Moose River Farm Blog

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Secret Life of MRF's Pets

   You have arrived at Moose River Farm's video mystery game; The Secret Life of MRF's Pets.  Part II was published on March 21.
  The answer is revealed in the video below.  Did you guess correctly? Scroll down for the answer to the March 6th mystery challenge. 

Secret Life of MRF's Pets mystery video game reveal; Part I
The clue is available on Facebook!

Stay tuned for future video clues and reveals coming soon!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

It's Moose Bowl; MMXVI

     Good Evening,
    Mid-winter doldrums have officially set in despite the season's slow start at the end of last year.  This is typically, when I begin to pine for my warm weather life by posting poems, (Field of Green), (Dream in Shades of Summer), (By the Light of the Snow Moon), and other grateful sentiments that assist in counting the days until the great meltdown begins.  This year, I have decided not to wish winter away.  Instead, I've created a distraction by putting my video camera to task.  It has been capturing the spirit of competition between two adorable teams battling for the league championship.
     Who will be the winner of Moose Bowl, 2016?  Tune in and find out!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Temperature goes up...Blankets Come Off!

      Good Evening,
     So far the winter of 2016 has been fairly tolerable with temperatures remaining consistently in the comfort range between zero and thirty degrees.  I can actually forgive this winter the few mornings that I had to trudge out to the barn in twenty below zero, but only if February behaves itself by continuing the moderate trend.  February arrives tomorrow and spring break is a mere eight weeks away, (who is counting?).  
     Today the temperature soared up to forty-six degrees giving cause for the horses to rejoice.  Once blankets were removed there was no stopping the celebration.  Their exuberance was captured in this video post.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Fantasy Farm Shopping, 2016


     Good Morning,
     As predicted, after the long stretch of balmy holiday weather, winter has taken a harsh grip in the last week.  The drop in temperature and the blowing lake effect snow sends me on a fantasy hunt for the perfect horse farm that exists in a sunny climate.  With a record 1.5 billion dollar Powerball jackpot at large, there are no budgetary restraints, (buy all the water you want to restore the green vegetation), to prevent us from enjoying the possibility of living in one of these incredible places.  This year I am scouting out properties in California for a change just....because.  Enjoy!  

Los Angeles, CA

Carmel, CA

San Francisco, CA

San Juan Capistrano

Somis, CA

Agoura, CA

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Sleep In Heavenly Peace...

Good Morning,      
     "Which is your favorite horse?"
     This question has been asked of me hundreds of times since becoming the owner of multiple horses.  Almost before the question mark exits the inquirer's mouth, I hastily exhale the reply.
      "I couldn't possibly have a favorite; I love them all the same."
      But do I?
      The longer I live with horses the more they mold me into the person I am on my way to becoming.  My only hope is that I continue to evolve into a better version of the one I am now.  This journey is not void of difficult questions that can be painful to answer if I am completely vested in living my truth.  
      On December 4th I finally conceded to the euthanasia of a twenty-one year old thoroughbred gelding, Final Target.  Unlike Rosemary the iguana, Sandi, a beloved lesson mount and Huxley, the dachshund, Target's obituary never appeared on Facebook or Twitter.  Subsequently, there was no outpouring of condolences assuring me that he had lived a wonderful life thanks to my love and devotion.  I couldn't bear to hear these words because I wasn't convinced they were true.  Over the eleven years that I have owned Target, I have contemplated putting him down more than once.  Yet, when the moment of truth arrived each time and for a variety of different reasons, the notion never materialized past a quandary.
     Target was originally purchased as a lesson horse shortly before we moved from our tiny Lakeview Farm to the sprawling landscape that is Moose River Farm.  I found him on a specialty website dedicated to connecting thoroughbred enthusiasts from around the country so they could buy and sell horses of this magnificent breed.
      After driving more than two hours with my friend Michele one late afternoon in the monochrome landscape of March, we arrived at a tired looking fifteen stall barn that housed only two horses.  The owners were clearing out; ending a long chapter of their lives spent retraining thoroughbreds off the track.  They were on their way into luxurious relaxation of retirement sans the care of horses.  Target was about ten years old and stood close to 16.2 hands.  He had been the offspring of one of the owner's thoroughbred mares who sadly died two weeks after the gray horse was foaled.  
     Orphans typically struggle in life having grown up under the care of a human nanny.  Good intentions can turn sour because these horses never learn the rules and regulations of being a horse...from their dam.  I believe this had an effect on Target his whole life.  He remained rather aloof to other horses; humans too for that matter.  At times he also lacked respect for people, never going out of his way to please; a desirable characteristic associated with thoroughbreds.  
     His dingy white coat suggested only a few remaining faded dapples from younger days.  Over the next couple of years he would turn completely white.  The big horse had not been ridden in a very long time.  However, I was assured there would be no behavioral issues.  There weren't.  Target complied willingly with my leg and rein.  If anything he seemed a bit dull.  For me this makes a better lesson horse when compared to a demeanor that is flighty or too quick to react to the rider's leg.  
     Two weeks later, Target was on his way to life in the Adirondacks.  He settled into the routine easily and shortly after his arrival I began the task of conditioning him for my lesson program.  
     It didn't take long to realize that my bargain horse had serious quirks.  As conditioning progressed he seemed to become irritated with me.  Attributing this change in behavior to physical pain as a result of conditioning, I backed off by riding him ever so lightly.  
     And then the tripping began.  At first the bobbles were subtle.  A loss of rhythm here, a balance issue there.  I paid little attention to it until one day I counted the number of trips.  On average the great white horse lost rhythm in his stride fifteen times in a forty-five minute session.  Imagination on my part or physical issue on his?  Did he need more conditioning?  Did he need protective pads on his front feet?  As his conditioning progressed he developed balance and elasticity in his back but required a knowledgeable rider to help him hold himself together.  His large size made this a difficult task for beginner riders.  
     Eventually, I used him more and more for adult riders with experience.  They loved him.  His trot and canter were just challenging enough to teach the rider's leg and hand how to respond.  The bobbles appeared often but never seemed to result in anything more than a hiccup in rhythm.  Meanwhile, I rode Target as often as I could.  The behavioral quirks reduced measurably once he became acquainted with the trails at our new farm.  Away from the schooling ring, he picked up his feet with enthusiasm minimizing the episodes of imbalance.  I used to joke with barn family and friends about developing a sport called "road dressage" because as long as Target was moving forward in a straight line, he seemed to float effortlessly along the trail.  He also kept his ears on alert waiting for the faintest distraction in the woods to give cause to enormous spooks!  More than once he unseated the most experienced riders on excursions in the woods.  Fellow riders, Michele and Irene, have experienced his spooking escapades.  
      Then one day while giving a lesson to an experienced college student, the inevitable happened.  Betty was cantering Target in a balanced frame effortlessly between her hand and her leg.  Her confidence and Target's balance appeared to be synchronized beautifully.  Suddenly, he crashed to the ground without warning.  The rider's body projected across his neck and over his head like a bullet.   
     Thankfully, Betty was not hurt; although a bit stunned.  After all there had been no warning, no interruption in the footing, or no explanation for the sudden catastrophic loss of balance.  I had no words of advice.  "You should have done this....You should have done that...."  I had nothing to offer her.  
     Target's fall resulted in a melon sized hematoma on his chest and a rattling of confidence in both him and me.  What did this mean?  What malfunctioned?  Was there really something wrong with him?  Should I put him down?  This event forced me to pull him out of my lesson program.  So far he hadn't hurt anybody seriously and I was not willing to run the risk of that happening.  
     I continued to ride him after he healed from his bruises.  In fact I spent the next winter in the indoor arena focusing on his balance through continued exercises and conditioning.  Some days instead of riding Target, I chased him around the ring; encouraging him to gallop as fast as he could.  I wanted to observe his abilities without the weight of a rider on his back.  I may have seen him bobble without a rider an unimpressive five times.  
      Over the winter he improved greatly.  I rode him six or seven times between stumbles.  Some of my best rides took place on the great white horse.  These sessions frequently occurred in my lighted outdoor ring under falling snow.  Accompanied by the festive notes of popular Christmas music, Target glided across the powdery surface effortlessly responding meticulously to my requests.  The experiences were powerfully emotional and kept me smiling all evening despite a long professional day at school.  I will never forget those moments and know that I owe him a debt of gratitude for providing them.
    The years went by, the bobbles became something I accepted, although unbeknownst to me they were having a detrimental effect on my riding in general.  I began to ride all horses defensively with a fear of tripping and falling.  I convinced myself that I could control and even thwart a potential fall.  To do this I stared at the footing so I could steer around suspicious soft spots and uneven depth that might end in catastrophe.  This technique became the new normal and lasted over the next couple of years.  
     Meanwhile, Target was beginning to exhibit abnormal behavior around the barn.  He acted terrified when his halter was placed behind his ears.  Bridling him in the wash stall was impossible as he hoisted his head to his highest shaking with fear and eyes bulging.  In his stall there was no bridling issue.  Sometimes after removing his bridle he twisted his neck and held it stiffly in this position for several minutes.  I wondered if he was having mini seizures but our vet could diagnose nothing wrong with him.  Was it time to put him down?  His issues began to accumulate.  Intermittent lameness that required long stretches of rest only to return after a few weeks of light work.  
       Then one day while riding him on a beautiful promising morning in June of 2011, it happened.  The great white horse was cantering effortlessly around the ring.  My legs and reins were communicating in perfect harmony when suddenly he dropped to his knees.  The event occurred so quickly, I didn't have time to react as I had convinced myself I would be able to.  Miraculously, he did not fall.  Instead, he caught himself and took two more steps in a crouched position to compensate his forward momentum.  Next thing I knew he was standing.  Not only was I still on his back but my feet were still in the stirrups.  Target's entire body was quaking.  Fear?  Pain?  I too was suffering the effects of fear and in the realization that this time...I had been lucky.  Immediately, I steered him toward the gate and exited the ring for the last time astride the great white horse.  While walking him in the woods to calm his nerves I had to face some difficult questions.  By the time we pulled up at the mounting block where I dismounted, I had decided that he would not be ridden ever again.  
     It would have cost me thousands of dollars to run conclusive diagnostic tests on a horse that refused to step in a trailer.  Regardless of this fact was knowing that whatever ailed him was probably not fixable to deem him safe to ride.  Was it time to put him down?
     All summer I pondered this question.  What was his life now that he could not be ridden?  Yes, he could live in a state of permanent retirement lounging in the luxury of care without giving anything back.  Had he earned that?  Could I justify the expense, (nearly $3000 a year per horse)?  Every other horse who had retired at Moose River Farm did so after a long and productive life.  Horses are expensive.  Target could live another fifteen years.  The math was staggering.  
     Like all gray horses, Target developed melanomas at various locations all over his body.  They tend to grow slowly and rarely end the animal's life unless they interfere with the mechanics of breathing or digestion.  Two years ago, melanomas began to grow rapidly under Target's tail and all around his rectum.  The unsightly large black tumors stretched out to nearly a ten inch diameter mass when he lifted his tail to defecate.  
     Last spring I declined to have Target vaccinated.  I was pretty certain this was the year I was going to put him down.  The summer passed and as the horse grew his winter coat in preparation for his twenty-second winter our vet provided the courage I needed to make the decision.  We agreed that the mass of tumors under his tail was probably going to become problematic in the future.  After four years of existing in carefree retirement in which Target was expected to provide nothing in return except his gallant presence, it was okay for me to let him go.
     The end has brought closure to horse ownership at its most complicated.  Although I loved this horse, ending his life has brought a bit of relief.  Yes it has taken some time to accept it, but now I can move forward while he sleeps in heavenly peace.  

 Like most gray horses, Target was born dark and lightened with age.
He performed without a rider at Hoofbeats in the Adirondacks in 2012.
The big white horse was a favorite of my two nieces...
...and other visitors.

My decision to euthanize Target at age 21 brings peace and acceptance.  Perhaps his mission was to force me to face complexities that arise when living with horses.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Season's Greetings from Moose River Farm, (2015)

     Merry Christmas,
     Its that time of year again!  The time when Rod, the animals and I usually have to bundle up for our annual Christmas greeting that is extended to family, friends and blog followers.  Last year a picture perfect snowfall provided the backdrop for a stunning video produced by Adirondack Mountain Productions.  The result portrayed life at MRF as pretty close to perfect.  Animal activities were recorded and edited to display playful antics.  I have watched the video numerous times over the last year, never tiring of the flowing pristine images.  
   This year, a stretch of balmy unseasonable weather is in stark contrast with last year's snow globe setting.  Never fear, with a little creativity and a large cast of living beings, I think we have conveyed the sentiment of the holidays quite accurately.  So curl up on the couch and join us in wishing all of our families, friends and animals a joyous Christmas!
Rod, Anne and MRF's entire extended human and animal family.  Blessings.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

It Takes a Village

      Happy Thanksgiving,
      For almost thirty years Rod and I have tended to the animals with only a few hiccups in care along the way.  A day here and a day there have required help from friends who will stop in to feed horses, to check on the homestead or to rescue animals from a thunderstorm in our temporary absence. Vacations require another family to literally move into our house so that the smooth routine can continue at Moose River Farm.  Somehow it all works and I am more and more grateful for this incredible privilege to live with so many animals.
     In August, however, a nagging symptom in Rod's arthritic spine led him to an orthopedic surgeon who confirmed what we already suspected. Scoliosis, spinal stenosis and arthritis were crippling Rod. Major back surgery was the only option to prevent further deterioration and to alleviate chronic pain. Scheduling the operation had to wait several weeks as Rod was already preparing to undergo surgery for a hernia.
    With medical repairs on the horizon, Rod and I were forced to divert our attention from the daily caring of our animals.  This was a necessity.  Albeit difficult to do, I needn't have worried.  Surrounding me at all times is a group of people who can step in and take over without missing a single detail in the barn.  Animal routines continued without interruption and I was able to completely concentrate on Rod.  
     "Jean and I are going to come at noon and Vicky will be here late in the afternoon to feed horses dinner.  Don't worry about anything here," my friend Michele, (Friends and Blessings) affirmed.
     After a long day in the hospital and an hour drive both ways, we arrived home where Rod could spend a number of weeks recuperating.  The first several days were rough.  Managing pain while Rod's body desperately purged the anesthesia made me reluctant to leave him for an extended length of time.  My focus remained in the house.  Not to worry, the barn purred along under the care of Jean, Michele, Irene and Vicky.  Horses were turned out, stalls cleaned, water buckets filled, and dogs walked, whether I was available to help or not.
     After the first week, Rod began to recover quickly; almost too quickly resuming chores around the farm that had waited impatiently for his return.  Our caregivers were quick to reprimand him.
     "Should you be doing that so soon?" inquired Jean, gently when Rod began raking in front of the barn one day less than two weeks after his surgery.  
     "I have to do something," he replied indicating a sense of boredom waiting around inside the house for his incision to heal. 
     All things considered, healing from the initial surgery was simple compared to what was to come.  Back surgery was scheduled for the middle of October which meant that I would be teaching school; requiring extended days off to take care of my husband.  Although Jean and Michele were headed south within days after the surgery they had arranged to step in once again and take over the animal care.  Vicky, Irene and another friend, Lynn had cleared the days on their calendars to help.  
    Once plans were meticulously arranged and everybody confirmed in their designated roles I could finally direct my attention to Rod's needs during what was certain to be a long convalescence. Then the hospital called to reschedule!  The new date threw us all into a tailspin.  It was after Michele's and Jean's departure dates.  Irene's availability decreased due to work.  In the end Vicky, (Special Needs I and Special Needs II), stepped up to take over the farm duties.  
    Rod's surgery took eight long hours to realign, readjust and stabilize his spine.  Dr. Anthony Lapinski was confident that by taking his time and addressing three separate procedures at one time, Rod would receive a favorable outcome.  During the long wait, Vicky came to the hospital to distract me.  In the late afternoon she made her way back to the farm to tend 11 horses, 3 dogs, 2 donkeys, 2 goats, 9 chickens and a pig.  By the time I arrived home, weary and spent, she was preparing a late dinner for me.  Afterwards we tended to evening barn chores.  I basked in the presence of my horses, precious rejuvenating beacons at the end of a long and worrisome day.   
     Over the next three days I was able to teach school and head to the hospital to visit with Rod.  Once again the anesthesia was wreaking havoc on his debilitated body making it impossible for him to eat.  I was thankful for trained nurses around the clock to assist him through this necessary evil of post- surgery.  At home Vicky, accompanied by Irene during the day, kept my animals in the calm of their established routines.  It was most comforting to me while feeling fractured from their care at the moment.  Evening and morning chores were the only times that I made contact with them. 
     Finally, on Thursday evening, Rod was on his way home to rest and heal in the comfort of our home.  Over the next several days we were inundated with phone calls, emails and get well cards from friends and family.  Their outpouring was overwhelming and has reminded me over and over again how blessed and lucky we are.  From the bottom of my heart I send out my appreciation to all of you during this temporary hiccup in life at MRF.  With each and every day Rod is healing towards his full strength; another blessing for which we are grateful.  It appears that the most intense moments of this episode are behind us.  We look into the future for a cornucopia of possibilities and know that whatever comes our way; we will not face it alone.  So thankful for all of you.  Love, Anne

Thank you John and Pam Leach, Lynn Durkin and Jennifer Basile for animal care during Rod's recovery.  We are so grateful.  

Vicky, (holding her baby Scout), resided at MRF caring for animals so that I could be with Rod in the hospital. 
Thankfully, my dependable caregivers are also horsewomen...
...who love the horses as much as I do.
My friend Irene, (who boards her horse, Ben, at MRF) frequently cares for the horses in the middle of the day.  She calls it her workout!
A new horsey resident to our area, Jennifer was available to help with the horses mid-day once I returned to my job.

....and Michele have stepped in to care for the animals countless times over the last twenty-five years.