Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Morning Lineup

Emma & Tessa:  We're so starved for attention that the whole hill is listing to the side.  Come out quick or we might fall over.
Tanner:  PLEEEEASE come and play JollyBall or basketball.  Frisbee would do as well.

Emma & Tessa:   We've checked......
 and double checked ....
but, there is no one else here to provide carrots and chin scratching
Tanner:  I'm being the soul of patience here but, for once, I agree with the equines.  Would you please get moving.  Better yet, just kick the ball and I'll do the rest!

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Dancing Donkey

You may have wondered why I called this blog "The dancing Donkey".  It's not as though you have seen much dancing so far.  That is because, as soon as Emma spots me, she quits whatever she is doing and comes over to see what I am doing and if she can participate.  I finally managed to capture the elusive Dancing Donkey on video.  Perhaps it is only fitting that the video has that grainy, fuzzy "proof-of-Bigfoot" quality to it.    So, for your enjoyment, here is the New England version of Sasquatch (we grow 'em with big ears and little feet on this side of the country)....

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Whew, its been a hectic few days.  I don't normally have more than one or two visitors a year at my farm.  This weekend saw more people crossing my threshold than I have seen all year.  For most people, my half dozen visitors might seem like a drop in the bucket but, to someone who lives and works alone and only owns four chairs, it's a lot.

One of my visitors was my world-traveling, glamorous, big-city sister come to spend the holiday with me.  My world doesn't offer much in the way of bright lights or big-city living (although, the stars were particularly brilliant Thursday night).  What my place may lack in city splendors, it more than makes up for in having a DONKEY.

I can offer special, personalized greetings...
interactive sports....

a personal trainer who will accompany you on a guided tour of the local byways...
 and a full-time support system.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today, I'll be sitting down, in the company of friends and family, to a lavish meal of food that was entirely homegrown.  However, that is only one of the things I have to be grateful for this year.  There have been some hard and tragic things happening here but there are still many things that I can be thankful for as well.

I am thankful for my wonderful border collie who has been my constant companion for the past 9 years.  I worry about his bad joints and the lumps that keep showing up but I am terribly thankful to have him for as long as possible.

I am thankful for the very good friend who is the main reason that I have a border collie and who looks after Tanner every evening when I have to leave for work.  It is a great relief to me to know that he is safe and happy while I can't be there with him.

I am immensely thankful that Emma has come into my life, bringing a totally unexpected joy with her.  If Tessa had not been injured, I would never have thought to get a donkey and I would have remained in total ignorance of just how wonderful donkeys are.  I cannot say that I am in any way grateful that Tessa was injured, but at least it did bring me this one, beautiful thing. 

And there is Tessa, my poor, beautiful, crippled horse.  I bought Tessa a little over a year ago.  I had been looking for a new horse for the first time in many years after finally making the decision to retire my old mare, Suki (who I still own by the way, she is spending her retirement being a companion to another horse and is doing very well).  Tessa is a double registered TWH/SSH who found herself listed on craigslist for an absurdly low price when she became a victim of the economic meltdown.  She had been purchased as a weanling for a very great deal of money and then had to be disposed of quickly when her owner found herself in financial trouble.  Tessa was not at all what I was looking for, she was too young, too flashy, untrained and I had no experience with gaited horses.  But, there was something about her picture that just kept calling to me and after much agonizing I forked over $500 for her and brought her home.   

I had the notion that I could let her grow up some, put some training into her and sell her at a profit (try not to laugh too hard, all of us horse people have these silly notions now and then).  I hadn't intended to keep her for myself as I had sworn-off riding green horses after I was hurt very badly by one about ten years ago.  I could not ride for two years and came very close to giving up horses altogether.  I did start riding again but a lot of the joy had gone out of it and I was nervous about riding any horse I didn't know.  I think that when I decided to buy Tessa, I was also deciding that I wanted to be more the rider I used to be, rather than the one I had become.  I sent Tess to an excellent, local trainer when she turned three this Spring.  When it came time for me to get on her, it took a major act of courage to climb on, but Tess was rock steady.  After just 30 days with the trainer, Tessa came home and I started trail riding her, she was phenomenal....fun, steady, responsive and I felt safe on her.  In May, after just two months under saddle, I rode Tessa in our local parade and she was the steadiest horse there.  She loved it, she thought all those people had come out just to provide entertainment for her on her trail ride. 

I am thankful to Tessa for helping me regain some of my confidence in the saddle.  I know now that I still can work with a young horse and I should trust my judgement and set aside self-doubt.  I don't know what the future holds for Tessa but it is in large part thanks to her that I know I still want to ride.  Thank you Tessa for bringing joy back into riding.

I am thankful for the good friend and riding buddy I have found who has also helped put the joy back in riding. 

I am thankful that my sister, whom I have not seen for several years, has come up to visit and spend Thanksgiving with me. It is good to have family. 

I could go on here but, enough for now.  I intend to spend the next few days with the people and animals I am thankful to have in my life.  I may not be posting here for a bit.  Know though, that I am also very thankful to all of you who come to read this.  I haven't figured out how to respond to all the comments I have received but, I read and appreciate every one.  If you would like to share some of the things that you are thankful for this year, I would be glad to read about them.

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Opening day

I live on twenty acres in a very rural area of upstate New York.  It's usually fairly quiet here, the dirt road that I live on gets very little traffic and the neighbors are all just out of sight.
Eleven months out of the year, Tanner and I hike all over and my friends and I enjoy riding through the woods all around us.  Then comes November and all hell breaks loose.

Everyone starts getting ready for deer season and the weeks running up to opening day the weekend before Thanksgiving, are filled past enduring with the noise of shooting.  Rifle season always brings with it waves of armed men in orange coats and large pickup trucks making the four hour drive from New York City and New Jersey in search of the elusive buck (or maybe just a cold beer and a chance to wander around in the woods armed with high powered rifles).  Way too many of them come up here with thousands of rounds of ammunition and many cases of beer.  A terrifying combination. 

While most of hunters I encounter every year are polite, respectful and seem to know what they are doing, there are many others who are arrogant, obnoxious and can't tell the difference between a white tailed deer and a jersey cow.

Despite the fact that Tanner and I stay out of the woods at this time of year and limit our walks to public roads, I get hassled or threatened at least once every year.  Because of this I always worry about my animals and take precautions.

Tanner:  This again??
 Me:  Hey, you're visible
This year, I have Emma to worry about as well and even I have to admit she is vaguely (very vaguely) deer like.  So, she is suffering the indignities of the season as well.  

A good friend stopped over for a visit and to let me know how terribly ridiculous my poor, abused donkey looked in her outfit.  Meanwhile, I couldn't help but notice that I could not have have color-coordinated them better if I had tried.  (I did have very strict instructions not to use this photo but I have never been good at taking orders.)
We may not be dignified but we will be seen (and hopefully, not shot).

A much better day

Emma's temp has leveled out to 100.5 where it has stayed all day, right where it should be.  She was also much brighter and happier today, I even got a nice loud bray when she wanted some more attention.  Now that's more like it!

It is not unusual for young animals to get sick.  Really, it is to be expected and is not even a bad thing since it will strengthen their immune systems in the long run.  However, such a high and prolonged fever is nothing to trifle with and can't be left untreated without risking brain damage and seizures.  Thankfully, Emma's fever responded to the medication and protected her while this bug ran its course.  I also learned a lot from this.  Donkeys do not respond to illness like any other animal I have ever known, and that is saying something as I have spent my life working with all types of animals.  I know now that I have to be very vigilant and that I have a lot to learn about the truly minute subtleties of donkey language.  At least Emma is a good teacher. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Emma's temp is normal this morning.  I am feeling hopeful that the fever has broken and she is going to be OK.  I'll be keeping a close watch on her.  Hopefully she will be dancing again soon.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

A rough day

Emma's temp has been in the normal range for most of the day but seems to be creeping up a little.  It was down to 98 this morning but has edged up to 101.1 as of a half hour ago.  This in the normal range for a young donkey though still higher than Emma's normal temp of 100.  I'll be checking again in a few hours, if the temp goes up again I'll be calling the vet and we will start her on IV antibiotics.  I'm still hoping this is a virus and she will shake it off tonight.

Tessa also had a checkup this morning and that did not go well at all.  I got on her again and she was immediately and intensely uncomfortable.  A friend who is a lot smaller and lighter than I am also got on her but Tess could not take her weight at all either.  It looks like the damage to her spine and pelvis is going to be permanent.  She was noticeably sore after our 30 second ride.  It is not likely that she will be a viable broodmare either as the weight of a foal will probably be too much for her.  The only hope at this point is to give her a couple of years off  and hope for a miracle.  I have some concerns about how she will manage once the deep snows get here.  I guse I just have to wait and see what happens, take some time to regroup and reassess.  For the moment, I am just going to focus on getting Emma through her crisis. 

Fever update

I just checked on Emma again, she seems ok but her temp is back up to 103.7. The banamine only seems to work for 8-10 hours. The vet says it should be good for 24. Worried.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Emma didn't seem to be her normal self this afternoon so I took her temp and it was 106!!!  I called the vet and I gave her a dose of banamine to bring the fever down.  By the time vet got here this evening, her temp was normal and she seemed to be acting better.  We couldn't figure out what the problem is but the vet drew blood for tests and will hopefully have an answer for me first thing in the morning.  In the mean time I have to control the temp with the banamine and keep things quiet for her. 

One of the scariest aspects of this is how subtle the signs of illness were this afternoon.  Donkeys are notoriously stoic.  They don't show pain or illness unless it is very serious and by then it could be too late to treat them.  I don't think I appreciated the absolute truth of this until today.  A horse with a fever of 103 will appear noticeably ill at a single glance.  Emma seemed just a little off and it is only because I have gotten to know her so well that I saw the problem, I doubt anyone else would have noticed.   

I am hoping that this is just a viral fluke and Emma will be fully recovered in a couple of days.  I can't bring myself to even write about the alternatives so that is what I am going with for now.  A weird virus that will pass in a day or two.  Send good thoughts our way, we may need them. 

Consolation prize

I had to pick up my car from the repair shop on Monday, it was a very painful experience since the car needed a new transmission and a bunch of other stuff that added up to $3100.  GULP!  I really agonized over whether I should even put the money into this vehicle as it getting up there in age and miles but, a brief foray into what a new-used car would cost made the decision for me.  This car just has to keep going for a few more years. 

A friend dropped me off at the shop but, the car wound up being not quite ready so I had a couple of hours to kill.  Tanner was with me and anxious to get out of there as the sounds of the air guns frighten him so we decided to go exploring in the hills behind the shop.  We hiked up a long hill and stumbled onto a long ridge of exposed rock full of little caves and crevices.

  We spent the next hour or so exploring and poking about all the little nooks and crannies
 We found lots of nifty hiding places...

 And interesting caves I couldn't fit into... 

 We found a cozy den...
 Porcupines I think...
And a few holes you wouldn't want to fall into....
All in all, we had a lot of fun and I would never have found the place if my car wasn't broken.  It still seems like a horribly expensive way to discover new places but at least it was  a bit of consolation and its a good thing that donkeys don't cost all that much to feed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Morning stretches

Its always good to start your day with some gentle exercise.  So, starting on the left, curve around...

and aroooound.....
 a little more, feel that pull...
 come on, put some effort into it...
 until you get a nice good stretch.
Now for the other side.  Take a nice deep breath...
 and bend....
try for that nice gentle curve...
 very nice, a beautiful arch...
Whew, doesn't that feel good!

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Just a few finishing touches and I get to cross this project off the list....

I didn't want a certain someone chewing on the insulation so I added a top...
 and made a cut out for the tub...

To finish everything off, I rounded the sharp edges with an old hoof rasp (by the way, if you want to learn how to trim your horse's feet yourself this is a good place to start.  Rasping fine-grained hardwoods such as oak feels very similar to rasping a hoof.  So go find yourself some blocks of wood and beg a worn out rasp off of your farrier and start practicing)

The finished product (although I do intend to add an insulated float that Tessa and Emma can gently push out of the way drink.  I haven't found just the right thing to use as a float yet.  I was originally going to just use another piece of foambord but I am worried that the certain someone mentioned earlier will chew on it.  It may require another trip to what passes for civilization in these parts).

 Ready for product testing by the experts...