Monday, November 29, 2010

Blue (I think)

I wanted to write about what a difference a year makes, after having written earlier about what can happen in just one day. I was thinking about where I was a year ago with Scout, but... no. I kind of drifted into the day and a then a fair ways farther into it before I became aware of a sense of melancholy enveloping me. It's been a long time since I've had that feeling, a kind of almost benign sadness that might have been wifting through the air, invisible, until you just happened to bump into it. And anyone could have bumped into it, it's that random seeming.

I had stuff to do, and I did it, but I kept my mind's eye on the middle distance. Maybe I internalized a little too much worry. Lately it seems to me there are reminders everywhere about how vulnerable things are. I think sometimes it's the most natural thing in the world to want things to be just okay. There's no need to ask for the moon or the stars, but just let things be all right. I've lost count of the horses I'm reading about that are in trouble, injured, lame, suddenly unsound or worse. They all belong to fine, careful owners who see that they have the best care possible. Suddenly, everything changes. Are they really that vulnerable, these strong, amazing creatures? I guess they are.

And I guess the awareness of that must reside somewhere in us every time we are with our horses, but not so we'd know it up front at all times. It just comes as a cold shock when our horses are hurt, but we're rarely surprised. How could we be? The architecture of the horse seems a perfect example of Nature's reach exceeding her grasp. A pastern here, a stifle there, hocks, tendons, ligaments. Who would build such beauty upon such a risky foundation? Leaving us, who love them, trying to protect it. Yes, I guess I'm a little too worried and I need to get back to the place where you just live with it because not to live with it isn't an option at all.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

Round about Thanksgiving night, lots of people were thinking about Denali and her people, dreading the day to come. But, horses. Who ever knows? Denali threw a curve ball and got a bit  better, putting a heartbreaking moment on hold. Now we wait with our fingers crossed, hoping that her owners can keep their sea legs long enough to learn to live on ever-shifting terrain. In one day, so much changed. At least for that day, today, and maybe even tomorrow, Denali seems to have made other plans. In the vast disembodied ether that is the internet, a hundred and a half voices let out a collective sigh of relief. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Like others in the horse blogging world, I've been thinking of Denali and her people. There are things in their story to think about: love and commitment, love and struggle, love and letting go. There are things we'd want to say if only there really were words to end the pain. Words like that don't exist; we can only express our understanding and care, hoping it resonates enough to bring a little comfort.

Dear Denali ~

Standing frightened and confused at that auction yard, you were still a spitfire. We don't know why you ended up in that place, you who were bred to be a racehorse. But you were smart enough to cast your eye about, hoping someone would notice you and get you the hell out of there. Who knows how long you looked. Then you spotted someone who didn't even have a bidder's number. You made eye contact with her and flashed the little spark of your spirit not masked by the drugs you'd been given. Good job. You got her!

Little did she know, huh? But you did. You never won a race, but you won the lottery that day. You loaded like an angel and unloaded like the devil - there was a lot of stress to blow off. It was a risk; she could have turned that trailer right around. Somehow, you knew she wouldn't.

Little did you know, though, that your mom would start writing about you. You were that big, that beautiful, that impossible. You were that important.

One by one, people began to follow the story of you and your mom. Some could relate when she wrote about your craziness, others to reading about your spookiness. Some were inspired by your rides, others by your mom's bravery as she struggled to overcome her nerves. You were big, of course, and a hot-headed Thoroughbred mare bred for one thing and given little education for anything else. She had to take you back to the beginning. It was a journey to follow, and we did.

Some of us winced in recognition when you injured yourself or ran through walls or kicked inept would-be professionals. Always we kept our fingers crossed, because your mom had fallen so deeply in love with you. You knew that. You had long ago charmed her less-horsey husband just to seal the deal.

Many of us smiled at your slavish love of your red treat ball, your possessive nickering and your hammy temper tantrums when your mom didn't come straight to you at the barn. The bond between the two of you only deepened with time. Most of us recognized the power of that and how it helped both of you. It helped some of us, too.

But, Denali, when you reinjured yourself and the horse doctor gave your mom the news about what was really going on, we all understood. And we do. We horse lovers understand what your mom and dad are going through. We understand how they've fought for you, and we understand how they have listened to you. We understand how they care. From our distances, we do too. How could we not?

Only you know what race lies before you now, whether you'll run side by side with your great forebears, Secretariat and Seattle Slew, or you'll happily chase that red treat ball forever. What we know, though, Denali, is what you gave your mom. You gave her strength. You gave her humor. You gave her a community. We hope that one day the memory of you will give her peace.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Breathing Her In

I haven't ridden Saxony since last Thursday (a dear friend came to stay for the weekend, etc.), but, more than that, I find that I miss being with her after even a day or two away. After yesterday's ride on Scout and Gambler, my friend and I stopped by to give Sax some garden-fresh apples and carrots. Note to self: Have Saxony's teeth checked soon. She grinds apples into applesauce, much of which dribbles to the ground.

I think Saxony either touches a place of peace in me or creates it all by herself. Whichever it is, I just go calm, almost tranquil, whenever I am with her. Over and over again, I am struck by the kindness in her face.

After Thursday's ride, I had a chance to take some pictures, the kind of pictures that show how I look at her, not so much pictures of her, if that makes sense. We'd had a nice ride and I'd felt another bump of heart warmth. My attachment to her is growing.

There's champagne left on her lips from our conversation through the reins, but I don't think she's sure about the French-link snaffle bit yet. Note to self: Have Saxony's teeth checked soon. She might be fretting over this bit for a reason.

She watched me step back, trying to capture a full shot of her in her tack. I couldn't get back that far. My Patrick Keane dressage saddle fits her well, especially with the half pad.

This face does something to me. I trust it. I stood there looking at her, forgetting pretty much everything else. I was just breathing her in. I think I will do this a lot. I feel like I have a new friend.

Snap out of it already, why don't you!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crossing Another Bridge (Behind Me)

The fleeting lucky days before winter's assault... I went out to the barn this morning with a friend visiting from out of state. The still air was soft with mist, the sky low and grey. It seemed a waste not to ride; I could count in my mind's eye the few remaining days like this.

We saddled Gambler and Scout, the only horses we had to ride. My friend is just learning horses, so I relied upon Gambler to take care of her. Saxony boards at another barn, so it would have to be Scout for me. My Scout, my little Red Death, the mare I don't ride anymore. I'd mostly crossed that bridge and not looked back, and hadn't been on her since early summer. K had been riding her since then, and she found keys to Scout that I never had. I experienced some of the changes in Scout as she stood quietly for the grooming and tack-up. No screaming, no stepping against the cross-ties, no wild eyes. That's the result of time under the hands of a rider whose confidences and fears are opposite those of Scout instead of exactly the same, like mine.

I just wanted to ride with my friend. There wasn't time to hoist my baggage up onto Scout. We led the horses to the grass arena, mounted and rode. It was peaceful, quiet, and immensely enjoyable. No matter all the things that I decided long ago are irreconcilable between me and Scout, there is always the familiarity that springs up between us. It was there today, along with something new. I wasn't tense on her. She spooked at some figment or other and I went with her instead of fighting her from my usual position of fearful lockdown. K's hard work with her has made her a better horse, a safer horse, and I could feel it. I also wasn't asking about any of that, though, while I rode. The anticipations I used to carry into every ride with Scout just weren't there. I think it's because of Saxony, I think it's because of Dar, I think it's because of barn chores, I think it's because of standing in the dark with an injured horse. A crust of experience has begun to accumulate after untold hours spent in the company of horses, and maybe my psychic skin just isn't as thin anymore.

My friend rode little Gambler all around the arena as I took Scout through some gymnastics, bending and stretching her through relaxed figures. I had to think when was it that I last rode her, but even then, it didn't matter. Ride the horse you have today. Today, for me, that horse was Scout. It was small, it was brief, it was simple, and I loved it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Couple of Little Dreams Realized

My feral cat, Harlotta, has accepted her new home at the barn. This tough old girl is as smart as I thought she might be. She'll never forgive me for having had her spayed and ear-tipped, but she does respect my ability to feed her. She grudgingly eats kibbles from the automatic feeder I set in the hayloft, next to the watering station, but she lives for and feels entitled to cans of wet food too. I give her wet food every few days or so, just to help her fortify for the coming winter. "Puss-puss," I bark out when I arrive at the barn.

And there she comes, each time filling me with a sense of pride and joy at having saved her. I don't have to dream of it anymore because now it is.

And then there's another little thing: the elusive ear cam. Would I ever have a horse that I could ride with such a sense of security that I could bring a camera along? Not Scout - the click of a camera would have sent her skyward. Not Dar - both hands would have been occupied managing him and his strong-like-bull neck.

So this made me silly happy. Here's Saxony pondering the ground poles I used during our mounting-block work the other day. She stood so well yesterday that I did not need to lead her over the ground poles and back to the mounting block. I like the blue-black shading along her mane and neck that appears in this picture taken during the grey light of prewinter that I love so much. She has an amazing whorl there on the right that I like to smooth just so with my fine body brush. Ahhh...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tiny Work, Bigger Gains

And... I've met many horse owners who talk about all the training their horse needs, the work on this, work on that...

Sometimes it's easier to recite the list than actually get around to doing any of it, especially if the work seems mundane or repetitive, never mind both. One thing I aim to do with Saxony is actually do the work, stay disciplined and committed about it.

As a horse who knew only one owner for the five years before I got her, and who before that was a backyard pet who was taught to lie down so her owner could stretch out on her and read a book (really!), working with Saxony means introducing her to me, deliberately and slowly easing her into the changes I'm bringing to her life. Whenever I'm with her, I'm mindful of the ancient concept that you are training your horse every second you are together. I try to keep that belief present in my thoughts during our encounters.

I've learned so much with Scout, and in some ways I learned even more during the nine months that was Dar. Those experiences gave me more than I imagined and prepared me well for Saxony. Not only can I see the work she needs, I also see that I'm capable of doing lots of it myself. That's a thrilling feeling for me.

Sax walks off at the mounting block. She doesn't do it all the time, but enough to attract my attention. Standing quietly for mounting is something I want in my horses. After two weeks of introductory rides, I felt ready to take Saxony back to basics at the mounting block.

I saw an opportunity to deal with two tasks at one time, so I placed five ground poles near the mounting block. Because Saxony needs work on picking up her feet, ground poles are a regular part of our arena rides.

I stepped up on the mounting block, gathered the reins, and Saxony moved off. I led her then over the ground poles before circling back to the mounting block. Round 2. I stepped up and just leaned into her. She walked off. Again we walked over the ground poles. At Round 3, I weighted the near stirrup heavily. Sax walked on, and I led her over the ground poles. Round 4 saw me settle into the saddle, but Sax was already moving out. I dismounted and quietly led her through the ground poles. Round 5 was the keeper. She stood statue-like and listening. It's a small thing, but I could feel her paying attention, figuring it. We then had a half-hour walk/trot schooling ride, relaxing for both of us. At the end, I dismounted, walked her around the ring a couple of times and then got back on. She stood. I'll begin our rides with variations of this kindergarten lesson until Saxony understands it completely.

It's tiny work, but it creates a sense of accomplishment in me. Teaching Saxony is one thing, but that she will accept me teaching her and even learn what I'm teaching, that's wonderful.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Playing the Work

I've met many horse owners who talk about all the training their horse needs, the work on this, work on that...

(I love this runaway frosting slipping down Saxony's left front leg. I keep finding more Oreo goodness in my mare.)

So lately I've been thinking about whether the "problem-solvingness" part of having a horse consciously (or not) factors into our decision to own one. I think it might play more of a role than we realize, since working with the horse, training the horse, striving to better the horse consists of interacting with the horse, or "communicating." Communication is a primary tool that enables humans to feel connected to others. It's also a two-way street. After infancy, humans quickly learn to speak, but horses don't have that particular tool. I sometimes wonder if, given a chance to hang out and chat with my mares, I'd be able to handle what they said. From my perspective, I'm a good horse owner committed to providing my horses with the best care I can afford. I expect myself to be fair with them at all times. I ride kindly and quietly, despite my nerves. But what about their perspective? Do they know me? Do they think I know them? Do they even care, beyond the comfort they find in routine and familiarity? No matter what I do with them, no matter how much they bloom, they are still separate beings. And what if they were perfect? What would our relationship be then, with nothing left to teach? I suspect the horse can just "be," but that skill often eludes humans.

One of the things I have always made a point to do with my horses is play with them, just go and play together. I don't include riding in that, though I think a nice ride can be fun for both horse and rider. Scout and I devised a chase game early on. I'd stand in the center of the indoor arena, turn Scout loose and challenge her to get past me on the rail, positioning my body as if to cut her off. She delighted in the race every time, blowing by, tail flagged high, snorting. After a few minutes of this, I'd pretend to "lose" her, and go wandering around the arena calling her name. I honestly think she loved sneaking up behind me to bump her nose into my back. Playing seemed to bond us quickly, and I wonder if it was because we enjoyed playing together so much. I know I completely lost myself in playing with her.

Dar had a deep curiosity about tools, vehicles, objects of all kinds. I played with him by offering him things. I'd be using a strainer to sift out hay bits and leaves from the water troughs and I'd splash a little water on his face. He became silly with glee over this. Sometimes I'd lift the dripping strainer and cup his muzzle in it; other times I'd rub it up and down his face. I did a lot of laughing because his responses were so comical and eager. Just like with Scout, I'd forget myself and become completely engaged with Dar and our playing.

I also give nose baths to my horses, and this is the first way I've begun to play with Saxony. My nose bath consists of deep-cleaning the nostrils with non-toxic baby wipes. I add massage along the way, wringing out the edges of the nostrils between my fingers (something along the lines of Linda Tellington's TTouch.) I don't think Saxony ever had a nose bath before I began doing it with her, but now she almost whores herself in pursuit of it. She's ticklish, and what she seeks from the nose bath is the moment when I start to tickle her. She just craves that tickling. It's ridiculous how much time can pass while we do this.

I file this under being with the horse and hoping the horse will be with me. Not to take away from the beautiful achievements that result from harmony between horse and rider, but to remind myself that what exists between us before and after the "work" is what led me to horses in the first place.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Building The Curriculum

I rode out on Saxony for another three hours today. We crossed the bridge of terror again, but we also crossed other kinds of bridges. We did more road riding, going two miles to the barn where Scout boards. We encountered yard dogs, glittering debris in ditches, other horses, oddly-shaped mailboxes, people on bikes, people using leaf blowers, trucks hauling tarp-covered trailers, and who knows what else. Every now and then, Saxony was looky, nothing more. She's not a spooky mare. I'm a spooky rider.

You make the strides you can make. I drove to Sax's barn determined to meet K riding out on my own instead of waiting for her to come hold my hand. I was hamster-wheeling it in my head during the drive and arrived at the barn dry-mouthed. That's what I can do with my anxiety: let it get just too real in its effects even as I know it's unreal in its discourse. I took half a Valium to turn the dial down on myself half a notch. It's strange how a choice like that can convince me - which is why no doctor should ever waste real meds on me. The sugar pill will always work. Still, if I'd had five minutes more to groom and tack Saxony, I might have chickened out and waited for K. Instead, my focus drifted to taking just one chance. I didn't even take Saxony into the ring to warm up. We set off and met K as she left the road, turning north for our barn.

Saxony isn't herd bound, but she does look for the company of other horses. When we arrived at Scout's barn, we had to wait while K switched horses. Saxony called a few times when we were alone. Then, since four of us were going to ride together, she had to be introduced to the horses. I make the stakes too high on every new thing we do. I didn't know how she would behave, but I mostly managed to stay out of the way. Her neck was beautiful as she arched it during her nose-to-nose with Scout. All of that went fine.

Getting to the trail system was uneventful, but I didn't relax into it until we were in the woods. I had to remind myself to take deep breaths and look up. Despite myself, I recognize that Saxony is a good trail horse, she really is. Since this was only our second time out, I can't jump to conclusions, but it seems to me that she's content to bring up the rear. Where possible, I rode beside someone, but it was easy to fall back. 

Saxony doesn't understand lengthening of stride or change of tempo. Asked to quicken her walk, she steps into a jog or trot. And though she seems comfortable behind, it changes when horses in front of her move out. She wants to catch up and makes the decision on her own. That caused me to use the reins more strongly than I wanted, bailing out on my seat, but one thing at a time.

We did some trotting, which gave me a chance to feel how fast Saxony can be. Part of that is the difference in her build and breeding. Scout, a Quarter/Paint/Arab cross, is short-backed, compact and fat, but she's what I've been used to (sort of.) Saxony is a hand taller, longer through the back, and half Thoroughbred. She covers ground. It will take me a while to get used to that. On the other hand, I have a much better awareness of her movement than I have ever had with Scout. It's been a weakness of mine as a rider that I struggle to feel the proper diagonal or know which hind leg is swinging forward. I think riding Saxony will help me develop those skills.

Throughout the trail ride, I made a point of walking Saxony over downed branches, etc., wherever possible because she needs lots of work on picking up her feet. She saw something different in one log, though, and launched herself at it like it was a wide oxer, soaring high and wide in a major overjump. I flew up onto her neck, caught by surprise. I don't know why it didn't frighten me, but it absolutely didn't. Instead, I was delighted silly by the power of her body and the scope of her effort.

I am building the curriculum for us. It will be more of the same for me and Saxony. I need to bring her up into herself and she needs to bring me down into my body. I think we can do it; I think we have already begun.

Postscript Molly

Molly comes home tomorrow. This sweet, sensitive mare, always bonded to whatever boy is nearby, always  maintaining her girlish figure, got lucky. The DMSO treatment has worked wonders to speed the healing of her injured nerve(s), the full-leg splint has been removed, and now we wait to learn what her home care will consist of. Everyone wants to help her recover fully before winter arrives. We're all so relieved and eager to have her back.

This was the first time I was the person to discover an injured horse. I think I handled it all right for a first-timer, but it was hard for me to stand the pain she was feeling; I wanted help to come faster than it could. I felt desperate to help her, and it took some time to accept that nearness and touch were all I had to give her in that distant pasture.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Longest Walk I've Ever Seen

That instant of realization last night when Molly didn't come in for dinner. She's always the first one to the barn, the flat, willowy length of her pressed against the door. She would not separate herself from the other horses, never. Molly, who we work so hard to keep weight on, an old OTTB from Canada, pin fired long ago, whose knees buckle when she sleeps, causing her to fall, even as she wakes, down to the ground, from which she instantly springs up. I called E: Molly didn't come in. I'm going out to look for her. I'll be right there, she said.

Throwing a hasty flake to the other horses, grabbing the dim flashlight, Molly's halter and lead rope, and heading to the pasture, dark with night. I moved toward where I'd last seen her, calling her name, swinging the flashlight at eye-level in wide arcs before me. Finally the beam reflected off her eyes. There she was, standing, not moving. She was in trouble; I could see it before ever I got close to her. I went to her and slipped her halter on, then looked at her leg, left front, hanging awkwardly from the shoulder to the tip of the hoof.

Molly was shivering and shaking. Again and again she curled her upper lip. E materialized out of the darkness and felt the leg. It was easy to fear the worst; it looked like the worst. She asked Molly for a step, but it didn't happen. She could not move. E ran to call Molly's owner and get blankets. I called K, just had to. I'm standing out in the north pasture with Molly. She's injured. I'm on my way, she said. Click. Just like that. I called H.G. and told him the same thing, adding don't wait up for me.

Molly and I stood there, connected helplessly. There was nothing I could do but be with her. The wind kicked up. Then there was rain, chilly and brief. More wind, then just fast- dropping temperatures until harsh cold settled in. I worried she was going into shock and scrubbed the length of her neck hard with my fingers, trying to keep her warm, keep her distracted. She began to lean on me, lean so hard I thought she might fall with both of us.

E returned in her truck, bringing blankets and Bute. Two grams, the vet had said. Molly accepted the tube listlessly. We double blanketed her. It helped, having a couple of things to do. Molly's owner arrived, and then K arrived. She and E hurried to the barn to give the horses their grain - I'd postponed that to go find Molly.

We waited 90 minutes for the vet. It seemed to take forever. The four of us stood out there with Molly, paying attention to her, trying to steady her with our presence. She called to the barn every now and then, answers ringing back each time. It was so cold, and the barn looked too far away. She ate a little hay, fed by hand. She swayed more and more as the minutes passed, her other legs growing sore from bearing all of her weight and being immobile at the same time. We were vigilant that she not fall.

Click, click, click. The images in my mind, the seconds captured. Every car that passed on the country road. The blinking signal light that lifted us because it could only be the vet. Her driving right into the pasture, headlights casting a pool of light that comforted us all. Her hands fleet on Molly's knee, her forearm, her elbow, her shoulder. The quick jab of the syringe into Molly's neck. The splint rapidly constructed along the whole length of her leg. The pressure her assistant exerted to straighten Molly's knee as the splint was taped in place.

A few moments to rest after the splinting, then time to begin the walk. I crept ahead in E's truck to light the way across the pasture. How it looked from the rear view mirror of the truck as Molly tripoded haltingly toward the barn, the vet lifting her splinted leg, moving it out, around to the front, and then planting the hoof, one step at a time while E pulled her forward and the others kept her from going down. I think it was something like 250 yards from there to the barn. I lost all sense of time. It might have been a half hour, it might have been more, but it seemed an eternity, knowing how she was suffering.

Once the rest of the way was obvious, I pulled the truck out of the pasture and ran down to prep the barn. The horses were agitated, keen with awareness that something was different in their world. I cleared the aisle and swept it clean, talking to the horses with words I don't remember. I could only think of Molly and her owner. He lost another horse just last year. Too much.

Somehow they made it all the way, Molly and her five-person transport team. In the barn, she sagged against the stalls on one side of the aisle. The splint was swiftly removed. Twenty or more X-rays, all the way around the elbow, a couple of the shoulder. We took turns holding Molly's ever heavier head, craning our necks to see each X-ray as it lit the laptop screen. No fractures. We'll never know how she did it, but she severely damaged nerves in the bundle under her armpit. There's massive swelling on the inside of the elbow and she will not use the leg.  She was re-splinted and trailered late to the clinic for treatment with DMSO and whatever else they can think of.

It was the longest walk I've ever seen. What did you do, Molly? What happened?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Learning Saxony No. 2

What did I learn about my kindhearted mare today?

That it is not easy to get a good picture of her, for one thing. Here, she appears to be wearing some other horse's neck and pretending to have a badly undershot jaw.

I had some strong hunches about Saxony from the moment I first touched her. They turned into pretty solid concepts with my first ride on her and since then have settled into things I think I just know about her. E came by to ride her tonight, which was exciting for me because I had been so keen to have her assessment. I'm ready to bust out of the gate with this mare, and I wanted to hear my trainer's thoughts.

Walk, trot, canter, go, stop. Saxony knows each of these at a blunt, basic level. It's the nuance and subtlety that she's missing. She stops from the mouth, not the seat, E said. Check.

Saxony is disorganized, doesn't know how to carry herself even and under, round and flexing. She's used to going long, straight and low. That's why she stumbles occasionally, said E, because she drags her feet. Yes! Check.

Kindhearted mare, I've said. She's a mother mare, E said, smiling, the sort of horse who takes care of the rider. She told me Sometimes that can come across as Mom knows best, so Mom will decide. Right now, could there be a more perfect horse for me? It's hard to think so. She needs to stop being a mom and I need to stop being a baby.

This trainer that I have worked with through a horse too hot for me and a horse too troubled for me looked at me from Saxony's back and said She's the perfect project horse for you. Check. I know she's right and I'm glad she's right. We will help each other get better as horse and rider, creating a creature partnership, and I just can't describe how good I feel about it. I have had a hard year with horses, between Scout's injury and having to give up Dar. It's hard to believe all of it brought me to her.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Craziness

It's all wrapped up in animals. I flinch outside and cry inside whenever I see a dead animal in the road. We have 11 cats, and all but three of them are rescues, dumped at the festival or brought to us in a box. If I'd known such a thing existed when I was young, I might have wound up running an equine rescue. I've always had the impulse of kindness and care toward animals, sometimes to the point of, well, craziness.

So I've been caring for a feral cat for five years. She lives on the festival grounds. Three of her kids live in our house, and I've adopted out the rest of four litters over the years. In the summer of 2009, a friend and I decided to stop the madness of endless kittens. We trapped her and had her spayed and ear tipped.

I found out then that Harlot, as I called her, was about 10 years old. After her spaying, she eased right into a life free of one-night stands and became semi-attached to her gravy train -- namely, me. Harlot will never cross over to the dark side, where we humans live, though. She will always be wild.

I spend the winter months telecommuting to work, which is a nice thing, but I've never been able to relax into it because of Harlot. Even though I had an automatic feeder and a heated water bowl for her, I worried too much. I had bad dreams about her during the worst nights of winter and often ended up driving to the site to give her a warm meal and check her supplies.

This year, as the festival ran its course, I began to fret about Harlot. Arthritis has slowed her, and she's become insistently dependent on me to feed her. I worried about her ability to survive another winter of bitter cold, not to mention the coyotes and huge raccoons trolling for snacks. I stayed at my place on the site until the last possible day mostly so I could look after her. Then, during a trail ride a couple of weeks ago, my madness spurred me and I blurted out to E, "If I can catch her, could Harlot come here to the farm?" And she said yes. My heart just soared.

On Friday, I set the live trap for Harlot, but she's wise to it. The last time she got in it, she came back missing part of an ear and all of a uterus. She chose not to eat. The belly always wins, I reminded myself as I slowly drove away, leaving her without food for the weekend. The belly always does win. I got her today, not five minutes after baiting the trap. Tonight she's snug in the hayloft, her feeder and water set up in a dark corner. It always feels good, the will to care, especially when you can do something about it. Welcome home, Harlotta.