I don’t know what I would do without horses!
For one, I don’t know what I would do with any excess money, always supposing there was such a thing – but, money or not, horses – and dogs – supply that zest for life that seems to be so wanting today. The latest ray of sunshine here is a little bitty piece of equine fluff born to mare Isha Thursday morning, the day after Pearl Harbor Day.
Last year, about the time that business began looking miserable and hay prices were skyrocketing, I had the insane notion to breed this mare – as if I needed any more horses – as the only alternative to selling her to some uncertain fate or to putting her down. Isha is a pretty useless piece of horseflesh, not being what Gerry called “a usin’ horse” in that she has never been broke to ride, and her only role in life has been to be a brood mare. However, at that she is very good. So in a weak moment, I had her bred to a super stallion owned by the foreman of the local cattle feed lot, a very good looking, well conformationed, good tempered, all black Quarter Horse.
We have had quite a few baby horses born here over the years, and generally this was attended by fuss and bother, sweat, blood and tears, at times a dead baby, at times costly complications – so that when the stupid moment when I agreed to breed Isha had passed, I often asked myself what the heck I had been thinking. But the year’s gestation went by quick as a flash, and here was Isha, about to give birth, in December – which was in itself a stupid thing, considering that all horses are deemed to have a birthday on January 1st, thus making the new baby officially a year old at birth.
In the past, while awaiting similar events, I remember weeks of nightly visits to the corral, agonized watching of the mare, discussions with the veterinarian, one time an expensive emergency medical visit to the corral, which, luckily, ended well and resulted in filly Millie (short for Milagro, meaning miracle in Spanish, as her birth was, indeed, a miracle) – but this year, being older and feeling not all that spry myself, I decided that the South Cochise Pasture was a good place to leave the mare, and trust to the God of horses and good luck. We knew that the time must be growing pretty close, so the last week or so I had taken to daily meanderings out to the pasture to check on her, knowing all the time that it was a fruitless endeavor. Mares, being prey animals, give birth pretty fast and the baby can almost – not quite, but almost – hit the ground running, so it was a silly idea to keep checking, but – it made me feel better. So on Wednesday evening I checked her, as always … nothing. Isha grazed placidly, attended by her buddy Sassy and the two donkeys, Miss Sarah and Miss Katie, and looked mildly surprised at yet another visit.
Then on Thursday morning at 7:30 Danny was coming in at the front gate, and, as always, looked across the pasture to check on the horses….. and saw a little head poking out of the grass. He ran up there and found that Isha had only just that minute foaled, and, surprise, surprise, Miss Katie the donkey, was busily snuffling the baby with the mare placidly looking on. This in itself was amazing, seeing that not an hour later, Isha almost killed pasture mate Sassy for coming within 25 ft of her. Horses – will I ever understand them! I guess that Katie is the godmother. Later that day, by great good luck, our ex barn boss Sarah, and her mother Susan, came to visit, and between Sarah and Danny, the mare and foal were brought into the corral, Sarah carrying the baby part of the way. Now at Day 3 of her life, she is at least 10 lbs heavier and a whole lot squigglier – and every time I come out to visit, she is nursing – living up to the old saying of “eats like a horse”!
She is not black, nor dun, nor buckskin, as have been the previous foals of the stud, but a light sorrel with a white edging to her tail which is very attractive and unusual. She has a big white blob on her forehead ending in a short strip down her face, and she has – of course – four white feet!! For those of you not in the know, here is an old time jingle of advice to eager horse buyers:
“One white foot – buy him
Two white feet – try him
Three white feet – think well about him
Four white feet – go home without him!”
So here is this baby, with four white feet, not black nor dun, nor flashy buckskin, but a boring sorrel, with a run of the mill blaze on her little face and nothing much to distinguish her from a million others but ….. she is lovely! Of course, the white feet may very well turn dark yet – two of them look as if they may, and the boring sorrel could conceivably turn into a dun – but who cares! She’s lovely, she’s healthy, she’s feisty … and she’s ours! What’s not to love!
Her name, I decided today, is Ayita, which is Cherokee for First to Dance and she looks as if she would like to dance, already, on this day 3 of her life, bouncing around the corral on little fleet hooves, darting here and there, poking her little face at fascinated dog Tuffy, then whirling around and ducking under her mother to do what she does best, which is to eat. Here’s a few photos…
Please click on any of the thumbnails below to start slideshow:
And apart from that, things have been quiet at the old homestead. The weather turned unseasonably cold for this time of the year, and the other day we had temperatures down to the low teens. Some of you may remember that I had turned my front porch into a sunroom, with some indoor plants and a fountain, with comfortable wicker furniture, making the room ideal for some quiet time – but this very fact made it unserviceable for its past use, which was as a scruffy repository for overwintering cold-sensitive plants. So this fall, the problem was what to do with three large hibiscus and a smaller bougainvillea. The only place that even remotely lent itself was the front entry porch, which is about 5 ft. deep and maybe 12 ft. long, and which has a roof over it – but which is also open to the east, from whence some cold winds blow. My solution was, I think, quite inventive. I went and bought 3 heavy cloth shower curtains (they have a design of palm trees on them, but you can’t have everything) and these we hung over the opening to the porch, so they can be drawn at night and keep at least some of the warmer air in. So far it has worked very well – the other night, when the temperature went down to the low teens, I put a small heater in there and so far, all the trees look healthy. In fact, one of the hibiscus has even gone so far as to produce flowers – in December!! It does look a little strange, I admit, to see the front door of the house shrouded in palm decorated shower curtains, but necessity is the mother of invention, and this was a lot cheaper than a glasshouse … or, for that matter, four new trees!
And my Christmas season this year will be a very different one from the past 30 or so. A good friend of mine from the UK is coming to visit and will be staying in the Cowboy House next door, and I have been invited over for a real English Christmas dinner, so that’s something to look forward to …. And New Year’s Eve, which for the last few years wasn’t all that much fun without Gerry, I plan to spend at home, with a gin and tonic, watch the ball drop in New York and then – go to bed – at a nice, civilized hour. Several of my good friends, thinking that I might feel lonely without Grapevine’s festive New Year’s Eve party have invited me to celebrate with them, but the idea of trekking some 60 miles on a cold night doesn’t appeal, and I will spend it quietly at home with dog Tuffy for company.
I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas and a safe, festive and happy New Year, and I hope that 2012 is a good year for us all!