It Was A Quiet Week At Phoenix Farm

With deserved deference to the great essayist and broadcaster Garrison Keeler, I’m going to start this week?s blog by observing, ?It was a quiet week at Phoenix Farm.? And now I’m going to tell you just a few of the things that happened. Well, there was, shall we say, some rather significant concern this week around the horse world about the EHV-1 virus that a some cutting horses have carried around to the western states from a show in Ogden, Utah, at the beginning of May. If you’re reading this, chances are good you?ve been following as the anxiety and misinformation billows in internet land. But the near-hysteria has gone beyond the inter-world?I saw a brief, and reasonably calm, piece about it Sunday morning on ?Good Morning, America,? filmed at the L.A. Equestrian Center and featuring my old friend Marnye Langer in a speaking role. EHV-1 was actually a bit personal here at Phoenix Farm, because Heather and I are the press officers for The Event At Woodside this weekend, a horse trials about 30 minutes south of San Francisco to which we’re also planning to take six horses. I’ve spent many hours this week discussing the situation with organizer Robert Kellerhouse and writing press releases, and Heather and I have spent countless hours following the latest reports and discussing our participation in the event. SHe’s also spent lots of time discussing the virus and our plans with our clients. Robert and the management of the Horse Park at Woodside, which hosts the event, have developed a safety protocol to protect the more than 400 horses who were entered and the hundred-plus horses boarded there, and as of Tuesday morning, the event is still on and we’re planning on competing. The deciding factor in favor of holding the event and our participation is that the virus has not spread outside of horses who were at the Ogden show?at least, not yet. Our horses had all their vaccinations updated last Friday, an action our veterinarian recommended, and we believe they’re at no more risk than they are at any other event we attend. If, by the time we leave on Thursday morning, the virus has spread beyond that specific population, our plans could change. In the midst of the EHV-1 ?Sturm und Drang,? we did have a big and wonderful surprise here at Phoenix Farm on Thursday. For the last five years We’ve had a small herd of miniature Sicilian donkeys, led by our jack, Mr. Steve, who was just a wee weanling when we bought him in October 2006. We lost the jenny who came with him, named Miss Vicki, to a prolapsed uterus the following spring, and just this February we lost another jenny, Trinket, to colic. That left only the kindly Sage, now 19, who?d never shown any obvious signs of pregnancy. In fact, Mr. Steve had always appeared rather inept at the necessary act, and we’d basically given up hope that we’d ever see any offspring. I finished riding about 1 o?clock and came up to the house for lunch and to watch Wesley, who’s now 19 months old, so that Heather could teach her school-age students. She was in the middle of a lesson when she noticed Zeus, our 150-pound livestock-guarding dog, carrying something large in his mouth from one end of the donkey and goat paddock to the other. At first she thought he had one of our Nigerian dwarf goats, but a quick head count revealed all six does present and accounted for. So she looked again, and saw that whatever Zeus was carrying had very long ears. Then she realized that Zeus had picked up a foal to carry it to safety while Sage tussled with Mr. Steve, who?d moved in in that very bossy donkey way to see what was going on. Heather screamed to our farm manager Kate for assistance and told her student, Victoria, to summon me on her always handy cell phone. Imagine my confusion when Victoria told me that Heather wanted me at the barn right away because ?Sage had a baby.? I had to get her to repeat it three times! And then I was out the door, glad Wesley was still soundly napping. When I reached the barn moments later, Heather and Kate had moved Sage and the foal, a jenny, to a small pen under the giant oak tree in front of the barn. I just stood there with my mouth open for a minute or two, and when I went in to dry her off, I realized she wasn?t slimy like a newborn foal should be. that’s when we looked at Zeus? bloody legs and chest and realized that he?d licked her clean for Sage. The foal stood unsteadily a few minutes later and made her way to the udder with our help, and all was well. Now, what should we name her’ We don’t want to use the obvious ?Surprise,? especially because we know an unexpected mule with that name. We thought of Stevie Wonder, using her sire?s name and connoting a sense of surprise, but Heather pointed out that the gender was wrong. Then she remembered that the great songstress Stevie Nicks once recorded an album called ?Sagebrush??and that was perfect. Saturday morning was a lazy day. The previous afternoon, all of our horses (and donkeys) had been vaccinated, so I was only going to give three horses some light work. Heather gave a student a lesson at 9:00 on our schoolmaster Schultz, and then Heather and I, the student and our friend Lee sat for a while under the oak tree and watched Wesley romp in the pen with Stevie, as Sage looked sagely on. We laughed as Wesley, who’s been going through serious teething pains this week, and Stevie uncertainly attempted cross-species communication. She would follow a few feet behind as he trotted about, but when he turned to look at her, she?d pivot and scamper off, with a few bucks and kicks. Then Wesley would turn around, distracted by something new, and Stevie would follow behind him once again. Wesley actually seemed more captivated by the docile Sage, patting her and leaning against her. Then, when she laid down to rest, Wesley engaged in one of his favorite activities, tearing off hunks from a hay flake and sprinkling the flakes on top of her. (He also likes to do that to his bunnies, Hip and Hop, and they seem to enjoy the chance to eat what they’re wearing.) It was a lovely couple of quiet hours, on an absolutely perfect spring day?about 70 degrees, clear blue sky and a light breeze. And that afternoon, with the help of our friend Amber Levine, we introduced two 3-year-olds (one of them our homebred Ianto) to having a rider on their backs, always a fulfilling experience when it goes right, like it did on this day. And that’s the news from Phoenix Farm, where all the Nigerian dwarf goats are fat (and pregnant), all the horses are good-looking, and all the dogs and cats are well above average

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