Flags, Friends, and Horse Fun

I’m happy that the season for horse clinics and shows has started up again, because I’d been feeling isolated and worrying that I couldn’t do much this year, since Drew isn’t quite ready to show under saddle. But hey, I have my old buddy, Apache!

Don’t forget me!

He’s been blossoming, so I figured I might as well see what he can do. He did ok in a clinic last year, so I dragged him out of his dewy morning grazing and took him to a clinic with Tarrin, to see if we could do the functionality patterns and obstacles.

Must I?

We were in the first group, and definitely the least experienced. And it didn’t start out well, when he decided he didn’t want to do what I asked, but after a little calming activity, he turned around! We managed to complete the functionality test just fine for our first tries. I think we had fun.

I wasn’t scared of the blue tent or the other horses.

After the patterns we all tried something new, working with a flag. It’s a thing people like to do on horseback. Tarrin introduced it slowly, having us follow her while she carried the flag.

The riders whose horses who did ok with the flag then got to try carrying it and doing a figure 8. We did well, and I learned it’s hard to use your feet and hands to direct the horse while carrying a flag, so you need to use your body. What fun!

If a horse just isn’t up to being ridden, though, em riders can dismount and walk them, so they don’t forfeit the whole thing. Sully did fine with this, and there was another horse who needed this option. They can keep working on it!

Other obstacles also got worked on, different ones for each group, which grew more advanced throughout the day. We enjoyed practicing figuring out the best path between obstacles, which differs whether you’re doing the precision phase or the timed phase. We did ok. I was just happy Apache was up for 2.5 hours with me on him.

I did get tired, but I got to relax in this spa-like stall.

I enjoyed watching all the groups of horses and riders. You can learn a lot watching others. I also learned in the “class” part of the clinic, where Tarrin showed us things that can happen to horses that aren’t visible from the outside.

This horse’s entire lumbar region was fused solid. That made it hard to move!

Sara was a good sport and helped demonstrate how pulling back even gently on reins makes it hard for horses to move. I had to unlearn that habit. And I’m still learning.

Tarrin is being a good rider here. So Sara is smiling.

I’m feeling lots better about this year now. Apache and I will have fun and work to improve our skills. And maybe Drew will get to join us later. I’m sure grateful for this horse community!

Gratuitous picture of snoozing Sully. Gestation is hard.

If you want to join us, check out Working Horse Central.

Mabel Is a Real Horse

After a year and a half, our Mabel has crawled out of her shell, gotten into shape, and started to act like a real horse, not a sick, frightened shadow. I’m so happy for her to have possibilities of a healthy, productive life. Wow. I’m having trouble expressing how much today meant to me.

Voluntarily being touched

She’s been through injuries, illnesses, and emergencies since Kathleen rescued her and I started helping out. She was so thin and sad. She’s not fat now, but she has muscles and is interested in life around her. And here’s the thrill: she let Jackie do bodywork on her!

Sure, you can massage me.

Jackie was so gentle with Mabel that she completely win her over. With every move, Jackie asked Mabel’s permission and she kept saying yes. Her neck got stretched, her back got worked on, and even her legs and feet were rubbed and lifted. Mabel was gracious and calm. Just wow.

I trust this human.

Mabel is learning that humans can make her feel good. She already knew her farrier makes her feet feel better, and now she knows Jackie makes her body feel good. This way, if she needs more intense stuff later, she can trust that good stuff will follow. I’m grateful that Mabel is getting treated so well!

I believe you won’t hurt my leg.

After the session was over, Mabel even stayed with us a while. She felt safe! I can see potential in Mabel now. Even her back is looking stronger, like she can be ridden again at some point. It’s been worth the time and money to see her improvement.

What about me?

Yes, Drew and Apache got worked on, too, and both are improving. Drew needs to stretch his legs frontward and Apache needs to stretch backwards. Huh. Drew got lots of deep work done and found it very relaxing.


Apache was more alert, because he was watching bulls and trucks, but he seemed happy. He is really improving in his conformation. I’m proud of the old guy!

I can stand straight. I just don’t want to!

He is a delight to me, just knowing how hard we’ve both worked and how far we’ve come. I’m happy to keep getting him worked on to continue the progress his whole team of helpers have enabled him to make!

Looking at cows. Listening to Jackie.

I wish I was as good to my own body as I am to the horses. I could use some bodywork! But I do have eye doctor and dentist appointments in March. And maybe the cough will go away someday.

Drew’s Growing

It’s been a while since I updated you on my teen horse Drew. (Teen in horse years; he’s 4.5.) I was worried that he wasn’t going to do very well, since between weather, travel, and illness, he hasn’t done much work.

That’s okay. I just want food and Mabel to run with. That’s his food he spilled on the ground.

Today was the first time I’d had an in-person lesson in a long time. I just took Drew, because I knew preparing two horses to go would tax my breathing. Luckily, he was so good that I ended up enjoying grooming all his shedding hair off and I didn’t cough much.

I got him all shiny.

I was looking at him and noticed he’s getting more muscles in his neck and chest. His tail has grown, too. And he’s mentally better as well. He handled trailering well today.

Stopping on a dime.

As you can see, Tarrin rode him a lot, but I was able to do his ground work except when she had a little chat with him about keeping his head down and being in control. Wow. When he paid attention his footwork was beautiful.


He worked very hard, even though he mostly walked. He was walking with good form, which takes energy. He was breathing hard and looked so sweet. He really tries.

I’m trying in more ways than one

I did get to ride, though, and it was so good to have some coaching and affirmation that I’m doing the right things with him. Tarrin even said he’s improved in some ways!

Must I turn?

He even leg yielded well for me. I was pleased that I held up long enough to accomplish things, and managed not to get sunburned, too. I’m glad I remembered to wear a shirt with sleeves.

Good boy.

Like I said, getting confirmation that I’m on the right track was really helpful. I got the same for my health issues, too, when one of my friends who happens to be trained as a physician’s assistant offered to go over my symptoms and share some things she found about bird-related illnesses.

This, and Fiona, cheered me up.

She pointed out how rare the chicken-related illnesses are, and that my lack of fever helps tule them out. Her guess is that what I inhaled triggered an asthma-like reaction in my lungs, which may not deteriorate since I got the antibiotics in. She also told me how to most effectively use the inhaler, which no one had done before. All in all, I feel less worried. It sure is nice when people offer to help like that!

Speaking of chicken issues, either Henley or Billie laid a dud egg today!

I do plan to wear dust masks around chicken poop and hay, for sure. But I feel less concerned.

Now I’ll move on to my next concern, which is job related. I’ll be fine no matter what happens.

Spring Can Be Sickening

Spring is in the air, at last. The weather is becoming warmer (perhaps too warm for February, but never mind – it’s nice for riding horses), birds are migrating north, and the days are getting longer. All those things are welcome to everyone who had to deal with the harsh surprises the ice storm brought.

I was happy to see that the cranes are now back in the skies, going the other way, and the killdeer have come back. Meadowlarks are also making themselves very well known.

All the tiny spring flowers are blooming, which you can see if you do “belly botany” like my botanist friend always recommended. It’s so good to see them.

While uploading some of the photos I took to iNaturalist, I took the time to see if one of my theories about what’s growing on our grassy areas was true. Sure enough, chickweed is so named because it’s used as chicken feed. It’s even grown as a crop in some places! Common Chickweed (Stellaria media) is darned interesting for a “weed.”

 It is native to Eurasia and naturalized throughout the world. This species is used as a cooling herbal remedy, and grown as a vegetable crop and ground cover for both human and poultry consumption.
Stellaria media is edible and nutritious, and is used as a leaf vegetable, often raw in salads. It is one of the ingredients of the symbolic dish consumed in the Japanese spring-time festival, Nanakusa-no-sekku.


I feel a lot better, because for the past few weeks I’d been feeding it to the chickens along with the henbit I’d read was good for them to eat (and whatever else comes up when I pull it up). They eat it like crazy.

This is some good stuff.

Speaking of the hens, they also know it’s spring. Everyone has grown all their feathers back nicely, even Blondie, who had been bald on her back from the rooster’s attentions. And Betsy, the one who lays blue eggs, has ramped up production again. I think half the chickens are laying now (at least two of them are old enough that I don’t think they’ll lay at all). For a while I was just getting one or two a day, a white and a tan, but now I’m getting three…maybe up to five with the coming of spring.

The other great thing about spring coming is that the days are getting longer. That means I can get rides in on both horses after I finish work, which may help out with the fact that I’m not feeling very confident lately, especially with Drew, who is needing a lot of “firm corrections” as Tarrin calls them (he rushes rather than walking beside me when he sees grass, and just seems irritable). I am glad I can spend more time with my equine buddies, nonetheless.

So, why do I say spring is sickening? It turns out that I made myself sick when I was cleaning out the henhouse last week.

Let this be a lesson to you all: when you are sweeping up bits of hay and straw filled with chicken poop, wear a mask. I did not.

Thanks to that error in judgment, I now seem to have some kind of lung infection. I found myself wheezing and gurgling when lying down a couple of days ago, and since then, my lungs seem to be filled with fluid. At first it was clear, so I wasn’t too worried, but it’s getting worse, so I have an appointment to get my lungs looked at. Since I have NO other symptoms of illness (COVID negative, before you ask), all I can figure is I inhaled things that displeased my bronchial tubes.

Now, I live in Milam County, Texas, land of few medical services. I had an appointment for this morning, but it turns out the Internet is down at the local office. That’s so Cameron. I might be able to get in today in the next town over if my PA goes over there; otherwise, I have to cram an appointment with the other provider in tomorrow (my busiest day of the week), amid getting my spouse to the chiropractor for his messed up back, taking him to his Rotary meeting, and grabbing lunch with my friends. I predict all of that won’t happen.

So, readers: wear a mask when working in a dusty, enclosed environment like a chicken house. Or don’t ever clean it (not a good idea, since it gets stinky).

Animals, Accidents, etc.

Today was fun until it wasn’t. I mostly practiced Tunisian crochet, thanks to a little book called Tunisian Crochet Workshop that I found on Kindle for free. It has good photos and clear instructions, so I was able to get through a bunch of different stitches on a sampler.

Left to right, Tunisian double crochet, extended stitch, mesh stitch, reverse stitch, knit stitch, purl stitch, and simple stitch.

Simple stitch is the standard. The other ones I liked were knit, mesh, and extended. Reverse is icky. Good thing purl is similar. Anyway, now I know some stitches.

Woof woof.

I spent some time today enjoying the dogs. I always hear them in the backyard barking. I realized they were barking at cows, but today I got proof that it’s fun for all involved.

Those cattle are having fun!

The dogs bark, the mamas paw the ground, and the calves bounce up and down, trying to play. It’s so much fun to watch!

Alfred didn’t want me too close to the scary cows. When he realized I was approaching, he got between me and the action and herded me back. What a sweetie.

Ima keep you safe.

I wish Alfred had been there to protect me later. I’m having a lot of awkward moments. Yesterday I hurt my shoulder tossing saddles around. Today Drew and I got entangled in a rope and both fell down! That could have been a lot worse. He got clover stains and I hit my head and hand. No one bled.

No photos of the accident, so here are my cute Black History Month nails.

I managed to get Drew saddled and we did all our stuff just fine, so I guess we weren’t hurt too badly. But when he was free, he sure rolled a lot. Thankfully, Apache is still calm and cool, so I managed to do fine with him. I’m so grateful for him. And glad Drew is forgiving.

Tomorrow I shall spend time in the hot tub. I need it.

Playing Tourist and Reconnecting

I enjoyed hanging out with my friends last night, and was up bright and early for some Saturday morning fun. Lynn and Don took me to breakfast at a pretty and sophisticated place called Stella, with farm-to-table deliciousness. The grits and biscuits were great, as was the pecan coffee. I took photos of the decor to show to our rustic renovators in the family.

After the food fortified us, my friends took me over to Texas A&M University, a place I’d never really seen, even though I’ve lived nearby for years and even renovated a house in College Station. First we visited the very fancy Brookshire Brothers grocery store near the football stadium. This was not at all like the sad place in Cameron.

It has beer on tap and a coffee bar. Plus there’s a stage! There was nicer food, too. I got some wine and a weirdly delicious strawberries and cream Dr Pepper.

Everything in this place says 12 or Aggie. They are fond of the 12th Man. It’s a tradition.

Well, I am incapable of describing this school, its fans, or its lore, but I can describe excellent gardens. I was so happy that the next stop on my tour was a teaching garden that’s being developed on campus. This place is worth a visit if you’re ever nearby. It was fun discovering signs of spring in the series of different theme areas.

I spotted so many wildflowers growing that I could just imagine how this place will look in a few weeks. So many bluebonnets! But I found blooming trees and other plants hiding in nooks and crannies. All the pansy blossoms were a bonus!

I want to go back here and bring more friends.

Next I got a tour of the campus, which features many, many state-of-the-art athletic facilities, as you’d expect from an SEC university. Athletics rule. I also got to see some of the interesting older buildings hiding among the bland 70s buildings and a gorgeous new central campus park. It’s good to drive around a school on a weekend! I got no photos because I was busy looking.

I got out here, though.

Our final stop was the Bush Library, where Don volunteers. We didn’t go in, but I’ll go back later (been meaning to). There are always interesting exhibits. My favorite part of the grounds is this statue of horses breaking down the Berlin Wall. I’m not sure why there are horses, but the wall is cool. It has graffiti copied from the real wall. A moving tribute to some of the contributions George HW Bush made.

I appreciated this tour! I now feel like I know the area much better. But I needed to go home and visit my precious animals.

We are precious.

I’m relieved to say things are getting better with the horses after a rough re-entry. I’m slowly getting them back into their routine. Drew was a little squirrelly earlier, but today he got down to business after I made it clear he needs to focus.

I’m taking advantage of my teen status.

Apache, in the other hand, has become so consistent! I’m so proud of him. He pays attention to what I ask and just seems like he is having fun with me.

I’m relieved I’m feeling better about these guys, though I don’t think either is ready for a virtual show this quarter. Drew and I sucked last time and I still haven’t had any experience or guidance doing dressage with Apache. I think I’ll work on next quarter and take my time with my equine boys.

I’m not sure what I can do with Mabel. She is sweet but doesn’t like contact. I hope someday the decorations on her mane will fall off! I’d love to groom her but don’t want to stress her out. We will see.

Let’s also see if I can get back into my rhythm. I started a new craft, so that’s a good sign. Here’s the first Tunisian crochet I ever did correctly.

Welcome Routine

Today was the first “normal” day back at the Hermits’ Rest. It felt so good to do my normal things in the normal order. I think the animals are equally happy to be back to the routine, though I really appreciate the work my son did caregiving the ungrateful chickens and horses (he was challenged by escaping horses and hens who wouldn’t get off their eggs.

I have treated the chickens to delicious spring plants like henbit, chickweed, and this, corn gromwell, which is a great source of nutrients.

Last night it was pretty late when I got back from buying horse food (they’d run out and no one had been able to get more), so I’d quickly fed them. Today I got to enjoy the normal routine. It’s so nice to see them quietly go into their pens and wait. They were not such model citizens while I was gone. Escaping and kicking occurred. Sigh.

And I’m a bit stiff.

I’m happy to see they are dirty but ok. Once I found the bottoms of Apache’s feet, it didn’t look too bad. Sara was worried he would have thrush from the damp. No, he’s just a bit stiff.

He looks better here. I took a video to check with Tarrin, and these are screenshots. I’m lazy.

Note that you can see ribs on Apache above. It doesn’t take long to lose weight. Mabel really looks thin again, but I’ll get her full of oil and coconut again.

The horses know the days are getting longer, because they’ve started to shed. The chickens know, too, because they’re giving three eggs a day (not bad for older hens). As a reward I cleaned the henhouse. The poop and straw I cleaned out will be great composted for Sara’s garden.

Hey, we have new hay.

I had swept all the old stuff into a pile this morning, planning to sweep it out later. By the time I got back, they’d re-spread it! So, when I put hay on the clean floor, I didn’t bother to smooth it out. I knew the hens would take care of it.

Look, Billie Idyll, hay! Let’s scratch!

As I was leaving and the henhouse door was shut, I walked by and heard pecking and kicking. They were arranging the floor their way! Ah. Glad to be home.

Mysteries, Musings, and Squirrels

Today has been one that made me think a lot. I’m second guessing myself a lot since Lee went off to go back to the ranch. My plan is to stay here for another week to do a lot of meditating, walking, and introspection. So far, the introspecting is making me feel a little unhinged, but that’s to be expected, since things are going a little sideways back home, but I am staying here. Selfishly? For good reasons? I’m not sure.

I’m also having technology issues. I won’t go into how long it took me to set up a new Kindle, but it was a battle involving patronizing tech support, uncooperative hotspots, and oh never mind. And now this blogging software won’t let me resize pictures. I tried to make giant wrinkled Suna above into a small photo, but it just blurred it. They keep changing WordPress, not for the better. I’m sure that’s how the people I support at work feel about how Planview software keeps changing. Give me WordPerfect for DOS, dang it. New things can be mysterious (though I DID solve the issue with the Kindle).

At least I am fairly certain the sun will come up again tomorrow, bet my bottom dollar.

Just before sunset, I did get out and hide myself in the mysteries of the Earth, conveniently located right down the road from the condos. That’s the best part of Hilton Head; you’re never far from the wild places.

Right near the roads. Southeastern coastal forest.

I walked a long way, doing nothing but smelling the lush decay of the deep leaf litter and listening to the sweet bird song. I say sweet, because some of the little darlings sound like they are saying “sweet,” not “tweet.” There was so much to hear and see, too. There was a large flock of cedar waxwings (can’t miss that sound), two pair of eastern bluebirds, endless chickadees and wrens, the many warblers, and of course, crows and more crows. As usual in woodlands full of trees in various states of decay, I heard many woodpeckers. I did hear a hawk, too. I was happy to get close enough to photograph these two:

As I walked I noticed how varied the trees were, too. There was more than one kind of oak that I had never seen before, the long- and short-leafed pines, many palms and palmettos, the gum trees, hollies, and two types of magnolia–none of which were planted by people. I tried to let myself just be a part of this glorious variety.

Two things interrupted my reverie: first was coming across this amusing little fairy garden on the side of the path. Someone must have had a lot of fun building it, and I’m glad it’s been allowed to stay.

The other thing that disturbed me was a collection of chattering and crashing squirrels. Everywhere I turned, a squirrel was looking at me.

They didn’t seemed thrilled that I was there. So, I tried to go take a breath at a little pond by a church. But then the surrounding vegetation began to make a lot of weird noises. It actually took me a while to figure out that wide variety of squeals and screeches were squirrels. I must have been very near a nest, because they were ANGRY. So, off I went, to leave them in peace.

That wasn’t the last of the squirrel issues for the day, though. When I got home, my son told me the reason his car had stopped working right. Squirrels had filled all its cavities with acorns and chewed though his wiring. Maybe Anita is right when she says squirrels are up to no good!

Squirrels are all over the grounds here, too. They were yelling at the cornhole players beneath my balcony.

I don’t know. Maybe the squirrels were telling me to go home. First there was the ice storm, now my horses are acting up and hurt my kid. And my new car finally arrived. Sigh. I think I need to just keep breathing, quit second-guessing myself. I can’t change what happens at home or what people do. I will just watch and not let things I can’t control interrupt my peace.

Wish me luck!

Yup, Horses Make You Feel Good

I had a pretty free Saturday, so I split it between fun with yarn and fun with horses. The yarn post will be tomorrow. Today is my day to bask in my relationship with the horses.

I’ve spent a lot of time with Apache this week, mostly just hanging out with him. It really pays off, I think, because he’s so much more relaxed, yet interested in doing things lately.

Looking at his friends, but happy with me.

He seems to look forward to jumping and cantering. He seems practically athletic when we do groundwork. He looks strong and fit, not chubby and weak. I’m so happy for that.

Let’s go!!

Riding was fun. He informed me in his horsey way that my new square setup is too close to the trailer. When he stopped, I saw that he had noticed our reflection in the shiny part of the trailer front. Well, I had to agree he had a point. That looked weird.

That other horse and human look funny.

I finally, finally can relax when I ride and just focus on what we’re doing. It makes such a difference! My legs are relaxed. My arms are relaxed. I’m giving easy signals and Apache responds. He’s also relaxed, as you can see.

A relaxed horse and his cone. He stopped right there and didn’t move.

After we rode, I must have spent ten minutes just petting and talking to him, and he seemed to want to stay. Eventually Fiona indicated she was hungry, so we went in.

I got to hang out with the calves!

Drew hinted that he wanted to do something so I lunged him. He wasn’t at all into it. That was odd. I think he’s in some discomfort from playing too hard with Fiona and Dusty. Fiona had blood on a cut and Drew had some (of hers) on his neck. There is much kicking going on. So I relaxed and just spent time doing what he wanted to do, which was get his itchy head scratched. It was quite cute.

These guys wanted attention, too. It’s a new batch of young cattle.

I was all warm and fuzzy by the time we had some visitors. It was fun watching Sara’s granddaughter enjoy Fiona and Vlassic while we discussed hooves. Then the guest got to see all the dogs, which delighted her. What an animal lover she is!

I’m sure glad I had the chance to follow the leads of my horses and relax today. Oh, and by the way, no one has touched yesterday’s scary hay. I love my equine buddies.

The Great Scary Lump Mystery

Oh the poor horses! Today we looked out the front window and saw something out of place. There was a brown lump where there is usually smooth grass.

What the hay?

I looked to the left of the lump and there were the horses and Fiona. They were standing transfixed, with their heads and ears pointed at that mysterious lump. It must have been perceived as a threat.

Two seconds earlier, Apache was also staring.

I had to work so I went back in the house. When I came out to get the mail later, they were still on high alert, not letting that lump out of their sight.

Drew and Dusty are ok, but the other 3 are watching.

I walked down the driveway, cautiously approaching that threatening lump, which got less and less scary as I got closer.

Hey, that’s some hay!

I was a little confused as to how that fairly significant pile of hay got in the pasture. Then I noticed more hay on the road. Okay, so someone had lost some nice fresh hay as they went down the road. It must have been very windy to blow so far off the road??

Road hay.

I actually took Drew some of the hay, but nope, the group would NOT go anywhere near the hay pike, which is larger now, because I added the road hay. They hadn’t by feeding time. Who could blame them? It appeared out of thin air.

This didn’t appear out of thin air, but I’m finally done.

Now, did all that hay really blow into the pasture? No. The mystery was solved later when Lee casually mentioned that he’d found hay on the road on his way back from his daily walk, and tossed it in the field.


The horses aren’t sure about it, nonetheless.

something poetic

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