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8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Hello everyone

I'm just starting a horse called Julian under saddle - a paternal half-brother to my riding horse Sunsmart, who sadly died last year just two days off age 25.

I had a journal here for a long time and then decided to do other things. I don't want to resume that journal, but I did want to provide an update as it's already written (I have an online open journal etc) - some people who visited that journal for seven years may like to know what happened next. So here it is. It's self-contained, so it's not necessary to go back to my old journal.


In 2010, we were both working in professional positions and were in the process of making offers on houses in a small coastal town nearby when we had a curveball thrown at us. There was a 62 hectare rural lot in the hinterland in our price range: 50 hectares of beautifully preserved, highly flammable Australian sclerophyll ecosystem, and 12 hectares of pasture currently running beef cattle.

It was, miraculously, in our price range, because the price reflected that properly managing 50 hectares of native vegetation is time-consuming, expensive and requires specialised skill sets and a ton of passion, while providing zero economic return. It turns out that I have a science background that includes ecology and my husband has extensive experience at preventative fire management, which is totally necessary in Australian sclerophyll - and had been conducted for over 30,000 years by Australia's Indigenous people, in a very different way to the combination of neglect and overburning that has characterised post-colonial management of Australian fire-adapted ecosystems.

It was off-grid, with nothing but bushland and mostly bare, wind-blown pasture. It also turned out we were bloody-minded and into DIY, nudging 40 and able-bodied. So what we did is buy the place, put in the necessary amenities, plant shelterbelts in the pastures by hand, and design and owner-build our own eco-house on a shoestring budget we firmly stuck to (we're neither of us high-income earners, nor did we rob a bank or win the lottery or come into an inheritance - we just know how to do frugal in order to save up for things). This is what it all looked like coming up to ten years later - in the middle of a summer drought, after three years of getting less than 60% of average annual rainfall:

Kindly provided by a guest with a drone

We've since had an apocalyptic winter that flooded much of the South Coast, washed away bridges and roads, gave pasture animals footrot and killed some of our fruit trees and tagasaste hedges.

It's been quite a journey. Looking at the clip I can see why we've been so busy since we bought the place. We're now downshifters living off-grid via solar panels plus four bottles of camping gas a year for cooking, and we grow much of our own food (F&V, beef, honey - and getting pastured eggs and milk from neighbours). My husband works in town four days a week and I run the smallholding and an eco-farmstay, and write. We'd never have imagined we would end up doing this, but here we are. It was our chance to save 50 hectares of native ecosystem that goes all the way back to ancient Gondwana from being cleared for "development" or overrun with goats or otherwise degraded.

Here's some of the flora and fauna in the area we are stewarding:

Red Moon Sanctuary Flora and Fauna

Because of the pasture, I was able to retire an old mare I'd had since childhood at our own place for the last three years of her life, and keep my (ex-harness, DIY re-educated) riding horse here too. The Donkey Society got in touch with me about a group of donkeys with special healthcare needs (two obese, one blind) and we adopted those in 2012:

Don Quixote, Mary Lou, Sparkle

...and another two from a neighbour three years ago (and now we don't need any more, thank you very much - I trim all the horse and donkey hooves every 4-6 weeks and have enough arthritis already).

Nelly & Benjamin on wash day

I also had the chance to retire some old harness-racing horses I felt sorry for, that I'd known since they were young and had helped to educate in my summer breaks. (I really loathe horse racing for all sorts of reasons, but enjoy working with horses and being around them, and going on adventures with them, and maybe doing a bit of "ballroom dancing" with horses that enjoy it.)

These adopted horses went from living in dry lots and stables with hand-fed hay and concentrates, most of them solitary, to living free-range in a herd at our place, with a WIWO shelter and rugging during wet, windy, cold conditions. It's been really lovely to see them enjoy their golden years here.

At various stages we had to put old horses down.

My mare (cancer, 32) - 27 in this photo:

...and on a special beach outing when she was 27:

Romeo (34, no molars left in lower jaw, geriatric), who spent his last five years with a free access pass to our garden, photo at age 33:

Another mare (28, pituitary tumour) who was the dam of the ex-harness horse I had adopted to ride, pictured here at our place in 2016 with her chocolate-coloured son Sunsmart (named for his habit of always finding shady spots to rest in from when he was little) and her full brother in the background:

This was Sunsmart and me in 2015, when we were still in the middle of building our farmhouse...

There is a photoessay of a ride with him through the Australian sclerophyll, with ecological commentary, from 2019. It's called Aussie Trail Outing With Camera and can be found online via that title.

Late last year I had to put this horse down two days shy of his 25th birthday, after a three-year war with Cushings. He was put on medication after an early diagnosis to try to curtail the development of symptoms, and initially it seemed to work, but the following summer he rapidly started developing serious problems with electrolyte balance and thermoregulation and dropped weight rapidly. We tripled the medication but he kept falling down into a hole, and then, incredibly, after looking absolutely terrible, he recovered five months later, and even got back to 95% of his previous physical condition and levels of fitness. We were riding again with the dog and him chasing each other up the hills at rocket speeds. That lasted about a year - and then he went downhill again. This time he didn't recover and we called time for quality of life reasons - he'd had enough and it wasn't fair to keep trying and hoping.

I found out the morning after he died that Australian Indigenous icon David Gulpilil had died on the same day, also of chronic illness in advanced years. It was sad and yet strangely comforting that they went together. I wrote about that in an article called The Kingfisher, the Horse, and being on Country which is easy to find by title online.

In the next post I will introduce Julian.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)

Julian as a racehorse, before we adopted him

Julian is the most recent horse we adopted, back in 2017, when a space became available because another horse had died. He had spent 16 or his 17 years so far in social isolation - being kept in a separate run from the time he was weaned from his mother. This is common practice with horses in race training and racing, because many owners are worried that they will hurt each other when playing together, and that this will cause down time. Additionally, Julian, like Sunsmart and his dam's full brother Chasseur (AKA "Mr Buzzy" - he buzzes, but that's another story), had all been racing stallions - and stallions tend to be a high injury risk unless run naturally in a herd of mares, so these were kept all their lives in separate 100m x 20m sand yards with double rows of electric wire between them, and they wore deep grooves into the ground adjacent to these fences from pacing up and down all day like caged tigers.

I had adopted Sunsmart back in 2009, after his retirement from race training, and re-trained him to saddle then. I agisted him in a paddock down the road from where we lived at the time, and gradually got him used to socialising with other horses. He had been gelded before adoption, since I wasn't planning to breed from him and as that makes re-socialising much less risky. He, like Julian, had been classed as a dangerous stallion - both of them used to run at people and try to bite them over their electric fences and stable doors, and would easily have put inexperienced people in hospital. This is him in the first year of his saddle education, on an outing to Albany Harbour, with Brett kindly taking photos.

Sunsmart, 2009

By the time we had bought our own place in 2010, I was able to socialise him with my mare, other adoptees, and our donkeys.

Julian came to us in November 2017, after we lost Sunsmart's mother. He had never, ever run in the same paddock as another horse after being taken off his mother, and never known what it was like to graze a pasture. Because he was entirely new to our place and our other horses were already social and also quite assertive, we were able to put him straight in with them the morning after his arrival on the late-night horse bus service, after observing everyone's friendly body language across both sides of the fence. (Note that there is one electric line across the resident horses who know it's there and won't accidentally touch it, and a parallel rope to keep Julian from getting too close to the others while they are checking each other out - and no low wires to accidentally tangle their feet in if they decide to kick.)

This is all very civilised and "Hello, pleased to meet you!" - and in the last photo, Sunsmart is saying to Chasseur, "Hey, don't forget you're my buddy!"

There is plenty of space here for horses to run, and plenty of grazing, which is important when introducing horses to each other - accidents can happen when the spaces they are locked into are too small and they can't retreat, and when they can't spend their time feeding naturally - horses are trickle grazers and if given the opportunity, spend around 16 hours a day eating. So based on the good body language meeting across the fence, we let him in with the others.

I'll give you a personal context for the next lot of photographs. I had grown up, in the second half of my childhood, on a horse stud where the very animals you are about to see in these photos getting to know each other as a herd, each spent over ten years in solitary yards, with double electric fences between them. They paced up and down their fence lines in frustration for large parts of their day, like deprived zoo animals in the olden days, before the building of more appropriate enclosures and the introduction of enrichment programmes and appropriate socialisation. It was a sight which always deeply saddened me, and there was nothing I could do about it - besides the bandaid measure of taking them out for walks or a bit of work when I had time.

And I can't see the photos you're about to see - ordinary photos of horses getting to know each other and running as a group - without also seeing in my mind's eye the many years they all walked up and down their respective fencelines with dull staring eyes and set faces, trying in vain to get away from their confinement.

After all these years. In these photos, Julian is 17, Chasseur 24, Sunsmart 21. Julian was alone for the longest, out of these three.

Between the last two snaps, I took a little film:

They still sound like stallions. Kind of like bad opera singers!

The acoustics on this clip are very good - listen closely, and you'll hear the typical early morning birdsong at our place in early summertime.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)

Julian was 17 when he got here, which is not hugely old for a horse. Most horses live to between 25 and 30 years old if looked after properly, can often be ridden well into their 20s, and typically will senesce rapidly only in the last year or two of their lives.

He is very like Sunsmart in his work ethic - both horses always loved to do training; they are/were highly active, adventurous types with great curiosity about the world. That they were similar is partly explained by being half-brothers through the same sire; and both are grandsons of the famous Albatross, and look it.

Albatross (If this photo doesn't show up in the browser, try here:

Here's a clip to show a bit of Sunsmart's nature - and you can see how much like Albatross he looks in type:

It was a total fluke getting that clip - we happened to be out with the camera when he started herding the cattle (a stallion behaviour, and he's just enjoying playing here, not being aggressive). It's so funny how the horse changed course and came up to us to see what we were doing, at the end of the clip!

One of Julian:

...and one of Sunsmart and Julian in the paddock together in 2019:

I did actually begin to work with Julian not long after he got to our place, because he showed such an interest when he saw me working with and riding Sunsmart. So here's some photos of us taking him for walks on the lead in 2019, to a neighbour's bush-and-pasture block where we have permission to walk and ride.

A really important part of preparing a horse for trail riding is to get them used to the area you are going to start off taking them out into under saddle. That way, they don't have to worry about new and scary surroundings at the same time as they're getting used to being ridden. Because horses are a bit like this:

Thelwell always drew horses and their reactions so well!

Julian, like Sunsmart, can turn on a thread - I've seen both spin around 180 degrees in mid-air if startled and then go racing off in the other direction. I've even ridden these mid-air turns and attempted getaways when I was first getting Sunsmart on trails and he encountered scary monsters, which six months later stopped bothering him, but it was an interesting six months...

Julian is remarkably unflappable about wildlife appearing suddenly in the bushes; but he's quite sensitive to unexpected noises, so we're still working on that.

In the next photo I was free-walking him back on our place. A horse that knows you well will stay with you unless it gets startled.

So the early walks all went remarkably well, and Julian enjoyed getting out and exploring the world with us. But then, Sunsmart had his first major Cushings crisis, and I decided to enjoy whatever time I had left with him by focusing on spending as much time as I could with him, so Julian's training took a back seat.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)

This is an abridged version of what I wrote on my main open journal earlier this year.

February 13, 2022

It’s been over two months since my long-time equine friend Sunsmart died.

My husband Brett and I are both at the tail end of two and a half weeks’ leave. This morning I finished the Sandman story – I read the last volume of ten; Brett gave me the first one when the writing was on the wall for my poor horse, back in October. These were exactly the right kinds of stories and the right kind of artwork to help get me through this time – the most imaginative, profound and educational graphic novel I’ve ever read (and there was formidable competition in Maus). Here are some taster panels from the last volume, The Wake.

from View Comics Online

The girl in the red dress is Death, one of the most lovely characters ever invented. She’s no Grim Reaper, she is more like a social worker and a friend in need, and so utterly kind (except when her brother Dream occasionally needs his backside kicked to spur him into a change of perspective, or when another sibling, Desire, goes way too far in their characteristically low standards of conduct).

I commend this ten-volume work to anyone who would like a literary companion for some serious thinking, or who needs solace in times of grief. The conclusion to this story was so beautiful that I found myself with the energy and the impetus this morning to do something symbolic and ceremonial of my own.

The last time I led a horse up our bush track it was to put that horse down, and today, for very much Sandman reasons I decided we were going to do a lap of honour with his half-brother (same sire) wearing the deceased horse’s kit, just because that itself seemed fitting and something that needed to be done.

Sunsmart and Julian grazing together in 2019, half-brothers through the paternal side, and grandsons of the famous Albatross.

The aftermath of Sunsmart’s death resulted in this kind of partial paralysis for me that meant I just could not bring myself to deal with anything that had belonged to the horse. His useless tablets continued to lie in the shelf above the feed bins while I loathed their pink presence and all that had meant. His saddle and bridle had been gathering dust since August last year, before he went downhill, because that was when the entire landscape became too saturated from a record wet winter that also killed lots of trees to be able to continue riding – except perhaps on a giant seahorse. Several sets of old horseshoes and hoof boots past and present continued to sit in the shed and attic while I practiced selective blindness in their presence.

This morning I put a dozen carrots in the pockets of my cargo pants and went out to the shed. I threw a set of ancient, long-decayed EzyBoots into the garbage bag a decade after their purchase – we’d gone onto Renegades after finding them wanting, not to mention constantly breaking. His first worn-out set of those was kept in the attic for parts; his new set sat on the shelf near the bridles still. I don’t have a horse they will fit but decided I’m keeping them anyway.

Next I ripped a cobweb-infested saddle blanket off Sunsmart’s Ascot Roma All-Purpose, a specialist saddle for horses built like beer barrels. I threw it on the ground together with the part-used pill packet, to deal with later. I’d slid out and hung up the sheepskin half-pad I’d bought last winter to give the horse more padding around his backline, thinning from a combination of Cushings and lack of consistent riding in the winter weather. I don’t need it for this horse; I dug around for my deceased Arabian mare’s erstwhile saddle blanket in a drum because it was comparatively clean. I dusted saddle and bridle off as best I could – mental note that a thorough clean and oil is urgently needed – and hauled them and the grooming kit out to the tie rail. Then I set off with a lead rope and Sunsmart’s red “for best” halter with the gold catches to collect Julian from under the horses’ favourite shade tree.

It was already warm, with the UV beating down; I was in my uninspiring but practical farm hat and oversized long-sleeved collared linen shirt for sun protection. I wasn’t expecting to take any photos except of the tacked-up horse at the tie rail, but Brett thought it was a wonderful idea to have Julian do a lap of honour in Sunsmart’s riding gear and wanted to come along, which is how we did get some more photos out there while I was busy with the horse.

It took me a while to groom off all the dust; meanwhile Brett brushed Chasseur, who is crazy about “scratchies” and bugs anyone with a brush to pleeeeeease attend to him. He’ll stand on your feet if you’re not careful, sidling up close hoping you will get the message; then he’ll crane his neck and wiggle his lips in the biggest display of horse ecstasy I’ve ever seen in that category. We really should film it and add it to this post…

Sunsmart’s bridle needed letting out several holes; Julian has a longer head. He was a bit puzzled about the port-mouthed Spanish snaffle and chin chain, having mostly been driven in jointed snaffles of some type or another, but I’m not riding a horse with as much rocket power as Sunsmart or Julian without proper brakes, plus it’s gentle and comfortable for riding, where I wish the horse to think differently to his driving days too and to have a different head carriage. Harness-racing horses have this uncanny ability to stick their face into the sky and take off at top speed when they want to run, because that’s exactly what they do when racing. I’m half a century old and wish to avoid ending up in hospital in smithereens.

This bridle is in fact over 40 years old and came with Sunsmart’s great-grandmother. It originally had a blue and white checked headband which we replaced with this blue-striped one four decades ago. I had a nice new black-and-white bridle for Sunsmart for most of his riding career, but two years ago, coming back from a ride, he took fright at something while I untacked him and stepped into the reins before running off dragging the already-removed bridle, which was torn to pieces by the time I caught him. So I patched something together from old bits and pieces instead, after that.

Julian has had an old saddle on him a couple of times when I was doing preliminaries with him several years ago, but I’d never led him around in one and never put the “good saddle” on him before. Sunsmart’s fit was always going to be a reasonable fit for him; I may tinker around the edges a bit down the track, and have a re-fit done if it turns out necessary.

Typical for Nelly that she’s always hanging around when there’s something going on. I usually have donkeys hanging off me when I’m foot trimming too. They’re highly curious and very sociable, and seem to be into giving peer support to their friends. Nelly is still wearing a veil because she has no pigmentation around the eyes and gets burnt easily. While we don’t need the veils for flies anymore now the dung beetles have moved in for the summer, they are still really good UV protection for animals lacking in skin pigmentation, or to prevent long-term eye damage from UV, which is why our equines wear veils for most of spring and summer, excepting overcast or rainy days where they do prefer a break from them.

Julian tends to get a bit more rotund than ideal over spring when the grazing is good. I did restrict pasture for a while and was considering muzzling him. Work would certainly help him with that; also, he actually enjoys it. He’s got a work ethic and a fondness for adventure like Sunsmart had.

As we set off today, Brett was opening gates in front of us so I could concentrate entirely on the horse and his initial reactions to moving around with a riding saddle on him. If they’re going to be jumpy, this will be the time. Considering I’ve done nothing with him in that line for years, he was remarkable – just a tiny bit hesitant and nervy for not even half a minute, that an onlooker would have had to be looking for to notice – but then I was his “babysitter” for his harness training when he was young, as well, so I guess that confidence role goes back forever for him. Next time it will be “old hat” from the start to carry a saddle around.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
And then we had gone around the house to the trail head behind it, just like I had done so many times with Sunsmart, including that one last time to end his life. And while Julian has been on this bush trail free-ranging with his friends, and quite a few times when we took him on walks with us years ago, today he was the first horse to walk there with me since Sunsmart the day he died.

Sunsmart heading down the trail behind the house in 2019 with Jess and visiting dog Max

We walked the track, with Brett up ahead and the entire equine entourage following us in single-file: His companion horse and five eager donkeys, who all decided to tag along. Because he is the herd boss, nobody crowded him or tried to overtake him. It was quite humorous looking behind us at the procession of assorted long-ears and the big lanky chestnut horse in the middle of them making his usual conversational-sounding buzzing noises.

The long-ears have a more sedate walking pace than ex-racers, and got left behind eventually. When we got to the south boundary, Chasseur decided he was going back to the donkeys and kindly excused himself. Brett, Jess, Julian and yours truly continued our loop by turning left at the swamp track, where Brett got the camera out.

As you can see, Julian isn’t fazed if the rest of the herd suddenly deserts him out on walks with us, as has happened before. Like Sunsmart, he’s very independent and self-reliant; and he’s had a lot of solo track sessions as a harness horse.

Horses like this are “been there, done that” when it comes to strange equipment attached to their persons; the main issue with turning them into trail horses is usually to get them used to being in a natural environment with wildlife jumping out at them, which bothered Sunsmart more initially than it ever did Julian.

Because I left off the chest rope today for simplicity, Julian accidentally stepped into the reins when sniffing the ground at one point, which broke their buckle. THAT is one reason this little rope is part of my standard riding equipment – it prevents that completely as it keeps the reins from dangling when the horse has the head on the ground, which they may frequently do to check out things on the ground and convenient snacks when I’m dismounted between gates etc. Oh well, I can probably fix it; today I just knotted them back together.

We met the new weanling calves near the entrance to the Middle Meadow, lying in the shade of a paperbark tree, which got a raised eyebrow from Julian – he knows who they are, but he’s never seen them there before. Horses react to things being different from what’s usual to them – and likewise, we’d had some raised eyebrows at a fallen tree which wasn’t there last time Julian did this loop. That’s always an easy fix: I go ahead of the horse and touch the fallen tree, sit on it, and let him come up to me to check it out when he’s ready. Julian isn’t particularly jumpy – occasionally he’ll leap in surprise, but mostly it’s just raised eyebrows, hesitation and the odd snort, and easily fixed by reassurance.

The Middle Meadow still has green feed in it mid-summer, so I’m happy the calves found it – they’re an independent bunch, not always following the older steers around but instead usually doing their own thing. We left them to it and made our way through knee-deep reeds and dead annual grasses. When we got to a relatively clear bit, I started walking Julian in a circle, and Brett again got the camera out.

You can see he’s an active horse keen to run. Racehorses don’t muck around as a breed, they’re the opposite of plodders. Harness racers need a fair bit of groundwork with circles and tight turns when you are training them for riding – their previous work was 99% straight lines and gradual turns. Also halting and standing still, and rein-back.

He’s a super alert horse. Normal riding breeds tend to only look like this when they’re in a strange environment or they’re checking out something strange in the distance. But he’s in a familiar area where he grazes frequently, in this photo, and he’s not worried, just switched on and curious about all sorts of things. He’s the kind of horse who finds himself interesting things to go look at, when he’s free ranging – he enjoys adventures and checking things out. It was a particular delight to adopt him into free-range herd life back in 2017, from solo yarding in the same old yard for years in his previous home, because of that.

Now that’s a super photo of a typical interaction between an alpha dog and an alpha horse. Our stock dog thinks she’s the boss of every animal on the place, but horses like Julian and Sunsmart beg to differ. His body language is saying, “I’m not afraid of you and if you keep this up you will feel my teeth and hooves.” Sunsmart made a big point of telling Jess this when we first got her and started taking her on rides in 2013. He’d go stomping towards her if she didn’t back off quickly. As time passed, they became friends of sorts and toned down their displays, preferring to race each other when the opportunity arose. This scene reminded me so much of her early days with Sunsmart.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·

Julian is fun to work with because he’s thoughtful, adventurous, independent, generally sensible, quick to learn and interested in doing “extra projects” on top of his herd life. This maybe, maybe not one-off lap of honour for his half brother was also such an enjoyable work session that I now find myself keen to repeat it – when before I couldn’t face the idea of ever saddle educating and riding again.

You can’t replace a four-legged friend who has died, but you can be friends and co-adventurers on fresh terms with another four-legs. Every horse is a different universe, even if you can see similarities and parallels that recall another horse for you. Julian has striking physical and character traits in common with his deceased half-brother Sunsmart, his deceased uncle Romeo, his deceased sire The Sunbird Hanover, his deceased dam Juliet, and his famous deceased grandsire Albatross (in whose case I can see it from 1970s film footage). He’s streaks of each of those, and also his own thing.

Like in the Sandman cartoons, the new Dream of the Endless has overlap with the old, but is definitely his own thing.

from Read Comics Online

We walked into the main pasture, where we met Ben and Nelly coming back from their outing. Nelly doesn’t like losing sight of Julian and was happy to see him. I took the saddle and bridle off Julian there in the field and let him join his friends. He bid me a friendly goodbye before walking away to graze, and we carried the riding gear back to the shed.

When it was stowed, this was the view from the garden:

They’re a social bunch, and Julian tends to follow me around after I’ve worked with him and be extra affectionate. He seemed to enjoy the outing – just as in past outings, before Sunsmart’s diagnosis. He’s tagged along with Brett and me before on dog walks, of his own accord, and sometimes with Sunsmart when I rode him. He’s not waiting for treats, this is just what he does. When he first came to live with us, he often left the herd to follow me around as I was doing maintenance work out in the paddocks – he’s curious and sociable. You can show him tools and he will sniff them and watch what you’re doing with them. While none of this bunch say no to treats, they are just very social and interested in what we do. The donkeys often tag along when we are showing visitors around the nature reserve on eco-tours, which has resulted in amusement and lovely photos for guests to take home.

Julian gets on well with the others in the herd, but is definitely the boss and occasionally asserts this fact. Here he’s snake-facing Nelly and Ben to say, “Back off, this is my party.”

Seconds later, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth.

And then Julian’s horse friend re-joined the others in the meadow, after our herd outing went its various ways at the halfway mark.

Julian is STILL interested in what I’m up to, here. I’m not trying to attract his attention. It’s just what he does. Only when I turned my back did he go off to graze – and I surreptitiously turned back around to take two more photos.

Nice animal. Well, aren’t they all, at our place anyway. And a good lap of honour for the friend we lost, which has somehow made the loss a little easier.

The Wake frontispiece by Michael Zulli

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·

May 6, 2022

After several weeks of to-do lists, bad weather and guests, we had a lovely sunny autumn day and I decided two things:

1) I was doing a training session with Julian

2) This weekend, I'm getting on the horse, because this is getting ridiculous. This is the longest lead-up I've ever had on riding a horse, and that includes the Arabian yearling I trained entirely from scratch and on my own starting when I was 11, with the help of the following book and its three companion volumes: Horse Control- The Young Horse by Tom Roberts (9780959941319) | Books On Horses Australia

Here's a photo of us when she was two and I was 12. And yes, that's the grey mare in my earlier posts, when she was growing up.

It's 37 years since I first got on this mare's back; and I've re-trained and saddle educated half a dozen horses since. So it's time I pulled myself together and got on with it.

So today was the dress rehearsal for actually getting on his back. I brushed him, tacked him up, and took him for a walk. He is herd leader and all the other equines were following him in single file as we headed out onto the bush tracks today. I wish I'd had a camera on me because it was hilarious. One horse, five donkeys all walking behind him one after the other.

This is an earlier photo which gives a small approximation of what this looks like - but this photo only caught the horse and the first two donkeys of the procession...

Sadly I couldn't find any decent horse and donkey emojis, but I will use substitute animals to give you a pictorial idea of what our procession looked like:

🐘 🐘 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐

The photo above does show the same route we embarked upon today - up out of the valley floor, onto the western ridge and into the forest there, on our western boundary track. And then the donkeys decided to make mayhem! Something bothered them - it may have been our naughty stock dog, or a bot fly - and they began to race around and bray like full-on trumpet practice, running hither and yon and whizzing past the horse and me, then whizzing by us again in the other direction.

If you have a green horse, this is exactly the sort of thing that can cause disaster.

But Julian isn't a green horse; he's seen and done lots of things and little fazes him - sudden strange noises are one of the few things that can still startle him into leaping about like a kangaroo. So he and I had a good look at the donkey mayhem, and then continued walking along the track, away from them. Pretty soon the donkeys settled down and decided to start following us again, in single file. Very hilarious. At this stage we had lost the other horse, who'd gone back to the pasture, and the procession looked like this:

🐘 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐 🐐

Mary Lou and Sparkle were at the rear of the procession, Mary Lou having waited for her blind friend to work out what was going on. She never leaves Sparkle alone; she's like her personal seeing-eye donkey.

We turned the corner at the south boundary, descended the ridge, and then parted company with the donkeys, who decided to continue towards the swamp track. We took the main sand track home, and now I let the stirrups dangle down for the first time since we began the saddle education process, to get Julian used to having his sides bumped in case a rider loses a stirrup. I also started slapping the saddle gently with my hand to make strange unexpected noises, while talking to him; at first he startled, then he settled down and wasn't bothered anymore.

We did some trotting and transitioning back down to a walk, rinse and repeat half a dozen times - this time with the stirrups really flying about from the motion. All went well and there were no unexpected lift-offs or attempted rocketing into the distance. I have to say, he's a total pro at going into a trot the moment you ask, and then back to a walk likewise. Always very good to have that communication established from the ground, before you get on a horse's back. He also enjoys being told how clever he is.

Back at the tie rail, I decided to do unusual things before taking his saddle off. I pulled on the stirrups, and bounced up and down next to him, gently at first, more wildly later, all the while having a conversation with him about all this stuff I was doing. He looked attentively at what I was doing, and decided it didn't bother him.

I took off the saddle, let him have a good sniff of it all over, put it away, and made a fuss of him before letting him go graze with his friends. Once again, he wasn't in a hurry to leave, and he continued to stick around and look at what I was doing, when finishing up chores.

It all bodes well for this weekend. We're ready to go.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·

Since She Started To Ride
by Jonathan Richman

She's got a brown suntan startin' just above her collar
Her lower arms they're brown, but the rest is kinda pale
She'd buy betadine if she only had a dollar
And she'd live out in the pasture if she only had a tail

And no I don't see her much since she started with horses
No I don't see her much since she started to ride

Well her jeans they get like a wet saddle blanket
And her boots are like you'd figure
And her car is full of hay
Horses, humans: if she had to rank it
You'd bet on they that canter
And them that need fly spray

And you see I don't see her much since she started with horses
No I don't see her much since she started to ride

Go boys, tell 'em all about it!

Canter and fender, barrel and mane
Don't see her much since she started to train
Cannon bone, knee bone, forearm and arm
I don't see her much when she heads for the barn

And she's so satisfied when she's riding and trainin'
She must just love that smell of the barn i would say
She's so satisfied when she's groomin' and grainin'
And she's tired in the evening and she's gone in the day

And no I don't see her much since she started with horses
No I don't see her much since she started to ride

A horse song sent to me by a reader. Sound familiar?

...and I've seen too many examples of people who are like this to want to be that way myself, starting in childhood. I've been around horse forums since 2014, and saw a lot of horse monomania - people dedicating their entire lives and finances to horse pursuits and some seemingly making it into a kind of religion or drug or existential escape - and then others who, like me, think there are too many fascinating and important things about life to embody that kind of tunnel vision, and who don't want their dearest human relationships to run second fiddle to their recreational interests.

Even as a child in Europe, I remember how my parents chided me because sometimes I did not want to go to the barn with them - I remember one time in particular when I was around 10, and at a friend's place. She was teaching me to braid bracelets using a special technique that made the braid very round, not the usual three-strand plaiting. Bracelets like this:

I loved this friend and spending time with her, and we were in the middle of learning something, so I wasn't just going to drop everything and go tend to the family's horses in the middle of all of that. It was beginning to take away from my friendships. Sometimes I would take this friend to the barn, and pop her on the mare that became Sunsmart's great-grandmother bareback, and pretend to be Native Americans with her, escaping the cowboys with our superior horse skills and connection to nature. But even though I liked horses, I didn't let that get in the way of everything else even back then.

Here's a photo of Dame du Buisson (Sunsmart's great-grandmother and Chasseur's grandmother), when I was learning to jump around that same time. Sadly I have no photos of my friend on her bareback.

If you look at the bridle, it's the same on I had on Julian for his Lap of Honour. Just here, it's got a different bit strapped to it - a soft padded hackamore, which is actually bitless, and good for learning to jump and balance because you can't hurt the horse's mouth with it.

The other horse we had loved jumping, and this is the day I dared myself to jump the highest obstacle I'd ever done on horseback:

I had far better balance on the second try - but let the reins go too slack. These things take time.

I remember being really nervous about the size of this jump, it seemed like we were jumping Mt Everest but of course, it was only about 1m.

My family's life was so obsessively revolving around horses that it ended up consuming nearly all our time, after they decided to relocate to Australia and breed and race horses. I didn't think that was much fun at all, and Sunsmart's great-grandmother died because they decided to do that - because they had to have a foal from her, because she had race winning progeny in Europe - even though she'd been sold by the breeder as a child's riding horse, due to her wonderful disposition and because the birth of her fifth foal had damaged her. There was veterinary advice never to breed her again as the risk was too high. I was also mortified that the mare - my best buddy - was suddenly taken off me after I'd spent two happy years going all over the countryside with her. I missed the birth of her sixth foal by five hours because I was on middle school camp, but came home in time to have her die in my arms from post-partum haemorrhage. She was on the ground with her face in my lap sighing and bleeding out and there was nothing anyone could do. It broke my heart. It's one reason I adopted some of her progeny.

Pain like that shapes you. That horse was like my adoptive mother, and I was like an orphan - I never had a warm relationship with my own mother, and grew up in a very dysfunctional and violent family. I was often sad, and this mare had come along in my life, just separated from her previous foal, and she and I filled vacuums in each other. She lavished me with care and affection and would slow down if I lost my balance riding her, so that I could safely ride her bareback anywhere, on my own. She would lower her head so I could slide across her neck and then gradually raise is so I could slide from that onto her back, so I could get on the 16hh mare from the ground - and that was her idea, she showed it to me. I read the story of Mowgli and could relate - because animals filled the yawning chasm for me that the unhappy family life produced.

I'm giving back to this mare even today, with looking after her grandson who looks so much like her and is nearly at the end of his life too, at 29 later this year and starting to lose teeth. I will still be giving back to her when he is no longer, just by how I treat animals. She taught me well.

But to get back to the song lyrics - I know so many horse people in Australia who make everything revolve around horses; who put up palatial buildings for them and lock them into those when they'd rather roam free, while themselves living in little cardboard boxes, and when we bought this land, I swore never to do it like this, and never to let my relationship with my animals degrade my relationship with my spouse. So they got the best free-range social setup I could make them, and we built a very solid and comfortable eco-friendly house for ourselves - as befits Equus caballus and Hom'o allegedly sapiens, respectively.

The horses can be happy without our constant attention, because they can roam and graze and socialise and explore 62 hectares at will - they aren't locked into a building or small yard awaiting our pleasure. They have an independent, full life of their own and go on adventures as a group, with the donkeys, all around the farm tracks, and when the winter fronts come in and the Roaring Forties start to blow, they are warm and dry in turnout rugs and don't even bother using their WIWO shelter, which the donkeys will go stand in when it rains.

We attend to them twice a day - in the morning to let them out of their 4 hectare nighttime space into the rest of the property if they want to go on adventures, and in the evening at bucket o'clock. When I was riding, that was about every second day. Hoof trimming and general health care when required. The rest of the time we're doing other things. Of course, if I'm going around the farm, I often have little meet-ups that look like this:

Brett says I'm frequently surrounded by a cloud of animals. They just like to come say hello. Even the cattle do it. Maybe I have some kind of special fairy dust on me from being mothered by a mare when I was a pre-teen.

But my husband knows that if he were ever to become unhappy living where we do, I would decide for our happiness as a couple, above anything else. I do not have to do this forever and it does not have to interfere with our other life goals and interests. And he's definitely my favourite animal. ♥

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·

May 7, 2022

Well, just reporting I've finally sat on the back of that horse. Got on and off him twice this afternoon and that's enough for one session. But wouldn't you just know it, the second time I got on him, a huge branch came down with an almighty crash in the forest behind us and startled him, so he got very toey because unexpected noises are his prime "scary monster" - danced around a bit, and I reassured him and slid back off him to calm him down.

All this was at the tie rail, which is where I've done all the first mounts on ex-harness racers so far. In contrast, with my Arabian mare, on January 26, 1985, I just spontaneously got on her back after a lungeing session with the saddle on one day, and rode her home from the field where I'd worked with her. Just like that, because it felt right, and she acted as if she'd been a riding horse all her life.

With ex-harness racers, I've never bothered lungeing - they've got equivalent preliminary work with harness training and are already mature and ready to work. They're used to having all kinds of gear on them and pulling a cart, now they just have to get used to the idea of carrying someone on their back. So with each of the half-dozen harness horses, I've done some leading them around with a riding saddle, and making noise with the saddle, dangling stirrups around their ribcages, leaning up against them, jumping up and down next to them, pulling on the stirrups, putting weight in the stirrup with a foot, standing up in the stirrup leaning against the horse, etc, and if that's all OK, you just get on the horse and then get off again almost immediately, before anything untoward can happen. Go chat to the horse, say how clever they are, etc, rinse and repeat, end lesson.

Next time, if you get on and the horse seems unperturbed, you get a competent horse handler to lead-line you away from the tie rail at the walk - or alternatively, you lead-line your horse while someone else is the saddle monkey. Just walk for five minutes, and if the horse is cool, end lesson, come back and do more another day. By day two usually the leader unclips the horse and rider within a minute, and they continue on a track they know well on their own - once around, then back home.

Currently, the only person available who's really skilled at controlling horses from the ground is me - Brett isn't a horse person and doesn't know how to anticipate reactions instantly based on body language, and forestall a problem before it really snowballs. I can counteract horses running backwards, rearing, etc, he can't. So it would actually be better if I could get someone else to volunteer to sit on him for the first lead-line session, because controlling that horse from the ground is so important for that step. We'll see how we'll solve that one. Brett volunteered to monkey up today, but has only been on two rides in his life, so he didn't really get much further than standing up in one stirrup wondering what to do with his other leg, so I just ended up getting on myself instead. It's been a while since he was on a horse!

Brett's first horse ride had been back in 2008, when I lead-lined him through the countryside on my Arabian mare for a short scenic ride. At that time, he told me that being on the back of a horse feels "like being drunk and staggering around but without the euphoria" and he expressed no enthusiasm for ever doing it again, which I respected.

However, at Hallowe'en 2010 he came home with a Nazgul costume, and as a result got coaxed onto Sunsmart for a photo session - because you can't really be a Nazgul without a horse...

So here is Brett's second-ever horse ride - and the last one to date:

This is the same photo after Brett photoshopped Middle Earth into it:


8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·

May 11, 2022

Monday and today I took Julian around for more training walks in full regalia, with the stirrups down. We practiced halt, walk-on, trot-on, transition back to walk. All flawless - the horse isn't just cooperative, he's really interested in what we are doing. Of course, I don't just hold out a hoop and say to him, "This high!' - like some kind of taskmaster who believes the horse is somehow my inferior and beholden to obey. My approach to that is more like dancing with a partner. I respect the horse, ask nicely, practice with him. Even a horse knows when you don't take him for granted, and you don't think you are entitled to ask him to do things for you.

The other thing we've been practicing is standing still at intervals along our walk around the bush tracks, while I do various things like hold the reins above his withers as if to get on his back, put my foot in the stirrup, put weight in the stirrup, jump up and down next to him, move around and do the same thing on the other side, etc. All while he is standing still, and using the old Tom Roberts techniques for getting him to stand still, no stress, no hurry. Here's an except of what that author had to say about the matter of preparing to mount a horse you are saddle training, which I hadn't read in 20 years, but which was my manual for educating my mare from yearling up starting when I was 11:


Excerpt from The Young Horse by Tom Roberts, Griffin Press, 1977

It's interesting to me that many horse people seem to interpret "teaching a lesson in obedience" as an invitation to get rough with a horse, "show him who's boss," attempt to scare the horse and/of inflict pain. I think that's about the psychology of the human beings who do such things, and it is my personal observation that people who treat horses with contempt also treat humans with contempt.

I also think JK Rowling wrote a nice metaphor about all of this with the hippogriffs and the code of conduct for working with them - and what happened when arrogant people handled them. In the horse world, sadly many riding breeds are a bit like ISA Brown hens - bred for docility and low on IQ and spirit, and many of those can be bullied into submission. The intelligent, spirited horses will be the ones that will be trouble for human bullies - because you need to treat them with respect and kindness.

Anyway, Tom Roberts was an instructor of riders and trainer of horses from the time he was 16, starting in the British army. He was self-taught and I've never found any kind of instruction books on horse handling, training and riding anywhere near as useful as his four slim volumes. He always takes great care to present the horse's point of view, and to emphasise good communication with the horse and how to achieve it. It's not just that the horse has to learn to read and understand us, it's also that we must learn to read and understand the horse.

So re-reading what he had to say about mounting, I saw how much more I could do than I had already to prepare Julian for a smooth transition to ridden work, given that I won't be working with an experienced horse handler on the ground, or a competent rider who can work with me. I decided on the weekend this is going to be a mostly solo effort again, as it was with my Arabian mare back in the 80s; on balance I don't think there is anything to be gained by having an inexperienced handler or rider helping out - too many variables. Besides, I already sat on him briefly twice on Saturday, and all that was fine, the only reason he got toey the second time is because a branch came crashing down near us, and even that didn't turn into a disaster - he settled a bit and then I slid off again.

My plan basically is to keep on taking him for these walks and to continue to go further and further each time, right up to getting on and straight back off again at the halt, then keep walking him on the reins, halt again, rinse and repeat, and start doing things like waving my arms and swinging my legs while in the saddle (you must never do this kind of thing suddenly because horses startle at sudden movement unless they are habituated to it case by case), until eventually I will ask him to move forward a few steps with me on his back, when the whole thing feels right.

And it will - he's a very sensible, very calm horse the majority of the time. Today he was really brilliant working with me, very relaxed and happy to dawdle to wait for two donkeys who were accompanying us. He's actually the very opposite of a plodder, which is why this is a big deal - the hardest thing to do with horses who love to move, and move fast, like this horse and all the horses I've saddle educated, is to get them to relax and do things slowly, instead of go haring off for fun. We can start doing that later, after we've learnt the relaxed, slow mode of operating and it's become a permanent part of the repertoire.

This clip from 2012 shows how horses that aren't plodders move around at liberty, even when quite old. This was, in order of appearance, Romeo (then 28), Sunsmart (then 16, and that was his general-moving-around trot, not his race trot - Julian is the same), and my Arabian mare Snowstorm (then 31).

One new thing we did today, just to keep things interesting, is to "bush-bash" along a kangaroo track. It's the first time I've taken Julian off the vehicle tracks, so that was a novel experience for him. Sunsmart absolutely loved going on animal trails; maybe his half-brother will develop a taste for that as well.

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·

May 16, 2022

Today is a me-day to make up for the weekend. We spent most of Saturday shopping for various items, which is not what I would describe as fun - the best part of it was doing a 45 minute high-impact hike on Mt Melville, with lots of steep uphill-downhills and incredible views, including of town.

I can't believe so many people love shopping. The only kind of shopping we love is looking at books and stationery. Everything else is a necessary evil, to be done as efficiently as possible.

By the time we got home late afternoon on Saturday, we were useless and after putting everything away, feeding the animals and feeding ourselves, we vegetated in bed reading online newspapers etc for the entire evening, to decompress. The following day we had to clean the house top to bottom and prepare various things because guests were due in by afternoon - so that ended up another mostly-work day. I'm delighted to say that the guests are lovely - they are outdoorsy self-described refugees from the politics in America, hail from Portland, Oregon, are the same age as us, in equally good shape (mutual remarks exchanged because it's not usual for people to look after themselves well physically), and we all had a ton of fun around the dinner table last night.

The menu - tacos, which tend to look like this at our place - we've dispensed at decorating the shells with salad, and instead present everything on a mountain of salad...

The guests also had zucchini and lemon soup for first course (we'd had it for lunch), and we all had freshly made apple and cherry brioche pockets for dessert - the apples having come off the tree the same time the guests had arrived (and the cherries in summer - we freeze lots). Super conversation around the table and then a replete retirement of everyone in our respective food comas.

This morning was finally sunny, after three days of rain and dark clouds. I made eggy pancakes with a berry/citrus/brandy sauce for all of us, then Brett went off to work and our guests to hike Mt Hallowell in Denmark on our recommendation. (Fabulous hike, wonderful tall Karri forests, caves, granite monadnocks, breathtaking coastal views - we did that hike again for my 50th and it's worth looking at the photos in our hiking diary - scroll down to "Mt Hallowell Circuit" and you will also be rewarded with a gravitationally rearranged birthday cake.)

And then I had the day to myself. Did a couple of chores, some reading and eating, and after morning tea, went out and did another training session with Julian. I really will need to take a camera with me in future if I'm going to write this up. Meanwhile, I have two clips from about a year ago. The first is Julian at liberty.

The second was from my birthday last year, when Brett caught me going for a bareback loop with Sunsmart, who was well and happy and in remission from the Cushings that sadly took his life later that same year.

So that's why I am now saddle training Julian. He's a lovely horse, a younger half-brother to Sunsmart, and I now have time to work with him.

Today I tried out a bitless bridle on Julian, which I'd bought to give beginners lessons on Sunsmart - while riders first develop balance, they shouldn't, in my view, have a bit. One reason for the gear change is that Sunsmart's "normal" bridle that the now-deceased horse is wearing in the clip above is causing discomfort behind Julian's ears. It's a common problem these days that standard browbands are too short for horses with deep foreheads, and I'm actually unable to purchase anything longer, I'd have to have something especially made. The problem when a browband is too short is that when horses turn their ears backwards to listen to something you're saying or to something else behind them, the ear cartilage can chafe against the poll strap of the bridle (which sits behind the ears). Julian doesn't have enough room in the old riding bridle, and Sunsmart only had barely enough.

The poll strap on the bitless bridle is narrower, rounded in back, and much softer than the 40-year-old bridle. When I tried it on him today, it was very comfortable for him - so after the session, I decided to convert it from cross-under to simple sidepull. This means I have to sew a buckle to a strap I've repurposed from elsewhere to make a proper throat latch - between that and superglue I should muddle along. I promise I'll take pictures if I'm going to keep this up.

Today we enjoyed the lovely crisp and sunny weather, with a long walk around the valley floor. We practiced stop-starting, standing still while I was heaving myself up above the saddle with one leg in the stirrup (I swear he's thinking, "Stop it and just sit on my back already!" - as I did for the first time last weekend at the tie rail with Brett present), transition to trot and back to walk. Leading him off a bitless for this, I noticed he was only trotting, his beautiful big floaty ground-covering trot that I can't keep up with at the speeds he is capable of doing at that gait (harness racers typically sprint at 48km/h - which is a mile in 2 minutes - and that's at a square gait, i.e. trot or pace; they can gallop even faster). With a bit and working off the ground, half the time he paces, half the time he trots.

Which is to be expected - when he harness raced, he was a pacer (he won his fastest race in 1:59:04 for the mile) - so although he's "ambidextrous" in the paddock, like another horse I rode in my 20s called Chip (whom I trail rode and even did an endurance ride on in-between regular metropolitan assessment harness engagements at Gloucester Park with his owner), the moment you put a bit in his mouth he associates it with his racing days and working at the pace. So with these horses, when re-training to saddle, you teach them different cues for trot and pace and then, as they say, Bob's your uncle - and I don't know why so many people seem to have such difficulty with that when re-training a harness racing horse. They're forever complaining they can't get them to trot. It's all in your communication with the horse and the cues you set up to distinguish between the two. People like that typically think the horse is stupid, but in those scenarios it's always the person.

I'm actually really looking forward to riding this one now. He's quite unflappable with his groundwork - the dog typically races circles around him while I'm doing mounting exercises (see also in the above clip with Sunsmart), because she is so excited about the idea of the horse going faster and she knows it won't do that while I'm on the ground.
And today Nelly and Ben turned up on the bush tracks five minutes after we started our work - decided to catch up with us, and hung around observing.

Nelly & Ben - intrepid adventurers - their story here

After training, everyone else then present wanted me to brush them. Chasseur AKA Mr Buzzy queued up and got lucky - wiggled his nose ecstatically at the thorough job he got. Then Nelly and Ben and Don Quixote began sidling in and getting turns. Julian wasn't bothered - like Sunsmart, he's ticklish.

Not a bad way to spend a good chunk of a day off in lieu. I was going to garden this afternoon but tomorrow is another day; tonight I'm making calzones for us all and still ruminating on what will be for dessert...

...and just randomly, a clip with dog antics. Jess and us at a hiking hut, with Brett's inimitable commentary...

That is one crazy dog - Julian has come to terms with it I think...

8,960 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)

May 30, 2022

We had planned on doing this before, but the weather, lack of energy and other projects had interfered. However, after a weekend of plastering all Saturday and recuperating all Sunday, we were able to do the first riding session this morning! Brett has a late start on Mondays and doesn't have to leave here until 9am.

So we had breakfast and then I tacked up Julian and we took him down the sand track together - the main track that leads into the nature reserve behind the house. I had Brett stationed on the lead rope and myself on the reins and I did the same things with the horse as I have for a while - stop frequently, mess around with the saddle, put weight in the stirrup, stand up in the stirrup - except this time I got on his back instead of only doing those preliminaries. And then we asked him to walk on with me on his back, and that was the first actual ride I had on him.

He wasn't fazed; and I didn't think he would be. A bit surprised maybe, "Well, this is new!" and quite attentive, and he liked being talked to while this was going on. In keeping with Tom Roberts' guidelines of ending the lesson before it goes wrong, I halted the horse and hopped back off him after about 10 seconds of riding, walked beside him for a bit, and then we stopped and I got back on him. This time the ride was longer. Stop and off again, and then back up for a third time. No worries, and we turned him back towards home and I rode him a bit longer still.

I haven't ridden since last August, and nobody but Sunsmart since at least 2014 (when my Arabian mare died). I don't have any photos of today, but here's a photo of Sunsmart from the very early stages of riding him back in 2009:

That was my first short trail outing on him after I adopted him and brought him down to Albany, where we lived back then. A neighbour and her horse were also floating around on the street leading to the Stidwell Bridle Trail. I remember this ride very well because Sunsmart was ultra spooky after moving to his new home. I'd done his riding preliminaries at his old home, where I'd ridden him around the training track he used to be driven on as a harness horse, and also on some local trails. He'd never seen bitumen before though, and he was a bit toey because of the echoing of his footfalls, when this photo was taken. Also the old saddle I had for him then didn't fit as well as the one I bought for him later and got specifically fitted to him, so I was actually slipping around on his back here, which is why one of my feet ended up lower than the other in the picture.

That same year I also had a ride on a huge thoroughbred, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, who'd set a track record in Queensland and was "a horse no-one could do anything with anymore" until a friend picked him up and started treating him with decency and patience, and exercising him properly. He was a fabulous horse, I loved him to bits, he was very like our Romeo both in disposition and in the kinds of problems he'd had with people. Exceptionally fast racehorses not infrequently end up with greedy people and are spat out at the other end with behaviour problems... if they are lucky, they will be picked up by someone with sense, but it's the exception rather than the rule. Both Romeo and Rikki-Tikki were lucky.

Anyway, once when we were taking photos of my friend and Rikki-Tikki riding in the harbour, I was invited to have a splash on the big, solid, 17hh horse, and found that my friend's stirrup irons didn't accommodate my leg length, so I had a stirrupless jaunt on him. It was my first ever ride on Rikki-Tikki, but we already knew and liked each other well. I got completely soaked by the water thrown up by the horse legs at speeds faster than walking, and ended up looking like a drowned rat and freezing in the wind:

But my favourite photo was this:

..."it's moments like these"...

I just love how the things the photographer didn't intend actually sum up that ride so well - the tilted horizon, missing bits of person and horse, water splash on the lens as we screeched to a stop near the camera. You try riding at speed wet through and in a slippery wet saddle without stirrups... unforgettable!

Thing is, I was in my 30s back then, and I don't think I bounce as well 13 years later! I look at all of this and think it's crazy stuff I did in those days, but when you're doing this all the time it's just normal, and I never did get seriously hurt. I didn't fall off Rikki-Tikki, and even if I had, a water landing is reasonably harmless. I only fell off Sunsmart a few times in the 12 years I rode him, despite the hair-raising things we used to do, and I didn't fall off doing those, mostly just when I tried to get on bareback from the ground and overshot my target and went head-first off the other side again, much to the amusement of any bystanders.

And then there was the one time in 2018 where I fell off at a walk because I was daydreaming and the horse shied and ran backwards unexpectedly. I came off sideways and without much force, but with my foot at a funny angle, which snapped three metatarsals and had me walking around on a pirate leg for six weeks. Since that time I am aware of my own mortality, I suppose.

Julian is like Sunsmart in that he can turn on a thread and accelerate like a rocket. I had a lot of tough things to ride out during spooks the first year I rode Sunsmart, and I am actually not very keen on doing that again now that I'm clearly mortal.

There weren't any problems today, and I didn't anticipate any. Brett was there as "babysitter" and leading the horse so I didn't have to explain to him that he was supposed to walk forward at a steady pace while also sitting on his back - that comes a bit later. Avoiding misunderstandings is really important the first time you ride a horse.

We'll do it again soon - Wednesday afternoon perhaps. I'll spend more and more time on his back; I'll start asking him for a halt and walk-on when riding with Brett supporting at first. Eventually Brett will unclip him and just walk along as a proxy herd member, which a horse always finds calming. And after that I'll be on my own.

None of that bugs me. Just things like: When the first kangaroo comes out of the bushes unexpectedly, stuff like that. It's spooking that is challenging in a green horse, and usually it takes 3-6 months to get to the point where such situations aren't difficult to ride anymore. That bit I'm not looking forward to.

So what was it like to ride Julian? ...he feels like an intermediate between my Arabian mare and Sunsmart. My mare was a little smaller, and Sunsmart a fair bit bigger - taller, with a much longer neck. Even my Arabian mare had a longer neck, I think - it's prized in Arabians, but not so much in harness breeds. Sunsmart only had a neck like that because he was a French Trotter cross, which Julian isn't - although they are also both by the same stallion and both Albatross grandsons - and that line still had longer necks than contemporary Standardbreds. I rode a friend's contemporary-line harness racing rescue once, and he had the shortest neck of anything I'd ever ridden.

Julian thankfully isn't extreme like that. He's a very well put-together horse. I'm just getting used to being on a horse that's not as long as my last one, and has shorter strides too. Sunsmart had what I called "seven mile boots" - the longest strides I'd ever ridden, besides his French great-grandmother's.

Julian, 2022

Sunsmart, 2018

Something else that occurred to me, as we were walking down the sand track with Julian today: It's been almost exactly 6 months since we both walked Sunsmart down that track to be put down, early on Monday morning on the 29th of November last year. And here we were, walking Julian down the same track for his first ride, early on Monday morning, on the 30th of May.

I still miss him terribly, but I know he had a very good life.

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
Hullo everyone, thanks for your kind words.

Sorry to hear you also lost a horse, @george the mule. That wasn't actually your oldest one, was it - or am I misremembering names? You had one well into his 30s last time I was here.

@Woodhaven, you've always been inspirational to me about fully utilising all of life. So many people end up doing lawn bowling as their sport of choice... and watch way too much TV... Got any photos / links for that 3yo? Are the horse flies bad yet?

@lostastirrup, you're still on your odyssey, I see. We should totally catch up. I was wondering, are your legs getting bent from all that riding? ;)

@egrogan, I see you have a nice new companion horse and that you now potentially have the facilities for six more lovely Morgans of kindly disposition... 😜

@gottatrot, how good that we can compare notes with saddle training a new four-legs. Have to say, Julian feels a bit more like a pony, compared to Sunsmart - although actually he's really well put together and somewhere between 14.3hh and 15hh, to Sunsmart's 15.1hh and enormous stride length. But I've not trotted on him yet and that's where I think he's going to be a bit more similar to Sunsmart - he can really move at the trot as well. But then, so could my Arabian mare...and Romeo...

@QtrBel, yes well, it was a high word count as pre-written... ;) So if you got to the end, you deserve a perseverance certificate!

@Caledonian, with all that historical stuff, Gaelic music and general interests you didn't come across a horse monomaniac to me! By the way, owing to the election weekend before last, we are breathing a big sigh that we're finally out from under the yoke of the oppressors - horrible bully-boys and rorters that we had for 9 long years, not to mention grossly incompetent - officially the most incompetent government we ever had, according to the number-crunchers...(the PM actually had been sacked from his last two jobs in private industry before finding himself incongruously head honcho of Australia)... and so, so, so incredibly annoying, depressing, and harmful to the majority of people in our country with the way they operated across the board... wish you luck with Bozo the Clown. Maybe Scotland needs to secede. God knows in Western Australia we were thinking about it...

This was the mood for many in Australia on election night...

And on Sunday morning...

from Australia's famous First Dog on the Moon | The Guardian

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Discussion Starter · #22 · (Edited)

As always when we lose a horse, I go back a few months later to look at the skull. Since I don't own a horse mouth-gag, this gives me an excellent insight into the state of their teeth at the time of their demise.

With Romeo we were wondering just how many teeth he had lost. Turned out he had no molars at all left in his bottom jaw and had just been gumming his food (twice-daily enormous tubs of senior porridge and all the green grass in the garden). Here's Romeo's skull (right in photos), compared with Sunsmart's dam's (left in photos) - he was 34.5 and she almost 28 when they died... his teeth had truly worn out, hers had not.

The cracked teeth in the mare's lower jaw were post-mortem weathering. You can see where the last teeth in Romeo's jaw had been before they'd all fallen out - the earlier casualties had completely closed sockets, the later ones were in the process of closing over. His jaw was nice and clean and he'd never abscessed despite his tooth loss - and for years I'd been resigned that he'd probably abscess and have to be put down because of that. Yet he was lucky, and he didn't have pain and infections despite the tooth loss.

Romeo had only lost two molars in the top jaw. The third gap was a tooth that fell out post-mortem and I couldn't find it to put it back in. I knew this because I check the skulls at regular intervals but it takes a while before they are relatively clean - meanwhile, the foxes and ravens have at them. - You can see that many of Romeo's top molars were on the way out though - look at the discolouration etc.

When I went to see Sunsmart's skull I was particularly interested in his teeth because he'd had major problems with them in his first Cushings crisis - he rapidly got periodontosis, gum ulcers from grass seeds, ulcerated tongue edges etc. He had his teeth done at the start of all this but I was very unhappy with the job - he didn't seem to eat any better after I forked out hundreds of dollars for the fancy power-tool job (and neither did the other horses, which is not how it was with any of the manual dentistry I'd observed for decades before - standard carrot test, for example - or looking for dropped feed). Also the job had left him with sharp edges on his incisors, which were not there before and caused his tongue margin to badly ulcerate from being cut all the time. Since the veterinarian didn't come back to fix it despite saying he would, I ended up taking the sharp edges off myself with a diamond-grit nail file (and fuming).

All this time, I was doing the best I could to assist the poor horse with his teeth by hosing out his mouth every second day, then flossing his incisors (but I could not reach the molars), pulling grass seeds out of his gum ulcers, hosing his mouth out again, then swabbing him with chlorhexidine solution the vet had given me, then using baby teething gel I'd bought at the supermarket to coat all the gum and tongue ulcers I could reach. It alarmed me how quickly, during that time, his gums were receding from his incisors; and you could smell the stuff that was getting caught between his molars that I couldn't reach and floss out. Also the infections in the ulcerations.

It's pretty much the same process that happens in uncontrolled diabetes in humans. It's related to the high blood sugar levels that go with a Cushings crisis. It took us four months to get that back under control despite tripling the medication, and those four months were hell on his teeth.

When he pulled out of the crisis, his ulcerations healed up and the gums looked better, but you could see that his tooth enamel had eroded at the gumline, which was now permanently shifted. He was fine for a year after all of that, but the second Cushings crisis, which went on for months as well, rapidly accelerated the dental disease again, and I was pretty sure he was losing molars.

When I went to see his skull, I saw the worst teeth I have ever seen in any herbivore skull (and there are plenty lying around in rural Australia).
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So that's the lower jaw. I should probably have retrieved it before - when I first saw it, it wasn't as eroded and animal activity subsequently led to several teeth falling out that had been there earlier - like some incisors that I couldn't track down, and a molar that belongs to the open socket on the right. He had actually, by the time he died, lost two molars in the left-hand side of his lower jaw, and the sockets had partly healed over.

But look at the bone loss and bone deformation in that jaw...😮 ...and compare that to the two horses above. He was not quite 25 years old, so died 3 years younger than his dam, and 9.5 years younger than Romeo.

The sheer destructiveness of Cushings, despite thousands of dollars we had spent on treating it. In some ways I have to say, his dam was better off. We put her down within three weeks of her getting severe Cushings symptoms - hers was so rapidly bad and she nearly 28 and we decided not to even try treating it specifically - she had laminitis and that wasn't getting better, plus major problems regulating electrolytes, blood sugar etc.

When Sunsmart shed unevenly one spring, I had him tested immediately. The vet was patting me on the head saying he thought I was being paranoid, then called me two days later to say that I was right, the blood panel showed the beginnings of Cushings (but no EMS - not later on either). So I immediately opted for treatment as he was still asymptomatic other than the uneven shedding - I was hoping it would prevent, or at least delay, the progression of the disease. The veterinarian at the time had said that in the early stages I could choose just to lifestyle manage the horse - exercise him consistently etc, and go for pergolide if things deteriorated. But I wanted to give him the best possible chance, and do both.

I can't tell you if it was worth it. He was stable for a year, which he may or may not have been without treatment - then nosedived into his first major crisis, which lasted 5 months despite immediately tripling his medication, and had him at death's door. The only reason we didn't put him down then is that he didn't have laminitis.

When he pulled out of that nosedive, he had another year of being a near-normal horse - I was riding him and he was 95% as before, galloping up hills to race the dog, volunteering trotting and cantering, etc. Then the second sudden nosedive, early last spring (and well before the spring flush). We increased the medication again and nursed and nursed him, and he was in far better spirits than in his first crisis, but his body had really given out. His dental disease took off again - he now had trouble chewing his bucket feed, so I made him a "Romeo mix" twice a day but though he enjoyed it, the state of his teeth was one reason I made the call to put him down.
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That's the top jaw - he did still have all his top teeth (that incisor was lost postmortem), but look at the state of them...

Also, those gaps between the molars, I had noticed when first looking at the skull a few months ago were packed with barley grass seeds - and there was no way I could have gotten them out, or, had they been removed by magic, kept them from accumulating in these places.

But if you think the crowns of his teeth look bad, you've not seen the worst of it yet... the worst was this:
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Just look at the jaggedness of the chewing surface...

And with the skull re-assembled...
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There was a molar in that gap at the time of death, but I have never in my life seen such awfully uneven teeth...

He had a full power tool dental 18 months before he died, but as I said, it didn't seem to improve his chewing at all, and had left him with razor-sharp incisor edges, which is why I declined a repeat dentistry visit from the same vet 12 months later. He was checked out by a different veterinarian August last year, and came up fine on a general health check and blood panel - and she was going to put me in touch with someone who still does manual dentistry. By late September he was nosediving into another crisis.

Here's the other side of the skull:
Head Hand Leg Human body Jaw

That was the side he was lying on after death, so that's why it's more eroded and has grass roots in it. Those gaps were molars he'd lost before he died. I'm surprised he managed to chew anything at all with those teeth. Mechanically they really weren't very effective anymore. I suppose the green grass helped, as with Romeo - but Romeo's remaining teeth were not nearly as bad as these, although he had lived nearly a decade longer.

I'm actually not crazy about how the canines got ground down in the power dental, while we're at this...I didn't see why they should be ground down at all, but he completely flattened those, although they'd caused the horse no problems. All my life I've been used to male horses having normal canines that nobody touched unless they actually caused a problem - and even then, they didn't turn them into flat-top mesas like this. It was one thing that had annoyed me about it, but a peripheral thing.
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The bottom jaw. Under it you can still see the oats he scattered everywhere that morning. We gave him oats that last time because he liked the taste of them, even though I'd stopped feeding them to him months earlier because he had less trouble with pellets and senior porridge. He spent ages over that bucket of crushed oats that morning. He was happy but you could see that it was the right call to put him down, just watching him eat. We had a highly skilled marksman who is also excellent with animals, they don't think he's the bogeyman and the horse wasn't batting an eyelid, just eating his food and it was instant oblivion.

Actually the marksman's wife has horses, and he was telling me that she always insisted on getting the vet out and pumping them full of poison through a needle. He said, "I've seen both and this is so much quicker and completely painless if it's done right. I would have done the same with our dog but no - and then she got me to take it to the vet. It was scared of the surgery so the vet came to the car. The dog backflipped before it died and hyperventilated grotesquely first. I saw its eyes pop. It's never like this when you do a clean shot on an animal."

Not all chemical euthanasias are like what happened to his dog, but our farrier, who is a friend of our marksman's too, has seen quite a few put down at the racecourse due to injury, and said he saw a few backflips and bad reactions in his time as well. Greg shot his dog when it was sleeping in the sun one afternoon, instead of taking it to the surgery. Saved the poor thing the trip and with a clean head shot, its death looked like going to sleep in the sun and then lights-out.

Of course, before the advent of projectile weapons and chemical euthanasia, let's not even go into how large animals were killed. I've read a few accounts and seen a few things, and it gives me nightmares. I'm glad there are better options in more recent history.
Hand Jaw Bone Wood Personal protective equipment

Yeah, just look at that bone loss. The incisors were complete at time of death, but the bone is so badly receded that several teeth fell out and you can't even put them back in because there's not enough socket left.

Definitely the right call...and I won't be treating Cushings again. If we have the misfortune to ever see another horse come down with this condition, I will simply put it down when quality of life becomes an issue. I can't tell you how stressful this was on us, not to mention the horse.

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Discussion Starter · #24 · (Edited)
Glad that this is of use to someone else, @egrogan. Your Izzy doesn't look like she was as severe a case at any point as Sunsmart during his nosedives, but eventually tooth loss gets to horses. Chasseur (AKA Mr Buzzy) is 28, turning 29 later this year, and dropped condition for the first time this summer. I now bucket feed him three times the previous amount of hard feed, and he's put weight back on, but I think he's losing teeth and I'd guess he has another year, but then Romeo surprised us. Having said that, I'm never going to do that again either - feed such huge amounts of senior porridge twice daily for years and years. Our Buzzy at the moment prefers horse kibbles over anything else - no chaff, not oats, no canola, just dry plain kibbles is what he prefers, so I bought him high-quality senior kibbles and at least that's relatively easy compared to mixing up tubs of multi-ingredient porridge.

Buzzy and Julian in the garden recently, helping with the lawn-mowing:

With some of the new calves:

Ben, Don Quixote, Nelly with new calf:

New calves in the garden - when they're this little, they're not bulldozers yet and can help remove the kikuyu runners.

You can see how snug they are between the reeds.

We bought them from the same person we buy our milk from, a few months ago now, but this is when they were new.

We also have a group of yearling cattle at the moment - here with Mary Lou:

Ben the wonder donkey:

With Jess on the sofa - she's 10 now and just started getting arthritis shots. Dog life is short, so she gets lots of cuddles.

Oh and we're finally finishing our attic. This was Brett on Saturday - we did the finish plaster on that wall; the one to the right of it is a job for tomorrow (our "day off")...
Building Property Wood Interior design House

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Discussion Starter · #27 · (Edited)
@Woodhaven, wow - excellent! You're both looking great. The horse shiny, well-muscled, relaxed and seems to be enjoying his dance with you. And I'd never guess from your posture you are in your 80s. What are your keep-fit activities besides horse riding and maintenance? Do you do Pilates? Strength training with weights? Do you swim?

A family friend who lived until she was 100 said to never stop doing challenging things, physically or mentally, or you'd lose the capacity. She was in her own home until she died in her sleep. Last year one of my best friends and most influential role models died at the age of 88, and she also knew how to live well - she was such an amazing and wonderful person I wrote her a memorial I share with everyone, and that way Alice can be a part of the lives even of people who have never met her. Her favourite poetry speaks volumes about her attitude and why she was so greatly loved by so many people.

The filly sounds just the thing for your stage in life (and I will remember there's another young "Smarty" in the world now!). You may find it hilarious that one of the reasons I adopted Sunsmart as my replacement riding horse in my late 30s was that I wanted a sturdy horse that wasn't going to fall over in tight corners while also athletic - I'd had several falls with light horses and didn't wish to repeat that experience going into midlife. Falling with a horse is usually more dangerous than falling off one. Sunsmart never fell over with me, despite us doing all sorts of crazy things. Julian isn't the type to fall over either - rock solid but athletic.

@gottatrot, I'm glad treatment helped your horse and also @egrogan's. Awful bloody disease. Every time we put down a horse I become even less inclined to muck about for solutions in horses that age and I've never thought afterwards, "Maybe he could have had another nice week/month/year." Misery you can't do anything about or misery you see coming are worse than death by far. My friend Alice decided to stop taking her diabetes medication last year for that reason and had a peaceful death on her own terms at 88. Bill, also in his 80s, said after his heart attack that he wishes he'd not been revived - and within a year had such terrible dementia he is in a home not recognising anyone. That is not life...

@egrogan, further to my joke about your potential horse herd size, which I knew would make you laugh because it would be totally insane (but some people do bonkers things like this) - your new mare may not fret if you ride out and leave her at home, she seems a bit more laid-back - after Izzy departs hence, I mean. Which would cut down your workload. Buzzy doesn't fret when I take Julian away - sometimes he tags along for a bit, but then he just goes back to the pasture to graze, even if the donkeys continue to accompany us and don't go back with him. I don't plan to have more than two horses ever again.

@Knave, I am glad things are better with big girl and that you all seem to be enjoying life again. I hope Lucy's laminitis settles soon, it's a horrible condition both to have and to treat. Queen and Julian have similar markings and colour!

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Discussion Starter · #30 ·
Hay Ms. Sue! Long time no hear from! You guys have been busy busy busy, but in a very good way. I'm glad everything has gone so well for you and all of your 'crew'.
Yeah right. A couple posts up from yours is the skull of my riding horse, and the whole first page of this thread talks about losing him. But yeah, everything went so well for us.

Hello anyway.

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Discussion Starter · #35 ·
It's just a nickname for Chasseur, the chestnut we adopted in 2014 together with his full sister who was Sunsmart's dam and who died in 2017 and whose spot was filled by Julian, who is now Chasseur AKA Mr Buzzy's best buddy. But don't worry, @Knave, I have trouble keeping your peripheral family's horses straight, and I don't think you have any where you are using two names interchangeably...but if we all start doing this with every horse we have, I'm sure we will be able to confuse the hell out of each other! 😜

That's a gorgeous hound, @george the mule! ...funny, I was here in 2019 and must have heard of Banjo's death and then slipped it. I remember the photos and how well he looked! is George? And is that a pony you have for a footstool? :D

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·

Because people ask, and because I am also interested in @egrogan's renovations (before/after photos...pretty please with cherries on top...🍒), and because @Knave and I had articles on owner building in the same magazine (which has sadly ceased to print last year due to the pandemic and nobody wanting to buy it off the old owner) - here's something on finishing our house.

We finished the downstairs in 2016 and took a big breather. The attic was unfinished - one plaster coat on two walls, two on the third (the fourth is conventional framing) when three coats are needed to finish strawbale walls. It was our store room basically, where all the odds and ends got thrown, and things we couldn't put in the shed because of the rodents there. (I've got a plan for that - eventually, when we get the balcony materials out of the shed by actually building the balcony, we will put everything out, hose the lot down including the inside of the building, and then put a whole bunch of dead fridges and freezers from the tip in there as a wall of rodent-proof and dust-proof cupboards and storage spaces, which will also keep some dead whitegoods out of landfill and stop us from using new materials.)

That building break kind of went on and on. Many times did we put "finish the attic" on the New Year's Resolution list, and whooosh, the year went right by. Last year it took us months just to sort and relocate all the stuff in the attic, which had to be moved so we could finish the room...

Then in summer we hosted non-stop, but after that we FINALLY got started on that attic.

March 31, 2022

Shape-coating the east wall:

Next, the end wall will need its shape coat, then put the finish coat over the whole lot, which will make the surfaces look pretty.

North end (= our sun-facing end):
Also I have to do the woodwork for the window architrave, ceiling cornice and skirting boards on the plasterboard walls in the south end of the attic - and around some "curly areas" too. The south end is situated over a wet area (bathroom) which was built with conventional framing instead of straw walls, so that continues into the upstairs.
I did the downstairs window/door architraves and the skirtings/cornices in jarrah, a dark wood, cut from facecuts from the sawmill, for a rustic look. Upstairs I decided I'm going to use commercial pine, but "milk-wash" it like the staircase, and build a matching shelf into the recess to the right of the straw wall where you currently see the hanging rod, the same depth as the straw wall. I did a whole-wall bookcase for the office in the same material 7 years ago and will use the same construction method.

April 4, 2022

We had a 10-litre bucket of leftover sand/lime plaster from Thursday, and some cob I'd made with another 4 litres or so of plaster too (mix of straw and plaster). These needed using up before they would go off, as they will within a week even stored in a bucket with a lid. So I rolled up my sleeves for a couple of hours. This was the result.
I worked on the hollows in the right-hand side of the end wall, and the ceiling gaps. Filling the hollows will make it easier to do the shape coat there next weekend.
You can see we've scratched the east wall. We did that when it was nearly green dry. The scratches will help us wet the wall before putting the finish coat on eventually, and will help the finish coat stick.

I used the cob to fill gaping holes between the ceiling and wall, in preparation to plastering it flush. Plaster itself isn't good for that, but cob can be made to stick.

I had to give the ceiling a bit of a wipe-down around the edges after cobbing. You don't want plaster sticking on where it's not supposed to be. The remaining haze will come off easily later.

April 13, 2022

We finished the second coat on the gable end of the attic interior a couple of weeks back:
When that was dry (and scratched for the final coat) a week later, I went back and added some plaster to a ceiling gap at the top left of that end. Then I made a big bucket of cob from plaster and straw, and used it to stuff a ceiling gap on the east wall in preparation for the final coat.

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Discussion Starter · #39 · (Edited)
May 28, 2022

For the finish coat, we actually needed to order some new sand. Once we had that, we were ready to continue.

We did the finish coat on the gable end Saturday and were shattered afterwards. We'd already had a long week, and plastering up in the attic involves carting big buckets of plaster up the stairs (downstairs you can work out of a wheelbarrow). Since Brett is the detail monkey, plastering all the nitty-gritty things like door and window reveals, curves and ceiling lines, while I mostly do the straight coating because I'm fast at it, I also volunteered to be our plaster-hauling monkey. Between that and actual plastering, my arms tend to feel it the next day. Plus, three days before the weekend plastering, I'd had a flu shot in one arm and a COVID booster in the other, which might have contributed to tiredness. This is Brett at the end of the gable finish coat:

June 2, 2022

We did the finish coat on the east wall on Thursday, feeling considerable fresher. It was another long day though.

Lime plaster is pretty hard on your clothes, so you wear the stuff that would otherwise go in the rag bin.

This is the east wall Friday morning:

The bottom of the wall was too wet Thursday night for finishing the surface off with a pool trowel, so that was my job Friday morning, while Brett dragged himself to the office before what's mercifully a long weekend here.

And that's the gable end finish coat dry. It's a bit rougher than we would have liked because we ran out of energy and daylight in the end. Is supposed to look rustic though, and will come up great once the curtains are hung and all that.

That's 80% of the attic plastering finished. One wall to go - finish coat on the west wall, no windows or doors in that, hooray.

My arms ache just looking at these photos and I wonder how on earth we ever managed to build this entire house. Brett says, "One step at a time, Sue. Plus really, it was young people who did all that work...for their older selves to enjoy and finish..."

If anyone wants to look back at the decade of building: Strawbale House Build

😮 😶 😴 😒 😩 🤩 🥳
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