Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Weather turns serious

On Sunday, Little Love and I took a luxurious and long walk with the barn owner and Kira. We learned a new path into the forest that leads to a nearby lake. It was great to learn about new paths and forests, and I am looking forward to exploring this area more with Little Love. I wish I had had my camera with me, because any words I try to use cannot do justice to the beauty of this evergreen forest with its mossy floor strewn with granite rocks. I was very proud of Little Love, because the paths (old logging roads, I think) were completely frozen in some places, and she had to carefully choose her path to keep her back legs from sliding out from under her. She is learning to be very good at this, and she is listening to me for assistance and guidance as well! :-)

This has been an eventful week at the barn - and in Finland in general. A huge wind storm blew in very early Monday morning, and the wind speeds got so high that we had warnings in our region to stay indoors and avoid driving. Over 200 thousand homes were without power due to the large number of enormous trees that fell on power lines, and this included our barn. Our water comes from a well and is pumped to the surface via electricity, so power outage = no water. Luckily, the Finnish power companies had seen this coming and prepared by having extra workers on hand (some things work unbelievably well in Finland!), so the power was restored at the barn by late afternoon. (Not everyone was so lucky: I just read before writing this that in more rural areas there are still people without power today on Wednesday. Luckily we are having unseasonably warm weather and not our usual late December freezes.)

Unfortunately for K's friend Marjo, Monday was the day she had signed up to visit Little Love. Poor Marjo and her pre-teen daughter were trying to deal with washing the mud from Little Love's legs and grooming her while she was jumping around high as a kite when the power and water went out. Luckily, the mother-daughter duo seem to be adventurous types, because they dealt with it beautifully. They ended up having to put Little Love back in her stall, and I guess they just started looking around for what they could do to help. I had put Lilo's front boots on her to go into the paddock the day before, because the ground at that point was still frozen, hard and uneven. But later in the day, it got unusually warm, the ground turned to mush, and the boots got sucked off Lilo's feet. Apparently they ended up buried quite deep, but Marjo and daughter trekked into the muddy paddock (during this massive wind storm, no less), hunted them down, and dug them out. And apparently, they really enjoyed this whole adventure! :-) Huge thanks to Marjo for cleaning the boots and getting them back to the barn so quickly!!

Luckily and miraculously, no trees fell in the immediate barn area. But, the horses spent most of the day indoors, and, with the added stress of what must have been very frightening noises outside, I knew that Little Love would probably be in a "special" state of mind when I went to the barn on Tuesday. The horses were still in their stalls eating breakfast when I arrived, and Lilo did look as if she hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. I decided it would probably be best for her to go on outside with her herd and spend some time with them before I tried to drag her away from the barn and her friends. So I hung around and helped with the mucking. At one point, the barn owner yelled for me to look at Lilo. She had placed herself in the softest area in the middle of the paddock, and she was rolling on her back very contentedly. Then she jumped up, ran/slid across the muddy paddock, did a few bucks and kicked in the general direction of another horse. She definitely had some nervous energy to get out!

When I did take her out of the paddock for some activity with me, the whole herd literally ran to the gate to come with us. :-) Since it was close to lunch time anyway, we decided with the barn owner to just let everyone come on inside. During the morning, a new storm had started to blow in, so the wind was picking up again. But it wasn't too bad, and Little Love stood calmly next to the barn while I washed her feet and legs. All went well, and we headed out. I knew she had that nervous energy to get rid of, so I decided we would go to the small gravel parking lot nearby, and I would lunge her at trot for a while. She walked most of the way fine with me, but as we got closer, the wind started to pick up more and we could hear large gusts coming from the other side of the nearby forest. Lilo decided she wanted to go home, but I managed to get her to the parking lot. She got really mad at me when I asked for trot (as if to say "Are you kidding? You want to play around with this nonsense when there is danger so close by?!"), but I persevered and we were able to do some good trot work. She was irritated at me the whole time and looking around warily (I can't blame her for that with those loud and powerful gusts), but still I could see how good she felt in the movement. She wasn't comfortable enough to go long with her head down and back stretched out, but she kept stretching it down and forward over and over again for short stretches, releasing the tension that she probably had in her back.

After the lunging, I would like to have gone for a long walk away from the barn, but since Lilo so adamantly wanted to head back, I decided we would walk near the barn instead. With the wind picking up more and more each minute, even this proved to be quite difficult. I think she was suffering both from a mild case of being herd-bound (from being in her stall so much the day before) as well as simple fear (and old fearful memories?) of the wind. What I took away as a success for myself, however, was that I am able to rationalize what she was going through and realize that this will not affect our relationship going forward. Meaning, in the past, I would have thought "Oh no, this is how she is going to be with me form now on, and I will never be able to take a good walk with her again". But from my experiences with Little Love, I have learned that sometimes circumstances can be temporary, and the best thing to do is deal with them and let them go. The next time I go there, I will have no expectations (or only positive ones) and then deal with what comes, and I am sure we will get back to our nice, calm walks and rides. As horses do, I will try to "deal with it and go back to grazing".

The storm continued all yesterday afternoon and it seems more trees fell and more homes are again without power. I should take some pictures outside my apartment building, because here in the city it looks like post-Armageddon with so many huge evergreens lying on their sides every which way. But today it is calm, warm(-ish), and the sun is shining. Little Love will have a day off today, so I hope this sunshine lasts and we can take a warm walk in the sun tomorrow!

-- Melissa

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