Monday, January 30, 2012

Rufo, The Pit Bull Mix That Nobody Wanted.

               Rufo                                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2012

      On the surface this may appear like a very short blog but I hope you will find appearances deceiving.  Please click on here:

      Back to horses, and our amazing Dolly, next week.  Hope you are enjoying temperatures akin to what we're having here in the land of the Bean and the Cod.

      Talk with you soon and thank you for reading The Windflower Weekly--


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Dolly at Home and Her First Trip to Crane Beach, Christmas News!

             Dolly in Tide Pool                                                                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

       It was finally Dolly's first day at the beach.  How did it go?
Details to come, but only after some domestic photos of her taken here at Windflower a few days before.

       "Ainslie, get your camera!" Juliane's voice was soft but insistent.  Photo op;  could be wild or domestic, coyote or dog, horse or mule, even one of the chickens or the turkey.
       "Be down in a flash."

        A scene unusual in the horse world met my eyes:  Dolly, the formerly feral horse, was nuzzling Juliane while lying down and . . .

               Dolly and Juliane                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

             relishing a scratch!

              Dolly and Juliane                                                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011


       and then a kiss!

             Dolly and Juliane                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011


       All Followed by total trust and relaxation:

          Juliane and Dolly                                                                                     Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

       Over the years I've had many wonderful moments with horses--including foals being born--but this one with Dolly is right up there with the best of the best.  I can't accurately convey in words the warm golden happiness I felt when I saw this; so very special.

Crane Beach with Dolly

       Juliane and I had determined that on our next trip to the beach we would bring four horses, each of us riding two.  The first go I was on Firefly and Juliane rode Elementa.  I had my good camera and was committed to keeping it safe, so I wasn't going to do any riding through the water.  This abundance of caution is based on an experience I had while riding Tica at Crane almost twelve years ago.  So, please permit me to digress to that time:

       I had already ridden out into the ocean with a friend on two of my Andalusians.  The waves actually lifted us up as the horses swam towards shore.  It was a thrill.
       So I thought nothing of taking then four-year-old Tica in chest deep on her first beach ride.  I was determined to get a shot of her shadow on the breaking foam and leaned over with my throw-a-way camera while trying to get Tica to stand.  But she was far too excited.  An electronic crawl line in my brain interrupted my focus:  'Maybe this isn't such a good--'  and at just that moment I glanced over my shoulder--a six-foot wave just beginning to crest, heading straight for us.

       Tica exploded into the air like one of Neptune's steeds.  I flew up out of the saddle but my foot momentarily caught in the stirrup.   I landed smack in the now receding water, my right shoulder hitting the densely packed hard, wet sand.   I managed to get my head above water and could stand long enough to see that my friend, who was riding with me, had Tica in hand.  But then my leg buckled so I had to crawl to dry land on two knees and one arm while enduring unsolicited bouts of intense hydro-therapy.

       Fortunately, one of the riders on the beach who saw this all unfold was an EMT.  She handed her horse off to a friend and helped me to my feet, my shoulder now roaring with pain.

      "I think you broke your clavicle."

      "Wasn't she the head nun in Madeleine?


       She either thought my knowledge of basic anatomy was limited or that, perhaps, I'd incurred a brain injury.  (Normally, I like to think my sense of humor is a bit sharper but, because of the pain, it seemed I had arrived at my wit's end.)

       "Sorry, yes, clavicle.  Collarbone, right?"

        "Right.  Those spasms of pain you're having are caused by the muscles adjusting around a break."

        "----!" (expletive deleted), I replied.  

       She called the gatekeeper, who said they'd fetch me off the beach with the service jeep.  An ambulance would be waiting in the parking lot.

       The question then was what to do with Tica.  Had it been this current year, any of my horses would have permitted themselves to be ponied alongside a jeep but a dozen years ago I wasn't yet fully converted to Natural Horsemanship.  (Actually, if I had been fully converted to Natural Horsemanship this probably wouldn't have happened in the first place.)  So, one of the EMT's friends ponied her horse back while she climbed aboard Tica and went back with my friend.

        Sadly, my attempted photo shoot occurred a full two miles from the beach entrance.  It seemed forever before the jeep showed up, and it seemed to take me another forever to get in the little thing.  The pain of riding over great lengths of deep sand was only surpassed by the pain of the short ride over the primitive boardwalk.

       Getting onto the litter was no fun either, but I quite enjoyed the ambulance ride.  The spasms had subsided and the adrenaline rush was still on, so the pain was not too too bad.  I had a one hundred-eighty-degree view of the charming towns of Ipswich, Wenham, and Hamilton.  This is Boston's Northshore where, in the nineteenth century, the wealthy beat city summer heat by heading for the hills and shores around Massachusetts Bay.  There was, and continues to be, lots of money here, hence the many established horse farms and the exclusive Myopia Hunt Club, so-named after four of its founding members who had poor vision.

       By the time the paramedics transferred me at Beverly Hospital's ER, the pain had returned full throttle.  It was October and the ocean water and sea air had been chilly, cold actually.   Soaked through, I was now shivering uncontrollably.  It didn't help to remember someone once saying that the most common condition for cases of hypothermia is not below freezing but being drenched and out in the wind at 55 degrees.  I was glad the nurse didn't try to weigh me.  Now that would have been thoroughly depressing.

      The nurses were wonderful.  I was immediately and gently stripped of my clothes, covering the floor with sand, then helped to put on a gown, and finally swaddled in heated blankets.  After a quick X-ray, which confirmed what everyone already knew--very broken collarbone--I was given a lovely shot of morphine.  

      A short time later my wonderful husband Jim arrived.   Alison, a dear friend who'd come along in my truck with her dog, had called him.  I held up one arm to stave off a kiss:  
       "Drugs, not hugs!"

       In the end, and though I was determined otherwise, this miserable break kept me off horses for nearly eight weeks.  Naturally, I was furious.  It was a costly but important lesson.  Don't try to combine professions when one of them involves riding a horse.

       And that's why (back to the present) all the following pictures of Juliane I took just a few weeks ago were taken with both my feet planted on terra firma.

      On our first go down the beach I rode Firefly, and here are Juliane and Elementa:

           Elementa and Juliane                                                              Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

    Elementa and Juliane                                                                                Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011
Firefly next:

   Firefly and Juliane                                                                                   Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

       And then Juliane, always a glutton for horse happiness and adventure, bareback on Firefly:

   Juliane and Firefly                                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

             Usually, we arrive at Crane Beach an hour or so before low tide, which gives us an hour to ride on either side.  That's when the beach is at its best.  The ocean has retreated, leaving wonderful tide pools to charge around in, and the moist flat sand provides excellent footing.  But this time, because we'd brought four horses we arrived two hours before low tide.  And though at first the riding sand was narrower and the tide pools fewer it was still pretty perfect, except for the seagulls.  Apparently, ebb tide is eat time for them and they're hungry--and incredibly cranky.  I'd always noticed numerous half clam shells on the sand.  I just assumed they were the former homes of mollusks who had died in the ocean and that they'd split in the waves before being washed ashore.  

       Well, I was right about the first part, but seagulls proved me wrong about the second.  As we approached a gull standing guard  over a clam, it emitted a series of squawks and growls obviously directed at us.  As soon as we gave it a wide berth it flew high up into the sky, clam in bill, then dropped it, splitting it in half.  The gull dropped back down from the sky and gobbled up its catch--or should I say 'drop'?  This we then saw repeated by numerous gulls along the beach.  And these "clam drops" were not only a potential spooking hazard:  a number of times they came dangerously close to Juliane's and my head!  Maybe those gulls knew how hard impact resistant ATSM helmets are, good for clam slamming.  I was reminded of the Spanish proverb, "Whether the stone hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the stone, it's going to be bad for the pitcher."  At any rate, it was good for the gulls.  And we were both glad to be properly helmeted.  I really would not like to have an entry in my medical records read "Concussion by clam shell."

       After riding out to the point and back, we returned to the trailer, but not before we stripped Elementa and Firefly of their saddles so they could have a roll:

          Elementa                                                                                                           Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

                     Firefly                                                                 Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

        We left Elementa and Firefly back in the trailer, wearing coolers and happily munching hay so this time we left on board Tica and Dolly.  I've been told that initially horses perceive very great expanses of water to be simply empty space.  To them, until proven otherwise by their rider and other horses, the world ends where the sand does.  I can't say for certain that this is true, but I have taken a number of first-time horses to the beach:  And that great expanse of water, particularly if there are waves, does cause them to question whether it would be in their mortal interest to approach.

      But not Dolly:  She was not a bit afraid.  Rather, I would say she marveled.  Here she is with Juliane:

         Dolly and Juliane                                                               Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011

       Please notice the sand along Juliane's pants and boots.  Yep, she took a digger.  She will be the first to tell you that it was not Dolly's fault but hers.  And I will tell you it was also mine.  After riding a mile or so down the beach, one and all were having great fun.  Dolly was proving, once again, that she is destined to be a great riding horse.  We walked, trotted, and canter.  Then we turned for home after a mile or so.  It was Dolly's first time and we didn't want her to remember fatigue as part of her beach experience.  But as we started to canter Dolly began to buck--I mean, really buck--and she kept on bucking.  She sunfished like a rodeo horse--all four feet off the ground, back arched.  Juliane fell and Dolly shot off up beach.  I got really concerned because Juliane didn't get up right away.  I tried to ride over to her but Tica had determined this was quite the event and wouldn't stand remotely still.  Meanwhile, Dolly was trying to determine whether she should take a short cut back to the trailer by galloping over the highly fragile, protected dune area.  I called for her to come but to no avail.  

      Meanwhile, Juliane managed to get up and hold Tica's reins so I could get off.  I walked in Dolly's direction then called her once again.  This time she trotted to within fifteen feet of me.  She allowed me to close the distance and take her by the reins.  Juliane said she's whacked her head and gave her hip a good bump but that she could ride back.  She handed me her dressage whip, saying she didn't need it, and that it might be best if I could carry it.

       That was when we both began to posit what might have happened.  Dolly hasn't been ridden much but she has been so wonderful each time that this time something must have happened to cause her bucking behavior.  Certainly, it wasn't the beach itself.  She had made her initial introduction to the the beach better than any horse I'd ever taken there.  Then Juliane said it was her fault, that she let her guard down and had been carrying a dressage whip for the first time.  Since Dolly is only just beginning her legs aids, Juliane thought she might need a whip to press against her should she be reluctant to go near the water.  But Juliane had never carried one while riding Dolly before, and neither had I.  We guessed that while cantering the whip had accidentally tapped Dolly, causing her to ignite and buck.  With Juliane unseated she probably got tapped even more.  It was Juliane's mistake and mine, too.  We just hadn't paid attention.  Working around horses a lot longer than Juliane and, of course, the fact that both Juliane and Dolly are in my care, I have to take the brunt of the blame.  I knew the rule--when out and about never introduce a new piece of equipment to your horse without first trying it at home.

       For the remainder of the ride Dolly was her lovely, calm self but her rider was busy recriminating herself for the whip and her inability to stay on.  She was also sore and a bit dizzy.  So we didn't take the time to allow Tica and Dolly to roll but after a short walk in the tide pools headed back to the trailer.  Because of her wooziness Juliane needed to see a doctor.  Now in the trailer, Juliane called her mother and between the two of them they got an appointment.  In little over an hour we were home.  I unloaded the horses as quickly as I could and took Juliane to the doctor where we were later joined by her mother.  It was a mild concussion:  no riding for a week.

       The week has now passed and Juliane is back to riding over hill and dale.  Jim and I passed a quiet and lovely Christmas.  Our son Alec flew home from Montana where he's in graduate school.  Our daughter Marleny was with us as well.  We were joined by our good friend Dion.  I'm looking forward to getting my promised gift (as soon as we can locate the right one), an overhead heater for the barn.  That will make winter tacking and untacking a pleasant experience.  And the horses will be able to dry their damp backs before they're blanketed.

       Christmas morning I was the first one up--I still had presents to wrap.  I fed the horses, turned on the Keurig, and then the computer.  Do you remember Tommy, the sweet two-year-old pit bull whose previous owner had cut off his ears with a pair of scissors (my God!)?   I can't resist showing you his dear face once again:

       Well, I had an e-mail message from the Deja Foundation sent late Christmas Eve.  A wonderful and knowledgeable person--with a dog behaviorist as her best friend--had come forward to adopt Tommy!  She'll pick him up as soon as he recovers from being neutered.  The news of the adoption was a great Christmas present to find on waking up.  That little fellow deserves nothing but the best of care, and it looks like he'll now get it.  Blessings all around to those who made it happen.  As for his previous owner, I hope Santa brought him nothing--not even sticks and coal--unless they somehow could be ignited to kindle some kind of warmth in his heart.

       Next blog will have news of our dear little pup Clem, who has been up to all sorts of fun and mostly innocent mischief.  Until then, I wish all of you and yours the happiest of New Years.

   Dolly and Juliane                                                                                                       Ainslie Sheridan copyright 2011
  Thank you for reading  The Windflower Weekly.  Talk with you soon--