Tag Archives: horses

Best Times on the Farm

In no particular order:

Playing I spy (and mostly winning, though another would disagree ;)) on the way to Victoria with horses in tow. Mind you it was a 12-14 hour drive each way, so we had lots of time to kill:)

Rudy: A rooster on the property that just one day showed up and staked his claim on the land was one of the many creatures that roamed around.  Though I had never really had an issue with him (I bribed him daily with food!) any time a new person came on the property, he would try to attack them.  He was rather sneaky at it too, even going so far as to attack unsuspecting people who had been on the property before from behind!  Many people had stories of their encounters with the rooster ending in bloodshed (on the humans part, not the rooster’s!) or very close calls.  Luckily I was never one of them, so from my perspective it was extra entertaining to hear about others close calls!

Rudy!
Rudy!

General wildlife on the property: goats (ham and cheese), burger the bull, bats, wallaby, kangaroo in the valley, snakes, huntsman, frogs, moths, bunnies, foxes, black cockatoos, parrots in the valley… the beauty of the wilderness that surrounded us daily was unbelievable and amazing!!

Dried bat:  I had been used to (somewhat) encountering many a huntsman spider while opening and closing gates around the property as the sneaky buggers loved to hide out in the wood.  They mostly stayed away from gates that were opened often, but ones that weren’t operated daily were havens for the gigantic arachnids.  So one day while very cautiously going to open a seldom used gate, as the wood plank slid back and a giant fuzzy THING dropped out from the gate, I couldn’t help but scream and run away!  Of course I was laughed at and for good reason that time… It turned out the furry thing that fell out wasn’t at all a huntsman, but a flattened dried, very dead little bat:(  Poor buddy!!!

Goodness snakes alive!!! I had about 6 close encounters of the slithery kind while on the farm.  Luckily though they were only encounters with the shy red-bellied black snakes!  While they are still quite poisonous to people and animals, thankfully their first line of attack was to simply slither away.  My two most harrowing encounters go as follows: one evening while enjoying a cocktail (or two) as I was sitting outside, one appeared from under the truck heading directly toward me.  I didn’t know whether to move or stay still!  Options raced through my drunken mind as it got closer and closer.  Finally I made my move and very slowly lifted my legs off the ground to the chair.  Thankfully that was enough to alert the snake to my presence and it abruptly lifted its head, flipped 180 degrees in the opposite direction and scurried away!  My closest encounter however was while I was walking across the lawn (again a wee bit intoxicated, though a different day).  I was taking confident strides to my destination until I noticed a coiled red-bellied black snake not three feet in front of me sunning itself in the afternoon sun.  We literally didn’t notice each other until we noticed each other!  I stopped and squealed and it uncoiled at warp speed and hauled away from me as quick as it could, lol!!

A wallaby sighting: in the valley around sunset it was a common sight to see several dozen kangaroos in the fields just off the main road.  But never had I seen any ‘roos’ or their smaller counterparts in the mountains until one early morning while collecting one of the horses from their field.  Normally this horse was always calm and relaxed as we walked out of her field, but on this day as we exited she startled quite abruptly and stared in wonderment behind her.  While wondering what was wrong with her, I followed her gaze behind us only to spot a little wallaby at the entrance to her field staring back at us.  We all stood frozen for a few moments checking each other out until the little guy hopped away.  Very cool!

Watching My Kitchen Rules with ‘S’ and getting drunk: I had discovered the TV reality show My Kitchen Rules while in Thailand and it quickly became one of my favorite evening shows to watch and relax to.  I introduced my house mate ‘S’ to the show and it wasn’t long before we started making nightly ‘dates’ to enjoy our meals and company while watching the show together.  Often times we would get (or already be) a bit tipsy on our drinks of choice and would laugh hysterically throughout the show with our added commentaries.  Loved it!

T’s account of Rudy’s beating by the farrier:  Just the visual of this one still makes me laugh!  T, a French rider at the farm, while very good at speaking and understanding the English language still had a few things here and there that he was learning along the way.  The phrase “beat the $h!t out of…” was one phrase he was introduced to.  It came about as the farrier told ‘T’ about how Rudy had attacked him relentlessly one day, forcing him to retaliate in self-defense.  As the rooster continuously attacked the farrier, he defended himself by striking the rooster until one particular blow ended up knocking the rooster unconscious.  Hence, the phrase “he beat the $h!t out of Rudy” became a new phrase in T’s repertoire, and his recounting of the story the farrier told him was simply hilarious, lol!!  And don’t worry readers- Rudy is just fine!!  He is alive and well and still attacks who and when he pleases!

Listening to music on the front porch and talking for hours with A: ‘A’ was another groom I had the pleasure of working with.  We had so much in common that I called him my male twin.  Evening after evening we would sit on the front porch after a long day with drinks in hand and conversations for hours while listening to music from all ages and genres.  One particularly fantastic night, ‘A’ put a blanket on the front lawn and we just lay there listening to music while watching a gloriously beautiful night sky, sparkling bright with every star from the heavens.  Absolutely gorgeous!

Jumping over jumps drunk: ok, so I’m noticing that many of my stories here involve drinking… But hey, there really wasn’t much else to do on the property after finishing with the horses and drinking just brings out the fun in myself and my company!  On this particular night, it was myself, ‘S’ and the Australian ‘T’ who got our drinks on thought it would be a great idea to try to jump over the jumps set up for the horses!  In all reality however, it was mainly ‘T’ who was doing the jumping while ‘S’ and I simply laughed our rears off while running around the arena.  Good times!!

Sunsets on the bench:  Self explanatory

Smokes falling asleep on my hands: One of the shows I had the privilege of being a part of was down near Melbourne and unlike previous shows, it was 4 days long.  All our horses were doing really well and one in particular, Smokes (my nickname for him) made it to the final round as a contender for Champion of Champions.  After his jumping round I stood on the sidelines holding him while watching the other contenders being ridden.  Now, Smokes since I’d met him had a habit of always wanting to lick, whether it was our hands or arms.  Normally I wouldn’t allow this behavior in case it led to a nip, but he had been such a good boy all weekend that I allowed him his guilty pleasure.  I stood to his side with my hands clasped under his muzzle allowing him to lick the salt off while I watched the others do their course.  A couple of minutes later I realized that his licks had subsided and that he was simply resting his muzzle in my hands.  A few minutes after that I started to notice how heavy he was feeling in my hands… It was about then that I noticed his eyes were closed and his body had a very gentle sway to it… He had fallen asleep in my hands!!  I gently woke him giving him some loving pats while whispering in his ear that the show was almost over.  Bless him!! By the way, he did win the Champion of Champions!

Worming a young stud: I think the picture says it all!  While I thought he had swallowed, he apparently didn’t and instead spat all the medicine right back on me!

Worming Failure
Worming Failure

Reconstructing my San Blas anklet: my anklet from the San Blas Islands had at some point come undone, so I made it a project to reconstruct.  Since we had a road trip coming up, I brought it along to help kill time.  What I wasn’t expecting however was how involved ‘T’ (Australian rider) got into the project himself!  Along with providing helpful suggestions on how to make the slow and sometimes painful process of stringing hundreds of teeny beads on a teeny rope, he was also my cheerleader, egging me on to keep going and get the project done!  It was on the leg back to the farm that I finally did complete the anklet and got it back to its place around my ankle.

Peggy the possum: Possums were common creatures to see during the night but usually only from afar.  A couple of them however ended up becoming quite brave!  One particular evening as we sat on the front porch having a few drinks, we noticed this creature walking along the stone path directly up to the front porch steps.  It came up so confidently in its movement that we all at first thought it was a cat!  But no, it was a possum!!  It stopped just shy of getting on the porch, perching itself on the stairs.  It looked at us, we looked at it in amazement, and it simply turned away from us, scampered to a nearby tree, climbed it to the roof, ran across the roof overhead us, down the tree on the other side of the porch to a little spot we often threw bits of old bread or muffins.  Absolutely surreal!  We named this possum Peggy:)

Gabrielle the frog and T’s reaction to the frog: The French rider ‘T’ may kill me for posting this, but we had a frog that seemed to appear nightly in the same spot, so it was named Gabrielle.  One particular night, ‘T’ left the porch and entered the house and let out a scream that put 5-year-old girls to shame!  ‘A’ and I went to investigate what happened and it turned out that one of the frogs (maybe Gabby?) got into the house and startled ‘T’.  Needless to say I was cracking up over the sound of ‘T’s’ scream, and once he calmed down he too had a little chuckle over it;)

Gabrielle
Gabrielle

Of course there are many more, but since this post is getting rather lengthy, I will leave it at that!

On to Wildlife Park & Jenolan Caves

Back to Australia

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Summer Camp in January

Mid-January started to roll around and though I was still having a grand time with ‘J’ and ‘A’, I also didn’t want to out stay my welcome.  So once again it was time to think of something else to venture to.  I had really only scratched the surface of exploring Australia, so I wanted to stay a bit longer while also being able to afford it!

Oddly enough, one of my new friends whom I’d met back in Malaysia while at the horse facility emailed me in late December (once hearing that I was in Oz) about a friend of hers who was working at a horse farm on the Central Coast, about and hour and change north of Sydney.  Even though I had this information back in December, I didn’t follow up at all other than simply getting an email for her friend.

Fast forward to mid-January, though I wanted to actually be able to travel more of Australia, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to at least shoot off an email and see if they needed any help at the farm.  I can’t recall if it was later that day or the next, but very shortly after making contact I was given a number to call for a phone interview and a couple of days after that I made a commitment to go and help at the farm as a horse caretaker and groom.  Part of the reason I decided that route was, well, because I love horses!  But the other part was because it offered the potential to travel around to various parts of Australia with the horses.

I will never forget the day I arrived at the farm as it was one of the most memorable for me in a fun and funny way:)  Even as I’m writing this I can’t stop smiling about it!  Since the farm wasn’t terribly far from where ‘J’ and ‘A’ lived (and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t going somewhere sketchy, lol!!) they offered to drive me to the farm and we made plans for a day trip before getting there.  First stop was along the coast for some beach time at shelly beach, then some late lunch at a chinese restaurant, then onward to the farm.

The part that made this trip the most memorable for me was when we were heading to the farm.  Firstly the changing of the surroundings was absolutely stunning!  The green, lush rolling hills surrounding us was just breathtaking!  The second part is harder to describe, but it was the overall scenario.  I had my backpack in the trunk, I was sitting in the backseat of the car being driven along the countryside into unknown territory and I was being fretted over by my two great friends about where I was going and whether the place was a good one…  Which put together all added up to me feeling like a child being dropped off at summer camp by her two dads!!  It was absolutely adorable!!

When we got to the farm we met ‘S’, my new housemate and fellow horse helper, unloaded my things into my new room (inspected first by my “2 dads”;)) and took a little wander around the front of the house.  That is where we first met Rudy the rooster.  I still recall ‘J’ and ‘A’ being cautious about the ridiculously fat, and I mean seriously rotund, rooster that was roaming around the front of the grooming stalls, while I simply brushed aside the notion that he could be dangerous by pointing out that surely they wouldn’t allow a rooster who attacks to roam around freely.  He wasn’t showing any signs of aggression or threatening motions, so I figured he was friendly…

Of course the next day I was warned by ‘T’ (the rider) and ‘S’ that I should be VERY wary of Rudy as he was quite well known for attacking people, especially strangers (both ‘T’ and ‘S’ had been attacked!)!!  So apparently ‘J’, ‘A’ and I were very lucky that first afternoon of arrival in that we did NOT get attacked!  In addition, I learned that the trick to keeping Rudy at bay and happy was to feed him bits of horse feed… No wonder he was such a chunker, lol!!

I ended up spending several months at the horse farm caring for the numerous horses along with ‘T’ and ‘S’ and have so many fond memories of my time spent there (to be listed in my next post).  And while I didn’t get to travel as much as I had hoped to originally, I was able to make it at least to one new State (Victoria) with the horses.

Originally I was hoping to stay for 6 months to a year helping at the farm, but energies started to change in a variety of directions that led me to decide to move on.  ‘T’ and ‘S’ had also moved on to better and brighter things for their path a few months before I left, but we of course still keep in touch.  It’s really amazing how even spending short periods of time with some people, you just know you will never lose touch, no matter the distance or time apart.

Best Times on the Farm

Back to Australia

Reunited with Horses

For two of my weeks on the island of Langkawi, I took time out from volunteering at the Bon Ton animal shelter and headed over to Island Horses to volunteer there.  I had originally planned to volunteer there longer, but due to an unforseen event, was only able to do two weeks.

I’ve been a rider for most of my life but hadn’t been near any horses for over a year at this point, so needless to say I was so thrilled to finally be back in their presence.  Perhaps only horse people will be able to relate to that the smell in the air when approaching a horse facility.  It is perhaps my favorite in the world as it smells like coming home to me!

Island Horses is a working stable with three main functions.  First, they train endurance horses and have a team that competes worldwide (in fact during my time there the owner and his son were in Argentina for a competition!).  Second, it’s a breeding facility for Malay Arabian horses and finally, they offer jungle and beach riding tours for tourists.  They are very safety conscientious when it comes to taking riding tours out, which of course is very important!

As a volunteer at Island Horses a bed and bathroom were provided (shared with staff) but meals were not.  However the GeoPark (where the cable car was located) and the seven falls waterfall national park, were only a 5 to 10 minute walk away.  There, a variety of foods could be found all reasonably priced.

As a volunteer I was assigned 5 horses to care for and an aisle of horses to water 3 times a day.  Our days started at 7am until 7pm with a lunch break from 12-2:30pm.  All that was expected of me was to groom each horse twice a day as the stalls and feeding were done by the staff.  While I did spend my first day simply grooming my five horses (essentially with a fine-toothed comb so I could get to know every inch of them to get a baseline for any changes during my time there), three days didn’t even pass before I’d incorporated other little tasks to my daily duties.

I will admit that the first several days there were tough for me.  And not for any other reason except perhaps a bit of cultural differences and the natural environment.  The way I’d been raised to care for horses was not the standard I’d found there.  I’m not saying the horses were not cared for, because they were all fed quite well and watered appropriately and such, but other things in my opinion, were not up to snuff.  However, what made it extra tough was the natural terrain and weather of the environment, which made caring for horses in general that much harder.  Wounds don’t heal as fast as they would in dry environments and keeping stalls dry is equally difficult during the wet season.

As someone who was simply coming and going in only two weeks, my business there wasn’t to complain and point out all the things I thought weren’t right, but rather to simply lend my hand and do my job (so to speak).  So it was by the third day I’d made up my mind to take care of my five horses as if they were personally mine.  On top of daily grooming I also began to take care of cleaning their stalls, treating their boo-boos and cleaning equipment used for them.

In the short time I was there, I rode twice on the beach and through the jungle.  It was such an amazing feeling to be back on a horse!!  Words simply can’t express the exhilaration I felt!  It was also funny to me because while I’d been used to riding draft horses and having to physically put in a lot of work just to make them and KEEP them moving forward, I’d almost forgotten how easy it is to get Arabians to move forward, lol!!  And while I would have loved to have ridden more, since I was young it’s been instilled in me that as horse people our primary concern is for the care of the horse.  Riding is a privilege and comes only after all the needs of the animal are met.

The facility itself is undeniably in one of the most beautiful locations on the island.  Surrounded by lush jungle, nestled at the base of one of the mountain ranges and only minutes from the beach, I certainly got spoiled living in such a beautiful environment.  The wildlife in the area was also fantastic.  Aside from the horses, cats and dogs at the stables we would also be frequently visited  by deer, two types of monkeys, water monitors, bats, snakes, wild boar and stray dogs!  It practically was its own zoo!

While I was only there two weeks, leaving was just as hard as if I’d been there years.  Leaving the animals of course was the hardest part for me but also leaving Amirah (my staff roommate) and Shanto (a 12 year volunteer) was very tough.  Even in that short time I felt like part of the family and welcomed in ways I hadn’t imagined.  I think of them daily, as I do my family at the Bon Ton shelter, and look forward to being able to return there again.

On to The Majesty of Kuala Lumpur

Back to Malaysia