Advice from a Horse

Two weeks ago, Chico shared some advice from a dog in these trying times. Being older and infinitely wiser than most any dog, I thought I’d share some advice from this side of the fence.

Stay home. Stay safe.
So simple, and yet so difficult for humans to do. We domestic horses learned generations ago that being contained by humans might have some limitations, but it’s safe. If the four of us—Nevada, Rosa, Gidget and I—were to break out of our pasture, we’d probably go for a good run in the fields and then turn around and wander back (or run back if we spotted anything dangerous). Here at home, we don’t face dangers like predators and highway traffic and extreme weather without shelter. We’re safe.

Captivity? Or safety? I’m going to go with safety.

Enjoy the small, everyday stuff.
Like a sunny afternoon following a long winter, or a walk in the fields with a family member, a good meal, or a nice roll in the mud (okay, maybe not that last one for you).

Field walk with the “family”.

Eat well.
A healthy diet makes for a strong immune system and a sunnier disposition. But don’t be afraid to treat yourself now and then, even when your waistline suggests you shouldn’t. I’m in this category and frequently disregard what I should and shouldn’t eat. Have that one more carrot!

Oh how I’m looking forward to this stuff.

Reach out to those you love.
You don’t need to be physically close to people to show them you care. Without hands and arms and often on the other side of a fence, horses have to express our affection in other ways, like a nicker, from a distance, when we see a friend.

Just stopping in to say howdy.

This too shall pass.
Having hunkered down through many a blizzard, thunderstorm, frigid wind, ice-covered pasture, driving rain, hailstorm, heat wave, mosquito horde, and fly season, I am well qualified to tell you that this shall pass.

Calypso (Alta’s daughter) weathering a storm in November of 2013.

The strength is in the herd.
If we stay united, we’ll persevere. In all of the situations I listed above, we horses stick together, staying warm, swishing flies off one another, running around and playing to stay warm. When I first came to the ranch as a youngster, my fellow auction purchase, Dorado, was not even a year old. It was April and we got one of those typical spring-in-the-Rockies blasts of wet snow. Poor little dude was soaked and shivering so Nevada and Alta sandwiched him between them to block out the swirling snow and wind as best they could. Look out for one another, help one another, protect the vulnerable, stick together. There truly is strength in numbers.

Dorado, Alta, Nevada, and Me in the spring of 2004.

Be aware but not fearful.
Horses are prey animals and therefore always more fearful and vigilant than you humans. You’re accustomed to being in control, hanging out at the top of the food chain, having a cure for everything that ails. I’m a very cautious equine with a well-developed sense of self-preservation so I totally understand that you might be feeling afraid right now, for yourself, your family, your friends, especially when the enemy is sneaky and too small to see. And fear isn’t entirely a bad thing. For us prey animals, it helps to keep us safe.

That said, as a horse who has more than once been made a fool by overreacting to something completely innocuous, don’t let plastic bags turn into horse-eating monsters in your mind, and don’t focus so much on the scary rock that you miss the view from the trail.

Enjoy the view.

Until next time, stay well, stay home, hang in there, and don’t panic … Storm out.

The World is My Buffet

I realize the expression is that the world is my oyster, and I actually like oysters, the smoked ones from the can, but my world is about so much more than oysters. There is food to be found everywhere if you use your nose and you’re not too fussy. That’s me … great nose and not at all fussy. So, at this time of worrisome news and fears over there not being enough for everyone (although I’m quite sure there will be) I thought I’d share a few of my methods.

Even a foot of snow doesn’t stop me from finding and retrieving snacks.

T and Nollind often laugh, or freak out, when we’re out walking because I find snacks everywhere. The freaking out happens when my findings are chicken bones or other items potentially hazardous to my well being. They say I’d make a good stray because I’d never starve. Well, no harm in being prepared. I was abandoned when I was two, it could happen again. But that’s unlikely.

Logan used to miss so much … but all the more for me!

One of my favourite things to find in the fields around home are mushrooms, especially at this time of year when they’ve been freeze-dried. T was pretty concerned at first, always pulling me away from them, but after a few times she wasn’t close enough to stop me and I managed to down a few without dying, she decided to trust my instincts.. There’s only one type that I like and so far I haven’t had so much as a stomach ache. In fact, I learned that some mushrooms are very healthy for dogs, even preventing cancer. I’d like to think mine are on this list, although I’m no expert in mycology.

T and Nollind prefer to monitor what goes in my stomach.

I won’t go into a detailed list of things I find while out walking in the fields or along the canal because you probably wouldn’t find them very appetizing. My understanding is that humans generally don’t like eating the droppings of other animals (you’d be amazed at how tasty rabbit droppings are to name just one, not to mention high in digestive enzymes and B vitamins).

If I could just figure out how to open this thing I could give up on scavenging. Human food is sooooo good.

So what else do I find to eat out there in the world? Well, for starters, grass is pretty tasty, good for digestion, and loaded with healthy chlorophyll. I sure miss it in the winter time and am looking forward to when the green snacks start sprouting from the ground. Some think that a dog has worms if he starts eating grass, or there’s something missing in his diet, or is trying to throw up, but in most cases it’s just because we like it. Now if your dog starts gulping grass like he’s starving, there’s probably an upset stomach involved, but even that might just be indigestion, nothing to panic over unless the behaviour continues. Then it’s probably time for a trip to the V-E-T. (I can also spell W-A-L-K.)

Some very tasty grazing.

Another great place to seek out snacks is underneath picnic tables. I could make an entire meal out of what humans leave behind. The best tables are the ones where kids were eating. It is my favourite thing about small people, their tendency to drop food. So, a big thanks to all you parents out there who like taking your children on picnics or camping trips. Pieces of sandwiches, cookies, hot dogs, and all sorts of other things can be found underneath one of these magical structures during the outdoor dining season.

Table surfing.

My general advice is, don’t be too fussy. If you can’t go to your favourite restaurant because they’ve closed their doors during the pandemic, try making the dishes at home. Nollind made a delicious satay soup last week. If something you normally buy is missing from the grocery store shelves, try eating outside your normal shopping list. It probably won’t be field mushrooms or rabbit droppings, but use your imagination. If you don’t like it, you can always feed it to the dog! You’re welcome, dogs of the world.

Empty? Not if you’ve got a long tongue!

Advice from a Dog

I’ve never seen my peeps so glued to the news, especially T. She’s typically more aware of the nature around her than what’s happening in the rest of the world, but this global pandemic has definitely got her attention. Mine too. Even though I’m a dog and not at risk of getting sick or passing it on.

The news is generally not good. The virus is spreading rapidly, it has a higher rate of death than its flu-cousins, and the necessary response has been to close borders, stop travelling, shut businesses, and keep people away from each other. Luckily for us canines, the humans haven’t been told to stay away from dogs. Now that would be a crisis for all of us!

Anyway, at this time of trouble and strife, I thought I might share some doggie wisdom (with a few additions in keeping with the current situation) from a poem called “All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From My Dog”, author unknown.

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.
— But, in the interests of social distancing, just keep driving joyfully, don’t stop and visit anyone.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
— Unless they’ve recently been out of the country or hanging out with a sick friend.

Run, romp, and play daily.
— Even if it’s just around your apartment while you’re self-isolating.

Be loyal.
— Yup.

Never pretend to be something you’re not.
— Like hiding a cough and pretending you’re well so that you can go out to pick up a case of beer or a pizza. (Or dressing like a bunny. I’ve been sitting on this photo for two years and I’m only including it now because I know everyone could use a good laugh. You’re welcome. )

Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.
— Good advice in any and all circumstances.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
— Like a treatment or vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.
— Or possibly just stand six feet away, say comforting things, and wave.

Thrive on affection and let people touch you – enjoy back rubs and pats on your neck.
— Again, I’d go with waving.

When you leave your yard, make it an adventure.
— Isn’t it always? But yes, do that, and take your dog with you.

Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
— Tempers will flair as the life you know is temporarily put on pause. So, if you must get your point across, do it as gently as possible.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t pout – run right back and make friends.
— In the event of item above.

Bond with your pack.
— This one is super important. You’re all each other has at the moment so stick together.

On cold nights, curl up in front of a crackling fire.
— Or make a cup of tea and cuddle with your dog … or spouse works too.

When you’re excited, speak up.
— Call or email or text a friend!

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
— I know you’re having to miss some of your favourite things right now, so rejoice in the little stuff.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
— Because this you can still do.

If you stare at someone long enough, eventually you’ll get what you want.
— It’s true. It works. Unless you’re under quarantine. In that case, don’t bother.

Don’t go out without ID.
— Or just don’t go out. Stay home with your dog.

Leave room in your schedule for a good nap.
— Because it’s a great way to give your immune system a boost.

Always give people a friendly greeting.
— Like a wave … from at least six feet away.

If it’s not wet and sloppy, it’s not a real kiss.
— Which basically means that kissing has been postponed until further notice.

That’s my advice for how to get through these next weeks and even months. Instead of going out to a movie or concert or party, use this time to catch up on those tasks at home that have been sitting on a shelf (Nollind’s actually cleaning shelves), tackle a creative project (T’s writing another novella), or practice a skill/learn a new one (T and Nollind have been playing their guitars almost every evening).

Organizing projects always get worse before they get better.

As for me, well, things really aren’t that different. I eat, I nap, I walk, I follow my people around the house and the farm. It might start to feel a little weird when the weeks go by without getting together with some of our favourite people, but rest assured, we’ll be in touch!