It’s been a good week. It’s been a hot and humid week. It’s been a week of remembering who I am and why I’m out here and being so grateful for my beautiful herd. The state of Tennessee has seemed so much sweeter since the break and even at 90*F (and did I mention muggy?) the ponies and I have more energy and enthusiasm than we’ve had in quite some time. We’ve been camping out more often than not and the blackberries are coming ripe. I think summer is going to be tasty this year! I’ve been seeing wild mushrooms in the woods (including a chanterelle) and passing thriving vegetable gardens in people’s yards. And then there’s milkshakes… 😉
Last Sunday afternoon the ponies and I were dragging. We’d been looking for a place to stop for several miles and nobody was home at the few places we saw. Finally I knocked on a door and a woman answered. I’d interrupted dinner and she and her husband went back inside to discuss things. I waited with my wilting ponies. Half an hour later I was on my way again with a plate of leftovers and the suggestion that 5 miles further on was the Natchez Trace and there were some horse trails there… (!?!) I have no problem with people not wanting to host me, for any reason (or no reason at all) but I much prefer they say no quickly, rather than adding half an hour of standing around to an already long, hot, weary day. The man said something about his wife not feeling comfortable with me being there, “you know how it is with strangers…” I wanted to say, “Yes! I, of all people, do know how it is with strangers. The vast majority of them are kind and compassionate and don’t treat me like a bum.” But instead I thanked him politely for the food, which somehow didn’t go down all that well as I walked with my ponies on up the road hoping that they weren’t representative of the neighborhood.
They weren’t! I came to a cluster of tidy, burby houses, manicured lawns – not the sort of place one would expect to be welcomed with ponies. I saw a man in a bright orange shirt working in his garage and rode up the driveway anyway. He couldn’t have been more helpful. The ponies were soon watered and tethered to the Bradford Pear trees lining the drive (yes, I warned him that they were likely to leave piles of fertilizer in their wake) and I was shown to the guest room. The neighbors through the fence invited me over for kielbasa and kraut and their pool made me wish I had a swim suit. That night when I went to move the ponies to the grassy alley beside the house Jesse wasn’t doing well. He was sweating around the ears and lethargic. I offered mineral salt and more water but went to bed worried. The next day I was offered a rest day and accepted, mostly on Jesse’s account. Gatorade in the water helped some. That afternoon an insane storm blew in with hail and rain and lightning and thunder and Wind. The tree Jesse had been tied to the day before blew down and blocked the driveway. 3 more trees blew down on the property and then within two hours it was all over. So glad to be inside and ponies safe!
Wednesday night another storm was predicted and I was desperate to find a bit of shelter in case of hail and a better solution for the ponies than tying to a tree. We wound up in an old, old barn with a floor composed entirely of cow pies in every state from gooey green and new to hard packed dusty ancient. I didn’t even put down the tarp, just slung the hammock and tried to keep everything off the ground. Lots of nails already in the walls helped with that endeavor. Jesse came in to the barn and hung out with me for a long time while I was reading in the hammock, letting me pet him and scratch his neck and being uncharacteristically affectionate and sweet. I can’t say I minded. The storm blew in that night, nothing major after all, and the ponies stayed outside grazing.
The past three nights we’ve been camping creekside. Thursday night found us on the South Harpeth River – and mr.James in the river for about 4 hours. Finehorn joined him for an hour and 1/2 of that and yours truly for about 45 minutes. The ponies kept rolling, in the water and on shore, and I started to worry until I realized that I was itchy and
sweating glowing while lying in the hammock in the shade and noticed how often I went to the river and doused myself with cool creek water. That night was the first time in a week that I did the skin pinch test on Jesse and he was Not dehydrated. Yeah for that! I think putting Gatorade powder in their drinking water is helping. Finehorn was still sweating until the sun went down, Norwegian ponies not being designed for extreme heat.
Yesterday, riding up the road I saw a sign for Cheatham County Animal Control, I was feeling only a little nervous until I saw a man in uniform with a gun on his hip walking towards me up the driveway. Gulp. Then he gave me a huge smile and said what a beautiful sight and how they usually only see animals in really bad condition. He complimented me on the ponies and what great shape they’re in and how well they’re doing. I asked him about a perfectly round 2″ diameter spot on Finehorn’s flank that hadn’t sweated in two days (I was worrying that it might be an indicator of Lyme) and he took a photo and sent it to their vet who spoke with me on the ‘phone and was wonderfully friendly and reassuring. Great stop!
Today I was interviewed for the Ashland City paper and the ponies were hamming it up in Sam’s Creek. Finehorn was pawing and churning and flopping down in the water and rolling and reminding me that horses are related to hippos (and dolphins!) I also got a great haircut from my hostess and was able to do laundry and get clean. It felt like a spa day and a perfect day off. The ponies are tethered in a former hay field with plenty of lush grass and clover. Tomorrow we ride the narrow, twisty road to Ashland City, crossing the Cumberland River and hoping for less traffic on a Sunday morning. I’m still on track to enter Kentucky (state #9!) on my 48th birthday. Really happy about that!