Sunday, January 8, 2012

Looking back, looking forward

Exactly a year ago today I became the owner of the singing black mare also known as Little Love.  Since then I have not only been writing this blog weekly, but also kept a barn diary, in which I noted our every day trials and tribulations.  Here is what I wrote on the very first page:

8.January 2011
Today I became a horse owner.  I'm at the same time both freaked out and excited.  I'm afraid my expectations are too high, but the sensible part of me knows that this will probably be one of the hardest, but most enlightening journeys of my entire life.  Tomorrow I'm moving Little Love to her new home.  I have no idea what will happen after that...
Let the adventure begin!

Well, it has been an adventure and it certainly has been hard and enlightening, so I got that part right.  My expectations were high, yes, but I really had no idea what to expect.  Did I ever really understand how much a horse can and will change when given the right to have opinions, when allowed to live with other horses, when not forced or yelled at or punished?  No.  I think if there is one thing this past year has given me, it has opened my eyes to understanding how humans oppress horses and how this oppression changes the very being of the horse, inside and outside.  Little Love is not the same horse she was a year ago.  She used to be a shadow, a shell of a  (often misbehaving) horse and now she is the real horse, a wise and kind animal with an exceptional soul.  I believe there are still more changes to come, but these changes require her to live and operate in an even more natural environment with as little human intervention as possible.  I hope I will be able to provide that for her down the road, it is definitely my goal.

Last year, when I came back from my holiday in the US, I was met by a frantic horse standing prisoner in her stall.  The whites of her eyes were showing, her face was tense and pained and she looked like she would jump out of her skin any moment.  This was the horse I put in a trailer the next day to start our new life together.

This year was different.  After being gone for over two weeks, I came back relaxed and rested.  I was met by an equally relaxed and rested horse, who was visibly happy to see me!  Melissa made it to the barn before me on my first morning back and when she went to get Little Love from the paddock, she came to the gate over the frozen ground confidently, as if she knew today was the day her other person was coming home.  And of course she knew, since she knows everything better than us humans do.  When to the barn in my car, I could see her head from far away as she stood looking down the road, waiting for me.  The joy of seeing her again, of being able to be in her company, filled me completely.  We were both smiling.

Since I have been back we have finally gotten some snow and I was able to take Lilo on a long walk/ride in the woods with Vicky and her owner.  The horses, who have been suffering from the stormy weather and icy conditions, were overjoyed to be moving.  We walked to the end of the road and then trotted up the hill to the lake, where we let the horses go at the canter.  Lilo was so excited that I thought I would completely loose her in the process, but despite a few bucks and accelerations, I managed to hang on somehow.  We walked back with steam rising off our horses and I swear Lilo was smiling again, she was so content.  She really needed to just let go and run a bit.

This morning the weather was pretty cold (-16 Celsius which is 3 degrees Fahrenheit) and since I have jet lag like you wouldn't believe it, I was up early enough to make it to the barn before the sun came up. Here are some pictures from my walk with Lilo in the cold and crisp winter morning as the sun was rising over the trees.  Bbbbrrrrrrrrrr...
Wooly Mammoth
Sun rising over the field
Walking down the road
What a journey it has been so far and it's far from being over.  I thank all of you who have hung in there and read this blog, commented on it and given us support through thick and thin.  Couldn't have done it without you all <3  Unfortunately because of time constraints, I am fairly sure I will not be writing this blog as much in 2012 as I have in the past, but Melissa and I might pop in every now and then to give an update.  I have decided to take time to focus on my writing on a different level this year and therefore have to put some "projects" on the back burner.  This, of course, does not mean I won't be hanging out with Little Love several times a week - there is always time for my Zen Master!

Here is one more picture of Little Love, looking into the future, as I would like to see it with my human brain.  She, of course, was probably just looking at a car driving on the road on the other side of the field :-)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Can the weather get worse?

I guess the theme for this holiday season at the barn has been the weather: how many different difficult scenarios can nature throw at us during one two-week period? :-) I am so sorry for our barn owner, who has had to deal with the logistics of four horses throughout this ugly season we are having. And while the gale force winds have not returned, we have continued to have milder wind storms over the last week. But even though we humans are pleased that the winds are not strong enough to continue blowing trees onto our roads and buildings, I'm not sure the horses are comforted by this when they continue to be pounded with winds day after day. This week, the temperature turned cold again (temporarily at least), and the ground froze in the paddock again. Then on top of this, we got over ten centimeters of snow dumped on us in just a couple of hours on Monday.

Poor Little Love is starting to show the effects of all this stress and standing around on hard, uneven ground (and the other horses as well). In fact, on Monday, while the other horses went into the paddock for the day, Little Love stayed alone in the small walkway next to the paddock, because she couldn't walk into the paddock. The hard ground just causes her too much pain in her feet. But she is able to be near the other horses there, and I can see that the other three do spend a lot of time near her, so she doesn't mind this.

Since I wrote last, we have been on a long walk in the sun - yes, New Year's Day was beautiful for about half the day, which meant everyone and literally their dog were on our road walking and driving. Our walk culminated in an encounter with a two-seater baby stroller flanked by a lady walking with Nordic walking sticks (click click click goes the sound on the road) and a little girl who was either just jumping around her dad or actually playing with a jump rope. Either way, Little Love decided at this point that we needed to head home, and I agreed. :-) Our next outing was actually a ride/walk in the forest with Viki and her owner while the ten-centimeters of snow were coming down on us. We left a dark and grey barn to return to a winter wonderland. Little Love was great on the trails and seemed happy to be out and moving around with her friend.

Which brings me to yesterday, when we did a trek back and forth on our barn road (the stress has made her reluctant to leave the barn and her friends again) before the trimmer came to do Little Love's hooves. The condition of her hooves continues to improve, although not as rapidly as the trimmer would like. :-) But we noticed yesterday that Little Love is starting to be stiff in her back end. The trimmer noticed it already when she was working on Lilo's hooves, and I could see it as well in the way she was standing: she is holding her back end up tightly and rigidly, and it originates all the way from the rear part of her flank area. And after the trim, I did her stretches before putting her into the paddock and found that she was especially tight in the right hind. I talked to the barn owner about it, and she said that all the horses are super stiff. We are thinking it is probably from standing around and moving so carefully and tensely on the frozen ground in the paddock. And I'm sure it doesn't help that we have had such high winds so many nights, and the horses are probably not sleeping well. Hopefully the weather will get better soon, so we either have enough snow to cover up and cushion the frozen ground or then the ground itself can thaw and soften. Unfortunately, it doesn't look promising at the moment. (Today it is raining, but I also just heard that the road to the barn is so slippery and messed up that we have to leave our cars about half a kilometer away!) In the meantime, I will get Little Love out of the paddock as often as I can, because at least during that time I know she is moving naturally and can relax on some level, even if she is just standing next to me.

I'm happy that K will be home in a couple of days! :-)

-- Melissa