I have never renovated anything, not really, or been significantly involved with renovations. So I find myself suddenly tired of renovations. And with the excitement having worn thin, I'm often just annoyed. The rain didn't help. It rained everyday for about a week and the pasture became a mud pit. A combination of environmental factors led Thunder to get a blood clot in her hoof. Liz called the vet out from Seoul. As all things horse related in Korea, it's hard. There is only one equine veterinarian service in South Korea and while there are other large animal vets closer, many haven't handled a horse since college. They're just not that common. The vet in Seoul wouldn't even com two hours out to our farm if it wasn't for our feed dealer who put us in contact with him. My friend has to call him directly, otherwise the office staff will just say no.
The farm call fee is about $200.00 and with a two hour drive, four hours round trip assuming there is no traffic, toll fees, fuel and what not, this price is dirt cheep. The vets from the equine hospital are really good too. The blood clot was small, and because there is not a lot of information about this on the internet, I have no idea about the long term ramafications for Thunder had her hoof not been opened up.
But this lead to more renovations. Our pseudo stalls for feeding weren't enough to keep her in so Mr. O welded us some stalls. Had we been in the states we could have just bough some corral panels but here you buy the pipe and have someone do the welding. All three gates are on hinges and can be swung against the wall for when we don't need stalls. Mr. O also put a half door at the back of the barn. This allows us to take the wheelbarrow out and clean the run in.
Everything is actually being re-purposed from apple farm use to stables. So the barn was an equipment shed and the run in behind the barn housed two big water tanks. There are circular groves in the floor. One of the renovations is pouring concrete on top to level the space.
There is a lot going on behind the barn too. A long time a go, the village used to get their water from an underground spring. it was sealed off and the overflow run to a pond at the front of the property. Liz is opening it back up. She has installed a retaining wall and a small pond area. Water runs out in a small brook to a second pond before flowing out into a the ditch that runs the length of the farm road where it will eventually flow into the stream at the base of the mountain.
This means an endless supply of fresh water for the the horses and by putting things back to the way they where this had led to quite a few wild animals re-inhabiting the mountainside behind the barn. I've heard and see a very big, beautiful pheasant. Thor is terrified of him. There is also an owl, and some kind of larger cat. Not a big cat, but a wild cat of some sort. I've heard his or her cries and it's nothing like a tame cat. It's haunting and spine tingling.
Liz also took down the chicken house, so for now we don't have any chickens. If we do get more chickens, they'll be housed near the horses. A roadway is going through the old pond area. When finished happy horse will be a trail park. With limited space for trail riding in Korea... I mean, you can go out on the roads but its more dangerous than it ever was in the states. There are deep ditches everywhere and while none of our horses are afraid of cars, my misadventure on the roads last year taught me how unprepared people are to encounter a horse on the road.
The car was flying down the road and though he had time to see us, didn't and missed Super by a few centimeters... With the deep, concrete ditch on the side was no where for him to go. I probably need to photograph the unique obstacles in South Korea. Also, Super is a coward. He gets really worried about a patched pot hole or change in pavement color while, cars as far as he is concerned, are perfectly safe. He has a funny thing about wanting to follow white vehicles... he'll follow any vehicle as if it were a heard leader, but will practically chase after white ones.
Are you familiar with condition 15.4 (c) on your Paypal account? Me neither. But apparently if you die, you are rectifiable in breach of it and will receive a letter telling you so. But there is an easy solution. Simply your address to your elementary plot before you die so the letter isn't delivered to grieving friends and family.
A one year-old appears before a judge to answer what inquiring minds what to know... does he understand the proceedings? Um.... But at least the judge was embarrassed. Not so for the 70 year old Toddler, Adolf Twitler .
American might be great again and Elon Musk builds a kid sized submarine, but is disappointed that the rescuers or the trapped Thai soccer team didn't want to begin rescuing the kids until his prototype was finished. Serioulsy, in order to use it, all the rescuers had to do was drag it through the cave system, haul it up behind them as they climbed and then ease it down the other side. Then squeeze it through a 14 gap where it would taken the rest of the way to the children kids, where divers could rescue them one per day for the next 13 days.
This is a horse post, but first, I want to thank everyone who has entered the emoticon contest. You guys are making it hard to choose a winner. Now, on to my three children with hooves.
I follow Warwick Schiller via his online subscription. I mentioned that before but I thought I'd mention it again, because if you American and living abroad or not American-- the United States and it's citizens love to block/ make impossible to access for international users-- he's a great resource. I also admire Vicki Wilson .
Animals do smile
Did you know horses can smile? Many clinicians and trainers talk about licking and chewing and lowered heads as signs of relaxation. There is a step beyond that and its a smile. Happy horses can even smile while being annoyed with you.
To me its a lot like human children. If you ever watch Supernanny, you'll see children smile even as rules they don't like rules are being laid out. That's because rules and consistency creates security. For a prey animal security is worth their life.
Before a horse will smile at you, he or she has to have a lot of trust and be able to relax around. Finally, they must like their life. Finally, they must feel that saying "no" is okay. Not that saying now will get them what they want, but that they can say it to you. If you watch a dominate horse drive a subordinate away, he or she leaves with a head toss or a kick. That's the equivalent to a human child stomping their foot and saying "fine!"
Horses do this by kicking out as you send them away, throwing the head as they move away, glaring while doing what you have asked of them and swishing their tails. Ears back however are more like eff- off.
Creating an environment where your equine companion isn't afraid to share his or her opinion but isn't allowed say "eff off" is like walking a knifes edge. There is a lot of grey area and requires the ability to read the most subtle cues. It may also be important to repeatedly until the desired behavior is performed without objection.
You might be familiar with “Make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard.” Its the same thing. Obedience is a choice that the horse can make or not make, but the latter is hard and the former is easy. Warwick Schiller tells a story about some horse his former worker, Chewy, and a horse that runs back to the barn. In order to stop the horse from running back to the barn, he had to let the horse run back to the barn. But when got to be where he wanted, the horse had to work.
Not only must the trainer let the horse "win" but sometimes horses have bad days just like people. Allowing horses to have a bad day--letting go until the next day creates a bond of understand. This doesn't mean you induldge your horse.
For example, I used to have a mare who was unusually grumpy on her first day of heat. I could annoy her into behaving well. Or I could do whatever needed and let her alone for a day or two. She wasn't much of a talker when I got her, but seven years later she was always telling me things. She had a way of communicating when her cinch was pinching, she told me when she had a tick in her tail or something else was bothering her. Over time, I could tell the difference because just as I used the same body language to mean go, she learned to use the same hip drop and tail swish to mean tick.
I remember distinctly a little after I had moved her to a new farm. The owner came up to me and said, "Your horse is really smart. Her water trough was empty and she stood right by it nickering at me. At first I thought she thought I was feeding the other horses. But she kept doing it throughout the morning, but only when I had the water hose. That's when I realized she was talking to me, tell me she needed water. "
I recently read a study where they taught horse to touch symbols if they wanted their blankets on or didn’t want them on. By the end of the study, the researchers reported that some of the horses were running and neighing after their human trainers. What a great things to study. If horses could tell us what they wanted, would they. They answer is yes. But when the study was over, the trainers moved on to a new research project. I wonder what it must have felt like to those horses. Imagine that one day, you can no longer tell someone what you want and need.
When I sold my mare to come to South Korea, I turned away a lot of people. In the end, I chose a family for her. But a few months later they emailed me about her rearing and acting bad. I'd taught her to talk to me. She eventually did settle in with a horse person because she was trained well. But selling her is one of my great life regrets.
Well, below are some photos.
This is Thunder smiling. It's not the best photo, but it's really hard to get a good smile photo.
Thor was smiling too, but not as exaggerated as Thunder's. . We got Thunder from the racetrack in December and Thor at the beginning of April. So some of it has to do with the time.
Google search: horse smiling. Results, a lot of horses not smiling.
This horse is not smiling. He's chewing on the bit, or the rider is pulling on the reins, or he's pulling on the rider, or he doesn't' like the bit...based on his eye expression and ears, I suspect he's nearly pulling the rider out of the saddle, perhaps to get a bit of grass or perhaps because he's learned that pulling gets a release of pressure. .
Also, not a smile. Horse's wrinkle their nose and flip up their lip as a response to smells.It's called the flehmen response. This horse may well have been trained to smile... lots of people use this response to get horses to lift their upper lip. Humans associate showing teeth with smiles, but in horses, showing teeth isn't a smile.
In this case, the teeth mean, "I'm going to bite you." See the laid back ears, the white around the eye and the muscle tension in the entire body.
The horse in the background is either playful or telling the horse in the foreground. Notice the extension of the upper lip in the foreground horse. You'll see this in a lot of jumping photos, horses doing sliding stops... anything that requires full attention.
But Google does turn up one horse smiling. Not licking and chewing, or saying eff off, but a real smile. Notice the O between the upper and lower lips. If you had a shot of this from the side, it would be easy to see that the lower lip is more forward than the upper lip. Also nice the dreaminess in the eyes and the right ear slightly turned toward the person who, based on the hand position, is probably scratching this horses "it" spot. Whatever this horse has to put up with humans, he is getting much in return.
After much thought--five seconds-- I have come to the conclusion there are too many words in use. For example, once upon a time, my browser had words: settings, bookmark, and so on. This was reduced to a single letter. For example S might stand for settings. Now my browser has e-hieroglyphs.
Let me describe some of them for you. In the address bar there are three dots, a shield with a v and a star. To the right of those are are four vertical lines- one line is taller than two lines and one line is slanted. Next to that is a rectangle with rounded corners, a line in the middle and dots on one side. Next to that are two linked squares, and besides that is a gray square with white dots. Then there are three horizontal lines.
See how many words it took me to tell you about those icons? Perhaps the ancient Egyptians and the Chinese have it right. Why use 26 symbols to represent sounds to make thousands of words, when we can use pictures.
Thus below, I have continued this post in icons. If you misunderstand anything I say, please message me with icons and emoticons. I will clarify with icons and emoticons. You should definitely use this to communicate at work as well.
And to help this movement along, this is a contest. I will choose one winner who can interpret my message in the most meaningful and amusing way.
Each picture can represent multiple words, whole ideas, incomplete ideas, incomplete sentences and the kitchen sink. The winner will receive a $50.00 grand prize via PayPal. If you don't have PayPal account I will send you an Amazon gift card instead. Please submit your story here...no more than 500 words. The contest will end August first 2018.
The winner will be posted to this blog. Other submissions may be posted to this blog. Writers will be contacted before their work is posted and receive a nominal payment of $5.00 if they want to be published here.
Crack cocaine, also known simply as crack, is a free base form of cocaine that can be smoked. Crack offers a short but intense high to smokers. Crack cocaine is commonly used as a recreational drug.
Brain crack is a free base form of thinking. The intense high is delivered from idea to the brain. It offers an intense high to users. It is also known in it's more milder from called daydreaming. It is comonly used as a recreational drug. But brain crack requires a bit more effort on the users part.
For example, if you're a writer, you generally won't get high when thinking of a character putting on shoes. However, if you imagine those shoes are sparkly and red and respond to the voice command, "There is no place like home," then you're on brain crack. Hence the Wizard of Oz in it's entirety. The writer was high.
But brain crack isn't limited to writers, though they are big time users, but other fields as well. For example, what happens when you put a gyroscope in a scooter and add a really big cell phone battery? And then you convince people to call the invention "It" until it is revealed. You get a Segway, aka mass use of brain crack.
Brain crack has many positive side effects, mostly being, creativity and out of the box thinking. Nonetheless it is also responsible for fantasizing about how "great this is going to be" and sleepless nights as the user tosses and turns with excitement for the next day-- which inevitably sucks thanks to sleep deprivation.
Thus, users of brain crack must be careful. Otherwise they will be sleepy and unable to break the cycle between thinking up awesome idea and thinking about how awesome it will be when it's brought fruition, long enough enough to bring said idea to fruition.
This is also known by the very technical term, Brain Crack Catch 22.
It's the end of the the quarter at the English Center and that means paperwork and goodbye snack party. Since one of the units with my 6th graders was about festivals, I let them decide on a festival--- they chose a food festival. Lots of extra work.
I invited other teachers to join in with their classes, but we've got two teachers who aren't so good at answering basic question. One in particular won't even look at people when they are talking to him.
For example, "Would you like to join the food festival?" resulted in no response.
So Mrs. Jin sent a message ten days before the planned event. If all the classes join in the school will provide for the budget. And since the boys were unlikely to chip in 10 bucks, "yes" or "no" important but alas, once again too complicated.
Though it's sad for the students if they can't join in, I was good with letting them do their own thing. Still Mrs. Jin wanted the students to participate, so she sent yet another message ( Teacher T and I were spending our own money on supplies by this point) inviting the boys once again. Actually, she told them to ask their students if they wanted to go... to which the students would say yes.
But that again was too complicated and one of the boys said, "I didn't hear anything about it until today." Bang head against wall. And he added, "It's no big deal. I'll ask them on Thursday."
This was on a Tuesday and the Wednesday is teacher training day, or in this case, finish a but load of paperwork day. Thus, Thursday is the day of the party. The class in question starts at 4:20 so he'd let me know on Thursday somewhere about 4:25.
To which I said a nice, but firm no. We're providing baked spaghetti and sandwiches, but the kids are going to bring a snack as well. So he wanted to MAYBE come with his class, none of which would have a snack because he didn't tell them. But Teacher T and I should prepare as if they are coming.
The other teacher, Birdman, still has his headphones in...he's even more ridiculous than the teacher above, but that diatribe is for another day or perhaps never. It's too, ugh. The main point is, he doesn't knowledge people, not when they talk directly to him about work or just to be friendly, not when they send messages and so I've no idea whether he plans to just show up tomorrow. Do I say to him today, nicely, but firmly that its too late to join, or say nothing? If he doesn't come, then nothing is better. But if he sends his students then what? Do we turn the kids away? They're kids.
Homesickness struck me quite suddenly and with unexpected for. I'm not homesick in the way of Dorothy searching for her Aunt Em. My rootless childhood, which is to say my mother leapfrogged from place to play trying to keep ahead of child services until I was fourteen and that all fell apart. Foster care left me a temporary visitor and anchor-less from then on. In some ways it was better. I could pack up and just go, which I did.
Starting over is exciting and good. Yet the novelty of leaving everything behind but the clothes you can squeeze into a suitcase gets old fast. These facts are part of the reason I settled so well in South Korea. It's not for everyone, trust me. And the things that you miss are unexpected.
Like last night I opened the tv website that lets people watch some TV while abroad and there was an enormous list of shows I'd never heard of. Suddenly there it was, melancholy and a sense of loosing my American identity. My identity is hardly Korean either. I can't speak Korean to save me life -the reasons are multi-fold, but comes down to commitment.
You know what I miss the most right now? Jello and pudding. Don't ask me why. Perhaps its a bereavement of sorts, a kind of nostalgia you might feel after looking at old photos. The feeling returned to me as I was riding my E-bike to work today, listening to an audio book.
But I realized even these acts far remove my Korean experience from others that come here. Because this is my life, a road less traveled since birth really. The melancholy will pass, but I may need to take a trip to the states just to be American for ten days... circle the parking lot until a space opens close to the supermarket instead of walking to the market like I do now. I'll only end up frozen in the isles of the mart-- choice stupor. Take cereal for example. I'll have fifty or more flavors compared to the five or so here.
Which will lead to another homesickness, this time for South Korea.
The vet came last week. Or the week before. I'd have to look to be sure. Anyway, last week I rode Super for the first time in a month. Because I got to the farm so late, I saddled him up in time for the gloaming and by the time I finished groundwork it was full on dark.
I moved the l solar light from the pasture to the round pen and the ride itself wasn't remarkable. All I did was walk and bend and work on barn gravity. If you haven't heard, barn gravity is the gravitational pull of the barn on horses. Actually, it's not very scientific and the term comes from a short story from a book of short stories about horses named Barn Gravity. This was back when I was kid and the short story was so good, that I asked the librarian for the book. That was not as stkupid of a question as you might think because many of the stories in the book were excerpts. But she gave me the look, one reserved by adults for children who ask stupid questions and, after seeing the book was a collection of short stories said "no" there was not a book by that name.
But I think she would have said that about any of the stories because she didn't realize the book was full of excerpts. Nevertheless, this one story really was just a story and that was a disappointing day for a horse crazy kid who could do nothing about it, except read books.
Anyway, the concept of barn gravity describes perfectly what happens when you separate a horse from his place of leisure, food, and friends. Super is no different and he wanted nothing more than to leave the round pen and get back to eating. My point is, the ride was boring. The exciting part was the ground work.
I've taught Super to go the direction I point and to walk on one cluck, trot on two, and canter at a kiss. The canter has been a bit of contention with us. By now I could be able to walk, trot and canter on a loose rein without steering. Alas, Super ducks and dives in the canter, bucks and tosses his head. None of it is a big deal and I've watched much better riders have no trouble with him. But I am not a good rider in the sense that I can muscle my way through things.
And anyway, if he takes the canter badly from a ground cue, it's not suddenly going to be better with me on his back. That would be like getting on an airplane with a hole in the fuselage with the expectation that you can fix after take off.
So, I've been trying to fix it on the ground. But not really. Partly because I was worried about Super's stifle. If he was resistant to canter maybe there was a physical reason? And there was, but not what I thought. It was his teeth.
You know, evidence based horsemanship has a lot of running horses around in a circle. While it uses the horse's flight mode, the fact is, you could train any animal this way, even humans. On a psychological level, it's very effective, not only in getting a horse obedient but teaching him what he can do. Just this Sunday, Super wanted to know what was in a bag I was carrying around. He could have turned around and come investigated. Instead he back up six strides straight as an arrow until his face was level with the bag. He sniffed it, realized it did not contain carrots and was disappointed in to life.
So back to last week. For the first time ever Super cantered off with out a head toss. His head was so low in the canter... I've not seen him relax that way. When the vet did his teeth he said Super's head tossing should quit. Well, we don't ride much in a bit so we don't have much head tossing, but as it turns out it was his teeth. Now this vet had the tools and at least some of the expertise that an equine dentist would have.
And though I could have forced the issue about the canter, I'm glad that I did not. I probably could have bullied Super to being good in the canter. But I'm glad that instead, I worked on it patiently. And left it alone a lot. "Natural Horsemanship" is anything but, and using the methods aren't better unless the trainer is better. Not better in skill, but understands if the horse is failing to learn something then the teacher is teaching it wrong or, as in Super's case, there was an external factor.
I used to love "make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard," but I think now that there must be caveats in putting such ideas into practical use. Perhaps it should be "Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing hard and don't be a bully."
Saturday's seem to roll around all too fast these days. My plan was to go up to the farm about six, but I couldn't pry myself out of bed until 9:30. I swung by the Seven-Eleven near my apartment--yes we have these here-- and grabbed breakfast lunch and dinner (yogurt, Ramen, Ramen) and most importantly, coffee.
Then I headed up the mountain on my bike. Back in Seoul somebody stole the handle grips off my bike so the barks are smooth cool metal. During the winder, I've been riding with gloves but spring has come on very Korean which is to say, all at once. The air had a slight chill to it, which went from a bit too cold to nice as I peddled and then pushed my bike up the mountain. My tires are getting a bit soggy so I need to put air in them. When is the question. It's why I haven't bought new handle bar grips. I have to go to a bike shop and when I'm not teaching or doing teacherly things, I'm at the farm.
Sweat had started bead off my brow by the time I reached Rex. He barked and waved hello flag. In other words he wagged his tail and bounced about with the vigor of a young German Shepherd. I gave him a pat and set about morning feedings.
Liz was up in Seoul with Gabe. The Sunday prior, he had got a casting call and so we all bundled into my friends car, abandoned farm work, and drove to Seoul for a meeting that took less than a minute. Nevertheless, they loved him.
They asked Gabe, "Do you have a dialogue for us?"
In true Gabe style, he said, "Yes, but it's not any good because I don't know how to act. Do you still want to see it?"
He's seven in Korea, which means he's five in USA until July, when he'll turn six. From the mouths of babes as they say. Anyway, the casting agency liked him so much, they wanted him to get some experience. So they cast him as an extra in a kindergarten and that meant Liz was in Seoul with her son and I had the farm all to myself. Yeah! Not really.
I cleaned four wheelbarrows of manure and listened to an audio book while the horses had their morning hay. They had two flakes of alfalfa each followed by 3/4ths bale of Timothy. We feed as much Timothy as they can eat, which is an unusual diet in Korea. Both Thunder and Thor haven't been with us long enough to stretch out their stomachs. Thunder passed out from eating and Thor had have a rest. Super however was worried he might lose an ounce and kept at it all day.
I was heading up to put some poles in the top apple orchard so we can use it as a pasture when the grass comes on up there. But I was sidelined when the tractor guy showed up to give my friend a driving lesson. The new tractor has been gathering dust since it's delivery a week ago because nobody knows how to drive it. I had reminded Liz to reschedule him, but that was amid other pressing things like having the farrier out for the horse's feet and calling the vet to get their shots.
He was there and sort of wanted to ride and since my friend had forgotten to reschedule him I thought it was the least I could do. So I gave him a choice of Super or Thunder. He chose Thunder because Gabe had told him she was the kindest. Ha. She's miss grumpy pants. But she is nice. She just grumps. Super is better trained but it didn't really matter.
So far, letting people ride has consisted of me and/or Liz leading people around on a horse. And Saturday was no different. He held on with a death grip and Thunder grumped ," Why am I the only one working?"
Since she was saddled, I spent some more time with her working on her ground work. I worked on her disengage. She's getting quite good on the right side and clearly understands but isn't so good on the left. Then I introduced yielding her front end. She's so tall and gangling, her feet get tangled around each other. Otherwise, she's coming along nicely. It was only after grooming her and turning her back at that I headed up to the top orchard with a loaded wheelbarrow.
I hammered in about 15 poles for the electric fence, before I ran out. I'll have to scrounge up some more from around the farm. In the meantime, I did a bit of weed whacking. This coming weekend I need to go up and start clearing rocks and random debris from previous farming projects, hammer in some more poles and try to rake up some of the leaves and clippings. Fingers crossed it rains this week so the grass will start to come on good.
Mariel R. is an ESL teacher, horse trainer, writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. She lives in South Korea with two cats, three horses, a German Shepherd and 17 chickens.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Goldy in English) R.I.P February, 23, 2018