Monday, October 31, 2011

Alien Abductions? What are you doing up there?

So there are some things about this whole riding business that I just don't understand.

The biggest question, WHY?, is too profound for a simple horse like me to understand. I know Mother is not the only human that does this to horses, and I know some horses who even thought it was fun, so I'm not going to really delve into that question.

The thing I want to know is, what are you doing up there when it feels like the aliens are abducting you? We'll be walking along, and suddenly, Mother is just gone from my back. But her weight is still there... sort of. Super duper creepy. I can see her out of the corner of my eye, but the weight on my back feels different, and I just don't understand what is going on up there.

Then sometimes when that happens she is suddenly much farther forward, like she is leaning over my neck. I really don't like that when we go under trees, but she does it anyway. This weekend she did that and the tree branches whacked her twice and I started to Get Out of Dodge, but she sat up and said to stop and all was normal again. I wouldn't freak out Mother, if you would only stay where you are supposed to be. But how do I know tree aliens haven't grabbed you? And if they grabbed you, guess who's next? ME!

And I remember a long time ago, when I used to trot and stuff, sometimes she would rise up and down as I strode along. The first time that happened, I was very worried. Mother made me walk and rose up and down to my walk stride, which while creepy, whatever. Then she did the same thing again at trot, and it wasn't nearly as alarming. It was actually sort of fun. Leg swing, Mother swing, leg swing, Mother swing, leg swing, Mother swing, leg swing...

Where was I again?

We don't really trot anymore. Mother started riding me again last fall, and she usually hops on for 7 or 8 minutes a couple times a month. I guess it makes her happy, and I won't really complain. My leg doesn't really bother me any more after she's ridden me than it does on a normal day.

But could she please just sit down and stay there? Please?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Freedom for Comfort: Stalls

Recycled photo from last summer
Domestication requires many tradeoffs. Well, really just one, that all the others fall under: Freedom for Comfort.

In today's Freedom for Comfort installment, I'm going to tell you a little more about one of  humans' favorite Freedom-takers, the Stall.

Stalls are creepy for reasons other than the obvious lack of mobility. Most of them have solid parts up to nearly wither height, so when you are eating your hay you have to keep raising your head up to look about and make sure there are no predators at hand. Not all stalls are like that, though...

One of the hospitals I went to had a door (and a ceiling-to-floor window) that was barred, and you could still look for predators, even when you were laying down. That was nice.
Rood + Riddle Equine Hospital. Stock photo. Horse in stall is not me.

The barn with the groundhog had nice gaps between the boards between my stall and Jay's, which I thought was great. And when I came home from surgery, my stall at Aunt Marilyn's was a sectioned off part of the run-in, with two windows into the barn, so I could talk to and groom the Badger mares, and a half wall into the rest of the run in, so I could chat with Belle.
Photo from 2008. Gosh, that was a long time ago! Look how dark my face was. And note my beautiful Jeanie mare on the right... sigh.

The gate was a pipe gate with wire grid, so it was really see-throughable, and the stall was a double wide, so a lot better than normal stalls. Actually, when I lived at Uncle Jeff's, if I wasn't out with Snap my stall was a double wide there, too. That's the way I prefer if I have to be in a stall.

Another creepy thing about all too many stalls is that you can't touch anyone else. It's just you, and your own company, and four walls, and if there is no food left... I mean what do you want me to do? I could go mad in there like that! Like when I went to Equine Affair, there was nothing to look at. Solid walls on three sides, and a green wall past the front. I could smell and hear other horses, but I couldn't see anybody. Well, at times I could see the mule next to me's lower limbs and/or ears, as she attempted to scale the wall to get in with me. She didn't like the isolation, either. (Fortunately Mother spent a lot of time right outside the door with Aunt Karin, and when they were there I could put my head out and see others, and Mother took me out many times a day to graze or lunge or just walk around.)

By this point, you are wondering why any intelligent horse would be willing to subject themselves to a stall. Stalls aren't all bad. I mean, when I first met shavings, I was in love. So warm and comfortable in cold weather, compared to laying out on the frosty ground. And no backsplash! And it is convenient to have food and water right at hand. There's no bad weather, although sometimes odd noises.

To sum it up:
  • Stalls are more likely to have food
  • Stalls always have water
  • Stalls are more likely to be shady in summer
  • No one chases you when you are in a stall
  • Stalls don't have rocks in them to trip on or hurt your feet
  • There is no ice in stalls, or if there is it's just on your water bucket and the humans will come by several times a day to remove it and make sure your water is nice and warm
  • Stalls in summer have a cooling breeze box, which Mother calls a "fan"
  • In winter, there are less cold breezes in a stall

On the other hand, without a stall:
  • You can see all around you at all times, or walk to a place you can see all around you at all times
  • You can warm up by running about if you are cold
  • You can huddle next to your herdmates for warmth, like penguins
From my old Nokota home. None of these horses is me. The one kind of reminds me of my mother, though. My horse mother, not Mother Mother.
  • You can reach out and touch someone anytime you want (but the way the barn is set up at Aunt Marilyn's you can reach through the windows and confer, so that is not such a  strong point in favor of freedom... hmmm)
  • You can scavenge for food over a broader area than a stall offers
  • Fresh air and lovely landscape. If you're in a stall with poor maid service, it is way, way less than ideal
  • You have freedom! You can do whatever you want, whenever you want, as long as what you want is there in the environment. Which all too often, it's not...

So, I suppose I have already shown you who is the Winner: Domestication

Of course, I have a triple wide bedded run-in on an acre with my Belle. Best of both worlds, although I wish I had more like 278 acres.

Oh, well.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Trailering Tips

It occurred to me that humans may not really understand what goes on in the moving stall (trailer) behind them. While they are merrily singing and laughing and eating and drinking, things are happening in the back. So for anyone potentially riding in the back, here are some tips and knowledge I have learned through the years.

1. If you ride crammed in with others, you don't have to work nearly as hard to keep your balance. If you are by yourself, you want to keep at least one side or your butt up against the wall to brace yourself. Bracing yourself with your head and neck is not recommended.
1a. Some trailers have you stand with a squishy bar against your chest area, as well as in the back, and you can brace against those if you need to. These trailers allow the humans to pass under the chest bar and go out through the "escape door". There is often some sort of hay bag that hangs off the front wall and stretches to the chest bar.
1b. Escape door is for human use only.

2. Don't fluff the hay with your feet. Humans may give you a wall hay bag instead of the walk-through-area-hanging-manger-y bag if you persist in trying to fluff the hay with your feet... sigh. So it's not perfectly poofed the way you like it, but you know you can't reach up that high to fluff it. Mother shakes it out when she puts it in the wall bag, actually the manger-y bag too, but it isn't the same... hhhrmph.

3. If you do fluff the hay with your feet, and end up sideways in the hay area of the walk-through with the hay bags at your feet and the head divider displaced from it's normal location to behind your butt against the escape door,  just know you can't really eat the hay anymore. And you'll get a crick in your neck from craning it into the passenger-side horse area since you are longer than the space is. And you may require stitches. In multiple locations.

4. Water that drips down on you through the back door is just rain. It isn't acid and there is no reason to overreact.

5. When you load, the human doing the loading will usually give you a treat once you are safely aboard. Oh, and it is best if you know at least one member of the loading team. Otherwise, you may in fact find yourself the victim of theft. From what I hear, that doesn't end well.

6. Display caution when loading into a step up stock trailer, especially if it has straw on the floor. If you commit and leap with too much enthusiasm, you may slide forward on the straw and crash into the front wall or cut gate. Fortunately, Mother has this really nice chiropractor that comes to visit me.

7. If turning around is an option for unloading, it is preferable to do that so you may see how far down you may have to jump. I forget while I am on the trailer if it was a ramp or a step up or the giant step up (which really should have a lift gate, you know?). If you turn around, this problem can be avoided. If you must back off, display caution, and make sure the footing is safe before proceeding. Do not rush out backwards.

8. If you have the option, ride backwards. You can watch Mother in her car behind you that way. Oh, and it is easier to balance. And you're already facing out when it is time to unload.

9. You may stop every few hours at the truck feeding smelly place. This is a great time to take care of bodily functions that are more difficult to perform while in transit. This is also a good time to fill up on hay. You can judge how long a trip it will be by whether the humans offer you water or not. Water means you may still be in there for hours (or days...) and you should drink it if offered. Trips that require only one truck feeding usually won't have water offered.

10. If you like people watching, truck feeding stops are the place for you. Small female humans in particular seem to be attracted to the trailer, and they can be fun to watch as they hop up and down and try to peer in.

11. Always stay prepared. You never know when you may experience a sideways shift (humans call these "lane changes"), although you may hear a faint buzz/ticking from the side that you will be shifting to right before the shift happens. These usually happen smoothly but may arise suddenly without warning. This is possibly accompanied by a sudden acceleration or deceleration that may be unpleasant. If the humans have open windows, you may hear further unpleasantness.
11a. Just because you are going slow doesn't mean you are safe. Sometimes that just means you are going to go over a small mountain that makes the whole trailer jump. Humans call these speed bumps. I dislike speed bumps.

12. Don't ride while under the influence (in your Happy Place). Just say no. Well, actually, I say yes, but that's because I've found if they load you up while you are still Happy, they usually will stop before very long and get out and go feed themselves. So you sit there and eventually wake up a little bit more, and then you are fully awake awake, and then you start to realize that you are really, really hungry but there is no food because you were in your Happy Place, and by the time the humans come back you just want to get going. Come on! Let's get home for my dinner!

Umm, I think that covers the main points. Any questions?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Colic Haiku

Aunt Nancy is a wonderful human. She has been there for me at a lot of important times, like when I first arrived in Ohio. She drove me on the trips I made to see Uncle Jeff, and visited me everyday when I was in the hospital for my skull, and she's just really nice.

She is currently halfway across the country, taking care of all sorts of horses that have been injured, or got tummy aches while pulling the beer wagon (I overheard Mother talking to Aunt Nancy about how they had one of the Budweiser horses come in. Mother tells me Budweiser is a kind of beer. And the horse showed up in a really, really big truck. Why don't they just use that to haul the beer?) or whatever, or are just sick and need help.

During a particularly bad stretch of frequent colics and surgeries, Aunt Nancy was feeling a little stressed. I think it was a matter of sleep deprivation, since she too often works without ceasing during her "call weeks". Mother calls her all the time, I didn't know it was so stressful.

Anyway, Aunt Nancy started describing things in a most unusual fashion. She was detailing surgeries using song lyrics and definite rhymes. Mother, ever the great empathizer, came up with this:

flip, flop
Get up! Let's not
die today

I'm not really sure what to think of this.
I mean, it doesn't even rhyme.
I know Mother doesn't mean to sound cavalier.
She's just trying to stay within the constrictions of a very stylized, traditional poetry format and... and ... well whatever.
It is true. The horses I've seen colicking, the humans often seem to try to get them on their feet, especially if the horses is flailing or thrashing or flopping about.
And there's that hopeful bit, where they want the horse to live.

It still is just a little creepy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An interesting opportunity

Mother says that sometimes my activities are... might be considered... um, well, a little bit DULL.

Just a touch, mind you. I don't see what could be more important than friends and food and love. And she rode me for seven or ten minutes yesterday. I do things.

She feels that she could perhaps be as entertaining as I am. And she has lots of stories to tell about Cappy.

So, please take a moment to respond to the poll I put up just under my picture at the top of the page.
Anyone can click it.
You don't have to be a member of my Hair Club for Men or anything.

ETA: The poll is closed, but Mother plans to announce the "other" blog when she has it up and running.

Love or Money?

Mother gives me lots of cookies.

Is this really a sign of her love, or is she trying to buy my compliance, my goodwill?

Is this appeasement?

Can I really be bought so easily?

Yes, yes I can.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Incredible Journey

Welcome to my mouth 

This was the focus of my weekend. Everything that happened was because of this.

Mother appeared very early on Saturday morning, and grumbled when she saw my sides, as they were not as white and clean as she had left them on Friday. My mane and tail were full of shavings. She made some not nice sort of comment, but then tilted her head and smiled. "I guess you got a good night's sleep, anyway." Why, yes I did, Mother. About time you looked at it from the proper perspective.

I endured her spraying me with something and rubbing me with a wet towel, (ugh), then off we went. We went out through the back pasture and into a place I don't know real well. We walked down an enormous hill, and then she made me trot alongside her in the grass while she trotted on the road. At one point I heard a car coming and Mother had me walk. She told the other humans later that the black mustang was going entirely too fast.

That was a car, Mother, not a mustang.

She would also have me walk and bring me onto the road to go around the few driveways and posts-with-boxes, but mostly I just trotted for the half mile or so. Then we climbed a not-as-big-but-still-big hill and we were at the funny parking lot.

The aunts were there, and we loitered until the truck and big trailer with the big step showed up. I climbed aboard, and we headed north for a long time.  Then we headed east a while. We stopped at the funny smelling place where they feed the truck, then we finally got to Uncle Jeff's.

The first thing I did when Mother led me off the trailer was look at the field where Snap and I used to stay. I didn't see her. I sighed, and Mother took me around to the round pen in back to wait until Uncle Jeff was ready for me. I called once for Snap, but heard no answer, so I took advantage of the amenities the round pen had to offer. Mother brought me a bucket of water, which was nice.

Finally, it was my turn in the torture chamber. I went in quite willingly, as I had also lived here for a lot of weeks, but I knew a moment's hesitation when I realized Mother intended I go in to the stocks. Sigh, fine. This is to be a torture session, I see.

Uncle Jeff gave me the Happy Place juice, and then he started doing what he does. It is loud and vibrate-y and weird. I kept looking at Mother: You said we were going to go visit Uncle Jeff. You didn't say it was a torture session.

I behave nicely, though. I mean, one look at the decor and you know it is just best to behave.

Afterward, I sat in a stall and stewed. Mother went away and I was all alone in the torture dungeon.

I may have dozed off.

Anyway, Mother came back, and after it was decided I was all the way back from my Happy Place, I went out into the roundpen again to try out my teeth.

There were some really funny looking guinea hens with giant heads. Mother said they are actually chickens.

When we were walking around before I loaded into the trailer, we walked over by the field again. I peered anxiously in to the run in shed. There was a large piece of farm equipment. And the water trough... I don't see it! Where is Snap? How are we supposed to stay here without water, and nowhere to stand in the run in?

Mother told me Snap had a new home, and that I was not staying. We walked some more and one of the chickens squawked and levitated and flapped 18 inches off the ground. I snorted under my breath with every stride, Mother giggled. Finally, we were ready to load up. I stood and debated my options for about a minute, but since Snap wasn't there, I sighed and heaved up the large step into the trailer for the long southern trip.

When we got to the funny parking lot, the aunts appeared and took my hay bags and Mother's bag and Mother and I again walked along the pretty but silent street. When we got up the enormous hill to the field gate, the aunts were there waiting to let me through.

How do they do that? They were just at the parking lot, and I know they didn't pass us.

I took a very long drink of water, and settled in with hay. I slept like a log, too.

Mother made no comment about any non-white areas she found on me today. Smart human.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A long day and a dancing chicken

I am exhausted.

I went on a long walk and a long trip, then Uncle Jeff sent me to my Happy Place, then I saw a dancing chicken, which I thought might just be a hallucination from my middle trip, but Mother assured me was real, then another long ride and another long walk.

I will tell you all about it tomorrow. Right now, I need a nap.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Scrubbly Bubbly - We're Going Where?

Mother was talking to Aunt Marilyn about school things while she groomed me the other evening. Pulling burrs out of my tail... um, oowww, please pay a little more attention to what you're doing back there, Mother. I kind of tuned out of the conversation, since it obviously didn't pertain to me.

Then I thought I heard Aunt Marilyn ask if she knew this girl that was driving the trailer Saturday.

I tensed up, my ears swiveled back to where Mother was at. Trailer? TRAILER? Am I going somewhere??

I turned my head as much as I could in the crossties and looked back at Mother with an anxious expression. She noticed my consternation, and said, "Don't worry, Bif. We're just going up to see Uncle Jeff."  I immediately relaxed and put my ears back to forward.* I like Uncle Jeff. I've spent a lot of time up there with him and... ooh, is Snap still there, I wondered? Mother must have read my mind, because she said Snap wasn't there anymore, but I'd of course get to see Uncle Jeff and maybe Aunt Julie. They are both so nice.

So today, Mother decided since it was nice and warm out that I could use a little scrub and rinse to make me look "more presentable".


It is not easy being grey.

As long as she doesn't decide to spray me with too many chemicals afterward, I don't actually mind a bath. I have my winter fur well started and it is in the 80s out here. Whew!

* Exactly how it happened. I swear he understands English better than most high school seniors.- Mother

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dull is as dull does

Mother came up today to visit me. Since I was still eating my midday meal in the run-in with Belle, Mother decided to pick the Small and do some more rough work while I finished up.

She was out working by the fence line when I left the run-in. I walked very, very slowly to her, but stopped about 20 feet away. She said nice things like "Hello handsome, how are you today? I'm almost finished." I stared. She walked over to pet me, flicked a discolored booger out of my right eye, peered at my left eye, looked at my nostrils. "You OK, buddy?" I stared, somewhat dully.

She went back to her fork and wheelbarrow. I walked over to her and waited patiently just feet from her, but out of the way of her work. She forked a few piles and pet me again, and asked if I was OK.

She moved on to another area. I followed. I waited patiently a few feet away but was not in her way. She said several times that she was nearly finished and that if I would just wait a few more minutes... Well, I am waiting, Mother.


She sighed, left the instruments where they were, and plucked my halter and lead off the post where she had first put them when she came out. I was already walking to meet her. She peered anxiously at me on the porch, and went inside for something.

She came back out, put something from a tube on the object in her hand, then proceeded to... uh, perform an internal temperature examination.

You would think with all the gadgets and sophisticated things humans have they would have discovered a more civilized method to detect abnormalities.


Mother said I was on the highest end of "normal", though I usually run on the lowest end of "normal". She continued to peer anxiously at me.

She gave me some bute with my dinner, which I ate well. She made sure I had plenty of hay for afterward. She pet me, removed another discolored booger from the same eye, and gave me more Herballs. She promises to come see me even though she has class tomorrow.

She said I must be feeling under the weather. It was actually a really pretty day out, so I'm not sure what she means.

And I am too tired to really try to think about it.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Par for the Course

I prefer to spend much of my day puttering about on the greens, helping the landscape maintain a nice smooth look. Mother, on the other hand, has slowly but surely been chipping at the roughs in the Small.

 Photo from spring 2010, hard at work on maintenance in the Multipurpose.

You don't know what a green is? What a rough is? Allow me to clarify.

Belle and I like to graze certain areas, and other areas we use for... discarding that which is no longer necessary.
 Click on the picture if you want to see it bigger. Creepy.

My approach is to try to discard everything in more or less the same place. Belle tends to just get herself in the general area. Like that pile in the front? This means, over time, there is less and less green.

 Mother says humans call an area like this a rough. I didn't really select where the roughs would be in the Small. It was like that when I got here. Horses have lived in the Small for a long, long time. Their preferences have had an impact.
 Probably illegible unless you click to make it bigger. If you click what you clicked, it'll get bigger still.

Naturally, I am not going to eat the grass in the roughs. That is kind of gross. Of course, the grass is really long and verdant in those areas now, while the rest of the Small is pretty decimated. Maybe I can just nibble closer to the fringe without it counting as being in the rough...

Mother has been clearing out all the current... er... roughage from the center and small fenceline ones, which she says are relatively recent, temporary sort of ones, and starting to make a dent in the super permanent ones in the front corner by the gate to the big back pasture and the far corner.

I admit to perhaps having done a little maintenance work in the newly renovated center rough fairway.

This is my preferred lie.
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