Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter From Ainslie, Windflower Farm, Dolly, and the Little Foxes!

      Here is a very informal youtube of Dolly round-penning.   The footing was less than ideal, and Dolly is not very strong so this was a conservative session.  Still, I hope you find something in it to like.

       And this is a slide show I put together with some photographs I took last year of an enchanting fox family that was living under my friend's barn in Concord.  The music is <Ordinary Miracle>, by Sarah McLachlan:





Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dolly Happy and Running Free

Dolly Happy and Running Free!

      Finally, I could open the gates and let Dolly into the big pasture.  She entered with a combination of caution and curiosity.   And then this— 

                                                                                                                            Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright April 2011

-- and then a rest and a snack.

                                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright April 2011

       It was such a thrill to be able to watch this once discarded, emaciated creature run and leap in the early spring sunshine.  And then more to come:  when the freedom of the moment and the excitement of all the new space became too much, she came thundering back to me for reassurance and a shoulder scratch.  Here is video of one of those moments.

When she had regained her breath and plucked up her courage, she would burst off once again in a gallop punctuated by bucks and leaps, striking the air with her forelegs. 

       I’d like to take the opportunity to welcome a new student.   Julia is in the 8th grade and lives with her parents, brother, and adorable dog Bethany in Winchester.  She’s had two lessons so far, the last being aboard Nitelite, who (you can see) is not at all camera-shy.

                                                                                                             Don Deraska copyright April 2011

                                                 Ainslie Sheridan copyright April 2011
       In the last blog I talked about the Marwari horses from the great subcontinent of India, and how British imperialism, coupled with the age mechanization, nearly wiped it out.  The Appaloosa horse is another breed nearly eradicated due to America’s appetite for expansion.

       “But,” you say, “didn’t the conquistadors bring the first horses to North America, and then weren’t they later ridden by colonists?”  That’s true, but the Nez Perce Native Americans developed the Appaloosa breed in the fertile valleys of what is now northeast Oregon.  Just as India and the Marwari horses were protected by the great Himalayas, so the Nez Perce could live and develop their stock in the relative isolation provided by the great Rocky Mountains.

       The spotted horse, however, did not originate in North America.  There are 20,000-year-old cave paintings of spotted horses in southern France.  And in 17th- and 18th-century Europe spotted horses were highly prized.  I’ve seen paintings of spotted horses performing “airs above the ground” in Viennese museums.

       The Nez Perce nation of the Wallowa Valley in northeast Oregon acquired their horses in the early 18th century.  They developed a superior breeding program.  Any animals determined inferior were castrated or traded away to other tribes.  Eventually the spotted horses—with their iron hooves, hardy physique, and great endurance—became their preferred mount.  To outsiders these horses became known first as the “Palouse” horse, after the river where the Nez Perce grazed their herds.  The name evolved into “Appaloosa.”  The breed numbered close to ten thousand.   The population of the Nez Perce numbered near ten thousand as well.

       Meriwether Lewis of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition reported back to President Thomas Jefferson that Chief Joseph, legendary leader of the Nez Perce, “is one of the most ethical men I have ever met.”  And this is what Lewis wrote of their horses in his diary in 1806:
         Their horses appear to be of an excellent race; they are lofty, eligantly [sic] formed, active and durable . . . some of these horses are pied with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color.

       In the following decades, though our government broke treaty after treaty, Joseph continued to work tirelessly and peacefully with those in power in order to have new settlers removed from the lands of his tribe.  The white man had not only brought fences and cattle, but also epidemics of measles, mumps, and smallpox. 

       A faction of discontented Nez Perce braves— unbeknownst to Joseph—plotted an attack.  In the end, a series of battles was touched off by the deaths of four settlers at the hands of these warriors.  The Nez Perce surrendered but the U.S. government immediately broke terms of the surrender.  The Nez Perce had agreed to return to a reservation in Idaho but instead they were forced to go to Kansas.  There, due to a malaria epidemic, their numbers continued to dwindle to fewer than two hundred and seventy men, women, and children. 

       Chief Joseph and his Nez Perce had had enough.  Still pursuing his policy of non-aggression, they headed north to seek political asylum in Canada.  For three months they eluded capture, covering over 1800 miles of difficult terrain on their cherished Appaloosas but, in the end, the weakened condition of his people caused Chief Joseph to surrender for the last time in the Bear Paw mountains of Montana.  Here is the message of that surrender:

       Tell General Howard that I know his heart. What he told me before I have in my heart.  I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed.  Looking Glass is dead, Tu-hul-hil-sote is dead.  The old men are all dead.  It is the young men who now say yes or no.  He who led the young men [Joseph's brother Alikut] is dead.  It is cold and we have no blankets.  The little children are freezing to death.  My people—some of them have run away to the hills and have no blankets and no food.  No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death.  I want to have time to look for my children and see how many of them I can find.  Maybe I shall find them among the dead.  Hear me, my chiefs, my heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands I will fight no more against the white man.

       The superiority of the Appaloosa—their ability to outrun and outlast cavalry remounts—was the very cause of their demise.   Most of the Nez Perce horses were confiscated or shot outright.  Bounty hunters were offered one bottle of whisky for every dead spotted horse.  Compelled to turn to farming on their reservation, the proud horse breeders were forced to breed what few Appaloosas they had left to draft horses in order to produce offspring better suited to pull plows. 

       It wouldn’t be until 1938 that concerned ranchers established the Appaloosa Horse Club.  By infusing thoroughbred and quarter horse blood into the breed it has been restored and has a very loyal and large following.  In fact, every year more than a hundred riders on their beloved Appaloosas travel a one-hundred-mile portion of what is now called  “The Chief Joseph Trail Ride.”

Relevant quotations:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.   -- Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776, Thomas Jefferson

The earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it.
-- Chief Joseph

 [To] incorporate with us as citizens of the United States . . . is certainly the termination of their history most happy for themselves; but in the whole course of this it is essential to cultivate their love.  As to their fear, we presume that our strength and their weakness is now so visible that they must see we have only to shut our hand to crush them, and that all our liberalities to them proceed from motives of pure humanity only. -- Thomas Jefferson to William Henry Harrison, 1803.

I am tired of talk that comes to nothing.  It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises.
-- Chief Joseph

       Chief Joseph was never permitted to return to his beloved Wallowa Valley in eastern Oregon.  His days of commanding a people of 10,000 and the largest herd of the finest horses in North American were over.  He died in 1904 at age sixty-four, it is said, of a broken heart.

Here is a moving youtube about this great man:



       Next week will begin with more of Dolly’s training, students in training, and perhaps a little chat about horse
meat.  Ugghh, I know, I know!  But better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.   And it is only an informed public that will be able to effect any change for the poor horses bound for Canada, Mexico, and countries beyond.
Until then and thank you for reading the Windflower Weekly Blog,



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Is Here at Windflower--Maybe!

       Well, it seems the old adage is true--they just got the month wrong:  It's April that "comes in like a lion and (hopefully) goes out like a lamb," not March.  And, of course, just after the farm dried out and the footing became ride-able, April showers (rain really) are here today promising one to two inches.  Ditto last week's "arghh"!

      Though Mother Nature is, however reluctantly, loosening her cold, damp grip on New England, she continues to shake Japan like a rag doll.  Since the initial 9.0 earthquake the Japanese have had to endure over 900 aftershocks.  Three died two days before in one that registered a whopping 7.0.  Over 125,000 buildings are damaged beyond repair and there are 13,000 reported dead with 14, 000 still missing.  And then those runaway nuclear plants!   I got a distressing e-mail from my friend Mari in Tokyo.  She endured an aftershock as she was typing to me and reported that it felt like a "naked hand reached in and grabbed my heart."  My poor poor friend!  I wish she she were here in Acton with me.   She did tell me a bit of good news:  Two horses from a riding school who were carried out to sea by the tsunami managed to swim back to shore a couple of days later with only superficial injuries.  Pretty amazing!

        Little Dolly is doing well--gaining weight, confidence and curiosity.  Her quarantine is done, so with luck I'll be able to set up the round-pen this week.  We're planning to let her out into the two-acre pasture by herself so she can explore the farm's boundaries and have a little freedom.  I'm eager to see her gaits.  I've already had glimpses of her trot and it is lovely!  We're planning to video her in time for the blog this coming weekend.

       Our lesson program here at Windflower is increasing just as the arms of snow decrease.  Yesterday Kip and I had the pleasure of meeting two new students--Miabella and Sarah--who came for a "look/see"/  We introduced them to the horses and ponies, took a little walk in the woods, and talked about the riding program.  Here are the girls and Kip returning home.

                       Sarah, Kip, and Miabella               Farzana Khatri copyright 2011

       In the April 2 blog about my trip to Wales, I mentioned having seen the extraordinary six-ton bronze horse head by Nic Fiddian-Green.  Here is the image again so you don't have to scroll back:

        Notice the tips of the ears: ever seen anything like those before?  Well, I have, but I had to think long and hard about where:  TJ Maxx!  If you stroll down the home goods section there's quite a collection of products from India--birdcages you'd never put a bird in, statues of bejeweled elephants and peacocks, and horses with ears that curve in like the tip of a lyre.  Curved ears?  I'd thought it was just the result of yet another artist not knowing his subject well.

       Research time!  I looked up Mr. Fiddian-Green and learned that his bronze horse head was modeled on the Indian breed of horse, the Marwari.  I googled that and up came an extraordinary photograph of an extraordinarily beautiful creature whose ears did, indeed, taper inward.  Here he is!

          Note:  I could not find out who took this photo nor did it appear to have a copyright, but 
                 found it on a number o sites featuring the Marwari.  If any of you know the photographer
                 so I may ask permission to use this or remove it if permission is not granted.

       These magnificent creatures, bred hundreds of years ago by crossing Arabians with indigenous Indian horses, served as mounts to the ruling warriors and nobles.  They were declared divine, but the ears were a practical feature having evolved over time to prevent sand from being blown in.  However, the Marwari suffered terribly due to two centuries of British imperialism.  In order to decrease the influence of the feudal lords (moguls), the British divided and conquered by encouraging and exploiting political rivalries.  The also imposed absurdly high taxes upon the citizenry while ruthlessly draining the country's natural resources.  Mocking the Marwari's ears, the British brought in their own thoroughbreds and developed their own preferred lines of polo ponies.  Then came the age of mechanization followed by the tumult leading up to India's independence in 1947.  This further marginalized the Marwari.  These equine gods were relegated to pack work or slaughtered outright.

       Thankfully, there was light at the end of their long dark tunnel:  In the first half of the 20th century, Majarah Umaid Singhji and, subsequently, his grandson work tirelessly to save the breed.  In 1995 British horsewoman Francesca Kelley and Raghuvendra Singh Dundlod, a descendant of Indian royalty, became active in the India Indigenous Horse Society, which works to protect and promote the breed. 

       I was surprised to learn Francesca Kelley is now a New Englander.  She lives on Martha's Vineyard where she breeds her beloved Marwaris.  Here is another link for those who want to get to know more about this stunning animal.  It can also let you contact Ms. Kelley directly:

       Being reminded of the sins of empire caused me to turn to the wonderful Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.   If you happened to see the popular you tube "Where in the World is Matt?" in which a young man dances around the world to a lovely piece of music with lyrics sung in Bengali, you have heard--if not understood--one of his poems.  Here is a different you tube but to the same lyrics and music:

      And here is a translation of those lyrics:

                                  Praan  (The Stream of Life)
                                    by Rabindranath Tagore

                                 I would not forget so easily, 
                                life would become alive this way
                                Hidden in Death
                                is limitless life

                                In your thunder, the flute sings
                                How simple is the song
                                I would dance in that music
                                (Repeat 3X)

                                The storm sways in happiness
                                To the melody of strings of heart
                                Seven seas and two horizons
                                Are dancing to the rhythm

                                In your thunder, the flute sings
                                How simple the song (that is)
                                I would be alive dance in that music.

        Our next blog will update our activities here at Windflower as well as examine another breed of horse  that suffered under the domination of certain conquerors--the Appaloosa.  Thank you for taking the time to read this.  You'll be hearing from me soon.  --  Ainslie

        I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.  -- Gandhi





Saturday, April 2, 2011

Huge Horseheads: To Wales and Back to a Sick Dolly!

       During the flight to Heathrow I found myself seated between a lovely Nepalese woman who could say only “Mango juice, please,” and a radical Augustinian priest who spoke in favor of all those contentious issues the Vatican opposes—liberation theology, birth control, married priests, and women priests.  The six and a half hours were punctuated by catnaps, “Catholic” conversation, and a sweet shoulder rub by the Nepalese lady when she saw me wincing in discomfort while adjusting my sling.

       Now in the taxi and nearing Marble Arch, I was stunned to see, almost immediately, a huge bronze statue of the head of horse.  Here it is!

        A few details of this incredible work by Nic Fiddian-Green:  It weighs 6 tons, is 33 feet tall, but only a fragile half inch thick.  The horse is said to be drinking, but it didn’t look like that to me.  Perhaps it’s because I’m accustomed to seeing the little but constant movements in the muzzle and the flaring of the nostrils when a real horse drinks.  But the sculpture is truly magnificent.  I also found it somewhat haunting.

       I met my husband at our hotel near Buckingham Palace—he had just arrived from Shanghai—then next day we traveled to Cardiff, capital of Wales, where my husband was giving a paper on environmental issues in Africa.   Cardiff was stunning—beautiful parks, Wordsworth’s “host of golden daffodils.”  The city is wonderfully walk-able and the Welsh I found more outgoing than their English counterparts.  We had a formal dinner in the manor hall of Cardiff Castle where I was seated next to D Hugh Thomas, Chair of the Council of the University of Wales.  It turned out that he had ridden horses all his life and had served as President of the Welsh Pony Society!  I told him all about “Quilly,” our section B Welsh.  He then very kindly invited Jim and me to join him and his wife for a few days in July at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Fair.  We’re going to try hard to make that happen.

        Those warm daffodil-laden Welsh days faded quickly when we landed with a thud at Logan.  It was snowing!  Argggh!  And when we got home my daughter reported that Dolly had a cough but was eating well and her nostrils were clear.

       I walked out and watched her eating her hay—no sign of a cough.  At least, not until the next day when I asked her to step out of her stall into the round-pen so I could clean it.  A trot around the pen resulted in a series of coughs.  Then I noticed a huge swelling the size and shape of half a baseball on the left side of her throat latch area.
       Dr. Craig Smith called within an hour.   I told him Dolly was eating, drinking and alert.
      “Can’t take it:  I got her six weeks ago—never been handled.”
      “What’s her breathing sound like?”
       I was standing next to Dolly at the time and tried to hold my cell to her nostrils but she would have none of it, turning away each time I brought it near.  So I did a rasping imitation.
      Craig arrived mid-morning the next day. I got a lead around her so he could administer tranquilizer.  After drawing blood for a CBC and giving Dolly shots of Banamine, an anti-inflammatory and Naxcel, an antibiotic, Craig kindly summarized his examination for my camera:


            The CBC results showed an elevation of white blood cells confirming that Dolly had an infection.  The fact that she was alert, and enjoying her hay seemed to indicate the infection was not yet systemic, but rather confined to that nasty rock-hard ball along her throat latch.  Dr. Smith left me with a syringe of Naxcel, Tucoprim, an oral antibiotic in case she wouldn’t allow me to give her a shot, and oral Banamine paste.  I also began to hold hot compresses against the swelling four times a day which she loved.  It seemed to give her great relief.  She lowered head, half-closed her eyes and allowed me stroke her with one hand while the other held the compress against her.  We are hoping it will open up and drain.  Then I can take a swab of the excretia so it can be cultured.  Then we'll know exactly what she's contracted.

       Today I stopped by Nashoba Valley Vet to pick up more syringes of antibiotic. The day before I’d managed to give her the shot while Anne Dykiel distracted her by holding the compress against her.  It had to be done but I hated doing it.  It felt like such a betrayal of her new and fragile trust in me.  I kept the compress against her a long-time afterward hoping she would remember the soft comfort-giving heat rather than the sharp prick of a needle.  It was also an apology.


       This poor little horse!   Now she must go through yet another consequence of her starvation and neglect—an invading bacteria that her weakened immune system couldn't defend against.  So she is back in her quarantine.  She’d only been out of it for three days.  She must be very tired of her stall and round pen.   I certainly am, but at least I know why she is there.

       I’ll close with a you tube video of Sarah MacLachlan singing “Angel:”  And I will give you all an update on Dolly in the next day or two.    'Til then--Ainslie