Photo Challenge: Visiting Friends

We shared stories as we drove up the canyon road 
that angled between rocks, colored grape and copper 
and sienna; geometric rocks stacked like massive 
bricks as perpendicular to the earth as castle
walls. Tucked between gnarled trees were ageless

log cabins without porches or windows, creosote  
black and hunkered low on southern exposures,  
open to long meadows edged with pine and aspen 
that quake and sway in the late morning sun. We 
first saw the herd under the shade of a lone fir 

on an open grassy stretch. They'd been watching us 
long before we saw them, a platoon of longear 
sentinels judging our intent. One tall and elegant 
with an aristocratic nose. A stoic gray who asked 
for less than he wanted. A jenny as wide as she was  

tall and just the color of milk in tea. Two rough and 
tumble brothers with a schoolboy sense of humor. Our 
friend's laughter came up on the breeze and we all  
stood shoulder to belly and head to heart, passing  
hours grazing, scratching donkey ears, and admiring 

wise mule eyes. At the water tank, Fiona sipped with 
slow caution and then left the tip of her pink tongue  
dangling just past her whisker lips; she let me and  
it felt cool and delicate to my touch. And intimate  
beyond reason. Driving back, the road was unfamiliar. 

Aspen leaves turned to gold before our eyes as the sky
faded to a pale shade of winter tourquoise. We nibbled 
on cookies made of seeds and apples and grains, and
the particles wedged between our teeth became the 
bittersweet flavor of reluctance and September grass.

 

 ….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
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(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

 

Photo Challenge: Textures

 

She was a coyote fighter, moving 
just off the herd, across the high
desert prairie. Buying her calves 
time to get back to their mothers,
she stood her ground, mouth wide

open, bellowing loud enough to 
insult a shy predator into slinking 
away. No one wants to be called out
with such blunt confidence. But the  
calves have all grown and passed on
 
a decade ago. The ranch was parceled 
away leaving her no ground to stand for; 
the last gelding gone to children. Even 
her teeth have expired leaving hollow 
jaw bones barely disguised by coarse hair. 

She brings an abiding wealth of survival 
wisdom along to my small stretch of farm
and she has no way to be useless, so now
she brays at house dogs. She guards what
her cloudy eyes can make out of the horizon
 
from inside a woven field fence. Coyotes still 
lurk behind tall weeds, testing her boundaries. 
Do not doubt us, predator, as we turn to face
you. We have survived your kind and we know
our worth. We will always stand for our own.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Textures

Photo Challenge: Order

The hours of the day
spook and buck and bolt,
swirling together and scattering
apart in a dust devil of nickers,
skittering hooves, and manure. 

I'm only human. I stumble from
water tank scum to fence repair,
trying to mitigate the day's erosion 
and prepare for the next thing that
will be a thing I've never seen before.

But under the chaos and distraction
and resistance, gravity is a persistant 
call to order; to earth with each revolution
of the sun; this circle dance of life. 
Complacent hours were never meant 
to be confused with love or peace.


….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Photo Challenge: Friend

One likes to be alone.
One likes to sleep a lot.

One likes contrary opinions.
One doesn't care what others like.

Yawns and snorts, leaning toward 
an itchy acceptance; an unlikely friend.


….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Friend

There’s No Romance in Rescue

It’s my bi-annual report on the animals fostered here at Infinity Farm. I try to balance on a tightrope when I write about rescue. I want to encourage people to adopt and at the same time, not get too romantic about it. I know with bloody certainty than I can’t save them all. I just think that the value of animals in our world is worth our inconvenience.

My little farm has always had an open-door policy when it comes to rescues. In the last ten years, 32 horses, mules and donkeys have temporarily fostered with us for evaluation or training. Most of them found their way to new homes and happy endings. Some found their way to peace.

We have two fosters now. Seamus, or Moose as he prefers, is a Welsh Corgi who’s been here six months. Sometimes when owners give up their dogs, they give a list of faults that serve as a justification for giving them up. In his case, the faults were worse than described. I’ve never met a dog who’s such an expert on punishment.

I’d love to say Seamus is happy again, frapping in the yard and cooing in my ear. It would be a lie. It’s true he rarely bites anymore but he is not a light-hearted little guy. He believes in evil; a trait you don’t often see in his breed. He tries to hide his fear with bravado but it makes him more bi-polar than cute. When he does play, he plays with a vengeance –the dark kind. It’s been hard on our other dogs and now the house has a maze of gates between rooms so that our dogs can be separated. It’s inconvenient.

On a good day, he sleeps on my chest, nearly crushes my lungs, and dreams.

Once Seamus had decompressed a couple of months, I took him to my vet. All of Seamus’ work came apart fast. The good news is that the vet didn’t get bitten. The good news is that she gave us tranquilizers and told us to come back in a week, under medication. The next visit, with a carefully negotiated muzzle, gave us hard medical answers. He has a bad hip and two bad elbows.

There is a term in rescue: Foster fail. It’s a joke that comes with a wink and a nod. It means a foster home has fallen in love. Seamus is the other kind –a literal failure at fostering. He has no place to go from here. He can’t be adopted out safely. Euthanizing is probably smart but he’s still a few months short of his second birthday. For now, he’ll stay. Maybe in a couple of years, he’ll age out of his aggression but by then his structural disadvantages will catch up with him. Bittersweet future.

Backyard puppy mills, like his, deserve a special place in hell. And maybe it’s me that likes the name Moose better. Say Seamus out loud and add an “on” in the middle. It wears me down.

It’s the one-year and one-month anniversary of Lilith’s arrival here. She’s somewhere over a hundred years old but we haven’t carbon dated her. She has “expired teeth” that, if she’d let you lift her lip up, you don’t want to see. She came to rescue from an old ranch where she’d been fighting coyotes for at least a couple of decades. Cantankerous is the charming word for her foul temper.

That extra one-month on her anniversary is because that first month we thought she had come here to die. But that didn’t work out.

Now I worry that she’s gained so much weight that her frail little legs can’t carry it. She has a freight train of a bray that gets a little stronger every day. Her shyness is gone; now when I take strangers into her pen, she strides up for a scratch but the second your hand comes close, she flings her head wildly to the side, ears akimbo, and demands you be cautious with your affection. She’s prickly.

Last fall my Grandfather Horse was failing. He was thirty, with a stack of terminal conditions, and the light gone from his eyes. She rallied and it didn’t feel fair. Because she was older. Because I just wanted him.

Now on her anniversary, she is pretending to graze. She nibbles dandelions, chews with fierce concentration, and then spits them out. There are no coyotes in her pen but she stays in shape goat wrestling. It’s a slow-motion event that involves more ear flinging.

Just yesterday, I was using a hair brush to thin out the steel wool covering her back. She’s itchy so she’ll stand for a minute. Then her butt teeters toward me, as her back feet bounce off the ground as a warning, followed by a kick with her knife-like hooves. Then both of us tiptoe quickly in opposite directions. She doesn’t love me. I respect that.

Lilith is a failed foster, too.  She’s alive but she has no place to go. She needs a few bowls of mush a day and between that, and the biting and kicking, she’s pretty inconvenient.

Maybe that word is the problem.

One hundred dollars; no questions asked. Colorado Horse Rescue Network is having an Open Door Event next month with our buyout program; we pay you for your unwanted horses. Then we do the very best we can for them. We’re pairing it with a free castration clinic. Spread the word!

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro

Photo Challenge: Reflecting

It’s the job of a hero
to stand invincible
dwarfing the sky
and giving us pause,
reflecting the sum of
our inadequacies and hopes
too precious to name.

Could I be that strong,
that resilient, with decades
behind me and a dwindling future?
She holds her ground, with
steady eyes and no apology.

Our nature demands that
we measure ourselves with
cold calculation and doubt,
though the hero makes no claims
against us. Instead, she holds
a space beside her. Step up,
lay down the rest.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Blog  FB  Email  Author  FB  Tweet  Amazon  
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Reflecting

Photo Challenge: Wanderlust

WM Edgar eye close

It’s the irresistible call
to scout hidden ravines and
gaze along the elevated vistas
from the edge of an eyelash.

A wish to explore generations
of memories, honor and courage
beyond self, cautiously stored in
the language of ancient travelers.

Ask permission at the gate,
take the solitary unmarked path
meandering the full distance
between his head and his heart.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Blog  FB  Email  Author  FB  Tweet  Amazon  
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Wanderlust

Photo Challenge: Surprise

Dawdling through chores, 
then rushing to a book event,
I checked the visor-mirror, 
and eek! -a long coarse hair
sprouting from my chin.

Aging requires a tolerance
for physical betrayal
but it helps to have 
friends who wear whiskers
like upside-down halos.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
Blog  FB  Email  Author  FB  Tweet  Amazon  
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Surprise

Photo Challenge: Dense

Stupid. Dense. Stubborn. Lazy.

Until we stop seeing others
in our own worst self-image,
these words will describe us.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro
(WordPress Photo Challenge is a weekly prompt to share a photo–I enjoy twisting these macro prompts to share our micro life here on the Colorado prairie. I take these photos with my phone, on my farm. No psych, definitely not high-tech.)

Dense

Negotiating; Not Fighting.

wm-lilith

It was last spring when this ancient donkey came to the farm. In the beginning, we thought she might not make it. Nobody likes change but we couldn’t tell if it was a hunger strike or her organs shutting down.

Then she nibbled and sipped and gave us a chance. She gained weight. Upper-thirties, we’re thinking. She has no teeth; she can’t graze. Her big old ears are mostly deaf and her eyesight is poor. We call her Lilith.

And I’m not saying Lilith’s quirky, but the only friend she’s made is the goat. And that only happened after she managed to kick him in the head.

Some days her walk was almost remotely fluid, all things considered.  But by fall, she took a bad step sometimes, and it developed into a limp. After a few months of actual nutrition, her hooves started changing. I thought I saw a crack, not that she let me near her hooves.

Let’s be clear; she was alive for a reason and it wasn’t being stupid about her feet. That’s how predators kill donkeys out on the prairie; they clamp down a leg and it’s all over.

At the same time, Lilith developed a new habit of coming up to strangers for a scratch. It almost created the illusion that she’d surrendered. I knew better. If my hand snuck a few inches south of her spine, her hind end came my way fast.

Our dance must have been a strange-looking event; Lilith teetering her butt around stiffly, her hind hooves twitching up and down fast enough to send me scurrying out of her way. Is this what all my years of dressage training have come to? A war of wits with a relic of a donkey. Well, yes.

Choosing to not pick a fight is always the right answer. But it doesn’t mean giving in either. I like to call it peaceful persistence.

Our process had to speed up now that she was hurting. I set a date with Roxann, my farrier, and came up with a plan.

I rigged up makeshift stocks by dragging an old gate into the corner of a pen. I secured the front of the gate to the fence panel at a corner using twine. It isn’t that twine works all that well, but it’s a tradition at this point. Sometimes I even think twine’s good luck. The gate was angled wide, with a bowl of feed at the ready.

Then I led her in and slowly lifted the gate, bringing it parallel to the fence panel, but not tight enough to squeeze Lilith. My friend, Nickole, offered her a snack which was apparently an insult. Lilith pulled back, I held onto the lead rope, and began slowly touching her shoulder. She was mad, nipping at me while I sweet-talked her.

Finally, I lifted the first foot. Good girl. For all the thousands of times I’ve cleaned hooves and never seen a rock, this time there is a sharp one wedged deep by her frog, and I went for it. There’s no telling how long it had been there; years maybe.

It probably would have been good to stop right there, but I worried about what I might find in her other front hoof. She was stomping mad when I got to her other side; meaning stomping quick enough that I couldn’t catch her hoof. Now would have been the time to get frustrated or even just more forceful. I went extra slow picking her hoof up, then quickly picked it clean. We let her hind feet wait. She paused to glare at me good and hard before walking away. Never underestimate a donkey’s memory.

The next week, all I saw was her backside. Instead of our usual scratch-fests, she only seemed to remember the atrocity, and spun gingerly around, kicking at me as she left. If her hooves felt better, she didn’t say so. I went to work melting her new grudge, and just when she was almost accepting scratches again, the farrier came.

The same chute set-up, except that I thought she’d had probably stressed her neck pulling back, so this time her head was loose at the front of the chute and I had a rope behind her rump. Roxann began slowly touching her leg, until finally, Lilith released a foot. Nickole, with the feed pan again; this time Lilith ate a few bites. She was so mad it is more like she bit her feed, the way she wanted to bite us.

The trimming took a few minutes but Lilith stood well. It was a long time on one front foot. After a rest and more sweet talk, lifting the second foot seemed much harder. It would have been the time most people would have doubled down to push on through. She’s little and frail; the three of us could have manhandled her easily.

Instead, my farrier started humming softly, and Lilith lost the will to attack her feed pan or any of us. We all praised her, grumpy as she was. When we finished, she limped away–sore and unhappy.

It didn’t help that the weather turned cold. I was back to wondering about her quality of life. Now she seemed all-over uncomfortable: Still sore in front and her hind seemed worse as well. I gave her a couple more weeks. Everything goes slower with elders.

Then I had the rescue’s vet out to check Lilith. She perked right up and walked toward the vet with curiosity. No way was she standing still for that stethoscope, though. I got the halter slowly over her nose before it occurred to her what that might mean. She walked off while I was trying to clasp the buckle. She kept on pushing and I kept on struggling. Think very slow motion bull-dogging, only now I’m fussing trying to get my gloves off, too. Negotiating; not fighting.

Then Lilith stood quietly in the stocks, picked up her feet fairly peacefully, and she still passively tried to bite the vet, as a matter of pride. The vet scratched her kindly. Who doesn’t love an opinionated old donkey?

Lilith’s diagnosis: Not bad for her age; let’s try some Previcox for the pain, and see if she can be more comfortable. Probably a decent diagnosis for me, too.

That’s how negotiation works; you refuse to escalate. In time, everyone gets to have their way. Just not all at once.

….
Anna Blake at Infinity Farm
Horse Advocate, Author, Speaker, Equine Pro