Tag Archives: Barn Culture

In Which Jane Yells “Pick Me” and Gets…Picked?!

One of the trainers at our barn needed a bit of barn help.  Did I mention she’s a terrific instructor? Positive.  Cheerful.  She knows how to use her words.

Given some of the life events over the last year or so, I haven’t um, exactly ridden much.  Oh I’ve been packed around daily.  Not the same as real riding.

Riding: that state in which you tell the horse what to do? And meandering doesn’t just “happen”? And tack is involved? And you sit upright, instead of laying your head on horse’s butt while he grazes?

Trainer put the word out she was looking for someone she could teach to help her out on the ground, preferably with some horse knowledge.  If we knew of anyone, let her know.

Ever the mature 3rd grader, I thrust my hand in the air and waved wildly. “I will!! I will!!”

In front of other people.  (Sadly, I am not exaggerating.  Points for enthusiasm?) Gah.

Momentarily taken aback, she said, “Really…?” Pause. “You want to…?”

I had one horrible moment of very adult embarrassment, presuming she was thinking: “How will I politely get rid of this ancient broad who might fall and not get up?”

This is usually an agreement for the 20-something beginning rider.  Not the 50-something sort-of rider that trainer has watched dozing on Hudson’s butt.

Luckily, she was actually thinking (or so she claims): “It could work? I won’t have to spend so much time training…”

I can do many key things: bandages, blankets, basic grooming, lunging, tacking up, read body language, and stay out of the strike zone. I don’t panic.  I’ve uncast horses, treated abscesses, can give shots, eye medication, deworm, check capillary refill rate and know when a tendon is iffy.

Most importantly, it’s possible I’m the best carrot-dispenser on the planet.

It’s the riding part I’ve never quite gotten down.

Hudson was a bit put out.  He’d begun to enjoy doing a lot of nothing outside his paddock.  After our first few rides however, he came out of the arena on jetpacks, proud as proud could be: every stride swung with “I’m a working man. Did you SEE that? I am AWESOME.”

You sure are, buddy!

In Which Jane Remembers Why the Real Horse is Better than the Dream Horse

Before Hudson, I would go to Tiny when I was upset, and he would “hug” me. If I stood at his neck or shoulder, he’d try to bend his head and neck to wrap around my body.  Tiny’s affection saved me often. If I hung on  him, he’d drop his head over my shoulder and pull me toward his chest by pulling his head back.  He was amazingly smart and intuitive, and very willing to share his boundless affection. Horses are all different, but my experience has been they “get” sadness, and try to help. (I may also be living in Black Beauty World.)

I leave the hospital determined to see Hudson.  A hug from Hudson will make it better.

Helplessness is not a  useful feeling for me.  It leads me right into Train Wreck Thinking: helpless goes to hopeless, hopeless goes to powerless, powerless goes to (?) I’m a terrible human being.

Yeah.  I don’t get it either.

The weather mirrored my emotional state: driving rain, erratic shifts in the direction of the wind, with low visibility.

By the time I got to the barn, my train wreck was in full dramatic rending and crashing.

I step out of the car. It’s freezing cold, and the storm seems to have intensified.  I fill the boy’s grain buckets, and hike up to their shelter. It’s unexpectedly cozy inside.  It’s only two and a half sides, but it’s quiet, dry, and wind-free.

I dole out buckets, and check under-blanket temperatures.  They’re fine.  Toasty.

I walk up to a chewing Hudson, and plunk my forehead on his shoulder. I sob.

Hudson looks at me with mild alarm:  Okaaaaay. 

He doesn’t move, but his body  weight shifts away from me.

Oh. I’m bugging him.  Maybe it’s  the weird forehead plunk? Surely he’ll comfort me.

I do a more normal thing: I stand at his shoulder and gently lean my shoulder against his. I want to crawl under his blanket. I continue to sob, leaning on him.

Hudson scoops a huge amount of grain into his mouth, so he can chew and consider me without having to reach down again.

“It’s just hard”, I say. “I have all these feelings.”

His ears swivel. Grain dribbles out of his mouth, and he tries to catch it with his lips: the big wad of grain remains safe behind his clamped teeth. Talented horse.

“I don’t want to keep bugging my friends”, I say, “and I can’t stop crying, I thought talking to you would help.”

Hudson doesn’t have a clue what I’m saying. But I am convinced horses can read our emotional intention.  I wait for my “hug”.

Instead, this happens:

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In Which Jane Does a Little Mowing, and Hudson Runs Away From Home

I printed out this visual aide and took it with me to the barn.

Left to my care-free, easy-going, eyeball-it devices, Hudson could easily have been clipped into a Standard Poodle finish.

I Googled clipping to brush up on body clipping, after 20 years off.  A horse-sized stick of white chalk to mark out my ‘lines’? Seriously? Who has giant white chalk?

Genius strikes. I hit up the tool shed, and score a roll of masking tape. Press on to apply, then peel off in the direction of the hair. Totally painless. Chalk-shmalk.  It won’t smear!

Hudson is One With The Clippers.  He Zens out as soon as he hears the whir:  tension drains out of his muscles, he yawns, his ears get loose, his eye glazes, his lids begin to drop.

While I uncoil cord, pour blade wash into a pan, oil blades and turn clippers on and off, I  see  Zzzzz’s beginning to form in the air above his ears. He’s supremely content.

Seeing him happy and soft makes the tension drain out of my muscles. I riiiiip out the first length of masking tape, utterly relaxed. H paid no attention to the ripping.

Zzzzzzzzzz. Riiiiip.  Zzzzzzz. Riiiiiip. Zzzzzzzz. Press.

PRESS?!?

Hudson is now forty feet tall. It’s ON him?! He snorts.

“I like the tape?”, I say, conversationally, as if he has a choice, “It makes it easy…Cut Line Here. See?” I poke him,  to point out tape is a sensible alternative. (No, I never  learn.)

My pressing the tape on his body creeped him out, in that crime-scene, she’s marking-where-the-bodies-fell sort of way. The moment I laid masking tape along his belly, he stopped sleeping and began scowling:

Hudson fully expected to wake up with something manly on  his butt, like a star, or a steer head, and a full body clip. Instead, it looks like I knocked him out, rolled him over, and mowed his stomach.

It looks like a Brazilian wax job done by a ‘technician’ that advertised their prices in crayon on a cardboard sign.

Still, I was ridiculously pleased I got the line this clean.

I took him out of the cross ties, and he, uh, stretched out his neck. I immediately squished his head back down.  His throat latch looked like it was cut by gleeful kindergartners with  stubby little-kid scissors.

His belly was surprisingly good.  But then, we have to turn upside down to make any comments about the belly clipping, which gives most people a headache: far easier to say “great job on the belly” without looking.

When I finished, I warm toweled all the loose hairs off, brushed thoroughly, blanketed, and put him away, automatically checking the gate locks.

You see, he and Dinero had a jailbreak. It was my fault: I either didn’t clip the chain right, or (gulp) I forgot to chain the gate shut.  I was completely paranoid about opening the gates for weeks.

They got off the ranch.

Luckily, both follow their stomachs, and ran UP the driveway to the racing barn, and were happily chowing down in their hay shed. Thank God Alice woke up thinking, “Hooves…?  I shouldn’t be hearing hooves outside my window at 1 am.” She woke Bella and they hunted down and caught the boys.

There is something terribly wrong about being the people needing to catch the loose horses, on a work night, near a busy road, when you aren’t the one who left the gate open.  (They were both extremely generous with me about my mind loss.)

This is why, after clipping, I check all the gates twice, even those I haven’t used. I slip out through the bars so I don’t have to unlock anything.

45 minutes later, at home, my text bings. It’s Lily:

Did you know the horses are out? BM found and is putting them back. It’s ok, they’re in barn area.

WHAT?!?

I know Hudson is the culprit. A few years back, Bella woke up to the sound of the chain banging on the gate: she ran outside pulling muck boots on over her pj’s.  Hudson had managed to work the chain up out of the slot and back out the little hole TWICE (because it’s locked twice) and let himself out.

It seems obvious to me that Hudson is mortified by his trace clip. He’s running away from home, and taking Dinero with him.

Maybe I can mollify him with a press-apply tattoo? Before he packs all his belongings in a haynet and slings it over his shoulder? How to keep him from running away?

(I bought a horse-proof U clip for the gate. So far, so good.)

Murphy Monday: Murphy’s Meet and Greet

It’s almost weaning time.

Murphy has a meet and greet with Uncle Melody.  If they like each other, Murphy might move in. There is no tension, just curiosity. Then…grooming…? Really? Strike that. Why am I surprised? Melody is calm, stable, gentle, and sharing on the ground. (In the air is another matter: he is his own flyer. Co-pilots must listen to HIM.) Murphy is still incredibly easy going.

Barbie’s opinion: Upset Premium Mare Over Here…Hellloooooo:

Murphy was about 30 feet away.

But he was touching noses with another horse! What if it’s not Melody? What if it’s a stranger that looks, sounds and smells like Melody? Did you think of that? HUH?!?

Barbie is highly intolerant of roommates. She’s a very independent mare. (Read: Everything In Sight Belongs To Me. Touch It And You Die.)

Murphy is her first bonded pasture mate. His weaning will be a double whammy for her: losing baby, losing a pasture mate she’s hooked up with.

Daisy has been highly conscious of this, and doing a thorough think-through of what might be the best way to wean him, given both their natures, circumstances, resources, proximity, etc. She’s run it by her vet, trainer, very experienced friends.  She’s such a good horse mom.

To begin the weaning process, Daisy has been regularly walking Murphy out of his mom’s sight (He’s fine, she melts down) and returning him.  Stretching the time longer and longer. They’re both dealing with it normally, and relaxing into further distances and longer times. When she takes Barbie out and walks her out of sight – leaving Murphy alone in the pasture – Barbie walks away without a second glance, or an ounce of concern: he’s home, he’s safe.

Moving in with Uncle Melody might be a perfect first step. Barbie will be able to see and hear Murphy, she knows Melody, and he would be a good babysitter.

It would give her time to adjust emotionally, without dropping a couple hundred pounds. Barbie has the kind of metabolism that enrages supermodels: she eats like a draft horse, and barely keeps her weight up.  (You would not believe how much extra Daisy feeds her, on top of the all-day food the barn supplies.)

Murphy hit another growth spurt.  I think he grew 6″ this week.  For physical reference:

Daisy is 5’9″ tall, and Melody is plain huge.

Murphy is also less into rump cuddling and back draping. Sniffle, sniffle.

Saturday was so beautiful. We plopped down on top of the leftover all-day-hay, and watched Murphy Vision. Who knew watching horses chew could be so relaxing? (Oh that’s right. We all did.)

I think we need to install hammocks in the paddock.  Murphy Vision all day, a book, a cooler full of beverages, a few Zzzzz’s.

Perfect. Day.

Murphy Monday: In Which We Discover a Slight Oversight and Meet a New Blogger!

Daisy and I were quiet, watching Murphyvision. Barbie and Murphy were eating: my brain began marching images of junk food past my inner vision.

I look at Daisy, she’s probably thinking about something more interesting. Gourmet food, minimum. I sigh.  Have to get my brain out of the cookie aisle. Murphy and Barbie will be going for Warmblood inspection/approval. Safe, non-food topic.

“When is the inspection, again?”, I say, turning toward Daisy.

“First week in October”, she says. We think about this.

“Road trip?”, I ask, hopefully. It’s a knee jerk reaction: still picturing small bags of chips.

“Nah”, says Daisy, “It’s only like ten miles from here. Get the Doritos out of your head.”

We turn back to Murphyvision. Suddenly, Daisy jerks up straight.

“What?”, I say.

“Inspection?”, Daisy says,  “Road trip?”

“And…?”, I think, while a queasy feeling starts gnawing at me.

“Oh. Crap.”, she says, punching numbers into her cell.

It hits me. Road trip?  

Murphy has go IN A TRAILER in 3 weeks? Mayday! Mayday!

A few conversations later, we have a plan. Hilary Dorris is going to come begin his trailer training.

Day One: 

Barbie can’t get in the trailer fast enough (she learned self-loading from Hudson) and blissfully eats  her way through a ton of hay, grain, and whatever else Daisy can throw in there.  Hilary quietly works to get Murphy to put a foot on the ramp.

Murphy’s response: a mild, non-hysterical, “Um. No, thank you.  I’ll stay here please.”

It’s good: he’s exposed, would put a hoof on the ramp, and remained relaxed. We’re taking it nice and easy, right?

Day Two:

I’m 15 minutes late for the training session. The rig is facing me, backed into the breezeway between paddocks. I grab my camera and walk carefully toward the trailer: I can’t see what’s happening, and I sure as heck don’t want to reverse progress by walking up and saying “Hi. How’s it going? Oh. He was? Gee. Sorry.”

Hilary waves me in. I’ll have to squeeze into the breezeway by moving a trailer door slightly.

I’m floored by what I see. Really?!? In 15 minutes? On day TWO?

There’s Murphy, standing in the trailer.  Perfectly relaxed, hanging out. Maybe ready to yawn. Totally unfazed by moving door and my appearance. He hung out at least a half an hour, completely relaxed: he turned around nicely. Moved away from pressure. Hilary even coaxed him a few steps backward toward the ramp. No intention to make him back out: too soon, just getting comfy.

There was a slight problem with walking out.  Murphy preferred, as a future hunter, to jump the ramp. Scary. Tanbark can be slick. He had remedial “this is a ramp. look at it. touch it” lessons.

Murphy:  “So boring.”, yawn, “I am a jumper.”

He listened politely. Put a hoof out.

But calmly cleared it like a hunter. I think he landed 8 feet away.

Fine. Ramp lessons. First, mom walks over the ramp.

Then Murphy will walk over.

“That? No way! It’s too high! Dude, I’d have to lift my hoof up like THIS high! I’m thinking not.”

No more pictures. Aunt Jane had to step in and help.  To continue safely, we needed an extra pair of hands.

Within a quiet, skillful half hour, Murphy was walking across, on, and standing relaxed on the ramp. The bubble over his head clearly said “Um. What was the big deal here, wasn’t scared. Didn’t much like the thunking noise, that’s all.” Pause. “Can we do something else now?”

Thank goodness Hilary decided to return to horse training!  We missed her. She’s going to be blogging as well, which I am excited about. (Great. Tips.) You can find her new blog here, Hilary Dorris Training, with a more detailed version of  Murphy in loading training, if you click the link below.

He made Student of the Week. Aren’t you proud?!?

And I think we can all see his color changing: gorgeous!