Happy Birthday to Grace!

Happy birthday to you!

Grace turns 4 today; and I just found out that she shares her fourth birthday with Secretariats 40th.

Small wonder, her thunder! Dang can she move in a hurry when she wants!

I best not forget to bring home some carrots!!!

Happy April FOAL’S Day!

Gracie is an “auntie!”  Luna the Shire/ Spotted Draft delivered a hale and hearty colt in the wee hours of the morning.  Mama and Baby are both doing great.  Gracie peers around the divider post to keep an eye on them.

 watchful friesian

The newborn is a chestnut Tobiano by Jack Flash, an imported Gypsy Cob.  He will be registered as a Gypsy Sport Horse.

Gypsy sport horse colt

We look forward to a fun future of trail riding, medieval reenacting, horse shows and adventures.  All with manes and tails a-flying!

Preventing Scratches

Friesians, though sparsely feathered compared with other breeds such as Shires, Clydes or Gypsies, are nontheless prone to getting “scratches” during rainy spells. MTG is out favorite, if fragrant, remedy. We love this recipe as it replicates the use of oil and sulphur:

Preventing Scratches

Polishing the Ring…A walk with Grace

I have to say sometimes I wish I had an extra 6 hours in the day to write down all the things that transpire in the course of a day. The story would be pretty immaculate.

Take this story for example. It was a wonderful, sunny, brilliant afternoon two weeks ago, and Kirsten was off teaching up in Smithsburg. Grace was quite obviously Jealous (with a capital J!) that I’d pulled Dolly out the pasture the previous day, and I promised her… she’d be next. As Kirsten drove off I told her I’d maybe “Polish the Ring”.

With a border in the round pen, I put a halter on Grace and brought her up to the barn for some much deserved attention and a good brushing of her mane. We spent a good 30 minute in the stall working out the burrs she managed to find from the remotest parts of the pasture, and cleaned her up all nice and pretty for when Mommy came home.

On the way back out to the pasture, I thought to myself… it may be fun if she got a little familiarity with the medieval games we all know she’s going to be a part of.. so off we went into the arena with her on lead.

Grace exhibited no fear. None at all. She walked right down between the two rows of reeds without hesitation, and came to a perfect halt behind me when I stopped. We went around the circle and came back through the “heads” row, weaving in and out of the uprights without missing a beat. We walked over the cavaletti up at the top of the field, and then we trotted in hand back down adjacent to the original reeds. We messed around for a couple more minutes and even had a couple beats of canter running in hand before I felt guilty for Kirsten not being around to play too.

So as I recounted the story to Kirsten later that night, she came up with a Xenophon quote appropriate for the moment “when a horse is shy of any object and refuses to approach it, you must teach him that there is nothing to be alarmed at… failing that, touch the formidable object yourself, and then gently lead the horse up to it.”

Grace was never afraid, but leadership by example is a principle both horses and humans can agree upon.

370 Days of Grace…

It’s not that I didn’t mark the 365th, it’s that I haven’t had time to post. It was funny… I spent all day joking with Kirsten about making Grace a carrot cake for her “Bower Birthday” which also happens to be the anniversary of our engagement… we ended up going out to dinner to celebrate the event and the waitress brought us… you guessed it. Carrot Cake. Yummy. Too bad though, I didn’t really think the cake was all that healthy for growing ponies 🙂

On the plus side, she gets two birthdays every year 🙂 Mar 30th and Nov 13th!

SO now a few more days have passed, and a year more.. and boy, has Grace just grown into an amazing, amazing horse. She’s somewhere in that awkward stage between adolescence and adulthood, but every inch of her carriage and poise is that of the most regal and high duchess of horsedom.  it’s amazing just how social she is, and how… it’s hard to describe… -present-. She expects to be part of things. Her curiousity and intelligence are written all over her face and her expressions. What a welcome addition she’s been to the family 🙂 Matter of fact, she’s rather central to it 🙂

Thank you, Tonia!  Thank you thank you 🙂 We couldn’t be happier 🙂

Mark

Gracie’s New Career

 

 

Gracie the Friesian and Maggie the Rescue Horse

The farm family grew again. Ginny found her perfect horse: a rescued coming two-year old Belgian cross filly. The filly came to be known as Magdalene. She arrived loose in the horse trailer–she was unapproachable, virtually feral. They could not get near her to halter her so they bribed her into the trailer with sweetfeed.

 

As Maggie adjusted to a whole new way of living, Grace stepped into a new career–Maggie’s mentor.

 

We humans began the journey of natural horsemanship: entering Maggie’s world and inviting her into ours. Gracie took her into the farm world and began showing her the ropes.

…We think it only fitting that Magdalene live with Grace 😉

The Proposal

The Proposal: The Director’s Cut (In 4 Part Harmony, with Feelin’!)

It wasn’t the way he had planned it, but He planned it perfectly….

A few months ago I laughed at the impracticality of diamond rings on hardworking farmgirl hands. “I always said I’d prefer an engagement Friesian!”

Now, for you sane, non-horsey folks out there, a Friesian is romance and power on the hoof. Remember Goliath in LadyHawke? (That movie had its way with me during my most formative years….) Remember ANY big, black, dancing horse with a mane cascading down to his shoulders and a tail that tames the wind? That’s a Friesian.

Friesians are a rare breed from the Netherlands, decendents of warhorses of old. They have a direct link with those primal curls in our DNA that make us realize happily-ever-afters are destined to prevail. I cannot remember a time I didn’t long for one of my own, with every fiber of my being.

Most of you knew my old horse, Knight. In his heart and mine he was a Friesian wannabe, and the embodiment of a dream of chivalry, romance and unity between a horse and his person. This summer, I had to put him to sleep. A piece of the dream went with him.

Back to the present, back to reality. Mark shocked me when he started sending me links to Friesians for sale. He’d call from work and we’d run YouTube clips, tears streaming at the raw beauty of the breathtaking horses. “Don’t you DARE even think about buying one…” I’d tell him, and follow up with a handful from among the 976 reasons we DON’T need another horse right now, especially a Friesian. Looking at the price tags on mature, saddle-trained Friesians, he agreed.

But Mark was committed to making a dream come true.

Now, we were also hunting for the perfect first horse for him. In my mind, that was top priority. He was looking on a Virginia horse classifieds site for Shires for sale, and did a search for Friesians… “just for fun.” That brought up the ad for Testimony, a yearling filly whose owner was going back to grad school. “She is our firstborn filly and a dream come true, a Testimony to God’s love and grace,” her owners wrote. “We will choose her new owner from among interested parties on November 1.” It was the first of November.

The front page of the Friesian’s website reminded me, “delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I watched the videos of the filly and her mother, sobbing, already feeling the hands of fate. Mark had emailed the owners an eleventh hour plea. “Coincidences” began to pour like rain.

We were heading down to that area on Mark’s next day off to look at a couple of horses for him. Mark insisted we at least go meet the horse and her owners. With all the signs and coincidences leading up to this moment, and with full realization that marriage was now galloping into reality, we were both shaking by the time we arrived.

The filly was every inch a beautiful princess–and she knew it. The horse trainer in me appreciated her regal bloodlines and her exceptionally free movement. I didn’t feel “IT” though, the warm oneness when you know you and your horse are together together. “That makes the decision easy,” I told Mark.

Mark felt otherwise.

I spent the rest of the day trying to convince him NOT to buy this horse. (At one point I stood apart from myself and laughed hysterically at the incongruity of the situation: arguing with the Love of my Life to NOT to give me the horse of my dreams.)

We talked. We thought. We prayed. The only thing God would tell me is, “be still and know that I am God. Be still and wait on Me.” Not words to overjoy a type A personality in the face of a huge decision, but strangely comforting. Perhaps this decision was not meant to be mine.

Meanwhile, I got a call from an old friend, Tam. She wanted the freedom to move to China. She wanted to do right by her horses. She wanted them to come back home to the Bower.

More horses. Wonderful horses. Angus, my first-born colt, now 3 years old. Pete, the patient Appaloosa who loves medieval games. TC, who I worked with before I even moved to the Bower. And most amazingly, Dolly, the perfect horse for my Love.

Dolly is 17 hands of golden Belgian. As Mark pointed out, “she’s so big if you want to fall off you have to bounce at least 3 times across her back before you run out of horse!” She is a champion charger for my shining knight. His face lights up when he even talks about her.

Back to the Friesian, back to our Testimony. When last we left off, I was obediently waiting. (“I HATE waiting!” ~Inigo in The Princess Bride.) I was trusting my LifeMate to make the right decision for the both of us in a situation that defied logic. Mark grew ever more adament, and I watched a dream emerge from a fog of fear and disbelief.

We went to pick her up Tuesday. I was beside myself with joy, with excitement, with the hugeness of the situation– but still no warm fuzzies between the filly and I. In the hubbub of sealing the deal, emotional greetings– and good-byes– and trailer loading a nervous, excited youngster, Mark didn’t have the chance to carry out his well-planned proposal.

The trip was pleasantly uneventful and brilliantly lit with blazing foliage bright against stormdark skies. The filly settled into the rhythm of the road and long hours eventually brought us home.

I’d just turned the rig onto Bower Road when my cell phone rang. Ginny was up at the Head of the Grove. Bold Step had been picking on D’Art, who fled through the fence. Ginny was starting the fence repair while D’art ran around the adjacent pasture, evading capture. I laughed at the ironic perfection of the situation. We might own a fancy Friesian, but we still gotta fix fence!

We settled the filly in the roundpen with hay and water. Mark had some things to take care of in the house, so I headed up to deal with fence. D’Art is such a mama’s boy– he stopped running and let me come right up to him in the dark. We got the bulk of the repairs done and I sent Ginny back to the barn while I finished up.

The crescent moon was leisurely sinking towards the horizon. It threw just enough light to set the ground-hugging mists aglow. The horses stood in silhouette along the hillside. Wow, I thought, this might be the last time I stand here as a single woman. I started up a conversation with God and soaked with Him in the still majesty of the night.

As I was heading back, my TrueLove emerged from the darkness. I brought him back to the crest of the hill, where the moon danced ever closer to the treetops in the Old Old Orchard. We held each other a while in the mist and moonlight, then Mark sank to his knees. Never in time has “will you marry me” been wrapped in such splendor and love!

We went back to the barn to tell Ginny and play with the new filly. Since my engagement Friesian doesn’t quiet fit on my hand, Mark wrapped an electric fence zip tie around my finger–in matching black. We spent the evening calling family, reveling and toasting with the last bottles of a raspberry melomel he’d racked 3 years before.

The next morning, the filly let me know she was Grace. She sighed and lowered her proud head against my chest for a long hug. If she had done this when first we met, I’d have fallen in love in a flash– and always would have second guessed if we made the right decision. In tough times I’d have doubted destiny and chalked it up instead to the starry-eyed dreaming of a horse crazy girl and the amazing man who wanted to make those dreams come true in the face of improbability.

It had to happen this way, just as it happened with Mark. There is no question in either of our minds that we were meant for each other since before time began. And there is no question in our minds that Grace is meant to be in our lives. Greater forces than ours are at play. We don’t know what the future brings, but we can’t wait to live it!

Happily Ever After begins now….

The Rubber Meets the Road

Today was an Avalon day. The light November rain washed gold and copper leaves–a beautiful backdrop for all the outdoor work I needed to get done: mending fence lines and planning new cross fencing to accommodate new boarders, deciding on the placement for the new shed which will be coming shortly, and planning pasture rotation for the various herds of horses.

I look around the rolling hills of Almost Heaven and sigh. This is where the rubber meets the road. We will bring Testimony to her new home on Tuesday.

The filly is priceless. As her owners explained, she “is a testimony to God’s love and grace.” She is also a testimony to my soon-to-be fiancee’s radical love and commitment to making dreams come true. My knee jerk reaction is to swaddle her in bubble wrap.

GULP.

I am committed to giving horses “the best of both nature and knowledge” (TM). Horses here at Almost Heaven live in small herds in natural pastureland because that is what’s best for them. And this priceless filly, this testimony of love, is pure Horse.

She will live outside in a herd. She’ll get boo-boos because she’s too big for her shiny black britches and will challenge her herdmates. She’ll learn valuable lessons in teamwork, and in freedom. I’ll wince when I clean up her cuts, when I carefully work the burrs out of her cascading ebony mane.

But when we work together I’ll thrill in her strength, knowing that she knows who and what she is. Pure Horse… naturally!