Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Laying down

Once I made it out to the pasture today, I looked at the soft green grass, drying ground and felt the whispering wind...all I could do for about the first half hour was lay down and soak in the sun and smells and sounds. To my right was this tree...

to my left was this dog...

and above me was this pony...

After my time on the grass, I went out and did some work on the horse's coats, picked ticks off Sundance (to her great relief) and then left the horses to go wash my hands. I heard galloping hooves behind me and found that Patrik was leading everyone over to where I was. We played a little (for treats)...

...and then when we couldn't figure out what to do next, I went up to the spot on the hill, pulled out my book (The Magician's Nephew from the Chronicles of Narnia) and lounge chair and soaked up some more ... well ...

It's amazing how all it takes is a couple of days of sun and wind, and the ground that was a mud soup turns firm again. That's real magic.

The buckeye tree isn't quite in full bloom yet but it's pretty impressive.

And this little guy was the first of the starthistles I've seen this year. For those of you not familiar with this area, starthistles are a non-native plant that are toxic to horses (though they have to eat a lot to show symptoms) and when they mature they get very sharp spines that are uncomfortable to walk through. I've worked at places where these guys have taken over the pastures. I'm lucky that there aren't too many here. Each year I pick as many as I can while they're immature and that seems to be enough to control them.

Today we get to meet June...thanks for sending this June! Please send your own pictures and bio if you'd like to get introduced into the herd.

June and Bridget

I’m originally from Scotland, where I grew up riding off and on. At age 13, I was given my first horse - an 8-year old Highland Pony. I had all kinds of hopes and dreams about what a great time we’d have together, inspired by My Friend Flicka and the like. Turned out he really didn’t like me at all. He’d threateningly turn his back legs toward me when I tried to catch him. He’d bolt. He’d buck me off. I was not at all intrepid, but I hung in there, too clueless to “train” him or “cure” him of his bad habits. Time passed, and at some point - I can’t remember how - he decided he did like me after all, and we became very good friends.

After I left home, I only rode occasionally. My pony was retired on the farm where I had kept him. I moved to the U.S.A. I rode for brief periods in my late twenties and again in my early thirties, but I was busy having children and homeschooling. We have five children, ranging in age from 23 to 13. Three of them like horses; two don’t. But of the two who don’t, I think one might have liked them if we had not had an emphasis on riding but more on hanging out and interacting.

Our family moved to the country when my oldest daughter was seven - hooray! Now we could finally get into horses again! We ended up buying or adopting several horses, of whom only Chloe is still with us.

I’ve never really done any showing or competing, and so this new way of being with horses is perhaps less new for me than it might be for some. I’ve always adopted a kind of laisser faire attitude to our horses, letting them “get away” with stuff that others don’t. I’ve always taken the view that once you have a horse, it’s yours for life, and only a serious change in circumstances could justify letting the horse go. I always believed that you don’t buy a horse to enable you to do the equestrian activity of your choice, but that you wait and see which horse the tide of life floats up onto your beach, and then enjoy that horse in whatever way fits both of you.

These are the horses who are in our family now - Chloe is 19-year old small pony mare, possibly with a lot of Morgan blood, as she is a mini version of the purebred Morgan at our barn. We’ve had her about 7 years. I believe she is a Hempfling “Origin.” She is the one who has really made me take all this seriously - I absolutely cannot force her to do anything against her will. Well - I can, and I have. But she never gives up, she never stops judging, and she never stops trying to get me to understand that it’s wrong. She’s the inspiration for my own blog:

We also recently adopted two other horses. In October, George joined us. He was given to us by a riding instructor friend who had too many horses and no job for George. Before my friend took him on, he’d been unpleasantly aggressive and terrorizing his owner. My friend took him in because a) she felt sure he was going to end up going to auction, and b) (I quote) “When he charged at me with his teeth bared, he only hit my arm with his teeth - he didn’t actually bite me, so I knew he wasn’t such a bad guy.” Note: My friend did not move during the aforementioned attack. She’s pretty cool. He is a green-broke 6-year old Appendix QH. He’s a tough, laid-back, no-nonsense kind of a guy. I have pretty much put him into the charge of my 13-year old daughter, who rides him in a more or less conventional way, although she has me putting in my two cents’ worth at every turn. Because I think he’s part Hempfling “Sergeant,” I think he does well with structure and commands. Which is good, because my daughter has what is called “Leadership Ability.” Anyway, he seems to like her a lot, so I’m letting them be.

Our other recent addition is Bridget, a two-year old former nurse-mare foal, rescued by a friend of mine as a wee baby. I’ve known her since then. She is all innocence and curiosity - so my main job is to not mess it up!

I’m supposed to be riding a QH belonging to the barn owner, but I fear I’m going to have to deconstruct that relationship and possibly quit riding him, at least for a while. I don’t know yet. I haven’t hung out with him in a couple of weeks, and when I do again, I can’t see myself just getting him out and saddling up. We’ll see.

I’ve recently started doing natural hoof trimming - started out in August of ‘08 on our own horses and now do several belonging to the barn owner as well as a few others.

In terms of riding, I liked trail riding and dressage, and the occasional fun jump out in the field. I’ve done a lot of just working at the walk and trying to help the horse improve its “use” (cos I’m trained as an Alexander Teacher, so that’s how I think of it.) I liked Lyons a lot - especially the idea of using only one rein, so the horse can escape out of the other side if it wants. You can over-pressure using Lyons though. I like Lyons himself - I went to a clinic, and his horses were cheerful and extravert. Probably his approach works best with horses who are like that anyway.

I discovered Spilker last summer and immediately started trying to do whatever it was she was doing, which of course I couldn’t figure out, so I would half give up, but then start again, because it was just too compelling. Then I discovered Hempfling. I really like his horse “types.” I enjoy watching him work on Youtube. I’ve glanced at Resnick and at Nevzorov and would like to find out more. Spilker and Hempfling seem to resonate most with me.

That’s about it. The other thing that I feel is important in connection with my attitude about horses and all this is that I believe literally in Genesis - that the world was originally created with no disharmony between species and no meat-eating. After the Fall, some animals were offered as a blood sacrifice (although no horses!), but it was only after the Flood that some animals became carnivores. I don’t believe in (macro)Evolution - so my question isn’t For What Functions Did the Horse Evolve? But rather For What Purpose is the Horse Designed?

We currently live in Canton, Mississippi but will shortly be moving to ...... possibly back to Pennsylvania.