Moose River Farm Blog

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Love is Always Searching....Best Wishes to Amy and Ben

Good Evening,
My husband and I have just returned home from attending our niece's wedding. Readers of the blog might remember Amy, (All Grown Up), from a number of blog posts. She has visited Moose River Farm almost every summer since we moved in twelve years ago. In fact she lived with us for two summers. Her horse, Welby, (Exchanging Gifts), lived out his days here when Amy's adult life required relocation after college graduation. The following poem was written for and read at the wedding. It's a biography to rhyme, warm...and inform. May this be the beginning of a long happy life together for Amy and Ben. Cheers!

Love is Always Searching
Best Wishes to Amy and Ben

Love is always searching
Searching high and searching low
For signs of everlasting
Contentment and seeds to sow

When this woman was first conceived
Love nurtured her in the womb
It stitched with threads of wisdom
And sang songs in a harmonious tune

In years to come
Love would plant for her
A total of siblings three
They all grew up strong and sturdy
Like the branches of their father’s trees

Along the way Love introduced
A world at which to marvel
A Spaniel pup here, a kitten there
And rodents to play among them

This land in need of livestock
Asked Love to build a barn
Goatie antics, bunny frantics
And chickens complete the farm

When she was young
Love sprinkled upon her
Some glittery magic dust
And off she rode on a toy stick horse
Make-believe imagination at its very best

But nothing compared
To what Love shared
Between her and an ex-racehorse
She galloped him out of childhood
Gripping the reins to stay on course

And all the while Love coiled and danced
nudging her to kiss the lip of a flute
Her breath and fingers flirted with fate
Earning a degree from the succession of notes

Love stood close while the little girl
Grew into an adventurous woman
Who ventured deep into the Delta
To teach its most vulnerable children

Alas this Love had one card left
To deal from a fickle hand
It searched for Ben
And assured her then
That this love could last

How did Love let her know
That Ben was hers forever?
It flowed in an accent of southern charm
Then prepared crawdads for dinner

As for Ben who cast the lure
That brought her to her senses
Love reeled her in then held the pen
So she could sign the license

Now settle in your new abode
As residents of the Big Easy
Love will guide life forward
To do with whatever pleases

With all the ingredients of a happy marriage
Thru which you two may amble
Love will keep you whole
Use it to lead and follow in your ensemble

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Barbaro; Ten Years Ago

      Good Morning,
     It is hard to believe, as we prepare to watch the Kentucky Derby today, that a decade has come and gone since Barbaro achieved his spectacular victory.  In 2006, the Derby pulsated with a field of twenty horses who were favored to win from a plethora of perspectives shared by the racehorse industry's most respected analysts.  Sharp Humor, Lawyer Ron, Sweetnorthernsaint, Bluegrass Cat and Sinister Minister represented only a few of the memorable names given to horses that year who were capable of crossing the finish line first after running a mile and a quarter.  However, at post-time it was Barbaro who entered the starting gate with 3-1 odds in addition to being the favorite to win.  And he did.  
     Barbaro's win is one of the most indelible in Derby history.  On the final turn that brought him in view of a deafening crowd ,jockey Edgar Prado encouraged Barbaro to switch up another gear.  The horse obliged.  They surged ahead of the pack and finished the race with a six and a half length lead in front of Bluegrass Cat.  Race caller Tom Durkin described the feat as sublime.  
     Of course this was the highlight of Barbaro's story.  Two weeks later, at the Preakness Stakes, Barbaro suffered a catastrophic injury to a hind leg that required five hours of surgery to stabilize.  Sadly, eight months later Barbaro was humanely euthanized when secondary complications from the injury proved too much for the horse to bear.  
     My sixth grade students illustrated the following book about Barbaro's life during the sad days following the Preakness.  We sent it to Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz who in turn passed it on to Gretchen and Roy Jackson, Barbaro's owners.  I am posting the pictures today because they remind me that life goes on and although my students were deeply saddened by Barbaro's death, they were very proud of their book that brought comfort to Barbaro's connections.  
     In the ten years since this famous race took place, the students have grown up; many will graduate from college in just a few more weeks.  As their futures unfold in front of them I am confident that their small contribution to the events surrounding Barbaro's injury and death will remain with them for a lifetime.   

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.