Tag Archives: Joy

Fifth Confession: How I Became A Recovering “Horse Annoyer” ;)

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An Unexpected Truth:

One day, early on in her work with me and my two, Trainer Marianne turned to me and in the most matter-of-fact voice said, “Christine, you are annoying your horses.”

After I stopped laughing until tears rolled down my cheeks :), I considered her words and took a quick self-inventory.

Those that know me in person, know that I resemble a big, ol’ Labrador Retriever.  I express my joy at seeing someone I care about with huge hugs (the equivalent of a Lab jumping up on someone and licking their face all over).  There is much virtual “tail-wagging” in my enthusiasm!  I tend to resemble the Lab wagging his tail so ferociously near the living room coffee table decorated with Swarovski crystal figurines that he sends everything shattering to the floor! Just from the pure joy of love ❤

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This can be distressing to an introvert or someone who is highly sensitive.  Which is funny, because I, too, am an introvert and highly sensitive….I just become a Labrador when I get excited 😉

In the world of horse, this tends to be, to say the least, a disturbing quality.  Horses are slow in their movement.  I am fast with hands flying everywhere.  Horses, being creatures of flight, are always discerning if there is something from which they need to flee.

When I would come up to them, excited, touching, fumbling with halters or lead ropes or just staring because of their amazing beauty, the horse would interpret this as…”something is very wrong and I should flee” or “stop poking and hugging and touching my delicate nose” or  “it’s TOO much sensory input and I’m ANNOYED!”039045

Trainer Marianne, being a kind, gentle soul and somewhat of a horse herself, quietly and persistantly corrected me every time I did something “annoying”.

Here are some examples of how NOT to be annoying to a horse.

1. Approach horses with energy high and a matter of fact attitude.

2. Don’t hesitate in an action, it makes the horse think something is wrong.

3. When leading a horse on the lead rope, don’t keep looking back, it worries them.

4. Don’t stand in front of a horse and stare.  It’s irritating to them.  They don’t stand like that with each other.

5. Don’t talk so much.  Horses communicate with body language.

6. If something like a halter or tack gets tangled while you’re trying to put it on, don’t stand there and fumble.  Take it off and pretend you’re fixing it or doing something that has nothing to do with that failed attempt.  Then they get curious instead of annoyed.

7.  ALWAYS move slowly.

Then she taught me this…

…there’s nothing more healing to a human than to stand in the crook of a horse’s neck facing out the same way they are facing.  Oh how true this is.

In the quiet of a horse’s being, all else is forgotten and one is transported into the profound inner world they inhabit.  This feeling, more than any instruction, taught me.

I’ve cuddled, played with, danced with and loved up pets like my cats and dogs with my  ” Labrador ways” and it always went well!

Ah, but horses are not that.  They have heightened sensitivities, perceptions and a decision making process that says, “Fly first, figure it out later.”  It’s probably how they survived as a species for 55 million years or so.

Horses, if we listen, if we humble ourselves to approach them as THEY require being approached, can wordlessly teach us the mysteries of these primeval times which they knew.  They can teach us that, perhaps, in all our dealings with others, both human and animal, we can set aside our habitual behaviors.  We can act with sensitivity to the being with whom we’re interacting.

We can certainly be much less annoying :)!

I am still “in recovery”.  I stumble….a lot.  I am humbled….a lot.  But recently, the highest compliment ever paid me, which I shall cherish always, came from Trainer Marianne…

…  “Christine, you are finally becoming a horse.”

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Fourth Confession: How I Fell In Love Online….With A BLM Brand

Courtesy of Meg Hartman

Beautiful Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

An Unexpected Love…

At the beginning of the Year of the Horse, 2014, while horses were “at the gate” about to gallop into my life, bringing with them undreamed-of joy, I saw a picture on Facebook of a beautiful Mustang mare, Angel, who had been rescued and was needing a forever home.  It was love at first sight for me.  There are so many intangibles that I can only remotely describe how or why I loved her at first sight.  Perhaps it was the pure sweetness and love in her eyes… with a twinkling potential of sassy 😉

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel! Courtesy of Chris L.

One can only imagine what Chris, the founder of Mustang Rescue Network, thought, when I messaged her almost immediately that I wanted to adopt her!  When she questioned me about my horse experience and qualifications to adopt her all I could answer was, “Well, I’m leasing a glorious mare (Serenity) and currently caring for her daily as she had injured herself badly and needs a lot of TLC.  But I’m somewhat new to horses…”  (Oh yes, Novice Horsewoman indeed!)

I can now imagine Chris gently shaking her wise head and even more gently preparing how to say “No” to me 🙂  Which she did!  But that began a friendship between us, with the sweet Mustang mare as the bridge.

Angel was found in Georgia wandering down a road with many mysteries surrounding how she came to be there.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Her BLM brand told only a tiny bit of her story. but allowed the Rescue Network to identify her western origins and give an approximation of her age.  She had been “gathered” in Nevada in 1996 at approximately 1 year of age and adopted at about 1.5 years of age. How she got to Georgia is unknown. When they contacted the person who was currently in possession of her, he claimed her to be an abandoned horse that he knew from working with her for some people in the past. He went to their place to find it empty and figured they had abandoned her near where he usually rode. He seemed to want the best for Angel…

Mustang Rescue Network folk were able to acquire her legally and foster her while they put weight on her and slowly began discerning where she could be happiest in a forever home.

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Angel enjoying her hay! Courtesy of Chris L.

Chris has had mustangs in her heart and soul since she first read Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West  ( by Marguerite Henry) as a young girl. She had ridden often with her grandmother and grandfather when young and had had the love-of-her-life horse as a young woman in upstate New York before moving to Georgia.  Angel’s appearance in her life began a wonderful series of events which began with her creation of the Mustang Rescue Network.

Over the next few months I began contributing to Angel’s care through the Mustang Rescue Network and Chris and I kept in touch about her progress.  I was also privileged to receive extra pictures of her physical progress as she gained her weight back, got some gloss in her coat and began some gentle training.  I never stopped hoping that, as I began to get more horse experience, maybe just maybe Chris would eventually let me adopt her!

But life had other ideas ;)…

I knew, the minute I actually met Chris and Angel in person in Eatonton, Georgia and played with her in some training games, that as much as I adored this pretty mustang, I wasn’t “the one” for her.  Chris was.

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel and Chris play together. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Christine and Angel play together. Courtesy of Chris L.

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Christine receives “Angel Love” in Georgia. 💗Courtesy of Chris L.

The months rolled on and each time I went to Georgia I met with Chris and Angel enjoying exquisite times being in the presence of this very special mare.

It never ceased to hurt my heart to see her brand and the scars in her precious face where someone had left a halter on, obviously for years, so that her face also seemed “branded” with these halter scars.  However, sweet Angel didn’t seem to notice those things and became more and more herself as she felt safe, nurtured and had her hoof issues tended to.  The sassiness, only guessed at from the look in her eyes in early pictures, came out in her personality, which, combined with her sweetness, was completely irresistible!  ” Little Miss Sweet and Sassy” (as we nicknamed her) would walk around in her pasture with the cutest little swing in her hips and an adorable swish of her tail.

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Little Miss Sweet and Sassy! Courtesy of Chris L.

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Angel Enjoys Her Life In The Pasture! Courtesy of Chris L.

Anyone and everyone who met Angel, fell in love at first sight.  Since words cannot describe the loveable essence of this beautiful mare, I’m hoping the pictures I include do 🙂

When I first began writing this story about Angel, I had trouble getting anywhere with it.  I kept procrastinating.

Now I know why…

On many different levels, Chris had trouble conceiving that Angel could and should be hers.  It was so interesting to see how happy they each were with each other, how connected, and yet, there seemed to be some unseen barriers that Chris would need to overcome to be able to actually  say, “Angel and I belong together”.

Chris patiently and persistently worked through her hesitation.  As Chris came near to working it through, I was  honored to be with them both the day Angel let HER desires be known!

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Angel quietly let Chris know her wishes!

We had been hand grazing Angel and sat down on a log to chat about Angel’s prospects and if Chris was just about at the “place” inside herself where she could see herself adopting her.  In an utterly silent yet breathtaking manner, in the course of our conversation, Angel stopped grazing and came and stood right next to Chris, in quiet stillness, for almost a half an hour as we chatted.

In those minutes, I think Chris and I BOTH knew that Angel was stating what she wanted.  To be with Chris as her forever human.

Within a couple of weeks, the last internal barriers were torn down and Chris knew beyond any doubt that she and Angel would spend their lives together. She began the adoption process!

I see now that I couldn’t have finished this story without this joyful conclusion at the end of it 🙂

Ah yes, INDEED…in life….expect the unexpected!

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

Third Confession Part Two: Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns :)

Baby Doe and Spirit Under The Stars! Artist: Merel Burggraaf (www.merelburggraaf.com)

UNEXPECTED LESSONS ABOUT ADVERSITY, GOOD FORTUNE AND HUMAN NATURE

In Part 1 of this post, I think I firmly established that the dirty little secrets at barns have very little to do with manure or rolls in the hay 😉 but have everything to do with human nature in all its aspects.

I also described the journey of acknowledging the seeds of joy in each adverse situation, while knowing that bubbling quietly under the calm waters of good fortune, adversity can be just beneath the surface.   It is all part of the balance of life.

As life at the “fancy” barn became increasingly more intolerable for Spirit, Baby Doe and me, a final incident, described in the last post, gave me the tipping point I needed to help convince trainer Bryan help me to get my two out of there!  And, simultaneously, events were occurring at the barn where I had once leased the glorious mare, Serenity, that opened up two stalls and had Felice, my former barn buddy, becoming manager of that barn.

Within a week, my two were trailered and moved.

As a “parting shot” from the fancy barn, an ugly situation occurred that erased any doubt from Bryan’s or my mind regarding leaving.  Bryan had been fostering orphaned baby ducks on the property.  As they grew bigger, more ducks were joining the flock.  They were Muskogee ducks, not indigenous to Florida and many people are not pleased with their presence in our lakes and canals.  Still, they are God’s creatures, too.  The owner of the barn felt the presence of the ducks was hurting his chances at getting offers on his barn.

One day, without consulting Bryan, he had some “men” come up from Miami, and there, at the barn, within earshot and sight lines of the horses, they strangled half these ducks to death and carted them off in their truck.  (Probably to cook up at some restaurant for unsuspecting patrons.)  Even writing about this, eight months later, causes waves of nausea, disgust and deep sadness to wash over me.

The next few months at Felice’s barn were, what I like to term, the “I Love Lucy’ months 🙂

Baby Doe Reunites With Her Full Brother, Fritz, While Spirit Sticks His Sweet Nose Into Their Reunion :)

Baby Doe Reunites With Her Full Brother, While Spirit Sticks His Sweet Nose Into Their Reunion 🙂

Felice had never managed a barn before and though it was only her Paint gelding (who, by the way is full brother to Baby Doe), my two, and a 20-year-old, noble gelding named Gismo, four horses are still a lot of horses!!!!

We worked together, with her husband, made our mistakes (MANY mistakes), had our triumphs and epiphanies. Luckily, nobody died and the booboos that occurred were all fixable. Still, in the course of this, there were so many moments, that, had they been filmed, would have looked like “I Love Lucy” episodes, that we found ourselves laughing more than crying 🙂

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Spirit Taking A Sunbath 🙂

It was a peaceful time.

It was a wondrous time, as well. Felice and I began having groups of her special needs, autistic students come to the barn and interact with the horses on field trips.  Every Saturday, there were at least 3 or 4 special needs kids that came to the barn to help us scoop manure, bleach water buckets, lay shavings and just laugh, enjoying the horses’ antics.

Greeting Baby Doe

Greeting Baby Doe

Angel Paints Beautiful Pictures On Patient Gismo During Our "Barn Field Trips"

A Student Paints Beautiful Pictures On Patient Gismo During Our “Barn Field Trips”

Yet under the surface of the peace of these months, seeds of adversity were slowly maturing.

Unbeknownst to us, the owner of the property was looking to list it and sell.

We were finding we couldn’t give the horses turnout unsupervised, because the fencing was so rotted out that they could have gotten out, or worse, really injured themselves.  It was too cost /time prohibitive for us to replace it and the owner refused.

There just wasn’t enough grazing available.  The horses were getting increasingly irritable and restless, being in their stalls long hours.

Riding The Trails At Treetops Park. Baby Doe Is Directly Behind Me And Spirit.

Riding The Trails At Treetops Park. Baby Doe Is Directly Behind Me And Spirit.

So, even though we had the superb advantage of acres of trails just outside the back gate, my two, at least, were having issues. There was not enough structure. Trainer Bryan didn’t get there as often as promised. Their youth required more experience than this Novice possesses. They were exhibiting increasing restlessness that would sometimes cause erratic behavior on the trails. Some differences in philosophy between Felice and me resulted in inconsistent human behavior with them.

The sleepy seeds of adversity began sprouting above the ground when, at the first of the year, two new boarders took up residence at Felice’s barn, bringing their wonderful horses as well as their own big personalities and personal issues.

On the surface, it looked like good fortune because these women were very experienced horsewomen, with experience with young horses!  Given that, by now, trainer Bryan had his hands completely full at a new barn with students and horses and no longer had time for me, it looked like fortune had smiled.

However, the next two months became a kaleidoscope of disparate energies. There seemed to be a team of outspoken “barn know-it-alls” coming up against me. My horses began displaying more irritable, aggressive behaviors.  Time after time, I found myself not listening to my inner voice, sobbing through bouts of anxiety and not standing up for my truth.

Ah, but then…one day…it was finally ENOUGH!  I, FINALLY, stood up for my truth. I “made the fist”.

One by one, with each human, I set boundaries (with kindness) as to what I would and wouldn’t do; as well as what they were allowed to do to me and my horses; or say to me and my horses. Oh, what a difference TRUTH makes!

Within a week, a new trainer came into my life who was everything I could have hoped for.  She and I are completely in sync with our philosophies and instincts about horses. Only she has the years of experience, knowledge and training that this Novice may not achieve in this lifetime.

Everything, EVERYTHING changed for me, Baby Doe and Spirit.  I will look forward to telling these stories in future posts!

Then, good fortune truly opened up the floodgates.  The owner of the property had found buyers.  Shortly thereafter, in a single 24-hour period, the owner declared that once she closed on the property, the new buyers, with NO horse experience whatsoever, planned to take over management of the barn!

Loading Up To Go To Cameo

Baby Doe Loading To Go To Cameo

Spirit Being Just A Wee Bit Stubborn Loading For Cameo :)

Spirit Being Just A Wee Bit Stubborn Loading For Cameo 🙂

Yet again, I had my two out of there within the week!  God’s good grace and trainer Marianne found us the two last places at Cameo Farms.

Cameo Farms, where things are peaceful and well managed with an experienced older couple. Cameo Farms, where there are acres and acres of pasture and turnout.  Where my two now sleep under the stars and graze to their horsey hearts’ content.  Cameo Farms, where trainer Marianne lives just a block away and has “adopted” us…me and my two… seeing us in such need of care and comforting.  Cameo Farms, where in just a few weeks’ time, my two are blossoming with contentment and becoming their true horsey selves.

Such joy.

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Baby Doe Under “Baby Doe’s Tree”. The Tree Seems To Lean Over Her Protectively 🙂

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What A Very Happy Appy, Spirit!

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Adversity could be fomenting even as I write this.  I read recently that God sectioned off our days into 24 hours because our human frailty cannot bear more than that at one time 🙂

However, this I know. Joy is always undergirding every adversity, every trouble in our lives.  I gird myself with faith, hope and love as I continue on this journey of horses and… LIFE!

Afterword:  I had commissioned a water color painting of my two from Dutch artist, Merel Burggraaf, since it is hard to get photos of the two of them together. Check out her website at: http://www.MerelBurggraaf.com.  She is an exquisite and very intuitive artist.

All these barn changes were happening as she quietly worked on the painting off of pictures and videos of Spirit and Baby Doe.  I hadn’t told her anything about what was happening.  So imagine my delighted astonishment when she sent me a photo of the painting she’s done.  There they are, Baby Doe and Spirit, happily grazing under the stars!

Just as they are doing in real life now 🙂

Artist: Merel Burggraaf (www.merelburggraff.com)

Artist: Merel Burggraaf

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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