Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Transition from Horse Owner to Barn Owner

Rico is home where he belongs, and my world is back on its axis.  Inky did not return but he's only 10 minutes away, I get daily updates from my daughter, and I can visit him if I really need an Inkster fix.

Meanwhile, we've taken in a retired mare to keep Rico company, so I'm in the process of making the transition from a horse owner to a barn owner with the daily responsibility for another person's much loved animal who arrived as a complete stranger to both Rico and I.   Fortunately for me, she's a healthy, well trained, sweet horse with wonderful, easy owners.

It's an enlightening journey.  Every decision made has to be carefully weighed not only for what I feel is correct, but to also provide reassurance to both myself and the mare's actual owner that she is getting the best care possible in the environment that her owners have carefully chosen for her.  So far, I've only had a few moments of panic.

So I want to take this moment to introduce Rico's new companion - Felicity.  She's the bay.  It's really hard to get a photo of either of them alone - they're like high school sweethearts, including the occasional, overly emotional disagreements!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Empty Barns and Rudderless Ships

The barn is empty, sort of.   It is still inhabited by our faithful barn cats, my ancient and faithful Tahoe, and around 175 bales of hay.  But Rico and Inky have moved for the duration to our trainer's lovely new facility, complete with indoor arena for trouble free winter riding.

I'm feeling very much like a ship without sails or rudder to give me direction.  My morning routine of feeding, stall cleaning, pasture maintenance, etc., has been replaced with a quick trip to someone else's barn, where I can visit my horse, take a quick ride, throw some hay, and then leave.   The soft nicker that greeted me upon opening my back door for the past 8 years has been replaced by screams for the barn owner who now feeds him and turns him out with his new herd.  I am only the person who comes every day, gives him a little hay, and makes him WORK, so obviously not his favorite.

I do not know if Inky will ever return.  For all his quirks, I love him, and will miss him if he does not, but  his girl likes the freedom of leaving the day to day care to someone else, and the ability to ride year round. I sent Rico along to give her time to adjust to the realities of boarding, both financially and emotionally, and to delay the finality of replacing Inky so that he could return if boarding does not work out for them.

But barring a complete turn around in my personality, injury, illness or death, I have decided that Rico WILL be coming home in the spring  I'm one of those bizarre creatures, called a horsewoman, who loves the daily routine of cleaning stalls, pasture maintenance, and just being able to walk out the back door at night to listen to the sound of munching hay.  Caring for Rico is the rudder that keeps me on course.

So I will spend my winter dreaming of spring.  At least I'm riding more.  And when I get really depressed, I remind myself that I may be horse shopping in the spring! Or sooner.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tribute to an Incredible Horsewoman

We lost a special horsewoman to cancer today.  Kim H. was not a glamorous or famous woman.  She did not win the Medal Finals or go to the Olympics.  In the years I knew her, I never saw her ride.  She was just a hard working barn manager at the local hunter jumper barn where I take lessons.  A woman who knew every horse in that barn like it was her own child, could tell you which horse was "not quite right", which one needed bute, bandaging, soaking, worming.  She nursed them tirelessly and well.

She was a strong woman, with a strong personality, and wasn't shy about giving her opinion of a horse or a person.  A wicked sense of humor that some people didn't 'get', but I loved, and I count myself as blessed to have been a person that she seemed to like, because when it came to her horses, her standards were high.  A lot of really good riders didn't make the cut with her.

She was a loyal friend, a good caretaker of her animals, and a force to be rekoned with if you didn't treat your horse right. 

Godspeed Kim.  You will be sorely missed by those you leave behind, but I know there are a lot of very happy horses that have gone on before us running to greet you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Nostalgia on Life as a Barn Rat

My daughter is riding for our trainer's adult equestrian team.  For some bizarre reason (maybe just token politeness, LOL) I've been asked to join several times, but can't change my schedule to make it to practices, so I'm not able to participate.  Their first meet was yesterday.  I did my booster duty, enjoyed being a spectator and cheering for the team.  It was a beautiful day, and I think everyone had a great time.

And inside I was was so envious of the riders it hurt.  I miss the camaraderie and the friendships of riding with a group.  With my schedule, I can only fit in a private lesson early in the morning.    I miss those group lessons with other adults.  I miss the different feedback you get from both students and instructors in a group lesson.  I miss being the barn staple that was always there to help the beginners find their way around and tack up their horses. 

For some, riding is a end in of itself.  For me, it was a chance to bond with other horse lovers.  To nurture the beginners, and celebrate with my barn mates when someone had a good show or a great ride.  To mourn when a much loved friend went over the bridge.   To pitch in for a barn cleanup, and lend a helping hand when needed.

I keep my horses at home, and love it.  But sometimes, I just really miss being a barn rat in a barn full of other barn rats. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Accepting Setbacks Gracefully

The weather is perfect for riding.  Rico and I have been getting along beautifully.  My confidence has grown in direct porportion to my strength and balance in the saddle with thanks to my trainer and a wonderful mare named Ladybug.  After my last ride on Rico, I promised myself that we would canter the next weekend.  I'm not totally stupid - it has to wait for the weekend so that someone is home to call the paramedics. :D

Alas, it was not to be.  Monday morning I found my boy with an eye swollen shut.  I was fortunate enough to be able to get the vet out within the hour.  Diagnosis is a scratched cornea, prognosis is good if I can get ointment into his eye for several days and the swelling doesn't come back after stopping the ointment.  Stopped the ointment on Friday and hooray, his eye looks good, but in my usual overprotective manner, I decided to give him a few more days before riding him.  So - no weekend canter joy for us!

My graceful way of accepting this minor setback was to take myself off to the Capital Challenge horseshow Saturday and treat myself to a new Devocoux close contact saddle. 

Retirement will have to wait another 6 months I guess.  :D

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Think the Goat Won This Round

Its been an eventful weekend. As they've eaten down almost all of their fenced in area, things have certainly gotten interesting. I'm glad I've read so much on COTH about goats!  Yesterday was jsut te beginning. One goat decided she really liked getting her head stuck in the fence.  6 times in 2 days.  And she wasn't very cooperative with our efforts to free her.

This morning as I went back to feed the horses, I found the gate between their pasture and the goats was wide open.  I'm sure I sprouted several new gray hairs when I saw that open gate and couldn't see the goats until I got down to the fence. Amazingly, all the goats were still where they belonged, down in one corner of the woods. Horses were up by the barn but there was clear evidence that they'd been down in the woods 'visiting'.  Owners came out this morning and said they'll probably move the fencing tomorrow or Tuesday.

Then, around 5:30 I go out the throw the horses some hay - goats are all yelling down in the woods - and I notice a bunch of them are on the WRONG side of the fence. Total 3 ring circus trying to round them up and get them back where they belong.  A few of them made the mistake of going into the horse's paddock and Inky literally tried to kill them.  I now realize that we have a very nasty, territorial horse with other animals.  I guess we won't be getting any goats as horse companions.  Get everyone safely back where they belong, reinforce fence, call goat owners to let them know what's up and reassure them all goats are accounted for and safe. (Where IS that sweating bullets icon?)

Owners come back out, say yup, they've run out of fun things to eat and are ready to start getting into trouble, so we decide to drop a few small trees to keep them occuped. 2 husbands, and 3 teenage boys playing Paul Bunyon while Cindy and I watch laughing our heads off and enjoy the spectacle of boys AND men being boys. I sure was missing my video camera!
Dumb and dumber are locked in their stalls tonight just to be on the safe side.

And of course, I now have poison ivy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Land Clearing the Green Way.

I'll admit to being something of a closet hippie amd am a firm believer in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.  I try very hard to keep the environment in mind in my daily life and am very conscious of the fact that the earth has a finite amount of natural resources.  I compost.  I don't dump 1/2 full water glasses or old water bowls from the pets down the drain, I dump them in my plants instead. 

I desperately wanted to get the 'back 40' cleaned up and usable.  Its almost an acre of land that is a wasteland of downed trees, deadfall, poison ivy, briars, and weeds.   We tried several years ago to have a contractor clean it up, but the results were short lived for the expense and aggravation of having the heavy machinery  brought in.

Then I learned about goats!   Amazingly, Dave agreed it was a great idea.  We found a local farmer who rents their herd of goats for land clearing.  They put up the fencing and check on the goats daily.  We get the weeds and undergrowth knocked back so that we can get in there and clean up without having to wear armour.  We put money back into our local agricultural economy.   The goats are fun and entertaining, eating to their hearts content, and our land is cleared without heavy machinery.  Although the horses took a little bit to accept that they weren't the dreaded 'horse eating goats' eventually they also decided that they're kinda cool.

All in all, a win/win, I think.  And did I mention how cute and entertaining they are!