Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Marjie’s visit

A week and a half ago we had a too-short visit with our friend Marjie from North Carolina. She and her fiancé were our first not-previously-known guests back in October 2007, and given all we have in common, we’ve since become good friends. We’ve moved to Belize; they’re working on moving to Belize. We have Jack Russells; they have a Jack Russell. We’re passionate about horses; Marjie is a professional rider and trainer, as well as a super farrier. Plus, we all just get along and really enjoy each others’ company.

Anyway, Marjie was in Belize to do some business with land they’ve bought in the northern part of the country, but she put aside a few days to visit us and vacation a little bit in Cayo. However, it turned out not to be much of a vacation, since I think she worked harder here than she probably does at home. We met in San Ignacio a little before lunchtime on Monday, and after lunch at Erva’s (super burritos!) and a few errands we came back to the farm. We were ready to sit on the porch and have a drink, but I’d been asking Marjie some, well, lots of questions about horse feet, and she wanted to see what we had before dark. So, we delayed the horses’ dinner and she went to work. She and I had planned a ride on Tuesday, and Esmerelda’s feet were really long, so she was the first victim. By dark, all four feet were trimmed and Marjie declared her good to go. We had dinner, and then Marjie started talking about things she could do in Belize, and one of the things is equine and human massage. She and I have similarly beat-up 40-something horsewoman bodies, and she’d noticed me wincing a few times when I’d reached up for something with my twingy right shoulder. She said she’d take a look at it, and ended up giving me the best massage I’d had in a long time. Then she loosened up a few of Tom’s tight spots, and the next day both Tom and I felt better than we’ve felt for ages.

On Tuesday, Marjie helped get Glin and Es saddled while I packed a lunch, and the two of us took off for Sapodilla Falls. We gabbed all the way through the jungle, and I was delighted to hear her say how much she like Esmerelda, who I think can be a difficult witch. Marjie, however, found her willing and responsive, so maybe some of my work with her is finally paying off. We swam and lunched at the falls, and then headed home, with Marjie commenting on how well adapted these local Belizean horses are for the terrain and the work here. Despite four hours on horseback, Marjie trimmed Glinda when we got back, before another relaxed dinner and some more massage to rub out the kinks.

Marjie was leaving on Wednesday, but before going she wanted to take care of the other three horses. Tony was easy since Selwyn shoes him, and Marjie said he’s doing a good job. Then we wrangled little Lodo, and he had his first trim by a real farrier. Tom had shortened his toes a little a few weeks ago, but didn’t want to do too much and hurt him. Marjie knows exactly how far to go, so she gave him four perfect feet. As a bonus, after being handled and worked with for close to an hour, he’s been a much more agreeable little fellow about us handling him since then – which is good, since Tom is going to have to keep up with his little hoofers.

We saved the best for last with the horses, and Marjie’s final project was Nessa. Nessa was the reason she’d come here in October 2007; Ness has a bad tendon on her front right, and was very lame when we got her. Her front feet don’t grow evenly because she spent so long barely walking on the bad foot, and in 2007 Marjie had evened her up as much as possible. It was difficult then because the feet were so different, and because Ness, who hasn’t always been treated nicely, was difficult to handle and did a lot of kicking, rearing, and pulling away, which made Marjie’s job almost impossible – although not quite impossible, since she managed to give her a good enough trim that we were able to start riding her a few months later and she’s been relatively sound ever since. Between late 2007 and early 2008, we’ve done a lot of work with Ness, riding her and handling her, and generally teaching her that people are here to help her, not hurt her, and she’s become a much more agreeable horse. However, since she had Lodo and he was nursing, we’d been unable to do anything with her back feet, although we have managed an occasional trim on the front. Anyway, Marjie worked on her front feet with very little difficulty, and then decided to move to the back. Last time, she worked with her for about three hours and still couldn’t do both back feet, and we didn’t want to keep her all day this time.

However, Ness very willingly let her do one back foot, and then, with Marjie’s incredible patience and magic touch with horses, she let her do the other with only about 15 minutes of unwillingness which, unlike last time, was just pulling away and unbalancing rather than kicking and running backward. She even finally let Marjie have the foot when Marjie was backed up to the custard apple tree, so Marjie was able to sit on a knot on the tree trunk with Ness’s foot in her lap and make the fourth foot as beautiful as the other three! Success! And, the best thing is, Ness is now letting us pick up and clean all four feet!

We had to laugh with Marjie because her Belize property is on the coast, and she came here saying she had no interest in living in the jungle, she just wanted life on the beach. She said she had no interest in getting back into horses in Belize (except for helping people like us!), and she thought about as much of the local Belizean horses as we did when we first moved here – why would anyone bother to keep these rough little horses who eat a lot and still stay skinny? However, after working with our six horses and spending a day on horseback on the jungle trails, her change in attitude was far quicker than ours. By the time she left she was not only raving about how good their feet are, how tough they are in general, what nice attitudes and work ethics they have, how perfect they are for jungle trail riding, and how they really are the perfect size for her, but she’d made a comment to Lodo as she was working with him that he’d better be nice to her because she’d probably be the first one on his back. Tom and I grinned, and openly laughed a few minutes later when she asked if we’d sell him to her when she moved to Belize. She initially thought we were laughing because we’d said we weren’t planning to sell him (which we’re not, but we’ve learned you never say you’ll never sell a horse since we’ve sold at least two we swore we’d never sell), but when we explained that we were laughing because SHE’D said she wasn’t getting back into horses in Belize, she had to laugh too. Leave it to horses to make you break your word!

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