Category Archives: Horses

So, It’s Been a Busy Spring…

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Life is twice as good as it was when I last posted. Eight weeks ago today, our second son joined our family. And as much as I hated to be induced, I’m grateful he came out when he did, because he was ten pounds even and 22 inches long!

OK, so just a condensed birth story, y’all. If it’s not your thing, just skip this paragraph. I was worried that an induction (and the epidural I ended up getting) would lead to a c-section, but as it turned out, labor only lasted 9 1/2 hours, and when he finally decided to make his appearance, it only took 9 minutes. In fact, when he was born, the doctor had just gotten into the room and wasn’t fully gowned and gloved yet. Ben said something funny, and I laughed, and the nurse said, “Don’t laugh too hard!” Still laughing, I thought, “What on earth is she talking about?” And then I heard her say, “Doctor! He’s coming now!” And the doctor ran over and caught him. I’m pretty sure being born in laughter has to be a good omen, right?

First Snuggles

First snuggles with my little man.

Proud Daddy

Proud daddy.

Brothers

Brothers.

First Smiles

First smiles.

I’m biased, I know, but he is a truly beautiful boy. As my sister says, Ben is well-represented in this one. His big brother adores him, and the feeling is definitely mutual. His eyes widen when he hears his brother’s voice, and he immediately turns his head to find him.

So while we’ve been busy falling in love with The New Boy (Boy Two? Little Boy? Any suggestions for his blog alias?), spring has sprung outside! Two weeks ago was my favorite part, when the leaves were tiny and brilliantly green against the grey tree branches. It was also wisteria season, which always goes by too quickly. The woods up the road from my parents’ house are full of it, but there’s none on their property or ours, so I just admire it when we’re out driving.

Wisteria

Things seem especially beautiful on my parents’ farm this spring. We’ve had lots of rain. so everything is a super-saturated shade of green. The Boy loves the chance to run around outside until he can’t run anymore. He also loves the horses, and they seem to enjoy his company, too.

Running to the pasture

I’ve had the chance to enjoy the farm on a regular basis over the past five weeks, because we’re in the process of weaning last summer’s foal off of Calypso, so she’s closed in the stable and has to be taken care of every day. To avoid dealing with this issue again, we had Admiral gelded earlier this month. He was a very sweet stallion, so I’m pretty sure that as a gelding, he’ll be trying to climb directly into our pockets.

Sweet Admiral

And although I hadn’t planned to add any new chickens this year, somehow we’ve ended up with six Gold Stars and seven Easter Eggers. They followed me home. Honest.

It’s a beautiful spring. But best of all is definitely the little snugglebunny who’s currently gumming my shoulder and staring around the room with the biggest blue eyes you’ve ever seen.

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Eggs, Hawks, and Hatching Babies

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We had our first 18-egg day this past week! The most we’d ever gotten before was fourteen, so this was a big jump and meant that at least six of my pullets had laid. Sure enough, if you look at this carton of loveliness, you can see that the six eggs on the far right are smaller, representing the early efforts of some of my new girls. The tiny egg in the front near the middle is from my little OEGB, and of course, all six white leghorns laid as well.

We had a visit from this beautiful red-shouldered hawk a few days ago. Just a day earlier there was a good-sized Cooper’s hawk sitting on the chicken tractor (and sending the chickens into a brief panic), so I’m very glad we have the run pretty well covered. One of these birds has built a new nest in the top of a pine tree just behind the chicken coop, so I guess they plan to stay for a while. Hopefully, since the hens are inaccessible, they’ll pick off some squirrels for us.

Tons of work has been done in the nursery recently. My mom and sister came over on Tuesday and helped finish the painting so that we could start moving furniture into the room. Once it’s fully put together, I’ll post before and after pictures so you can see just how dramatic the changes have been. I would have a hard time believing it’s the same room if I hadn’t watched the transformation unfold.

My Boy is especially excited about his new room and about the fact that he’ll be sharing it with his baby brother after said baby brother “hatches.” (This is how he refers to the process of the baby getting out of my tummy.) He fell asleep on the sofa the other night with our sweet old cat, Dickens, sprawled across his legs, purring. Shortly after Ben took this picture, Dickens “freed” himself from the embrace so that he could curl up more securely in his Boy’s lap. All of our cats are incredibly patient and gentle with his energy and enthusiasm, but Dickens clearly adores him.

We’ve been enjoying what will probably be Ben’s last weekend off for a while as he prepares for the craziness that is life as a retail store manager between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He built a huge toy box yesterday that he’s been trimming and painting today. It should hold all of The Boy’s toy collection, but if he falls in, we might never see him again!

We also had our first hay delivery of the season for the horses today. This resulted in several broken fenceposts and some quick repairs after the truck rubbed one of the gateposts on its way into the pasture. Let me just say, they do not make fenceposts the way they used to. The last pasture fence stood for fifteen years and required very little maintenance during that time. We built this one using the same materials and methods about four years ago, and despite multiple “fixes,” it’s practically falling apart. We’ll be lucky to get a couple more years out of it before replacing it with steel T-posts and welded wire.

Overall, it’s felt like a productive week. I think I’m even caught up on laundry for once. It’s folded, too, and some people who know me (like my sister) will recognize just how surprising that is. The energy burst and desire to get projects done feels a little bit like early nesting. Hopefully this isn’t a sign that I’ll be completely exhausted and useless during my third trimester, because that’s not far away, and there’s still a lot to do before this baby hatches!

A Sad Story with a Happy Ending

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My phone rang early yesterday morning. My mom was calling to tell me that Gypsy, our little Arab-cross mare, was running around the pasture with a new foal at her side. We got over there as quickly as we could (after The Boy’s 3-year well checkup, where he was pronounced healthy and very tall), and found a strong, healthy filly and a mama who seems ready for the job this time.

This is Gypsy’s second foal. The first, Mississippi Mud Pie, was born May 8, 2010 and looked an awful lot like her new little sister. The same dark chocolate coat and the same huge star and snip, but without the strip connecting them.

Gypsy initially nursed her and seemed to be doing fine as a mama, but on the second day, she let the other horses push Missy off the bank into the stream, and then she just walked away. Fortunately, I was watching out the window and saw it happen. I helped Missy out of the water, and we put mama and baby in a temporary paddock together, thinking they just needed to be separated from the others.

But that night, when Missy tried to nurse, Gypsy attacked her. We talked to my former riding teacher and a veterinarian friend of hers, and their opinion was that for whatever reason, the two hadn’t bonded and we would need to raise the foal ourselves. So we did.

Missy absolutely thrived. She spent her first few months in a big chainlink pen beside my parents’ house next door, with daily jaunts out to the upper pasture where she would run in huge, sweeping circles, whinnying with pure joy and kicking up her dainty little heels before coming back to me, ready to go “home” for a snack.

After a while, the pen became too small for her, even though by then she was spending most of the day in the field. She had gotten to know the other horses through the fence dividing the two pastures, so moving her in with them went pretty smoothly. But she was kind of a loner, hanging out with her little half-brother or no one at all. For several months, though, everything worked. In the meantime, Ben and I moved from the guesthouse on my parents’ farm to our new house, seven miles away, where there was no room for horses. I drove over every day to feed them, but we really missed having them right outside.

Then one day last year, just a few weeks after Missy’s first birthday, Mom called to say that Missy had been lying in front of the stable all morning. She walked out there, still on the phone, and said that the horse looked fine, but didn’t seem to be able to get up.

Ben happened to be off that day, and we headed over to see what was wrong. Sure enough, Missy was lying there looking alert and comfortable, but no matter what tricks we tried, we couldn’t get her on her feet. In fact, we could see a trail of torn up ground behind her where she’d clearly been trying for hours to stand. We called the vet, but it was close to three hours before she could get there, so we put up a tent over Missy to get her out of the hot June sun, and then we sat on the ground with her and waited.

When the vet arrived, she looked Missy over and came to the conclusion pretty quickly that the horse had been struck by lightening the night before. What we’d thought was a bruise inside her back leg turned out to be a scorch mark, and although she appeared normal at first glance, her eyes had a milky cast and there was some blood in her mouth. She could move all four legs, but the back ones just didn’t have any strength in them.

On top of all that, in the hours we sat and waited with her, we literally watched colic set in. She went from lying upright to stretched out on her side, her belly distended and every breath a moan. After the vet’s assessment, it didn’t take long to realize that the only way to do right by Missy was to let her go. The one good part of that day was the fact that her last breaths were the first in hours that sounded painless and peaceful.

It was truly horrible, the first in a series of horrible events we went through last summer, and in comparison to the others, it was probably the least important. But it still hurts like crazy to think about that day and our utter helplessness to save that precious, beautiful creature.

So yesterday, we met this new little horse that looks so startlingly similar to Missy, and when the other horses got too close, we saw Gypsy take up the protective maternal stance that she never had before. Lowest in the pasture pecking order, she still laid back her ears and told Admiral and Calypso in no uncertain terms that they could leave her baby alone or they could get their butts kicked. And they believed her.

We saw the baby nurse and play and roll and do all the things that a happy, well-fed foal should do. And it feels like a second chance for Gypsy and for us. It feels like the story that ended so sadly last year might not be over yet, after all.