Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Close Contact: A Visitor, An Epiphone, A Hug

So much has gone on this last week, I barely know where to start.  As a favor to you all, I'm going to divide this post into sections so that you don't have to read the whole thing.  I'll start with the good news.
Cowgirl has a visitor.

Since Red died, Cowgirl hasn't been the same.  She's always hanging out by herself.  I started to think she'd been demoted by Beautiful Girl, but then yesterday, she rejoined the herd and kicked the crap out of BG when she came too close to her hay.

But something sweet happened during her time of mourning. Whenever I'd go out to the barn, there was a bird (is it a pigeon?) hovering near her. It would fly away when I approached, but it happened so often, I wanted to get a picture of it, so I got my phone ready.

A messenger?



Feeling Leah's Stress 

I mostly ride all my horses bareback nowadays; I don't have to lift a saddle on and off, which makes it easier and allows me to ride more horses each day.

At first, I was mostly concerned with myself, learning to balance better on their backs at different gaits, but as time has gone on, I'm more concerned with what I can feel through the close contact.

I've learned important information about ALL of them, but what I found about Leah was especially revealing.  Leah seems to take stress into her spine (maybe all horses do?) and when I pick up the rein to ask for something different, I can feel a tightening and twitching along her back that doesn't always correspond with a dramatic, and obvious, head lift.

To probe into that further, I practiced side-passing on her, but I worked really hard to use the lightest amount of pressure in the bit--just enough to signal NOT to move forward.  Then, I gave a little push with my left leg to get her to step over to the right.  The more I repeated it, and got softer and softer, the more she stopped reacting and I didn't feel anything in her back.  I shifted to the opposite direction, same technique, and she just scooted right over to the left.  It was an AHA! moment.  She's an extremely sensitive horse--a lover, not a fighter--and she requires an extremely gentle hand.  I have some work to do in that area, but her body is helping me figure it out.

As for her bareback walk/trot transitions, they're starting to improve in leaps and bounds!  Yay!

Water Damage:

The flooding in our house is almost done, but it hasn't stopped completely because it continues to rain.  We took out all the carpet, and now we're taking out portions of the wall and insulation throughout the entire basement.

On Saturday, I had my last straw.  As I was pulling out water-soaked baseboards, I started to cry.  My husband, sensing my sadness, or his own, or both, came over and pulled me to him and held me in his arms.  Or, maybe it's more accurate to say both of us held each other in our arms.  We just stood like that for a long time, then we parted and continued to work.  But I felt better.

That night, after working until about 7 pm, we got on our shorts and tank tops, set the television (that we had to bring up from the flooded downstairs) to YouTube scenes of the ocean waves, grilled salmon, opened wine, turned up the house temperature and partied like it was 1999, pretended we were back in Hawaii.

You know, I wouldn't wish this on ourselves, or anyone, but oddly, it has brought us even closer together.

Thank you flooded basement for reminding us what is most important--the ones we love.


On the bright side, we do have a plan to make sure this NEVER happens again, but more on that later.  Here are some photos of the last week.

Foxy + Little Joe =

A butt to butt kicking match that had Little Joe bleeding and Foxy running around on 3 legs.  

Both recovered.

Leah + Little Joe = Peace

 The pond large puddle flood in front of our house: before and after being pumped out (starting Sunday) to allow for more drainage.

See, I don't always ride bareback. This is me walking Little Joe to the barn next door yesterday.  We walked over to ride with a couple of our friends.  This was taken at our place as we were leaving.  He was a trooper.

Hope it is well with all of you!  Or, if not, that you're making the best of bad situations.  Hang in there!


  1. I admire how you are finding the good in difficult situations.

    1. Honestly, there's really no other choice. But thank you.

  2. Well, you really do have a lot going on. I think it looks like you're gaining ground with the basement.

    Little Joe has a very sweet face and kind eye. Glad you got to take him for a ride.

    I'm pretty sure that bird is a pigeon. It looks like the pigeons my grandfather used to race. Maybe he's helping Cowgirl get over her grief by just keeping her company. We used to have a bird around that would take rides on my daughter's horse Mellon. The bird would just sit on his back and Mellon who is very opinionated about everything didn't seem to mind.

    Leah reminds me a lot of Dusty. She needed the least amount of any touch or thought and she was on it before I even asked. I was able to steer her with the slightest movement of my pinky finger or just look where I wanted to go and she would. Still miss her. Anyway, you and Leah are becoming a great team.

    1. Yes, if the water would stop coming in, we'd be able to start the next phase. It is peetering out though.

      That's sweet that Leah reminds you so much of Dusty. I've never had a horse that's as sensitive and sweet as her. She wouldn't hurt a church mouse, as they say. My personality is a little more...loud? She's good for me. Very good.

      Oh, and I haven't seen the bird the last couple of days. Maybe it accomplished what it needed.

  3. It's hard with all that's going on- your ability to find peace in the small but so essential things is inspiring. I was struck again last week riding Carmen with just how sensitive she is. I think to horses like her it must feel that we're shouting all the time.

    1. That is a very good point. I have no doubt it's like shouting, if not worse. It may feel like we're hitting them. It's hard to find the balance between being soft and also telling them, "No." Or, "slow down."

  4. I think that water damage would make me want to cry too- especially when it just keeps on happening. There are so many slides between here and CouerD'Alene that they have been shutting roads down and even telling people at the border crossing to stay home.
    I think we forget just how sensitive a horse really is- a twitch of an ear can be all a boss mare needs to control a subordinate, and they can feel a fly landing. I think our efforts at communication could be compared to a new iphone looking at a hand crank telephone in their mind!

    1. Very true. Today, I was riding her bareback again and she'd get going to fast at the trot. I'd start out pulling her in soft, but then get stronger. When I realized I wasn't able to be soft anymore, I changed it up to a circle--all of this is at the trot--and then her speed came down with the softness in my hands. So, I guess sometimes, we have to scale it back in order to get that communication right.

  5. You just never know about special birds. Might be carrying a message.
    Leah is such a sweetie ~ you are really
    good to catch her feeling of stress. And that water... Oh my! Sometimes things are much better after a few tears. March had been awful for me, so thank you for the 'hang in there'. Needed that :-)

    1. I'm so sorry to hear you're having a tough March. When we're walking through a storm, all we can do is keep walking and wait until we get out of it. But there is a certain calm that eventually comes, too, like the one that came over us after that really tough day--even though the storm was far from over. I suppose a new "normal" is created--a new reality.

  6. I love that Cowgirl has a pigeon friend & I am just weird/edgy enough to believe that the bird could be a connection between Cowboy & Cowgirl, him still watching over her in a spiritual way. Perhaps the bird will stay near her until she has grieved enough for Cowboy.

    It's thrilling that you have picked up so much new insight by riding bareback; this will only help you two bond even more.

    Lastly, about your man coming to hold you when you were overwhelmed -- Just so. I am never so broken that being held & reassured by Mr Shoes is not enough to help.
    It's one of the best things about a good, long marriage, to know each other well enough that we don't need to ask, that we can usually tell we are needed without using words.

  7. Never underestimate the power of a hug at just the right moment. ;)

  8. I've heard about connections between passing souls and unique bird visits. Cowgirl didn't seem fazed by whatever the (carrier?) pigeon was doing. Pretty sweet! It's nice to be able to learn from different horses & think it's great how riding bareback is tuning you in even more. I haven't ridden bareback much. The areas we find most difficult, are usually what we would benefit from most. Having your home damaged must be so hard. Kudos to you for looking on the bright side!


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