

 

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Sometimes, Baby Doe communicates very strongly that I must scratch her rear end…for hours, actually.  I don’t mind one bit!

I AM doing as many of these things as possible “at liberty”…no halter, no lead rope. Admittedly, with my beloved gelding, the irrepressible Spirit, halter and rope are still necessary for grooming, at least … still,  the kind trainer is slowly accomplishing many things with him at liberty!

The other thing I’m starting to observe is that my communication with my three is becoming more of a two-way street.  I use more body language and respond more in the moment without considering the horse-world-approved right and wrong ways to communicate with a horse. And my sweet horses are clearer, whether with body language or actual mental pictures/words, in what they are trying to tell me.

In past blogs, I related the two times I heard actual sentences from my horses, upon which I acted and achieved the desired results.  The first time was when Serenity instructed me how to disguise her antibiotic medication so that she would actually take it easily instead of the ongoing struggle we had been having.  The second time was when Baby Doe whispered to me that she did NOT want to be a show horse. This led to my actively pursuing having her become mine, aided by the un-showhorse-worthy hitch in her gait (which later turned out to be navicular disease).  Had I not “heard”  her say this, I don’t know, at that time, if I would have had the courage and wherewithal to fight for her the way I did, and she could easily have ended up in cruel hands or put down.

I do still hear certain phrases, instructions and even their individual private names for me (too precious and sacred to share) but, at this writing, I have not yet been able to put these into categories that can be comprehended.  These communications are coming, albeit somewhat disjointedly, due to my own “head-deafness” (this is how I describe my human-ness to them while asking them to be really persistent and clear with me 🙂

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Spirit is not sure whether he’ll acknowledge my presence 🙂

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He decides he will!

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We take a little walk together 🙂

They patiently spell certain things out as though teaching me “A: an Apple, B: a Boy, C: a Cat”.

One example of this would be the time I was hand grazing Serenity just outside Baby Doe’s paddock.  Baby Doe allowed this to go on for a bit and then began plucking at the halter hanging on the nearby gatepost.  I continued to blissfully graze Serenity.  Baby Doe then picked up the halter in her teeth and flung it to the ground outside the gate.  Me: still blissfully grazing Serenity.  Finally, Baby Doe grabbed the gate chain in her teeth and violently shook it.  Me:  “Oh gee, did you want to be grazed now, Baby Doe?”

I put Serenity back in her paddock, picked up the flung-to-the-ground halter and approached Baby Doe.  Normally a bit hard to catch, Baby Doe thrust her head in the halter, gave me about 1 second to clip on the lead rope, another second to open the gate, and with a flounce of her golden mane, stepped out to where the “grass is greener” (naturally OUTSIDE the grassy paddock she is in) and began chomping grass as though she had been starved for 6 months!  Yeah, it was elementary, and I eventually “got it” :).

That is a very basic example of the “conversations” we’re having these days…there are now multitudes of these “conversations” on escalating levels.

But recently a more advanced communication happened, one that I am just now beginning to process.

My three have become quite the tiny herd and upon coming here, their beautiful herd-ish-ness though still exquisite, is, sometimes, impractical for our more “civilized surroundings”.  I LOVE their bond and would protect it with my very being, BUT we do need to calm some of the anxiety that is occurring when one of them is out of sight of the others.  When I say out of sight, I mean perhaps a hundred feet away, around a corner.

The wonderful, kind trainer is working to calm their anxiety.  It is a slow, patient work-in-progress.

Thus,  when the farrier had Spirit under the overhang of the main barn while doing his hooves and Baby Doe was in her back paddock, all training of the easing of the separation anxiety went completely out the window and Baby Doe began hysterically running and whinnying for him.

His front legs were somewhat visible, but his whole body wasn’t.  I went to her and the proffered hay-as-a-distraction did absolutely nothing to calm her.

I grabbed her halter, into which she again shoved her head, then clipped her lead rope on and intended to take her into the neighboring paddock which, at the outside boundary, was only about 25 feet from where Spirit was standing.  She was so overly excited, I was concerned about leading her directly to him outside of the fencing, knowing she could potentially bolt. I couldn’t let her continue to scream in anxiety because this can lead to ulcers and she had just come through a colic the night before (a VERY long night…).

As we entered the neighboring paddock, it became clear that her anxiety was not lessening in the slightest.  Still, I led her to the fence nearest  to where he was standing.  She was still screaming and pulling.

I knew I had to release the lead rope and just let her go, or I could be dragged and perhaps stomped upon.  She was totally hysterical.

I also knew that when I released the lead rope, I had to find safety in seconds and strategized the spot.  Then came the moment.  I reached up to unclip the rope. Time stopped.

Although frantic in her anxious hysteria, she actually looked down at me. I looked up at her.  In that nano-second, we communicated non-verbally.  She conveyed, in that nano-second, that she was not going to hurt me, no matter what.

I trusted that.

I let go.

She ran in a frenzy. I hopped up on the fence.  She ran close to me but not at me.  I felt calm, made “shhh-ing” sounds to her and didn’t fear her in the least. I just hoped to calm her.

While this was going on, the farrier, in his amazing wisdom, brought his tools and the much-missed gelding, Spirit, down to the fence where she was.  Baby Doe immediately calmed. I hopped down off the fence on the other side and then saw the pale faces of the onlookers.

I guess they thought I was crazy, in danger of being trampled and probably was doing a dunder-headed thing when I handled her the way I did.

But I KNEW.  And Baby Doe knew.

In that split second, all the time we’ve spent bonding, having our disagreements, learning from each other, angering each other and loving each other, came together… in that vital split second of communication…as time stood still.

As I move into this new phase, as is common in life, all sorts of people, books and videos are suddenly making themselves known to me that support, explain and teach the new level that I am experiencing.  It is as though a completely new universe of possibility is opening up to me in my relationship with horses.

I had been dismissed, ignored and contradicted so often in the past when I would express my intuitions and knowing-nesses, that I can hardly  believe that I am going down a path now that many have traveled before me!

But, mainly, it’s the horses.  They are the ones patiently teaching.  They are the ones who remain steadfast until humans “wake up” to the oneness of all things in the universe.  They are the ones who don’t need us…but know that we need them.  We need them very much to help us evolve into our better selves.

Liz Mitten Ryan states this so beautifully in her book, The Truth According To Horses (Prima Publishing, 2008):

(The following is a communication of thought information given to her by her herd…)

“Dogs, cats and horses have been your closest companions through the ages. Think of the attributes that are ours.

Dogs are loyal.  They love unconditionally….They surround you with care, with adoration, and they guard you against your greatest fears.

Then there are cats. They show you how to be free. They reward you with their approval when you make the right decision and they will call you on your shortcomings….Life is an adventure for a cat and they will show you how to participate.

Horses are for a … few who have committed to a complete immersion in the life experience.  They are the big commitment most people are afraid to make and will test and try your resolve to grow in spirit more than any other species….

We can give you the peak experience.  Wisdom, Truth, Joy, Freedom, Abundance and Love.

Is there anything else you are looking for?  We will challenge you to become the most you can possibly be.  We are at your disposal. Come when you want to spend time with us and commit to the level you want to grow. We have no parameters. You are the ones who set the limits, the time, space and dimension…

We are limitless beings in a limitless Universe. Come and commune with us and let us show you how to be the best you can be.”

Yes, yes and yes!

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Confession Number Nine: Wyoming…Finally!

Wyoming Fall and Winter.JPG6An Unexpected Horse and An Unexpected Solitude:

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride!!! Glorious Wyoming, and the joy my horses are experiencing here, are the overriding impressions of almost three months of being in the sweet, grassy. soft, silent, prairie part of Wheatland, WY!!

Only now, given that the much-very- gloomily-predicted-by-locals Wyoming Winds are blowing, seemingly at gale force 😦 , silence is a precious commodity.

So much happened so very quickly upon arrival.  It is somewhat of a blur.

Two things stand out though.

About a week after I arrived, before all the horses got here, I received a message from the glorious mare Serenity’s human.  She, after much struggle, had realized that she needed to let Serenity go.  She explained that she needed to spend time with her son, her work and the cost and time of keeping a horse were getting way beyond her means.  She wondered if I would take her here in Wyoming.  Would I?????  We spoke at length and she convinced me this was what she truly wanted. Four days later, the glorious Serenity arrived here in Wyoming…

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Serenity arrives via Brook Ledge Horse Transport late on October 6!

…On the night of my birthday, October 6 🙂

I am still trying to fathom that after all the love I thought I’d lost and  the grieving I’d experienced, missing that little red mare so very much….she is here with ME.  She is mine!

I am inviting her human and her human’s son come visit her AND me in January.   I plan to continue to get them out here as much as possible.

For the past year or more, Serenity was virtually stall-bound with very little turn out, grazing or even being ridden.  When she first arrived here, she melded almost immediately into my little herd.  She ran for the sheer freedom and joy of it…

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Serenity runs for JOY!.

…and then huddled back in her stall. Which she did often.  I leave the stalls open for all the horses,except at grain time 🙂 so they can go in and out at will.  She chose mostly “in”.

Now, at the two month point, she chooses mostly “out” and grazes, wanders and runs.

Her mane and tail, which had almost been lost, due to stress, are growing back in.  Her eye is softening, losing the white sclera look of anxiety a horse can exhibit. I can “see” the smile on her face when she’s being brushed.

And when her breakfast and dinner are being served, she lifts up her sweet left front leg, curling it under her in excitement as she nickers for faster service! 🙂

This beautiful, kind mare who taught me how to be an improving human two years ago (See my second post on this site, Three Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse) is now having the horsey time of her life.

I am honored and privileged to provide it for her.

Enter the next piece of the story, the unexpected solitude.  Due to a series of events too difficult to speak of here, I’ve ended up in the “middle of somewhere” on eighty acres of ranch, alone with three horses and two cats!

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Spirit and Baby Doe “high tail” it to the pasture

I’ve had to re-organize my priorities, my thoughts and my direction.  It’s funny how life prepares one for the future, when one has NO IDEA what that future will bring!  The Third Confession on this site, Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns, tells the story of how I received a crash course in barn management with my barn buddy, Felice.  It tells of all our “I Love Lucy” moments, our mistakes and our triumphs.  Thank Goodness!

Because here I am, managing a barn, all by myself.  Somehow I just know what to do and how to organize it.  Those previous months truly paid off!

I have also been blessed beyond belief with a network of support that appeared almost immediately after I found myself alone here.  I now have a young woman ranch-handing for me, a young man (the son of my hay guy) as backup hand, a lovely woman who manages a lot of my household things like cleaning, a retired sheriff/contractor who has built my fences, my round pen, has hired others to build my pole barn and level my arena and good neighbors who stop by and check in with me, just to see if they can be of help.

They have been. Even if just to give sound advice on winter feeding and blanketing of Florida horses in their first Wyoming winter!

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Not even the “bleak mid-winter” yet 😦

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Someone LOVES rolling in the snow!

I am also blessed with a knowledgeable, kind vet and a wonderful farrier!  Every horse person knows just how precious those two roles are.  Now if I can just find the right horsey dentist…:)

I have supportive friends who call, text regularly with encouragement plus offer solid shoulders to cry on and others who send little care packages of love.

But the solitude is still intense.

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Stark beauty

The loneliness takes my breath away at times.

I know God is preparing me for something profound as I am caused to go even more deeply inside my soul, to learn more of who I truly am and what I’m truly made of.

I’m never entirely alone, of course, with three very personality-filled horses, two dear cat companions, the sunrises, the sunsets and oh, those Wyoming stars!

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Just before sunrise at feeding time.

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Each sunset more glorious than the previous ones.

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How can ANYONE be lonely when drinking wine with two superb equines?

Life continues to teach me to “expect the unexpected”!

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The unexpected bluffs just atound the corner from me…lonely beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third Confession: Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen at Barns :) PART ONE

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UNEXPECTED LESSONS ABOUT ADVERSITY, GOOD FORTUNE AND HUMAN NATURE:

Now that I have your attention :), let me say that the dirty secrets about barns have nothing to do with mud, dust, horse manure or even a roll in the hay ;).  Novice as I am and was, I’ve come to realize that, when at the barn, the horses are perfect. It’s the humans that can be the problem.  Any horse person reading this is nodding rapidly in agreement…we all experience it.

I also learned a profound lesson.  Every wonderful thing has a seed of adversity buried in it.  By the same token, every adversity has the seed of wondrous joy in it.

While leasing the glorious mare, Serenity, I experienced two different barns.  I was in such a blur of newness at her first barn, that I couldn’t process the incoming impressions until a bit later.  When I could, after she had been moved to a better situation, I was aghast.

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That first barn was behind someone’s private residence on about an acre of land.  The paddock fences needing mending. The training ring was no ring but just an undefined area in front of the barn.  Poor Serenity was stall bound for days at a time because the promised evening turnout wasn’t happening, due to the broken fences.  Her stall was nearest the manure pile, so the flies on and around her were dense and the fly traps were black and filled.  Her human didn’t get there regularly, so she was often standing in her tiny stall, hoof deep in manure and urine.  When she did get out, she was so “barn/stall sour” that even riding in the makeshift ring was a trial.

A very adverse situation for that poor, patient mare.  But something wonderful was already taking seed.  A woman, who had formerly leased Serenity, had found a much better barn and had found space for Serenity there!

The move didn’t happen immediately because Serenity’s human was dear friends with the first barn owner.  They would drink wine and gossip together.  So,  when the opportunity came to move Serenity, her human was conflicted and almost missed that opportunity!  Thankfully, the horse angels were with that glorious mare, and within three weeks of my meeting Serenity, she was moved to a peaceful, more spacious barn and stall, right on the border of wonderful horse trails.

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133Great news, right?  Yes.  But further down the “trail” of this story, I see now how the seeds of adversity were already being planted… lying dormant for months.

Meanwhile, as my time with Serenity was coming to a tear-filled, heart-wrenching conclusion, the seeds of joy were, unbeknownst to me, SPROUTING, as I came to know the hilarious, Appaloosa gelding, Spirit and the exquisite, Paint mare, Baby Doe, both of whom would shortly come under my stewardship. These stories are told in previous posts :).

The barn where they boarded, on the surface, looked like an equine dream home!  The name of the barn was fancy and British-sounding.  It was surrounded with white fencing, green pastures, and a stream ran through the property.  There was a proper training ring.  The buildings themselves had a grand, tudor look to them.  Ah… what a “whited sepulcher”…!

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It came clear very quickly that the owner of the barn, where trainer Bryan leased about 12 stalls for his business, was an alcoholic who would ride his horses hard and cruelly tied down, while drunk.  His horses never got turned out.  His assistant was a good-hearted woman, who had family problems,  drank on duty, which caused  loud and aggressive behavior around the horses and would slap the horses if they weren’t complying, even ones that belonged to trainer Bryan 😦

None of Bryan’s horses even got turned out in the glorious, green pastures, because the owner had the property up for sale and didn’t want the horses tearing up his grass.

Many of the lower barn buildings were in disrepair and unsafe for horses to be in. (One sweet, three- year old gelding ripped his eyelid and needed 8 stitches due to some “mystery” nail or wood splinter).

I saw such signs of claustrophobia and boredom in my exquisite mare, that even though I couldn’t verbalize the signs of her oncoming colic, I knew, 24 hours before she colicked, that something was very, very wrong with her.

There was more, so much more…as I came into stewardship of my two, I began making firm plans to get them out of there!

Then one Sunday, I arrived at the barn, to see a crashed up Cadillac, bent up metal posts and found an apple in Spirit’s water bucket!  What???

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Upon investigation, it turns out the barn owner had let his 16 year old son have an unsupervised party on the grounds of the barn, where drinking was allowed.  Clearly, these drunk teenagers had made their way into horses’ stalls.  Given the apple in Spirit’s water, I had the proof I needed that my horses needed to be moved immediately.  Trainer Bryan had, formerly, not been agreeable to this request, as they both were still in training and he didn’t want to have to travel to another barn to train them.

Yes, there it was! The seed of good fortune!  Right there, in the middle of the adversity of the horrible conditions at this barn…

(to be continued…)

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Part Three Of My First Confession :)! (…From No Horse to Two Horses in Less Than a Year :)

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The Unexpected Song:

In Part Two of this unexpected journey, an exquisite, purebred Paint mare had arrived at the barn where I had become Spirit’s human and where he was training,  She was to be trained up and finished to sell as a show horse.  Certainly, her lineage was impeccable and pricey and her conformation (simply described, the way her different body parts size up in relation to each other) brought gasps of admiration from those who know and understand such things.

All this Novice Horsewoman understood was that this horse was gradually emerging from her tranquillized and shut down state after her four-day journey and that she and I were bonding.

She would call out to me when I would arrive at the barn, we would spend time just hanging out together with much snuggling and softly voiced “conversations” and one day she was actually able to communicate with me, in my mind, with a clear sentence, ” Please, I don’t want to be a show horse.”

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There was no way I could afford the steep price that would be asked for her.  I was determined, however, to find a way.

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, when this mare had arrived, the vet had noticed a slight hitch in her right shoulder when she went in a circle.  She and trainer Bryan were going to wait for thirty days and recheck her to see if it was just soreness from the trip or something else.

Things were just beginning to get interesting :)…

Time passed swiftly in that month of August.  It was a hot, rainy summer here in Florida.  I was learning to ride better, still not very well, but better ;), learning and relearning about longeing, different tack, feed, hay.  I was noticing many things at the barn, where trainer Bryan was leasing about 12 stalls, that were very disturbing.  I was spending time with both my little Appaloosa AND the exquisite Paint mare.

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The thirty days were ticking away.

Finally, I couldn’t stand it, told my dearest friend the story up to this point, confessed that my heart was breaking with love for this mare and asked him for a loan.  A BIG loan!!!!  Much to my surprise all he said was, “How much?”  “Um….fifteen grand?”, I stuttered.  “Okay”, he said simply.

While trying to remember that breathing is sort of essential to remain living ;), I immediately called and texted trainer Bryan (it was ONLY 11:30 at night) and told him I wanted to buy her.

(For the record…I can’t stand that we humans buy and sell horses and call ourselves their owners.  It reeks of slave trade to me but, for now, it’s the way it is.)

The next day I arrived expectantly at the barn to encounter a scowling trainer Bryan.  The folks who had bred the mare and sent her to him were longtime business friends of his and had, for almost 20 years, sent him horses to train and sell.  The last horse they had sent had come up un-show-worthy due to some rear leg tendon issues.  It was the mare’s full brother, Fritz.  Now, it turns out, the vet had rechecked the exquisite mare and the right shoulder hitch was a chronic condition which deemed her un-showable.

What?  She can’t be a show horse?? My heart was pounding with joy and wonder!!

Sometimes horses will find ways to cause “lameness” to themselves when there is a job they are asked to do that isn’t right for them.  Conventional horse people will tell you that those of us who understand this are delusional, but when one is around horses, reads incessantly about horses and is obsessed with horses :), one begins to see this is not anomalous.

Trainer Bryan had determined that he was going to send this beloved mare back to these breeders and demand money for her transport, board and training up to this point.  He was livid.  He was incensed that they had done this to him a second time!

They claimed that somehow her four-day journey was responsible and were not going to pay him a dime.  In fact, the male breeder threatened, if Bryan sent her back they would put her down because now she was of no value. (Welcome, Novice Horsewoman, to just a glimpse of the dark and nasty underbelly of horse breeding and the various ways horses are utilized for human pleasure).

Thus ensued 48 hours of me weeping and pleading for him not to send her back, he arguing back and forth with the breeders and many petitions to heaven that things work out for the best for this exquisite mare.

Well, the angels definitely are on the side of the horses, ultimately.  That 48 hours ended with ME paying trainer Bryan for her transport and training and board up to that point (considerably less than $15,000!).

The exquisite Paint mare was mine!

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And though it’s considered bad luck to change a horse’s name, there is an opera, The Ballad of Baby Doe (by Douglas Moore), in which the title character is described thusly:

“Warm as the autumn light, soft as a pool at night…deep in your lovely eyes, all of enchantment lies, and tenderly beckons, Baby Doe, dearest Baby Doe.”

So apt were those words in describing the exquisite mare, that I knew that was her true name. She IS Baby Doe.

Afterword: To this day, when I call her to come to me from the edge of the large paddock, I sing those words to her and she comes running to greet me… and my song ❤

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First Confession: Part Two (How I Went From No Horse To Two Horses In Less Than A Year:)

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Oh yes! More unexpected was just around the corner!

Part Two:

When I left off in Part One…

I had  been describing the devastation and grief I experienced when the glorious mare, Serenity, had been moved to another barn.  Just for the record, even writing about it now brings up fresh grief added to ongoing anxiety over her well being.  For so many reasons, it was and still is tough to visit her at her new barn.  Not the least of which is the sadness that overwhelms when I have to say goodbye and leave.  She’s been on my mind so much lately.  I try to comfort myself with the words my best friend continually says to me, “Christine, you can’t save them all”.  Cold comfort.

However, just as she was being moved, I was being introduced to Horse Number One!  The adorable, ueber-intelligent, mischievous, big-hearted, three-year-old Appaloosa gelding, Spirit!  He “had me at  hello”. Or should I say “…at nicker” 🙂photo (8)

My barn buddy, Phyllis, had introduced me to trainer Bryan, because once Serenity was virtually lost to me, I was going to begin looking at rescue horses.  She thought Bryan could help me.

Wiser heads convinced me that perhaps I should explore getting to know whole and healthy horses before dealing with horses in need.  Gee, why didn’t I think of that? 🙂 So when Bryan introduced me to Spirit, I easily agreed with the wiser heads.  The one problem being Bryan wasn’t so sure that he would sell me the little Boy.

There is a saying in the horse world, “green on green equals black and blue”.  In other words, pairing me up with a virtual baby, when I was so very inexperienced, could be difficult and dangerous. Bryan was training him daily and giving me lessons weekly for the next few weeks.  Then he had me ride Spirit for my lessons and observed how good he was for me under saddle.  Even if he had a horsey jump/flinch or spook, somehow the little Boy kept me on him.  (This has held true in the ensuing months as well).WP_20141005_15_22_53_Pro__highres

With ongoing training promised, Bryan finally agreed that Spirit could be mine.

In the meantime, just about every horse person I knew was shaking their head in concern that I would be dealing with a three year old; which did NOTHING for my confidence!  Looking back, perhaps they were right.  But it was already too late for me.  I loved that little gelding wholeheartedly.  With lots of prayer, and in humility, I went forward with buying him.

Eight months later, I am still getting a daily education on the three year old horsey mindset and there’s been a bit of black and blue – nothing more than a broken toe and a few bruises 🙂 Perhaps part of the “accelerated plan” our Creator has for me was just this: how to deal with an intelligent, energetic, clever, lovebug of a baby horse.

As Spirit was still boarding at Bryan’s barn, I had the opportunity to get to know many other horses in my time there and just happened to be there the day after an exquisite Paint mare, at that time named Sylvia, arrived from a farm in Illinois.

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She was five years old, had had some fine training, had been in pasture for a couple of years and was coming to Bryan to be trained up (“finished”) to be a show horse and be sold.  Her “family tree” is a an impeccable list of million dollar horses and she was to be sold for top dollar after Bryan did the finishing of her.

When I met her, she was still tranquilized,very still, quiet and shut down.  I offered her some baby carrots.  People poking their heads into her stall told me she wouldn’t eat them because she wasn’t used to treats.   After a half an hour of speaking to her softly, petting her and letting her smell the carrots, even in her shut down state, she ate them 🙂 Of course!  She’s a horse!

She began getting more animated in the week that followed.  I would spend lots of time with her as well as with Spirit.  She would even whinny, calling out to me, when she saw me coming for a ride on Spirit.

Then one day, she and I were just having some pet and scratch time and suddenly it was as though I heard a tiny voice in my head.  “Please, I don’t WANT to be a show horse”.  I gasped because this sentence was so clear and audible.  I looked at her and said aloud, “I can’t afford you sweet Girl.  But I will do everything in my power to honor your request.”

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Thus began the saga of Baby Doe….

Coming soon…Part Three 🙂