Apache, my beautiful Arabian/Quarter Horse cross, had a pretty crappy 2020, just like us people did. He ate too much fresh green grass this time last year and he went lame (foundered). Since then, he has spent a long time recovering, as I’ve documented in my blog (just search for Apache).
Since he’s declared better by Trixie the horse foot expert, we’ve been working with him. He’s so trim and fit that I hardly recognize him. Really, he’s lost weight in his face and looks more Arabian now. And Sara and I have both been working gently and carefully, and sure enough, he’s back to his old self!
Sara rode him for three days this week, then I rode him yesterday with her on Lakota. It went very well, so today we tried adding another element, Spice (who has back issues and isn’t rideable now) following with us, ponied alongside good ole Lakota. What a fun idea, or maybe not, if it makes a mess.
Luckily, it worked great! Sara tested her skills leading two horses, and I got to practice being calm when Apache had other ideas from me.
It was fun seeing how well he’s behaving and how relaxed and curious he was today. It was like we were in 2019. We all went all over the bottom land and up hills. Apache wanted to go ahead of the others (Lakota is not speedy).
We looked at stuff like ponds and the creek. Then we spent the whole way back going over every limb and log we encountered. What fun!
There’s still stuff to work on, of course, but today was fun for all. It’s all I ever wanted most of my life, a horse to have fun on and learn with. And one who is sweet and loving to me.
And smells like horse sweat. Mmm. Sara’s and my favorite perfume.
On yesterday’s horse ride, Spice didn’t seem to feel well. So, today Sara trotted out (ha, no trotting involved) Lakota to ride. First she groomed him, and the amount of hair he was shedding surprised us. Sara’s vest changed colors! We tried to tell him a cold front is coming, and it’s too early to shed.
Apache proudly showed off his trotting over barriers skills, and even Lakota eventually got more interested, and off we went.
We cheerfully headed off down the race, with Lakota plodding away. We got to the end, where Apache was sad, but I was happy to see that the tree limbs that attacked me last week had been trimmed. Thanks, Sara and Ralph!
When we went through the gate, Apache was not happy. I told Sara it was probably because Spice wasn’t with him. She agreed. We walked a bit, but Apache was a bit squirrelly. He hit his limit.
Lakota, meanwhile, was having a great time exploring. He tried to be a good role model, but Apache said, nope.
So, we went back, then tested Apache’s limits going the other direction. Sure enough, he did fine until he hit his limit. Coincidentally, it was where he could no longer see Spice.
So, I now know what I’ll be working on with him. We will be building confidence in going places without Spice. I’ll see if Fiona counts as company or not. Sara has some good ideas for how to work on this, since she dealt with it a lot when she first got him. I look forward to the challenge of helping my buddy feel more comfortable.
I know my friend Sara will enjoy today’s horse story. I made it back to the ranch between meetings. It was a beautiful afternoon, so I took off to feed the horses after my last meeting of the day. I felt so good that I even jogged there. I guess the Wolf Moon DID make the world feel like a better place for me!
There were no problems feeding Apache, Fiona, and Big Red, who enjoyed their hugs (not the chicken) and grub. Then, I went over with the food for Spice and Lakota. Hmm. They weren’t standing there waiting for me, like they usually are every afternoon!
So, I called them. I saw Spice raise her head, way at the far end of the pasture, over by Sara’s house. I called again, and the head didn’t move. I them spotted the immobile form of Lakota. Why on earth weren’t they thundering their way over to me?
I walked and walked. I got to the narrow, muddy space they have to go through to get to where I feed them. There they were, staring at me in the way that horses that are nervous stare. I called them. More staring, then turning around and going the other way. That was NOT like them.
Now I was really curious as to what was up with those two. I finally walked up to them. Lakota was pacing, turning, and breathing hard. Spice was frozen, staring across the fence.
I looked across the fence. There I saw a whole lot of robins, a couple types of sparrows, random meadowlarks, and some brush. I couldn’t imagine that rowdy robins were that scary. Was there something in the brush or the woods? Meanwhile, Lakota is breathing hard and flaring his nostrils. Spice looks like she sees a ghost. Maybe she did.
That was enough of that, so I started back, encouraging them to come with me. They did, slowly. When I got to the muddy spot, they froze again, this time staring at the wooded area they usually hang out in all day JUST FINE. I began to wonder if there were hogs in there or something. Or a bobcat. Eek.
Bravely, I went back through the squishiness. As soon as I got across, Spice decided it was time to make her escape. She zipped through the mud, followed by Lakota. Luckily no mud landed on me as she flew by me. They proceeded to leave me in their galloping wake as they beelined toward the water trough and area where we feed them.
I looked carefully for unfamiliar things as I walked back. Nope, nothing was out of the ordinary that I could see. No hog evidence or any other oddities. I guess there were ghosts in the woods.
When I finally reached them, they were drinking water like crazy. I guess they’d been “trapped” over at the other side of the pasture for a long time. You can rest assured, of course, that they weren’t so frightened that they couldn’t eat. They ate just fine.
I have absolutely NO idea what the drama was all about, though I was glad to see this little trailer that had apparently brought some fill for the biggest of the potholes on the driveway to the cabin and barn. That will be fun to ride the horses near and see what they think.
I’m guessing that today you’ll be wanting to find out how our boarder horse, Lakota the elderly fancy palomino, came out after his rough time yesterday. Last we heard, he’d been sweating and heaving, and Spice was standing over him like she was guarding his life. Sara is happy to report that after he stood up and made a big poop, he walked off, normally. She did keep checking through the night.
This morning, to our great relief, he was standing under a tree with Spice, and they both had been sleeping. It was probably a rough night for them, too. They both kept yawning and yawning, and were very loving and affectionate. Poor guys.
Sara had a couple of ideas about what had happened. Her current theory (and it’s just a theory) is that he ate some of the nightshade (Silverleaf NightshadeSolanum elaeagnifolium) that had been mown in the pasture (because she is allergic to it). Apparently, horses and cattle don’t eat it when it is alive, but for some reason think it’s tasty when it’s cut and dried. I hope that’s all it was.
Thanks to me looking up alternative veterinarians, Sara was able to get in touch with Dr. Brinlee, who works with Milam Touch of Love, and while he couldn’t come last night, we are scheduling him to come soon (Apache’s teeth need to be looked at, too). In any case, we were both really relieved to find two horses standing under the trees this morning!
After this, my morning went downhill and my anxiety went uphill, but that’s the way the circle of life goes, I guess. As I approached our gate, I saw lots and lots of black birds in the pasture. What, a crow convention? As I got closer, I realized it was vultures. I also saw this.
I drove over to where the feasting birds were, and found one of the three calves was no longer with us, and hadn’t been for a day or two. That certainly startled me. I don’t know what happened, and I probably won’t, but it was sad and a bit of a shock to see him laying there. Circle of life strikes again.
On the other hand, the chickens are all still here! Haven’t lost one in weeks! And Hedley seems to have given up on being broody, but hasn’t started laying again. I hope she does. She doesn’t seem sick or anything. They all got quite a treat out of a bunch of tomatoes Kathleen donated to them.
Even Buttercup and Butternut ate a tomato, which is a first. Maybe they’ll start branching out and eating more than just their feed and only their feed soon. I do enjoy them, and they cheered me up.
THEN I went to drive to the office. There was a giant wasp in the car, the black kind with red wings (sorry, no ID). I usually don’t worry about them, but two of my friends have had bad wasp reactions in the last week, and it started buzzing my head. As I tried to shew it away, I ran off the road. Luckily, I just drove through a lot of long grass, and probably made County Road 140 passersby curious. I am just not having a calm day so far! I’m still shaky. On the other hand, I did find some pretty groundcherries in the overgrown office lawn. These are clammy groundcherries (Physalis heterophylla).
So, I will go do my other Saturday writing tasks and breathe deeply. Has anything startled you today?
Two quick horse things. The farrier was in again on Tuesday. There were so many things that came up, I had to take notes. The most interesting finding was his hooves. She said his hooves were full of blood that had pooled there when he foundered, which may have been long before we realized it.
Sara and I had the aha moment that perhaps the reason he was so hard to ride and kept insisting on turning around was sore feet. At that time, they looked fine. From what we deduce, the damage didn’t show up, because it was hidden.
No wonder he’s like a different horse! And I was right that something must have caused him to start acting so weird. Poor guy. The best news, though, is that his hooves are growing in really well. Hooray.
So, this evening I was feeling all good about stuff. We even saw a really pretty rat snake, thanks to a vigilant cattle dog spotting it.
Poor Lakota feels bad. He keeps lying down and rolling. He tried to eat, but laid back down. We couldn’t get him up, so we called his owner.
Mary said he’d colicked before, and since then, he’s occasionally done that lying down thing. Still, we’re worried. Sara has called many vets, so I hope she hears from one soon. We sure can’t get him up to go to Texas A&M.
Say a little prayer for poor Lakota. I hope it’s just his occasional issue. He’s a nice old guy. If it’s his time, that’s fine. He knows he’s loved. Spice is watching him. And Sara keeps checking.
She says he finally got up, pooped, and walked off normally. Well. Do I worry or not? Horses!
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.
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).
The entire family was pretty giddy about getting the new fence, as Lee shows here.
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.
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.
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!
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).
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!
This is a two-part part 2. Looks like it will be two posts.
The Horse Part
Like a good optimist should, I got on that horse again today. I was a little concerned about my attitude, not because of Apache, but because I’d been reading Facebook and becoming more and more sad/angry/disgusted/insert other negative emotion here. So, I walked to the barn and put thoughts of calm, peace and love in my mind, buoyed by some deep breathing.
Sara and I had a backup plan today. She was going to ride Lakota, our boarder horse, and I’d ride Apache. If all went well, great (she predicted today would be wonderful). If it didn’t, we could switch horses (I am not competent to ride Spice, I’m told).
We started going down the Scary Row of Trees, where Apache has always tended to want to go back or rush. It took a while, but we got him calmly walking, did a bunch of practice circles, then walked in a serpentine formation all the way back. He did okay (not great), but he was paying attention. Everyone was brave.
So, I declared we would now try the race again. Brave! That lasted about 20 yards. Apache again was having nothing to do with walking down that path. I spent a rather exhausting 20 minutes where he simply didn’t do a darn thing I asked him to do. There was backing, turning, going sideways, head flinging, ear pinning. WTH?
Fiona, Lakota, and Sara just watched me patiently coax and prod, and urge him a LOT harder than usual. So, I got off again. I managed to only briefly lose my temper, so I consider that a success. Sara said I did way better in being patient yet persistent than most people. Probably those saintly natural horsemanship trainers would be more patient, but then, they would be better at “reading the horse” and figure out what’s up.
Sara got on Apache, and I walked Lakota behind them (so I got to hang out with a nice horse and get some exercise). I can’t say I was pleased, but I guess I was relieved to see that Apache acted the same with Sara, though she had more tricks she could do (because she would not fall off). She eventually got him tired enough that he went forward halfway down the race. She said that was enough, because he was still all worked up.
I got to a gate I could use to get myself up on Lakota, so I did get to ride him back. That was nice, and it was brave to get up on a new horse out in the middle of nowhere on a wiggly gate. He didn’t act weird or anything, and followed my cues just fine.
Meanwhile, Apache never did settle down, though he did at least walk back. He was coated with sweat and only calmed down enough to walk in one circle at a calm pace, which we declared SUCCESS!
Once Sara dismounted, he was his normal self, although sweaty. As I gave him a bath, I realized I felt nothing but love for him, and curiosity about what was causing his problem. I wasn’t angry at all! I wish I had that attitude when my kids were small!
Interestingly, Sara had read a post from someone in a group she’s in who said their horse started acting extra barn-shy and strangely when a new gelding was introduced into the herd. So, maybe there is going to be a time of getting used to Lakota. Hmm.
So, what being brave and doing hard things the past two days has taught me is that just getting through a challenge counts as success. I am not going to give up on Apache, but will work through the issue, however long it takes, so we will both feel good about ourselves and learn a lot.
Will this attitude hold for challenges outside my immediate community?
Here’s another fine thing that happened this weekend; we added a beautiful new friend to our little herd of equines, Lakota the Perfectly Perfect Palomino Pony. That is NOT his real name (I don’t know what it is, actually), and he is also not a pony, though he is of the smaller quarter horse type.
Sara, my horse partner and ranch neighbor, and I had debated this for a while, with her doing the most debating with herself. We only have so much pasture and don’t want to overload it. But, I have been promised fencing that will allow horses to hang out on our side of the ranch, which will help a lot with that issue.
Besides, Lakota is a horse who deserves to hang out with us. He already knows Spice, since they were owned by the same person for a while, and had spent time together in training, I think. He is beautifully trained by the same Parelli Natural Horsemandhip Method* trainer who trained all the horses we own, Kerri April, and used to belong to one of her family members when he was a fancy equine athlete. This means we don’t have to learn new ways to work with him; he’ll probably help train ME.
Sara got Spice from her friend Mary when Apache’s occasional lameness issues made it hard for her to to the horsemanship activities she wanted to on him. Mary had found Spice to be a bit much too handle, but she loved Spice very much and only wanted her to go to a fellow Parelli-trained owner. Sara was it! I’ve enjoyed Apache, Sara has enjoyed Spice, and all has been well.
Now Mary is moving to the suburbs and won’t be able to keep horses at her place anymore. She sold her others, but there was Lakota,** too old to sell as a consistent mount. She just wanted him to have a happy last few years. We said okay.
Now, Sara had never seen Lakota before, and was just happy to help out, since Mary said she’d pay all his expenses. We had enjoyed our old buddy Pardner very much, and he kept the other horses calm. We had hoped Lakota would be similar.
On Saturday, Mary and a friend brought him in their trailer. Sara took him and brought him down to the horse paddock. I could not believe what I saw. This may be the prettiest horse I ever saw in person, at least conformation-wise. He is built to be a barrel racer or other show horse. Compact and muscular (even at his age). His palomino coat is soft and shiny and somehow smells like vanilla.
Now, I’ve always been told that you get a horse based on personality first and looks second. DANG. He exudes peace and kindness, just like Pardner did! He is wonderful with people. How would he be with horses, we wondered?
This is the next amazing part. He went over to Fiona, who was wandering around looking well-groomed (briefly). They touched noses and sniffed each other. Hey. Hey.
When we put him in the pens next to where Apache and Spice were, he was all excited, as were they. He and Apache touched noses, then nibbled each other’s shoulders. Hey. Hey.
Spice jumped up and down and made mare noises. She recognized him! It took her a while to calm down, but soon everyone was standing nose to nose, happy as they could be. We left them alone to get used to each other with a fence separating them.
Later that day, I got to ride Apache with the bit and bridle Mary conveniently sold to me, which was the same kind Sara was already teaching him with. I did not fail! I did it (and yes, I know there are other options; this stuff is all in Sara’s hands, not mine, since she’s training him).
After the ride, when everyone had eaten, we put everyone in the big pasture together. So much joy ensued that it brought happy tears to our eyes (yay, happy tears). They all ran around, then the paints showed Lakota all around the area. Then they suddenly realized they were in the GOOD grass and started eating away.
It appears that Lakota is in good enough to do trail rides with us, though he has some heat issues and we will have to watch him. In any case, they all bonded really fast and don’t like being separated. That’s not bad. We are grateful to Mary for letting us share this grand old gentleman. He may not be perfect, but his introduction to our herd certainly was!
*I do not endorse any particular natural method of training horses. I think they are all good.
**Why we end up with all these horses with Native American tribe names is beyond me.
Getting in touch with your emotional truth, by processing feelings to improve the human condition in the 21st century. Living out loud by my motto,"Triumphing over Trauma" 🌈
In light and in shadow, always with ❤