Sunday, March 18, 2007


Sunday Morning

Many times I’ve heard the comment or been asked directly, “What do you do with all your time in the evenings and on weekends?” Fair question. Deserves a fair answer. Here’s one:

It’s Sunday morning, March 18th, 2007 at Refuge Farms. Many entries on my To-Do List! I need to prepare for a presentation scheduled for tomorrow, prepare a grant request to hand deliver tomorrow, and set up barns and horses and beverages for the “Balancing Your Horse” clinic series, the first of which is being held at THE FARM today at 1pm.

Up early and ready to go. The house cats were medicated, fed, and taken care of for the day. Little Man and I went for a walk to give him some exercise (me, too!) and to give us some time together before the day begins. Then it was out to the Old Barn to care for the herd that lives there. Feeding them all is a snap – they are so in to their routine that I simply need to have the feed distributed and they go right where they need to go. A set of easy keepers, this herd is!

The Old Horse comes in and he begins his breakfast. I remove his overnight coat and set it aside. Brush him gently – his left side is tender from laying on it and he seems to be overall sensitive to brushing. Part of it, I think, is that he is still getting used to a daily brushing. The other part of it is that his body is still adjusting to this feed, this hay, this routine, and being blanketed. But he is brushed just the same. He stops eating at the same places, every time. I think he might purr for me one of these times…

In to the house to hang the overnight blanket in the living room to dry for tonight and to retrieve his daytime blanket which was hung to dry overnight last night. Back out to the barn to blanket him for the day and to give him that pestering hug and kiss!

Then out to the big barn. I am expecting to spend a bit more time out here than usual since Bonita is harboring an abscess. It’s 6am. I expect and plan on being back in the house around 7:30am to start on the list that awaits me.

Bonita has moved since late last night and gone out to rest in the hay. She has been there the night and shows me signs that she needs to move and has tried, but grows tired and so buries herself deeper in to the hay. I bring her a bucket of water, which she inhales. My first sign that she needs to get up. I pitch some hay to her, which she inhales. Yup, she needs to get up.

So I talk to her. Explain to her. And then begin the process of pestering her to get up. This means that I go to her hindquarters and, open handed, slap her flanks until she rights herself. Pestering to Bonita is putting it mildly. It irritates her so that she works very hard and eventually rights herself. But in the process, she throws me in to the hay.

You see Bonita’s abscess is in her left front foot. The most deformed of all of her feet. Usually after resetting her front shoes – which we did two weeks ago – she is tender for 7 to 10 days. But this time, I’m suspecting, a chip of bone from that weakened, misshapen foot bone has loosened and is finding its way out to her hairline. A long and painful process for Bonita. It will get worse, she knows, before it gets better. Judging from her appearance, it’s at about the 80% stage, I estimate.

As she flings herself upright, she scrambles with her three good legs to stand and stay up. Her legs are weak from lying for so long. And the hay is over packed snow and ice. So upon righting, she starts to fall and so several quick steps are taken – backwards! – to get situated and stable. And guess who was behind her? Me. Emphasis on was.

I think Bonita was fully aware and so her swinging of her hindquarters was to fling me out of the way. It was either that, I saw, or she was going to run over me and my body doesn’t stand a chance against big Bonita. So with a swing of her hips I was up in the round bale. PONY! had quite a surprise, as did Gracie! But I was safely out of the way as Bonita found her feet – only 3 of them, remember! – and finally stood. Safely. Out of breath and sweating. But standing.

Once I crawled out of the hay, I surveyed her body and the decision was quickly made to move her in to the barn. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? This is the part where I start to answer your question of what I do all day….

First, I need to have eyes on Bonita at all times because the pain of standing will at any time cause her to lay back down. And if she goes down out in the hay again, I will need to leave her to rest for a while before she exerts that kind of energy again. But she needs food and water and so I do put feed out for her in her feeder – as she watches – and she knows that if she can get in to the barn, she can drink and eat. Good motivation. Good enough to overcome the pain of getting in to the barn?

While Bonita stands quietly, I halter her and brush her gently. She has a sore on her right hip from lying in the wet hay. I blue powder the sore and examine the rest of her. No other breakdowns but convincing to me that she must be in the barn on dry sawdust to prevent further problems. Plus, snow and rain is coming. Heard it on the radio as I picked the Helen Keller side this morning.

I go in and assess the barn. Need to get her more sawdust and water, but otherwise she’s set. Eight wheelbarrows of sawdust later and she has a good bed awaiting her. A blue barrel for water and we are set.

In the pasture, Bonita has moved 2 to 3 feet. But she’s munching on the hay so she seems relaxed. Pain is obvious by the sweat on her belly and her positioning of the foot. But she’s bright eyed and ready to continue.

It takes us 45 minutes to get the 30 feet in to her stall. Part of the path is hard ground and she searches with her abscessed foot for a place to walk…. finds none and so literally moves forward on 3 legs. What an animal! Her determination and persistence is the stuff of legends, I tell you!

In to the barn she makes it and she finds the stock tank and lowers it a good four inches. While there, I brush her once again and re-powder the sore. In to her stall she slowly moves and munches on a bit of feed. After just a few mouthfuls, it’s time to lie again to get the pressure off of that throbbing foot. So she finds a spot that she likes and lays again. In dry sawdust a foot thick. I am pleased and she is grateful. I rub her face and clean her eyes and kiss her forehead. Much like The Old Horse, she tolerates the affection. More than anything, Bonita wants to determine her own fate and be left alone. Knowing this, I take off her lead rope and close her gates.

I check on the other horses and see that things are just about set for the clinic – thanks to Kathy and Cathi and Betty the Human working out here yesterday. So I head back up to the Old Barn to release everyone from morning feedings. It’s been a while and Ole’ Cole is looking holes through me as I come in to the barn! Where have you been??? I release everyone and head back in to the house to start the list.

Time? 10:00AM.

So much for To-Do List work this morning. Just enough time to write this blog and prepare for the Clinic. The rest will just have to wait until this evening after feeding.

So there you have one answer to the question. Time passes quickly here at THE FARM. At least it does for me. Oh sure, I had options this morning. I could have left Bonita in the hay and let her fend for herself. But to me that’s not according to the mission statement … the “I will watch over” part. Bonita is better off because I took the time to care for her and get her set up. I am better off. Did the right thing.

And so I gotta go! Cups and napkins and spoons and hot chocolate mix and coffee pot and power strip and extension cord…. all this stuff in my arms on trips to the barn to get set up! Have a great week everyone! And pray that Bonita’s abscess opens up this week to give her relief!!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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