I know, I know, it’s those damn chickens again.
Any of our guests from the summer months know that I was keeping fourteen baby chickens in a pen behind my house. They changed from tiny, adorable balls of fluff to full fledged chickens all too fast, and have since been moved into the hen house with the rest of our chickens.
It’s still pretty easy to tell the babies from the adult hens, not only do they have all their feathers, but their ‘waddles’ -or whatever those red things are on their head-are a lot paler than the adult chickens. Also, a couple of them are from breeds we didn’t have before, and there is a slight size difference.
Well, we’ve been keeping the babies in a separate pen that is inside of the hen house, letting one out every other day, slowly introducing them to adult chicken life. With their friends left in a pen in the hen house, the babies are also more likely to come back at night after being allowed to wander the property for the first time.
But, alas, one morning shortly after moving the birds I wake up to be informed by Julie that two of our babies are missing. I was saddened, but not shocked, the whole reason we got new babies is because things like to eat our chickens, it is the country, after all. However, Julie also said that she couldn’t find any evidence that the babies had been attacked, no loose feathers, nothing.
So there was still hope.
It wasn’t until the next day, after smiling at the scene of two baby chickens roving through one of the pastures, that I learned what had happened. That morning, Gary and Julie had gone to Raleigh with the kids to visit her Mom. I received a text asking me to let the chickens out.
“But the chickens are already out,” I thought.
Turns out, the new babies had not been eaten. No, they had decided to go on an adventure, and were living around the barn closer to the beginning of the drive way. The Barred Rock and the Brahma Bantam stuck close together, venturing out from under the protection of the barn to peck around the horses feet.
I wondered why they chose that spot in particular to live, and when going into the pasture later, I saw them once again. They were hiding in one of the stalls, standing next to their old pen, the one that had been behind my house. The two little feather balls weren’t going on an adventure, they were trying to go home.
It was adorable, and a little sad, but it warmed my heart.
They have since been returned to the rest of the group, but they still wander over to the same place each day.
Little Mel-Mel riding pretty boy! Watch out Dillon, looks like someone is going to try and steal your buddy seat someday soon!
It’s been beautiful outside all day, and I’ve been so happy since I woke up at 6AM this morning. I wish, someday, when my grandchildren ask about 9/11, I could tell them about today, not 2001.
I can remember it more clearly than any other day of the 8th grade, probably all of middle school. Everything is still so clear, the nervousness of being at a new school, the fear for my Dad, rushing down my street clutching my Mom’s hand, looking at my skyline and seeing that black cloud hanging over downtown.
It’s strange not to be in NYC today. To feel homesick in such a weird way. 9/11 Brought us together as a city, for 6 months we were the nicest people in the country. But memories fade, sometimes you move to places where it’s weird to have a moment of silence at 8:46, and you don’t even think of mentioning it in the first place.
But I think it’s right to smile today. Then again, I’ve always thought celebrating life is the right way to honor the dead. Any who don’t agree are free to commemorate this day in their own way. I hope all of my fellow city kids have as great of a day as I did, if only to negate the day the twin towers disappeared from the sky. However you spend today, remember what happened in 2001.
(I stole all these photo’s off of the Cooler Horsemanship FB page)
A couple weekends ago, we were lucky enough to host a trail riding training clinic. Mary, who I’ve mentioned in past blogs, trains with the Cooler Horsemanship team, James and Cate, a couple who have dedicated their lives to working with horses.
The weekend started out with a free demo of the ways James and Cate have trained their horses. Cate’s horse, Kleo, is simply amazing. That horse responds to Cate in ways I didn’t know were possible, and she can ride Kleo without so much as a bridle. Using ground work, Cate has gotten Kleo to the point where simple leg pressure is enough to direct her. Watching Cate was a real treat, her movements during the ground work she demonstrated were so animated, so alive, that admiration welled up inside of me to the point where I got goose bumps. She moves with such a distinct energy that horses, and people, cannot help but respond to her directions.
James’ was also a joy to watch. He has this ability to explain complicated horse behavior in ways that make everything so clear. Although it was rough to watch him get your horse to do exactly what he wants it to then struggle to do the same, it teaches you that there is always something to strive for. And again, he is the trainer of the clinic, so it makes sense that he completely surpasses the level of those in the clinic (or at least the level I’m at). As he explains his process, you find yourself engrossed in what he is saying, forgetting about how hot it is or how thirsty you are. His ability to keep things interesting as he teaches is awesome, reminding me of the videos of other clinicians I’ve watched like Clinton Anderson and Buck.
On the first day of the clinic, Mickey and I showed up ready to go. Or at least, I did, Mickey hollered for his buddies the whole walk to the arena and was a little confused/nervous about where all the new horses came from. But as we started doing the ground work, using a stick and string to turn him around on his hind quarters, teaching him to back up without physical pressure and to bend his neck, he came alive. Mickey, who has been accused of being lazy (for good reason) took to the ground work like he was born for it. Much like his owner, he proved that he wasn’t lazy per say, but that he is an intelligent horse who hasn’t been properly challenged. He was clearly enjoying the new tasks, and a spark of interest appeared in his soulful brown eyes. While he didn’t always grasp what I was asking of him at first, with Cate, James and Mary’s help, we quickly began to make progress.
Mickey has the tendency to lock his neck and refuse to listen. He goes from being extremely responsive to tiny movements from my reins to sticking his nose in the air and doing whatever he feels like. This will happen at random, usually when I’m trying to avoid running into poison oak or attempting to get him to walk through some muck he’d rather avoid. He’ll do it when I’m going around an obstacle in the trail, insisting that he knows the best way though the trees. His movements become quick and hard to adjust, and I’ll end up having to back him up to go the right way.
But those neck bending exercises (there is a specific name for it that I’m forgetting) have already made a difference in negating his bad behavior. The more responsive he becomes to those movements, the less he fights me on the trail.
One thing that really stuck with me from the demo was that you start with the lightest amount of pressure and move up from there. Mickey also liked to play tug of war when leaving the pasture. He’d stop, refuse to move, and I’d end up tugging uselessly, turning him to the side or making him do tight circles until he agrees to walk another ten feet. Then he stops again.
However, after hearing what James and Cate had to say about light pressure, I’ve changed the way I lead Mickey. Instead of tugging on his head to get him to come with me, I give him the chance to follow me without any pressure. I was pleasantly surprised when this made an immediate difference. He’s been following my lead so easily since the clinic, it’s amazing.
While Mickey has made leaps and bounds since coming here in April, the last month has been filled with little improvements. I have James and Cate to thank for helping me keep moving forward with those little improvements, like leading better. He also no longer tries to escape when I take off his halter and put on his bridle. He’s been getting better about standing still while I mount. This little improvements are such as joy, as it shows that he’s gaining respect for my leadership.
James and Cate’s method of steering has also helped me make progress. They really make their desires clear to the horse by moving the hand doing the steering up the reins and keeping their unneeded hand completely relaxed. A lot of the time, people confuse their horses by using both reins when they really should be using one. Mickey has been responding so much better to my directions while trotting or loping since I’ve started using their method.
That afternoon, we worked on our horses responsiveness while in the saddle. I’ve really wanted to get Mickey to respond to leg pressure, but have been struggling with the fact that he speeds up when I put pressure on one side. Cate helped me understand that it has to do with how I was keeping steady pressure on him while moving at speed. Instead of leaving my heels in his sides to encourage him to keep moving at a trot or lope, I needed to release that pressure as soon as he moves into the gait I want. Since the clinic, Mickey has been picking up on the difference between what my legs are telling him. It’s been so much fun watching him improve and improving myself.
It was also really great meeting the other participants in the clinic. The conversations I had that weekend were great, learning how others got into horse back riding and how they’ve worked on training their mounts. While I’m around horse people all the time, this was different in a way I can’t exactly put my finger on. Perhaps it was because we were all dedicated to learning from James and Cate and improving our horses, I’m not sure. Anyway, the other participants, and their horses, were so much fun to be around. There were several paints that were absolutely gorgeous. One was named Puzzle, because he coat looks like it’s covered in scattered puzzle pieces.
I cannot wait until the Cooler Horsemanship team has a chance to do another clinic here. Mickey and I are ready to go whenever they return, and we’re looking forward to it.
This is so true for me. Arriving at Shangrila, I put my progress in Gary’s hands, accepting that I was a beginner was hard. But Gary’s encouragement and praise about my improvement lately has meant more to me because of it. Maybe after another 1,000 hours in the saddle, I can start calling myself a cow girl again.