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Aww, a sad happy birthday to your daughter @Knave.

Sue, that’s so frustrating about Brett’s family. I am sorry he had to be put in that position, and you too :(

On our home front, we’ve mostly been handling it as you describe. He is not leaving the house, so not going inside anywhere and we’re masking. I am masking when I go inside anywhere. He actually feels mostly fine besides just the cough, which I think lulled is into a false optimism the first few days because the tests were negative and he never had a fever or any other symptoms. Which of course we’re grateful for and hope it stays that way.

I did ride with my friend M on Sunday but she knew what was going on and felt comfortable riding. As you know, we’re not that close together when we ride 😆

I’m supposed to do a weekend of endurance rides this weekend but I doubt I will go. Even if I’m still testing negative, and I’d be outside, it just feels wrong to knowingly be around other people who may not want to take even that slight chance, especially because so many of them are older. There is so little guidance though about self-isolation here. Do I wait to start my countdown until both of us are testing negative? Is it ok to go out to something like the ride and just stay masked if I’m negative but he’s positive? I really don’t know the right thing to do.
 

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Discussion Starter · #242 · (Edited)
Sue, that’s so frustrating about Brett’s family. I am sorry he had to be put in that position, and you too :(
Unexamined family of origin dynamic which we went to guidance counselling over in our first years of marriage so now Brett can see what is going on in hindsight, but it's still hard for him to see it in the moment. His conditioning and I'd say also his survival mechanism was to turn off anything like that from his acute awareness - nothing to see here. His father does get nasty when anybody tries to set boundaries on him and this is why, after a number of unfortunate incidents at our place, including with a contractor working for us who had told him he didn't want help but he pushed in anyway and the contractor narrowly escaped injury, Brett decided to ban his father from visiting our house - as reasoning didn't help and his behaviour isn't going to change. We don't behave in such ways at their house and we won't put up with it here. So Brett goes to see him, and hadn't for two years, and now this. In part it's cultural - and with my FIL, toxic masculinity is part of the equation, as is having enablers around - also in the wider culture.

I'm very happy the apple fell so far from the tree - Brett is lovely. We are none of us perfect, but there is a difference between making mistakes which you make amends for, and having toxic patterns that stay unexamined.

My family of origin is even more dysfunctional! 😜 It's been a lot of work (and it's ongoing) to disentangle myself from the consequences - complex PTSD is quite an eye-opener. But also has silver linings. One of them is that I write and talk about mental/emotional health and help raise awareness. Intergenerational trauma needs to be addressed so it doesn't perpetuate, and talking about it openly helps reduce the stigma and the suffocating silence. It's really a community issue.

On our home front, we’ve mostly been handling it as you describe. He is not leaving the house, so not going inside anywhere and we’re masking. I am masking when I go inside anywhere. He actually feels mostly fine besides just the cough, which I think lulled is into a false optimism the first few days because the tests were negative and he never had a fever or any other symptoms. Which of course we’re grateful for and hope it stays that way.

I did ride with my friend M on Sunday but she knew what was going on and felt comfortable riding. As you know, we’re not that close together when we ride 😆
Yes, haha! 😂

If it were me though - it's definitely safer leading than being in a contaminated slipstream. ;)

This is also why you don't want to tail someone who's been eating a lot of beans in a bicycle peloton. 😇

Indoors at home with someone infectious with a virus, yeah, it's basically about statistics, improving your odds. This stuff is so highly contagious that it's hard for people living in the same house to completely avoid exposure, but minimising it is also super helpful, as viral load at time of infection is a significant factor in whether you get ill and how badly. Because you're boosted etc, unless you have a totally defective immune system you are going to have an immune response to SARS-CoV-2 if it breaches your hygiene protocol, and the lower the viral load, the more likely your immune system is to be able to jump on top of it.

Also, last time I looked, the epidemiology suggested that being current with your boosters cut down your risk of symptomatic infection to just under 50% (the new strains are a pain), and considerably lowers your risk of getting a severe case - though sadly, long COVID is very common now, and the risk of that doesn't seem to reduce if you're re-infected. If anything, it seems to become more likely with repeat infections - and I really don't need organ damage or chronic fatigue or damage to my immune system. I just read a paper about that...

Anyway, you'll get good risk reduction with N-95s, good hygiene, don't eat close together, wash up extra well, use the shower before he does, air the bathroom after he uses it, air the house lots. Hugging with N-95s is low risk but kissing is sadly off the table. Thankfully it's only for a week or two in most cases. Are your N-95s comfortable? We discovered amazing soft ones with a great seal, which are even more comfortable than standard surgical masks, including to sleep in if you want to share bedrooms. There's a photo on page 11.

Cough suppressant is good if he's not producing too much phlegm - dry coughing irritates membranes and sets up more coughing, which in turn aerosolises more virus. With any respiratory virus, we've been using the standard cold sore support supplement at outbreak dosage (good advice from a locum once) - lysine, zinc, VitC - while it goes on. Also for COVID it's really important not to be low on VitD (same for my bone healing four years ago) but I see you are getting plenty of summer sun at the moment - while I would recommend supplementing to goths and vampires, especially in winter! ;)

Good-quality protein at every meal (not much needed but complete), antioxidants - eat lots of berries, cherries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, beetroot etc...

Good luck to both of you. 🖤


I’m supposed to do a weekend of endurance rides this weekend but I doubt I will go. Even if I’m still testing negative, and I’d be outside, it just feels wrong to knowingly be around other people who may not want to take even that slight chance, especially because so many of them are older. There is so little guidance though about self-isolation here. Do I wait to start my countdown until both of us are testing negative? Is it ok to go out to something like the ride and just stay masked if I’m negative but he’s positive? I really don’t know the right thing to do.
Hmm, you could ring a bell wherever you go, and wear a biohazard T-shirt. ;)

I'll dig up the current Aussie guidelines for you...
 

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Discussion Starter · #243 · (Edited)
OK, good general coverage from our ABC (non-Murdoch ;)):


Current guidelines for people testing positive and close contacts:


Really interesting articles I spied while getting these links:



Plus I heartily recommend Coronacast with our excellent Dr Norman Swan:

 

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Discussion Starter · #245 ·
Excellent, @egrogan - all the best with it! Isn't it funny how a whole bunch of us fairly geographically isolated and comparatively low-mixing people on here are suddenly dealing with this at the same time.

I forgot to mention - laughter is good for immunity via stress release. So if anyone's got anything good... "Cute" stuff also tends to result in endorphin production. So here's a few fun clips...

Please make sure mask is sealed tight before laughing! ;)



 

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Discussion Starter · #246 ·
POSTCARD FROM THE END OF THE WORLD

On the up side to dealing with illness in the middle of our holidays, the weather has been truly foul over the last three days - cold, wet, windy, freezing gales straight from the Antarctic etc. Everything is now wet - puddles everywhere, soggy ground, mud in traffic areas. Even if I wanted to there's no way to ride on the Common without snowshoes under these conditions unless I want to tear up the ground and damage the soil profile through pugging and compaction. It's not quite as bad as last winter, when we had a record wet that did a lot of damage to the South Coast's roads, bridges, drains, pastures and hooves, but nearly. Here's the Common last winter:


Brett has of course been ill and I have been hibernating with him (not in the same room mostly) since it got too cold and wet to mulch fruit trees in the permaculture garden, which is what I was doing when we last had reasonable weather.

There's a severe weather warning for tonight, as well as a warning to sheep graziers to expect sheep and lamb losses from exposure unless the animals are in sheltered paddocks.

Here's the forecast for tomorrow and current conditions (closest inland station).

Mount Barker Wednesday Forecast
Windy with showers

Windy with showers
Minimum 4 °C
Maximum 12 °C
90% chance of rain, 1-5mm

Cloudy. Very high chance of showers, most likely in the afternoon and evening. Damaging winds possible. Possible small hail in the W in the early morning. Heavy falls possible near the coast. Winds W/NW 30 to 45 km/h becoming W 45 to 65 km/h in the morning then decreasing to 30 to 40 km/h in the evening. Overnight temperatures falling to around 6 with daytime temperatures reaching between 12 and 15.

8pm temperature 9.1 °C, feels like 2.1 °C

Brrr. So it was time to do something about the animals. Julian and Chasseur have been in rugs for days - here is a photo of them from a sunny morning after a freezing night a few weeks back:

The donkeys can use a shelter if they wish, and often do - but with tonight's weather it was finally time to rug Sparkle, who is blind and our leanest donkey. Prolonged wet and wind chill isn't good for her. This is a photo from last winter:

I had let our eight steers into the 4 hectare horse-fenced area three days ago when the bad weather began, both to get them off the low-lying pasture and because that higher area has more pasture than our horses can or should handle. We've got annuals coming through now and I want the kikuyu (perennial African runner grass) grazed down as much as possible, both to make room and because it's frost susceptible - I don't want to waste feed with frosty nights returning when we get sunny days again after this storm.

But today they were due some nice dry hay, with the bad weather intensifying - having been on pasture and the soggy remains of their last bale for half a week. The problem was rolling the round bale - we don't have farm machinery, only hand tools, and Brett was in no condition to help. I can roll a bale on dry ground, but in a swamp?

Amazingly, it still worked - my usual technique is to push it with my backside, in reverse gear and getting under the bale's curvature, using one foot to wedge the bale if necessary while bracing for the next push. That way you're using the strongest muscles in your body, and not putting pressure on your spine - people commonly make the mistake of pushing things like that with their hands - cars included. No. Push with your backside - much easier and safer. A bale like that weighs more than a horse.

In the end, I rolled out two bales into the eating area because the one behind the first was getting water damaged anyway from being at a funny angle. Also, I wanted all of them to be able to feed at once, and if I don't unwrap the bale they can help themselves with two cows at each open end, so this way the smaller four wouldn't have to wait to eat.

So that's how I left them - with all eight steers contentedly pulling dry hay from the sides of the bale, and sheltered a bit by the edge of our garden, which is a windbreak filled with dense acacias etc. I won't have to worry about them in this storm, and tomorrow, when they're on a cudding break, I can let the horses out to have a pick at the hay.

The rain is coming down non-stop. The other thing to do this evening was to make a fire - we've not had one since our last guest was here just over a week ago. We've not needed one - initially there was enough sun to heat up our slab floor in the daytime; and we don't need to top up the heat until we've had two or three cold, cloudy days in a row because our home is so well insulated. That tally was reached today, so a cosy fire was lit. This will boost the solar-heated water too at a time like this. We have this model wood heater/oven:


The forecast looks cold for the rest of our holidays - Brett is back at work next week already. At least the rain will ease a bit for a few days from Thursday, and we may get some sun on the weekend, but it's looking cold all right - maxima between 12 and 15 °C for at least the next week. Riding looks on hold, tomorrow anyway. We do hike in weather like this though, when there's no illness in the house - but it's completely unrealistic we're going to hike seriously at all these holidays. I can hear Brett coughing his lungs up again and he's been at it for hours despite the cough suppressant - his lungs won't be fit to do serious exercise for at least 48 hours after the coughing stops...
 

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Discussion Starter · #247 · (Edited)
...OK, when you have lemons you have to make lemonade, so instead of bemoaning the lack of hiking on our long-awaited holiday, or riding either in the current weather, I'm switching to actually enjoying a hibernation holiday. Who knows, it just might recharge my batteries extra well so that I will be more energetic for riding and hiking down the track.

So the fire's on and I'm resting a lot. Without an enforced rest like this, I probably wouldn't ever do this for longer than a day or two if really exhausted. I've not done this in years either. At first I was spending a lot of time in bed reading because I was expecting to come down with this myself any moment and rest makes it less likely that it will complicate for me (with my susceptibility, paralysed vocal cord etc). Then I actually began to enjoy the free time not doing anything very physical. I even started plucking violin strings to get the muscle memory for the notes back, and discovered you probably can't do an Aeolian scale in first position - and I'm just a basic first-position player with a current repertoire of simple classical pieces and a few jigs, as well as a penchant for sound play, such as impersonating an ambulance siren. :devilish:

Or ad-libbing the shower scene from Psycho.


:ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO: :ROFLMAO: ...that E-string! 🥳 I saw the Australian Chamber Orchestra play this live once, very funny moments coming up to that scene - with the audience and the orchestra dissolving into laughter when the E-strings were getting mauled...😂

Anyway, I'm digging up some stories while I'm unable to make any new ones. Because we all love our dogs, here's an ode I wrote to our Jess, farm dogs, and life in general, when we'd had her half a year.


Red Hot Sunday, January 2014
(In Praise of Farm Dogs Everywhere)

The day was red hot, and you could tell it would be a scorcher at dawn. The sun stung like a bluebottle at 8am, and the birds were silent. Horses and donkeys queued up at the paddock gate for fly veils and release onto the common, which is surrounded by bush and dotted with big shady paperbarks, under which green things still grow.
Summer Scene - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
En route I’d cut my big gelding’s feet, overdue and summer hard, while the shed was still casting a morning shadow on the tie rail. The horn was like hardwood, and even the dog was hugging any cool concrete going rather than snacking on the offcuts.

After that we’d climbed into a lukewarm bathtub and splashed lazily, my darling man and I. We could feel the radiation burning through the blind covering the east-facing window in the bath recess, and the sun must have gotten to our brains because he started impersonating Napoleon, and I a telephone (“Brrrrrr-ing! Brrrrrr-ing!” like the priceless clip from Sesame Street called “The Martians Discover a Telephone”).


The dog did not come running, it’s had a good half year to get used to our theatrics, but when I cooed “Walkies?” she tilted her face to the side with ears as up as they can go – one ear a large triangular arrangement strongly suggestive of a desert fox, and the other with its tip bent over in the fashion of an ancestral Border Collie, from which she also got her colouring, while every other aspect is pure Kelpie. Excited bounds and relentless eye contact followed until she’d shepherded us out of the house in our summer shorts and T-shirts, and we collided with a wall of hot air.
Jess Portrait III – Albany, Western Australia
By then it was too late to turn back – you just can’t do that to a dog that is blissfully anticipating a full-tilt run and her first swim in the 48h since her flea treatment. So we vowed to keep it short, and tacked towards the shady forest track, rather than the shadeless main track. An easterly wind blew like a giant hair-drier on maximum, but still offered enough evaporative cooling for me to rip my long-sleeved sunshirt off. By the time I ducked under the fence at the spot where the kangaroos tore out the bottom wires, to cross to our neighbours’ clean-water bush dam, sweat was beading off every square inch of my skin, and had the water been crystal clear, I would have jumped right in after the dog.
Kelpie Dip – Luke Pen Walk, Western Australia
Instead, Jess and I had an abbreviated retrieving session. All dogs like sticks, but her favourite thing to pull out of the water is a nice big gnarly root knot at least the size of a pineapple, with a grab-handle of stem on it. The bigger the splash it makes, the more fanatically she accelerates on her way to it.
Water Sports – Luke Pen Walk, Western Australia
I grew up with farm dogs, but Jess takes the cake, much as I loved my previous canine friends. She runs like a tornado, the fastest dog I’ve ever seen, all lean, lithe, muscular, tucked-up running machine, a black blur streaking through the landscape. She keeps well ahead of any horse on any ride, and is the only dog I’ve had who outruns me on my roadbike. Once we borrowed the neighbour’s four-wheeler and raced her up the gravel track on it. She was keeping to the pasture, crossing fence lines, jumping ditches, and keeping up effortlessly when our speedo hit 55km/h. Then we had to stop at the property boundary, while she gave us a grin and a tail-flick racing by, and started to chase rabbits without missing a beat.

Her swimming is similar. When I first saw her traverse a farm dam, not even retrieving, just swimming for the joy of it, I was gobsmacked by the keel wave in her wake, spreading out like a cone behind her. A dinghy, sure, but a 22kg Kelpie? Throwing something retrievable into the dam turns her into a hydrofoil as her chest begins to lift out of the water from the burst of acceleration that hurtles her towards her goal. A sharp click signals contact, then follow regular satisfied snorts as she paddles open-mouthed back to the shore with her prize. It’s deposited at my feet, she looks up with eyes flashing. Again?

For less money than a Buddhist course on mindfulness meditation, you can pick up a dog like her from a farm dog rescue centre as we did, and give it a good life, and you will have a resident expert on living in the present and enjoying the world, and a personal trainer and loyal friend all rolled into one. It’s priceless.
Jess at Track Crossing – Torndirrup Peninsula, Albany, Western Australia
On this red hot day we quickly headed home, and the dog wasn’t arguing. There were pumpkins to re-water and a hundred or so establishing native seedlings and baby lavenders around the house to give a little top-up from the watering can for the anticipated extreme midday heat.

After lunch, the outside thermometer hit 45 degrees Celsius. Inside was, blissfully, 19 degrees cooler, even in our not-quite-finished, as yet curtainless, passive solar strawbale house. A ceiling fan is all it takes to keep us comfortable on days like this. The dog lies flat on the coloured concrete floor, and balks at the outside heat when I check the thermometer. When the floor gets too hard, she curls up in her armchair like a possum, nose sticking out between four paws all bundled together in an impossible origami shape.
Miss Origami Dog - Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
Aah, the bliss of a weekend of leisure after ten days of work commitments and interior plastering – time for good food made in our kitchen, and reading the books we got for Christmas, relaxing and recharging our batteries. And what a totally different life to the one we lived until a few years ago, when we were both in suburbias of varying descriptions, through tertiary study and then fulltime professional jobs. Our tree change doesn’t mean we are working any less in an overall sense – building this house and establishing the property continue to be a huge task, and we are both in part-time external work – but things are different now, just right for this stage of our lives. It’s really the archetypal midlife back-to-nature, off-the-treadmill sea change / tree change move celebrated by a number of adorable Australian and English television dramas of the past twenty years.
Sue Plastering Office Corner – Strawbale House Build in Redmond Western Australia
I love life in the bush, and I hope this story made you smile. And maybe think about adopting a dog.
Herding Dog and Cattle V -  Red Moon Sanctuary, Redmond Western Australia
 

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Discussion Starter · #249 ·
Thank you, @knightrider. That was one I sat down and thought about and got into a mood for - I wanted people who didn't live where we do to be able to have a sort of sensory immersion experience (which is also what @Knave does so super well with her journal :love:). Also to express just how fabulous Jess is!

I always like the Sesame Street clip best though, hahaha! :LOL:

Brett is much the same but at least got some good stretches of sleep last night. It has stopped raining at last and the sun is out, so I might go back to mulching fruit trees (with soggy trampled discard hay). Also a tree fell across our driveway in the storm and needs chopping up and shifting. It will be nice to be out again.

The storm was so fierce and wet yesterday that the horses and donkeys stayed out in the forest until quite late and I went out with a head torch when they finally wanted to come in for their buckets!

How's things at your place? Any good rides lately?
 

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Discussion Starter · #250 ·
FROM THE ARCHIVE

When I posted photos of Julian harness racing from our archive, I thought I'd occasionally bring out a batch of photos that never got aired on my first journal. Here's some from July 2016 with a friend I met through work years ago, when she was still living on the South Coast. She is great with animals and jumped at the chance to do some horse handling and beginner riding. I have no riding photos of her because I had my hands full, but I love these photos and know some of you will too. The body language all around is wonderful! 🖤

This is with our ancient Romeo when he was nearly 32.
Horse Ecoregion Sky Window Plant

Horse Plant Sky Tree Working animal

Plant Sky Working animal Tree Fawn
Hair Horse Working animal Happy People in nature
Horse Head Eye Green Plant
Horse Plant Working animal People in nature Sky

Romeo had too few teeth for carrots, so he used to get Weetbix, peaches, plums etc.

Here's his plum eating technique.


He lived by choice mostly in the garden for the last five years of his life, mowing lawn which was green through the whole year long and getting ridiculously huge buckets of specially mixed senior porridge twice a day. My arms used to ache mixing them up.

He knew exactly where we lived and would look for us through the windows.

He loved camping in the garden and keeping me company when I was working around the house.

Also he was the fastest horse I've ever ridden, when he was younger - you could still see this when he was running around the paddock at age 27. He is the big-framed horse with the white socks.


Romeo lived until he was 34 and a half years old - then we finally had to put him down because we didn't want him to get debilitated. But until then, he had a great life and also a great last five years living in our garden and spoilt by all and sundry. He was a lovely character and totally deserved all the extra TLC we took over him to make this possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #251 ·
...and here's some from the same day of Cecilia getting Sunsmart ready to ride!
Horse Plant Working animal Horse supplies Horse tack

Horse Plant Working animal Horse supplies Gesture

Horse Plant Working animal Tree Horse supplies
Horse Working animal Halter Horse tack Liver
Horse Tree Smile Plant Working animal
Horse Plant Sky Working animal Horse supplies

...and off we went, without a third person to record the riding on camera. Cecilia was a natural with balance, posture and animal communication, very easy to teach. Also she did a textbook mount and dismount the first time she ever rode, after seeing it demonstrated! Yoga is very helpful for being able to do this, in adult beginners. Sunsmart took lots of beginner riders around and nearly everyone who had done yoga had no problems at all getting on, off again, and doing the posture/balance thing! :)
 

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And this is a photoshop job Brett did to place Simon Gallup near some Texas Longhorns as part of a COVID education push:

Social Distancing with Simon

Are you fed up with the people who aren't taking this pandemic seriously, and who don't care if they spread their germs all over you? Let Simon help you with social distancing.



Option 1: A Texas Longhorn cow is a valuable aid to social distancing. Horn spans frequently exceed 2 metres. If you take one of these on your walks around town or country, nobody is going to barge into you, or come within coughing distance of where you are breathing. And while Texas Longhorns are not a dairy breed, they can easily supply enough milk for your household on top of raising their own calf, reducing the necessity for shopping trips into potentially virus-laden indoors spaces.

Option 2: If you live in an apartment, you may not have the space for a Texas Longhorn cow, so why not buy a specially made, completely solid replica bass guitar in signature pink. While you can't play music on it, it still looks pretty cool, and has been especially designed for standing up to repeated impacts if necessary. Replica bass guitar plus average arm length exceeds 2 metres, so if you spin around holding it by the tuning peg end, you should be able to maintain the currently recommended social distancing space around you (or clear a sufficient space if necessary).
In the feed stores here they have used tape to mark lines on the floors so that people will stay the appropriate distance apart. They say One little piggy, two little piggies...being 2 pigs lengths will be over 2 m., not to mention, if you work on a pig farm, the smell will take care of it too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #253 ·
In the feed stores here they have used tape to mark lines on the floors so that people will stay the appropriate distance apart. They say One little piggy, two little piggies...being 2 pigs lengths will be over 2 m., not to mention, if you work on a pig farm, the smell will take care of it too.
Maybe the stinky boots @ChieTheRider is talking about would also be really helpful for this purpose! :devilish:
 

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Discussion Starter · #254 · (Edited)
A SPLISHY-SPLASHY GUMBOOT WALK

What can you do when there's illness in the house and the rain has been coming down for ten days so that all the low pasture is turning into a swamp? You can't do your planned brakes-and-steering work with Julian anywhere because it's too wet, and the only places you can ride are on straight vehicle tracks and fire breaks through the bush. Plus you've not ridden in nearly two weeks and you're feeling icky from hibernating and broken sleep with the awful cough that racks your husband dozens of times a night and nearly has him vomiting.

Something has to be done. The dog needs walking and I need fresh air and exercise. The horse needs something to continue our team building work. And this is what the pasture areas look like.

So I picked up the halter yesterday and kidnapped Julian (who was very happy to be kidnapped) away from his herd for a splishy-splashy gumboot walk. I do have excellent gumboots, thanks to Brett surprising me with some last winter. They're green and filled with synthetic fleece to keep your feet warm, and the outer is well-made. My husband has a tender concern for the state of my feet. They're not allowed to be cold. If I'm not wearing my ugg boots around the house in winter but barefooting it, he brings them to me and makes clucking noises. (He says they're growling noises. 😁) If I find myself in bed with cold feet, he will go heat a wheatbag and wrap it around my toes, then smile at me conspirationally. And when the record winter hit last year, and our fancy expensive neoprene gumboots had both sprung leaks within a year and just after the expiration of their warranty, he couldn't stand the idea of being in the office with warm feet while I clunked around the farm in old-style rubber gumboots guaranteed to give you chilblains no matter how many socks you wear in them. So I had to have these expensive luxury fleece-lined boots because he said my feet needed them. 💞

I love my husband. Life with him is all the things that were lacking when I was growing up. When I was a teenager, nobody cared if I had cold or wet feet - they were more concerned about saving pennies so they could buy more racehorse yearlings. Now I have warm dry feet, love, respect, fun, teamwork, tons of affection, wonderful company, interesting conversations, shared adventures, super-healthy food, an egalitarian household without assumptions about gender roles, a male in the house who washes dishes and vacuums and doesn't try to shoo me away from the power tools or the shovels, and so so many more things that mean the world to me. I can be me and am treasured for it. He knows who I am because he has cared enough to get to know me, instead of projecting things as many people do with their children or lovers.

So I went splish-splashing in my green fleece-lined gumboots and mountain thermals through the quagmire the other side of the Common gate with Julian splish-splashing along. We got to the farm dam and climbed up on the wall together. There's a good view from the top. Then on across the Common, to traverse Scary Brook. That took a little convincing from me this time - I jumped across and back again several times before Julian sighed and said, "If I must!"

But you should have seen his ears pri'ck up and his eyes crinkle when I told him what a clever boy he was for jumping across Scary Brook and what the heck is the monkey thinking today, a horse is not a goldfish surely...Jess on the other hand can't get enough of water, even in the cold. She was gambolling along, delighted that the world appeared to want to become a massive swimming pool. Things got a bit drier as we turned into the Middle Meadow and walked slightly uphill. The Swamp Track was covered in puddles. At the end of it we turned left and went up the ridge to the Eastern Forest Track. Hooray - no puddles. Also, we don't come here that often with the horse because it's quite rocky, but his feet aren't freshly trimmed and he wasn't complaining. There were lots of interesting things to see - first walking parallel to the neighbour's gravel pit, then the open pasture with mountain views, then bushland, then bull paddock - with four massive Angus bulls in it, talkative because spring is approaching.

These are some of the neighbour's bulls - he has a breeding programme for pedigree stud bulls and four of the bigger ones were across the fence from us yesterday.

They moo'd, and I moo'd back at them - while Julian had a good look at these massive animals. They are over twice as big as the bigger steers on our place at the moment, with a great temperament. You can go right in with them; they're hand fed from weaning and get their heads scratched etc.

We checked out the machinery shed and farm implements too from across the fence before turning the corner along our northern boundary and heading home. As we came down off the ridge and onto the splishy-splashy flat, I took the halter off Julian and made sure he knew he was free. But he doesn't run away - he just walks along companionably, checking out this and that - it's much like walking Jess off-lead. When we got to Scary Brook, I jumped across, and managed to turn back just in time to see him do an almighty leap as if he was in an eventing competition with a water jump! I applauded him, he kicked up his heels, and cantered past the farm dam to the Common gate, where he stood waiting to be let back into the utility area, sniffing my sleeves as I undid the gate handles.

Maybe I'm not doing brakes and steering practice, but this was still worth doing! :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #255 · (Edited)
SHORT RIDE

Two weeks after the Friday I last rode Julian, when Brett walked around the valley floor with us before getting in the car to see his family and in doing so pick up a virus because someone wasn't wearing a mask even though coughing and his own N-95 had to come off during mealtimes, Brett was finally well enough to attempt a half-hour walk, and I decided to saddle up Julian and go with him.

We splish-splashed through the quagmire again while Brett went through the fence behind the house onto higher ground to avoid this mud bath. I was in my hiking boots this time, which are water-resistant but got disgustingly covered in black ooze as we made our way through. I was flinging it off my feet like Monty Python's Ministry of Funny Walks.


John Cleese would have had no trouble ground mounting a horse - look how high up he gets his feet, and effortlessly. 😎 The dude coming to see him in his office, I think he just has stringhalt. :LOL:

Around the back of the house, and clear of the water, I tightened up the girth again (thanks @Knave for reminding people that it is supposed to be a two-step process and that's especially important when you're starting out saddle training). Once we were sorted, I heaved myself onto the horse, a bit ready for shenanigans because it had been two weeks, but there weren't any. We just uneventfully walked up the track together, but it felt good to be back on the horse. It's also a lovely view, after being stuck in the house.

Buzzy (in his winter rug, it's icy today) and Nelly had tagged along with us for the first half of the central track, but then they turned back and the rest of us continued on. When we got to the gate we parted company. Brett walked back the way he came, while Jess, Julian and I went up the hill you can see behind us here.

This was a photo from another day, but it turns out I was wearing the same clothes today, and the weather looked about the same, so it's a good likeness.

We've not ridden this ridge much before, because of the footing, but he's learning what "watch your feet" means and doing well avoiding sharp rocks. I need to think about whether I want to get boots for him. Riding unaccompanied on the ridge, I decided that if I can't do steering and brakes practice on the flats, I might ride loops of the bush tracks instead and treat those like the trotting jog-track I did Sunsmart's initial work on. It's time we were trotting, seriously. We practiced a few halts up on the ridge and after a while could see Brett through the trees as the tracks converged again. There's no reason we can't ride loops and start working on faster gaits. So there's a plan. If you can't do Plan A, then you have to do Plan B.

This is the Western Forest Track, looking south - the sandy part near the intersection that takes you back to the house:

Julian really did so well again today. I love the way we are tuning into each other now. We came down the ridge the same time Brett was back at the intersection and I took the saddle off him by the side of the house, for which he stands still perfectly and knows exactly what happens when. Once the bridle was off, he rubbed his head against my arm rather gently and then meandered down around the house with me instead of joining his friends in the meadow. Brett opened the gate to let us all in - and now it was bucket o'clock.

✨🌟✨​

I have some archive photos of Sunsmart at the equivalent early training phase. This from my first week of work with him back in November 2008, at his previous home:
Horse Plant Sky Tree Equestrian helmet

I was riding him in the gear available there - my own saddle was down in Albany with my mare. It was an awful saddle that fitted neither the horse nor me - it belonged to the high-withered, narrow gelding I was jumping as a child in Germany, same saddle as in those photos - so I padded it out across Sunsmart's back and just grinned and bore it for the couple of days I did sessions working him around the jog-track in the background just to get walk, trot and canter established in the same place he was already used to doing that in harness. It's really easy to do things quickly that way - the footing is soft, the track is oval, and if the horse doesn't stop it doesn't matter, he will when he runs out of steam and no harm done. But since harness horses already understand the gait transition cues, that's not an issue - it's really about getting them used to doing the same things carrying a rider as pulling a cart. Posting the trot is the thing most likely to raise an eyebrow for these horses at first when you go up a gear from the walk, but I've never had one buck or spook when I set that up with them.

When I got Sunsmart down to Albany in April 2009, there were trails and also a public dressage arena for people to use. Here's a photo from a first ride in the arena. This really confused him - he couldn't see why anyone would want to trot or canter in a space that small, as a racehorse used to large roomy tracks. He also had a habit of stargazing, both in harness and early on under saddle.
Horse Sky Plant Tree Working animal

Later that year, his head carriage was so much better:
Horse Water Sky Ecoregion Vertebrate

I've got a ton of photos from various things to do with his early saddle education in my archive and think I might bring that out some day just to enjoy the memories of our journey together. ❤
 

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Discussion Starter · #257 ·
SUNNY SATURDAY PHOTOS

Though still coughing on and off at night, Brett is getting longer stretches of sleep between those bouts. He's also eating much better, though not back to normal. This morning he actually felt like getting out of bed and going for a walk. Was I coming? Yes, but I was bringing the horse - just on the lead, we have some preparation to do for the next ride.

The sun is properly with us and there is no rain on the horizon for now. We might get a fine weekend - it's certainly a fine sunny morning. Brett had his iPod and got some photos on and off. I'm posting a lot of similar ones just so you can see little details like how much the dog is running around:
Plant Sky Tree Working animal Natural landscape
Plant Sky Tree Branch Natural landscape
Plant Sky Tree Branch Natural landscape

That dog! :) She's so hilarious. Look at her body language! She loves walking with other animals. And look at the donkeys, hahaha! :D

If you see me walking in front of a horse, it means there is a narrow animal track which is single file only, as there is in this case, through the bush grass. As the camera angle changes you can see this track in the next series, and the donkeys walking through it. The body language between Julian and me while we wait is nice, and the dog is again hilarious. The donkeys are going all over the shop.
Plant Sky Tree Working animal Natural landscape
Plant Tree Sky Working animal Horse
Plant Sky Tree Working animal People in nature
Plant Sky Tree Working animal People in nature
Plant Horse Tree Sky Working animal

Plant Dog Tree Branch Carnivore

We soon lost the donkeys, because it was walk-trot, trot-walk transitions on the menu today - with as much running as I could handle. This is a specialised trotting horse, so even at full stretch and sprinting I can barely keep up with what to him is just a comfortable medium speed. He paced half a mile in under 57 seconds and his race record is 1:59:4 for a mile (on a slow, half-mile track, not a speed track).

So at full sprint he will maintain 14 metres per second over half a mile, which is an equivalent of 50.5 km/h (31.3mph). That's quite a clip (and that's just trotting, they gallop even faster of course). Over very short distances, we've clocked Jess doing 55 km/h as a young dog running on grass - she's a predator species so has to be able to outsprint a fast herbivore, but the advantage is over in a few seconds because that peak speed can't be maintained for as long as a herbivore can. Predators rely on surprise and ambush - not on ongoing sprint races; that would be too energy inefficient.

If you want to compare those speeds to Usain Bolt, that gifted individual ran 100m in 9.59 seconds, which is 37.6 km/h, but since this is a standing start race, it's good to note his peak speed was clocked at 44.7 km/h for that famous race.

So even Usain Bolt couldn't keep up with Julian trotting. And I am not Usain Bolt!

It's quite exhilarating to try though - makes you realise just how fast these horses are when you're running full pelt next to them and they're going at a comfortable medium pace looking sideways at you as if to say, "Forgot to eat your Wheaties?" Sunsmart used to look at me pointedly if we were on the trail and I'd come off to walk beside him for a while to open gates, stretch my legs etc. He would stop and be like, "C'mon, I want to run now, get on my back, enough slowcoaching!" and off we went again. I used to say he considered himself my special needs wheelchair.

This is one reason I love riding trotting horses - the average riding breed is lucky to trot half that speed. Arabians, Morgans and gaited horses are known for their ground-covering gaits as well - my Arabian mare wasn't as fast as the harness trotters, but won every gymkhana saddle trotting race I ever entered her in.

I had a look online to see if there was any clip to give people who've not ridden harness trotters an idea of the speeds they get up to. Here's "jockey cam" off the winning horse at a mounted trotting race in the Netherlands.


So they really can fly. I've shown that clip with reservations because I'm not into horse racing, or the idea of pushing animals already at the biological limits of their performance - I've seen too much go wrong - lungs bleed, bones shatter - but more than that, the horse racing industry is just a giant meat grinder where most of the animals end up in dog food tins sooner or later. The ones I have are amongst the very lucky few who found a life worth living after their racing retirements. Most racehorses are done by age 7 - and not because a horse is old at 7. A riding horse is just coming into its performance peak then. Sunsmart and Julian are lucky to have retired completely sound - neither were raced as 2-year-olds. Chasseur is paddock sound only after getting a permanent tendon injury.

But they are beautiful horses and great fun to ride.
 

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Discussion Starter · #258 · (Edited)
The ton of trotting we did today and the up and down transitions are preparatory to getting serious about that under saddle. Because of the lack of continuity in riding lately and because I'd like to focus on trotting next, I just wanted to make sure the cues are there before the next time I hop on, and they certainly are. Julian was quite enamoured with the idea of chasing down the dog and didn't need to be told twice to trot. The trot a trotting bred horse offers as a starting point when you're exercising it on the lead is about like an extended trot in the dressage ring and then it wants to go up from there to really stretch its legs (that was with me running flat out) and hopefully go into flight mode after that (only possible with me in the saddle). They can trot more slowly as well, but they're just keyed higher and love to go floating off.

Ditto with the walk - and @egrogan's Morgan mare outwalks most other breeds she's riding with too. Morgans are genetically related to American Standardbreds - the fastest Morgans contributed to the breed. Julian is a Standardbred with mostly American lines - his father (and Sunsmart's) was a champion US import called The Sunbird Hanover.

Ah, Sunbird - he was a personal favourite and such a lovely character, with a huge sense of humour. Sunsmart and Julian both inherited so much of their appearance, temperament and odd quirks from him - and Sunbird was so similar to his own sire, the legendary Albatross.

Brett wasn't going to run today for obvious reasons, so we just ran up and back a lot and practised stopping, turning, transitions. Later on I sat on the fallen Casuarina trunk waiting for Brett while Julian had a chance to look around. Next we shortcut up to the Western Forest Track via the animal track where we also take guests on eco-walks. I have a picture of that from the top end from a while back when we were riding, and did this trail from the other end (with me getting off to walk as it was a first).

The acacia flowers are coming out and it's very beautiful on that trail. We went around the top of the ridge, then descended back down and looped into the central track again. A few more trots, then we took it easy and the halter came off Julian. It's fun when he free-walks with us. He gets a lot of scratches over his mane and back which he appreciates on these walks, but not so much when he's at leisure! He has a keen sense of personal space but shrinks it down when we work together.

He and the dog had a little race, after which he went cantering down the track ahead of us. Running opportunities are limited on the waterlogged pasture just now, so he enjoyed the chance to fly. And I'm looking forward to riding him at those gaits. We've had a few very short trots so far, but now I'd like it to be a routine part of the programme.

We have some photos of what happened when we came home. First - Nelly and Ben were waiting at the edge of the woodland.
Plant Working animal Flash photography Happy Grass
Plant Working animal Tree Dress Sky

Then the horses decided to come in from the meadow to hobnob with us.
Cloud Sky Plant Ecoregion Working animal

Meanwhile the cattle were eating hay...
Sky Cloud Plant Natural landscape Grass

Julian wanted to come into the top part of the garden.
Horse Plant Sky Working animal Tree

Donkeys aren't allowed in the upper tier because they eat my daisies and fruit trees. The horses do not.

Ben and Don Quixote have given my native grasses a trim and I shall have to put a hot wire back around these again this spring.
Plant Horse Ecoregion Working animal Tree

You can see how boggy the drainage areas in the utility paddock have become.
Sky Plant Cloud Tree Working animal

Sky Cloud Plant Ecoregion Tree

Also note the horse-level hedge trimming of the tagasaste (tree lucerne) around the edge - the untrimmed parts are now flowering and providing winter nectar for the bee hives.
Sky Horse Cloud Plant Ecoregion

These animals were badgering me to brush them. So, I spent about a quarter of an hour doing that, with all of them going, "My turn! My turn!", before heading back to the garden. Brett had hung up a blanket to air which was flapping in the breeze, so Julian was eager to leave the top tier of the garden.

After that I asked the donkeys if they wanted some rosemary from the giant bush. They enjoy it.
Plant Vertebrate Working animal Tree Dog breed
 

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Discussion Starter · #259 ·
Plant Eye Vertebrate Tree Mammal

..and look who came to join us again...
Plant Vertebrate Tree Working animal Mammal
Horse Plant Tree Working animal Grass

Julian decided he could dare to have another shot at the upper garden tier with the flapping blanket on the washing line, now that I was there. After all, it has a private stand of clover...
Horse Sky Plant Cloud Liver

I thought I'd get my boots in shot just for @TrainedByMares, who is devoted to his Ariats. ;)
Horse Plant Sky Eye Cloud
Horse Plant Working animal Liver Grass

Now that I was in the garden, the flapping blanket was no longer scary, and Julian went on an expedition.
Plant Working animal Natural landscape Liver Horse

He discovered some young tagasaste...
Plant Plant community Tree Horse Working animal

Meanwhile I picked a ripe tangelo off a tree. If you've never had one of those - it's a grapefruit/mandarin cross, and my favourite citrus. It's a tangy juicy mandarin-like fruit with extra zing. I gave the peel to the highly appreciative donkeys - they love citrus peel like kids love sherbet. When Julian came to check us out, there was no peel left, but I offered him a bite of the tangelo. He sniffed suspiciously, but took a nibble - about two segments. He seemed in two minds what to make of it, and shook his head at me when I held the fruit out to him again. He seemed to think it was an interesting experience, but sufficient already.

Then he decided he wanted to leave again, having exhausted the victuals and entertainment.
Cloud Plant Sky Horse Tree

Nice Saturday morning! :)
 
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