Tag Archives: stress

Just for Grins – Horse blows a raspberry

Horse blows a Bronx cheer (raspberry)

Bill is a travelling documentary filmmaker. His niece Olivia introduced him to this horse. Bill asks “Why do you like this one”? Answer: “Because he makes funny sounds.” The horse blows a raspberry. This is also called making a Bronx cheer. To humans it is a noise signifying derision, real or feigned.

Hopefully this is just a funny learned trick and not a nervous tick like ‘wind sucking‘. Horses under stress, particularly ones kept locked in stalls for extended periods of time, can develop stress habits. Perhaps this horse has learned that doing a nervous tick has gotten him rewards?

What do you think? Is this a trick? Or from stress? Or something in between?

Uploaded by  on Jan 4, 2011
Bill also has a blog.

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Filed under Horse health, Just for grins

Snake in the barn

Even if a snake is not poisonous, it should pretend to be venomous.
– Chanakya

I’d add to that proverb to treat an unknown snake as if it is poisonous, just to be on the safe side. Guess that caution is true about treating many things in life.

Recently I was home by myself doing some mowing as was approaching sunset. The push mower died yet again in a too heavy patch of weeds. The sun was down and was getting dark, so I quit and pushed the mower up near the barn to cool off before putting it away.

Our barn has a fence panel that we use as a large gate . There is an open door into the “tack” room that has the light switch just inside the doorway.  I pulled back the fence panel and stepped in under the barn to turn on the light. Using what must be built-in instinct I stopped without thinking why, looked down and jumped backwards. Was that a dark shape on the ground moving? It was difficult to make out looking through my dusty sweaty no-line bifocals in the post sunset light. Was it my imagination? The shape moved again away from me. I took a half-step and leaned into the tack room to turn on the light. Whoa… a big snake heading along the edge of the wall towards where we store our hay bales. I moved off to the side to try to get a better look at it.

Snake was beige / brownish and at least 2 feet long and fatter than my thumb. It knew I was there. The snake curled up slightly when it got to the small corner.  If the snake just moved over 3-4 inches then it would have a clear path into the hay area.

Suddenly I wished I’d paid more attention to my snake identification. I knew it wasn’t a Rattlesnake. Wasn’t a Coral snake. Wasn’t a friendly little Garter snake. I kept my distance. Wasn’t sure whether friend or foe. Whatever it was, I didn’t want it to go inside to hide amongst our hay bales. Thankfully I wasn’t feeling panicky and merely felt a healthy cautious respect towards the snake.

Blue plastic horse stall rake

Horses were out in the yard grazing thankfully and out of the way. If need be, I could jump over the fence panel to get away. The sawdust rake happened to be right next to me. I had seen snake wranglers on tv use snake hooks to lift a snake up to move them without causing them upset. This plastic rake could work similarly and would keep the snake 6 feet away from me.

The snake was in a loose curled up S-shape at the corner keeping an eye on me. The snake blended very well into our sandy reddish tinted dirt. Even in the light would be easy to not notice this snake. They have very good camouflage.

I took the rake and slid the plastic tines up under the snake lifting it gently about 6 inches off the ground. I moved the snake away from the hay area. It slithered and fell off. Picked the snake up again and got it moved a bit more. It fell off again. Kept repeating. My snake handling  technique was improving. I got it out of the gate panel and several feet away from the barn. It was in even poorer light now.

At this point the snake was about 2 – 3 feet away from being able to get back into a completely dark area beside the barn through some fence panels or under wheelbarrows or the push lawnmower. What to do? Had to decide fast!

I’ve been soaking the horse’s hay in a wheeled plastic cooler to lower the sugar levels in the hay. I had not gotten around to soaking more hay earlier in the day and just given them hay in the slow-feeder small mesh hay bags. The cooler was even dry inside. The cooler was open about 3 feet away with the lid nearby.

The snake moved back towards the dark. I picked it up again and with a couple of tries was able to lift it up and tried to get it into the open cooler.  Half way in and the snake fell off back to the ground immediately heading off again. Where was the lid? Just off to the side of where I was standing by about 3 feet. I picked the snake up again and lifted it into the cooler this time, then reached over for the lid taking no more than a second or two. The snake was up and out of the cooler. Again lifted it up and into the cooler, this time keeping the rake over the top to discourage the snake from getting out while I grabbed the lid at my feet. The snake was at the bottom of the cooler. I quickly put on the lid and pushed down. Whoo!

Okay…some sort of beige / brown snake with patches on the body was in the cooler. I’d tried to figure out what shape of head or what the colored patches were like, but couldn’t see it well enough to know for sure. Didn’t see what type of eye pupil shape.

I closed the barn gate leaving on the light and carefully wheeled the snake in the cooler across the backyard and out the other gate onto the driveway under the good flood light at the garage. There was a heavy grey paving stone type brick up by the house, which I put on the cooler lid. I definitely was not going to open up the cooler to peek.

I went inside to clean my glasses, calm down and cool off sitting at my desk by a fan. Made myself some tea and searched the “Inter-webs” to try to figure out what type of snake this might be. I was treating it as if the snake was dangerous. Even if it wasn’t dangerous, I didn’t want a large snake in my hay area. We don’t have a rodent problem.

Steve’s Snaketuary in Texas had a video comparison between a non-venomous Texas Rat snake and a venomous Copperhead on Youtube. So was the snake a Texas Rat snake? I sure wanted it to be a Texas Rat snake, but if it wasn’t then I was sure glad it was gotten safely out of my barn and in that closed cooler on the driveway.

Uploaded by  on Sep 26, 2010

Thought I could safely release it to the wild. I was not going to transport the snake, even if in a container, by putting it in the car. I could call Animal Control, but would they probably kill it? I didn’t see any reason to kill the snake. Called my hubby, who was visiting his Mom, to let him know my plan to take the wheeled cooler with the snake safely closed inside to a nearby field to release it. There is a field area off to the side of a road with woods and bramble not too far away. There was good street lighting at a spot right by the road. That was doable and seemed best option for the snake.

Got the plastic rake, a large flashlight, and put on a head lamp. Locked up the house and wheeled the snake with the heavy brick on the lid down the street.  The grass on the side of the road by the field and woods was 2 feet high. No doubt there were other snakes possibly right in that grass. I positioned the cooler off the edge of the road and into the grass. I took the brick off the lid and set it aside on the road edge. Bumped the cooler to make sure the snake was knocked down and pulled off the lid and stood back.  The light from the street light and my head light shone down into the cooler. The snake was down at the bottom in what had been darkness. The snake in a second rose up with his head out the top of the cooler. I had a very good view.

Oh my! It was most definitely a venomous Copperhead snake! The snake moved out of the cooler and disappeared into the grass. I waited a bit, then pulled the cooler off onto the road and put the brick inside. Put on the lid and moved to the other side of the road. Whoo! No sign of Mr. or Ms. Copperhead. Shaken just a bit… I headed back home pulling the cooler with the brick. I stopped and called my hubby on the way.

I had read before my trek about Rat snakes and Copperheads. Copperheads are not very aggressive and unlikely to strike unless cornered and threatened. Most strikes are because they get stepped on. I was glad to know that their venom won’t kill you, though hurts badly and would make you very sick or lose some tissue near the bite. The initial strike often has no venom. The snake doesn’t want to waste the venom for a warning. The Copperhead has cat-like pupils. The Rat Snake has round pupils.

Didn’t know until later that they have an 8 – 24 acre range of territory, so still within range of our house. Our barn backs up to a small wooded area. No doubt there are more snakes behind our barn. Copperheads give birth to live babies about 8 inches long that are as venomous as the adults.

I’ve only seen one Copperhead a few years ago when out walking on a trail. We’ve lived here for over 20 years and I’ve only seen a large snake in the yard about 3 times usually when mowing. They always slither off in fear. I try to then just avoid the area for awhile. None have been near the barn.

I was glad I had carried my cell phone with me that night when out mowing in the backyard. Since that night I had planned to always head out to the barn with a flashlight after dark, but already haven’t done so. We should get some better lighting by at least fixing a broken switch that leaves some areas dark. I am more often taking my phone with me.

That’s my adventure – a snake in the barn.

Copperhead snake in hay by Tom Spinker on Flickr

Copperhead snake by Tom Spinker on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Upcoming posts will be “How to tell the difference between a Rat Snake and a Copperhead.” and “Can you find the Copperhead?” They have very good camouflage.

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Filed under Nature

Facing the scale – Menopause weight gain

This is a declaration of intent to change.

Gotta face the truth. I’m fat! Definitely time to do something about my weight.

In 2002 I was at a maximum weight and joined on-line Weight Watchers.  In 2 years I slowly lost 40 pounds and learned to make better choices. Eventually I got tired of counting the “points” and having to constantly think about what I should and shouldn’t eat, so quit the program. I did maintain a 30 pound loss for many years, but over time my weight crept back up.

Stepping on my scale recently saw my 2002 year’s max weight PLUS 5 pounds!! ACK!! OK… that’s IT… my breaking point! Enough is enough. Something does need to change, as whatever the factors are that are making it more difficult to keep my weight under control are real. Medications? Stress? Grief? Lower metabolism? Is this menopause weight gain? Weight is easy to put on, while very difficult to take off. It is even more important to make better choices.

If I don’t make a plan, I’m just going to keep gaining and end up a very fat old lady unable to get off the couch. Losing weight is only going to get more difficult with my increasing age. Time to make a plan. I would like to lose enough weight to not be technically “obese”, but merely “overweight”. This means losing at least 25 pounds, which is doable and a good goal. We can revisit the goal after I make this first one, which is a large enough commitment.

I now regret eating so many holiday cookies and treats. Unfortunately my body is very good at converting extra cookie calories into fat stores for a possible future famine. I did enjoy the cookies, but am reminded of the old Weight Watcher’s motto of “Nothing feels as good as skinny feels”. I would have to go all the way back to high school when I was running on the track team to recall feeling “skinny”. Maybe my extra current weight will come in handy if the 2012 Doomsday preppers are right that the ‘End of the World’ is coming or complete economic collapse is at hand.

What’s really infuriating is that it doesn’t seem like we are eating that many bad choices. Well, except we did eat all those holiday cookies, plus my hubby came home with a box of Girl Scout cookies that I munched on. Even given my consumption of extra sugary calories, my weight has been jumping up when I am eating good choices.

Eating too much by just a few calories a day will add up, particularly at this age. That alone is enough. One extra 100 calorie slice of bread a day will be 10 pounds at the end of a year. Unfortunately I really love bread and have a bread machine! Eating 100 calories of whole wheat homemade bread is still 100 extra calories that will add up.

I know that I am not going to be able to exercise off much weight. Takes a lot of exercise to burn off an extra 100 calories. Yesterday I did quite a bit of aerobic exercise by push mowing most of the front yard. Did make me realize that I am out of shape when I was huffing. Sure tired me out.

Definitely time for the 2 humans, 2 horses, and 2 cats in this household to get on a plan to change. We all could stand to lose some weight and add in more exercise. Bottom line is that we need to start working on more calories out than calories in.

In honor of my history with Weight Watchers will make some “Zero Point” vegetable soup in my crock pot.


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Filed under Health, Human health

Chillout: Help to relax when feeling overwhelmed by life

Some days life fills me with stress, depression or anxiety. A person pushes my buttons, a deadline looms, miss someone who is gone, worry piles up about making ends meet, or seemingly for no reason at all. I have to mindfully remind myself to “chillout” by taking deep breaths and to stay focused on accomplishing the next small task to get through the day. If I was a horse, I’d probably be a spooky sort who jumps at what another more laid back horse would take in stride. When my horses get jumpy, I quietly assure them saying softly “You’re okay. You’re fine”. We need to tell ourselves this too.

This 1:51 length song is good to play to help relax when a day overwhelms.

“Hey, you’re okay. You’ll be fine. Just breathe. ”

Take four slow deep breaths from your diaphragm. Put one hand on your abdomen, just below your belly button. Feel your hand rise about an inch each time you inhale and fall about an inch each time you exhale. Breathe in for count of 4, breathe out for count of 4. — Play the song and focus on the words telling yourself, as you would a worried horse, that you are safe and everything will be fine. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly. Get up and stretch.


Making of ZeFrank’s “Chillout” song.



Filed under Human health

Awareness – Body Scan

Twice this week I awakened before dawn when it was still dark outside. Sitting in bed I did some stretching feeling where I was stiff. Where was I holding tension in my body?

I could hear my husband breathing on the other side of the bed and one of our cats quietly snoring at his feet. Moving my joints I heard clicks, cracks and pops. My right knee has a grinding sound just before I straighten it out. When did I develop this sound? Was it when I twisted my knee this past summer? The knee is much weaker now and perhaps damaged a ligament.

How do my joints feel as they move? I note the different ways my hands, elbows and shoulder joints move. What happens if I move my shoulder with my palm up? What happens if I move my shoulder with my palm down? I hear the click and pop of my right shoulder. My collar-bone doesn’t connect to my sternum properly on that side. Could this cause me imbalance in my body? Is there a difference in how my shoulders can move on my left and right sides?

I feel tension in my shoulders and neck. I consciously tell them to relax. Am I still holding tension? Rolling my head from side to side my neck makes quiet grinding noises and then a couple of loud cracks. My neck feels less tense after the cracks.

I imagine the atlas and axis vertebrae and the joints at the base of my skull. Can I move my head on the pivot points without bending the rest of my neck? Feeling with my fingers on muscles of my head and neck I move my head slightly nodding up and down and turning side to side.

I lay back down. I often find myself holding tension. Am I actually relaxed? Breathe in to count of 4, breathe out to count of 4.  It’s like my body is on guard and holds tension to prepare to react. Breathe in to count of 4, breathe out to count of 4.  Am I ready for fight and flight?  Breathe in to count of 4, breathe out to count of 4.  Can I just focus on my breath and not think of anything else? Even for a breath? Breathe in to count of 4, breathe out to count of 4.

How can I tell the difference between relaxed and tense? I have read about a body scanning technique that presents a contrast to help become more aware of holding tension. The body scan tenses a set of muscles to feel the contraction and tension. After feeling the tightness, then you tell the muscles to relax. Feel the difference.

Starting at my toes I tense each area of my body and hold the contraction a few seconds, then ask the area to relax. – Tense the foot by pointing toe forwards, then relax. Tense the foot by pulling toes backwards, then relax. I work my way up the body tensing and relaxing each area. Continue down my arms. Clinch my fists, then relax. Move to my shoulders. Lastly I’m squinching up parts of my face and sticking out my tongue.

My other cat jumped up on the bed to investigate. I practiced mindfulness by feeling his soft fur on my hands and listening to his rumbling purring. He gave me appreciative licks on my hand with his rough tongue. I got up and the house was dark. Dark enough that didn’t matter if had my eyes open or closed. The house was mostly quiet. Is it ever truly quiet?

Again practicing mindfulness I take the time to just stand and listen. I can hear humming from a computer and the quiet roar of a plane flying over coming into land at the airport a few miles to our south. Is it coming from California and folks on the red-eye?

I stand in the dark hallway with my hands just touching the walls. I try balancing on my left leg, then my right leg. I wobble.  I ask my body questions. Do I tend to tip one way more than another? I seem to tip backwards mostly. When I start to tip over standing on one leg it happens quickly. My feet muscles try to hold me stable and fail. Can I do anything to make myself more stable? Bend my legs, think differently? Would this be easier if I could see and maybe focus on a point? I can’t rely on my body’s proprioception alone to remain stable in the dark. The body’s proprioception system provides informational awareness of your body in space. I definitely need to improve my balance, as well as stabilizing muscles to help me hold position.

I shake out my limbs. First my hands, then my wrists, and my arms. I swing my arms gently and feel the joints of my shoulders and elbows. Next my legs. I bend at my knees and feel how they support me. Where are my hips? I do a hip swivel and swing my entire leg back and forth. I rock my hips up and back and side to side. Watching that belly dancing show has taught me a few things.

Late afternoon now… how am I sitting? I’m slouching in an awful position at my desk. The lumbar support cushion does help, but the chair wants to lean back and takes me with it. Seems easiest to lean back into the chair this way, but maybe a reason I also hold tension in my neck and shoulders and my upper back often hurts.

Awareness is an important step in making changes.

For a practice:

  • Try a body scan and check where you hold tension. Try to tense at least one area, then relax. Note the difference in how that feels.
  • Try moving your synovial joints to notice how they function. See post  “Ride with Your Bones” for definition and examples of these joints.
  • Can you stand on one leg? What about balancing with your eyes closed?
  • If you are sitting now… then are you aligned over your spine? Are you riding the bones of your chair? What is tight in your body?
  • As a mindfulness exercise – close your eyes, try to clear your mind and just listen. What do you hear? Just sit for a couple of minutes and listen.
  • Try breathing in for a count of 4, then out for a count of 4. Can you have your mind empty and just breathe focusing on counting your breath? This is a simple meditation. Try for a count of 10. What does your mind do? Does it wander off?

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Filed under Anatomy and Physiology, Human health