Friday, February 12, 2016

Oh, Hi There!


The last time I posted on this blog it was 2012.

So much has happened since then.... I feel like a totally different person than I was then.

I recently decided to start posting again, as a kind of "therapy". As I start to feel "normal" again. As I embark on this brand new, exciting, scary adventure I find myself on.

One thing I have seen as I look back on my life: there is a thread throughout all major life changing, life shattering events - and the thread is horses.

My family probably thinks I am nuts; they've probably expected me to "outgrow' my horse obsession years ago; but I don't outgrow it. I don't out run it, and I never quit; it's like horses are key to my existence on this planet. And I don't know why.... I thought I'd try giving it up; but I couldn't escape it.

Since my last post in 2012, my job changed drastically, suddenly. My husband's job ended suddenly.

We lost Pippin suddenly; alive one evening and eating happily in his stall; the next morning dead.

We gained a horse, via our local volunteer fire department and the local animal control (Long story, to follow.)

And we lost our barn.

We only rented the place; so staying was never a guarantee. Sharing the property with a lying, sneaking, undermining second tenant became stressful, and I was no longer enjoying the place. I didn't even feel like staying around long enough to do much besides do chores and feed the horses; so I ended up feeling like a visitor, who dropped in to visit with my horses and then left them. Leaving them with the other house tenant who would go in the pastures in the middle of the night; trashed our riding trails, leaving gates open, using the landlord's things, loosing, stealing or breaking them and blaming my husband, and generally being a nasty, sneaking, lying usurper who eventually succeeded in convincing the landlord to sympathize with and believe his lying, sneaking, shady side of things; and proceeded to push us out....

The final straw was swearing out a warrant for my husband's arrest for allegedly "running them off the driveway" with our truck (lies). The final straw was seeing my husband arrested for this nonsensical, false, depraved lie; and the landlord siding with the lying, jackass tenant - without listening to one word of our defense.

The day after my husband was arrested for something he didn't do, we decided it was time to go. But where?

Our only option was to bring the horses home to our farm in Virginia. All we had was hay fields -  no fences, no barn; nothing to accommodate horses at all. But we began to make a plan.

I never thought I'd be so happy to give up such a lovely farm as we had in North Carolina. But I was. I had to get out; I had to escape the place. It had become a curse to me. The negativity there was like a cloud. I felt like I was always being watched. There was no peace, and I started to hate it - in spite of all it's outward loveliness.

Because of the terms of his arrest and upon the advice of our excellent attorney, Kevin stayed far away from the farm. Meanwhile, I was left to move everything alone. I started packing stuff out - you have no idea how much stuff can be accumulated in a barn in 8 years! Tons of stuff.... in addition to this, I had a list of repairs from the landlord that he insisted I complete in 30 days - alone. Stuff I had no clue how to do - high tinsle fencing, gutter repairs, post and rail fencing. The landlord - who had in previous years been very friendly to us, even calling us "family" and always saying how much he "loved" us like family, turned into a real jackass and was nasty to me, despite the fact that he was the reason, and he knew it!, that I was doing all this work on my own. In the end, my Dad came to my rescue and we got the work done - along with help from other family members and close friends. Much of the work was damage caused by the lying, rotten tenant - who on one occasion "blacked out" on the tractor while mowing in my riding arena (which he was not asked to do) and ran into the gate post; breaking the gate off with the gatepost and taking two sections of fence boards along with it. The truth is, he was ignorant and careless while operating the tractor and miscalculated the width of the mower. He never offered to fix it; so the landlord ended up yelling at me about this. And my Dad and I fixed it. And on another occasion, the tenant was again on the tractor (he was not asked to mow our horse pastures) and bush hogged over a loose strand of high tensle fence wire that had come loose in a recent flood. (The pasture is right next to a large creek; and every time the creek floods it totally covers the pasture and fence.) The fence was wrecked, but of course he never did anything about it. The landlord yelled at me about it, and blamed my horses; even though the fence wire was left tangled in the blades of the bush hog for all to see plainly. Nevertheless, my Dad and I fixed that, too. And other things that were caused by my horses, admittedly. I've never had someone who called me "friend" and claimed to think of me as "family" turn on me like this guy did. He is a hateful, mean, and hypocritical person, obviously. And I can't believe I wasted so many good years putting up with him and wasting time keeping up his place for him. 

We put up a temporary paddock on a chunk of our back yard and hayfield, and I brought my horses home.

Where I can look out my kitchen window and see them graze. Where I can step out to the back yard and holler at them and wave and they look up and nicker at me. Home. 

After the months of negative, hateful, deceitful, conniving, malicious behavior that added up to pushing us out, I was finally able to breathe again; think again; plan, hope, dream, and feel somewhat normal - instead of judged, demonized, hated, smeared, and cheapened.

We had our day in court, and our excellent attorney was able to get the charge against Kevin totally dropped - because it was an utter misconstrued lie. We didn't even pay any fines or court costs. It was totally erased.

So here was are at home with our horses - not as grand as the Milton barn, but 100 times better because it's home and it's ours and nobody can spy on us, or push us around anymore.

I will share more in the coming days. Getting everything "out" and off my chest helps me get it behind me. Thank you for reading. But even if nobody reads this; it's mainly about me being able to get it out. Readers are a bonus. So if you're still here - thank you. :)

Photos: Leveling the spot for the new equipment shed, putting in fence posts, and my babies at home in their new "temporary" paddock. All of this was August 2015. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Horse Trading in 1916

I found this little book some place. I don't even remember where it came from. Probably some box lot from an auction, or stashed in a box of postcards dug out of the attic when we moved in, or who knows where else I could have gotten it. Today I peeked in it and realized there was this letter stuck in it's front pages and I never knew it. It reads:

Louisa, VA
May 11, 1916

Dear Robert.
I want to thank you for the many nice things you have done for me lately. The box got to Louisa with Gipp all right. She looked so pretty. After Hugh Goodwin knew he would buy at $135 he backed out after I got her here. I think he thought he would get her for $100 but - he didn't. 
Suppose Mr. Covington told you all the Lousia news. J.W. got home yesterday. Tad is also expected soon and Josie comes latter part of the week. Would be glad to have you come to see them any time. 

Very Sincerely,

Mildred -

I figure Gipp was a horse - a pretty mare. So she arrived in a "box" - I figure, a truck with tall sides on it, that they  used to transport horses in before horse trailers; or a box car on a train. Nearest I can figure.
Hugh wanted to buy her, but Mildred wouldn't come off of $135; so Hugh left empty handed. And Mildred sounded pretty proud of herself. Robert had probably advised her not to take anything less than $135 or she'd be a fool.
Or. I thought, maybe Gipp was a dog. A dog could arrive in a "box". But I can't see anyone paying $100 or even $135 for a dog in 1916. That amount of money seems more reasonable for a horse. 
So I am sticking with the horse story.

I just love things like this. I only wish there was a photo to go along with it - so I could see the pretty Gipp and her gutsy owner, Mildred.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hay, Man

We grow and cut all of our own hay for our horses. We plant several fields of oats for oat hay; which our horses love. The rest of it is regular "meadow" grass hay.

This year we baled and picked up about 1200 bales in a weekend; which buttoned up 1st cutting. Cutting the hay is done earlier in the week, and raking the day before baling. It's a good week of hard, hot, exhausting work. But we gotta feed the horses in the wintertime!

One of the hay fields

Kevin cutting another hayfield

My Dad and my brother Eli (and Brendan supervising) transfer oat hay bales onto a trailer to go to another barn. 

Naomi baling hay in the field behind my house

Me, changing the shear pin on the flywheel. 

Naomi. Below, my Dad is baling the lase several hundred of the first cutting.
Ethan and Emilie - this was actually taken last season.

Haying time is a family affair; almost every family member - from Grandparents to grand kids - come to the fields to help; including the little ones; who come along for the hay ride. When they're tall enough to reach a gas pedal; then they're put behind the wheel of one of the trucks.  By then they're also strong enough to pick up some bales, as well.

Lord willing, we do it all again in September for 2nd cutting; much of which is sold.

I complain, but it beats buying that much hay, that is for sure!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Vintage Equestrian Purse

I am a collector and seller of vintage clothing and accessories, and antiques. Very seldom do I find an item that combines my two greatest loves - old stuff and horses; but I did when I discovered this 50s era purse at Goodwill a few weeks ago.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Naomi and Pippin

My sister Naomi chose "Pippin" as her first OTTB project. We've had him a year and a half. He just turned 5 this January,  so I don't think he had an impressive career on the track and was "recycled out" pretty young. He is such a laid back, easy going, unconcerned, friendly guy! He seriously has one of the best personalities of any horse I have ever known. He was raced as "Bold Commet", but Naomi called him "Pippin" because he reminded us so much of the happy-go-lucky Hobbits Merry and Pippin in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy; and obviously if we'd called him "Merry"  people would think he was a girl. Which he is not, of course. 

He is extremely curious, and not afraid of much of anything. (Can you tell? He had so thoroughly sniff that tractor all over.)

We started riding him the week after he arrived at our barn from PA; with no issues ever. He's a little fidgety; so one of his nicknames is "Fidgety Feet" after the 1920s song. The first time I took him on a trail, he hesitated at every hill; going down. He wasn't too sure about those; and I almost figure he'd never been ridden anywhere besides the track - which is flat  - and certainly never on trails and in the woods. He wasn't scared of the hills; he just wasn't sure what it was or if he could go down safely, carrying a rider. Keep in mind, too, that he is just turning five; so he was only 4 at that point.   He went down the hills, slowly, one careful step at a time. It was so cute.

Naomi is doing a great job with him, and we thoroughly enjoy having him in the herd!

Friday, June 22, 2012

David and Amber

When my friend David (who also happens to care for our horse's feet with great expertise) bought this mare (a Paso Fino), she had been living in a show barn and had been pretty badly mistreated. As a result, she had developed some dangerous behavior as a defense mechanism against the abuse she suffered. Rearing, bucking, bolting, kicking, biting... you name it, she did it. David told me that one day she reared up and flipped herself over on her back in a protest against being handled. Using Natural Horsemanship techniques, David was able to gain her trust and teach her new skills and re build a good life for her.

Today, she is as gentle as a lamb, and so sensitive to every slight movement of her handler/rider.

David has taught her to lie down on command, which displays her compete trust in him.

She also lets David stand on her back. I think he usually does this with a saddle; so his boots don't hurt her back. He did this briefly as a demo on this day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

More of Nell

We took Nell and a couple of the other horses to a de-spooking clinic last weekend.

I decided I am no good at this Natural Horsemanship stuff on the ground. In the round pen I feel clumsy, un coordinated and confused. So I am sure that Nell feels this way too.

Thankfully David stepped in and helped out. I think she appreciated him a lot more. 

I am so much better at working horses under saddle than on the ground/ at liberty.

I would love to be one of those masterful horse people that can work multiple horses at liberty using only a stick to point and voice commands and get the horses to do things that would blow your mind.

I just do not have the skills nor do I think I ever will have the skills.

I have much more confidence in my riding.

I've also decided that Nell must have been switched with a Quarter Horse foal at birth; because she is so unlike all the other TBs I have ridden in my life. She jogs like a Quarter Horse; she's even built like a QH - or at least an appendix QH. If it weren't for her lip tattoo I'd think she was a full blooded AQHA mare.

I joked to Kevin that I need to change her name to "Switch" because of this.

Ha, ha.

Anyways.... still hoping to make some progress with Nell so I can begin riding her.

I am on the verge of forgetting this round pen stuff and just skip right to the riding part; even if it means getting tossed on my butt a few times.

It's tempting but I am going to keep trying.