Posts Tagged ‘mothering’

A young girl’s dream come true

December 12, 2012
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Pure joy … wrapped in learning.

Judy Oldmeadow, Owner & Master Horsewoman, Samaria Creek Morgan Horses

Last month I spent the weekend with Janine, a psychologist, and her nine-year-old daughter Kaitlyn.*

I’d thought I was too tired to teach yet another horse-crazy girl.

But then I saw a longing in Kaitlyn’s face that I’d felt at her age.

And so I gave her what I would’ve loved to have had in my youth:

  1. An old horse to pretend was my own.
  2. An obstacle playground.
  3. Some boundary setting.
  4. Safety hints.
  5. Freedom to experiment and explore.

The old brood mare Kaitlyn played with had never been pampered before she came to me. Her delight was as great as the girl’s – as you can see in this photo album.

It made me cry.

Soon after arriving home, Janine wrote to me:

‘Dear Jude,

If I didn’t know how important our connection with horses was, I may have considered never returning to your wonderful farm!

Kaitlyn spent the entire trip home behaving like a devastated lovesick teenager. Life was never going to be the same without her one true love.

OMG Jude! She bawled for 2.5 hours. Anyone would’ve thought I was taking her back to a life of deprivation!

At two, Kaitlyn wanted to be a vet. Since age five, she has wanted to own a horse farm.

Now she imagines every detail will be ‘the same as Judy’s farm’.

She sits at my laptop watching the slide show of images over and over in a beautifully mesmerised state.

I’m working with her to hold her happy, exciting dream so it actually comes to pass.

Now you are in her heart as much as the horses, Jude. Her relationship with you is just as powerful.

You are a gift to us, Jude. I want you to know we’ll ‘repay’ you by giving our horses all our care, love, understanding and unconditional acceptance … while educating and fostering insights in others.

Take care of you, Jude.

And thank you.

Janine.’

How about that?!

I don’t feel so tired now …

Enough said!

🙂

* Real people, new names.

Weaning. Mothering Lessons from The Herd.

April 24, 2011
photo morgan horse foal wean weaned weaning

Playing can ease the pain of maternal separation. Dana with Dainty Dancer (and friend).

By Judy Oldmeadow, Owner & Master Horsewoman, Samaria Creek Morgan Horses

I wean foals in autumn, giving the mares optimum time for nourishing their expected babies.

With 28 horses in the herd (comprising retired brood mares, mares with foals at foot and one- and two-year-old fillies) there’s plenty of choice for comfort and companionship.

Mares in a herd like this can relax while other mares babysit. As they mature, the foals create their own gang, only returning to mum to feed.

The yearlings and two year olds provide discipline when games get rough, while giving foals an opportunity to experiment with rules and boundaries.

To wean the foals, I remove four mares at a time and put them with a couple of retired brood mares for comfort.

The mares left in the herd with their foals provide a calming atmosphere which helps the motherless foals settle quickly.

A week later, when I remove the last mothers, their foals are tightly bonded with the earlier weaned ones.

Without their mothers to intervene, these foals quickly learn the manners and behaviour needed to fit into polite society.

I spend hours with my horses, observing their problem solving and social behaviours, so I only breed from those with the best temperaments.

The four foals weaned last week had vastly different mothers.

Daisy

Bess, an aged Standardbred mare, had foaled once ten years ago. She smother-mothered her foal Daisy, keeping her well away from the herd and calling her back if another foal enticed her to play.

Though Daisy gained weight and looked well, she became shy of horses and humans. Bess lost weight and became aggressive when a horse came near.

When I removed Bess, Daisy galloped the fence line and ran to any horse or human who let her approach. She even lay down with a teenage visitor.

I returned Bess to her owner. She’s settled now, enjoying TLC and chamomile tea in her feed. She won’t breed again.

Daisy, meanwhile, is learning to self soothe.

Veto

Partbred Morgan Viv (an experienced brood mare with little human contact) joined the herd with Veto – her huge colt foal at foot.

Viv shunned contact from other mares but let Veto do as he pleased.

One day, when I was moving the herd to another paddock, Viv lagged behind.

Veto galloped back, reared and kicked at her to make her keep up. But Viv remained shut down, so Veto left her to join his friends.

When I took Viv away, she called desperately all the way to her new paddock and ran the fence line for hours before finally settling to graze with an older mare.

By contrast, Veto didn’t stop grazing or look for his mother.

Dapper

Experienced mum Crystal tends to overreact to change. She came with Dapper (her colt foal at foot) and eventually settled into the rhythm of herd society. 

Not long after arriving, she forgot to collect Dapper and rushed through a gate as the herd moved to a new paddock. Dapper panicked and jumped through the fence. No harm done and another lesson for me.

Dapper is confident and bossy with his peers but nervous of new things. He stays behind the others when humans join the herd.

When I removed Crystal, she screamed and galloped for hours, resuming each time she saw a human.

Dapper joined Daisy in calling and fence running, but soon tired of it and resumed playing and grazing with other foals.

Xelle

Angel is a purebred Morgan from NZ. She’d had one prior foal and was so relaxed after Xelle’s birth that she remained lying down to feed her.

Xelle is friendly and respectful to all. Her curiosity and intelligence endear her to visitors. She reads the play so well, I’ve never seen her reprimanded by another horse.

Angel was last to leave. Though reluctant, she only neighed once. Dapper and Daisy followed her to the gate and relived their mother-leaving anguish.

Xelle stayed with the other mares and foals, seemingly unaffected by her life change.

Angel calmly greeted Viv and Crystal, who soon followed her lead and began grazing with the two aged mares.

Free of Bess’ out-of-control behaviour, these mares have settled and only call occasionally… perhaps due to a painfully full udder.

I’ve forgiven my parenting mistakes and am proud of how my sons thrived and survived my smother-mothering.

I use lessons from the herd to nurture my networks of supportive friends and to be an angel of a grandmother.

Amanda’s Tale

December 1, 2009

By Amanda Gallen, a Queenslander with two of our two-year-old Morgans.

Waking at dawn on our first day at Judy Oldmeadow’s farm was very special. I looked out the cottage window to the beautiful valley below. I woke my daughter Brianna so she could also experience the moment.

We had brekky, dressed quickly and went to the paddock to see our horses Sarge and Ava. They’d grown so much since we last saw them!

They were in a paddock with the other foals. We walked in and sat on a log. The herd noticed us and came over – our babies leading the way.

They smelt us from head to toe. So inquisitive! This was something I really wanted Brianna to experience.

Our week was full of adventures; childhood memories Brianna will never forget. Judy put her in charge of the farm’s smallest horse – a Shetland pony called Sailor.

It was just what Brianna needed. She gained so much confidence with a horse that was just the right size for a beginner. She fell a few times, once quite heavily. No broken bones; just one of those needed-to-happen experiences.

Brianna went very quiet after that and returned to the cottage for a rest. But she came back ready to regain her confidence.

I played with my babies and watched how they fitted into the herd. Observing lots of mare behaviour, I decided that human mothers would do well to act like mares. That way, our kids would get what we say first time, rather than wear us into the ground.

While most foals are well behaved, some don’t learn quickly. Sarge is one of them; he’s covered in bites as he just doesn’t move fast enough!

I rode with Judy – right inside the herd of mares and foals. I felt like I was running with the wild horses in The Man from Snowy River! It was an amazing buzz that kept a big smile on my face all night.

Judy worked with Ava and decided she was ready for saddling. Ava’s a clever filly and we even had Brianna sitting on her and walking around.

Though Ava was excited to have Brianna up there, everything was done with the utmost attention to safety and I wasn’t at all concerned.

I’m very happy I bought her.

I could go on and on about our lovely horsey experiences. Suffice it to say the farm truly felt like heaven to me!

The Miracle of Tanjil

November 30, 2009

Tanjil. You will believe a horse can cry.

By Christi Wales, Accountant and Mother.

For her twelfth birthday, I took my daughter Dana to Judy Oldmeadow’s Morgan Horse Farm.

I never thought it’d be an amazing, life-changing day for me.

We began by bringing all the mares and foals to the round yard to see how they interacted with toys and us. Dana sat in the yard and the foals loved her, perhaps because she’s young too.

Dana and Echo. Connecting with a foal? Priceless!

Judy and I noticed that one mare, Folie, was overprotective of her foal, Echo. The poor thing wanted to play, but Folie wouldn’t let him. So we joined Dana and I spent some time massaging Folie all over – which she loved. Before long, she let me near Echo and encouraged him to interact with me.

I held out my hand and let Echo toddle past me, just brushing his back to get him used to my touch. I then massaged some of the other mares. With three children myself, I figured they’d like their necks, backs and rumps massaged.

After a while, Folie was so relaxed that Echo was able to break away and play. It was a fantastic sight that I was proud to be part of. I kept massaging the mares, plus any foals that approached.

Then Tanjil decided that no other mare could have me.

I’d rub her and try to move on, but she’d come next to me, right near the other horse. Though she didn’t touch the horse, it knew she was boss and walked away.

At first I thought it was funny. Why did Tanjil want me to herself? She did it again and again with every other horse I tried to rub.

My hands were getting sore and Folie was giving her foal a chance to explore. So I decided to wait to see what happened. Well, little Echo headed in my direction with his mum’s full support – a fantastic breakthrough for both of them.

A bit later, Echo was hanging around so I gave him a rub and Tanjil just stood near me. I found it strange; had I done something wrong? Then Tanjil came and stood with her head right over me.

I started rubbing her neck thinking, ‘Why me? Was I was a strong leader? Did she feel I was a strong mother?’

Being a mother is hard. Sometimes I feel I don’t have the strength. But I find it and keep going. If I don’t, no-one else will do the things I must do to keep my family safe, together and running smoothly.

I don’t get a break from being leader of my herd. At times I hate being the one who has to pull rank, keep everyone in line and be tough to be kind in the long run.

At that moment my emotions overwhelmed me. With her fantastic intuition, Judy yelled out that the last time Tanjil had stood this way with her, it’d made her feel like everything was going to be OK.

I glanced at her and nodded; a huge lump in my throat. Then my tears flowed.

I looked at Tanjil and couldn’t believe what I saw. She was crying with me! Not just watery eyes; these were full tears, rolling down her face, one after another along with mine.

Was I delusional? No. This magnificent mare was helping me with my doubts as a mother. I thought then that maybe she also felt the pressure of being the leader who kept her herd in line.

Tanjil gave me what I never got from my mother. What I needed to know when I became a mother myself: I’m a good mum. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be OK. We can only do our best. We make mistakes, but that’s OK too.

I then thought that maybe Tanjil also needed reassurance that she was a great mum and leader. Because when I saw her with her foal and the herd, it was exactly how I felt.

I’ll never know if she felt my empathy. I’d not seen a miracle before, but that’s the only word I can use.

I have a horse named Major. When Judy took Dana and me to the rest of the herd, Major stayed with me while the other horses went to the car.

He was so affectionate. I was rubbing his body when he moved – uncomfortable with the slope. I thought he was going to walk away but he simply ambled to level ground and waited for me.

I hugged his neck and said I loved him, that he was a good boy and that I wished I could see him every day. As he wrapped his head around me, a tear rolled down his face.

It was very moving. I remembered that Major had lost his mum when very young. Maybe he perceived my feelings of abandonment.

Had I not experienced my miracle with Tanjil, I wouldn’t have thought a horse could cry.

Now I know they feel pain, sadness and love.

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