The Perfect Day

“Should I go to Campo?” Sara’s text came in at 9am. Most of the riders are out of school for the week of Thanksgiving and riding was starting at 10. The answer, of course, was yes.

Me: “I have to meet Rachel and Emma at Quail, but I will send Savannah Yee to join you at Campo as soon as she shows up.”

Sara: “Yeah!”

Rachel and Emma and Allison meet me at Quail. Rachel and Emma start sweeping and raking and tacking. Allison has put the halter on CG and starts to leisurely brush CG’s back. Allison starts in on her favorite subject. “I found a video that actually shows you how to hook up a cart.” This reminds me that I have failed to look at Allison’s most recent set of links about pony carts she has sent me. “They demonstrate with a mini [horse], but it’s about pony carts.” She strokes CG’s back with the brush a couple more times than continues. “How fancy a cart do you want? I think we should have a sun shade. Would you like me to make one?” At the thought of making a sun shade, Allison’s face has brightened considerably. Emma and Rachel have finished tacking up Stoney, have raked the paddock and mucked the stalls. Allison has now progressed to the middle of Stoney’s back with her brushing.

“Rachel, why don’t you mount up and you and Emma can go keep Sara company at Campo while Allison and I finish tacking CG.” It’s now 10:20 and Savannah has not shown up.

“Riding started at 10. We are about to leave Quail. Where is Savannah?” To this text her father replied, “Asleep.” Savannah had assumed riding was in the afternoon. “If she get’s to Campo before we leave, she can ride.” She did. She arrived at 11, shortly after Allison and I finally made it over.

The air was still cool from the cold November night, but the sun was strong enough to warm the skin. The air was fresh and clear. More importantly, for the first time since mid-August, we weren’t in a hurry. Savannah finally uploaded the video of the other Savannah doing her “flippy thing”. Rachel and Emma tried to get a video of Chavali making her fart noises, a source of amusement for years that has never been captured on video. They gave up and settled instead for taking pictures of Stoney sticking his tongue out. Sara and Savannah finished the set of mini, upright ponytails in Cowgirl’s mane that make her look like she’s got a cock’s comb. Allison swept out the tack room and shook out the mats. We were all really just waiting for the farrier to finish with Freedom, but we probably would have dilly dallied for almost that long anyways.

We headed off at noon. Within two minutes, Sara says, “Let’s play the leaf game.” This was followed seconds later with Savannah saying, “No, let’s wait for berries!” to which a chorus of “Berries! Berries! Berries!” was to be heard from Emma, Rachel and Sara. Never was a better use put to the cascades of pyracantha berries that compete with the feral plums for most common roadside shrub in Los Altos Hills. The berry game is a variation on the leaf game, which, as far as I can tell, involves a lot of throwing of berries at each other, while riding.

The girls harvested arm loads on La Paloma, the first good berry site, all of which have been carefully plotted by them, and berry throwing commenced. Even Allison, who usually eschews such frivolity, joined in.

When it comes to order of horses, Velvet is always first, because she fastest and will race anyone in front of her, and Chavali second because she also fast, probably faster than Velvet, but is chicken and refuses to lead. But after that, it’s a toss up, mostly because we don’t know what Cowgirl will do on any given day. Her speed and desired line position depends on her mood, her aches and pains, the air temperature and on whomever is riding her. Being a seriously bad ass pony, she prefers to follow right behind Chavali, regardless of whether she’s up to keeping up or not. She was not. By the time we got to Foothill College, she had to be moved to the back of the line. We took off on one of the many nice “canter up a hill”s, this one being behind the baseball field. We stopped at the top. I turned around and counted four horses behind me. Allison had decided to get off and walk. She and CG could be seen at the very bottom of the hill, taking their own, sweet time. Even mounted I don’t think they would have done better. Much of the time Allison seems to be on another planet. When she rides CG, CG goes and joins her there and is perfectly happy about it.

The berry throwing, and picking, continued till we reached the Rhus Ridge parking lot. Allison, who has a three hour limit, tops, got picked up and Kayla took her spot. Sara traded horses with me because Velvet loves to blast up Rhus Ridge Road and so does Sara, while Freedom and I are content not to.

Being the day before Thanksgiving, it was actually quiet. No gardeners, no construction, no trash trucks. With the silencing of human activity, the natural world delightfully comes alive. You can hear the insects and the birds. You could feel the grass, newly sprouted from recent rain, ecstatically pulling sunlight in for photosynthesis as this would be one of the last days in many where there would as glorious an opportunity to do so. Everything smells wonderful rather than full of fumes. The dirt/rocked road is still slightly springy from the rains as opposed to rock hard or slick as it often can be.

Sara, Emma, Rachel and Savannah made it up to windmill pastures about ten minutes before Kayla and myself; all of them beaming with happiness after flying up the road, while Freedom and Cowgirl were beaming with happiness at not having had to fly up the road.

Cowgirl was happy to fly along the trail that wiggles it’s way between the pastures and the trail into Hidden Villa, as were all the horses. Savannah said she felt like she was running barrels.

Sara and I had switched horses again. I followed the rest of them down the hill, dismounted and leading Velvet as it is not only difficult for Velvet to walk down hills, but it is easy for me to do so. I met up with the girls at the tree covered picnic area next to Adobe creek that is at the base of the Hidden Villa trails. I wasn’t far behind them, but they’d had enough time to bring all five horse’s faces together so that they were in a star shape. They said they made this formation in order to take a picture to use for the instagram profile of KLH. I have yet to see it.

They insisted we get a group picture at HV. Shortly after taking the photo, a truck pulling an empty cart rolled, slowly, down the road. Though we are regularly passed by huge, roaring beasts of vehicles of every make and model, this rather tame, slow moving cart was something Chavali just couldn’t abide. This is only a so-so picture of her response. What’s not clear are the fact that her eyes are totally bugged out:

Chavali and the cart

Rachel, on Stoney, was in the lead now. After the dreadful cart passed, she headed towards the entrance at a brisk trot. There was a herd of pigs that were being allowed to forage in the field next to the road. On seeing the trotting horses, they all lifted up their heads and their tails and trotted jauntily and side by side in a long line, right at the horses. The pigs were obviously as happy about the day as everyone else and more than pleased by the appearance of trotting horses. The horses were not happy about the pigs. We stopped trotting.

There were no pigs along Moody road and though there are times Moody could be classified as a highway, today we had no traffic, except a few cyclists, one of whom being my sister who was on her way back home after going on a bike ride with my husband. She took pictures of us as we zipped down Moody, trotting or cantering most of the way; no one too hot, too cold, too tired, too stressed, too hungry; everyone just plain happy.

The last twenty minutes was spent throwing berries.

When Kayla’s mom came to pick her up, I asked Kayla, “if you were to give this ride a number between one and ten, what would it be?” Without a moments hesitation, Kayla enthusiastically replied, “A Ten!”

The cold weather starts on Friday, with rain on it’s way Friday night and staying for the next week. Chances of a ride this nice happening again anytime before March is slim. Awfully nice when beautiful weather coincides with a school holiday. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, boy is it sweet!

The Power of Love

“I think there’s something in her ear.” Savannah had just got the bit in Velvet’s mouth and was about to loop the poll band over her ear. The base of Velvet’s left ear was crusty and oozing. I grabbed a tube of antibiotic and headed over. I expelled some ointment onto my finger and started to reach up towards her ear, but Velvet threw her head up high in the air. Velvet is one of the more co-operative and amenable horses I’ve ever met. She stands stock still as you squeeze any number of compounds; wormer, bute paste, banamine; into her mouth. You can dress wounds, give her shots or spray her for flies without her even flinching. But apparently she does NOT want her ears to be touched. Savannah Yee is a naturally gifted horse trainer with far more patience than I as well as a great deal of kindness. I handed Velvet back to her and said, “See what you can do about getting her to let us touch her ears.” She spent the next twenty minutes on the project. Velvet glared at her menacingly the whole time.

Later in the day, after sending Velvet backwards up the driveway when she threw her head up and by also moving very fast, I was able slap some antibiotic on the ooze. I did not, however, get a good look at it. After a couple of days, it was clear that the vet needed to come out and sedate her in order to get a good look. Even with sedation, Velvet was not exactly co-operative. The vet injected what was most likely an infected tick bite site with antibiotics and left us with steroid antibiotic cream. That was a month ago.

Velvet loves Shana. Or at least I am under that impression. Velvet is a particularly agreeable, big hearted horse, but she does prefer Shana. She softens and her eyelids half close when Shana strokes her neck. That Shana loves Velvet is without a doubt. Shana used to say, “I have a spot in my heart of all horses, only I have a bigger spot for Velvet.” Recently, Shana had a dream that Lisa, Velvet’s owner, had to sell her. Shana woke up sobbing. We are hoping that is just not going to happen.

Today Shana noticed that the ooze is back. Only Shana would have noticed it because it is only a tiny bit of ooze, but the tick bite site is undeniably starting to fester again. I tried to examine Velvet’s ear: Nothing doing! The Saturday crew was all assembled and getting geared up. Putting everyone on hold for an hour, maybe more, while I played “wrong thing hard, right thing easy” with Velvet and her ear was out of the question. I turned to Shana as said, “I need you to see what you can do about having Velvet be a little better about having her ears touched.” At best, I expected Shana to be able to get her hand within an inch or two of Velvet’s ear without her pulling away, but not more. Two minutes later I looked over at Shana and Velvet to find Velvet’s head dropped practically into Shana’s lap. Shana had her hand on Velvet’s ear and Velvet looked like she was thoroughly enjoying having her ears scratched and massaged.

Well I’ll be!

Velvet's Ear

Horse Poop

“Freedom has diarrhea.” Skylay was standing at Freedom’s back end, holding his tail to one side. Freedom is a paint horse, but mostly white and the three inch wide streak of brown muck running the length of his white leg was particularly startling. The barn owner likes to feed grass clippings for dinner. He says he’s done this for twenty-five years and never had a problem. The clippings often give the horses diarrhea, but never even close to this severe before, in large part due to the fact that I normally make every effort to feed my own hay with the clippings after he mows.  I had been unable to do so the night before.

Freedom ate his lunch bucket of pellet and bran mash happily so we decided to ride. Freedom is famous for liking to poop while out on the trail. First thing he does when we head out, is leave a big, fat pile right outside the gate because he is, quite simply, happy to be out. Most of the horses will relieve themselves once, sometimes twice on a ride. Freedom is far more productive. One day we counted seventeen poops, though that was early on in his stay with us and he no longer feels the need for that excessive degree of expression.

He did poop immediately outside the gate, as expected, but, since his food had been flushed by the diarrhea, it was just one, mushy “ball”. I’m fastidious about removing big piles from the pathways and little piles if they are on someone’s driveway, but Freedom seemed to leave a single mush ball about every half mile. Hardly worth noticing; certainly not in a roadway.

Towards the end of our ride, Freedom was straining to poop and would even stop mid-canter. This was amusing the first time it happened as he got “rear ended” by Jackson, who was being ridden by Skylar. But as it continued, I became concerned.

I e-mailed Savannah, who owns Freedom, and Kathy, her mom, that night, with a picture of the poop smear. I requested they ask the barn owners to please give advance notice of feeding clippings so that I can have a better chance of getting hay to the horses. I also said I’d be there earlier than usual the next day, just in case.

I got out to the barn 10:45 the next morning. First thing I do is pull Freedom out, tie him and feed him his pellet and bran mash lunch. Freedom is a chow hound. This morning he took two bites and stopped, his head hanging low over the bucket. I put him back out in the paddock. He lay down; right by the fence. On the vets instructions, I dosed Freedom with Banamine, walked him for an hour, then held a warm mash of wheat bran, mineral oil and salt up to his nose, which he only lipped. I stayed with him, mostly walking him, until two, when Kathy, who’d been in Pleasanton, and Savannah, who Kathy pulled out of school, showed up to take over.

Kathy and Savannah continued to walk and watch Freedom for the next four hours. The vet made it out around six that evening and Freedom got “tubed”. He had a severe impaction and inflamed spleen, aggravated by what appeared to also be sand colic. The severity of the diarrhea had managed to so complete eliminate his intestinal flora that he was then unable to digest his hay breakfast, creating the impaction. He was also given another, larger, dose of Banamine.

If Freedom had passed a huge amount of oily poop by morning, he could be fed 1/4 flake hay. In an effort to be thorough, Kathy left a note to me on the board with this information, but it wasn’t terribly clear. Freedom did poop, but not nearly enough. The barn owner, following the instructions on board, fed 1/4 flake of hay. This did not help.

All day Friday, either Savannah, Kathy or I, walked and cared for Freedom; forcing feeding salt, so he would drink, and feeding warm mash and psyllium, which, with the application of copious amounts of molasses, we were successful at getting him to eat. He still strained when he pooped, but the droppings had, gradually through the day, gone from 1/4 cup in size to 1/2 cup to 1 cup to 2 cups. Still, Freedom was clearly not well. Same for the next day.

It was now Saturday, with the usual, enthusiastic group of Saturday riders. Savannah took Freedom the long route to the arena with us. Pure bliss for Freedom is getting to roll in the sand at the arena. When we let him have it to himself, he just stood there, obviously still feeling very poorly, kicking his belly, not rolling and not drinking. At this point, Kathy suggested we trailer him to their house, where they have a small paddock, so that they could care for him more attentively. The last poop he produced before being trailered to their house was about 2 and 1/2 cups; the best yet, but not nearly good enough.

Finally, on Sunday around 3pm, Freedom pooped up a storm. There was rejoicing all around! Four days straight of nursing her horse and watching him in constant pain and distress took it’s toll on Savannah. Even though he would probably have been happier back out with his buddies on his acre and a half in Los Altos Hills, Savannah has kept him at her home for the remainder of the week, just so that she can go and hug him whenever she feels the need. The barn owners apologized to Kathy and Savannah and have agreed to stop feeding clippings. The horses really did enjoy the mountains of fresh grass, but it was too much.

A couple times a year, the pathways are used by one organization or another for races or runs of some sort. As the paths can be indistinct, when there is an organized run/walk, white, chalk arrows appear on the paths and roads. There must have been one of these runs on Sunday. Walking to the arena on Monday, there was an abundance of arrows, with one exception. In the middle of one of the streets, was a 3ft in diameter doubled, white circle, with multiple arrows pointing to one of Freedom’s 1/4 cup droppings, now completely dried up, with “EWWW!!!!” written in large white letters on it. I really do understand that stepping in a big, fat poop patty in the middle of a pathway is extremely unpleasant, which is why I take the time to remove them. But a tiny, dried, drop that’s been run over by cars in the middle of a road? Personally, I’d rather deal with a mountain of poop than with the nastiness and entitlement of so many of the people I meet now a days. For the record, it is most likely that the offended individual was NOT a resident of Los Altos Hills.

Hogged

Westwind Community Barn is having a Halloween Horse Show. Usually it is on a Sunday. This year, the show is on a Saturday. I asked the girls; Shana, Sophia, Sara, Jackie and Savannah; if they wanted to go. Savannah already has plans for how she is going to dress Freedom up as a pumpkin. Shana said, “We should make them all super hero themed! Jackson can be Batman and Cowgirl can be Robin!” Sophia said, “No, Jackson should be the Batmobile and I’ll be batman.” I told her that making a horse into a car was a problem, but that maybe she should be Catwoman. Sara said, “I’m going to paint Stoney red and have him go as the devil.”

Along with entering the costume class, both Sara and Savannah want to participate in the show show. Saturday was a warm day. While Shana and Sophia bathed Velvet, Savannah coached Sara on what she needs to know and do for a horse show. Jackie practiced taking Jackson over trot poles. Sara prefers to ride Chavali, but she has, wisely, decided to ride Stoney in the show. I’m really, really glad Savannah is coaching Sara because I know next to nothing about riding in a show.

After Velvet was washed, she had to be tied in the shade so she would dry. Jackie had to leave because she had softball games later in the afternoon so Sophia took over riding Jackson. Shana set up jumps for Chavali. Savannah set to work using driving reins on first Cowgirl, then Jackson and lastly Freedom. Cowgirl spent all this time taking a nap in the middle of the arena.

The plan for the day, as it now almost always is on Saturday’s, was to ride home via Clark’s field. I could not get anyone to show up to help us get the horses home, which left Savannah ponying Chavali and Cowgirl trotting along footloose and fancy free. Sara has taken it upon herself to keep CG in line by riding behind her on Stoney and carrying one of the longer dressage whips. Before we headed out, Sophia asked why we never rode around the backside of the baseball fields, where there is a fairly nice trail. I said it was because there were usually baseball games on or we were pressed for time, but today it would be fine. Fine except for the fact that there are gates to the field on the backside that were left open. This did not go unnoticed by Cowgirl who came oh so close to making a dash for it. I’m positive she’s planning for next time.

Cowgirl is becoming an expert at traveling along with the herd but without a rider. She made it through Clark’s field and back to the barn without any input from me.

Shana got picked up at the Gardner Bullis parking lot. Sophia had to run right off when we got back to Campo. That left just Savannah and Sara at the barn. They were still talking about what they needed to do for the show. At one point Savannah says, “What! are we going to do about Stoney’s mane!” He’s the only horse who’s appearance is not improved by having his raggedy little mane braided. Both girls looked at him and frowned. I said, “we need to roach his mane.” Looking at Sara, I added, “This is where you give the horse a buzz cut. In the western world it’s called ‘hogging’ the mane.” They liked this idea very much. It may not improve his appearance all that much, but it will meet show requirements. Although, I’m willing to bet that the red devil paint won’t entirely wash off, leaving him a pink horse with a buzz cut for the show.

I am definitely looking forward to a month after when he will be sporting a mohawk.

Deb’s Day

“Allison forgot her boots”. This does not surprise me. It’s the first full week of school and even the nuerotypical kids are discombobulated. Fortunately, Allison lives all of five minutes away. Anita said, “Yeah, if this were Garrods, she wouldn’t be riding! I’d say, ‘too bad, kid!’ ” But it’s not Garrod’s, so Anita turns around and goes back home while Allison and I start in on the paddock, or rather, I start in on cleaning the paddock. Allison works laconically and ineffectively at sweeping up the scattered, uneaten hay. A huge Dr. Who fan, I’d expected Allison to be uncontainable with stories about the latest Dr. Who premiere. “Tell me about the new Dr. Who?” Allison: “It was OK.” “What was the story?” Allison: “Oh, they had the old Dr. Who on for five minutes.” I finally gave up and started mucking the stalls, at which point Allison says, “common core says we are suppose to have two hours of math class a day.” She looks at me glaringly and continues, “I was hoping for a good math teacher. I don’t have a good math teacher.” Somehow I don’t think it would kill the schools to listen to some of this feedback. I’m sure Allison is correct about that teacher. Her face looks like a storm cloud.

There is more to tell about school. As Allison talks, her mood gradually changes. When I emerge from the stalls out into the paddock, I find Allison in the middle of putting a very thick, white saddle pad on CG. Me: “Allsion, that’s Stoney’s pad.” Allison, “Oh yeah.” She returns Stoney’s pad to the tack shack and pulls out the brown pad that is just a tad too small, but has the many hearts on it. When Allison goes to get the saddle, I notice that CG is neither tied up nor even wearing a halter. Allison is being patient beyond belief; gentle and slow in her movement with lots of caresses and praise. Allison tells me she’s going to try and completely tack up CG without a halter and without CG putting her ears back. On the off chance that someone who doesn’t ride with me reads this, they should know that not only does CG put her ears back frequently when being tacked, she also usually tries to bite. But she was doing neither.

When it came time for the girth, CG ran away. I thought, “Well, so much for that idea.” It took about ten minutes, but after taking to opportunity to respond to any number of text messages, I looked up to find CG fully tacked, still without halter. Allison explained that she wasn’t able to fully tighten the girth. But it was good enough for me.

Allison waiting to mount up until we got to the bottom of the hill, but before doing so she said, “Today isn’t a ‘make the pony happy day’, it’s a ‘make the pony confident day’.” I’ll say.

We only rode to Campo where she untacked CG and both CG and Stoney were turned loose and kicked up their heels in the Jensen’s pasture.

CG and Stoney really did need a walk so I talked Allison into riding CG for a bit to keep Savannah company while she rode Freedom on the Clark’s field loop. I followed on the bike with Stoney in one hand and Dante in the other. Half way down Fremont, I said, “I feel like I’m a circus act.” Savannah said, “for that you should be riding a unicycle.”

Allison and I parted ways with Savannah at Alexander Place and returned to the barn via the lollipop trail. Since I had Stoney, I led the way. After about five minutes of watching me stumble and swear, Allison said, “I can take Dante.” She repeated this several times over the course of the next five minutes, the last time having a note of desperation in her voice. It was just too much to have to watch the ridiculousness of trying to ride a bicycle while ponying the stubborn gelding and the not very well trained, 100lb dog. With her taking Dante and me leading Stoney, she said we were now a matched set.

Looks like this fall, most Monday’s will be just Allison and I. I am looking forward to it very much.

Picture below is of Allison, Stoney, CG and Chavali in the Jensen’s pasture.Deb's Day

Backyard Horses

Tequila’s eyes are half shut and she is holding her head level to Carol’s as Carol gently brushes her face.  As she brushes, Carol is saying softly, “That’s a good girl.”  In my six years in Los Altos Hills, I’ve never known Carol to ride.  If I’m not mistaken, Carol is seventy plus.  She had a horse who was old and unable to be ridden and who eventually died.  Tequila, a small, bay Arab mare, was Diane’s favorite horse.  Tequila has all that is good about an Arab; smart, alert, nimble, hardy and sensitive; but with an almost unheard of equanimity of temperament.  In other words, Tequila is a treasure among horses.   But she suffered a serious injury that left her physically compromised.  Sure that Carol would give her a life time home, Diane gave Tequila to Carol.

“I know they are going to want me to canter, but if she doesn’t want to do it, we aren’t going to.  Her leg, you know.  Sometimes it bothers her”  Carol is at the LAHHA horse show.  She’s come to support Judy, but genuinely seems to enjoy the idea of participating.

Carol, whose countenance is more often than not dour, has the sweetest look on her face.  Carol is on the LAHHA board of directors.  I never understood what she was doing there until now.  She really loves horses and she loves them in a way that only people who have lived with their horse on their own property can.

Susan was also at the show, but not with a horse.  Susan is in her sixties and has owned horses and kept them on her property most of her adult life. Right now she has Gizmo and Roscoe, Roscoe being, I think, thirty years-old.  She told me, “Ray [Susan’s husband] used to have an Arab.  She died of a stone in her bell. It was a wood chip she ingested probably as a baby that got covered in calcium over the years.”  This is not uncommon and is technically referred to as an enterolith.  “Ray loved that horse so much, he never got another horse.”  Enteroliths are common in Arab’s who are fed California alfalfa. Susan still feeds her horses straight alfalfa.

We ran into Ray a couple days later as we were riding back home from Rhus Ridge.  Ray and Susan live at the bottom of Rhus Ridge Road.  If Ray is home, he always comes out and talks with us and the horses.  This particular day he made sure to let me know to be careful of the sides of the road because that’s where the rattlesnakes like to hang out.  Ray should know.  He used to be responsible for patrolling what is now the north end of Rancho San Antonio open space when it was still part of the Duvenick property.  He also had a wonderful story about an ex-race horse he owned who was “really fast”.  Some hot shot rider got on her and she took off so fast that “her feet were up at the ears and her head on her [the horses] butt, but she stayed on.”

Out of all my horses, Ray has taken a shine to Stoney. He looks right past the flashy paint and pretty palomino to the ordinary looking, small sized, but built for work quarter horse.  And Stoney likes Ray.  Ray doesn’t know enough to not feed his horses alfalfa, but he does know something about horses that I never will.  He communes with them; they mind meld.  I have the feeling that if Ray got on Stoney, Stoney would do anything for him.  Same as Tequila with Carol.

This phenomena is not just limited to Ray and Carol.  My land lady Jan has “the gift” also. Velvet is a problem for the farrier.  Her front hooves turn in and her rear hooves turn out.  Her pasterns are upright and it’s likely her hip joints are deformed.  When her left, rear leg has to be held high for the shoe to get nailed on, it causes her a great deal of pain, her reaction to which is to pull her hoof away, sometimes mid-nailing, with the exposed nail point acting like a razor as she whips her hoof past the farriers leg.  I’ve trained her, we’ve doped her, I’ve braced her; everything we can think of and it we often barely make it through the shoeing.  I have started bringing Velvet over to the Quail barn because the parking pad is dead flat and it seems to help Velvet to be on completely level ground.  But what helps Velvet more is Jan.   She took the lead rope from me, held Velvet’s head close up to hers and started talking.  I’m thinking, “What good will that do?!”  Answer to that was, “tons”.  Jan kept saying, “You’re such a good girl!”  Low and behold, Velvet held still for the farrier.  This is not in any horse training book I know of.  Even chip-on-her-shoulder-bigger-than-the-moon Cowgirl has softened under Jan’s constant application of quiet affection.

The backyard horse owners, the people who have lived day after day, in close and regular contact with their horses display a degree of connection and understanding of the horse that I have never seen in even the best of training.  They can be ignorant in ways that are infuriating, but from living with a horse and loving them, there is a relationship and understanding that develops that can be achieved in no other way.  Boarding a horse at a stable can not even come close.

 

A Horse Community

We have a computer game in the works: “Ride Your Horse Around Los Altos Hills”. Horse poops on the wrong driveway? You loose five points, which means you only have one dog treat, but, oh no, you need to pass three dogs! Watch out for the deer scaring, sideways water burst on level two. If you get hit by that, you land on the ground and are out of the game. Gain five points if you turn and face before the cement truck passes. It takes three points to make it under the freeway, but if you get to the packard trail, you get ten points of fun flying up it. Then you lose five because your horse got spooked by President Obama’s helicopter because he was in los altos hills stumping for money. The ultimate prize would be securing a lease on the Maple Leaf “farm” property and getting to live at the barn with the horses happily ever after.

In our game, as in life, obstacles abound. Drivers driving 50mph down Robleda or Purissima. Having to walk for blocks in the middle of the road because of rows of gardening trucks or construction vehicles or party guests all parked, illegally, on a pathway. Having to catch your horse before it crashes to the ground because you have to cross a sealed driveway that wasn’t roughed up as town ordinance requires or on the long, fancy, new, paved with stones driveway at the end of Newbridge court where there is supposed to be pathway because there is an ordinance requiring all new construction to build pathway when it is adjacent to the property as is the case with this part of the path.  After building a 5 million dollar house, the owner was incensed at having to put out another 20K to build the pathway, so the Town turns a blind eye.  But heaven forbid your horse should poop on the fancy driveway. After all, someone’s child might step in the poop, walk into the house with poop on their shoe and the, horror of horror, contract tetanus!

Believe it or not, we have a good deal of success with getting the bikes to slow down because you can yell at them, but not so much the skateboarders; illegal by town ordinance, but a regular fixture on La Paloma.

Los Altos Hills wants to call itself a “Horse Community”. They love seeing the horses. We get our pictures taken and oohs and ahhs every day. It also, conveniently, raises the property value. We are finally, praise the lord, getting an official crossing on Purissima where the arena is. But that leaves a dozen or so other pathway crossings, including the one where the angry motorist slammed her car into the back of one of the horses because, I’m guessing, she felt, even though it was the correct a proper place to cross according to the way the pathway was designed at the spot, that we didn’t have the right to be there. Hey, we’d even settle for them enforcing maybe just one of their ordinances? How about making sure people don’t park on the pathways? And could they keep their trash containers off them also? Heaven forbid they should do something really helpful, like putting in speed bumps.

No, we don’t get that. We get, “You’ve got to do something about that manure! We can’t have children getting tetanus!”, which is the equivalent of thinking you are going to get AIDS from a toilet seat. I do remove manure so long as doing so doesn’t create risk for the riders.  I had one woman tell me last week that she was horrified at the thought that the children would get manure on their bike tires while riding to school.  A more horrifying thought is a world where the kids don’t have access to horses.

Owning the Maple Leaf property would solve a lot of problems. But even if we could come up with the $27 million asking price, it does seem ethically questionable to spend that much money on a property for horses rather than, say, digging wells in Africa or providing heat and housing on the Navajo Nation. The $30,000 in property taxes would also be a bit of an obstacle. Seems it wouldn’t be all that much trouble to make a few, minor, adjustments that would allow the horse to be out and about without having to run a gauntlet. Time will tell if they really want their horse community.