Twister and the Kids

Twister is a black 3/4 Arab gelding who has been a boarder here for around 10 years (since he was a baby), and although broke to ride, he doesn’t do very much other than charm his owner (which he IS very good at). This year though, he’s actually got a job. I ponied him (rode King and led Twister) down to the Thoroughbred farm where I work, and he’s been babysitting Reno, the orphan foal for the last couple of months.

He’s got some quirks, Twister has. He’s easily the spookiest horse on an entire farm of racehorses. Reno is far braver than Twister, and has to lead the way every morning. Reno and I march along, with Reno happily surveying the world and looking forward to his day, while Twister snorts, bugs his eyes out at shadows, and generally makes Linda crazy as she tries to drag him along after Reno. He has to wear a grazing muzzle since he’s prone to grass founder, so he sounds like Darth Vader breathing through his mask… and looks a bit like him too.

I used to think of Twister as an easy keeper. And I guess that’s kind of true. But really, he’s just a pig. He eats twice as much hay as the nursing mares overnight. And if turned out on grass, he eats so fast that you’d swear he was about to start cramming more in with one hoof. The grass goes in faster than he can swallow and it starts falling out the sides. The boss calls him “that gluttonous little bastard”.

Twister looks like he ought to be sensitive, especially when you see the spookiness. But he is sort of thick actually. He hasn’t the slightest respect for anyone’s space. He’ll step on your feet, clock you with his head, ram you with his shoulder, and just generally behave like a big stupid oaf, despite being 14.3hh and rather dainty. Not to mention being smart as a whip, despite the stupid “huh? I’m standing on whose foot?” expression. Even if you give him a good thump (while he’s standing on said foot), he just looks back at you blandly as if to say “is that all you’ve got?”

Twister and Reno are turned out in the field with Bernice and her colt Al, and Exclusive and her filly Esmerelda (all three foals born the same day). Linda was a bit worried about Twister initially, especially since he doesn’t belong to the farm. She thought that Bernice would be very protective of Al, and maybe hurt Twister. But no. Twister just ignored Bernice. Even when Bernice spun around him, threatening to kill. He just kept eating. And once when he was trying to get a drink of water, and Al came to investigate, Bernice saw that, panicked and charged to get between Twister and Al. Twister, feeling that his space was being invaded, screamed and double barrelled her in the rib cage. Twice. Right. That was the end of any concern we had for Twister’s welfare.

But of course we still had some concerns about how he’d manage with Exclusive in the mix. She’s the boss mare and no one argues with her. But she’s home now, and Twister is just as bold and fearless with her as he was with Bernice. He drove her crazy the first day, marching up and staring her in the eye. I can’t say he intimidated her, since nothing intimidates Exclusive. But I suspect she sort of gave up chasing him away eventually. It’s just too much work. Turned out with the two broodmares, and with a field of younger mares in the next paddock, he looks rather smug…. if a bit comical being so small and with that big black muzzle on his face.

He sounds like a prince doesn’t he? Well… he is actually. Because he’s absolutely been a superstar with Reno. He’s never hurt Reno, even when the little devil jumps on him, pulls his tail, or bites his butt. Twister will occasionally hunch his rear a little as if he could kick or makes a bit of a face (when Reno is being truly horrid), but that’s it. Reno adores Twister. He seems just as attached to him as any foal would be to his mother. He grazes near him, sleeps near him. And runs back to him when anything worries him.

When Linda goes out with milk replacer for Reno, he comes running to the gate, whinnying (it’s extremely cute!). Unfortunately sometimes other horses come too. Which can be a bit chaotic and makes it difficult for Reno to eat. But Twister, bless his little soul, sighs and marches over, “Here now! Move along. The kid needs to eat.” Even with Al, who wants to play with Reno, Twister just gently suggests that he go see his mom. And Al goes. Then Twister goes back to eating grass… “Right, my work here is done”.

Brooke is Home From the Hospital

Wouldn’t it be nice to be that young again? Young enough that you heal fast and sound cheerful 12 days after nearly killing yourself on a motorcycle?

I just spoke to Brooke on the phone, and she sounds massively better than when I visited her in the intensive care unit. She says it hurts to sneeze (can’t imagine why? only 11 broken ribs…), and she’s bored and frustrated at not being able to do anything. But she sounds like her usual cheerful self. And she’s already plotting ways to get herself UNgrounded from feeding treats to the horses (I had to put my foot down over the marshmallows and the fruit roll-ups the last time she was here before the crash).

Misha went to see her last night and presented the purple biothane bridle that she scored at the used tack sale last weekend. The kid loves purple and is planning to have Dressy fully empurpled by next season. So it sounds like that was a very successful gift.

Quiet Little Ride

I took King out for a short ride today. I haven’t been on him for a few weeks. He had a very mild lameness for a week or so that worried me. But it seems to have disappeared, so I don’t know if it was maybe just a stone bruise or something. He seemed fine today, and was quite energetic. Though of course a horse who was fit for a fifty a month ago is not likely to get tired in a half hour hack around the farm.

I’m giving him two months on the extra selenium (he’s at about four weeks now). Then I will have the vet back for blood work. If he’s up to the middle of the reference range I’ll put him back in training and see what happens.

His weight, of course, is ballooning. It looks like he’s put on fifty pounds in the last month. I’m going to have to dry lot him. He won’t like that! 🙁

Pat and Her Horse, Bill

Pat with her horse Bill

Here are a couple of great old pictures of my great aunt Pat and her old horse Bill. When my aunt (she of “Tootsie Rose Patricia” notoriety) saw the blog post about Pat she scanned them and sent them along.

Notice the wonderful old western saddle on Bill? That is sitting in my living room on an armchair right now. It was made by Riley & McCormick in Calgary sometime prior to 1940 (probably 1920s). It’s in beautiful condition still, and very comfortable…  I’ve ridden in it (though it’s just way too long for a short Arab back).

Bill wearing the old Riley & McCormick saddle

Patricia Howden 1921-2011

It’s a rather sad day here on the farm. This is a family farm. My great grandmother bought it in 1949, and left it to her daughter, my great aunt Pat, when she died. Last night, Pat passed away in her sleep.

Pat was, well…. kind of different. She grew up in a moderately wealthy Toronto family, the youngest child, and probably a little spoiled. When she was sixteen (which would have been around 1937-38), she drove her Baby Austin from Toronto to California. By herself. She hit a dust storm somewhere in Kansas, and it abraded the windshield so badly that she had to have a replacement shipped in from civilization. She said it took a couple of weeks for it to arrive. But it did eventually and she carried on westward. Then she spent some time working odd jobs in California (picking peas among other things) before driving home again.

Pat as an ambulance driver in WWII

When World War II arrived, she joined the Red Cross and later the Canadian Army and was an ambulance driver for four years. She had many stories about that. Some of which I’m sure were rather tall tales. She had a fiance who was killed fighting overseas, and never found anyone else who interested her. So she never married.

After the war she went up to Muskoka to live. She bred Samoyed dogs and trained sled teams for a few years. Her favorite dog was her lead dog, Toby. She called him a free leader, which means he basically didn’t do a lick of work… just ran out in front of the team, leading the way. I remember the Sams from my childhood. Lovely, sweet, amiable dogs. My grandmother shared Pat’s passion for them and bred them as well. So my mother’s childhood and mine were filled with big friendly white powderpuff dogs.

Pat's sister, Romaine, riding their horse Maybelle

Throughout all this time, Pat rode horses too. I suspect more because it was the thing that all well bred wealthy young ladies of the time did at the local hunt club. But she did develop a love of horses as well as dogs (though dogs were always closer to her heart). One of the horses she (and her sister, my grandmother Romaine) learned ride on was Maybelle. I don’t have any photos of Pat riding, so that’s my grandmother on Maybelle in the photo.

She had other horses, a rather rawboned gelding named Bill who she rode quite a bit in Muskoka. An apparently rather ugly little mare that she allowed her nieces (my mother and aunt) to name “Tootsie Rose Patricia”, which I always thought made her an exceptional and very tolerant sort of aunt. Mist was an gentle old field hunter that Pat bought from Lady Eaton. My mother learned to ride on him. She remembers having a lesson from Pat one day and going around in circles so long that she fell asleep and toppled off Mist. He was quite concerned for her well being and mortified that she’d fallen off him.

Oh and Eagle! Yes… Pat bought Eagle as a weanling. She was being kept in what Pat described as a small, dark, horrible stall. Although Pat had no need for a weanling, she couldn’t resist Eagle and brought her home. She thought the filly was lonely so she brought her in the house. Eagle was rather easily house-broken so that was not a problem. But one day Eagle sat on the couch. And it sort of broke. Eagle was trapped there with her butt down deep in the cushions, hind legs up in the air, floundering. Pat had to get up on the back of the couch and lever her out of the couch with her feet. She decided that day that Eagle had to go live in the barn with the rest of the horses.

Pat's mother, my great-grandmother, riding Castle side-saddle

Her favorite horse though was Castle. She was a Hackney or part-Hackney mare that she both rode and drove. Her mother (my great grandmother) rode Castle sidesaddle sometimes as well. That’s who is riding her in the photo. I never knew Castle, but I sure heard about her a lot. Towards the end, even as Pat became less and less able to remember or understand what was going on around her, she would still remember Castle and how kind a mare she’d been.

Pat told many tall tales. She bought every tool ever invented, wrote books that she never even tried to have published, played classical guitar, smoked shamelessly, hated alcohol, lacked tact, and spouted odd political opinions. And she didn’t care one bit what anyone thought of her. She drove us all completely insane sometimes. But it will not be the same without her.

Haying. Yuck.

Every year I try to convince myself that haying is not so bad. Just once a year and then it’s mostly over. But you know…. I freaking HATE haying season. My back is aching, my thighs are sore, my sinuses are blocked, and I am covered in little red scratchy bumps. I am however clean now after a truly rapturous soak in my clawfoot bathtub.

If I ever win the lottery, it’s not going to be boats, and cars, and fancy toys that I spend money on first. It’s going to be a hayloft full of an entire year’s worth of premium hay stacked by a bunch of strong young guys. I will sit in a lawn chair and sip iced tea with my feet up and watch.

In the meantime… back to haying tomorrow.

Update on Brooke

I am just home from visiting Brooke at Sick Kid’s Hospital. She is still in the ICU. She was awake when I went in, so I was able to talk to her for a few minutes. I knew from talking to her mom that she was in pretty rough shape. But wow… somehow I think I expected her to be her usual cheerful self and she was not. She looks battered and quite exhausted.

The accident happened on Saturday evening, not Friday as I first thought. She has a broken clavicle, eleven broken ribs, a broken femur, punctured lung, bruised liver, and ligament damage to one knee. She is still having respiratory problems, so she’s going to be in ICU for another day or two they think.

Wendy Webb was kind enough to send me a photo of Dressy and Brooke from Spring Ride which I had printed and took down with me so she can show it off to visitors. She seemed quite pleased to get it. That’s the one that I put in the blog post from earlier today.

The ICU doesn’t accept any mail for patients. So I have to wait until they move Brooke to a regular room before giving everyone the address to send her cards.

Brooke is in Intensive Care

Brooke, the 16 year old girl who has been riding Dressy since January, has been in a bad accident. She was driving her motorcycle on Friday and went off the road. She was airlifted to Sick Kid’s Hospital and is in the ICU with a punctured lung, multiple broken ribs, a broken femur, and I think a separated shoulder. Her mother tells me that she is going to be okay. But it’s probably going to be a long recovery. I’m going down to see her this evening.

Please send good wishes and/or prayers. If anyone wants to send her a card, let me know and I’ll give you the contact info.

Here is a picture of them from Spring Ride. They did the 25 mile set speed ride and both of them had a great time.

Zooming and Propping

I got King’s aussie saddle primarily so I could stick his huge Ayrab teleport spooks. And it’s worked like a charm I must say. I’ve been riding him in it for the last year, and have not yet come off him, despite a couple of hair-raising moments where I ended up hanging from one knee. I’m sure I looked less than graceful at those moments. But I did stick through all of them. To be truthful though, I think the main reason that I haven’t come off him for a while is that most of the time he’s just way better behaved and more gentlemanly than he used to be.

Sooner or later though, if you ride enough miles (even if you are a far better rider than I) at speed, you are going to make an unscheduled dismount no matter what precautions you take. Except… I wasn’t riding King. I came off freaking DRESSY. My perfectly behaved, mature, regal Standardbred mare. I have no idea what little imp took residence in her brain yesterday. But she was all fired up and much spookier than any teleporting Arab. And she’s weird when she’s like that, because she is really really FAST. A moderate trot kept turning into her “smoke the trail” trot with Diego galloping strongly behind her to keep up. If she’d just kept up that trot, even with all the zigging at stumps and zagging at rocks (never mind the hiker in a wheelchair) it all would have been fine. But she was zooming and propping too. Not just coming to a gradual worried halt either. Nope. 60 to 0 in negative .2 seconds. She was defying the laws of physics. Unfortunately, I don’t defy those laws with the same impunity that Dressy does. Eventually she managed to somersault me right out of the saddle. Gallop to backwards stop to spin. Very neatly done. Deposited me right on a small tree. Which I broke with my back. It looked a bit scary afterwards too. I think I probably just managed to avoid being impaled on the sheared off stump. As it is I have a raw patch on my back from it. Well… actually a few raw patches now that I’ve had a closer look. And some bruises. And some swelling.

Not only did she wreck me, she wrecked Misha too with one of her stops. Diego was right behind, and he had to stop fast to avoid her. He sort of bounced a couple of times doing it. And Misha tore something in her groin muscle. She said it felt like paper tearing. She looked very uncomfortable by the time we were done. She said it was bruising pretty badly. I sent her home with an ice pack. Sure hope she can walk this morning.

I checked my GPS track when I got home to see if the speed chart went backwards at any point. But no. It did however drop very precipitously in a few places 🙂