We may not be the elegant dressage pair yet, but my poneh does keep me entertained. Here are some of his many talents and skills...
1. Will reliably poop in the manure bucket.
I can't count the number of times he's tapped me on the shoulder while I'm picking the paddock to let me know it was time. A small adjustment of the wheelbarrow, and he saves me a scoop.
2. Will lead alongside while I'm pushing the wheelbarrow, and occasionally can be lead at liberty from one pasture to the other across the property, using only a cookie.
3. Super good at learning tricks.
We've been working on clicker training for a while now - easy peasy for one as food motivated as Val is. Turns on the forehand and haunches, comes when he's called (in progress), gives a kiss, bows, walks, trots and halts by my side at liberty, and will softly back 20 steps on my hand signal.
I got confirmation that he really is understanding the training the other day. While I went to move him from the grazing paddock, he was performing airs above the ground, rearing, bucking - generally ripsnorting around. I leaned on the gate biding my time. After a few minutes he came over and I'm figuring smelled the cookie in my pocket. He then volunteered the entire repertoire - one after another, from least to most effort required. I nearly busted a gut laughing at him.
4. Expresses concern for my well being... or possibly thinks I have magic.
someone naps or rolls a little too close to the electric fence. I'll
see him freaking out and come to find insulators snapped and wire
arcing. After cutting the power, I'll head in to replace the insulators.
"Hell no!!!" says Val as I work on the fence. Standing a safe distance
behind me - eyes bugging, nostrils flaring and snorting - I know he's
thinking HOW THE HECK CAN SHE TOUCH THAT STUFF IT ALWAYS BURNS ME?!
little mystery keeps the relationship fresh I guess. ;D
Six years ago I took over the maintenance of a piece of property where horses were being boarded - one of only two on the island. I had been guiding for a trail riding outfit, taking monthly dressage lessons and had a job caring for a friend's horses with free use of them to ride whenever I wanted... a perfect situation.
Of course that couldn't last. There was a falling out, and suddenly I had no horse to ride.
What's a girl to do? I promptly went out and purchased the first horse I looked at with my trainer, brought him home, and boarded him at the above mentioned property. The acreage needed to properly keep a horse is almost impossible to find here. Real estate is way overpriced. I was even able to offset monthly board by managing the property. Again - an ideal situation.
Four months in, the property owner suddenly put the lot up for sale. Surprise!! A twelve hundred pound thoroughbred was not going to fit in the backyard. And what about all his stuff?! Boarding him at my trainer's place three hours away wasn't feasible either.
While discussing the situation with the property owner, the idea of me buying the place came up. 2.7 acres for $250,000 was out of my price range and I told her so. She asked what I could offer. Thinking we had strolled off down the road to fantasy land at this point, I gave her a figure, expecting she would laugh out loud or possibly be greatly offended. To this day I'll never know why I spoke up. I figured it was all pretend at that point anyway.
She accepted my offer.
Now I was really freaking out. I did not have much money saved up. Mortgages on raw land require at least a 50% down payment if you could find someone to lend to you. My local bank literally laughed at me when I went to them.
Again I improvised. Owner finance was the only way to make it work. To my utter astonishment within weeks we had a deal. The plan was five years owner financing culminating in a balloon payment which I would roll the balance over into a construction loan, pay K off and build my house.
Fast forward to September. Property values on the island have conveniently fallen 30-40 percent. The housing/mortgage crisis + great recession has scared the pants off banks and mortgage lenders. I put a big dent into my savings supporting myself while I was laid up, and the appraisal (where the appraiser never set foot on the property or looked beyond the front gate) was appallingly low.
After months of finagling I procured a mortgage, two more years to apply for the construction loan, and best of all, piece of mind.
The funny thing is, without Val, I never even would have known about the property. Nor would I have had the balls incentive to risk making an offer despite feeling super foolish, petrified and in over my head.
No experience, single income and minimal savings + a great big dream.
Having not yet solved the puzzle of how to get Val out on the trail again, and more importantly who to do it with, I've resorted to borrowing ponies who aren't as locationally challenged. Here's documentation of some excursions outside the confines of the sandbox.
I did a number of rides solo, one solo ride with a horse I'd never ridden before, and there was lots of cantering. (!) Yes - on a couple of these rides there was no helmet on my head. Please don't judge - I haven't made it a habit.
My favorite encounter this year happened during the big 'ol drought we had for most of the summer. I noticed the resident rat snake (usually found keeping the hay barn mouse free, or scaring the tar out of me as I move hay bales) slithering down the wall of the chicken coop. As per usual, I snapped a couple of pictures.
While watching her, I remembered finding a few eggs suspiciously smashed, or out of place that week. Since she was bee-lining into the coop, I picked her up to re-direct.
Then - something sort of magical happened. I suddenly had a thought - really more of a picture - in my mind, that the snake was super thirsty. As she twined around my arm, I put her head over by the rim of the full rain barrel. Lo and behold, she began to drink. She drank for a full minute while I held her over the barrel. Sadly I'm not coordinated enough to water a snake and video, plus I was kind of in shock, so you'll have to take my word for it.
Here's a selection of our fellow residents -
This one isn't supposed to live north of southern South Carolina
Polyphemus Moth - anyone else read Girl of the Limberlost?