Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Seasons Greetings

Merry christmas to all and to all a good night!

The Christmas tree was created by my son Richard. I hope all my readers, your families, and your animals are well and happy, and wish you all the best for the New Year. Thank you for reading my blog this year, and thank you to those whose blogs I have also enjoyed reading.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Dee grazing

These two videos show Dee at Wyndham the day before we moved her, and then the day after she arrived at Gorgeous Grazing. As you can see she is grazing quite happily in both videos. The only real difference is the noise of the motorway behind her in the Wyndham video, and the peace and quiet of the GG video.

I phoned Kim at GG today to hear how Dee was doing. She is now out with the herd. The first day Dee was turned out Kim was a little concerned because Dee was quite aggressive towards the inquisitive younger mares, kicking out at them. Fortunately no-one was injured and they have now learned that Dee doesn't like them to get too close. Kim says she is with the other horses in the field—not separate and isolated—so they have accepted her and she is feeling part of the group. Kim also says that she seems to have made friends with a mare called Blue. They are going to start a GG blog, so hopefully I shall be able to link to photographs of her soon.

Thank you for the supportive comments dear readers. And yes, Red does appear to be enjoying being the centre of our attention. I had a lovely ride in Coed y Wenallt on Friday. He was very well behaved. At first he seemed a little less confident than usual – but it has been a couple of months since he was hacked out on his own. He will soon get used to this I am sure, and his confidence in me will grow as well.

It is good for me that he has moved stable—as well as suiting Red—because I am not always noticing the absence of Dee in the stable next to him. The relief has kicked in a little more now, to displace the sadness somewhat: knowing I can now afford to keep them indefinitely, and feeling more rested physically after a weekend without stable chores. I do get a pang of anxiety now and then when the weather is wet or cold in the night and I think of Dee out in a field. I think it will be important for me to visit her next month to see that she is well and happy to ease my mind.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Settling in

Dee is safely settled in her new home. I was so proud of how she behaved from beginning to end. As I put on her tail bandage in preparation for the journey, she seemed to know that this meant something was happening. She stopped eating her haylage and became lively and interested in what was going on. She loaded onto the truck with minimal fuss – only needing a little encouragement from a bucket of feed. Once on, she was calm and made no fuss about being so close to another horse. I was a little worried about Red. He became upset when I took Dee to the truck. He kept calling for her, but there wasn't anything I could do for him as I had to go with Dee. (They told me today that he was fine and soon settled down.)

The journey was easy and uneventful. We stopped to unload Jess's horses at her place first. Dee—understandably—became a little restless when the other two mares were unloaded, and she was still on the truck, but I stroked her and talked to her and she quickly settled down again.

Unfortunately it was dark by the time we arrived at Gorgeous Grazing. This was not ideal and the decision had to be made as to which would be more acceptable for her: being turned out into a field she didn't know in the dark, but next to other horses; or being put into a stable on a yard she didn't know where there were no other horses. I decided on the former. I felt she would be happier being able to graze and stretch her legs near other horses. We were able to get her travel boots off and her turnout rug on while she was still on the truck. I led her down the ramp, paused while Kim removed her tail bandage, and then led her straight into the field. It seems to have been a good decision as she showed no sign of distress and quickly began to graze – in fact I think she was so thrilled to find such thick, long grass that she felt right at home. We kept her head collar on in case she became distressed and we had to catch her quickly. We then left Dee for an hour or so, returning to the field later to check her. She was grazing contentedly, so I took off her head collar and said goodnight to her.

Kim at Gorgeous Grazing is giving her hard feed every morning at the moment, as this is what she is used to, but we think she will not need it on top of haylage twice a day while there is still quite a lot of grass. All the horses will be given hard feed as soon as they need it. The following morning I went to see how she was. She didn't really want me too close at first – probably in case I was going to put her on a truck for 5 hours again – but soon let me stroke her. It wasn't a very nice morning in Cornwall on Tuesday: cold, foggy and a little drizzly; but Dee was warm and dry under her rug. I visited her again in the afternoon, and yesterday morning before I had to catch my train home. When I'd left her on Tuesday morning, she'd looked up as I went as if to check where I was, but yesterday she didn't even raise her head as I left the field. Dee has never been a demonstrative mare, so it is difficult to tell whether she feels lost or confused, but it did not appear so.

And me? All through the journey down in the truck I kept feeling I couldn't believe it was happening; am I really going to leave my beloved mare in a field 200 miles away with people I don't really know? The three days in Cornwall had a strange dream-like quality. I feel certain she will be content and well looked after. The field she is going to be in is huge – 20 acres – and she will be with 6 other mares of various ages and sizes. There are a few geldings in the field next to them. All the horses looked well and extremely calm, and it is so quiet and peaceful there. I know all this, but it is like leaving my child at boarding school. I'm so going to miss seeing her every day and have to stop torturing myself with thoughts of "what if she misses me or needs me and I'm not there?" 'What if' musings are always a complete waste of time because they are about an imagined or projected future and not about the present moment. As Dee seems so settled already, she will be out with her new friends by the end of the week.

Tears are very near the surface with me at the moment – especially writing this – but Kim is happy for me to phone as often as I like to ask how Dee is. It was strange being at Wyndham today with only Red to tend to, but he seemed pleased to see me at least. He's been moved to a different stable on the other side of the yard which I think he likes much better – he is next to his chums and more in the middle of things. Our previous stables were the two right at the farthest end, so there people did not walk past and say hello to him so much.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The last ride

Today we spent a long time at the stables. There was a lot of stuff to sort out in preparation for the new regime starting next week. Red will be on part livery, which means that I have to do everything for him for two days a week and the livery do everything for him for the other five. I will no longer need my feed bins as feed is included in the package, consequently I shall be giving up the little hut I have been using for storage. I am not sorry to lose the hut as it is becoming something of a liability. 'ö-Dzin put his foot through the floor last weekend and the roof is going to cave in any time soon. It already leaks quite badly. We've also brought Dee's tack home to vacate her space in the tack locker, and I've sold one of my storage cabinets as I will not need so much space. Red will also be moving to a new box, which I think he will quite like as he will be next door to one of his chums.

We went out for a ride through Coed-y-Wenallt in the glorious winter sunshine. It has been a lovely day – bright and sunny, and not too cold. We were happy that it was such a fine day for our last ride out together with both horses. Because the weather was so good, and both horses were happy and relaxed, we rode farther than we had intended. We decided to take our time today—even if it took all day—and simply spend as long as was necessary to enjoy our ride, complete our chores, and clear out the shed. It was nice to feel so relaxed and leisurely. The horses responded by being very slow and plodding to begin with, but did eventually liven up, especially when we met up with a few horses from Briwnant Trekking Centre and they wanted to tag along with them.

So tomorrow is the day of the big move. All preparations and arrangements are in place. My only concern is that Dee will play up on the truck, being so close to two horses. Hopefully a full net of haylage will keep her sweet. I shall be staying at a bed and breakfast for Monday and Tuesday and spending plenty of time with Dee on Tuesday to help her settle. I will try to blog as soon as possible on my return, with pictures of her new home. Please wish us luck for our journey.

The photograph was taken at the end of our last ride, on the track back up to the yard. 'ö-Dzin took it from Red's back, which is why the angle is a little odd.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008


The decision has been reached and arrangements made to implement it. I don't know whether it is the best decision or the right decision, but it will leave us still owning both horses and able to cope with their expense and their care. Dee is going to an equine retirement home where she can live out the rest of her days in peaceful and beautiful countryside; Red is staying at Wyndham but on part livery which will be a lot less time and work for me. Hopefully I can start enjoying riding again rather than using up all my time and energy simple managing the food and waste production line.

I am in danger of slipping into eternalism over the numerous convenient coincidences that have arisen around the decision to retire Dee to a place called Gorgeous Grazing in Cornwall. Eternalism is one of the four philosophical extremes that are denied by Buddhism. These four are eternalism, nihilism, monism and dualism. Eternalism maintains that all circumstances unfold according to an unchangeable plan or design, denying the emptiness of the possibility of change or chance. Nihilism maintains that all actions are empty of meaningful value. Monism distorts non-duality by asserting that ‘everything is one;’ in denial of apparent distinctions and compassionate connections. Dualism denies non-duality by declaring that emptiness and form are divided.

The young woman who has the two stables next to ours lives in Cornwall but is in Cardiff at university. She has her horses with her term time and takes them home for holidays. Her home in Cornwall is very close to Gorgeous Grazing. She is going home for Christmas on Monday and taking her two horses in her truck that holds three horses, and is happy to give us a ride. Extraordinary. To be eternalist about these coincidences would be to say: "It is meant to be." I'm just going to enjoy my good fortune and feel happy that I can also help a student by paying her diesel for the trip home.

What do I feel about all this? I'm relieved that things are decided. I am sad that I shall be losing my close daily contact with Dee. I am glad that I shall be able to ride more and work less. I am relieved that I shall have time to work on important projects again. I'm also pretty confused about what I feel and anxious about how things will be for Dee. I shall be staying in Cornwall with her for a few days to see that she is settling down well.

The photograph demonstrates quite how close to the motorway the horses are in this field. This is the mares' field at the moment and Dee doesn't like it very much. She gets quite upset if she has to be there on her own, whereas she was never concerned about being on her own for a while in the field she was in before. Over the past year they have been widening this stretch of the motorway. They have planted trees all along the edge, so it will be better when the trees mature.

Friday, 5 December 2008

And still pondering

It is strange only having occasional access to a computer. I currently have a backlog of 106 blog pages to read from my regular list on Google Reader, so I hope all my blog friends out there are well – I'll get to read your pages eventually.

This has been a busy week. Our retreat ended on Monday after five delightful days in the company of our splendid students. Yesterday we had a multifuel stove installed in our lounge. It is wonderful and I am enjoying being warm with less effort and greater convenience. As you can see the cats approve. The hearth used to be higher in the previous arrangement, so at the moment the tiles surrounding the fireplace do not go right down to the floor – another little job for us …

Last night was our Christmas meal with Wyndham Livery. Seventeen of us celebrated the festive season at a local hotel, with good food, good wine, and musical entertainment. 'ö-Dzin was the only man who joined in and he thoroughly enjoyed the company of so many ladies. Sally—the yard proprietor—is unfortunately suffering from an injured leg at the moment, having been trampled at the weekend by a horse who decided to jump off the horsebox ramp taking her with him. She was in good spirits nevertheless and danced as enthusiastically and magnificently from her seat as any of us on the dance floor.

Of course I am still thinking and thinking and thinking about what to do with the horses. I have not heard from SB at Liege Manor, and consequently my thinking has been going off in different directions with the extra time to ponder this week. Victoria wisely commented that I should not make a hasty decision, and I also thank LJB for suggesting that a third option may suggest itself and make the situation more fluid. And indeed a third possiblity has arisen. This is to retire Dee to an inexpensive grass livery and to keep Red where he is at Wyndham.

I have been remembering how Dee never really felt like my horse while she was on working livery, and I feel the same would happen to Red if we moved him to Liege Manor. It took Red a long time to settle at Wyndham as it was his second move in six months. I feel that we are now discovering the 'real' Red – the Red who feels safe, content, relaxed and happy with his life. This Red is a fine fellow – friendly, communicative, easy to ride, cooperative (mostly!) and entertaining. Everyone at the yard who has to deal with him has said how much easier he is. Do I really want to unsettle him again and jeopardise this by moving him – and to a yard where he would be ridden by different people everyday and be parted from the environment he has come to rely upon? I feel any chance of continuing with my natural horsemanship work would be lost if he were on working livery, and I am sure they would want to put him back in a bitted bridle.

Red becomes attached to horses and people, once he is settled and relaxed. He is becoming attached to us, which is reflected in his changed and lovely attitude to us now. He is certainly attached to some of the geldings. The other morning after our ride 'ö-Dzin turned Red out. Arriving in the field much later than the other geldings because of our ride, Red stood and called. After a few moments eight geldings came charging down the field to Red at full pelt, and then they all wandered back up to the top field together – the gang were back in town! He so often reminds me of an adolescent: playful and energetic, but occasionally a bit belligerent, and not always fully in control of where his feet are. I want to keep this Red.

Dee does not form attachments. She does not like to be on her own in the fields near the motorway, but she does not care which other horse is with her, and has not really made friends with any of the mares. She seemed to quite like being with Ash at Ridgway, but has shown no sign of missing this mare, and does not acknowledge her when we meet out on a ride. I guess she does recognise me as her ally, but do not feel she misses me at times I have to be away from her. Her priorities are most definitely comfort and food and if these are provided she is content. I do not share Victoria's confidence that I will one day get her to hack out alone, and I am not sure that I have the time or conducive circumstances available to me to be able to put in the sort of consistent effort of working with her to achieve this. So my musing are generally taking me in the direction of feeling that if Dee was moved to somewhere where she was well looked after and had no demands made upon her, she would be content.

We can both ride Red, we cannot both ride Dee. Red will hack out alone, Dee will not. Red will take a while to settle if we move him again, Dee is likely to settle more quickly. Red is becoming attached to us and to Wyndham, Dee is just Dee wherever she is. Good grief it is hard to make such choices.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Cold, crisp riding weather

My laptop has died and I am having to borrow 'ö-Dzin's, so my posts will probably be somewhat intermittent until I have a new computer.

We have just had a wonderful five day retreat with our students. We included in the retreat a couple of morning rides, as well as the daily chores of horse care. The weather has been bright and cold – perfect for walking and riding in Coed y Wenallt.

We have found it works best with the horses for us to ride out on them first, and then swap riders after a while once they are settled into being out and about. I watched Dee very carefully when one of our students mounted her and rode off. Dee was completely unperturbed. It did not bother her one iota that someone other than me was on her back – and someone who is not a very experienced rider. This has made me wonder whether I worry about her too much and whether regular exercise would actually be better for her than the infrequent riding she gets with me. As she is getting older—she's nineteen next year—I think it is important to keep her gently active. Perhaps the on/off style of exercise she experiences with me at Wyndham is not so good … or am I just trying to convince myself that working livery would be okay?

It is all academic at the moment anyway. SB of Liege Manor will be coming to look at Red sometime this week or the beginning of next week. If she feels he is suitable for Liege Manor then we shall move him there, and he will be on a month's trial to begin with. If they are happy with him and our connection with Liege Manor is established, then she may consider taking Dee as well at sometime in the future. I will look at that decision if that eventuality arises.