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Postcards from the Pasture

If you recall, on Wednesdays for the next while, I’m opening up our photo albums to share some of the pictures you haven’t seen (or haven’t seen for a long time.)

Rainy Day in  the Pasture

It was a rainy day for this lunchtime feeding. Our sweet old things were wet and muddy.

Circa April 2009.

When I was in grade school all those years ago, there were a lot of rules.

I guess the teachers worried that we eight-year-olds would revolt and run wild in the halls. So to counter that possibility, there were “hall monitors.” It was usually a teacher, though sometimes an upper- grade student who walked the halls, checking to make sure any student wandering outside of class had a hall pass.

Are you with me here?

Now that I think of it, there were also lunchroom monitors, playground monitors, and classroom monitors. There may have even been schoolbus monitors, though I never rode the bus so can’t say for sure.

I just know there were a lot of dang monitors.

 

Watching-Pepper-Eat

Lately, I’ve been feeling like the food monitor.

It seems I spend an inordinate amount of my energy making sure horses, cat and humans are eating right. We’re all at that age where it matters.

But I’ll tell you what: I’m tired of it.

Maybe I’m just feeling cranky today. I’m sure you can relate.

 

Bud and Pepper have to eat because of the meds mixed in their food. And they need the nutrition and calories to make it through the winter in the best shape possible for two sweet, but definitely old horses. Thing is these days Pepper would rather eat hay than her grain. (See proof in photo above)

 

And Mija, our little earless senior citizen cat also has medicine mixed in her food. She’s got the feeding schedule emblazoned in her brain and won’t allow me to forget it. Or even get off schedule by even a few minutes. She demands that her world be regular and complete. Problem is I’m not such a “regular and complete” kind of person. But for Mija I really do try to be.

 

Then there’s the humans.

Sigh!

This business of eating well has gotten out of hand. We have to read labels and compute things like calories, sodium, and saturated fat. And half the time I can’t even read the teensy print. Are we getting enough protein? Do we eat sugar or not? And what about wheat? Can’t forget about cholesterol. More veggies, fewer carbs, right? And eat more kale, and the other superfoods.  Plant based? Vegan? Raw? Organic or not? Grass fed beef. Free range chickens. Low fat, no fat, low carb, no carb?

Ack!!

I’m the one in charge of food at our house, though I probably don’t have to actually tell you that. You can guess it quite nicely from the rant I just laid on you. You see every darned day for at least two meals, and sometimes three, I am charged with the task of wandering through this nutrition maze and coming up with tasty, healthy food for two horses, one cat and two aging humans. It’s on my shoulders if our blood sugar rises or our bad cholesterol gets out of control. Are we thriving on five vegetables or living in a food desert?

 

Don’t misunderstand. I like to cook and I think I’m pretty good at it.

I love reading food magazines, cookbooks and food blogs. And most of the time, I like the challenge of making delicious, healthy food for us.

But it does get to be somewhat of a grind.

When I think of the hours I’ve spent over my adult lifetime planning meals, going to  the grocery store, putting groceries away, cooking, and cleaning up, it frightens me a little. If I actually did the math, it would turn out to be years that I’ve done doing nothing but feed us.

So I don’t do the math.

But I am thinking of resigning as food monitor. Or at the very least job sharing.

 

Thank you for listening.

P.S. Do you think someone needs a vacation?

There are times when the Universe places a gift in your path that seems too good to be true.

You look around wondering if it’s a joke – like those old Candid Camera television programs.

Then you look again and realize it’s not a prank.

You honest-to-goodness do have a flake of hay spread on the back of the pickup. And it’s all yours. The two of you don’t have to share it with anyone else.

You don’t have to participate in the horse version of musical chairs, where you must keep moving when the next bigger, more dominant horse decides he (or she) wants to nibble from your pile of hay.

You don’t have to walk away because you’ve been bullied out of your share.

You get to eat every delicious green morsel.

And you get to take all the time you want.

From Pepper and Bud’s vantage point, this must be  horse Heaven.

 

Here’s how it went down.

We were out feeding one afternoon a week or so ago, like always. Bud and Pepper snarfed down their grain and still seemed very hungry.

The weather had grown chilly.

The pasture was nothing but nibs of grass with little to no nutrition.

And the supplemental hay feedings hadn’t started.

So my kind-hearted husband walked over to the hay shed and brought back a flake of hay.

He spread it on the tailgate of the pickup.

And Bud and Pepper went to town.

They burrowed their noses into that sweet alfalfa and had a high old time.

It made my heart happy to watch them.

No shoving.

No dominance games.

It was just pure enjoyment.

A couple people walked by and did a double take. One doesn’t normally see horses eating hay from a truck. Then again, we’ve already established ourselves as the quirky horse owners.

And you know what? We don’t care.

If the Universe places a gift in your path this weekend, by all means take advantage.

Enjoy it.

Every single bit of it.

Guardian angels come in a multitude of shapes and sizes. Lately, for the Herd of Oldsters, their guardian angel looks a lot like my husband.

Dark sunglasses, lead rope at the ready and a “don’t-mess-with-me-attitude.” He reminds me a little of Kevin Costner in The Body Guard.

His job has been to see to it that our little band of old horses gets their fair share of hay.

We’ve been giving flakes of the “good stuff,” better known as alfalfa mix, to our oldsters every time we go out to feed.

Not a one of them fared the winter in the best of shape, so they need the extra nutrition.

Somehow, the minute those delicious flakes hit the ground, other horses in the larger herd know it. And they make their way toward the Oldsters.

That’s where the guardian angel, or as I call him, “the enforcer,” comes in. He lets the interlopers know that they aren’t welcome here.

He’ll circle the rope in the air to encourage the others to head out. And if that doesn’t work he swings a little stronger and gives them the look, as he makes it absolutely clear that they are NOT going to win this one. To date, he’s been the victor.

From the Herd of Oldsters, I swear I can hear a huge sigh of relief as they continue to munch on the delicious strands of hay.

They simply don’t have the mojo anymore to fight for their food.

The rope-swinging and other machinations don’t affect them at all. It’s as if they know their bodyguard is at work for them.

How wonderful that must be.

My own personal guardian angel may not be wearing dark sunglasses and swinging a rope to protect me.

Then again ….

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while you’ve met these characters many times.

And if you’re a new reader, welcome! Soon enough you’ll be on a first name basis.

I’ve dubbed them the “Herd of Oldsters,” which includes our two old sweeties, Bud and Pepper, Amigo, Red, Chickadee, Joe, Mama and Brio (the youngster of the group.)

Occasionally another horse or two gets into the mix, but on a consistent basis, this is the group that lines up at the fence for treats.

They know me. I consider them to be my friends and I think the feeling is mutual. As I hand out alfalfa cubes or horse candy, we talk. Well, to be a bit more precise, I talk and they listen.

Horses are excellent listeners.

I ask how their day is going. I comment on the weather. I hand out compliments, because who ever gets enough of those?

I recently learned that some of the other boarders have been watching me. Behind my back I may even be called “that crazy horse lady.”  No one’s said it directly to me, but you know how you get a vibe?  What I have heard is, “Oh, so you’re the one that feeds her horses out of the back of the car.” I nod yes, wondering briefly what they’re really thinking. Then I let it go, because really, I don’t care. It’s one of the benefits of aging. I’m much more comfortable in my own skin.

A few days ago, Red’s people were having a visit with him. He’s such a sweet old guy, even when he believes his own PR about being a wild and wooly Mustang. So there he stood with two mothers and four preschoolers fawning over him. He was the soul of discretion, and being so careful with the little ones.

But a small part of him was looking longingly toward me handing out goodies. He seemed torn – so glad to see his people, but hating that he was missing out on his share of treats. Even his owner noticed. “I think he’d rather be in the “cookie brigade,” she said.

That’s how our new nickname was born. The Cookie Brigade has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

By the way, I think she was mistaken, because Red appeared to be totally grooving on all the special attention he was getting. It always makes me happy when one of our oldsters gets to spend time with his or her peeps.

Now when you hear me use the term Cookie Brigade in future posts, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

People often go to extraordinary lengths to feed their companion animals.

We buy rotisserie chickens at the grocery store, open cans of tuna and jars of baby food. We cook lamb and rice into a casserole of sorts for ailing animals. We fret when our beloved animal friends aren’t eating and vow to do “whatever it takes” to get them back on the road to health.

I’m no exception.

We have a fairly elaborate process of food prep for Bud and Pepper.

Some days I feel as if I’m on the Food Channel for Horses! A scoop of this, a pinch of that, a dollop of the other; add medicine and stir well.

Enticing our two old sweeties to eat has become my daily goal.

Keeping weight on aging horses is a constant challenge. Old teeth, old digestive systems and simply being “set in their ways” complicate things.

When horses lose too much weight, they don’t fare well. Especially in winter, they need every pound they can create to keep warm and healthy.

We had our veterinarian out to check Bud and Pepper this week. She was concerned that both had lost weight. Even with my efforts to supplement their hay with delicious, medicine-laced recipes.

And treats.

We can’t forget the pounds and pounds of hay cubes and horse candy we’ve gone through.

But the truth is this: winter is hard on our sweet old things. The pasture is bare and they have to wait for the hay truck to deliver their food. And once it comes, the oldsters are at the end of the chain. Because they are old and vulnerable, they don’t fight for their fair share of hay. When a younger, stronger horse wants their food, Bud and Pepper just move away. We’re not sure how much hay they are actually getting. This is where living with your horses would help so much.

Our vet suggested that we supplement their grain with oil – good old fat is what they need. “Pour a couple of glugs of corn oil or soybean oil on their grain,” she suggested.

If only it were that simple.

We did use soybean oil last winter. I remember how long it took Miss P. to accept it. I had to start with one tablespoon at a time, gradually increasing to a glug, and then a couple of glugs.

For those of you who don’t cook, glug is not an official cooking term!

Just being perfectly transparent here.

Well yesterday I blew it.

Totally.

I ignored the gradual reintroduction method and poured the tiniest possible glug of oil on both pans of grain.

Mixed well and served it up.

Pepper was the first to react. She took one sniff and walked away. Then she returned and sniffed again as if she couldn’t believe what she’d just smelled. But she was right. As far as she was concerned, I’d added poison to her food. She looked at me with those big brown eyes. “What were you thinking?”

She was incredulous.

Incensed.

Even huffy.

She kept nosing the pan until she finally spilled it.

“If you think I’m eating this, you are sorely mistaken,” she said in horse-speak.

She took a few nibbles of Bud’s grain, certain that he had fared better.

But of course he hadn’t.

He wasn’t eating much of his grain either.

I’d committed the cardinal sin of introducing a new food too quickly.

Too much oil.

Simple as that.

Eventually Bud dumped the rest of his grain too.

I guess he felt he had to make the same statement as Pepper.

I reluctantly returned them to the pasture, picked up the empty grain pans and headed for home.

Discouraged.

Disappointed in myself.

Worried that they hadn’t had anything to eat.

First thing I did when I got home was to find a tablespoon and set it beside the jugs of oil.

Tomorrow’s another day.

At the end of the week I was where I usually am around noon, feeding my two old sweeties and handing out snacks to the rest of the herd of oldsters.

The owner of the boarding facility was out walking her fields, checking on the greening up process and making an assessment as to when to get the irrigation system going.

She stopped for a minute to talk.

We discussed the weather.

We discussed the condition of the pasture.

We discussed how the horses had fared over the winter.

She commented that all things considered, Miss P. was doing pretty darned well.

I agreed.

Pepper is thin right now and you can see her ribs, but that should change when the pasture greens up and she can graze to her heart’s content.

 

Then the owner told me a story.

It seems her eight-year-old daughter is helping with feeding.

One evening the girl came back from the pasture incensed.

She was boiling mad! She’d loaded another flake of hay onto the Gator and was headed back to the pasture.

She had a special delivery for Pepper.

You see, Pepper walks slowly these days. So when the hay truck was out distributing hay, Pepper was slow getting there.

And she holds back and doesn’t fight for her share.

If a younger, stronger horse pushes her away, she goes.

Normally the person driving the feed truck loops back and deposits hay for Pepper.

But this time, the driver didn’t do that.

Pepper was left with no hay.

And this made the little girl angry. She asked the driver to go back and he (or she) wouldn’t.

She knew right from wrong.

This little girl knew what the right action was, and she didn’t hesitate.

Sometimes it takes a child to keep us adults on the right path!

 

Pepper sends a shout out and big horse love to her eight-year-old guardian angel.

Have you had a situation where a child acted more like an adult than the actual adults? Leave a comment below and tell us your story.

 

Oh, in case you’re wondering, Mom had a talk with the driver of the truck. I don’t think Pepper will be left out again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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