Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Miniature Hereford; Therapy and Connection with 4 Hooves

So my biggest dearest cow, Miss Piggy, is very close to calving. This will be her 5th calf, she is 7 years old. A dearly beloved cow, she is my one and only original from Point of Rocks Ranch back in 2005 when this all began.
     Miss Piggy is sweet natured, low and stocky. With a beautiful head, pigmented eyes and perfectly turned horns, she is a sight to behold. Her back is so broad and straight I frequently rest a mug of coffee on top while doing chores...she doesn't seem to mind one bit.
     Anyway, I was out in the pasture giving her the up close once over (aka. any excuse to stay outside) and checking to see how close she was to calving. I stood next to her, half daydreaming, rubbing her coat, and pulling off little dull wads of winter coat that had not completely fallen off yet. I noticed slick shiny hide along her top line. The exceptionally warm March and April kind of messed with their shedding, so they are somewhat rubbed of, with little balls and tufts of winter still reluctant to go.
     She stood, motionless, with her nose almost to the ground. Not chewing, not moving, almost holding her breath. I'm not sure who was benefiting more; her from the scratching, or me from the mindless daydreaming as I stood there next to her.
     I stopped.
     She stopped.
     She slowly turned her great head toward my leg, and ever so gently wrapped her neck around my thigh.
     "Please don't stop".
Motionless, she waited for me to resume the scratching.
So eloquent, so simple her request, I began again running my gloved hand along her top line, over her neck, and along her great brisket.
She was a still as a statue.
The birds were singing.
A warm late afternoon breeze was blowing.
The sun felt good on both of us.
I gave her a few pats on the neck, and told her she was a "good girl"and that soon she would be a momma again.
Walked out of the pasture, and towards the house.
I'm quite certain I walked right past the house and out back along the fence line.
Its just so hard to go inside on a beautiful day.
Its just so gentle being around my animals, Gods creation. Nature. Sunshine. Peace.
It was a horrible rough winter for my heart.
The spring is most welcome, I think, by all here on the farm.
Who needs therapy when you are so very blessed?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Miniature Herefords and the Theraputic Effect

Ok. Here goes. Probably due to a bit of adult ADHD (aka: mind all over the place...) and an insatiable curiosity, I am delving into a bit of unfamiliar territory...one that has fascinated me for quite some time; frustrated me for unknown reasons, and one that keeps me going back out to the barn, or to walk the fence lines on an almost daily basis.

Its the therapeutic effect of animals on humans. Simply said. Not much written on it in regard to large animals like cattle; horses are used in therapy programs, we certainly know the proven benefits of pets, especially on the housebound, mentally challenged, ill or elderly.

But what is it that drives some of us to keep cattle? The some of us who proclaim to find a "therapeutic benefit" to caring for them,? Certainly they can consume time, and if time is what you are lacking, then I don't recommend cattle. But perhaps, if you have no time to spare, perhaps, just maybe, you are too busy, and we all know what that leads too....stress. And I think we all know what stress does to the body after years. Its not good.

Now chasing around loose cattle is no fun at all. Stressful yes. Same as trying to pick up fish that are flopping around out of the tank. But cattle are not meant to be loose, fish are not meant to be flopping around on the floor. What? Why do they put fish tanks in offices? Especially medical or dental offices? Because they CALM people down who watch the fish . So why do some people love to watch cattle grazing in the pasture? Because they calm people down.

Here is a bit of research I found fascinating...I think you may as well....

Biophilia hypothesis:

#The biophilia hypothesis proposes that humans have an innate attraction to other living things, such as nature, animals, other people. From an evolutionary standpoint, attention to animals enhances a person’s chance of survival because animal behavior acts an environmental soldier, alerting others to safety or danger.

#Living creatures also provide a pleasant external focus for a person’s attention which creates a calming and relaxing effect (Gullone, 2000). Looking at pets can reduce anxiety and invoke calm, which is the reason so many health practitioners place fish tanks in their waiting rooms

Just one article I found on this subject. Very little is written about owning livestock as a stress reliever, but I have come across more than enough people who do own large animals that state the same fact over and over...they relieve stress.

Ever check out some of the working ranch vacations online? Do so, and read the testimonials . They seem to be a life altering "vacation", capable of bringing about a deep emotional reaction from some of the participants. One of my favorites is the Dryhead Ranch (never been there but I'd sure like to go..) Visiting their web-site has brought me literally to tears...why such a deep emotional response? What is it that moves us to our very core when it comes to nature, animals, music or art?

Why people choose to have animals, pets or livestock, I believe, is a deeply personal choice. No one can tell another that something is not worthwhile, or beneficial, to another, providing it harms no one.

Personally, I would rather hire a housekeeper than a herdsman; rather fix the fence and vet the animals than hire someone else to. Days go by when its all I can do to drag myself inside...I just love being out of doors, and, I guess, outside of walls, too!

I am now starting to paint, using the cattle and my immediate surroundings, as subject matter. I am currently working on a Miss Piggy portrait, and will post it online as soon as it is done. The farm and the cattle, the woods, grass lanes and fence lines continue to provide me with endless fascination and subject material.

I am welcoming myself home, again.