My Best Accomplishment of 2020

Now that it’s getting near the end of the year, I guess we can look back and see what we’ve accomplished. I’m grateful that so many of us are still here, and sad to have lost others in this pandemic. But, in a more cheerful vein, I learned only today what my best accomplishment of 2020 has to be.

This is a hint

Happy Horse News

Yes, today at his farrier visit, Apache was declared to be in his best physical shape ever. Trixie kept repeating how good he looked. He also is in great mental shape, because she also remarked many times about how well behaved he was.

Here is Apache behaving well during a delicate procedure on his back quarters. You can see his heart-shaped chest patch.

His feet look really great, and that’s a tribute to how carefully Sara and I have managed him since he got all lame after eating spring grass in the big pasture. I’ll be able to ride him now! I’m very grateful for all of Sara’s and Trixie’s help and advice (and everybody else’s, too), because apparently putting him in the little pasture with poor fodder and supplementing with last year’s hay was what he needed.

He is at his ideal weight!

Not only did he lose the fat, but his coat is in much better shape now, too. Even his winter coat is shiny and soft. That may be the result of worming him sufficiently, for which I thank Sara very much. His mane and tail are growing back in well, too.

Yes, it’s a horse’s butt, but it’s an important image. That is a straight tail.

Best of all, now that he’s lost weight, Trixie can see what’s going on with his skeleton and musculature much better. This let her figure out what might have been causing his tail to veer to the left so significantly. So, she was able to don some gloves, put on some lotion, and manipulate some “intimate” areas to where they are looser, which loosened the tail.

Whee, my tail feels good. So does the rest of me.

We decided not to photograph exactly HOW happy the manipulation made him, but it was mighty impressive. We thought it might hurt, but apparently it was quite the opposite.

Through all the prodding, tail pulling, and leg stretching, Apache was a true gentleman gelding, albeit a happy one. In fact, when a leg stretch didn’t quite work, he cooperatively picked his foot up and angled it over to Trixie as if to say, “Try again, I’ll do better this time.” At a certain point, Trixie and I just stood there grinning at how great he was doing. She said that this is why she does what she does, seeing an animal with an improved quality of life like Apache has.

“Who am I, chopped liver?”

Not to be outdone, Fiona was quite a little lady as she got her tiny little feet trimmed. It had been twelve weeks, and all the little issues she’d had were also completely grown out. It amazes me how Trixie can sit on the ground and trim Fiona’s feet, with Fiona just standing there and picking up whatever foot is asked for. This is most un-donkey-like!

“Look, as long as someone is petting or brushing me, I can stand here all day. Treats never hurt, either.”

Even Fiona’s health seems better. Her normally pretty dull winter coat has shiny parts, too, though she’s still a bit plump. It just doesn’t take much to feed a donkey, even one as active as Fiona.

“You’re gonna WHAT?”

Trixie and I talked about getting her a little cart and sending her over to learn driving (cart, not car), if Trixie’s first donkey-cart training client goes well. I think that would be incredibly fun. However, we’re pretty sure Fiona won’t be thrilled at the idea of having to work for a living, having gotten by on cuteness for all these years.

I am SO proud of having the patience and receiving the good advice needed to help my horse friend back into good health. He’s back to cheerfully going wherever I lead him and doing whatever I ask him to. He and Fiona run happily together. And I get the benefit of the love my horse and donkey give me.

Sunset Ranch Update

There hasn’t been an update on our ranch citizens in a while, and tonight’s sunset inspired me to write one.

There’s a bonus dog in this photo!

Last night’s solstice sunset was apparently amazing, but I was busy lighting candles and missed it. Luckily a friend took great photos for me to enjoy.

The sun sets right on our road.

As the sun disappeared it looked like a tribute to the universities I attended (orange and blue!)

Shiny.

Anyway, most of the ranch residents are doing well, but we’ve discovered a new chicken killer, our resident harrier. No wonder they call them chicken hawks. Sigh. But, as always, we have a plan. Since that hawk only goes after them out in the lawn, we’re going to keep the chickens cooped up for a while.

A project!

The newly arranged coop is getting its fancy new roof. Once it’s done, the residents will get locked in. That will annoy Gertie the Guinea a lot, but we want him alive! And hopefully it will remind my buddy Bertie where she should lay her eggs.

Harvey was a great supervisor, I’m told.

And to end on a happier note, I got home early enough today to play with Apache and Fiona. Apache was thrilled, and showed it his usual way.

Oh boy! I get to play with Suna, after I pee.

We got to go for a nice walk, and then I got him to run and trot around for a while. He seems in good shape.

As we were trotting, Fiona got all excited and started galloping around us in circles, hee-hawing away. After four or five circuits, Apache and I turned around to trot back. Fiona then zoomed into the race and began bellowing at Ralph’s cows.

I was wondering if I would ever get her back in the pen, but when Apache and I went in, she barreled in with us. I guess the both had some fun! So did I.

Enter Here for Surprises and Adventures

Hmm, the adventures thing may be exaggerated a bit, but I did get a new gate to go from our part of the property to the rest of the ranch. In addition, Chris smoothed all the dirt that had been disturbed when running the water line, and did a bit of grading, too. The chicken house area looks marvelous.

It’s all smooth now. At the rate the Bermuda grass grows, it will be covered in a week to ten days. Notice the feathers on the ground, which I mentioned in my previous post. It’s your fault, Bruce.

The highlight of the day was seeing this big gate that swings open mightily and allows me to easily head to see the horses. We had the gate already, so it didn’t cost anything. It’s very sturdy on the hinge side, since Chris drilled a big ole bolt through the roof support pillar. The other side is only temporary. The fencing project is not done, but at lease those of us who have to go into that pasture can do it easily (thus, Jim could drive the riding mower over the the horses to mow this morning).

I can now go from here to there without crawling under a fence or climbing over a fence and nearly knocking it over.

The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.

That man cracks me up. And there’s Alfred before I pulled those clumps of hair out.

Surprises and Adventures

I’ve used the new gate to go visit the horses twice already. Last night, I went to join Sara to feed them, and I got quite a surprise. In the field where the 18 cows should be, there were just three cows, each with a little white baby.

Who the heck are they?

These are not the 18s. First, they were afraid of me. Second, their ear tags were in the left ear, not the right. Um, where were my friendly cow buddies? Where was 18-1, bravest calf ever?

As I walked up to the barn, the Vrazels were driving by. They warned me of another surprise, a large cow and her newborn calf were in the pens. I said, hey, um, where are the 18s? Tyler laughed and laughed. “They’re in Oklahoma!”

Oklahoma? Yep, they sold them all and trucked them off when I was at work one day. I didn’t even get to say goodbye. Cattle ranching. Not for the sentimental. I am sure they got a HUGE payday out of those young cows, all of whom were due to calve in November. But still. Sniff.

On I went, and sure enough, there was a very large red Angus cow with a very small and shiny black Angus calf. I blurted out, “Hi, Sprinkles,” and Sara asked if I had to name everything. I guess I do. In any case, Sprinkles is cute as can be, and seems to have recovered from being sick and needing to be penned up. Mama, on the other hand, was mostly pissed off.

Sprinkles and I would like to leave, now.

She mooed and snorted and ran around until we left.

This morning, I came back to do some horse fun, around 9 am. It was NOT hot outside! But, dew drenched my shoes, since I wore the wrong ones. Sprinkles and Mama were still there. Between Sara’s dogs and Lakota having the utter gall to stand quietly tied to the gate, she was in a huff.

Lakota just stood there and ignored her. A real quarter horse! We proceeded head off down the race, to see how Apache would do. Sara rode Lakota, who plodded along like a livery stable horse and was generally uninterested in anything. I led Apache (hope to get riding permission soon). Here’s where it became and adventure, the good kind.

We walked all the way down the race, the place where he was refusing to ride earlier, and the place where he has been all nervous and pushy when we walked for the past month or two. Today, Apache walked beside me, not in front of me and not behind me. He stayed about two feet away from me. He did stop to get a mouthful of grass, but started right back up, every time. He did not crowd into me. He did not try to turn around. He did not rush ahead, or refuse to move forward.

He completely ignored all the “scary” parts of the path where there are big ruts. The scary tree got a nod. When all of the 19 heifers came thundering over to check us out and walk along with us, he and Lakota both looked at them, then kept going. The giant bull didn’t phase them. DAMN!

Sara and Lakota, with Fiona-bomb.

We then went on out to the big pasture where it floods (the bottom). We all walked and looked at stuff. Sara’s dogs came along, and no horse paid the least bit of attention. Even Fiona didn’t dawdle and pitch a fit. She followed right behind us cheerfully. Every time we went through a gate, everyone was fine. Even when Jim drove by on the lawn mower, they just stopped and looked for a minute.

WHO WERE THESE ANIMALS AND WHERE DID MY JUMPY HORSE GO?

I have no clue. Sara and I tried to figure out what was different. Well, we had Lakota instead of Spice…but Apache likes Spice. It was morning, not afternoon. He wasn’t starving. That’s all we could come up with. My attitude is the same (I am pretty calm even when he’s jumpy, to try to keep him calm).

We’re just in a good mood. What can we say?

I’m just going to have to accept that we had a wonderful morning, got lots of exercise, and ALL enjoyed ourselves (even Lakota, I think). I look forward to more of this kind of adventure and these kinds of surprises (but I do hope Sprinkles and his Mama go back to the pasture soon; she didn’t enjoy Sara and me pulling up some grass burs right next to the pen, either).

I hope you have some bright spots in your weekend!

Human-Animal Connection

I’m baffled sometimes about how humans managed to connect so deeply with some other animals.

Fiona wanted to see my sister so badly this evening that she barged into the hay area just to be near her. Why? She’s full of love and wanted to share? I don’t know. But I do know equines sense our feelings.

95% love, 5% sass.

And tonight, though I want to go to sleep, I can’t move, because two dogs are glued to me. They’ve done this all weekend, perhaps somehow sensing I could use some comfort.

Carlton is on both of my legs. Penney is glued to the right one.

Yep. There’s a real connection between humans and animals. Even the chickens! It’s made my life better.

Do you have any stories?

Horse Bites and Sitting Donkeys at Sunset

I’m still laughing inside after a fun evening romp with our trusty steeds, even though there was some drama in the middle. And, um, my hand hurts.

We met at 7:30 to do our evening horse chores together, which we always enjoy. Everything went fine, and we paused afterwards to watch Spice and Lakota walking together like old friends, and to look at how beautiful the sunset made sone eastern storm clouds look.

Romantic cattle chute

Suddenly, we heard coughing, rather loud coughing. Exchanging a look, we hurried toward the sound. There was Apache, continuing to cough. He was a great example of how coughs spread droplets, as we could see spray going way out.

See the moon up there?

Where was that spray landing? Why, on the hay bales on the other side of the fence, the ones encased in green netting. Uh oh. We zipped into the paddock, where Sara opened his mouth. My job was to see if there was any green stuff. Like the non-horse person I am, I stuck my hand in, to feel.

That wasn’t smart. I discovered just how powerful horse jaws are and how sharp their teeth are. Its just a little chomp, but I have a feeling it will look worse tomorrow.

I’ve put ice on it.

Sara gave Apache a treat, and he ate it just fine, so he dodged that bullet. I leaned on him to get the owie out of my hand and thank him for being okay. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement.

Whee

Fiona was done with all the drama, and decided to roll in her favorite dust patch. I was so glad I could get some pictures.

I have crazy ears.
Time to get up!

When she was done, she sat and rested for a while. We couldn’t stop laughing at her pose. She looked at us like we were crazy. Apache kept coming between us to make sure we were okay.

I’m very proud of this belly!

Then the wind came up, and we all ran around like kids. Me, Sara, Apache, Fiona. Just living for the moment. I’m still having fun!

Come back, we want more fun!

It’s been a good day. Sending love to all. Back to icing my hand.

World’s Hottest Socially Distant Photo Shoot

What? I had visitors? I was careful! My work friend, Heather, and her daughter, Emily, wanted to come see our ranch animals, especially Rip in his baby adorableness. We figured if we were mostly outdoors and wore masks, we could safely manage it.

So they drove up, and even brought me my mail from work AND a chocolate pound cake. Homemade. Yep. It’s divine.

Horses and donkeys are on the mantel at the moment.

I have them a tour of the new office, which was a lot of fun. All my animal stuff went over well with Emily, who rides hunter-jumper and volunteers at a very cute farm. And all the shiplap, metal, and brick!

After the tour.

Then it was off to the ranch! It’s good they used to have a Great Dane, because it made all the dogs palatable. Alfred LOVED them. Heather couldn’t get his picture, because he kept going back and forth between the two of them.

Since I got no dog pictures, here’s a leaf-footed bug Emily found.

We then headed to see the chickens. That was sort of sad, since we discovered Butternut had passed away. I think the others huddled on top of her and she overheated. I couldn’t figure out what to do, so I put her in the garage fridge. Sigh. the hottest day of the year is not a good day to get chickens.

Bye, little one. I’m am glad they’ll replace her, and maybe I can get another one.

Heather took a zillion pictures (actual total, 127). Many were of Fancy Pants, who let Emily carry her all over the place. It was really fun watching the chickens with Emily. Here are just a couple of my favorites of her chicken photos.

Off we went to see the cutest calf ever, Baby Rip. That was also a teen animal lover’s dream come true. Since I wasn’t holding a dead pullet, I could get a couple of pictures.

Calf love.

Of course, Heather got a real keeper with the good camera!

Beautiful baby! Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

Here are a couple more of my pictures. Rip is so curious and cute!

Rip wasn’t sure about Vlassic.
Look at my cuteness!

We saved the best for last, and headed over to the horses. Guess who they loved? Fiona! She and Apache were both on their best behavior.

It’s because I am cute and nice. Photo by Heather Westmoreland.

We had a lot of fun trying to get glamour photos of them with Emily. Neither of them was real interested in getting in the good light, of course. After all, it was 104 degrees outside! But, we persevered. Here are some highlights (the last three are by me, the rest by Heather).

My favorite picture, maybe ever, of me and Apache was taken by Heather, and I am going to try to get a print of it.

Me and my buddy. Eight years ago today I learned to put his halter on.

Everyone was having a great time, so we rewarded Apache and Fiona with some grazing time over by the cabin, and went over to see the 18 cows. Guess who was front and center, as always? 18-1. A few of the others also came up to say hi.

Before we left, I asked Heather to take some pictures of R45, since she is getting way up there for a mama cow. She hasn’t had a calf in a couple of years, and is in her decline. But she sure produced some great calves! And she’s still built like a 1970s Buick. Big and wide.

We fed the horses and Big Red, then headed back to the house as the sun was going down. I had a lot of fun talking to Emily about all the supplements the horses get, and she told me a lot about the farm where she volunteers and the place where she rides giant warmbloods. I’m glad Heather is giving her these opportunities to work with animals.

And I’m glad to have given Heather some opportunities to take photos, because she’s taken some real beauties where Emily rides. Looking forward to more! You can see more photos on Facebook, since Heather tagged me on the ones she uploaded.

This makes the ranch look fancy!

My heart is full from getting to show off my animal friends, and I am so glad it was so breezy outside. If we had germs, they all got blown away! Tomorrow, I’m looking forward to getting replacement hens (Butternut2, perhaps?).

Why Apache Hurt So Badly

Before I explain that, I want to share that Apache, my beloved paint gelding, is feeling a whole lot better. He’s able to be in the little pasture with the poor quality grass 24/7 again. The next goal would be to get to hang out with the other horses again, but that might not happen.

How we know he’s feeling fine again is a little story. Sara and I were doing horse chores together Saturday night. She remembered she needed to pick some peppers over by the cabin, so we walked Apache over there as part of his exercise program, such as it is. I dropped his lead to let him graze over by the old chicken coop, while we went over to the vegetable garden. I got all excited over some overripe tomatoes for the chickens, and didn’t think about Apache.

Suddenly, he made that horse alarm sound. I turned around to see him take off trotting down the drive, Arabian tail flying high. Next, I heard loud braying on the other side of the huge bales of silage. Apparently, Fiona had panicked because she couldn’t see Apache.

This is the face me made. I didn’t get any actual photos of the event, since I was busy making sure he was all right.

As I followed him, I saw Fiona breathlessly arrive, having been “stuck” in the race (not really). They still appeared a bit wound up, and sure enough, they took off again, heading to the other two horses, who were nearby in their pasture. THIS is when I knew Apache felt okay. He proceeded to not just trot, but canter over there, with a few added jumps. Obviously his feet felt good.

The two of them visited the other horses, then came back to me and Sara, breathing hard and ready to go back in their area and eat their dinner. Yep, he’s feeling better.

Evidence of Pain

Yesterday, we were looking at Apache’s feet, and it was really easy to see a line, about an inch above the end of his hooves. When Sara picked up his front feet, we could easily see where his hoof wall had separated from the inner part. That’s why he could barely walk for so long. Ow!

See those black lines? Pretty obvious.

Luckily, hooves grow out, and now the separated area seems to be in the part he can’t feel anymore (like the ends of our fingernails versus the nail beds). I’m glad we were able to help him and keep the issue from becoming chronic.

Those cracks near the front edge are what hurt.

Now we have to get some muscle back on him, and make sure he doesn’t get any thinner. Wow, this is the first time we’ve ever had THAT weight problem on him!

The sun has now set on this issue. Are you tired of my sunsets yet?

Hey, Hay!

I think the long saga of me needing hay for Apache is over for a while, at least. It’s nice to have kind Master Naturalist friends to come to my rescue.

I thought I was getting square bales from Pamela, who lives nearby, but it turned out her baling guy would make no fewer than 200 bales (understandably). I just don’t have the funds for that.

Pre-moved hay and great sign.

So then my other Master Naturalist friend, Cindy, said she had some old hay for my preferred price (her new hay was too expensive, and besides, the older the better for Apache). That’s probably the best for us, anyway.

That is one neat tack room.

So, after work, Chris and I took a trailer down to Cindy’s place, which is even more beautiful than I imagined. It’s a Suna Dream Property. While I enjoyed her Tennessee Walking Horses, Chris loaded the hay with the help of another Master Naturalist, Sam, and another nice helper.

They’d already taken the hay out of the hayloft, so it went quickly.

We got to look around and chat, too, which was so nice. I miss my friends! It was worth sweating away in masks! It’s a fine bonus to getting the hay. Also, I was so busy looking around and chatting that I didn’t get many pictures.

I also didn’t get any pictures of unloading the hay. At least here’s a picture or two of the loaded hay.

I went to get Lee’s brother a burger, and the onion rings took so long that I totally missed unloading the hay! But the food was good, so yay. And I did get photos of the beautiful stacks Chris made.

Speaking of beautiful, I tried to get a gorgeous picture of Fiona and yet another fine sunset, but every time I stepped back to take a picture, she followed me. This is my best try!

Here I come, Mommy.

By the way, my friends’ beautiful horse property is for sale. Want to bring your horses and come live near me?

This DID Go as Planned (Yay Apache)

One thing went really well, yesterday, and that was all my interactions with the equine family members.

When I went out to let Apache and Fiona out to graze, Fiona followed me out the gate and acted like she wanted to hang out. So, I had some bonding time with her. I got her all brushed and pretty, then we went for a nice walk together.

I decided to come on into the tack area, to see what Big Red’s food tasted like.

Fiona’s really improved on her walking on a lead lately, and it was a pure joy to go out and about with her. I decided to try to take some nice pictures of her, but she wasn’t very cooperative.

We had a nice visit from Spice and Lakota, who were in the next pasture. They seemed genuinely glad to see Fiona, though Lakota will NOT get close to the electric fence. I think he’s had a bad experience or two.

In the evening, I came back to meet with Sara and put Fiona and Apache back in what I am now calling the Pen of Deprivation (no grass, no fun). Apache had been out four whole hours. We tried taking him on a walk down the dreaded race, and he showed no signs of lameness.

I can even walk over the poles. Yay me. And I am so skinny. I want grass.
I just had to share this picture of Spice being really happy to see me. She’s a good girl.

In fact, he started acting like his old self and not behaving well. I was thrilled to see him acting “normal” and got to work correcting his pushing and rushing. Then, when we got to the part of the race he hurt himself on before, he said it was time to stop. I think he stepped awkwardly on a rut.

I asked him if his foot hurt, and he pawed the ground. I took that as a yes. So, to end on a good note, I had him walk up to me, and we happily turned around and went toward home. He walked just fine on the way back.

Sara and I agree that between his obvious better spirits and the really crappy shape our grass is in, he can probably be turned out half the day or so. That will make both him and Fiona much happier. This fills me with joy! I may even get to ride again!

Fingers Crossed for Mr. Horse

I’ve been being really careful with Apache since that day he couldn’t walk earlier this week. He’s rested and had some more pain meds.

We like hay.

This morning when I gave them their hay, I noticed him walking over to pester the chicken. Yes!

Tonight Chris and I went to feed the horses, and cows were getting moved, so I needed to take Apache and Fiona out. Apache walked like a normal horse and didn’t try to stop every three steps to eat. Whew.

Also. Sunset. Mmm.

He just seemed happy to be out with all of us humans (Ralph and Chris and Tyler were all talking about fencing). Honestly, just spending time with Fiona and Apache is good for my soul.

Who wouldn’t love this face?

We did get an appointment with Trixie to come out Monday and try out a boot. After that, if he still needs more, we’ve had some great other veterinary suggestions to try, so we won’t stop our battle with navicular disease.

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Thanks from me, too.