We moved in on February 1st, during what is usually the nastiest time of the year in Maryland weather-wise, since it can be so unpredictable. Example: we moved the girls from Laytonsville, MD to Frederick, MD back in late February of 2015, and had to bump up the move-in day for the horses because of an ice storm that had materialized in the forecast out of the blue. Fun times.
This time around, I watched the forecast like a hawk leading up to February, but the weather for that week remained wet and in the 40s for that entire week, which was a huge relief.
My BO was given a full 30-days' notice in writing. We left on good terms. Literally the only reason why we were leaving was because we needed either trail access or a larger arena to ride in in order to enjoy the horses. I had loved that farm, its people and the way it was managed to the point that it took me an entire year to make the decision that in order to ride on property we were going to have to look elsewhere. This is a boarding requirement for me. I know some people haul out for every ride but I'm not doing that. We would not have moved to that barn if we had known in advance that the trails would be decimated by the owners.
The week of February 1st, we went out to the old barn to consolidate our belongings, load up the trailer, and take home the things that weren't going to fit at the new barn (storage space for boarders there is limited.) On the day of the move itself, I was kind of an anxious mess. We went through so much barn drama in Florida anytime we were switching barns that moving has left me with permanent PTSD.
So everything gave me anxiety that day.
I had thought we would have issues with the trailer, since we hadn't hauled in forever. But it was a non-event: we hooked it up, all the lights came on without issue when we tested them, and so we made our way to the girls' field.
My next concern was that the horses wouldn't let us catch them. This has never been a problem before, but I was in "What's the worst that could happen?" mode. So of course my anxiety was not helped when we pulled up at the barn with the trailer in tow and both mares looked up from their field...and took off galloping AWAY from us at sight of the rig.
They gave Carlos a run for the money when he tried to go catch them. I was grabbing the last odds and ends to put in the truck when I saw them gallop past him for the fifth time. It's a seven acre field. He couldn't chase after them on foot! They weren't afraid or upset in the least: they were out there having the time of their lives being difficult for him. So I dropped everything I was doing and very noisily made up two feed pans of grain for them, which I took out to the hitching post next to their field.
The girls stopped running around when they saw the grain, looked at one another, and then calmly walked up to Carlos, sticking their heads in their halters and letting him lead them out of the field.
I groomed them to make them presentable (they were covered in mud, which has been the theme this winter), and then we loaded them up.
I had worried that Gracie wouldn't load: she used to be difficult for it when I first bought her but thanks to consistent work and fun off-property rides, she has come a tremendously long way when it comes to loading. But! We hadn't done this in nearly a year, so I was expecting a regression.
Nope. She followed me right into the trailer, standing quietly for me to clip her in. Lily's desire to load was never a concern: as usual, she dragged me to the trailer, where she willingly hopped on by herself like she always does.
So then I was anxious about the drive itself. It took all of 20 minutes before we were pulling up at New Barn's driveway. Also a non-event.
I had been worried about the field the girls would be in. This barn is self-care: you can rent a stall if you would like, but you have to do turnout, feeding and stall mucking yourself. They have a sort of co-op situation going on where boarders help one another out, so it's similar to the set-up we had in South Florida. We had elected the field board option, which meant the girls would be out 24/7 with a group of other horses. The barn owners took care of haying and watering the fields, so we didn't have to worry about that once the girls were out with the others.
In the meantime though, they had to be in an isolation paddock for one to two weeks. This is standard procedure at this barn with newcomers and I'm fine with that. The catch was that while the girls were in isolation, we would be in charge of haying them and potentially watering them too, which is an enormous pain in the ass in the wintertime when everything is frozen. I had known this going in, but the difficulty of the watering aspect of it had not registered until it was too late to change the move-in date. So I had spent the last two weeks leading up to the move fretting about work and 13 hour shifts with one-hour commutes each way and how long would it take to drag a frozen hose out to their paddock twice a day when it's already hard to get more than five hours of sleep on work days on a normal basis.
Again, the Goddess of Good Fortune or whatever was on our side: the isolation paddock where my girls were originally going to go into was taken by another newcomer. So my two went into a different paddock that had a heated automatic waterer!!! All we had to worry about was haying, which the BM was willing to help us with on work days at no extra cost, and was not an issue for us overall with the barn being just 10 minutes from home.
|The girls on their first day in the isolation paddock.|
Professionals, as always. I love that they are walking pretty much in tandem in these pics.
|Carlos snagged this one of G-Mare on a snowy morning when it was his turn to feed.|
Everything was all set and in order...except that the girls needed their strangles vaccines at this facility, which did catch me by surprise.
Now, I'm a huge believer in vaccines. All of my animals are vaccinated. My horses are on my equine vet's health program, which means the vet comes out regularly every other month to give them their shots so that they are both spread out (you are far more likely to have vaccine reactions if you give a bunch of them together because you are overwhelming the horse's immune system) and always up to date. So I had not been concerned about this until the new BO was going over their records and asked about the Strep equi vaccine.
This is the one vaccine that I have always had qualms about. It's highly controversial: the general consensus is that it is not considered very effective, kind of like the flu vaccine in that it can minimize the effect of the disease if the horse gets it but not prevent it entirely, and the IM (injectable) version is known to potentially cause more side effects than it is worth to give, like purpura hemorrhagica, which can actually kill a horse by making it bleed out. This vaccine has always terrified me, even as a veterinary professional. The intranasal version is supposed to be more effective, but it can also have side effects: snotty noses and swollen lymph nodes are a higher possibility because the vaccine is modified live and you are giving it right in the areas of the horse that would be affected by the disease for greater immune stimulation. So basically, it can make the horse look like it has strangles anyway. *face-palm*
This was my own fault for not asking; I know some barns require it in this region but the strangles vaccine has not been a requirement at any other place we've boarded at so far so I didn't even think about it this time around. The girls would have to remain in isolation until they received their initial strangles vaccine and booster, which meant they would be in the paddock for a solid two weeks. This was not an issue for any of us. BM was wonderful about the whole thing and apologized for not mentioning it; she hadn't thought about it either.
|Snowy dawn at the new barn, arriving to feed the girls.|
The girls' noses remained clean, their appetites amazing, and their temperatures normal. I breathed a sigh of relief and was a lot less stressed about giving them their boosters 14 days later.
|They ran around and bucked and played immediately after their strangles boosters. So silly.|
And yes, I still made it out to the gym 5-6 days/week through all of this, just like I normally would. #noexcuses
Dry, cold weather worsens both of Carlos's and my asthma though, which is what usually sets us up for bronchitis in the wintertime. (This is the only time of year you might hear a slight wheeze when I breathe. And yup, I still work out through it. Working out actually helps keep it under control.) Normally I would have ridden the horses the first day we arrived at this barn, but it got postponed to several days later because just the idea of riding in an indoor, even a fairly dust-free one like the one at this barn, made my bronchi spasm.
We made it out with the intention to ride on a chilly, overcast day that was originally supposed to be in the 50's, but ended up being in the lower 40's. We both felt better asthma-wise and had taken every allergy med under the sun to boot. We pulled both mares out of the paddock and I started getting Lily ready. The weather was changing as another cold front was moving in and I think the air was charged with static: she was AMPED and jumpy. Static is the #1 cause of her jumpiness in the winter; normally she is a steady Eddy when she goes into anestrus this time of year. On this day though she was SO jumpy that she was making me quite angry. (This has always been my #1 response when she gets this way. I just haven't really talked about it on the blog before because I would force myself to work through it and things would eventually be okay.) She jumped when I tried to gently brush her face, she danced around and tried to bolt when I removed her sheet, she fidgeted the entire time I was grooming her. I had placed the Alta on Lily's back and had started slowly tightening her girth when she randomly threw her head up without provocation and tried to dance away from me. I felt my blood pressure skyrocket. I calmly followed her and finished what I was doing, stepped away from her, moved over to help Carlos start grooming Gracie, and then called it: I was not going to ride Lily. I did not feel like dealing with her drama. All that was going to happen was that I was going to continue to get mad at her over something she could not control (her response to the weather) and then I would have to calm myself down before getting on her, and then I would deal with the initial anxiety of whether she would still pick up on my real feelings (she's good at that) and be jumpy for the rest of the ride or if she would just calm down once I was on her (like she does 99% of the time when she is in full work. Except she has not been in full work for a while now.) I. didn't. feel. like. it.
And it's 100% okay to not feel like it.
So I untacked Lily, and swung the Alta onto Gracie instead, then turned Lily back out into the paddock with a pan of grain mash to keep her entertained.
Gracie cocked a foot and took a nap while we finished tacking her up. It was an insane contrast to Lily's behavior prior. Gracie don't care, Gracie don't give a shit.
And that's what I love about her.
As described in my previous post, I don't think she had ever been in an indoor before. She followed me wide-eyed into the dark barn, her ears swivelling with questions, and into the darkness of the hallway that led to the indoor's sliding door, where neither of us could see a thing. She kept her nose 6" from my shoulder and I could feel her breath quivering, but she followed without hesitation. She snorted in surprise when I opened the door and she saw the covered space lit by natural light shining in through the windows. But she stayed with me without either barging into my space or spooking away from me. There was always slack in the lead rope.
|"What is dis space?"|
I took her to the center of the arena and set her free.
|She is so gorgeous. Even chubby and out of shape, she is the most beautiful horse I have ever owned, both inside and out. If I could have gone out and designed a horse for myself, it would have been her.|
She was, so I asked her to halt and called her in to me.
The ride was a non-event. She was happy and listening and willing, despite not being in consistent work for so long. Despite never having been in an indoor before! She jumped a little at new sounds, like someone in the hayloft next door and ice sliding off of the roof, but she kept right on going at my request.
I was grinning like an idiot the entire time I was on her.
|Case in point right here. I was having so much FUN. Riding should be FUN!|
So yes, I am still see-sawing about Lily's destiny. It absolutely does not mean I don't love her, it has to do with the fact that if I'm going to have two horses, I would rather have two that are low maintenance and fun to ride, that I don't have to always be worrying about. Or just have one low maintenance horse that I can enjoy, period.
My hesitation is always "What if she ends up in a feedlot auction?" Because this is the clincher: I have never sold a horse. I have never given up on an animal. I keep my animals for the entirety of their lives.
We chose this barn with its facilities and its proximity to home to see if I can find enjoyment in just riding in the arena with Lily again. We'll see. We're going on three weeks here and I still haven't ridden her because my gut has told me not to. Not yet. And I'm 300% giving myself permission to be as black & white about all of this as I feel the need to be. I'm not looking for advice or recommendations or pity, but I'm not going to sugarcoat any of this nor try to find some grand existencial meaning to it just to make readers smile or like me more. Not with this. This, it just is. All I'm doing is telling you how I'm dealing with it because that's what I do on this blog, because I always hope that if I write bluntly about something I'm coping with, maybe it will help someone else in a similar situation. If only to let them know that they are not alone. That is, in a nutshell, the true intent of this blog.
Anyway. On February 20th, the girls finished their quarantine and I was cleared to turn them out into one of the mare fields. I was thrilled with the field location: it is the closest to the two arenas and I can actually see my horses from the highway on the way to and from work on my surgery days!!!
It was a Monday so Carlos was working and I was off. BM had texted me which field to put the girls in. I turned Lily out first.
Gracie was chilling at the back of the paddock when I went to get her. No separation anxiety, no whinnying, no running like a madwoman because her bestie was gone (in case you're wondering, these are all the things Lily would have done if I had let Gracie out first. This is Lily's norm. Lily has always been herd bound. The reason why she can still find it in her to concentrate on me when she is away from her friends is because she considers me a member of her herd. Only took me years to achieve that...)
Gracie came to the paddock gate when I called her, stuck her nose in her rope halter, and calmly walked next to me down to the mare field with ears pricked attentively.
There was somewhat of a scuffle at the gate because Lily wanted to exit to join her sister while I was trying to get Gracie out into the field. Two other mares had shown up to investigate the newcomers, and I really didn't want to get caught in the middle of a kicking fight, so I had to shoo everyone away, which of course startled Gracie. I was finally able to convince Lily to back the fuck off so I could lead Gracie safely into the field and release her.
Both mares took off galloping.
|They were SO happy!|
Mares are like cats.
Right then, the two mares that had been at the gate when I turned Gracie out, a naked chestnut and a blanketed gray, showed up around the corner.
They walked up to my two, touched noses with them, then continued on their way towards the creek.
|The gray and the chestnut on the far right, coming over.|
|The gray and the chestnut walked past my two. Gracie was paying attention, Lily was staring off into space.|
|The gray came back up the bank and waited for the chestnut. Note that my two had walked up closer to the edge of the creek here. The three mares just looked at one another quietly while the chestnut finished.|
|The chestnut came back up the bank and the four horses took off running together.|
|And that is the story of how Lily and Gracie got welcomed into the herd.|
Herd dynamics and animal behavior in general never cease to blow my mind.
We returned the next day in the afternoon (yesterday!): it was 79 degrees outside and you bet I was taking advantage of that!
We pulled Gracie out of the field and I tacked her up with just her bridle and the bareback pad. I then took her to the enormous outdoor next to the main barn.
We pulled Gracie out of the field and I tacked her up with just her bridle and the bareback pad. I then took her to the enormous outdoor next to the main barn.
|Her canter made me swoon. It was beautiful: uphill, relaxed, rhythmic.|
|And yes, of course I rode in shorts. :D|