Monday, April 19, 2010

A Horse Memorial for our mare Asmara

Tragedy struck us only three days after the birth of our first 2010 foal. We lost Asmara, one of our favorite mares. Hopefully, this horse memorial will leave as much of an impression on you as it did on us.

It was a gorgeous spring day and we turned out a group of five mares into the front pasture green with new grass growth. As usual, each mare dropped down to take a good roll in the grass. All but one got back up.
(Pictured: A proud Asmara admiring her last foal Asmar by Etyk, 2005.)

We watched Asmara for a few minutes and realized she could not get up, despite repeated attempts. We both went to her immediately. I could tell she was in pain - the hip area. Asmara had taken a big fall last week while running to the gate. The grass was just a little slick from rain the day before and she struggled a few seconds before regaining her feet, but walked with no lameness and had no swelling. We discovered she had abrasions on both of her hocks and washed the delicate area daily. What we didn't see was a possible hairline fracture that manifested into a full-blown pelvic fracture when her hips hit the hard ground for a simple roll in the dirt.

We stayed with Asmara in the pasture for 2 hours, keeping her comfortable with water, hay and banamine (for pain) while waiting for the vet to arrive.

Many people think animals are dumb and are devoid of feelings or emotions. Horse People know better. What we witnessed next was nothing short of incredibly amazing! Asmara's daughter, Aforia, an 18 year old mare herself, began a "conversation" with her mother. First she sniffed the old mare's hip and hocks as if she was assessing the situation. Next, she turned to her mother, and nose-to-nose, both mother and daughter "conversed". Aforia snorted and nickered to her mother, and her mother responded. Aforia then began to "guard" her mother, allowing no other horse to come near Asmara. Aforia was comfortable with Jack and me around Asmara, but the only other horse allowed anywhere near Asmara was Asmara's youngest daughter, Artima, full sister to Aforia.

Asmara's closest friend and stablemate was Sierra Nevada, imported from Janow Podlaski Stud in Poland. Yet when Sierra began to get agitated over her best friend's predicament, Aforia firmly chased her away and Sierra could now only be a passive observer. Aforia then stood watch over her mother as the vet confirmed our suspicion of a fractured pelvis and told us of the only course of action. Our hearts broke.

(Pictured: Aforia, Asmara's oldest daughter, stands watch over her mother.)

Aforia understood the seriousness of the situation. She knew this was a farewell.
She stood over her mother with the same protectiveness that a new mare shows her newborn foal. Asmara had stood over Aforia as a foal, protecting her, and now Aforia was returning the same emotion - love - to the mare she knew was her mother.

(Pictured: Aforia continues to stay close to her mother, comforing her.)

We needed a few minutes to absorb what had happened, and what was going to happen.
We looked at Asmara and she seemed to know as well. She had had a good life. She was 25 years old. Even though she had melanomas on her neck, hip, and under her tail, she lived a full and normal life. She hated being in the stall, and we were grateful that today she was in a large pasture and the sun was warm and shining on her.

Then from a sitting position, Asmara laid down, exhausted.

(Pictured: Aforia with her mother Asmara moments before the mare passed away.)

Jack removed all the mares from the pasture. Aforia and Sierra went willingly. Asmara struggled to get up, but pivoted around in a circle, her back legs unable to lift her body. I sat down beside her and spoke to her softly, stroking her neck. I thanked her for her beauty, her kindness, and her wonderful foals that remain on our farm.
She could see Jack and our vet coming toward her and she let out a sigh. So did I. I was sobbing. Jack broke down as he removed Asmara's halter, freeing her of any means of human control. She passed from this earth peacefully, surrounded by love.
(Pictured: We wrapped Asmara in white sheets prior to her burial.)

Our neighbor, John Bailey, dropped what he was doing and came over to bury Asmara in the back pasture next to *Efort, who passed away in 2005.

(Keep scrolling down for more photos)

(Pictured: Jack helps load Asmara onto the tractor for transport to the back pasture and her final resting place.)

(Pictured: Tulips and carrots for Asmara. We also bury our horses with a flake of hay and oats to carry them to their next journey.)

When the digging of the grave began, only one mare of the five in the paddock adjacent to the pasture looked on intently. That mare was Asmara's granddaughter Afrodyta - Aforia's daughter, who is heavy in foal and due on April 28.

(Pictured Above: Afrodyta watches as a grave is dug for her grandmother, next to the grave of her grandfather *Efort.)
(Pictured: The backhoe digs Asmara's grave while Jack looks on. This photo was taken from the hayloft in our main showbarn.)

Asmara was kindness, gentleness and goodness in equine form. She never hurt anything or anyone. She was an excellent, loving mother and a faithful friend. And in the end, the kindness and love was repaid to her. Asmara trusted us - so much I believe, that she understood her time had come. She did not fight it, and with a queenly dignity left this world and returned to her creator. Asmara has left her hoofprints in our hearts. Even on her final day of life, she allowed us to witness and experience love. Love between horses, and love for horses. The bodily form doesn't matter - the love does. We are better people because of the gifts Asmara gave us. Not just her two daughters and one son who remain with us at our farm, but the gifts of enlightened insight into the real nature of horses.

Horses are incredible creatures who have much to teach us. I share this experience with you because it is part of living life with horses. While we are grief stricken when we loose a horse, I have learned that the greatest gift of love we can give that horse is to love another of its kind.
That's the basis for the Angel Horse Registry.

In Loving Memory

Asmara PASB *Penitent x Arteria by *Probat April 4, 1985 - April 15, 2010
(PASB Polish Arabian Stud Book)
Bred By Michalow Stud Farm, Poland, Imported by Jacek Bakalarz 1989.

Esteemed Broodmare at Silver Eagle Arabians, Columbia Station, OH.
Dam of Arczk (Europejczyk); Aforia(Efort); Arsenall(Efort); Armor(Efort);Arkhon(Emanor);Artima(Efort) and Asmarr(Etyk).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Foaling Season Begins!!!

Six mares are due to foal at our farm this year and we have anticipated the beginning of foaling season this year with bittersweet emotions. A bit crazy, but I'll tell you why we bred six mares in a future post. Serrenada, the first of the six mares to foal, delivered her bundle of joy after we endured three sleepless nights on "Foal Watch". It was a textbook delivery with the mare foaling exactly three days following the appearance of "wax" on the milk udder. At around 1:10 AM on April 13th, our black bay foal entered this world with a large star, small strip and pink snip on the nose. Perfect? Well, yes and no.

(Pictured above: Serrenada's baby bump the day of foaling.)

Turns out this foal is the SIXTH colt(male) in row for us!! So while we are very disappointed in the plumbing, we're willing to forgive this cute little guy for being a colt if he will stay that gorgeous black bay color.

(Pictured below: The new foal takes it's first breath.)

Pedigree-wise, this little guy represents an outcross breeding, meaning new genetic blood into our herd. We wanted the blood of famous Arabian sire *Bask and found PS Afire Chief who fit the bill with several crosses to *Bask, beautiful bay color with four white socks, and an enviable show record as a reserve national champion Park Horse, champion driving, champion English pleasure and halter wins to his credit. Of course, we were hoping for a mare to cross back onto our stallions *Etyk and Monopolii, full brother of Mongramm, so those plans have obviously changed.

Serrenada, one our our favorite daughters of *Efort, a Palas son, is a wonderful mom - protective and affectionate. Both of her foals (both colts) have been so friendly and receptive to humans, allowing us to touch, handle and halter break with such ease. A real pleasure! But wait...I see some grey hairs on this guy's tail!!! Will he turn grey, the dominant color in Arabian horses, or is this just "frosting" on an otherwise stunning almost-black color!!!?

(Pictured: Mare and foal begin the bonding process. Foal is about one hour old.)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Muddy March Madness Makes Horse People Dirty

This was the farm just 2 weeks ago. Six-foot high piles of snow everywhere. Then the winter thaw began. The snow is not really gone - it's just changed form - and now it's all MUD!

Everything is muddy. We're sinking as we walk.
But that means spring is well on her way, although we're sure to get just one more snowfall this year.

The horses are aching to go outside. They've been confined most of the winter to stalls, the arena or paddocks although they do love turnout in snowy pastures. But mud presents a different problem. They will sink up to their knees in pure, solid clay-like Ohio mud in March. So we've had to wait a few days to turn the horses out. Horses do like mud - so much that they delight in rolling in the stuff, some covering both sides of their body, some only one side. And it's hell to get it off of them - we must wait until the mud dries. But Horse People delight in this task! We are prepared with all sorts of grooming tools - curries, shedders, scrapers, mane and tail detanglers. It's a messy job, but Horse People have to do it! Getting dried mud off of a horse takes muscle and tireless circular motions with both arms as we attempt "the clean up". Dirt, dust and shedding hair is everywhere. This job is not for "clean freaks". We inhale all the dust, get dirt in our hair and under our fingernails. Clothing is caked with mud. You can't wear gloves either - you need your fingers. Technically, you cannot officially call yourself a horse lover until you've willingly engaged in this task.

Muddy March signals the approaching end of winter. I'm beginning to thaw out myself and there's alot to do this year at the farm. We're still bringing in hay, unloading it and stacking it ourselves. Most importantly, Muddy March means foaling season is right around the corner. Talk about madness - we're expecting 6 foals this year!

Our first mare to foal is Serrenada, sired by the Palas son *Efort and out of the imported Polish mare *Sierra Nevada by Aloes. Take a look at the baby bump! She's due April 18. I don't think she'll last that long! Serrenada is in foal to Park Horse and Halter Champion PS AfireChief. We bred her AI and we are hoping for a bay filly. Since Serrenada is a flea-bitten grey, she should produce bay color even though in Arabians, grey is the dominant color. PS Afire Chief is by Afire Bey V and out of the Chief Justice daughter Justa Glow. Chief Justice was one of my favorite *Bask sons. We consider Serrenada our best trotting mare and are anxious to bring this new blood into our herd. This will be her second foal. She gave us a nice colt in 2007 by our stallion *Etyk (Eldon x Etnografia by Aloes) and she foaled two weeks early. We're watching her closely, because broodmares are sneaky! Serrenada's friend Hennah, our *Wojslaw daughter out of Fifinellla by Probat, is due on the same day. I'll be telling you about the sire of Hennah's foal in my next post! But the best, most exclusive news is that we have acquired the great stallion Monopolii, full brother of world champion sire Monogramm!! Sired by Negatraz and out of the million dollar mare Monogramma, high-trotting Monopolii settled three mares for us last year at the age of 23!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter On Our Horse Farm Is For The Birds

(Pictured: Mares enjoying their snowy pasture.)

The year 2009 was a big emotional blur for us with unbelievable highs and sorrowful lows, but Jack and I plowed through the remaining months of 2009 with a determination that 2010 would bring a more peaceful balance into our lives.

For me, the year always ends in my mind with the first major snowfall, a signal from nature that it is now time to rest from the frenzied activities of spring, summer and fall.

Spring 2009 opened with construction of a new apartment above our show barn that would serve as a guest house, although I'm secretly lobbying for this space to become my art studio. I went to work immediately on the landscaping and preparation for our first big garden.

(Pictured: The new guest house and future art studio.)

Summer 2009 brought us a handsome new colt, now named Asfaar, and a new world-class stallion, Monopolii (His story derserves an entire article). Jack's sister from Poland made her first trip to the USA at the same time I was leaving the farm to take care of my father who then passed away in August.

(Pictured: The newly renovated broodmare barn)

By the time I returned from Arkansas in September, my garden was overgrown but literally loaded with vegetables. Jack and his sister had been enjoying fresh cucumbers, radishes,broccoli, beans, eggplant, and tomatoes, and the tomato vines were still heavy with fruit. I frantically salvaged all I could from the garden, quickly learned home canning, and proceeded to use everything the garden gave us. The end result was a pantry full of canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, green tomato relish, hot peppers, yellow peppers, spicy tomato juice, sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and beets. I put green beans, yellow beans, swiss chard and spinach in the freezer. The horse manure in the garden paid off! We had volunteer garden plants all over the farm, enough for us and for neighbors and friends.

(Pictured: The last of the 2009 home canning. The yellow gourds came up as a volunteer plant. This one plant produced over 70 gourds!)

In late fall I put the garden to bed for the winter, pruned and fertilized all shrubs, flowers and trees, and removed all my "garden art" pieces in anticipation of winter. Although tired, I realized what a gratifying experience I'd had starting that garden from seeds, nurturing and caring for the plants, harvesting the vegetables, and preparing them to eat. No worries about pesticides, chemicals or country of origin. I loved pushing my cart through the grocery store saying to myself, "No, don't need that...already have these....look at the price on those." I felt very self-reliant. Yes, living life with horses has its perks. It may take a lot of shoveling, but it's well worth the effort!

With the first snowfall of the season, it's now time to relax by our big picture window and rest as the snow lays a peaceful white shroud over our farm. But this snowfall also signals the beginning of another activity - feeding the birds. Over the past two years we've amassed quite a collection of bird feeders and we enjoy the visits of our colorful feathered friends. Now I won't go as far as to say Jack is obsessed with feeding the birds, but every time he comes back from the farm store he proudly shows off another feeder! He fashioned clever platforms for the feeders and found some great clear plastic bowls that he converted to shelters so that each feeder is sheltered from rain and snow.

Horses need more hay during the winter to generate body heat. Within 20 minutes of eating hay, our horses can raise the temperature in the barn by several degrees. That being said, we're short on hay this year and it's the middle of winter. Our work for the year may not be done after all.......

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Summer Passes and Takes My Father

This blog has been "silent" for a few months. Shortly after our foal was born on June 13, my father was diagnosed with Lymphoma and I left the bucolic farm life to care for him. While the prognosis of remission was excellent for his type of Lymphoma, complications from the chemotherapy ultimately took him on the morning of August 7, 2009.

(pictured: The five-acre Arkansas farm my Dad loved)

I was away from our horse farm most of the summer. I had just planted a garden, determined to live off its produce for the rest of year. As a former college administrator and sales director with a graduate degree, I have been unemployed and unable to find full time employment in our northeast Ohio area. Growing a garden was a good use of my time, an especially good use for all the horse manure produced at the farm, and would hopefully prove to be economical. But the garden was left to survive on its own when I had to leave. Jack's sister from Poland had scheduled a month-long visit at the same time, and Jack had his hands full with not only maintaining the usual farm routine, (Which really takes 2 full time people) but also with spending some quality time with his sister during her first visit to the states.

(pictured: My 2009 garden, just planted.)

When I finally came home in September I went right to my garden. I don't know why, but I could feel my Dad's presence there. He had had a fabulous garden last year, and started one this year, but had to abandon it when his treatments began. Dad was also a writer, and I think he's prompting me to get back at it. So, with renewed strength, I'll be filling in the details of the summer of 2009 that passed so quickly taking my father along.

This summer brought us life and brought us death. What I've come to realize over the past few months is that death is really a part of the cycle of life. It's a transition from a "body". It has a purpose, although we can't even begin to understand what or how.

I probably wouldn't be writing about living on a horse farm if it weren't for my dad. I came into this world with a love for horses. And I always wanted one. Always. When my parents finally retired on five acres in the sleepy little town of Mena, Arkansas, my dad promised me a horse. But I was already in college and involved in my education. Still, Dad gave me a special certificate "good for one horse".

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Back to Where We Started

My explanation of what this blog is about was temporarily interrupted by the approaching birth of a foal on the farm. Now that our handsome fellow is a month old (and still has no name!) it’s time to go back and explain what Angel Horse People is really all about.

I founded the Angel Horse Registry and created the web site to honor horses who enrich human lives. It’s a unique site that gives people an opportunity to say “thank you” to special equines. The site allows us to create a registry listing for a horse, create an honor certificate and select or write our own words on the certificate. Each “Angel Horse” honored also receives a classy halter honor tag. Proceeds from sales of products are donated to Equine-assisted therapy and service programs benefiting people. The site also features everyday people and the Angel Horses they honor.

I’ve lived with horses for over 25 years. They have been incredible teachers and friends. I cannot imagine my life without them, and so Jack and I have chosen a life with them. And that’s what this blog is all about. Living life with horses.

(Pictured: A house for horses and people under one roof!)

I’ll be writing about our day-to-day life living under one big roof with 20+ horses, 2 dogs, and 4 cats. It’s an unusual set up and one that any horse lover would probably envy. And while it’s definitely a labor of love, it’s also a lot of work and responsibility. We care for over 20 of our own horses, and we also provide boarding services for several other horses.

(Pictured: Preparing to unload 150 of 4000 bales of hay needed annually.)

The economy has really affected the horse industry. Horses are a luxury item and people are being forced to choose family and living expenses over horse boarding and care. Sales are flat, and some people are literally giving horses away. With these facts in mind, Jack and I asked ourselves, “Do we really need any more horses?” I’m sure you can guess what the answer to that question was.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The New Foal Needs a Name

It's been a week since Aforia's foal was born. It's like having a newborn baby in the house! The foal found those long wobbly legs and stood up for the first time with Jack's help. He quickly learned to nurse - in fact, the quickest of any foal I've ever seen in over 20 years of foaling out mares. This guy is smart - and hungry!!!

The first turnout is always exciting. The mare is extremely protective but very proud of her foal. We decided to turn Aforia out into the paddock next to her mare herd and welcome the foal to the warm sunshine and fresh air of earth. As we led the mare out of her stall, the colt was confused. He did not want to leave the stall, which made Aforia very nervous. I gently put my arms around him - the left arm on his chest, the right arm under his tail, and "walked" him alongside of his mother. Once safely inside the paddock, we watched as all the mares in the pasture stepped up to the fence and greeted the newest member of the herd.

Aforia then proceeded with the first lesson. She walked the foal completely around the area, putting herself between the fence and her foal. Around and around they went, first at a walk, then at a trot, the mare gently nudging him when neccessary to move him in the direction she thought best to take. Within minutes the foal learned his lesson well. Follow my mom. Closely! Wherever she goes, I must go! And so when they returned to the stall, the colt stayed right by his mother's side and followed her into the barn!

It's time for a name! We like to observe our foals for a few days to get an idea of their personality before naming them. And we continue the Polish Arabian tradition of naming the foal with the first letter, (and most of the time the first 2 letters) of the mare's name. It makes it really easy to remember pedigrees this way. So we need to find a name that begins with A-F.

We've been turning out the colt every day now. He gets cockier and more confident each day. And he loves to canter! It's either full speed or walk. Nothing in between. He's already developed an attitude of his own. Proud, bold, in command. We need a special name! The colt's sire, Legion VF, is the last son of the immortal Polish Arabian stallion Bandos who sold at age 18 for one million dollars, purchased by California publisher David Murdock's Ventura Farms. Legion's dam, Garnet, was an esteemed daughter of famous Polish Arabian sire*Bask, and a full sister to champion sire Gdansk.

Now, I like to give foals names with special, spiritual meaning. Jack, on the other hand, likes names that convey strength and might. In other words, military names. We're both online studying the "baby names" sites. These are great sites because they list names from almost all countries and nationalities, as well as what the name means. I'm looking for something proud, independent, yet sensitive. Jack is looking for fighters and warriors!