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Golden Girls

The Golden Girls in their finest.

These two have won everyone’s hearts out at the pasture.

They get special delivery hay so they don’t have to fight the younger, stronger horses.

How cool is that?

I’m so grateful to everyone for looking out for our girls.

Gives me faith in human nature. Of course I’ve pretty much always had that faith.

How about you?

“Age is the acceptance of a term of years. But maturity is the glory of years.”

~Martha Graham

Mama

My friend Cantari. We call her mama. Look at those eyelashes!

For some reason this week I am drawn to the oldsters in the pasture. Young horses are beautiful, there is no doubt about that. Sleek and strong and full of life they are the true expression of vitality.

But it’s the old ones that pull at my heart.

They are my teachers, my friends.

They have the time to talk with me, listen to me and perhaps on good days, enjoy a little rock and roll.

Can you find the beauty in aging or do you want to turn from it?

Enjoying-Your-Food

We’ve unofficially adopted Chickadee.

When we feed Pepper, we also set out a small pan of grain for Chickadee. It just didn’t seem right to feed one of the Golden Girls and not the other.

And Chickadee is ever so grateful.

This is a girl that LOVES her grain.

She puts her head into the pan and doesn’t lift it until every last bit is gone.

She has no reservations about enjoying her food.

Not a single reservation.

You can tell by the photo that she is an enthusiastic eater.

Which makes me happy.

 

Turns out other horse keepers at the pasture are occasionally tossing goodies to The Girls. One of our pasture friends confided that she’s giving them a little hay when she sees them at the gate.

This little twosome of skinny, aging mares is hard to miss.

And they are quite adorable.

I feel so grateful to everyone for keeping an eye out for our girls.

Isn’t that what life is really about?

Keeping an eye out for each other.

And if you’re able, handing out a goodie or two along the way.

Look closely and you’ll see those darned nose hairs!

Aging brings many challenges.

The physical ones seem especially hard to accept. Horse or human, when your body doesn’t work as you’ve come to count on, it’s not so easy.

In the horse world you often lose your ranking. Younger, stronger horses dominate a herd where you once were the alpha pair. You feel more vulnerable. You spend your time trying to stay out of the way of the young studs.  You want to be left alone to eat your hay and hang with your peeps. There’s very little drama and you like it that way.

One aspect of the aging process is that our bodies go a little wacky when it comes to hormones. It seems we have too few or too many.

And what is it with hair?

You lose it in the places you want it, and get it in places you don’t.

That my friends, does not seem one bit fair.

On Sunday as we were out feeding our two old sweeties, the angle of the sun landed across Bud’s face just right. For the first time I saw long hairs sprouting from the side of his nose. One was so long it actually draped over the edge of the feed pan. At first I was confused – was I looking at a piece of spider web?

No!

A human hair?

No!

Thread?

No!

It was Bud’s nose hair.

Sheesh!

It happens to all of us.

Those random hairs seem to take on lives of their own.

Know what I’m talkin’ about?

I thought so.

And if you don’t, give yourself a few decades.

It will become abundantly clear!

The "bounce back boy"

Right now we’re living in the land of wait and see.

Last week I told you that Bud, our now twenty-nine year old Appaloosa, was having trouble walking.

Thank you so much for your comments and good wishes.

We have an outstanding support team in our vet and farrier and with their help and expertise Bud is doing much better.

He seems to be relatively free of pain and even manages a little giddy-up on the way to the gate for his grain.

As Laurel commented last week, Bud is the “bounce back boy.”

But he isn’t completely out of the woods yet.

He has Cushing’s Disease which severely compromises his immune system, placing him at risk for a whole host of unpleasant maladies.

Right now we’re watching him to make sure he doesn’t founder, a serious vascular disease of the hoof, and a potential complication of Cushing’s.

It may mean taking him off the pasture with its lush emerging green grass for a while. We’d have to take Pepper with him because otherwise he’d be stressed and wouldn’t eat.

Right now though, it’s wait and see.

It’s encouraged me to reflect on how I live. In truth aren’t we all doing the “wait and see” method of life?

There are no guarantees.

We live each day as best we can, and yes, some are inevitably better than others.

But ultimately we must take each day as it comes.

“One day at a time,” the AA mantra suggests.

And yet again, Bud is showing me the way.

Beau, the romancer, the stealer of mares, the young upstart, hot pants, new comer to the pasture is getting to be a royal pain. I’m sure he’s a nice enough guy, and Pepper certainly is smitten, but he’s making feeding time a problem.

For me.

And the bachelors. Especially Bud.

Beau can’t be anywhere near Bud because he’ll charge at him, running like a steam engine, ears back, nostrils flaring. Beau is a fearsome sight, and Bud is appropriately afraid.  I tell Bud the good news in all of this drama is that Beau obviously sees him as a threat. An Appaloosa that still has his mojo.

My reassurances fly over his head. He’s not convinced.

To get both of our horses fed and medicated, we’ve had to get creative.

Real creative.

We strategize, think, finagle, plan, organize, and problem-solve. Sounds like some corporate think tank instead of a horse pasture.

You see we have to figure out how to get Miss P. fed and back to the love triangle before Bud notices we’re at the gate.

Or vice-versa. Feed Bud before Pepper sees us.

We’ve been closing a gate to keep Beau away, but that doesn’t always work. He’s getting on to our tricks.

I hate it when horses are smarter than I am.

And it happens enough to make me wonder about my ability to think.

Okay that’s a topic for another post.

A few nights ago when we arrived at the pasture we saw the three bachelors in the far end of the field, away from everyone. They were close to the road grazing in the tall grass.

We drove to the regular feeding spot, and sure enough Miss Pepper saw us and ambled toward the gate with Chickadee and Beau following.

The bachelors were far enough away to not even notice.

Whew!

Drama averted.

Once Pepper finished eating, we decided to deliver room service to Bud.

He deserved a little pampering.

Rick held the feed pan up to the fence and Bud happily munched away. Amigo and Red bellied up to the fence for their share of snacks.

It was quite pleasant.

I always think ordering room service is fun.

Bud agreed.

We recently had the happy occasion of visitors to the pasture. Two beautiful, vivacious young women came to see Bud and Pepper and the rest of the Oldsters.

The day was perfect: sun beaming down, blue skies and the mud puddles were well on their way to drying up.

Bud and Pepper were at the gate just waiting to show off. Which is exactly what they did. It was like “Upside Down Day.”

They ran out the gate directly to each other’s feed pans. This doesn’t work because of the individualized meds they receive. And they know which pan is theirs. It’s always on the same side. We’ve done this thousands of times.

But not today.

Today they had amnesia.

With a bit of encouragement, we got them eating from their own pans. Problem was they weren’t that interested in eating. Two weeks in a pasture of lush grass has dulled their appetite for grain. Pepper would wander off and we had to keep redirecting her to her lunch. She was searching for snacks, which I’ve had to start keeping hidden inside the car.

Apparently her dessert stomach wasn’t full!

For a while, Bud luxuriated in being groomed by not one, but two girls. They cooed over him and I could tell he loved it. Who wouldn’t?

But then he tired of eating and followed Pepper’s lead. He wandered away from us into the pasture.

He seemed ready for a game of chase. The girls didn’t know what to think. I was envisioning round two of the Appaloosa Boot Camp, and not happy at the thought of chasing Bud around the pasture.

As I approached him with the lead rope, he took one look at me and then bolted toward the gate. He ran all the way. Now I knew he was showing off for the girls. It was as if he didn’t want me to lead him with a halter around his neck. He wanted to run like the wind. Which is exactly what he did. Well maybe he ran more like a breeze, but it was running all the same. He looked strong and powerful, and the girls were duly impressed.

As we age, don’t we yearn to experience a few more moments of the vigor of our youth?

I know I do.

Bud ran all the way to the gate and nudged it, as if it would magically open. When I caught up with him, I let him into the pasture with Miss Pepper, Amigo and Red. All four bellied up to the fence for more snacks and compliments.

Like I said, it was a perfect day.

Bud's little red Pergolide pill

I’ve mentioned before that one of the reasons we supplement the pasture with grain for our two old sweeties is that both need daily meds.

We’re usually able to slip the medicine into the grain and no one’s the wiser.

We started with Bud, who needs Pergolide to reduce his symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Once a day he gets a little red pill. It’s made a huge difference. Our vet recently increased the dosage, so now the pill is hot pink.

Either way, the bright color makes it easy to see, so that when Bud spits it out (which he sometimes does) I can put it back in the feed pan and ultimately into Bud. It’s a game he plays with me, rather like when your one year old keeps dropping a toy, just so you’ll pick it up.

Pepper isn’t quite as cooperative. She is one suspicious girl when it comes to her food. Last winter we put soybean oil into their grain for the added calories. Bud loved it, but Pepper wasn’t such an easy sell. I had to add the oil one tablespoon at a time until she was used to the taste and feel.

Like I said, she’s cautious.

So lately our vet suggested that we give Pepper a daily dose of bute to offset the pain in her back legs. Her knees are starting to calcify. It’s hard enough for me to even write this, let alone think about what it’s going to mean down the road for her – and me.

I want her to take the pain reliever so that she feels better. And I wish she could connect that powder in her food to feeling better.

But, she doesn’t.

If her food is even the slightest bit different, she won’t eat it. Just walks toward the gate and through telepathy says:  “No way man. I’m not eating that stuff. I’m ready to go back now.”

So I’ve reverted to the old soybean oil system. I add a little more bute each time I feed her. Soon enough I’ll be at the recommended dose.

I hope.

Right now we’re giving Bud a course of antibiotics from the minor surgery he had last week. We have to mix the powder with water and then stir it into his grain. If we do that, he’s fine. The first time we didn’t, and Bud wouldn’t touch his food.

Sheesh!

The horses aren’t the only ones needing more medication these days and a way to manage it. Since my husband had a medical “issue” earlier this year, our meds have increased significantly.

Our own supplements and medications line the kitchen counter, making the room look more like a pharmacy than a kitchen.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement.

But I wager if you were to have a secret peek into cabinets of most people in their fifties and sixties, you’d find quite a lineup of potions, pills and magic elixirs.

Multi-vitamins, fish oil, Vitamin D, CoQ-10 are just a few that have taken up residence on our shelves.

What is it about this age? I often wonder if I’m afraid of dying. I don’t think that’s it exactly. It’s more that I am afraid of living when my body isn’t working anymore.

How about you? Are you taking more meds? And if so, why?

Bud had an appointment with the vet this week. It was the second time he had to have a cancerous growth removed. It was a squamous cell carcinoma.

Where was the growth?

Well that’s the thing.

It was on his private parts. You know, the nether regions. What we girls used to describe as “down there.”

That’s all I’m going to say about the location. This is after all a family blog.

Though when you have animals, you learn about the birds and the bees pretty darn quick.

Unlike me who at age twelve was still arguing that you could get pregnant just from sleeping in the same bed with a boy.

I was so literal back then. And did I mention naïve?

“Did you hear about Susie?”

“No, what?”

“She was sleeping with that Miller boy and now she’s pregnant.”

“Oh…..”

Cue the tsk-tsk-ing.

What was a young girl supposed to think?

Sleeping together equals getting pregnant.

Who knew there was more to it?

Thank goodness I know better now. You don’t have to worry about me any longer.

Let’s focus on Bud.

Apparently the type of growth he has is fairly common in aging horses, especially those who have white or part-white coats, (that would be Bud) and breeds at risk include Appaloosas (Bud again). They commonly arise in non-pigmented, poorly haired areas around mucous membranes.  Areas affected include lips, nose and external genitalia – especially the penile sheath. Okay I said it.

Did you just hear a collective gasp from the men reading this?  I’m pretty sure I did.

The first time our vet performed the surgery, my husband could hardly watch. Every snip was met with a grimace. And I’m pretty sure he was holding his breath.

Rick not Bud.

I wish I’d thought to bring the camera.

This time we knew more of what to expect. Rick watched intently, with only a few grimaces. At least the visible ones. Who knows what he was experiencing deep in his soul?

As for Bud – he came through the surgery just fine. He gets pain meds for a while and antibiotics to make sure there’s no infection.

Oh, and Rick’s fine too.

What is it about us? Our animals keep getting squamous cell carcinoma.

Is it high altitude or karma?

I’m still pondering that one.

I was going through a box of old photos this week. It’s always a mixed bag for me. Sometimes I get caught in the past, staring at how I used to look, which for one thing is younger – much younger.

And in most pictures, it was thinner.

Sad but true!

Another trap I sometimes fall into with old photos is feeling melancholy. Things just aren’t the same for any of us. Life is not necessarily better or worse, but its usually different.

Change happens and nowhere is that more apparent than in a box of photographs from one’s past. Some days I handle it better than others.

Perhaps it’s looking at people I’ve lost track of, or loved ones who are no longer living.

Perhaps it’s a sense of time racing past me. The dreams that fueled my youth may not seem quite as attainable now.

Change often means loss.

And its sidekick, grief.

Those are a couple of tough feelings to handle.

Bud at two weeks.

As I was sorting and sifting through my past, I came upon two lovely, wonderful glimpses of Bud.

I didn’t know him as a baby, so these photographs are really fun. You can see his personality from the get go.

I wonder what he’d be thinking if he could see these pictures? Would he feel sad at time lost?

Or discouraged at seeing the abundance of gray creeping into his coat?

I doubt it. Bud is much better than I am at living in the moment. Accepting today for what it is.

A handsome five-year-old.

And really, who cares about a few more pounds or the obvious passage of time?

Do I?

I’m trying not to.

How about you?

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