Friendship in the Making

A friendship in the making.
A friendship in the making.

Alvin and Pilar are bestest buddies already. She follows him around like a little dog — mostly for the treats and the backrubs, but in time those two are going to have a very special bond, just like Alvin and Logan had. It makes me very happy to watch them; there is something genuine and, well, real about friendship and mutual respect across species like that.

Pilar has settled in very well. She got a bit of a rough time from red Icelandic horse Ari the first night, but now her main concern is running up and down the hilly paddock to build up some muscle strength. She aced her vet check Tuesday; she needs to gain muscle and she has skin mites. She took her injection against mites with monastic levels of tranquility, and the hilly paddock is going to do wonders for her physical form and shape, along with generous amounts of hay.

She aced her first riding lesson yesterday during which she learned that the idea isn’t to follow the others around but to walk as instructed by the reins. At first she was a little excited and danced a bit, but she quickly settled into a comfortable pace and even walked over coloured poles on the ground with much curiosity and interest. I only let her walk for thirty minutes since she is so badly out of shape, but I’m absolutely positive we’ll be flying around before you know it.

The first trick she learned is the best though: She comes trotting up when you whistle. So much easier to get her out of the bloody paddock that way!

Beautiful Pilar is beautiful.
Beautiful Pilar is beautiful.

Enter Pilar

Pilar has already made a friend!
Pilar has already made a friend!
See the little moustache?
See the little moustache?

Ladies and gentlemen, Diamant Pilar has arrived at Ridecare. Turned six years old just last week, she is a bit on the skinny side and she will need to put on a fair bit of muscle — but she is gorgeous, and she knows it. A purebred Friesian, she is black with abundant tail and mane, and an absolutely adorable little moustache on her upper lip.

She had a two hour drive to get here and I have got to say, there are some horses that just don’t think being lead into a trailer is a big deal. It took less than a minute to get her to step up — Alvin was in there, with carrots. Carrots, man! You can’t argue with carrots. During the drive down to Fredericia she stood neatly still, looking out the window, and calling out for every horse and pony we passed in the road.

She does that, as it turns out: She helloes everybody. Every car that drives into the barn area, every person that walks past, every horse being lead past — hello, hello. We have acquired a very social animal, one who also already has mastered the fine art of the full body frisk for treats. She isn’t quite caught up yet on the idea of personal space, but otherwise she is easy to lead and handle.

She did get a kick in on me this morning when I got entirely too personal and frisky for a first date and asked to pick her hind hooves clean, but it was more of a swat than a genuine kick. I’ve seen worse temper issues in older horses, and I promise you all, in a month she’ll be offering me her feet on her own in exchange for dried grass pills.

First day down. Tomorrow, saddle fitting and perhaps a walk around the area to get more familiar with sounds and smells.

Aaaaah, yes, don't stop, don't stop!
Aaaaah, yes, don’t stop, don’t stop!

 

Doors that Close and Doors that Open

Giving all the attentions.
Giving all the attentions. Photo by Alvin Gellert.

It’s been a week since Logan died. I miss the little red horse so much — driving into the barn area is particularly hard because there is supposed to be a red head going up, ears up, and a hrhrhrhrhr of hello. But there isn’t, because he’s not in the paddock anymore.

It’s often said that when a door closes, another door opens. About an hour after Logan’s body had been picked up for destruction, little Halo was born to shetland pony Lucy, who had gone at least a week over time. I have gone out to the barn several times this week to sit and watch mother and daughter, because watching new life and happiness is by far preferable to sitting at home and feeling the loss. Besides, there is nothing quite so adorable on this planet as a teeny tiny shetland pony baby.

Life does go on. You know that advice people will always give about buying horses, the “Never buy the first one, take your time to look around” bit? Yeah, I ignored it. Hopefully tomorrow, and definitely this week, I intend to become the proud owner of a six year old Friesian mare by name of Diamond Pilar.

When the Sky Darkens

Logan helpfully keeps the grass from needing to be mowed.
Logan helpfully keeps the grass from needing to be mowed. Photo by Caroline Frandsen.

Letting go is the hardest thing a horse owner ever faces. Scheduling the vetenarian and the disposal of the carcass makes you feel like you’re plotting to murder a beloved family member. It’s the hardest decision to make, and make it I must. The inside of Logan’s right front hoof looks like an angry, spiky cactus on the x-rays, due to aggressive arthritis. He’s had a long and sometimes difficult life.

Logan started his working life as a coal mine horse in Poland. From there, he somehow ended up in Fredericia as a riding school pony for somewhere between fifteen and twenty years. And finally, he’s had a year now with us at Caroline Frandsen’s RideCare barn near Fredericia, and we have done our best to spoil him rotten. We speculate that he’s a crossbreed between a Jutland horse and heaven above knows what only, because he has the colour and build of one, though he is not quite tall enough. His age is guesstimated to be between 26 and 30 plus.

Over the last six months his arthritis has gradually worsened. At first he was no longer able to carry a rider in trot and gallop — but I could still ride him on quiet walks. As of two weeks ago, though, that too came to an end. Last night the vetenarian and I made the decision, and he will be put down come Monday. Until then, he’s being kept on pain relief medication.

Too sick for lessons, but never too sick to graze.
Too sick for lessons, but never too sick to graze. Photo by me.

I am going to miss him terribly, and so are a lot of other people. During the short 14 months he was in Taulov, he’s made himself so very much at home that everybody knew him, and he was everybody’s big cuddlebear. Going to be a a hole in reality the shape of a little red draft horse that’s going to take some effort to fill out.

Cowabunga! It’s Spring!

It's spring! Cowabunga!
It’s spring! Cowabunga!

Here in Denmark we have one day every year that marks the transition from late winter to full-fledged spring. Today is that day: Yesterday the grass peeked timidly up between yesteryear’s dry remains — today, the dandelions exploded out of the ground like so many shining suns, and the first trees are coming into bloom, just like that!

Me, I’ve spent the last two weeks more or less hibernating on the sofa with a broken tooth, but today I got out in the sunshine in the afternoon. I got on Logan bareback and we grazed our way fifty metres down the road and back again. Grass was consumed. A few dandelions died too, but the first shoots of wild carrot were the bestest.

The wild carrot, the very bestest noms.
The wild carrot, the very bestest noms.

For him, lazy grazing time that does not place much strain on his arthritic hoof. For me, bloody hard work since my lower spine is notoriously out of whack, and keeping my balance on him without a saddle is a lot easier said than done. Perfect for us both, really.

It Ain’t SimCity — Fortunately!

It's everything I ever wanted!
It’s everything I ever wanted!

About a year and a half ago I was dancing around the living room because EA finally was releasing a new edition of their famous SimCity franchise. I bought the thing, I I gave it my very best, and at no time did I feel I was playing the game that got me hooked on video games to begin with, back in the mythical nineties when your mum was young and cellphones weighed four kilos each. We walked twenty miles to and from work, uphill and against the raging blizzard winds both ways and damnit, we had the best game back then — and EA completely failed to deliver on their updated, online version.

Paradox Games to the rescue. This month saw the release of Cities: Skylines and frankly, it’s everything I ever wanted, with additional tools for modders and fiddlers. It’s not even half the price that SimCity was, either, and there is so much more content, so much better simulation, so much better everything. Eh, the teeny tiny detail on the graphics might be a slight step downwards, but it’s not something you really notice a lot. The ability to add policies such as a ban on heavy traffic or free public transit to individual city districts blew me away — and I haven’t even got my town over 5,000 inhabitants yet after thirty hours of game play.

It ain’t easy. Cities: Skylines does not have the intuitive, here-let-me-show-you-to-do-this interactivity that SimCity prides itself on. You can access the wiki and tutorials from in-game via the Steam interface, and you will need to, more so if you never played the older SimCity games. There are myriads of little fiddly details that will make you face palm when you figure them out — such as your coal power plant needing to import coal if you don’t produce your own, and that ain’t going to happen if the truck driver has to fight his way through heavily congested traffic — and trust me, your citizens aren’t going to be happy when the power plants begin operating at lower output to preserve what little coal reserves they have left.

The Steam interface makes it easy to add and remove user created content. Users and Paradox both provide mods (that affect how the game is played and how things operate behind the scenes) and assets (ploppable or buildable things such as houses, highway crossings, cloverleafs, entire skeleton city districts…) Three days after release there were eight thousand mods and assets available for free, rated by users. Nom nom nom.

My only real issue at this time is the lack of documentation early on that comes from the wiki manual being user generated and driven. It’s going to take a few weeks before players have properly tested, understood, and explained how some of the more fiddly things work. All things considered, and more so how quickly I threw EA’s version away, I can live with that.

Besties for Life

Horsemanship at its finest. Horse certainly has him trained.
Horsemanship at its finest. Horse certainly has him trained – the idea is to get the horse on the seesaw, not the horseman.

What is horsemanship? Almost every equestrian will have their own answer to that. Dictionary.com defines it as “the art, ability, skill, or manner of a horseman”, which really doesn’t make one a whole lot wiser. A horseman is somebody who works with horses, and makes it look good — and who makes the horses feel good about what they are doing.

I’m no expert trainer or clinician. I’m just an overweight housewife with an old draft horse and too much time on my hands, time that I spend a fair bit of following online debates about horsemanship and equestrian affairs in general. I don’t follow the high level sports; I’m not really interested in extremes and I don’t think that the high level riders and caretakers emphasize horse well-being nearly enough. In fact, a fair bit of the material that ends up circulated from higher level contests tends to get shipped around animal welfare groups, and that’s not a good thing.

To me, horsemanship is friendship. It is wanting to be where my horse wants to be, and my horse wanting to be where I am. It is expressed at its finest when I arrive at the barn and my horse leaves the little herd to trot over to the fence, ears and tail up, spring in his step, happy to see me. It does not matter all that much what we’re going to do on a particular day. What matters is that we are doing it together as partners, equals, and friends.

I don’t win competitions and I don’t have a wall full of plaques and diplomas. I just have a very good friend who happens to have four feet.

Burrito Achievement Unlocked!

Burrito Achievement Unlocked.
Burrito Achievement Unlocked.

Little Q is having a lazy day, and as all ferret owners will testify, there is no better way to spend one of those than being wrapped up like a hairy burrito in a soft shell of fleece blanket.

He’s not being cheeky, sticking his tongue out like that. That’s just how Q sleeps. He does it whenever he is comfortable, usually accompanied by a string of little smug whines and squeaks.