Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A horse to love

River City Storm in a storm of his own

Best Husband in the World came into the kitchen, stamping his feet against the late February chill. He'd been down at the barn, repairing a fence our little buckskin, River, decided it would be fun to mow over in the middle of the night..

"Stormy isn't eating," he said. "He wasn't eating much last night either."

Immediately, I was out the door. At the age of 15, Stormy, the newest addition to our Standardbred menagerie (see Stormy's story here), is also the oldest. He is, as well, the easiest keeper of all the horses. So if he's off his feed, I know it's worth investigating.
I conducted an extremely in-depth assessment. It lasted... about two and a half minutes. "He's bored," I told Best Husband.

Two weeks ago, we were at 70% of our average rainfall. All the "experts" made gloomy predictions of drought. But for the last two weeks, it's rained almost non-stop. In fact (as evidenced by the above photo), we even had snow at 1100 feet (see our "snow story" here)!

Today, the ground is now so saturated, Sacramento--and most other Northern California towns--are worried about flooding. Here at the ranch, our pastures are thick with mud on the hillsides, and there is standing water on the flats.

Which means we have the equine equivalent of a geometry theorem.

It has been raining cats and dogs: therefore, Stormy has to stay indoors: therefore, Stormy is bored.
When I first came down to the barn, Stormy's head was out the window. He regarded me with head high, ears pricked, his eyes intent. He looked like a man waiting at the airport gate for the love of his life to deplane.

Stormy in a "non-bored" state on the trail before the rains began

The beauteous Cordealia (aka "The Dilla"), ini the next stall, was also looking at me. Sideways. If Stormy looked like a lovestruck youth, Cordealia looked like she was about to face a police interrogation. She was only paying attention in order to figure out her escape route.

If you could have inserted a wiretap into the heads of these two horses, my guess is each would yield up something completely opposite of the other.

Our Standardbred mare, Cordealia...beautiful, arrogant...gotta love her!

The Dilla: "What? Are you looking at me? You lookin' at me? I may be looking at you. But it's only to see what you're up to. Because I know you're up to something. Yeah, I see you looking at me and, since it's not dinner time yet, that can only mean one thing-- annoyance. I'm not looking at you because I'm glad to see you. Don't get any crazy ideas about that. Unless...hey, did you bring me some carrots? Yes? Cool. Thanks. Got anymore? No? Dude, I'm outta here."

Stormy (aka Mr. Sweetie Pie): "Oh, good, here you come. I'm soooo happy to see you. I've been waiting for you. Haven't you seen me staring up at the house for hours now? I want you to come over here. Hurry. Don't go see anyone else. Just come see me. And don't forget the carrots. Oh, never mind, I don't need the carrots. I just want you, you, you! First, I want you to pet me and tell me I'm wonderful. Because...I am, you know. Then I want you to let me out. I'll follow you anywhere, I swear I will. I can help you with chores, too. I'll pull the hammer out of your back pocket. And when I'm done helping, why don't you put me in the round pen and give me some of those weird exercises to do? It's true, I've been a champion harness racer my whole life, so this round pen stuff is all new to me. But hey, old dogs--uh, er, horses-- learn new tricks all the time. I'm living proof. Come on, let's go play. I love you!"
And so that's what we did. When Stormy finally went back to his stall, he was relaxed and happy. As I secured the stall door, he turned to me, heaving one of those wondrous, heavy horse sighs that signals contentment.

I, too, felt a tranquil breath leave me.

"Right back at you, kid" I told him. "Right back at you."

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