Tag Archives: Cold Moon Farm

Ending the Pandemic Pause

hi·ber·na·tion

noun

  1. the condition or period of an animal or plant spending the winter in a dormant state.

“grizzly bears gorge on seeds to prepare for hibernation”

  • an extended period of remaining inactive or indoors.

“the fair-weather cyclists are emerging from winter hibernation”

(all definitions from Oxford Languages)

I look forward to the arrival of spring at Cold Moon Farm each year with eager anticipation. For me, the predictability of restoring the farm to a more active state after winter’s dormancy provides a sense of satisfaction; the requirement of annual chores marks the passage of time, affirms that even when snow comes in April (as it did this year), spring will prevail in the end.

April 16, 2021. I didn’t actually cry but it was close.

Step by step, the essential equipment of winter—bucket heaters, extension cords, heavyweight blankets, shovels—is cleaned and stowed away, replaced by hoses and fly masks and the onset of shedding season. Gardens are raked, the horse trailer pulled out of its winter parking spot, grooming tools and grain bins washed and aired out. Each task completed marks a satisfying check off the “to do” list and brings me one step closer to the best riding months of the year here in New England.

The arrival of robins and eastern bluebirds and barn swallows marks the end of winter’s rest for the horses; in the past, I have called this period the “deferalization of spring”. It starts with a renewed commitment to deep grooming, shedding blades and sturdy curry combs erasing the feathery remains of winter coats while pulling combs and thinners shorten manes that have become unkempt. The farrier pulls winter shoes and snow pads, making feet seem cleaner and lighter. We start legging up the experienced horses with thirty minute walks, increasing to an hour, then adding light arena work. The green beans go on the longe line or work in the round pen, hopefully demonstrating some memory of lessons learned last season.

Just another day of shedding season for this professional hair-grower. (JEF Anna Rose)

This spring, it feels as though my personal equestrian hibernation has been longer than usual. This was the first winter in years I didn’t avail myself of an indoor, instead giving all of my horses three months off. Yet in some ways my “extended period of remaining inactive” began long before the winter solstice. I haven’t competed in person since 2019, took only two lessons in 2020 and otherwise hauled out just a handful of times for trail rides. Now, as both the calendar and world around me proclaim that it is time to resume activity, I find that I am struggling to emerge from my sheltered cocoon.

There are so many reasons for this. The pandemic, of course, is a huge part of it; given the many uncertainties over the past year, it was logical to simply stay home, and I am out of practice. But the pandemic also became a wonderful excuse to simply remain within my comfort zone and avoid new challenges that might intimidate me—challenges that could also test my skills and inspire me to grow. Even though doing new or difficult things can produce anxiety, nerves and even a little fear, it is the successful completion of these small challenges that develops confidence. And having had little opportunity to achieve these small stepping stones in the past eighteen months has left me feeling less confident than before all of this started.

Through Lee’s ears.

I recently interviewed a top hunter/jumper coach and course designer on the subject of riding under pressure; he commented that humans in general tend to move away from pressure but the most successful riders instead continuously seek it, putting themselves and their equine partners into situations in which they must manage nerves, excitement, challenge and stress. Navigating pressure—whatever that looks like for you—is where growth occurs. Living within your comfort zone is safe but will not and cannot produce new growth.

My extended hibernation was inspired by the pandemic but augmented by excuses and transitions such as horses needing to step down career wise and horses needing time to mature. It has left me feeling too familiar with my comfort zone and excessively rusty and out of practice with pushing my boundaries. Now, I have a rising 6-year-old ready to go out and see the world. Regionally, shows and clinics and other equestrian activity is on the upswing. All signals indicate that the time for hibernation is over—but after such a long period of inactivity, it is so tempting to stay within the security and familiarity of my comfort zone.

re·new·al

noun

  1. an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption.

“a renewal of hostilities”

  • the action of extending the period of validity of a license, subscription, or contract.

“the contracts came up for renewal”

  • the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken.

It is easy to feel inspired by spring. The annual process of nature’s renewal is manifested by drab fields rebounding lush and vibrant, buds on branches unfurling leaves with panache and perennial flowers and bushes bursting with color. As I complete morning chores, the air is filled with the trills and warbles of birds dividing territory and attracting mates. This natural cycle happens whether we will it or not, whether we notice it or not. The renewal is inevitable.

Rabbit the Barn Cat poses with the posies.

For me, the first true days of spring, when the sun is finally strong enough and warm enough to kiss the skin and warm the soil, are a tonic for the ache winter leaves behind. The smell of fresh earth, the feel of heat on your cheeks, the chirp and whistle of a vivacious cardinal, all demand to be experienced.

Spring is a time of inspiration and action. I make promises to myself, set goals, make lists. I think about which projects need versus would be nice to complete on the farm. I make more lists and set timelines. On a separate page I write each horse’s name. I list activities for them, too. I am a planner, and these lists are a road map directing our progress through the weeks ahead.

But even so, as imperceptibly as Mother Nature restores her environs from dormancy to activity, my inherent drive toward achieving my goals has changed. This year, I am finding the renewal offered by the change of season insufficient to fully offset my inertia.

A winter rainbow.

There was a time when each spring, I highlighted activity after activity on the print out of the West Newbury Riding and Driving Club’s calendar of equine events. I was out on the road with my horses to compete or clinic two or three times per month, borrowing trailers and occasionally entire rigs from generous friends (what amazing trust they had in me) or bartering rides. When I later acquired my own trailer, I became even more mobile. I shipped out for weekly jump lessons. We hauled to competitions all over New England and New York. I let little stand in my way in pursuit of participating in those activities I had set my mind to.

For most of the early aughts, I kept two or three horses in full work year round, while also stabling two of them on rough board, finishing a Masters degree and holding down a full time job that often required evening or weekend commitments. My days started early and ran long. I had an internal drive that was impossible to ignore and compelled me to push through fatigue and frustration. I was motivated at least partially by catch phrases which are probably now memes, expressions like ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’ or ‘shoot for the moon because even if you miss you will land among the stars’.

I didn’t make this meme….but I could have.

But what used to be a raging inner fire to ‘go out and do’ seems to have tempered to a gentler glow. Where I used to wring my hands over a missed ride or schooling set, now I sigh and think, ‘well, another day’. I see photos on social media of friends who have eagerly returned to competition after vaccination (as well as those who never hung it up to begin with) and think ‘good for them’.

Yet my own calendar remains blank.

I will admit that in some ways, I have had a discouraging few years. In 2019, I made the decision to retire my distance horse, Lee, from competition and have had to step back from a new sport I really enjoyed. In 2020, after pushing and pressuring Anna for several years, I finally had to admit that it is unlikely I will be able to finish my USDF Bronze Bar with her.

But these minor disappointments cannot take away the many years of success and fun we have had together. I have partnered with each of these special mares since their 6-year-old year; in 2021, Lee will be 22 and Anna, 17. Looking back at all I have experienced with them is an amazing trove of memories and moments. They have each immeasurably shaped my journey as a horseman and trainer and I consider myself lucky to have them both living in my front yard, sound, happy and useful animals, albeit in different ways than before.

The long partnerships I have enjoyed with Anna and Lee are perhaps why the thought of starting new journeys with Izzy and Nori is, at times, overwhelming. Each of these youngsters was less than two when they arrived here at Cold Moon Farm, and so of course there was much for them to learn. Izzy, now 6 years old, is at an age where she can be expected to manage more both mentally and physically. Nori, now 4, is also ready to build on the foundation laid in the past two years, which will hopefully include being backed this summer.

Nori, during an early spring grooming session (after she was too sassy to manage her patience in the barn.)

My younger self would have proceeded forward with a ‘just do it’ mentality, but today I hesitate and worry too much about the ‘what if’s’. And after over a year of easy excuses to avoid taking young horses out in the world, it is hard to be brave enough to tell my monkey brain to be quiet and take a seat.

Someday, maybe someday soon, I will have no excuses left. And I will have to either decide to ‘just do it’… or out of fairness to these young horses’ future, hand the reins over to someone else who can.

met·a·mor·pho·sis

noun

  1. (in an insect or amphibian) the process of transformation from an immature form to an adult form in two or more distinct stages.

“the persistence of the larval tail during metamorphosis”

  • a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one, by natural or supernatural means.

“his metamorphosis from presidential candidate to talk-show host”

There are many lessons humanity ought to take away from the experience of a global pandemic, and it seems impossible that any individual who is remotely connected to the mainstream can emerge from the past eighteen months truly unchanged. Personally, I struggle with the idea of a “return to normal,” as neither I nor the world around me are the same as before.

In a March 2020 blog post, I wrote:

“The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic will change all of us in small and large ways. I fervently hope that for many Americans, this time of challenge will allow nearly everyone the opportunity to reset their compass and focus on those pieces of our lives that matter on a deep, fundamental level. I believe that most equestrians did not start riding to win ribbons; we started riding because we felt inexplicably drawn to these powerful and majestic animals. Those of us still lucky enough to have horses in our lives after the dust settles have a responsibility to remember that magic and to share it with others.”

I’m not sure I fully recognized it then, but perhaps this sentiment was an early stage of what I can only call my equestrian metamorphosis. Increasingly, I am more interested in the positive impact that horses have on those they touch than I am in personally pursuing upper level sport. At whatever point in the future my own career comes to an end, I don’t want it to be defined only by my competitive success (or, let’s be honest, lack thereof). Instead, I hope that I will be recognized as a practitioner of compassionate horsemanship, as a model of affordable, sustainable horse management practices and as a teacher who took the time to truly listen to her students and their horses, celebrating the victory of establishing the correct foundation that makes a lifetime of enjoyment with horses possible.

Spring Hollow Marquesa on an early spring ride.

For a caterpillar to become a beautiful butterfly, it literally obliterates its original form, then rearranges cells and tissues into new patterns and connections. If the chrysalis is cracked open before the process is complete, the cycle may be irrevocably interrupted. Metamorphosis is messy and destructive of old forms and behaviors. But going through this process is essential for the caterpillar to become its highest evolved self– a butterfly able to offer its services as a pollinator, visiting spring flowers and perpetuating the cycle of renewal.

Perhaps instead of considering the Pandemic Pause a set back to my continued evolution as an equestrian, I need to think of it as time spent in the chrysalis. As with the caterpillar, old models of doing things must be dismantled for new forms to emerge. Perhaps my slow return to full activity is more about testing new wings, recently unfurled, than it is about not living up to old, outdated expectations of myself. Perhaps this metamorphosis is about cementing that my horsemanship journey is and always has been about the relationship I enjoy with each horse specifically. It is about shedding the weight of expectation that I have been so accustomed to carrying so that I can instead move more freely from one beautiful moment to the next.

The De-Feralization of Spring

In late April, my friend Bethany shared a quote from Vonnegut which really resonated with me.  I will loosely paraphrase here; Vonnegut contends that the reason we are often so frustrated with the weather in March and April is because we are falsely under the impression that it is spring. Instead, Vonnegut identifies six seasons, not four:  January and February are still winter, but as nature wakes back up in March and April, this is not actually spring, but rather “unlocking”. Spring doesn’t actually happen until May and June, while summer hits in July and August and autumn in September and October. Then in November and December, another transition–“locking”, when nature and all of its creatures shut down, store up and settle in for the depths of winter.

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The barn cats took over one of the horse stalls. They are not impressed with winter either.

This is sheer genius.

Inspired by Vonnegut, I would like to propose the Seasons of the New England Equestrian for the first third of the year: FREEZE, HOPE, DESPAIR, SPRING and DE-FERALIZATION.  Here, I present an example of the inner monologue of an avid equestrian as she cycles through each of these seasons, inspired by my own experience:

January-February (FREEZE). “It is SO cold. The wind can’t blow any harder. Oh wait– it can.” [Pause to widen stance and reset wool hat]. “The water spigot froze and I have to carry water from the bathtub upstairs. My breath has frozen on my glasses. And the gate latch froze.”  [Removes glove, exposing bare skin, in order to use body heat to thaw the latch]. “I am so lucky to have horses. I am so lucky to have horses. Repeat. WHY didn’t I go south like all my friends on Facebook?!?!”

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Lee is making sure that I am aware that I have neglected to hang her hay bag.

March 1 (HOPE).  “I see the bare earth!  Just a small patch, and it is all mud, but I saw it.  It still exists!  I will start hacking and legging the horses up soon, maybe mid-month.  We are going to get an early start on the season!  It is going to be brilliant!  We will be so fit and ready and it will be wonderful!”

March 10 (DESPAIR). In the background, the meteorologist is happily announcing the largest named blizzard of the season. There are three feet of snow out of my window and it is still snowing. This is never going to melt.  Ever.  And even if it does, it will be mud for the next six months.  I will never ride again.”

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April (SPRING) “I mean, it is pouring sideways, and the mud is now almost over the tops of my wellies, but the calendar says spring, right?  So maybe I can start to ride?” It should be noted here that roughly 75% of the arena is still covered in snow and ice.

img_2526
The riding arena in late April.

 

April 15 (SPRING, continued, after attempting to begin riding despite the conditions). “My horses have become completely, 100% feral.  They scream when I separate them.  They dance on the crossties like they have never been in the barn. Their girths don’t fit. One bridle was eaten by mice. I can’t find one glove. And now we have pulled a shoe.”

 

Oh spring.  All winter, I yearn for it, for the return of fair weather, better footing, all my horses at home, and longer days with sunlight from the earliest hours of the morning until late evening. But somehow the initial reality never quite lives up to my ideal. Spring arrives with excess packaging: mud, tons of winter hair, lost muscling, and dust on all my gear despite efforts to keep up with cleanliness during the off season. And the worst part, for me, is the equine behavior.  In order to get to the blissful days of summer, without fail, this next phase cannot be skipped. I call it DE-FERALIZATION. Like children who have been on summer vacation for too long, I find the first few weeks of transition from winter break to being working animals brings out some of the worst characteristics in my favorite equines.

I started the de-feralization in mid-March by bringing in each of the three horses which lived at Cold Moon Farm all winter for individual grooming sessions. Other than a few little whinnies (“I am in here…are you still out there?”), their attitudes stayed mostly calm and I was able to start shedding out the winter coats. I untangled tails and pulled manes, doing the youngster’s in small chunks since she is still not so sure about it and Lee’s during the late March blizzard when we were all stuck inside anyway. I began to see the horses under the hair. I thought, ‘wow, maybe de-feralization won’t be that bad this year.’

Insert diabolical laughter now.

I brought Anna home from the indoor on April 1. While I am SO grateful for having the ability to keep her close to home at a well maintained facility, I was also SO ready to bring her back. I knew that the first few weeks of April would be dicey as far as serious work went, so I was prepared to give Anna a few weeks’ light work upon her return home; hacking, light ring riding as the footing permitted, maybe some work in hand.

Here is a video of what happened when I turned her back out with Lee:

Anna’s first hack at home was with Marquesa; it was the older Morgan’s first ride since last year. Now 22, Marquesa has always been an old soul. Spooking just isn’t her thing; high necked Morgan alertness, yes, but spinning, wheeling, bucking, etc., nope. We thought we would take them for about twenty minutes across the power lines and around the back field, just a short walk to stretch legs.

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Spring is at least good for some stunning sun rises.  This is Izzy.

We didn’t make it out of the backyard. I mean, everyone stayed on, but between the squealing and jigging from Anna and the snorting and blowing from Quesa…well, we considered the safe return to the barn after about ten minutes to be a success.

In early April, I bought a round pen. My ring is only partially fenced and given that Izzy is turning three this year and we might want to THINK about backing her at some point, I figured that a more complete perimeter was a good idea. We set it up mid-ring, straddling the snow which still covered half the arena.

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Rabbit, the polydactyl/slacker barn cat who did NOT catch the mouse who ate my bridle.

I took Lee out to the round pen on the longe line to start her back into some sort of work.  Last year, I was able to hack her out with Marquesa and another rider, which worked really well.  But with Anna home a whole month earlier, I could only hack one horse at a time and Lee was relegated to second string status. Even at 19, Lee can be really reluctant to leave the farm by herself when she is out of practice and be cheeky in the ring, and so as a former trainer used to say, “the longe line is your friend.”

To my surprise and delight, Lee was completely civilized in the round pen. I started by just walking her—forced marching for 20-30 minutes with frequent direction changes—and she was so compliant and calm that I ended up just unclipping the line and practiced moving her around with my body language. Compared to the others, I think she has lost the most condition this winter. But at the same time, she is mostly Thoroughbred, and once she gets into work, she tends to come back to fitness fairly quickly.

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Lee’s first ride of 2018, sporting her stylish new biothane bridle.

Feeling overly ambitious, I also signed Izzy up to go to an in hand/ground work clinic with Tik Maynard in early May. I have heard Tik speak and read his articles, which all have impressed me, and I thought the opportunity was too good to pass up. But I knew that Izzy may have forgotten some of her lessons from last year after a winter off, and we had to be diligent about reviewing the basics.  In addition, she taught herself a new skill this winter—how to buck—and though the bucks are without any malice and are performed with just the sheer joy of being young and agile and quick, I was less pleased with this addition to her repertoire. My helmet became constantly planted to my head and Izzy tested my determination to prep her for the clinic on an almost daily basis.

Then on April 15, it snowed. Again.

In order to get through the De-Feralization, what is needed is consistency.  And between the weather, the footing, and my work schedule, what I didn’t seem to be finding was the one thing most necessary for success.

So this year, instead of getting overly frustrated during this time of transition, I tried to practice a different mantra: We’ve been through this before. We take baby steps. We always get through it, and once we do, the reward is worth the few weeks of challenge. This is perhaps the time of year beyond all other where we must simply acknowledge that patience is also a skill which requires practice. All you can ever do is your best, take small steps, and reward any forward progress.

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Julia and I try a mounted selfie.  Yes it is May.  Yes I am still wearing a down vest.

Instead of being upset with myself that my work schedule wouldn’t permit me to give 110% attention to each horse, I divided my time. I recruited some helpers, who came to hack with me (thanks Julia and Nikki!), allowing two horses to get attention at once. I became satisfied with shorter work sets—even just 15 minutes for Izzy—knowing that a little was better than nothing and in time, we would build on this small foundation.

Now, on the cusp of June, I am finally enjoying truly glorious spring weather, with mostly compliant horses who have a baseline of fitness.  De-feralization is complete, and true spring has officially arrived.

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Rabbit and Smokey are back in their usual “spring spot”.

 

 

Managing your Velociraptors…Or your herd of mares

Mares aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t mind them and without any sort of conscious decision making on my part, I find that I have now acquired a herd of three of them.  Little did I know, however, that establishing harmony in this herd would prove to be so emotionally draining for all involved.

For the past nine months, the Dark Mare (Lee) has contentedly been living here alone at Cold Moon Farm.  She was pretty settled in her routine, hacked out here there and everywhere alone, and admired the goats which live next door.  This all is quite impressive given that at her core, Lee is a pretty anxious and insecure horse who draws a lot of her confidence from the animals around her.

Lee and the New Fence 003.JPG
Lee enjoying grass in the new fencing for the summer pastures.

But last week, I upended her little world.

On Wednesday, I brought home our new friend, Spring Hollow Marquesa.  Marquesa is a 20 year old purebred Morgan who has been a part of the school horse team at the U of New Hampshire for the past eighteen years.  She is still quite full of life—everyone knows that a 20 year old Morgan is merely middle aged—but as far as we can remember, she hadn’t been off the UNH property in nearly fourteen years, and that just to school cross country.  Considering all of this, the fact that I was able to quietly load her on my own and bring her home uneventfully is pretty impressive.  But even so, the move was a big lifestyle change for her, too.

Marquesa comes to Cold Moon 008.JPG
Spring Hollow Marquesa

Marquesa is a sweet mare, and in my twelve years of teaching off of her, I have never seen her so much as flick an ear back at another horse, never mind exhibit any of the other stereotypical “marish” behaviors that people dislike.   I figured Marquesa would be dominant over Lee, who would be happy once again to have an Overlord to tell her where to stand and what to do all day.

I put them in side by side paddocks to meet and greet.  There were a few quiet squeals but nothing too terribly dramatic.  I left them like this overnight, and then the next day turned them out together for one hour on grass.  They seemed to be pretty content with one another, and were clearly taking comfort in each other’s presence—while still exhibiting all of the behaviors of sorting out dominance. And I started to see a side of Marquesa that I hadn’t before; she was acting a little bit like a bully.

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Meeting officially.

Marquesa’s main body language cue was the snaking of her neck.  Watching her do this motion over and over made my own neck hurt.  She walked circles around Lee, arching her neck and snaking it around and around.  Lee clearly understood this meant to pay attention and smartly trotted off.  I didn’t ride her in those forty-eight hours, but I suspect she easily covered ten or twenty miles being ‘driven off’ by her alpha.

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Out together for the first time.

At feeding time, I stood guard between them.  Again, the first few meals were funny…Marquesa actually tried to get to Lee’s food, in spite of my presence.  I drove her away with voice and body movement, and she reluctantly moved off, snaking her neck the whole time.  What had happened to the sweet mare that I had known for twelve years?

This is where my ‘mare drama’ started to remind me of the movie Jurassic World.  If you haven’t seen it, the lead male character, played by Chris Pratt, is a trainer who works with a pack of the highly intelligent velociraptor species.  If you are a devotee of the franchise, you will know that the “raptors” are clever, communal hunters.  They can open doors and seem to be able to use logic to solve complex problems.  If you are going to be followed by dinosaurs, raptors are not the ideal.  Pratt’s character handles the animals by establishing himself in the ‘alpha’ role; this required a relationship with each individual but in particular the beta raptor, Blue.  This alpha role was reserved for him alone; other humans could not step into his place within the hierarchy (which is played up to great theatrical drama in the movie).

Raptors.gif

Marquesa is allowed to be dominant over Lee, but under no circumstances is she going to be allowed to be the alpha mare.

That would be me.

But I wasn’t done disrupting the peace and harmony previously enjoyed at Cold Moon Farm.  Two days after bringing Marquesa home, Annapony also joined the group.  Having previously experienced the challenges of having Anna live in the same paddock as Lee when we went to Tamarack Hill two summers ago, I had already decided that side by side living was going to be preferable this time around.

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A moment of peace after several days of chaos.

So now there were three raptors.  The challenge:  figure out how to manage the group so that horses can be handled and ridden safely with the minimum of risk to person, animal or property.

The first forty eight hours after Anna came home were probably the worst.   All three horses were acting like feral creatures; unhandled and rank, ill behaved, no respect.  I really wondered if it was going to work out.

Right now, the horses spend most of the day in the sacrifice area as they are gradually introduced to grass.  Three horses in two paddocks and one human means that in order to get everyone into the grass fields, someone at some point is going to be alone.  Anna was the logical choice, and she more or less was good about it—except for one day, when at the end of the lead rope she demonstrated the most amazing array of airs above the ground that I have ever seen from her.  I took to wearing my helmet for turn out and turn in.

The first time Anna saw the peaceful goats that live next door…velociraptor snorting and passaging up and down the fence line.  So Lee next to her also became concerned about the goats and starting running around to help her feel better.  The same goats that have been here THE ENTIRE NINE MONTHS SHE HAS LIVED HERE.  Lee’s behavior then irritated Marquesa, who started her neck snaking behavior again. This sort of communal drama played itself out repeatedly.

Raptors Settling In 001.JPG
Lee lays down only on rare occasions.  She seems to feel safe with this pack! Note the fence board which doesn’t fit the others.  Raptor Repair # 1.

Then came the process of separating the mares for basic care.  You know, those unusual sorts of things we like to do with them—daily grooming, riding, etc.  Oh the screaming and the calling and the nervous pooping.  The two who were left together outside weren’t happy.  The one who was inside being tacked up wasn’t happy.  The drama. The chaos.  I was left truly questioning my judgement in bringing them all together into one place.

With the mild weather, I have been sleeping with the windows open, which meant I could hear every snort or squeal, and every set of trotting hoof beats (no doubt as Marquesa snaked her neck again and set Lee off moving).  I tried only to get up when the noises sounded extreme, which took some discipline.  Still, I slept with the flashlight by my bed, ready to shine it out on their fields in the front of the house at the first sign of significant drama.

Like any good raptor pack, this group has been religiously testing the fence line.  Now, it is on the agenda for the summer to do some replacement of worn boards, run a new fenceline down one side to block off the wet area and finally install some functional electric wire to keep them off the boards.  But these edits have not yet been made.  So far, we have broken two boards and destroyed the bungee gates which were separating the two paddocks, resulting in all three raptors being out together one morning earlier this week.  That ruckus I slept straight through, and in the morning I found them all fairly peacefully existing in the same space.

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The new gate.  Installed courtesy of YouTube and my interns!

But day by day, the raptors seem to be settling into their new routine.  They are almost ready for full day grass turnout, which will give them plenty to do other than test boundaries—and if they do, they will receive a strong electric charge for their efforts.  Each horse can now successfully be taken away from the others for their daily care and exercise, with Lee being the last one to come around (it is as though nine months of pent up frustration over being home alone are all coming out in one week of temper tantrums).  Sweet Marquesa is back to being her cheerful self and is learning how to be an independent trail horse.  And Annapony has really set the bar high with excellent dressage schools and a solo hack two miles down the power line trail and back. Perhaps there is hope for this pack after all.

I wish I could say that I had stayed calm and cool through it all.  In reality, I was a nervous, worried mess and could barely focus for my worry.  If I had had a friend in my situation, I would have said the same things my friends said to me:  “Give it time”  “they will work it out”.  Intellectually, I knew this but emotionally I stressed.

In the meantime, we continue to adjust to our new lifestyle. The thing about mares is that you can’t force them to do what you want.  You must present the question and then give them time to choose to participate.

I think the raptors are choosing to be okay with their new arrangement.