Thursday, June 30, 2011

Drama with a capital D

It has been probably the longest day of my life.  And not in a good way.

It all started off perfect.  Little Love loaded (you should have seen the look on Jean-Claude's face when I just let her lose and she walked in :-) she traveled well despite the fact that Jean-Claude, the driver, was definitely driving too fast (I told him to slow down at least 4 times in the first five minutes...).  Luckily most of the trip was on freeway... 

Then we got to the Swiss German border and things started happening.  Turned out, despite all my efforts, I did NOT have the right papers.  Now this is not about the vet papers, nobody cared about those, nor did they care about the horse.  I could have had five goats in the trailer all they cared.  This was about the Swiss customs and letting me leave the country with my horse.  Apparently you don't just leave; they make you pay through the nose and then leave.  I had called them, I had had my friend call them, I had printed out the papers and filled them out, I had researched the internet.  But somehow it still was not right.  They actually LAUGHED at me for trying to do it on my own.  It looks like this is a company that has a monopoly on doing the paperwork and if you don't do it through them, your screwed.

An hour and fifteen minutes later (no, I'm not kidding) I finally had the right document in my hand, was 440 Swiss francs poorer and nearly crying from frustration.  Swiss people have never been known for their kindness towards foreigners but this topped every experience I have ever had concerning rudeness.  The woman working my case made her point by moving as slowly as she could.  She literally (and I'm not making this up) typed my name into the system, then she leaned back in her chair, opened her desk drawer, pulled out a half eaten candy bar, slowly ate it, got up from her chair, walked over to the garbage bin, threw in the wrapper (dramatically, mind you), slowly slid back into her chair, sighed and typed in my address.

Now multiply that behavior by about a hundred.  She sipped her coke. she ate candy, she talked on the phone four separate times, went to the bathroom and finally, when we were down at the GErman customs, left me there "just for five minutes" so she could walk over the street to get lunch at McDonalds.  By the time she was done I was shaking from trying to hold back my rage knowing that Little Love was standing in the trailer this whole time.  The fact that JEan-Claude hadn't called me on my cell phone gave me some consolation that perhaps she hadn't kicked down the door or broken her leg.

German customs took all of five minutes.  They didn't care about the vet papers either.  Why did I even botther getting them? I rushed out of the building into the sunshine to discover my horse standing totally calm in the trailer, like there wasn't a worry in the world.  She looked at me through the crack in the window and her eyes were calm and trusting.  I was so proud of her.  I shoved a carrot through the crack and she took it with her lips. 

Fifteen minutes and more of JEan-Claude's awful driving we were in France at the barn.  Little Love came out of the trailer a picture of calmness.  She went into a stall where she started eating.  Then she told me about the dirty automatic water trough and once I cleaned it out, she drank readily.  I took her out for a walk and let her graze for an hour, then took her into the arena for a roll.  Perfect.  At least my horse was calm.

Because about three hourse later, shit hit the fan - big time.  The German transport guy didn't show up.  My husband and son and two dogs showed up though, bless their hearts, all packed and ready to start the journey.  Finally I managed to find the barn owner who called the German transporter, who informed him that he wasn't coming until TOMORROW evening.  What?  And then it would take him at least two days to get Little Love to Northern Germany because of all these other horses he had to take first.  Talk about a feeling of panic. All our hotel reservations, plans etc. just went to hell.  Not to mention Little Love's ride to Finland...  I called the Finnish transporter and he said she needed to be at his barn in Germany tomorrow evening or she missed the ride.  SHIT.  SHIT. SHIT. 

I got a number to a woman with a truck.  She couldn't do it until Saturday.  Another person volunteered for Friday night, but that was still too late.  Some lady gave us directions to another barn where we met a really nice woman who gave me another contact, but he couldn't do it until Saturday either (she found us a hotel though!).  I called my German speaking friend and she was shocked (and pissed off)  She called the German transporter and he said he had had to stop for 16 hours because of the heat in Spain.  Hello?  Could have let me f**king know about that!!!  So, here I am, no ride to Northern Germany and soon no ride from there on after either.  The worst part was that I have paid in advance (480 euro) and when my German speaking friend asked about getting my money back THE GUY HUNG UP ON HER.  Ok, sounds like I'm done with this guy.  So, I'll loose the money, but I don't think I want to trust my horse with him.

Of course, at this point I wanted to kick myself.  SInce Little Love was so good in the trailer, we could have totally driven in it all the way up to Northern Germany.  Had I know that the German guy was coming late, I would have gone for it there and then.  But I didn't know that.  So, what to do? 

I called the Finnish guy back. He said he might have room in his truck going up on Monday.  Then I called back this one lady I had talked to who has a two horse truck.  She sounded so professional on the phone the first time around that I had a good feeling about her.  I asked her if she was still available on Saturday.  She said yes.  So, I booked her.  It will cost me another 1000 euro, but at this point I don't care.  The Finnish guy said not to worry about Little Love, they will take care of her at the barn after I have to leave, even if she doesn't fit onto the Monday truck.  They'll put her out, feed her, whatever.  I do trust him, he sounds like someone with a brain.  Now that we'll be going up on Saturday, I'll be able to be there until Sunday morning with her.  Unfortunately tomorrow when the German transporter arrives, I'll have to deal with him with my bad German.  Mainly I have to make sure he understand that I DO NOT WANT him to take my horse anywhere. 

Can you imaging how tired I am right now?  There are no words to describe my exhaustion.  The only really good thing about this day is Little Love.  She has been AMAZING.  So calm, so collected, so trusting.  I hope this continues on Saturday morning when she has to get on the transport on her own.  Don't know if she has ever been in one of those small trucks, but I guess there is a first time for everything.  In any case, we will get her on, one way or another.  But now, my dear readers, I have to go to bed before I completely lose it.  Thank you for your manifesting, obviously Little Love is listening to all of it, even if the rest of the universe around us is not!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The countdown has begun

I can't believe that in less than 8 hours Little Love and I will be on the road.  At this point I'm so tired that I don't even know how to be nervous.  But I'm sure that will change tomorrow morning when we are about to leave.  We have a some trying days ahead of us, but hopefully all goes well and Little Love arrives safe and sound in Finland.  She certainly seems more calm before the storm than I do.  Packing up the house has not been a walk in the park.  Today, when I drove to the barn (via the vets to get the famous papers, they charged me almost 190 francs for that - this is about 190 US dollars...), I could feel the tension in my shoulders.  I have been pretty stressed out lately.  But, when I got to the barn and took one look at my horse, it was all gone.  I just spent some time with her, soaking her feet and watching her eat.  She was a picture of zen.  I will hold onto that picture tomorrow. 

Her old owner stopped by to give her some carrots.  After the carrots were gone, Little Love pinned her ears back like she was going to bite the lady.  I guess old habits die hard.  I could tell that her old owner was dissappointed that Little Love didn't seem to remember her.  At least not in the way she wanted to be remembered.  It is sad how those two never really met on good terms.  The woman really wanted to have this idyllic relationship with her horse, but went about it all the wrong ways.  Perhaps some day she will find her dream with another horse. 

Wish me luck for tomorrow.  Or better yet, manifest for Little Love to stay calm and present during her journey.  And for her to walk into all those horse transports like she has done it all her life.  I'll count my gray hairs when I get to Finland!

PS. If I get anywhere near a computer on my way through Europe, I will be sure to post updates!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Drama part 145

Well, if one thing is sure, it is that Little Love's travel papers are a nightmare.  I had a long talk with the vet's office today and it was pretty frustrating.  After the conversation I was really freaking out because the way the lady put it, it seemed like I would have to call a vet out every time I changed countries.  Which didn't make any sense because one good thing about EU is that you don't have to do that. 

I called the Finnish transporter guy and told him what the vet said.  He laughed out loud.  I'm not kidding.  He told me to just let them make the papers the way they want to make them.  Then he told me not to worry.  According to him, once the horse is in the European Union and has a health certificate that is valid for ten days, she is set.  He should know, he transports horses for a living.  So, I'm just going to go with what he says and hope that my horse won't get stuck anywhere in Europe.  I guess we'll find out in a few days if that was a good idea or not!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 169 Night owls

Becky is living proof that people can evolve, even then they don't really want to!  Last night Becky did the unthinkable: she let the horses stay outside in the pasture the entire night.  I don't know how long I have been talking about this, but it has been a while.  Then Jean-Claude came along and told her that his horse lived outside 24/7 at the moment and that he would like that to continue at her place.  I asked her then and there, what it was she was so afraid of.  She couldn't even look me in the eye, the subject was so difficult.  After a long while she said that initially she was afraid Col would just eat and eat and get all crazy and she wouldn't be able to ride him.  But she is no longer afraid of that.  Then she said that it freaked her out to think of how dark it was out there and that they wouldn't be able to see. 

I listened to her and did my best to understand.  It had been really, really hot here for the past few days and it is suposed to get even hotter.  The bugs flock around the horses like bees around honey and neither of them want to put a foot out of the barn during the day.  Can't blame them.  I reminded Becky of this and also said that really, being outside at night in the cool air would be the best thing that ever happened to Col and Little Love at this point.  They could always come inside, as the door is always open. 

At 10 pm BEcky sent me a text message telling me she was going to go for it.  The horses were in the field at that point, happy as clams.  I sent her encouraging words, hoping it would help her stick to her guns.  And she did.  When she went into the barn in the morning, the horses were still outside, enjoying every minute of the cool, nearly bug-free time in the field.  I was happy to hear Little Love had been outside at night, because she has always been quite afraid in the dark.  But I guess it is different when you have a human sitting atop, riding you down a trail, steering you every which way.  I think I might be scared in the dark in that situation, too.

But I am so proud of Becky!  She didn't get a lot of sleep, but she also didn't run out into the field in her pj's at two in the morning and bring the horses inside.  She is a good example of self-control, because apparently it had crossed her mind during the night more than once. :-) Jean-Claude visited today with his horse, Dakota, and he was happy to hear of this new development (Becky was beaming from all the praise).  I think he is going to be a good influence. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

My plan

So... in the middle of all this, I forgot it was Mid Summer Night on Friday. This is the other day of the year when the entire country shuts down (the other being Christmas).  So I couldn't call the Finnish authories to talk to them about the paper work.  Will do that first thing tomorrow morning.  I did, however, research it all over again on the internet and came to the same conclusion as before: it should be possible to fix Lilo's papers so that they are valid all the way through to Finland. 

My German friend called the transporter man and he said it would be alright to do the papers for Germany, instead of France (because this seemed to be a big issue for the vets).  He told me to drive into Germany and then take a left and drive into France (the three borders are very close).  When you cross over the border from Germany to France, it's no big deal, they won't apparently even look at your horse.  And if they do, all they want to see is the passport.  Which we have.  This because both countries are in the European Union.  I believe the guy, since I know people who travel with their horses all the time in Europe, and there is really never any border control.  

With that in mind I called the vet office.  I decided to brave them myself with my French.  I didn't talk to the vet, but someone else who was happy to hear I was going to cross the border into Germany instead of France.  I didn't mention a word about France.  :-)  She kept telling me that they could only put one name down as the "shipper", but then when I really pressed her about the paperwork, she admitted that there were several spaces to write car license plate numbers.  Hallelujah!  I told her that we could write me as the "shipper" and then just list all the differnt trucks.  I promised to confirm this from Finland on Monday.  Hope I can find someone there who knows everything about the TRACES papers and how to fill them out.

But then I got to thinking that if they really don't know a thing about this paper work at this vet office, can they really be authorized to do the paperwork?  The thing is, not just any vet can do the papers, it has to be a state autorized vet with a special stamp.  I tried to find the list of the authorized vets online but couldn't.  But I did find the telephone number to the cantonal vet's office.  So, I'm calling them on Monday, too, just to check I'm working with people who have the official stamp.  Because, without the official stamp, I'm not going over the border with that horse...  At this point I am so paranoid I just want to cover my back as much as I can. 

Little Love on the other hand is doing fine.  She seems content and ready to go.  I'm happy to report she has been in heat this week, which is a good thing, because it means she won't be in heat when we leave (separation anxiety is always heightened then).  Jean-Claude, the man who will bring his horse to replace Lilo, will be driving me to Germany/France on Thursday morning.  He came over today to check that the electricals on the trailer work with his car.  They did.  So we are set on that front.  I'm happy he is taking me. I've only met the guy twice, but he is really calm and very, very intuitive with the horses.  Actually, he's the first guy Little Love has ever accepted, no questions asked.  When I watch him with the animals, horses and dogs alike, I can see he is talking to them silently and they are listening and talking back.  Today he told Little Love he was going to take her up to Germany/France on Thursday.  Just the fact that he took the time to tell her that speaks volumes of how this guy operates.  I'm sorry I will not get to know him better since I'm moving!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More drama, like I need any

So, the good news is that I was able to resolve the transportation issue.  The German guy said he had a truck going up on the 30th, which is next Thursday, and Little Love could hop on that one.  Wow.  In a week.  He said she would be up in nothern Germany either evening of the 1st or morning of the 2nd, depending when they stopped for a break.  Sounded good to me.  I even confirmed with the Finnish transporter guy and he said he would be up in northern Germany waiting for Little Love at that point.  Since our own boat from Germany to Finland doesn't leave until the 4th, that would mean that most likely Little Love would arrive in Finland before me.  Not ideal, but since I have some horse savvy friends in Finland whom I trust 100%, I know she will be alright.  I still need to finalize the details of the actual trailering over the Swiss border, but I have someone lined up for that job, he just hasn't confirmed.

So, all was well for a moment. Until the next bomb exploded.

Last night I get an email from my vet, telling me that the veterinary office she has refered me to for the papers said they can't make the papers for Little Love all the way to Finland.  Instead, they would give her papers to go to France, but then I would have to get another vet to look at her again and redo the papers for her to enter Germany.  So what this means is that when I trailer her to France to meet the German truck, we would be having a vet appointment in the middle of all this.  Right.  I just about split a vein in my head thinking about that.  I'm pretty sure the vet is not right, as I have researched this whole paper thing a million times and know exactly what papers need to be done.  And the papers I'm talking about would let Little Love depart Switzerland and travel through Europe for ten days.

I lost some sleep over this (naturally I got the email right when I was going to bed...) and in the morning called a Swiss friend of mine and asked her to call the vet office.  My French is alright, but it was crucial that I understood every word they were saying to get this right.  My friend called them, but she was left just as confused as I was.  She said they really didn't make a lot of sense.  I'm starting to think I can't trust that vet office.  They seem to think that the problem is the France bit.  If I were to go straight to Germany, it would be easy as pie (but both countries are in the EU, which has an agreement between countries...)  The bottom line is that they still don't think they can make the papers all the way to Finland because of the several transportation vehicles, but that someone going straight to German would be better than going to France.

All this makes no sense.  I can't begin to tell you how frustrated I am at this point.  I went back to the Finnish customs pages and they clearly tell you that horses can travel in the European Union (including Switzerland, even though it's not EU) ten days with these papers called TRACES.  So what the heck is the problem??

  AAaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh.  This can't be happening. 

So, at the moment I'm trying not to hyperventilate.  Tomorrow I'll call the Finnish authorities and ask them a gazillion questions about having several transportation vehicles, passing through several countries etc etc.  Maybe I can get answers there.  I also need to talk to another vet here in Switzerland.  From my German speaking friend I heard that her vet apparently made the papers for a mutual friend of ours when she left a while back to go to Sweden with her horses.  Perhaps I need to call this vet instead and see what his story is.  I don't have much time, as she is sipposed to leave on Thursday.  Will she make it?  At this point it's a crap shoot.

PS. My vet has known for over a month about my travel plans.  Don't you just find it wonderful that she decided to tell me NOW, less than a week before Little Love and I are leaving, that she can't help me with the papers?  Unreal.

Monday, June 20, 2011

As the drama unfolds...

So today (as I'm getting ready to go to the airport to fly to Finland, yet again, this time to sign important papers) I get a message from the German transporter via my German speaking friend that he will be picking up Little Love from our meeting point in France on the 4th of July.  What?!!!!  Didn't I specifically inform him that she MUST leave no later than on the 3rd, because that is the day I MUST leave myself (along with family) so that we can make the boat in Northern Germany that will take us to Finland. 

I panicked.  All my thoughts of being there for Little Love when she loaded into the truck in France, being there for her in Northern Germany at the barn so she would know I hadn't abandoned her... all that was about to NOT happen.  I would have to take her to France on the 3rd, leave her at a strange barn and trust that this German guy would pick her up the next morning and take her to the barn in Germany where she would reside for x amount of days - alone - just to be put in another truck days later...

Call me a hysterical horse owner (I think my husband is starting to get to the point that he will soon call me that...), but I was just not going to accept this.  At first I thought that perhaps the best idea would be to get someone - a Swiss horse transport person - to take Little Love all the way to the German barn in his trailer/small truck.  I knew it was an expensive option as I had researched it before, but at least I could be there for her when she loaded and when she arrived.  But then I remembered how much she panicked being alone in the trailer.  I also remembered how much she sweated when we brought her from her previous home to Becky's barn.  30 minutes in the trailer and she was soaking wet.  Would she sweat like that for ten hours straight?  Would she survive the trip if she did?  Those small trucks don't have airconditioning either and Little Love doesn't drink when she travels.  Heck, she barely drinks 24 hours after she travels. 

At this point I recited a selection of several four letter words (and some five letter Finnish ones as well) and then called my two best friends.  What would I do without my friends?  I'd be in a nut house, I think.  They managed to help me get a cleared picture of what was important and what not.  Thank you! (you know who you are :-)

Finally I called my German speaking friend back and told her to talk to the German guy.  My German is very elementary and this called for some major skills.  Was the 4th REALLY the only option? 

Turns out it wasn't.  She could also leave on the 30th.  Which is like, um, next week Thurday.  Wow.  That is soon.  But heck, I'll take it.  I could go up to France with her, see her off to Germany and meet her there.  In fact, depending on the Finnish transporter guy, I could even hang out in Germany with her for a few days before my boat left.  I did ask my husband if he was alright with it, and luckily he was :-)  Now I just have to get the okay from the Finnish guy.  Keep your fingers crosses.

But what comes to this drama... it was so unnecessary and I swear took at least a year off my life.  And we haven't even made it to the actual traveling part yet.  I think I will need a glass of wine after this ordeal is over.  Or perhaps a bottle.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 162 100%

Today, when I was brushing Little Love outside, I got a call on my cell phone.  I took the call, because it was from a young student of mine, who had some news about the regional floorball team try outs.  He had made the team and could not wait to tell me about it.  So, I listened to his account, but as I was in a bit of a hurry, I continued to brush Little Love, put her boots on and tack her up at the same time. 

How would you feel if you were out with your friend and in the middle of say dinner, she would suddenly start talking on her phone with someone else?  Not happy, is my guess.  And that is exactly how Little Love felt, too.  She pinned her ears back, she stomped her foot, she swished her tail, she yanked her foot out of my hand when I was picking the hooves.  At that point I should have had the sense to walk away from her, but since I was more focused on the phone conversation, I kept on working around her.   And it was a long conversation.  By the time I was done talking on the phone, Little Love was tacked up and ready to go.  But she was also so irritated with me that I took one look at her and decided that going out with her "alone" (read: without Col) would not be smart.

So - I took Little Love into the arena, thinking she was anxious and overly energetic and that we needed to assess the situation before venturing out.  The weather changed two days ago and after the rains set in, the temperatures had been much lower.  Today there was also a fairly strong wind, which I immediately pegged down as another cause for Little Love's "irritation".  Obviously I didn't have the brain space at that moment to think very creatively.  In the arena I asked Little Love to trot on the long rope.  She literally looked at me and sighed, then started trotting around me with a sour face.  I got a funny feeling in my chest, as if I had forgotten something important.  At first I thought I was feeling nervous about going out with Little Love, but soon realized this was something else.  Actually, the thought sort of hit me in the head like a ton of bricks: the phone.

If you are with Little Love, you need to be with her 100% or not at all.  This she has taught me in spades, as you know.  Staying in the moment is paramount.  When you are on the phone, staying in the moment becomes impossible.  I believe I knew that, but somehow had forgotten it.  Yet again.  Obviously it was time for me to "relearn" it today.  The realization of how rudely I had just treated my horse came over me like a huge wave. 

"I am so sorry," I said out loud.  "So, so sorry.  I can't believe I did that to you." 

She licked her lips.  I swear she was thinking "well duh, finally you have a clue!".  I am a little dense at times.

We walked out of the arena and through the gate.  I felt a little nervous and I told Little Love that straight out.  She told me to stop being such a basket case.  And so I did :-)  We went out for 45 minutes and because of the cool weather and the strong wind, there were zero bugs.  The sun was cracking open the clouds and it was absolutely beautiful.  I had the saddle on, but never used it; walking side by side was enough for both of us.  When we came down to the edge of the forest, we jogged for about half a mile, the longest continuous "run" we have done together.  Little Love stayed behind me, trotting slowly in my step.  I have been sick with a sinus infection for weeks (in fact, it still is sort of there) and haven't been able to run.  It felt so good to run with my horse, I can't even describe the feeling.  It is my dream to some day be able to jog for miles with Little Love.  It would be even better if she could be lose, running along with me without any restrictions.  Maybe one day?  I will hold onto that dream.

And what comes to phones and horses?  We so often don't think twice when the phone rings and we are brushing a horse or  riding it.  I think next time I will not answer or perhaps just tell the caller that I can't talk for long, because I'm with my horse.  Because, when I'm with my horse, I want to be with her 100%.  She deserves nothing less.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 159 A great experience (there is hope!)

For as long as I have known Little Love, which is five years, she has never traveled in a trailer with another horse.  However, I had a strong hunch that it would make all the difference.  This is the reason I was hell bent on finding a big transporter to take her to Finland, because I knew that if she travelled alone, it would be highly stressful.  Today I found out that my instinct was right. 

Becky and I had talked about putting Col into the trailer with Little Love, just to see if it made a difference.  I knew this was the right thing to do, but the thought of it made me a bit nervous.  What if she freaked out anyways.  Or worse, what if she freaked out and got Col going, too?  On the other hand, there was a big chance it would work out brilliantly, since Col is a great traveler.  The only way to find out was to do it...

When I loaded Little Love into the trailer, Col was right behind her, ready to get in on the other side.  Sometimes when you load Col, he stops on the ramp and says no.  It's not a freaky no, but rather a "show me the money" kind of no.  He did the same thing today.  Little Love was in the trailer eating her grain and Col had this look on his face: "Where's my grain?"  I tossed Becky a second bucket we had prepared just in case, and that did it, Col walked in. 

Being in the trailer does not seem to bother Col one bit.  Which is great for someone like Little Love.  When Becky closed the back, she lifted her head up and looked back, but when she saw that Col couldn't have cared less, she sighed and took a carrot from me.  I kept breathing in and out, focusing on staying in my body, but I couldn't help the adrenaline gushing into my blood.  I can't tell you how many time I muttered my "mantra" to myself; If it's not happening now, it's not happening - If it's not happening...

It was completely silent in the trailer when we drove down the driveway; the horses must have been standing stock still.  Becky was driving and she takes all the turns extra slowly.  Which is perfect for Little Love.  We drove into the village, took a left turn around the block and came back.  When we approached the driveway, there was a big truck in the middle of the road, so we had to stop to see what was going on.  My heartrate kicked up a notch immediately and I listened for Little Love in the back.  Nothing.  Complete and utter silence.  I got out to talk to the two men who were at the gate.  Turned out they were there to work on Becky's sewage tank.  Great.  How were we going to fit both the truck and our car/trailer combinating into the parking lot? 

We drove up first and parked the trailer.  The truck followed and the workers had to figure out where to put it.  In awe I listened to my horse in the trailer - she was standing still.  No calling, no pawing, no stomping her feet even though the car was parked and the engine was off.  This was a miracle.  We opened the upper part of the side door and Col stuck his head out.  I could see Little Love's ears, but that was it.  We decided to take the horses out from the front because there was no room behind the trailer.  This meant Col had to come out first.  Little Love started pawing when she realized she was getting left behind, but as soon as Col was out I was able to undo her chest bar.  She waited for the signal to move forward and then we walked out.  Given, she was in a hurry to get out, but not at all in a panicky way.  She was listening to me, she was controlling her own emotions, she was dealing with her fears. 

After we took the horses out, we walked them into the pasture and let them go.  I can't begin to tell you how happy I was, how relieved, how hopeful.  I realize that in two weeks Little Love will have to travel three hours alone to France, but to know that she can be calm when traveling was a revelation for me.  Perhaps, if we do this again with Col, she will have at least a few good memories to help her when she is alone.  Col was absolutely brilliant, as was Becky. 

It was a good exercise, not just because it gave Little Love a positive experience in traveling, but it also showed me (and her) that she can do this.  Also, I now know how hard it is for me to control my own emotions in this situation.  If I am a nervous wreck even before anything bad happens, how can I expect my horse to deal with all this?  I really need to work on my own fears and anxieties.  I also need to know when to back off and perhaps let someone else, someone who is calmer and not so emotional, take over the situation.  With this I mean that perhaps I'm not the best possible person to load Little Love into a truck if my adrenaline levels are skyrocketing.  This is definitely something I need to talk to her about and prepare her for. 

But what a great great experience.  I'm still smiling thinking about it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day 158 Horse flies the size of small birds

Yesterday Becky and I went out together with the horses.  I put the saddle on Little Love for the trot and canter parts, but I also wore my running shoes so I could walk most of the loop.  We mostly walked for the hour we were out, but managed to squeeze in two short canters and a trot.  The horses got really excited with the second canter down a short field, I wish it would have been a longer stretch so we could have let them really go. 

Today we had planned to go out again together, but Col had pulled a shoe last night in the pasture (again...).  I decided not to let that faze me and saddled Little Love up like planned.  I don't know why, but I felt like we needed to go out again, just the two of us.  From the first moment we went out the gate, I was "in my zen", staying in my body.  It wasn't so hard this time and Little Love's calm demeanor made it a lot easier to stay calm myself. 

We took the same loop as yesterday with Becky and Col.  The horse flies are now out and within ten minutes I was wondering if going out so late in the morning was such a good idea.  I couldn't help but think of all those times in her "previous life" when Little Love became agitated and nervous on a trail ride because of bugs (she would just frantically run off).  But then I brought myself back to this moment and to the one truth I swear I will live by when it comes to this horse i.e.  "If it isn't happening now, it isn't happening." So, I didn't turn back. 

There were moments when it was nearly intolerable, but somehow we managed.  I broke a branch off a bush and helped fend the biggest horse flies off (some are the size of small birds, and I'm not kidding!).  I could tell Little Love really appreciated the help.  In fact, I think the fact that we were battling the bugs together sort of took her mind (as well as mine :-) off other things, such as the cows that had once again changed pastures and were now right by the road.  She barely looked at them.  I certainly didn't have time to look at them.  We made it around the whole loop and half way through a cloud came in to cover the sun.  And the next thing we knew and a little breeze picked up, which took care of some of the bugs for a while.  It's amazing how big of a difference a little shade and wind can make.  When the sun came out again, we were almost home.  We both were sort of done with the bugs, so we ran up the hill side by side, stopped to cross the road and then ran up the drive way all the way to the gate.  Phew.  We were both sweating by the time we got to the barn.  I took the hose and sprayed Little Love, myself and all the horse flies with water!  Little Love used to hate being wet, but now she seems to like it.  I hadn't even thought about it until today when she stood loose in the yard and I took the hose at her.  She just stood there, licking her lips, obviously content.  Who is this horse and what did she do with the Little Love I used to know six months ago?

Tomorrow I'm going to the barn as early as possible when it's not too hot.  I think we won't go out for a walk, but perhaps play in the arena for a while.  Or maybe just soak the feet.  The weather is supposed to change again and perhaps we'll get some rain later in the day, which would be a welcome change.  Little Love and Col are spending most of their days in their stalls (their choice, since they have free rein of the place, but it's the bugs...) and I have been trying to talk to Becky about putting them out at night.  Today when I brought it up over the phone, she made no comment.  She doesn't even change the subject, she simply just doesn't say anything.  So it's really hard to know what is going on in her head.  But I do know that the thought freaks her out.  Unfortunately.  She still has a blanket on Col at night, which I frankly don't exactly understand since it is really muggy and hot.  She did inform me that she left the other barn door open last night, which is an improvement and tonight she put the two horses out after "dinner" for a few hours until it got dark.  Which is a start.  I don't think she knows anyone who has ever put their horse out at night, because usually in the traditional sport horse world horses are in their stalls when it's dark.  So this is really about the fear of the unknown, I suppose. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Little Love is leaving the country in less than three weeks and I still don't know her exact transport date.  This is driving me absolutely nuts.  Unfortunately this is how it goes in the European horse transportation world.  They can give me a ballpark date (read: which week it will be), but neither the German transport guy nor the Finnish guy can tell me exactly when my horse will be traveling until about a week before the actual travel date. 


This makes planning a living nightmare.  Not only do I have no idea when I should call the vet out to do the paperwork which can only be done less than 48 hours before the travel, but I can't plan my own departure.  I also have to be on standby for taking Little Love to the French border in the trailer.  Luckily I have the trailer and looks like I have several people who are willing to take me there, for free or for x amount of money.  Depending on the day, of course.  And then there is the matter of making sure we cross the border at a certain time so the French vet can take a look at the horse and the papers.... did I mention that while I might sort of speak French, reading and writing official documents is not exactly a walk in the park. 


This, of course, is all on top of packing our house, my son's school ending, finalizing things in Switzerland such as ending all contracts with cell phone, home phones, tv, insurance.  Not to mention buying a house in Finland and whatever else you can think of when moving from country to country.  In the end, I'm sure it will all work out, but at the moment I feel like I know exactly what being in limbo feels like.  I don't recommend this to anyone.  Sigh.  Once I know what day Little Love leaves, so many other things will fall in place, too.  Then, when the ball starts rolling, I just have to figure out how to hold on to the little Zen that is left to get me through to the other side.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Day 156

I was afraid Little Love wouldn't even go near the trailer today, but she did.  She walked up the ramp confidently and went straight for the bucket.  I closed the back bar and she was fine.  Then I lifted the ramp up and she decided it was too much.  She walked of the front of the trailer and stopped to look at me. 

I put the back down again, opened the bar and fetched her.  She came back to the ramp and walked in again.  I closed the back bar and walked to the front.  Then I closed the front bar.  She was still eating the grain (I was holding the bucket in front of her), but was moving around nervously and lifting her head to look back, as if she was making sure the ramp was still down.  Once she had finished the grain, I walked out of the trailer and laid the bucket on the ground.  Little Love leaned into the front bar and her gaze was fixed on me.  I decided not to push her any further, so I walked up the front ramp and undid the chest bar.  She waited very politely until I gave her the signal to move forward, then she marched down the ramp in a very composed manner. 

So, the good thing is that she still went in, despite the panic from yesterday.  When I saw her reaction to the ramp coming up behind her, I realized that to truly get her over all her fears towards the trailer and traveling would probably take a lifetime.  We don't have that, since in less than three weeks she will be traveling to what probably will feel to her like the end of the world. 

While I soaked her feet and she ate hay, I talked to her about the journey and how it is a necessary evil on our road to hopefully an even better life together.  I told her I was stressing out about it, too, but that I knew she was strong and would get through it.  I told her I knew how scared she was of the transportation vehicles, but that going into them without a fight was paramount for her own well being.  Because not going in was really not an option.  Little Love chewed her hay, but twice she lifted her head up and touched my arm.  I know she gets it, but I also know that once that panic sets in, there is not much logic to what she will do and how she will do it.  I might have to take a bottle of Valium before this is over, to keep myself calm when my horse is going completele out of her mind.  I can just imagine pulling her out of the trailer in France in a strange place only to ask her to load into a huge horse truck five minutes later.  Yikes.  That will be a test of my ability to stay calm in the moment.  Valium sounds like a good option for the owner...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Day 155 Another (freaky) step in trailering

Today I decided to push the trailer loading business a little bit further.  Becky and I hooked up the trailer, loaded Little Love and while I was standing inside the trailer with Little Love, Becky drove it forwards about 30 feet (10 meters).  The second the trailer started moving, Little Love started going into panic mode.  She stopped eating the grain, her head came up and her body started to quiver.  Then she screamed to Col and broke into a light sweat.  Her eyes were the size of dinner plates and breathing like she had just come off the race track.  By the time Becky stopped, she no longer was paying attention to me, but was completely lost in her own world, where everything and anything can and will go wrong. 

While Becky parked, got out of the car and walked around to the trailer door, I focused on my breathing and trying to stay present in the moment.  Not easy when you have a horse in front of you that looks like she is about to climb over the chest bar at any moment.  Little Love became especially frantic when Becky opened the front door.  I grabbed her halter, trying to get her to settle down enough for me to lift the chest bar.  Somehow I actually managed to back her up two sticky steps.  Once the bar was lifted, though, there was not much to hold her back.  She rushed out of the trailer. 

When she was out of the trailer, she realized she was still at home.  This took down the panic a notch, but she was still fairly frantic, plowing left and right with her eyes on sticks.  I didn't waste any time; I walked her past the house, into the barn (where Col greated her) and let her loose into the field.  Within seconds Col and her had taken off cantering and turned the corner into the big field. 

It will be interesting to see if she will go into the trailer tomorrow.  Because the plan is to hook it up again, but not drive it.  I just want to give Little Love the opportunity to go back in and not have a reason to panic.  Becky suggested we load Col, too, and perhaps drive the down the road or something.  I think that's a good idea, but first I want to take a step back and have her in the trailer without it moving. I'm sure the experience today gave her quite a bit to think about and I hope she did some reflecting in the pasture.  

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Day 154

It was great to see Little Love again!  She was happy to see me, too.  Before, when she wasn't mine and was living at the large commercial facility close to my house, it used to be complete hell to come back after a break.  She would be so freaked out and dissociated from everything that it always took me at least a day or two to get any kind of connection with her.  But now that she is obviously in a better place mentally and emotionally to begin with, she accepts my absence as well as my return with a grain of salt. 

Today a man who owns an Argentinian Criollo gelding came over to see the barn.  Becky has been looking for a new friend for Col for when Little Love and I leave and this man answered an advertisement we placed in the local newpaper.  He was really nice and both Becky and I had a good feeling about him.  But the one who really got us sold on this guy was Little Love.  In general, she doesn't like men and she doesn't like strangers.  She did, however, like this guy.  When we were standing on the barn aisle, talking, she approached the three of us and just sort of "joined" our little group.  The man turned to pet her and I felt myself tense up in anticipation of Little Love's "normal" reaction = pinning the ears back and backing away.  But, none of that happened.  She allowed this strange man to pet her neck, just like that.  I have to say, he was very respectful of her space and never tried, for example, to touch her on the face like people usually do.  Even Becky noticed Little Love's reaction (or the absence of it, more like) and mentioned it to me afterwards.  We decided it was a good sign; I trust Little Love's judgement when it comes to people.

Every time I am gone, even if it is for just a few days, I always notice Little Love's front feet when I come back.  And I don't notice them in a good way.  Today was no different; I was shocked to see how "crooked" they really are.  In fact, it felt like again they had gotten worse, the medial wall getting shorter and more upright, and the lateral wall slanting out.  I had this same feeling last time I was gone so perhaps they were always this bad, but I just get used to it when I see her every day. I really need to go back to some old pictures to see if they are the same or if they are actually getting worse.  The right front, which has always been the worst foot, is particularly asymmetrical.  I so desperately need someone who knows what they are doing to look at them and trim them.  I am doing what I can, but in the end, what do I know?  Not much.  In any case, it's definitely time for new pictures.  Perhaps, if I take a really good set, Claudia can explain how I will be able to help Little Love in the long run.  I'm not so sure I'll know exactly how to trim, but at least I could give it a try.

Friday, June 10, 2011

I have been away for a few days, but it feels like it has been weeks.  My husband and I flew to Finland to look for a house.  How ironic that I have a place for Little Love when we move, but have no clue where my family will be living! (my priorities are straight, alright haha)  But hopefully that all will change soon. 

I talked to Becky tonight and she told me that Little Love was doing great.  Apparently she has been letting Becky rub her face.   When I first met Little Love, she hated the human touch.  She tried to bite and kick when someone brushed her and had to be cross tied for tacking up.  Toucing the face was completely off limits, with the ears being especially sensitive.  This was five years ago.  Now I can touch her ears and she actually likes it when I rub her face, but not always.  I am always very conscious about her likes and dislikes - if she is having a "no touching" day, then there is no touching (this means also no brushing sometimes).  But for her to let Becky rub her face, that's huge!

Last week something happened with the lady who helps Becky muck her stall.  Apparently she had been putting the fly sheet on Little Love and when she ducked under her neck to go to the other side, Little Love smacked her head down at the same time.  Her tooth managed to cut the lady's scalp, which blead quite a bit according to Becky's husband.  I haven't talked to the lady since so I don't know exactly what happened, but there are two viable options.  The first one that came to mind was that she was irritated by the flies and happened to be going after one right when the lady ducked.  This resulted in tooth colliding with head.  The other option would be that this woman's presence was somehow higly irritating and because she didn't respect Little Love's boundaries, Little Love had to make it a bit more clear.  She is highly protective of her chest area. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day 149

Today I loaded Little Love in the trailer with the help of Becky's husband.  I asked him to come and help because I wanted someone to shut all the doors while Little Love and I stayed inside.  As usual, she went inside without a problem.  When I closed the back, she didn't even lift her head to look at the ramp (!).  I hopped in, closed the bar in front of Lilo's chest and asked Becky's husband to lift up the front ramp.  Little Love had her grain to eat, but when the ramp went up, she stopped chewing and the whites of her eyes showed up.  For a moment she just stood there, looking out from the opening above the ramp.  Then she started eating again.  I asked Becky's husband to close the upper panel as well, and he did.  I counted to 15 and then Becky's husband opened the front for us.  Short and sweet, just the way we like it!

After the front was open again, I left Little Love in the trailer for a little longer.  I walked in and out and even around the trailer so I was out of sight.  She no longer had any food to eat, but she stood patiently and waited.  I popped in to gave her a piece of banana, then disappered again, just to show up with another banana.  She stayed calm and quiet and curious.  It was only about 3 minutes, but it is the longest time she has ever been in a trailer (as far as I know) without pitching a fit.  Excellent.  I think we are getting closer to actually moving the trailer.  That will be a big step and I have to think how I want to approach it without completely overwhelming Little Love and pushing her into her panic zone.  The trailer makes a ton of noise when you are driving (or rather, pulling) it and I'm sure this is partly what freaks her out.  Or it's sort of the last straw in an already scary situation.  Becky is willing to put Col in there with her, which is not a bad idea since he is really calm in the trailer.  On the other hand, perhaps she needs to learn to be alone right off the bat, since in a few weeks she will have to take a few hour ride alone to the Swiss border. 

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Day 147 Questions, and more questions

Little Love has been in heat the past few day and yesterday was her "peak day".  This meant that she basically spent all her free time parked in front of Col, peeing.  He didn't seem to mind.  He kept biting her behind and her back legs quite forcefully, which made Little Love only pee so much more.  Needless to say, Zen Master or not, I didn't want to challenge that bond too much.  So we stayed on the property. 

Today, however, was a new day.  It was quite warm and Becky's husband reported to me that the horses had spent most of the day inside.  Which was of course their choice, but nevertheless made me feel like I had to somehow move my horse.   

We did the same walk as two days ago and again it went really well.  A few times Little Love remembered to call out to Col, but neither time made me really nervous so we got over those moments fairly fast.  We also passed both sheep and cows without incident.  Only towards the end did she get a bit nervous and I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it was the bugs (some of the horseflies here are the size of small birds, I tell you) or the two bulls we passed (which took off running again, what the heck?) or something else, but I just couldn't seem to keep up with Little Love, she was walking so fast.  Since I had the saddle on again (this seems to be my security blanket at the moment...), I decided to get on. 

As soon as I was in the saddle, I was able to get "into my body" on a whole different level.  I have done a lot of Ride With You Mind training (and teaching) and it never fails to help me in situations like this where the horse is slightly on the edge.  Three minutes later Little Love was walking calmly, with her head stretched down.  I got off and we walked home (after some grass in the field, of course)

I have been thinking a lot about saddles lately.  The thing is; I don't have one.  The saddle Little Love and I are using belongs to a friend here in Switzerland.  It's a Barefoot Dressage saddle and I don't think it's the right saddle for her or for me.  In any case, I'll be leaving that saddle behind when we move.  So, once we get to Finland, there will be no saddle. 

Now, the million dollar question of course is: Do we need a saddle?   - I don't know.  Am I going to ride?  - I don't know.  If I ride, am I going to ride more than five minutes at a time?   - I don't know.  Does it make sense to buy a saddle if I'm not really riding?  - No. 

But let's say I do decide to get a saddle.... this brings me immediately to the other million dollar question:  What kind of a saddle should I get?  An English saddle?  A Western saddle?  Treeless?  Flexible tree?  Regular tree?  The choices are overwhelming. 

The main thing I really care about is of course Little Love.  If she were to have a saddle, I would want her to have the best possible saddle for her back.  But what kind of a saddle is that?  I have no idea.  I do realize she is probably not the easiest horse to fit a saddle on, since she has high and long withers.  And a long back.  And she's sort of wide. 

Last fall a friend of mine bought a western saddle right before she moved to another barn.  She let me try it on Little Love a few times and I have to say that it seemed to work really well.  Little Love certainly was more comfortable in the western saddle than in her dressage saddle.  Of course, her dressage saddle was a really ill fit.  But perhaps this is something to consider?  But I find Western saddles so heavy... although I have heard that the weight gets distributed more evenly over the horse's back.  Or is that just a myth? 

Anyone out there with any experiences they want to share?

PS. If you are still having trouble posting comments, try unclicking the "keep me signed in" box when the system makes you log in.  It works for me.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Day 145 Challenging the Zen Master

If there is one thing I like to do in life, it is to challenge myself.  There are days when I find this trait really irritating, because wouldn't life just be so much easier if I never had to leave my comfort zone?  I know there are a lot of people who live like that and I'm sure they are happy.  So, why rock the boat?  But somehow that just does not work for me.  My motto in life seems to be "If you don't take risks, you never get anything."  Or something like that.  I just can't stop myself...

The weather has completely turned around and despite the fact that it was +28 Celsius (+82 Fahrenheit) just two days ago, we seem to have fallen into a fall weather pattern with rain and wind.  So, knowing how the weather affects Little Love, I have had the sense to chill out with my dear horse for the past two days, mainly soaking her feet, loading her into the trailer (shut the back door AND closed the front bar and she was fine!!!) and playing with her in the arena. 

Today the weather was a bit better.  The wind was still quite strong and the temperature low, but the rain was gone.  Maybe this was why I got it in my head that it would be nice to go out for a walk.  Being in the arena is sort of boring, even if we are "playing". 

I thought about it for a while and decided to tack up Little Love with the saddle.  I don't know why, but it seemed like a good idea.  I also put on the bitless bridle.  I use rope reins that clip on and off, which makes it really easy to walk her with enough rope in my hand, in case she needs space.  When I walked down the driveway, my heart was beating in my chest.  I told Little Love about my nervousness, describing out loud the sensations that were going on in my body. 

When we were on the other side of the road she called out to Col and started a slow jig next to me.   Immediately I could feel myself get tense.  I acknowledged the feeling out loud, again describing it to the smallest detail.  Before I knew it, I didn't feel so tense after all.  True, we were both extremely alert, but that was something we both could easily deal with. 

One of the neighbors had brought some sheep into a small field on the right - that was really scary in Little Love's book since I don't think she has ever seen sheep close up.  I felt her panic mounting, but mind over matter, I was able to focus on my own breathing and she followed me without an incident.  If any of the neighbors overheard me (and understood English), they probably thought I had lost a few marbles = "Breath in, breath out.  Feel your breath going down into your belly and spreading into your legs.  It makes you feel heavy, as if you are rooted to the ground.  As if a line is going from the earth into your body and it gives you strength to remain calm..."  You get the picture, I'm sure.  In some circles this could be described as verbal diarrhea LOL.  Little Love didn't mind, she is a good listener :-) 

We took the short loop, which we had not taken since the "bulls".  The bulls were gone, moved into another field somewhere and there was not a bovine in sight.  Fine by me!  For the first time in 20 minutes, I actually stopped talking and just tried to stay in my body without having to constantly remind myself that I had one.

When we turned the corner towards home I stopped Little Love and climbed up on her back, thinking we could trot.  But after just a few strides, it felt somehow wrong to be sitting on her.  So I came down and started running next to her.  We haven't done this exercise for such a long time and I had forgotten how much I like it.  We jogged about 500 yards in perfect sync, then cut through the field towards home, enjoying some of the lush grass on the way.

What a brilliant time we had, despite the fact that neither one of us was truly relaxed during our walk until we were walking back up the driveway.  But that is just how it is with Little Love and me - we are both alert.  I don't mind that, as long as I can control myself and my reactions.  The key is really to stay in the moment, no matter how uncomfortable you happen to feel.  This is such an important lesson for me to learn.  Thank you Little Love!

PS. And just for the record... as much as I hate being so damn "happy" to challenge myself instead of staying in my comfort zone, sometimes it really is worth it! :-D