I think the horses and donkeys knew the temperatures were falling even before the sun set yesterday - Redford and Cody were having one of their extended play sessions, something they haven't done lately due to the oppressive heat.
My grand plan to be out in the cool of the night was shifted somewhat when I walked by the sofa barefoot and somehow rammed my little toe. It hurt and throbbed so hard I knew it was more than the usual stubbing - this morning it is purple and swollen and possibly broken. But I can walk, just not quite normally!
Last night though, I hobbled out with my husband and watched while Salina got her evening stroll in the arena. Two donkeys were running like mad, circling and chasing one another. There was the slightest hint of chill to the air, and it brought out the frisky play. The donkeys took a break to come stand beside me as I rested on the mounting block. There was a little bit of jostling for best scratching positions, which they got, and then they were off again.
Salina was really walking out, which was nice to see.
I couldn't bear to give up completely on my plan to spend some time with the Big Bay, so my husband put on his halter and lead rope and brought him into the arena for me. I hobbled along with Keil for about 1/4 of the way around the arena and realized I couldn't go the entire way. So we spent a little time together backing and turning on the forehand and haunches, and then just stood together for a few minutes, listening to the night sounds and enjoying the cool air.
While my husband was feeding dinner tubs, I laid down along the bench of the picnic table and looked up at the sky. After a few minutes a soft warm muzzle appeared, along with some very handsome and very sweet donkey eyes. Rafer Johnson had finished his meal and come out to visit. He stood and rested his muzzle on my abdomen while he got scratches in his most favorite place - along both sides of his neck. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is nothing sweeter than a donkey's gaze.
Our feed store is trying a new brand of beet pulp shreds and they asked if I would sample a bag for them, as they know how picky I am and that I do a fairly elaborate rinse/soak/rinse routine and inspect the feed closely. This particular brand is not nearly as dusty, but the shreds are larger and I wondered if the horses would note the difference. It rinsed about the same as the other does, but once rinsed and soaked, the last rinse before feeding seems "cleaner" and the final product looks nice.
Donkeys approved, Salina approved (usually she's the one who refuses something if it's different), Cody and the pony approved. Keil Bay left over half his meal! I was shocked, as he is generally a very enthusiastic eater and I can count on two fingers the things he has refused. One was a home-made from scratch carrot cake with cream cheese frosting I made for the first birthday he shared with me. I think he thought the frosting was dewormer paste and I was trying to pull a fast one. The second were alfalfa pellets that used soybean oil as a binder. (the entire herd refused those - it was quite bizarre)
Last night, when he didn't finish his meal, I asked for a cup of oats and went into his stall to sprinkle them over the beet pulp/alfalfa pellet plus salt and ground flax mixture left in his blue tub. I knew if there was something wrong with the food, the oats wouldn't make a difference, but as soon as I lifted his tub up and sprinkled the oats, he came back and resumed eating with great relish.
In the mornings I often go in at the end of the meal and hold Keil's tub for him so he can lick it clean more easily. I've always done this, and it has always been a special few minutes of time we share. He seems to appreciate the gesture, and will usually lick my fingers a few times during the process.
Last night my toe was throbbing, so I sat on the edge of the manger and held the tub. Keil was careful to when he moved his head, not bumping me, and because it was actually half his meal, it took awhile for him to eat. He ate the bulk of the meal and then meticulously slurped up the juicier portion (we feed wet). At the end, he proceeded with the careful licking clean he likes to do. The other horses had already gone out to the field, but Keil was very happy standing there with me, taking his time, enjoying his meal. I was happy to be there, sitting so close with his tub, and getting smeared with feed as he lifted his head to chew and look.
We had one "hanger on" - Apache Moon often stays behind in the evenings so he can lick out the tubs. For awhile he was waiting patiently at Keil's back door, but it took so long he wandered down the paddock.
When Keil was done and I opened his door so he could rejoin his herd, he didn't leave. I think he wanted to stay and hang out for awhile. I waited in the paddock right by the barn, and he came out, stopped to say good night, and headed down the paddock, through the light from the arena, and then into the dark shadows.
I hope the equines all enjoyed the taste of a changing summer last night - it was so nice feeling the cooler air, and remembering that the heat of summer does move on.