Holy moly, I’m tired.
I have that rag-doll, boneless feeling I only get when I’ve been living on a giant adrenaline surge and suddenly it’s all over with.
It’s a little premature to be celebrating, but I’m gonna go there anyways:
Three cheers for Plaquenil! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! HIP HIP HOORAY!
It’s the miracle drug that keeps my rheumatoid arthritis at bay when I have adrenaline dumps like this (if you didn’t know, adrenaline dumps/stress does to rheumatoid arthritis what gasoline does to a fire.) I could feel my body trying all week to rev up into a GIANT flare, but it just never seemed to get any traction and by this morning the pain was dissipating.
Reverie is doing well – she’s settling in and grazing calmly next to Caspian in the stall beside her, and only occasionally leaving her food to pace at the front of her stall. Caspian acts like he’s in love – this is the second time this has happened, so I’m beginning to suspect that he just genuinely likes young horses more than he likes adult horses.
(UPDATE: I wrote the above on Wednesday. It’s Thursday now, and Reverie is already totally settled in.)
(ANOTHER UPDATE: Now it’s Friday. It’s like she has always lived here.)
(ANOTHER ANOTHER UPDATE: whoops, it’s Saturday. I forgot to proofread this last night.)
As far as how it went on the night she arrived…..
We’ll fast forward past me rushing home and running around trying to get everything just right – filling the water in the barn, making sure there were enough shavings, spreading a little hay, etc, etc.
We’ll fast forward past the sight of the truck/trailer pulling into the driveway and the way our yard exploded with cries of “She’s here! She’s here!” and “Quick, get that bike out-of-the-way!” and “Mom, she’s here!” and “Hey, quit yelling and move Magpie over there! NO, DON’T SIT ON THE GROUND RIGHT OUTSIDE THE TRAILER, DON’T YOU HAVE ANY SENSE?”
We’ll fast forward past the way she just calmly stepped off the trailer like she’s been doing it her whole life, and the way she led right into the stall with her mom, and settled right down….
….and we’ll start with the point where they loaded Sparkle up into the trailer and started to pull out onto the road.
See, although they did some separation leading up to the initial weaning, we decided to “pull the plug” on weaning here at my house. Sure, it might make ruin the whole first night romance of the arrival of my dream horse, but it was probably kinder to Reverie in the long run. When foals can hear their mom answering weaning takes a lot longer, so we decided to do the final separation over here.
I spent a lot of time going over the stall, making sure there were no loose bolts, or jagged wood bits, or anything that might hurt Reverie. I thought initially about letting her be in the big paddock, but immediately discarded that idea. I figured a panicked foal had no business running around at full speed – she’d just hurt herself. I knew she would flip out when she realized she’d be left behind, and I was right.
What I hadn’t planned for was the way she would be so darn athletic about her despair.
Even before the trailer left the property Reverie was whinnying and freaking out, but as soon as it disappeared around the corner, Reverie was all, “Welp. They’re obviously not coming back, so it’s up to me to follow”, and up she went on her hind legs…..
…and over she went, or rather tried to go. Right over the 5 foot tall gate.
She didn’t QUITE make it all the way over, but she was close….. DARN close. I had to run forward and push her back over the top of the gate so I could enter the stall and attach a lead rope.
The closest I can come to explaining what she did was to show this video, which is took after she calmed down, during one of my “is it safe for me to go inside the house for 30 seconds?”
The video wont embed, so here’s a link to it on Facebook.
The answer is no – no it was NOT safe. This was one of her less athletic attempts.
On a braggy side note…. man, I love how much of a thinker she is. If you’ll notice, she’s not frantic, she didn’t lose her head- she’s just bound and determined to escape.
I had the boys lead in Carrots and put her in the stall next to us. Carrots is always so steady – she rarely spooks, and she has a calming influence on both Caspian and Jupiter when he was with us. She’s low man on the totem pole, and the worst thing she ever does is to halfheartedly pin her ears at Caspian whenever he starts acting like an alpha jerk.
She’s so easy-going and friendly and placid, I figured she’d be the perfect stall mate to calm down Reverie. Caspian likes all horses, but he can be reactive, and the last thing I needed was a horse spooking whenever Reverie whirled around her stall. Carrots would be a good influence.
Boy did I think wrong.
Carrots – my sweet, innocent, never-pins-her-ears, never-has-anything-but-a-sweet-expression-on-her-sweet-little-face little pony face turned into the chestnut pony mare from hell.
“I’m scared and lonely, won’t you be my frien- WHOA I guess not.”
She pinned her ears and made horrible squealing noises every time any time Reverie stuck her nose through the fence for a sniff. She glared malevolently as she chewed her hay, and even rushed the fence a couple of times when Reverie leaned too close.
I would have told the boys to replace her with Caspian…..
But by that point, I was all by myself.
I had locked the twins in the fenced portion of the backyard for safety before we removed Sparkle, much to their wailing distress. The boys weren’t much better. They were vibrating with nerves, running around frantically as they tried to help out and we tried to calm Reverie down, but they were only making things worse. Eventually I told them, “Look, just go inside. I have to hold Reverie until I can figure something out or get ahold of someone who can help me. Bring the twins with you, and get them some dinner. Turn something on the TV to keep them out of trouble.”
Since they are 7 and 9 years old, they interpreted that as, “Ask the twins if they want to go inside. When the twins OF COURSE say ‘no’, respect their decision and just go inside yourselves and watch your own TV shows for as long as you want.”
So there I was, stuck outside in the barn, holding a nervous weanling on a lead rope inside a stall, and literally no way to fix anything. Nobody was home. Nobody was answering phone calls, I had accidentally deleted my neighbor’s phone number, nobody was answering FB messenger, anyone who was home and had the knowledge to help me was too far away to be of any use, and I was quietly freaking out. If I let go of the lead rope and tried to go to a neighbor it was pretty much a guarantee that either Reverie would make it over the fence and gallop straight out onto a very busy road, or she would hurt herself trying. I was stuck holding her in the stall.
To make matters worse, I had two year old twins standing in my backyard, screaming like they’d been set on fire, with zero adult supervision. At first the twins were crying because they FURIOUS I had locked them in the backyard away from the fun….
….and then, as the minutes turned into half an hour, and the half an hour turned into an hour straight of me “ignoring” them while I was in the barn, they moved beyond furious to absolutely distraught. The sun was sinking lower in the sky, they were obviously abandoned, and the wolves were going to eat them. Worst of all, their cold, heartless, no-good mother was ignoring their screams for help.
It was a real, super good, super fun time standing in that stall with the screaming baby horse, listening to the screaming baby humans, and not being able to do anything about either situation.
I tried half a dozen times to call for the older boys, but it’s about 250 feet from the house to the barn, and either they couldn’t hear me over the sound of the TV, or they couldn’t hear me over the sound of the screaming twins.
I couldn’t leave Reverie. While she was fairly calm with me in the stall, the second I unhooked her, she would immediately try to escape.
Do you know what was even worse than her rearing up and trying to scrabble over? It was the way she thoughtfully eyed the gate. Whenever I would take off the lead rope she would approach the gate, rear up and consider trying to scrabble over….. and then she would drop back down, eyeball the gate thoughtfully, and back up slowly with firm, determined footfalls until her back end was pressed tight against the gate.
She was very, very obviously considering jumping the gate.
If she had about 10 feet more of running room (my stalls are only 12 x 12), or if that gate was about 2-3 inches lower, I’m pretty sure she would have tried it. She was not frantic at all as she assessed the gate height – she obviously thought it was within the realm of possibility.
The fencing in the paddock was no-climb horse fencing, but the idea of turning her loose in a large area seemed like a bad idea. I could just see her hurting herself in her frantic run around an unfamiliar area.
It was a long, long hour.
Now that it’s all over I’ve thought of a half a dozen people I could have called who would have been willing to come out and lend me a hand, but at the time I was just too stressed out.
Of course, I realized immediately that I could have called Kathleen back, and that was definitely in the back of my head as a last-resort. She’s the kind of person who would have shown up and helped. It’s just… my pride was in the way. There’s something a little wrong about “Hey, breeder, would you please entrust me with one of your precious babies?” and then thirty minutes later “HALLLLLP MEEEEE I’M OVERWHELMED AND INEPT!”
I almost didn’t want to share the whole story, because when you’re honest on the internet about messing up or struggling with horses (or kids) it’s kind of like standing on top of a giant hill with a megaphone and declaring “EVERYONE TELL ME YOUR OPINION, RIGHT NOW.”
Some days it’s useful, and people are kind, and I learn a lot.
Some days people are less kind, and it just makes a hard situation more overwhelming.
Eventually DragonMonkey came out to check on me, and to offer to make me dinner. I swear, I’ve never been so happy to see his scrawny, barefoot little self picking his way through the crunchy autumn grass. I could have kissed him – in fact, I think I did. I was able to direct him into gathering supplies for me, and eventually I figured out a fix.
It did the job immediately – with that barrier in place she stopped eyeballing the jump, and settled for pacing the front of the stall and sniffing along the bottom.
I sat down at last into a folding chair I’d placed inside the barn to watch her and make sure the fix was going to hold, and also because she seemed to really take comfort in me being near her. In that time period I also managed to get the boys to lure the twins inside and feed them some microwaved taquitos, so the whole affair became a lot less stressful.
At one point I noticed Reverie nosing the salt block I had tied between the stalls. Carrots rushed the stall and banged it with her chest, her ears pinned and her teeth gaping savagely, and Reverie sprang back and resumed her nervous pacing and occasional calling for her mother.
Do you know who deserves salt blocks? Sweet, orphaned foals, and not savage, stall-rushing, ugly-faced red-headed ponies.
I entered Carrots’ stall, and Carrots moved politely out of my way, turning to the side to return to her hay pile. Well, if Carrots wasn’t going to share, I was going to tie the salt block in Reverie’s stall. Maybe she’d find some comfort in licking it, in between nervous laps in the stall?
Carrots was standing diagonally to me, and I was right by her hip, in the “marginal sight” blind spot.
As I started untying the salt block, Reverie stopped her laps and crowded close to me on the other side of the stall, pressing against the bars for comfort.
There was a rush of movement as Carrots whirled, I caught a glimpse of orange, and then the next thing I knew my arm HURT and Carrots had bounded away to the complete opposite end of the stall with an OH CRAP, nervous expression on her face.
I don’t think she actually set out to bite me, I really don’t. I think she thought Reverie was messing with the salt block again, whirled around to bite her, and then when I was in the way just kind of mindlessly bit whatever was closest, which happened to be my left arm.
But you know what?
I don’t care. That’s almost worse.
She has one purpose on this farm, and that’s to be a steady, reliable, zero drama pony for the kids. She will never have to ride 100 miles in a day, or race barrels or ride dressage, or be yanked on with a curb bit or ride rollkhur. She has ONE purpose- be kind and patient with kids… and thus far, she’s done her job BEAUTIFULLY. She has yet to really spook, she leads along behind the twins one tiny, mincing step at a time, she lets the kids take FOREVER as they learn how to clean a hoof, and although she’s kind of green under saddle with an independent rider, she’s the best leadline pony I’ve ever been around.
I just couldn’t believe she bit me. She BIT me. How dare she?!
I felt like some kind of Jersey housewife that walked in on her husband of 20 years with a stripper in their bed. I say Jersey housewife because there was NOTHING classy about my response. I’m not even sure I was speaking English. I think I was trying to cuss, but it just came out in gibberish. I was channeling my inner Ralphie, screaming out my rage as I chased her around the stall and tried to kick her in the belly.
After a couple of seconds I realized that it was time to stop, even though I didn’t really want to. My rule is that any time a horse kicks or bites our of meanness (even if they only try to) you you have about three seconds to rain hellfire down on their soul with no holds barred, and then you are supposed to shut it off.
Of course, I say that’s my rule, but none of my horses have ever been ill behaved enough to do that. *I* would never own a horse like that, or be lax enough in my discipline that they would even try.
I stood there, panting, glaring, wishing I could throw a rock at Carrots, or maybe a brick, or maybe smash a broom handle over her stupid, orange, “I-think-it’s-okay-to-bite-people” head.
Carrots stood in the corner, tail clamped, poised for another lap around the stall as she waited to see what I was going to do next. I came back to my senses and glanced over at Reverie, who had stopped pacing her stall and was standing in the center, head raised super high, eyes wide. She looked like she just stepped off the cover of Morgan Horse news.
Awesome. Just AWESOME.
My dream horse, the horse I’d been waiting for my entire life, had just witnessed me trying to kill her stallmate.
I stomped over to the salt lick, untied it, and then stomped over to the gate to let myself out. Carrots slid submissively out of my bubble long before I got near to her, which was fine by me. If I’d had a pack of wolves, I would have happily fed her to them.
I went around into the hay area, tied the salt rock in Reverie’s stall and then threw myself down in a folding lawn chair and tried to stuff my bad temper back away deep down inside me.
I glanced at the bruise Carrots had left on my arm, but it wasn’t very big.
24 hours later, f course, it was much more impressive looking:
In one of those “Okay, I understand with my brain but will never truly understand with my heart” moments, screaming and cussing and trying to beat a pony to death caused both horses to relax.
I mean, if I’d adopted a child, brought them home, and then within a hour of bringing them home they watched me chase DragonMonkey around the house, trying to beat them over the head with a frying pan, it would not relax them.
But that’s horses for you. You could see them both visibly breathe out in relief. “Ahhhh, how comforting. There’s a horrible, witchy, alpha mare looking out for us.”
Reverie went from calling for her mom every few seconds to just calling every once in awhile, even stopping every once in a long while to snatch the occasional bite of hay or let me scratch on her before she resumed pacing the front of the stall, staring out to where the trailer disappeared with Sparkle.
Carrots turned her butt to Reverie and proceeded to ignore her for a long time before she finally resumed eating dinner.
After about half an hour she decided enough time had passed and she was allowed to take offense again. When Reverie passed by too close she pinned her ears and snaked her head around towards Reverie.
“EHHHHHHHH-EH-EH-EH-EH. DON’T YOU EVEN *(&@*!!&$# THINK OF IT, YOU HORRIBLE LITTLE GREMLIN.”
And she immediately unpinned her ears and settled back down to her food.
Eventually I went inside.
When the Bean came home (it’s tax season so he’s rarely home before dark) he asked, “So, was it everything you dreamed it would be?…..What? Why are you looking at me like that?”
I slept poorly that night – terrified that my fix wouldn’t hold and that Reverie would break free and gallop into oncoming traffic.
Also, my arm hurt.
The next morning I switched out Carrots for Caspian, who immediately fell absolutely head over heels in love with Reverie. He snuffled her softly, ears pricked, oozing contentment.
This is the second time this has happened, and I’m beginning to suspect that Caspian just really likes young horses. I wish I’d put him in there from the start. Oh, well. Live and learn?
Reverie has already settled down. It took 28 hours for her to forget about her mom – I doubt it would be quite so quick if she’d been able to hear Sparkle calling back.
I called my stepdad, and he dropped everything to come out and help me install an electric fence. Of course, by “help me install” I mean I told him where I wanted to place it, and the ideas I had, and he installed the entire thing by himself while I was at work.
Kathleen sent me several follow up messages, along with some great advice, and her husband was even kind of to offer to come out and help me start putting up the electric fence.
It felt kind of empowering to be able to say “Actually, it’s already halfway done,” even if the empowerment came from, “because I totally threw all of my pride in the trash and asked my dad for help.”
The relief I felt as the fence went up felt almost like a physical sensation. It feels SO GOOD not to have to worry about her charging out into the street any more.
I’m looking forward to her first turnout, which will be tomorrow. It’s really hard to get a good picture of her in the stall, and I look forward to watching her move.