Saturday, March 17, 2012

the long day: part 2

On the way home I stopped at the hardware store in Cambridge for some feed. They don't carry a lot, but they carry enough and will order in anything I need special. I had called in for Feed n Finish meatbird feed and wanted to pick it and some grain up for the sheep. I also needed my brooder supplies. I had to get fresh pine shavings, a new clamp light (my old one was the meat birds winter heating system) a new bulb, chick feed, and other somesuches of raising baby birds in your home.

Gibson love stopping at Hardware Stores. He gets to move to the drivers seat and stare at the dogs in trucks next to his. He never barks at a dog from inside the truck. He just stares like a ghost at them. Barking inside the truck is only for dire situations like new stuffed dolls or animals in Wayside's windows. Like I said, he has his priorities.

A few minutes after arriving back at the farm I saw Shelly's green Tacoma pull up into my muddy, puddly driveway. She drives a vet's rig, with refrigerated boxes and a large assortment of medical adventures inside. I was glad her nice truck was already mud-stained. It had been raining since last night. Everything at my place was wet, muddy, and all piles of chicken poo appear diuretic in their copper and white streams into lower places. It's gross folks. This place is heave on earth June into Fall, and passes for a winter wonderland when it snows...the rest of the time it's a war zone.

Shelly unloaded some gear and checked on the ewe. She found her looking weak as ever, unable to stand, breathing hard. Her head seemed to swivel, a sign of rabies. She adorned gloves and had a test for Ketosis done by making the ewe pee on strip of carbon paper. (To make a sheep pee you hold her nostrils shut). The test came up negative, ruling out Ketosis.

She said it looked like listeria, tetanus, or possibly rabies. I wasn't worried about rabies, but was cautious. I wear gloves to give shots, always wash my hands, and will have the animal's brain tested for rabies if it dies. But if she does have rabies, that complicates things.. I'd need shots and people who came in close contact with me would need them as well. It struck me that owning sheep could kill me, simply as shoving a tube into her mouth and getting her saliva into a cut in my hand could kill me?! If rabies is the culprit (and I pray it isn't) I'll know because there will be no uphill from here. She'll decline into a mess of neurological symptoms until she would be banging her head against the wall. I learned my lesson with this sheep, as the commentor said last post, never trust the seller's claims the animals have had their shots. I thought about how grateful I was to be alive and farming in 2012 with health insurance...

I don't think it is Rabies though. My gut says tetanus. I am making sure antitoxin is administered as directed, and in case it is listeria: lots of penicillin. I used to be scared, just last spring, of giving sheep shots. Now I am a maverick of the syringe. I know what goes where, when, and how. I hope a friend or neighbor needs to learn this someday, because I am foaming at the mouth to teach others what I learned. Keeping sheep isn't hard, but it requires moments of fortitude.

By the time Shelly left I realized I had twenty minutes to get to my riding lesson on time. Friday is my weekly lesson with Merlin, and I had not seen him since Monday night. If you think it crass to leave a sick sheep to ride a pony, keep in mind that when you make an appointment with a riding stable you best keep it. Cancelling for a non-emergency (we had done all we could for the morning - just time would tell) means the Riding business loses money, and not enough time to fill your spot. As a boarded and a student, I didn't want to start my relationship off on a bad note. I already got in trouble for trying on a driving harness in the cross ties (and rightly so. Non-driving horses were terrified as I slowly turned my horse into a robot before their eyes!) and didn't want another black stain by my name. I also was overdue. I had not been to groom or work with Merlin in three days. A shame, that. A mix of time, the office, and weather. So when I finally got changed into my breeches, paddock shoes, half chaps and a sweater and made it to the barn I had twenty minutes to groom and tack him. Whew...

When I pulled up to Riding Right Farm I saw Merlin in the front pasture as always. He was out grazing on the new shoots of grass poking through the mud. I called his name and he ignored me. Then I made some smoochy/kissing sounds and the warmblood in the paddock next to him started sprinting towards me and taking a queue, he did too. Watching him run beside a stretch of electric tape next to a warmblood is like watching Seth Rogen rush at you next to Brad Pitt. He came to me at a full run and I stood firm. I respect this 1100 pound pony, but I am not afraid of him. He stopped, nosed my palm, and let me slip his halter over his head. We walked towards the cross ties inside the riding barn as always. He acted totally normal.

Inside the barn he was fine. But I left him on the cross ties to shift in his hooves as I slipped into the tack room to get his dressage saddle (on loan from Patty), and my helmet. I grabbed his grooming bucket and went about the business of brushing off mud and such. He was fine. Fine until I started cinching down his saddle while a truck backed up outside....

The BEEP BEEP BEEEP of a backing up truck sent his head in the air, snorts out of his nose. I didn't know if I cinched his saddle too tight or if the truck scared him, but he acted wild compared to his normal zen self. I quickly got his bridle on and we headed into the arena. Both of us a little flustered.

Andrea, our current trainer, was just finishing up a lesson with an owner/rider just as fine a match as Merlin and I. This woman was tall, elegant, graceful and lean. Her horse was a dressage beauty, just as finely built and disciplined. I stood there, chunky and stout next to an animal just as chunky and stout and laughed. A Hobbit and her cart horse staring at an Elf and her war horse. I thought about all the things I wasn't. I thought about the ewe in her pen. I thought about the amount of day ahead of me yet (it was 9:54 AM) and felt very tired. I love this life, but sometimes it wears you so thin you worry you will disappear.

I tried to mount Merlin in this state of anxiety and distraction but he fussed, backed up, threw his head in the air and stomped. He never acted like this before and Andrea told me to get off. I did. And as I grabbed the reins he reared up in the air. I remember Andrea's face, and I remember that I should be scared, but I wasn't. I didn't want to ride him but I wasn't scared to grab those reins and calm him. Something was wrong. This was not his normal behavior.

Instead of riding him we checked his girth, saddle, bridle, teeth, bit, everything. We lunged him instead of a riding lesson and he seemed to start out scared and nervous and the calm into his normal self. Maybe it was the truck, or maybe it was the fact that 3 days had gone by without real work? Maybe it was me and my frantic mind...whatever the case, he was NOT interested in being ridden and I didn't feel like testing out my helmet. I decided to try again tomorrow after a good lunge warm up if there was any free time at the barn. Saturday is a lesson-heavy day. We will see. Might require getting up with the crows...

I told Andrea I would be back later that afternoon to work him again. I think it was mostly the lack of consistency in our training. A week and a half of effort and a three day break in his world was enough to get too much energy in him for a walk/trot lesson. I thought about what lay ahead on this long day. I needed to be heading over to Saratoga to buy the medical supplies I needed for the ewe (more anti-toxin and Pro Pen G), some early lambing purchases (just in case I get lucky), and feed the hardware store didn't carry. I needed to get the brooder ready, rework Merlin, and make time to buy silly things like food and laundry detergent. The TSC in Bennington was the same distance away, but the Saratoga one was parked next to a Starbucks...

I already told you I needed a bigger boat. Off to the big City...

photo by 468photography

12 Comments:

Blogger Back Achres said...

Don't you all ready get up with the crows? Beautiful 2 pieces. Thank you for sharing your day.

March 17, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Laundry detergent? Girl, when do you have time to wash clothes??

Interesting personality twist with Merlin. The ol' boy's got an unexpected spring in his step, eh? Folks have tended to underestimate Hobbits...must go for their ponies, too.

March 17, 2012 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Sounds like you needed a depth charge, Starbucks can keep you going when the gas tank is low.

March 17, 2012 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Horses mirror the vibes of the person they are with - all other times you were calm and focused on him - this time your mind was frantic and going in other directions. He will be great for you because he will let you know when you are not present and centered when you are with him like you should be!! He ran to you when the other horse showed interest - saying - Nope - she's mine! Wonderful

March 17, 2012 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Horses mirror the vibes of the person they are with - all other times you were calm and focused on him - this time your mind was frantic and going in other directions. He will be great for you because he will let you know when you are not present and centered when you are with him like you should be!! He ran to you when the other horse showed interest - saying - Nope - she's mine! Wonderful

March 17, 2012 at 11:26 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

I'm exhausted just reading about your Looong Day. I hear you about the mud, too- our yard is a quagmire.

March 17, 2012 at 12:41 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Your comment about the rabies risk (to you) totally sent a shiver down my spine. Keeping you in my thoughts!

March 17, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Your comment about the rabies risk (to you) totally sent a shiver down my spine. Keeping you in my thoughts!

March 17, 2012 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger ~ Janis said...

Only those people directly exposed to the sheeps saliva would need rabies shots. Has distemper been considered ? The skunks have been out early this year....

March 17, 2012 at 5:47 PM  
Blogger jeffersonstate said...

the elf/war horse and hobbit/pony cart comment cracked me up!

March 17, 2012 at 6:00 PM  
OpenID explore said...

...Because I am foaming at the mouth to teach others what I learned...

Maybe you should get yourself checked for rabies, after all!

March 17, 2012 at 7:43 PM  
Blogger Debi said...

Jenna, I don't know how you keep from coming apart at the seems. This week brought me to my knees, and I'm still trying to regain my balance. I don't know how you handle all the chaos with such grace and strength, but reading about it give me the courage to pick myself up from my failure and try again. Thank you.

March 17, 2012 at 8:19 PM  

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