Monday, September 17, 2007

Cookies by Moonlight

Feeling kind of lonely and melancholy tonight, I took an extra walk around the farm at dusk to say good night to all the animals.

I haven't spent much time with the broodmares lately, so after checking on the sheep and young fillies, I dug the neglected box of horse cookies out of the barn cabinet, and headed out to the big pasture.

The mares were far down at the other side of the pasture. Daylight was fading fast, and the crescent moon was already high overhead. But the lead mare, Char, saw me right away, and lifted her head. In a moment, the others saw me too.

There's nothing like the feeling of walking out into the middle of a field and having an entire herd of horses come galloping up to surround and welcome you. It's all a flurry of thundering hooves and tossing manes, then you're surrounded by the shifting walls of flanks and shoulders crowding around, inquiring muzzles and warm breath brushing your skin.

I hardly ever give treats to the horses---so infrequently, in fact, that a few of them still don't know what horse cookies are for. But tonight I just felt like sharing a happy moment with them, so I handed out all the cookies that were left in the box, while they crowded around eagerly, like gigantic trick-or-treaters.

When the box was empty, they walked with me in the moonlight until I reached the gate, then I left them to their grazing and went back to the house feeling a little wistful, but less alone.

It's difficult to think that at least half of those horses need to be sold. It's harder to know that with the horse market being what it is right now, I'll have to sell them for much less than what they're worth.

I know that life will be so much simpler once I cut down my herd numbers. I'll be able to spend more time with each individual horse, and we won't have to worry quite so much about going broke buying huge quantities of hay.

But I'm still torn about which ones to sell. My heart battles with my head: Do I keep the ones that I love the most, or do I keep the ones that are likely to produce more valuable foals? The choice would be easier if we could have just held out for one more year, so that I could actually see what kind of foals Char, Scylla, and Bonnie produce with Senter.

As it is, without being able to see first how those crosses will turn out, I'm just guessing. I'm also just guessing when I choose which young stock to keep for future breeding. Torchsong, for instance is in her gangly yearling stage. It's hard to judge at this stage of her development whether her future foals with Senter will be higher quality than, say, Scylla's. So who do I sell?

I'm nearly at the point where I have to answer, "Anyone I can," because we are desperate to earn some money to buy hay for the others. But I don't want to strip my herd bare of all my favorites, either. Horse farming is difficult enough, without breaking your heart unnecessarily.

Ah well. Time will tell. Some horses will sell, and some will stay. No matter what, I'll still have the memory of tonight, sharing cookies by moonlight with my girls.

1 comment:

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

Think about it this way Nancy---in a better year you can always add some of the bloodlines back to your flock if they grow out as well as you think they will OR as with all things you will find some others just as good or better even.
It will all work out the way it was suppose to in the end and we will be rooting for you along the way :-)