The Daily Grind

Over the last six weeks, we’ve established a routine that varies only slightly from day to day, depending on whether we have meetings to attend or errands to run. It starts every morning with me peeking over the rock wall on my way to coffee on the lanai just to make sure the horses haven’t gone anywhere during the night. And of course, every morning, there they are, with their little noses pointed up at me, asking for breakfast.

This is the face you get when you’re late with a meal. Note the mottled skin, striped hooves, and white sclera – all Appaloosa characteristics.

After coffee and email are done (because of the time difference, you have to do email first thing or you won’t get a response from anyone on the mainland until the next day), I head down to the paddock to give the horses their morning ration of timothy pellets. They get two cups each, which translates to about half a pound each. I brush them while they eat, but since they’re so tiny, this takes almost no time at all, so I move on to picking up manure piles and transporting them to a bucket to be composted and redistributed among the coffee trees and vegetable gardens. At the same time, I’m attempting to clear the paddock of rocks, which may prove to be impossible in my lifetime. But I get rid of a few more rock piles each day and I do see progress.

The rest of the morning for me is spent on work – either my day job as a writer/consultant/trainer or my other day job as a coffee farmer. There is no shortage of outdoor work as we get our gardens growing and do the regular maintenance associated with our hundred or so coffee trees. Tim does much of the landscaping work, but for now, there are plenty of rocks to move, trees to plant or prune, ponds to service, animals to feed, fences to build, etc. Soon we’ll be adding a chicken coop to house half a dozen or so chickens. Chores and special projects are always waiting and best done in the cooler morning hours.

After we eat our lunch, the horses get theirs. Lunch consists of a half pound or so (each) of alfalfa cubes, wetted down with water or diluted apple cider vinegar. Sometimes I sit with them through lunch, partly to make sure no one chokes on a cube and partly because I just love to listen to them chew. Nothing says meditation like the rhythm of a horse chewing food, while you soak up fresh air and sunshine. After they finish eating, we do a little work. Right now, we’re mostly working on leading. Because they’re still young, they tend to plant all four feet periodically and stare stubbornly instead of automatically following along. When that happens, I patiently wait them out with continuing pressure on the lead rope. Once they move forward, the pressure is released – with that problem solved, they follow me like it was their idea.

We also work on foot etiquette. I pick up all four feet on each horse daily, picking out mud and small rocks from their soles and checking the overall condition of the hoof. Initially, this activity met with some resistance, and still does on occasion, with one or the other of the horses tugging the hoof out of my hand or kneeling down so I can’t get to it. But we’re making progress with all of these things, so as soon as they are completely accepted as routine, we’ll move on to more difficult tasks.

Gotta scratch, gotta scratch . . .

They get another thorough brushing and a couple of apple snack treats as a reward for their work . . . they really enjoy being brushed and they never complain about the treats. And I head back to the house to complete farm chores or other work. Or we go to the beach. Some days you just have to take advantage of great snorkel weather.

In the evening, the horses get a final meal of orchardgrass hay – a flake weighs about three pounds, so all total, they each get somewhere between two and three pounds of food daily or about 1.5% of their ideal body weight of 125-175 pounds. Because they tend to share their food pans it’s impossible to tell exactly how much each of them eats, but they both have healthy appetites and assessing their body condition daily helps me adjust if I feel they are getting too much or too little. If I asked them, they would tell me they get too little every day at every meal. There’s a good reason for the expression “eating like a horse.” Left to their own devices, they would eat nonstop, a throwback to the days of their ancestors who relied on unlimited grazing to supply enough calories to survive harsh environmental conditions. Today’s horses, and certainly my two little minis, don’t burn nearly enough calories to justify eating all day long. Of course, neither do I and that doesn’t seem to stop me either.

One of the best things about heading down to the paddock in the evening is the outstanding view of sunset over the ocean. Every night I am reminded of what a gift it is to be living on this island, especially with the even greater gift of these two little horses.

“Our tails are so pretty and fluffy when they get all combed out with detangler!”

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