It is time to rename my blog site to something more relevant to my writing. So, mjm1942 has become PaintedAppy. The new title represents both horses: Reo the Paint, and Buddy the Appaloosa. Since both horses are aging and so am I, it seemed only right to acknowledge our limitations, but also our new adventures. I hope this site brings pleasure and interest to those folks growing old, and also to horse lovers both old and young.
I visited Buddy yesterday. I had to drop off his Source (vitamins) and DuMour joint medicine…important to keep him up with his supplements. He’s been on Source for 30 years, and I am paranoid about being sure he gets it daily. Funny how something I started years ago still affects my psyche. I am positive that the reason he is so darn healthy is because of those micronutrients he has received. Probably not, but you’ll never convince me otherwise.
Buddy perked up when I whistled, and I was delighted to see that he began walking up the hill to come to me. Toby and Bella looked up, saw him leaving them, and followed along. It was interesting to see that the 32 year old, one-eyed Appaloosa had become the “herd” leader. He has the young thoroughbred Toby terrified of him, and the huge mare Bella responds to his body language and leadership role. What an amazing old horse he is!
I haltered him and brought him in to the barn for a mid-day snack. I noticed that there was a large amount of feed left in his bin, which means he ate very little that morning, or maybe the previous evening, too. Hard to tell. He goes in spells: eats a lot, then doesn’t eat, but eventually finishes all the food. He certainly isn’t starving, but he is lean and slightly ribby. His croup and back are strong and fleshy, so I am pleased with his appearance. I personally prefer him a little lean rather than fat, in order to protect his knees His demeanor is definitely spunky, and he has returned to listening to my instructions.
As before, I used the shedding blade on him to help loosen his winter coat. This time I was smart and groomed him outside the barn. It was a blustery day and impossible to avoid his hair clinging to me and flying into the air. The barnyard definitely offered hair for the birds to build nests with. He has much, much more hair to lose, but the weather is not quite settled into permanent spring temperatures, so it’s probably best he still has a nice coat. I am hopeful that we are done with blanketing for this year. The blankets smell and need cleaning.
Bella and Toby were patiently standing at the gate waiting for his return. I gave up on removing more hair, and led him to the gate. Toby scampered away, Bella moved over, and Buddy casually walked through the gate to regain his status as “king.” They turned away and slowly walked down the hill without a backward glance.
I always feel somewhat of a loss when I leave Buddy. I believe I could stand at the fence and watch him for hours. (Of course, I feel the same way when I leave Reo.) This aging thing, for both Buddy and me, is an experience I am not sure I relish. Aches for both of us limit what we once were able to enjoy, but we are still alive and capable of experiencing different types of pleasures. Buddy is teaching me that. It’s never too late to take on new things, to take charge. Interesting.
I missed a few horse days, and today was my fix. The day offered blue skies, cool temperatures, no wind, and time to ride. As I approached the barn, I looked to see how far out Reo was in the pasture. He was mid-point, amidst the clumpy mud and water, which meant I needed my mud boots and my stamina. After putting on my boots, gathering a handful of treats, and picking up his halter, I began my jaunt to bring him in. I’m not sure how they even find grass out there, it is so stomped down, but Reo must have found some tasty morsels because he did not respond to my whistles, nor did he even raise his head. When I got within 20 feet of him, he moved his right leg, and I thought, “he’s going to come,” but he only stared. So I turned around as if to leave, and then he walked up to me. I think he didn’t want to miss out on the horse treats I had in my pocket.
Surprise, he only had mud caked on his upper legs and his head. An easy clean up day. My western saddle isn’t supposed to be heavy, at least it was advertised as light weight, but it is very heavy for me. I struggle trying to heft it up over my head to place upon his back. Unfortunately, I usually don’t get it right, and I didn’t today, either. At least I didn’t drop it, or push the saddle pad off, so that was one accomplishment. After struggling and finally getting it on his back, I had to adjust the saddle pad because it had slipped slightly to the side. Once the saddle is on I am good to go. Reo must be a saint to tolerate my awkwardness in saddling him, but he seems not to be too concerned. Maybe he likes me.
Mounting is another concern for me, as I have arthritic knees and a hip joint that is quite stiff. I am always thankful no one watches me mount, because it isn’t pretty. Reo stands at the mounting block while I put my left foot in the stirrup, slowly lift myself up, and basically lay over his neck while I swing my right leg over his rump. Like I said, it isn’t pretty, but it gets me on, he’s fine with my method, and we’re ready to enjoy a ride.
Reo will be 16 yrs old next month, but he’s still not what I would call a totally sensible horse. While he obeys all my cues, he would rather do his own thing, go where he wants to go, and end the ride very quickly. I may be an old woman, but I do not let him buffalo me into quitting my afternoon ride. We practice for 10 minutes in the indoor arena, walking, jogging, backing, and turning. When I am sure he has his brain on right, we head outside to the large, sandy outdoor ring. It’s not his favorite place, because he has to adhere to my instructions and actually do something other than walk. We walk some more, we trot some, we rein to the right and left, we back up, we turn on the haunches, and that’s it. Time to head down the grassy lane and simply enjoy each others company without lessons.
The sun warms my body, Reo’s black coat is shining, his body movement matches mine, and it’s an amazing feeling being outside in the Kentucky atmosphere. I use this time to silently thank mother nature for the beauty around me…trees, grass, horses, sky…just total peace. Not sure what my life would be if I didn’t have these interludes of natural sounds and privacy. I am uplifted in mind and body.
Time to head back to the barn. I have to remind him that he still has to respond to my cues, like don’t rush, walk comfortably, be good. His ears tell me he’d rather not, and his tail swishes a bit, but he does as I request and we safely arrive at the barn. I dismount, loosen the girth, and lead him to the barn. He knows what’s coming now — his grain, good grass grazing, more treats, and returning to the pasture with his gelding pals.
I head home, thankful for all that I have, especially this paint horse, Reo. Tomorrow I visit the Old Horse.
I’m very tired, but yet I’m stretched out in my recliner writing this. My legs ache. Because I rode the stationary bike for 22 minutes. I should have gone to visit Reo today, but since I didn’t I thought I should expend some energy, thus the bike ride. It’s kind of interesting how walking in work boots in muddy fields in unpleasantly cold weather is easier than riding a stationary bike in a comfortable room. I have not figured out yet how to handle my aging body. Should I continuously move about, or should I simply enjoy relaxation in this warm room, looking at art work on the wall? Of course, there is March Madness to get involved in. The 55 inch TV blares basketball scores, crowds holler and appear frantic as the young athletes run up and down the court, desperately trying to win their game. Some end up thrilled, some end up tearfully unhappy. Doesn’t concern me much, except my bracket is doomed by the wrong teams winning. What does this really have to do with my aging body? Not a thing, except it takes my mind off my aching legs.
I actually wrote this a few days ago. Forgot to publish, but decided to let it appear today. What the heck, hey!
I can say it was a No Horse Day, but I can’t say they ever left my mind. Spent the morning at home, and the afternoon with our son and daughter-in-law. Actually took time to watch a movie, Captain Marvel, and I did enjoy the movie. I did not enjoy the loud music, so stuffed napkin pieces in my ears, and then relaxed in the theater’s very comfy lounging chairs. I believe I did not think about Buddy nor Reo during the entire movie. That is amazing. If you get the chance, and you like action packed movies about other lives in other galaxies, you should go see this movie.
I always enjoy thinking about other worlds besides ours. I wonder if the living beings out there are just like us in our destructive ways, or if they are peaceful and loving toward each other and the other creatures they share their planets with? I know that not all of we humans are unloving, uncaring, and destructive. I can say that my own children and their families, thank goodness, are kind to their environment and to others. That is one thing I am very proud of.
I am saddened by the fact that I am nearing the end stages of my life time, and there is very little impact I can have on changing the direction of my country, or this world. What little I can do is take care of my own animal family and encourage my human family to take steps to better the world. That is asking a lot, I think, but if they are to have a safe place to live, they really have no choice.
When I am filled with negative thoughts, I usually traipse off to see my horses. They bring me calmness, as they just live in the present and do not think about their future. Today it was the movie that helped me get rid of the tenseness and sorrow, and being with my son and dil was a very pleasant interlude to a nice afternoon. Their loving demeanor also helped relaxation set in.
However, there was the 50 minute drive home to allow the worry to set back in. Politics entered my mind (because my husband read me news he had read on his ipad), and then I began thinking about The Old Horse, and wondering how long he would be with us. And then I began to dwell on the trees being cut, and the dead animals beside the highway, and the fact that I had just eaten a 570 calorie apple pie, and what will happen to this Earth, and so on. Perhaps my shortening life means I must think about such bizarre things. I no longer have to worry about raising my children, or performing a good day’s work, or earning money. I can think about all the other aspects of life around me, which I am not so sure is a great thing to do.
So, a no horse day is okay, but tomorrow will be a two horse day, and I will feel better, at least for awhile.
Yesterday morning started very early, at least for me. Up at 7:00, out the door at 7:30, at the barn by 7:45. My farrier, Dave, was supposed to meet me there at 8:00 for Reo to get a hoof trim. I worry about the split in Reo’s left front hoof, but yet it’s just a little split, and probably would be okay for another week. I decided I shouldn’t wait, and so Dave agreed to meet me early.
Thankfully Reo was in the turnout shed and I didn’t have to walk too far; and it was great not to have to pull on mud boots. The ground was hard and dry, for the first time in days. I think I surprised the horses, appearing at such an early hour. Reo looked askance at me, as if to say what’s the deal, why so early. But cookies in my pocket got his attention, and he mozied on over to get a snack. He willingly allowed me to halter him and lead him to the barn, although he thought he should be getting his grain rather than be put in the cross ties. So, we waited, and waited, and finally I received a text from Dave that he was still working on another horse and would not be arriving until 9:15. It was 32 degrees, cold, and my mood wanted to deteriorate to grumpy. However, Reo thought eating grass was a good idea rather than stand in the barn, so off we went to a grassy area. As I’ve said before, Reo loves food, and the longer he could graze the happier he was. He is a gnawing machine, for sure. And I like to think he enjoys my company as much as I enjoy his!
Dave finally showed up, trimmed the hooves, said the split was small and shouldn’t cause any harm, and left. An hour and 15 minutes waiting for a 10 minute trim. All was well. Reo got his grain, had enjoyed his grass, and I finally got to thaw out in my warm car.
Later in the day it was time to check on Buddy. He, Bella and Toby were enjoying the sunshine in the middle of the four acre field. They didn’t come when I whistled, but I didn’t mind since the air had warmed, the ground was not slushy, and I needed some exercise. When Buddy saw me, he slowly wandered up to me, searching for his cookies (much gentler than Reo had). His forearms looked less swollen, which was a relief, and he seemed in a good, energetic mood. He followed me up to the top of the hill to the gate, allowed me to put a rope around his neck and bring him in to his stall.
As before, he began to get nervous when the other two didn’t come in, but happily he settled down and ate some of his breakfast leftover senior feed. The day was becoming lovely, and being outside was a definite mood lifter. My emotions toward Buddy became quite intense as I watched him eat a few bite fulls, stop and look out the stall openings, go back for a few more bites, again look out, and so on. I told him he needed to eat, that he was old and needed nutrition, that the other horses would still be there when he was done, and why couldn’t he just enjoy my company and return my love! Actually, I think he is beginning to get the old routine: I come, I feed, I brush, I turn back out. He is definitely more relaxed, and I feel damn good about it.
It’s time for me to go home. The weather had become so spring-like, I enjoyed more outside time in my small yard, feeding birds, picking up dog poop, drinking wine. Oh, I digress. This is supposed to be about the horses.
I visit my two horses every week: one is the Old Appaloosa, Buddy, and the other, younger black and white Paint, Reo. They are amazingly different in body type, behavior, age, movement, and their attitude towards me. I truly love them both, as I have stated before. I worry about them, but because of Buddy’s recent move to my friend’s farm, I have found myself less stressed if I don’t see them daily. That is a good feeling. It also allows me to spend time doing this….blogging.
Buddy was shedding so much hair yesterday that my blue jersey was enveloped in white hair. He behavior was much better in the cross-tie, but I think only because he could see his pasture mate, the young Thoroughbred gelding, being lunged outside the barn. But wait, his legs are very swollen above the knee. I felt, prodded, and examined both legs. While the forearms were filled with edema, he was not in pain and did not appear ill in any manner. We sent a picture of the swelling to the veterinarian, and he believes the swelling is from trauma. There are no marks or scrapes, no hair loss, just swelling. Nothing to do for him at this time but worry. He doesn’t appear to be affected at all, especially when we put him back in the pasture with his beloved Bella, the bay Dutch Warmblood mare. I personally think she let him have a good swift kick when he moved his body too close to her, but yet, no marks to indicate that happened.
Buddy has now asserted himself with Bella, and she is moving over when he requests it, that is, ears back, teeth bared, attitude showing. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch. The Old Horse has become the boss. I think the other two have just accepted that the grouchy old white horse is a part of life now, and they’d better listen to him. Perhaps that is how he ended up with swollen forearms.
Reo is, and always has been, in control of his space and been number one in the gelding field. He doesn’t bite, he simply looks at the other geldings and they back off, and if they don’t, his hind end swirls around to let them know enough already. Reo loves food beyond all else. I carry treats in my vest pocket and his goal is to nudge me to dig in that pocket and give him a treat. He low snickers, nudges gently — at first — then pushes. That’s when I have to tell him to behave himself, the treats will come when I’m darn good and ready to give them to him.
Reo appears to be a docile fellow, but he is very reactive to his environment. Yesterday, while lunging him in the indoor arena, another horse walked by the open doors. Reo thought the world was going to attack him, as he backed up, snorted, raised his tail, and showed the whites of his eyes. Of course, the big thoroughbred was wearing an orange, red and yellow striped blanket and looked very “scary.” I laughed out loud at Reo. Afraid of a pretty blanket. (Buddy would simply have looked curiously, and gone about his business.) That is why Reo is so unpredictable. I never know what he’s going to think about his surroundings.
These horses are a major part of my life, but I am trying to allow other aspects of my world to enter. It’s impossible to forget that I’m not young anymore, as my body isn’t as flexible nor agile as it once was. Grooming and simply handling horses takes a toll on my physical being, but my mental state always improves when I’m with them. I can forget the world’s turmoil and simply love. I think horse people get that.
Yesterday I visited the Old Horse, Buddy. He finally acknowledged my whistle, and I was pleased to see him begin walking up the small hill to come to the barn. Of course, he only came because the other two horses started up towards the barn, too. By the time Buddy arrived at the gate, he was a slightly winded. I think being on hilly land is good for him, as he must expend more energy and muscle than he did at the boarding facility. His only problem is his anxiety when Bella is not with him. I tried to bring him in to the barn for grooming and pampering, but when he realized Bella was not coming too, he became way too agitated to work with. You’d think after 30 years of me taking care of him, he’d be happy to see me. Apparently not. So, the solution was to bring Bella and Toby in to their stalls, too.
I grabbed their halters from the stall doors, and approached the pasture gate. I am amazed at how much larger they are than Buddy; Bella is of Warmblood breeding, and Toby is a young Thoroughbred. I suppose if people are used to being around those big guys, they don’t get nervous. I assume, over time, I will feel more comfortable handling them. Just reaching up to their very high heads is a stretch for me, and I am not a small woman. Fortunately, they seem to have good manners and do not pull away or drag their handler. However, their size means they take up more room when passing through the gate, and I need to remember to move out of their way. With Buddy, who is not a midget by any means, standing at 15 hands, it’s quite easy to swivel away. Bella, however, takes up a lot of space and I was not prepared to move out of her way quickly enough. I did not get squeezed, but felt a pang of fear as she walked by. I admit, my nerves were not the best at that time, as it was the first time I have taken them out of the field, and my confidence level is not what it was when I was a younger woman. All was well, however, as I did lead them to their stalls without any problems.
Buddy relaxed once Bella was in her stall next to his, and I was able to remove his blanket and start brushing. My gosh, the hair! White hair swirled in the air, into my eyes, stuck on my clothes and my body, and covered the stall floor. (Now I could see how I would look with white hair!) I checked for cuts, tried to remove the dried mud covering his pasterns and lower legs (with some success), and admired how he has gained his weight back and looks so fine for a 32 year old Appaloosa. But then…
He decided he was done being in, and I knew it was time to move them back out to the pasture. He was done with me and my pampering. He was ready to be just a horse again. And I was ready to head out to the other barn to care for my paint horse, Reo.
Tomorrow I’ll talk about Reo.
I visited the Old Horse, Buddy, this week, just two times. I cannot say I feel quite right about it since for so many years, 30 to be exact, I have seen him almost daily. It’s hard for me to accept that I have basically put him “out to pasture.” Not really, for heavens sake, he’s got pasture mates, a stall, senior grain twice daily, expensive hay cubes, blankets, and attention. But it’s not me doing those chores, and I feel quite uncomfortable about that.
I just saw on Facebook that a friend retired her older horse to a small farm where she calls it his “forever home.” In other words, she put him out to pasture, too. It helped me to read her words about how happy she is, and how happy she believes him to be. I began to put into my head that Buddy is just fine; that he really doesn’t need me, nor does he love me. He is just a good old horse enjoying his later years of life with no stress (except for his love affair with Bella), and is probably happier than he has been in years.
Of course, who defines happy. the Old Horse, or me in my Old Woman human terms? I think that happiness is where one is. Am I happy in my home, yes. Would I be happy in another home, yes. Have I been happy in the many, many homes I’ve lived in, yes. So in my definition of happy, can I put that on the Old Horse. Can I equate his thought process with mine…that of an Old Woman? Sure, why not.
I have watched this Old Horse grow and age since he was two years old. He was a beautiful chestnut color, with white spots (as an Appaloosa should have), quite thin, and didn’t give a hoot about me. I was thrilled beyond words to have acquired this horse, who knew nothing except having been starved and uncared for. My attachment to him began the day he became mine, and I have loved him now for these past 30 years. He, on the other hand, has always been a bit aloof. He liked the feed I gave him, he liked being groomed, he liked being out in the pasture with the other horses, he liked his stall. He knew me, he nickered at me, but he didn’t “love” me in my human terms. Nor does he love me now. I’m okay with that, because I know I did everything I could for him in his life time, and I still had/have that emotional attachment we horse people get to our horses.
Today it was snowing and he and his pasture mates were out in the snow. The Old Horse was looking over the fence at another barn…I think he was looking for his old friends from our North Carolina farm. This new home he now lives in is very similar to our NC farm, and he had neighbors there he enjoyed chatting with over the fence. I wonder if his old brain is trying to bring back old memories? Why else would he continue to stare at the next door pasture? Or again, am I putting my Old Woman’s thought processes into his? I truly don’t know. I will dwell on that in a quiet afternoon.
Today I visited the Old Horse, Buddy. He has lost weight and needs a good grooming. I hope he begins to regain his healthy weight as he becomes more comfortable with his new home. It’s been three weeks since I moved him to this new home; perhaps he is going to need more time than I thought. He has finally begun eating, but I’m thinking he needs to start chowing down more grain and hay cubes pretty darn soon. He is also expending way too much energy worrying about his new girlfriend, Bella. She is happy to have him there, but not as thrilled as Buddy is to swoon over her. He is too old to be so interested in Bella, but who can say what too old is for attraction to another! He is also expending calories worrying about how close the young horse named Toby is getting to Bella: Ears back, neck arched, stay away! And Bella, she doesn’t care one way or the other.
I, myself, am an Old Person, but I am not losing weight! In fact, it is all I can do to not gain weight, which at the moment is about 20 pounds heavier than I believe I should be. I have not been put out to pasture yet, and I do not foresee that anytime soon as I am feeling quite good (hope no jinx here). Yesterday I rode my other horse, the black and white paint named Reo. We had a pleasant ride together, but I truly felt every muscle in my legs trembling by the time I dismounted. And today I walked a few thousand feet and these same legs ached and trembled. Will my muscles ever feel strong again, or is this part of what being an Old Person is going to be?
I am not attracted to another person, except my husband of 56 years. I do find him interesting, and I do not worry about him being near other women, or even men. That means I do not expend calories worrying about him being with others. Maybe I should and that would help take off a few pounds. Ahh, not worth it, I think.
The Old Horse and I have lived a good life, but we still have years left to experience living. ..and write about.