We say goodbye to Chiko

Even though spring on a farm is all about new life, our 13-year-old old Australian terrier Chiko chose that time to pass away, thus closing an era. He gave us notice, however, and our youngest son, who was Chiko’s main human, was able to make it to the farm from Colorado to say goodbye to his dog.

Chiko, we will miss you.

filly nuzzles dog

Asta the filly says hello to the canine senior statesman, Chiko.

kitten and dog

Young and old: Chiko and kitten Fiona cuddle for a nap.

From an earlier time: Bear, rear, and Chiko were road trip troopers.

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Two sweethearts–one horse, one tiny human–out for a stroll

A dear friend and her granddaughter visited the farm one day in September, and with my friend’s encouragement, the little girl took a very attentive Isabella for a walk.

The way that mare walks so very carefully with her small charge remains one of the sweetest horse things I’ve ever seen.

Amazing Grace: This Slick By Design Filly Is Phenomenal

You can’t beat good breeding. What do you get when you cross an amazing barrel racing stallion with a foundation-bred Quarter Horse mare? An athletic foal with a great brain. Already a pro at being halter broke at the tender age of six weeks, watch how Gracie (as we call her) keeps her cool even when some of the other horses rush the fence. And p.s., I didn’t know Matt was taping when I made the “left brain” comment.

Spring Sprang But Where Was Our Foal? (warning for the squeamish: mare giving birth photo ahead)

She was worth the wait.

Isabella’s due date came and went, and each night, we brought her into the foaling stall, checking the foaling cam on a regular basis, and each night she would cock a hip and sleep in the corner.

This went on for three weeks.

The vet came out–twice–and checked her; everything was fine. Isabella was a “maiden mare”–this was her first foal–and they can be known to take longer.

I stalked her for any signs of impending labor, and would take photos and videos and send them to interested parties, saying, Look, this could be it!–such as the day she squirreled her tail up and down all day, a sign of impending labor.

Finally, one chilly night in early March, Isabella restlessly paced the foaling stall. Fortified by ice cream bars, I kept one eye on the foaling cam and one eye on old reruns of Sex & The City all night long as she paced and paced and paced.

All. Night. Long.

And then in the morning she seemed to quit labor; once again cocking a hip and going to sleep. Matt and Emma, no doubt thinking she was “crying wolf” yet again, both went to work, and I continued my vigil solo. Isabella seemed to desperately want out of her foaling stall, so around 9:30 a.m. I opened the stall and she gratefully lumbered into what we have dubbed “the playpen”–the foal-safe paddock just off the foaling stall.

And suddenly Isabella went crazy. No doubt rocked by contractions, she began racing around the paddock, as fast as her big belly would allow. Then she stood stock still and turned to look at her posterior in wonder as her water broke.

And then she dropped to the grass and began to deliver.

mare in labor

Three weeks overdue, Isabella finally gets down the business of delivering her foal.

Warning! Graphic birth shot coming up!

foal being born

As the foal emerged, I pulled the amniotic sac away from its muzzle so it could breathe.

Aaaand then Isabella gave me a heart attack by standing up with this much foal emerging from her. She began walking around, me following as casually as possible, hoping I could catch the 100-pound baby before it the ground.

Thankfully, Isabella dropped back down. She seemed exhausted, so with the next contraction, I gently helped pull out the foal.

It was a girl!

We named her Grace. Here’s a video her first steps:

And we are happy to report that mom and baby are doing just fine.

Nothing helps celebrate spring better than the arrival of a healthy foal.

mare and foal

Isabella and Grace, a fine-boned girl with a beautiful blaze and a snip on her face, two white socks, and lovely legs.

The Kitten and the Canine

I blame the cats.

I know that transitioning a new cat or kitten to the current residents can be tough, but Vincent and Piper not only ignored the orphan kitten Fiona, they hissed and batted at her whenever she toddled near.

cat and kitten

Vincent ignores Fiona, who has emerged from her crate yet keeps her distance.

We kept the kitten in a large crate for her own protection, and would allow her out only under close supervision. In search of a pack of her own, and at the risk of using a cliche, Fiona went to the dogs. To this day, I think the little cat firmly believes she is one.

kitten with a bone

“Well, the other dogs seem to like this thing, so I guess I’ll chew on it, too.”

It started with Chiko, our old Aussie terrier. The elder statesman was the first to be tolerant, even affectionate, of Fiona, and she would nap with him whenever she could.

kitten and dog

Young and old: Chiko and Fiona cuddle for a nap.

Then the kitten discovered Levi, Matt’s black Lab. In Levi, Fiona found her soul mate.

dog and kitten

A nap in the sun is a great way to spend the day.

I got the first inkling of the strength of the relationship one day in the kitchen, when Fiona ran under my foot and I accidentally stepped on part of her tail. She squealed in protest and ran! –straight to Levi, where she hid against his chest and he looked at me with what I can only describe as reproach.

What can I say? When love strikes,  you just gotta go with it.

kitten playing with lab

Levi’s tail provides entertainment for Fiona.

kitten and black lab

dog and cat napping

Levi and Fiona, a blur of black fur. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends.

How Spooking the Horses on Purpose Helped Keep Them Safe When It Mattered

It’s my mission in life to scare our horses.

I don’t do this to be cruel; on the contrary, I try to induce their heart attacks from the safety of their home on our farm, so that when we take them out into the big, unpredictable world, they are more likely to remain calm no matter what they encounter.

balloon in barn yard

I had high hopes for Waving Man. They got over him way too quickly.

I never expected the practice to help save their lives.

In October, Matt and I took Yukon and Isabella to a Jonathan Field clinic in British Columbia, where we had a wonderful time riding and learning for three days.

mare and rider

Isabella was 6 1/2 months pregnant at the clinic, which was our last riding hurrah until she foals. Look at that belly!

After the clinic, we were driving to the border with Yukon and Isabella in our 3-horse trailer when we were suddenly struck by an SUV. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but our truck was inoperable, and as the hours ticked away and we waited for help, it became apparent we were going to have to unload the horses in the dark, in the middle of the intersection, with traffic rushing past in an adjacent lane and the lights from the fire trucks and flares blazing away.

Some Good Samaritans gathered to help, including Jonathan Field, who drove his own truck and trailer to the scene in order to transport our horses back to his farm. While fire rescue officials helped block traffic, and Matt and another man stood at the ready to grab a panicking horse, Jonathan unloaded first Isabella, who he handed to me, and then Yukon. Both horses calmly walked off our trailer, sauntered across the intersection and loaded right up into Jonathan’s trailer without any hesitation, not so much as glancing at any of the flashing lights or intimidating fire trucks.

Jonathan shook his head and said, “I’ve never seen anything like it–I can’t believe how calm they were! What a foundation!”

To all the humans there, it was indeed amazing, and we all breathed a huge sigh of relief. But I think that if we could have read our horse’s minds, they would have been thinking something like this:

“Interesting. All this must be another one of our Human’s stupid stunts that always turn out to be nothing to get excited over. Ha. Good try, Human.”

truck and horse trailer

Yikes. Our truck and trailer, shortly after The Wreck. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and we learned that it really is next to impossible to spook the horses.

A New Broodmare Joins the Brood!

mare in pasture

Life moves fast on a farm.

And if there’s one thing that horses and farming both teach you, it’s how to be flexible. That sometimes, despite your best laid plans, things don’t always turn out the way you wanted…and sometimes there’s a big fat lining of silver in that rain cloud.

For me, that was realizing that Quill was not meant to be a farm horse, and not a good fit for me. He was miserable doing arena work and bored meandering around the island, and the big colt let me know it in no uncertain terms. So we sold Quill to an amazing horseman and trainer in British Columbia, Danny Virtue, who trains horses for Hollywood. They took to each other immediately. I expect to see Quill in all his magnificence on the big screen in the next few years, a lifestyle better suited to his larger-than-life personality.

Quill’s absence begged the question, What would I do for a riding horse?

Enter Isabella.

mare in stall

Look at that face! This was one of the photos from the ad the seller posted. It totally worked.

My bestie, Bernadette (known as B), was helping me search, and I had already come across and then stupidly dismissed the ad for the mare because she was in foal, and I wanted a horse I could ride right away. B convinced me to take a second look. The mare was only three months along, which meant I would be able to ride her for at least the next few months. She is in foal to an amazing stud (more on him in a minute). Best of all, she was the sweetest, most agreeable horse I had ever met, and she soothed the aching part of my heart that missed Quill.

I love her a ridiculous amount.

mares and flly

Asta checks out her new auntie grazing nonchalantly in the pasture as Neela watches carefully.

two mares

The two mares meet safely over the fence. Neela ultimately established her dominance, but it took a while for Isabella to give in.

stallion racing barrels

The Baby Daddy: He’s also a Quarter Horse, a famous barrel racer called Slick By Design.

stallion

We are thinking that the foal may be solid black like its sire. Emma has named the baby Batman (or, if it’s a filly, Batgirl).

mares and riders

My best friend B is on Mocha and I’m on Isabella, at a scenic view we rode to that’s just down the road from our farm.

mare and rider

Ah, summer! This mare is so gentle, I have yet to ride her in a bridle.

It’s a Girl!! (s)

Neela ninja-birthed on us–a gorgeous filly, foaled in the pasture. We are thrilled and relieved to say both momma and baby are doing fine.

The filly is solid black for now, but it’s easy to see the gray hairs in her coat, so she will be changing color soon. I’m hoping she keeps her black stockings, like her dam.

And in other baby news…we are fostering an orphan kitten, named Fiona. She arrived at age two weeks. She reminds us of a tiny grizzly bear.

More details later on all of it, but here are some pics for all to enjoy!

Yippee!!!!

The kitten was first to arrive. The pictures say it all.

kitten

kitten nursing from bottle

Good thing she’s cute, as she has to have a bottle every three hours!

kitten and dog

Even the dogs like her. Here, Chiko, our resident grandpa, allows her to cuddle up for a nap.

A week after the kitten, our next black and gray baby girl arrived!

filly and mare

Welcome to the world! The filly has just arrived, so Neela nudges her to get up.

filly

The foal was on her feet within ten minutes of being born.

filly

Emma, who is the filly’s buyer/mom, rubs her dry.

 

filly nursing

Ten minutes after standing, the filly, who Emma has named Asta (it means “love”) , was nursing. We brought the mother and baby duo to the barn as it was getting to pour a cold rain, where Asta showed off her nursing skills again. See the cute tiny snip of white at the top of her tail?

mare and foal

The next day, momma and baby started enjoying their paddock, known as “the playpen.” They are wonderful to watch.