Friday, May 31, 2013

A good dog.

At this exact moment, I'm very busy not helping my daughter pack.  She's going to the beach for a few days with a friend's family, and she copes with the stress of packing by not packing until the last possible moment, and I'm over it, so I'm sitting here not helping. 

Yesterday we had a full day out at the barn, in the sun and heat.  It hit 87 degrees, according to this morning's paper, which means my internal thermostat, which thought, "Hot, hot, hot," was correct.  In the very early morning my daughter and I wrestled those damn mats back into the trailer, becoming admirably filthy in the process.  This was unfortunate: I was wearing my white Holston Pony Club polo and what had been a clean pair of blue jeans, because I was running a pony club rating on my farm. 

For those of you who don't understand pony club, I won't go into tedious detail.  Just know that ratings are a type of riding, horse care, and horse knowledge examination.  They mean a lot to the children involved.  I'll be running another rating at the close of our pony club camp in a few weeks, but we had so many kids wanting to rate that I had to split them. 

"Running the rating" meant that I:
1) made sure the fields we needed were mowed;
2) made sure horses weren't turned out in those same fields;
3) set the requisite jump course;
4) opened the green barn, which we only use for pony club stuff;
5) cursed the men who, while making some repairs to the green barn, had filled the only functional wheelbarrow there with their Mountain Dew cans and fast food trash;
6) emptied the wheelbarrow in the trash can beside it;
7) found a replacement light bulb for the toilet  (The green barn has a flush toilet!  Such luxury!)
8) schooled the riders over the jumps, particularly the cross country ones, the night before;
9) stood beside my friend Lisa while she conducted the rating (this is called being the Impartial Observer; it's required); and
10) tried to keep my mouth shut.

We finished up around noon, right when it was starting to get really hot, and just when the farrier showed up to shoe the horses.  Horses' hooves are like fingernails, constantly growing and needing to be trimmed.  We've got 7 horses on the farm now, 6 of mine and 1 belonging to a friend.  A standard four-shoe horse takes about an hour for the farrier to do, but the only standard horse is my friend's thoroughbred, Syd.  My daughter's horse Mickey needed stud holes drilled and tapped into his shoes, so he can wear cleats for cross country.  My son's retired pony doesn't wear shoes at all and only needed his feet trimmed.  (I also cut his dreadlocks off with scissors, providing an excellent example of why you never cut a horse's mane with scissors.  He looks like that kid in kindergarten whose mother cut his hair the morning of Picture Day.)  Sarah, with her big honking draft horse feet, only wears front shoes, as does Gully since he's mostly retired, as does Shakespeare, my daughter's first pony, now 30 years old, as does Pal, my daughter's second horse.  Pal is 25 now and no longer up for the kind of riding Katie does, but he's still a very useful guy, and now that he's got new shoes with pads (Pal has very sensitive soles) he's going over to Lisa's barn to teach adult beginners how to ride.  He'll be very good at that, and he likes to be good at things.

I always stay at the barn while the farrier's there so that I can call 911 if one of the horses kicks him in the head.  Also, I like to see how the horses' feet are doing, and I usually have to reassure Mickey that the world is not going to end.  I spend most of the time cleaning tack or stalls.  Yesterday I spent most of the time sitting on an overturned bucket.  It was just that hot.  The tack room is a mess; it wants the sort of cleaning where everything in it comes out and is analyzed and put back in rational order.  Yesterday that wasn't going to happen.  If I ever played Angry Birds, yesterday would have been the time.

But at one point, moving things on the top of the tack room cabinet, I came across our old dog Xena.  Her cremains.  Xena died nearly four years ago, according to the date on the box--I had a hard time believing it was really that long ago, since I still miss her.  She was a Great Pyrenees, a big dog, and when we had to put her down due to the infirmities of very old age, my husband was afraid he wouldn't be able to dig a hole deep enough to bury her for good.  Out here in the country, something might have dug her back up.  So we cremated her, and of course I ended to bury the ashes, but somehow I stuck them on the tack room cabinet and--I don't know, Xena always loved the tack room.  She disliked thunderstorms, so whenever it was storming I opened the tack room door and let her hide under the rack of saddles.  She would lay there anxiously panting in a puddle of her own drool, but she never damaged a thing.  Xena only chewed things she recognized as her own, such as the deer head she brought back from the fields one day.

Some day, when it's cooler, I really will clean the tack room.  I don't know about burying Xena though.  I kind of like still having her around.