Heartland

Since I began writing this blog about my life with my pets, I have really enjoyed taking the time not just to write about the realities of it, but also to share and enjoy exploring some of the stories which have inspired my love of animals most – from the pony and animal books I read as a child, through the Tom Cox columns and books about life with his cats, to Monty Roberts’ half-handbook half-autobiography which I’ve always leaned on so much as a horse owner. One of the animal-focused stories I love to turn to most on a day-to-day basis however is not a book – or not exclusively – but a TV programme.

CBC’s Heartland, based on the book series of the same name by Lauren Brooke, revolves around the Heartland ranch in Alberta, Canada, and the Bartlett-Fleming family who run it. I did read some of the original books as a child and did enjoy them – but in lifting the stories from their original Virginia and placing them at the foot of the Canadian Rockies, as well as altering, building upon and introducing new characters; the creators of Heartland have infused the show with something quite special. Part Gilmore Girls – with its strong female characters, complicated male roles, vibrant town full of personality and charm, mixed focus on teenage and adult life and documenting of the tumultuous journey between the two; and part The Waltons – lessons always learned round a wholesome family dinner table at the end of the day – it also has a quality all of its own in its emphasis on the workings of the ranch and in particular the focus on the horses it holds.

At the opening of the first season, the characters are gathering together following the tragic loss of Marion Fleming, the owner of the Heartland facility, where she provided refuge and rehabilitation to horses in need. Amy Fleming –  then sixteen and injured in the same trailer accident which killed her mother, during an attempted rescue of a neglected horse – awakes in hospital; her older sister Lou, a finance executive in New York, returns home to help steady the business; their grandfather Jack, with whom they live, continues to try to support the family and run the cattle ranch; their estranged father Tim returns after a decade-long absence to a mixed reception; and young offender Ty arrives on a probation scheme to live and work on the ranch as part of a deal arranged by Marion before her death.  From these tentative beginnings, often fraught with family feuds and difficulties to overcome, the Bartlett-Fleming family’s lives have now played out over ten sprawling seasons as life has moved on for them all in various ways, new chapters and new family members emerging along the way.

It’s a programme with so much heart across its variety of themes. Never afraid of tackling difficult family dynamics or tough life lessons, it does place significant weight on the lives of the people within it, both the core family and strong supporting cast of friends and neighbours. However, there is a huge focus too on the Heartland horses, and on their stories and development. Spartan – the black horse introduced in the opening episode as Marion and Amy brought him to Heartland for a second chance in life – has a huge role to play, becoming Amy’s own and remaining as vital to many plots and to every season as the human characters he lives alongside. Jack’s faithful cowhorse Paint, too, is a constant character on the farm; and none are more so than Sugarfoot, neighbour Mrs Bell’s miniature pony who has been a valued companion for decades.

It is through Amy’s rehabilitation work, however, that most of the equine stories of the series are told, as she takes up the role left by her mother with the “troubled” client horses who come to Heartland, working to discover the root of their problems and find a solution to help them move on. Heartland is full of real-life references to schools of thought and theories on horsemanship – Amy is a strong believer in Join-Up, Monty Roberts’ method of communicating with and starting horses in a round pen, and also follows her mother’s old diaries weighted heavily on alternative therapies and T-Touch. Amy’s peaceful approach to working with horses reflects many real-life theories and opens diaolgue with others she works with who have other ways of approaching challenging horses. In the course of the series, we see horses and characters involved in rodeos, barrel racing, bulldogging, cattle drives, racing, show-jumping, trail riding, carriage driving, liberty work and trick-riding; and the show provides a valuable insight into so many different disciplines and the relationships between them, whether in conflict or in synergy.

More than anything else, Heartland is a programme with a real passion behind all of the stories it tells, from the commitment of Amy and Ty to helping the horses who pass through the ranch to the tight bonds that pull the family together in the face of any challenges they face, big and small. It’s a wonderful representation of so many things that are important to me in my own life – family, relationships, animals, work, the landscape around us; and is a story I love to lose myself in continually and would recommend to anyone looking for a cosy and feel-good TV programme to sink into as the autumn nights settle around us.

Have a lovely weekend all. X 
 

 

Rat adventures – my oldie getting older and the young ones finding their feet πŸ’™

Life for our little mischief of rats seems to be moving on at the same hurtling pace that time is passing generally, and I can hardly believe it’s nearly two months since Jasper and Jet came to join us. They are fast becoming well-loved and characterful members of the family and settling into their new home.

 

 

Perry, Jet and Jasper are a well established little gang these days and are mostly to be found all curled together in their comfiest bed, although at playtime they take the chance to go their seperate ways and get up to their own preferred activities – Perry snuggling straight under a blanket as close to either of us as he can get and settling there for the evening; Jet careering about investigating with an alarming speed exactly how much trouble he can cause on that particular day; and Jasper perching himself on the nearest available shoulder to best observe his brother’s antics – and to be in the perfect position to re-style anyone’s hair he feels might be needing it!

Our Perry has been showing his age lots recently, quite to our surprise as his estimated age is only 18 months. All of a sudden he’s looking very distinguished and grey round his wee muzzle, and has also been really struggling with his back legs in the last couple of weeks, seeming to be showing fairly advanced symptoms of hind leg degeneration.

As we adopted Perry and his brothers from their previous home as adults, there is of course the possibility we’ve begun to wonder about now that their ages when we got them might have been quite a bit out, which could mean we didn’t lose Marley and Reuben as early in life this summer as we believed, and would also explain Per greying and struggling with movement at what seems a relatively young age. We can never know one way or the other, and really it doesn’t matter – the important thing is helping him have the best life he can, and just now he seems to be doing that, just adoring his evening cuddles with us for as long as we’ve time for every night.

We’ve only experienced HLD in rats a couple of times, with Peatie and Sylvie, two of our healthiest and longest living girls, who both made it to around three years old, and in their last months lost the use of their hind legs gradually. They seemed to react to it differently to Perry though, and were both very keen to keep moving regardless of their gait, just completely adapting as the degeneration went on, so we didn’t have to gee them up in any way and they really made the best of it. Perry on the other hand is slowing way down right away and lying down at the moment most of the time, so I am trying to think of inventive ways to keep him busy. Found a great article on HLD here, but if anyone has any tips on how to keep him active and happy as long as possible please share!

I was pleased to see that one of the main ways to do this is give an older rat the company of young active cagemates and Perry certainly has this in abundance with our two mavericks to contend with!  We did speculate at first that the new whiter look could be simply a response to life with Jet as he’s such a horror sometimes I don’t know how he’s not turned us all grey! πŸ˜‰ But he does his job well keeping Perry on his toes and Jasper provides a bit of a compromise, plenty of cuddles but games and scrambles for food too. They are both really coming out of their shells more and more every day and I’m so glad to see all three of them enjoying life together.

 

 

Happy Friday all and have a good weekend. X

 

Into the embers… πŸπŸ”₯πŸ•―πŸŒŸ

The time of year just around the corner for us now is my very favourite of all. 🍁 There’s nothing I love more than the wrapped-up warmth and cosiness of autumn into winter. Every morning as I drive into work there’s a subtle change in the trees lining the roadsides, just a flecking at first of yellows and ambers after months of solid green, the lightest of flutters of the first leaves to the ground; but as the days and weeks tumble by I know they will soon be ablaze with golds and reds, swirling through the ever-colder air. ❀️

 

As we reach these “ember” months at last, there is always such a shift in the world around us. Already the heat of the summer is fading and scarves and candles and cosy cooking start to creep in in their place.

This week has been full of the warmth of visits with family – dinners together and long relaxed catch ups. Spent a stormy Sunday afternoon at my mum and dad’s, hands wrapped round mugs of hot Ribena, the first fire of the season lit – much to the delight of their lovely lurcher Katy who didn’t move from her hearth-rug spot and beautiful Phoebe-cat rolling around happily in the new warmth.

 

 

Night checks at the farm are more often than not dashes through the rain – or, on some breath takingly beautiful clear nights, torchlit ventures under the stars. It’s a joy every day to find Charmer so content and self sufficient at a time of year that’s so great for him – and, in the worst of the weather, to hole up with him for a bit under his tree, watching the half-dark world.

 

Back home, it’s books, candles and blanket time and the boys are thriving. My wee Perry in particular, suddenly so much older in comparison to the young boys’ exuberance, is a constant companion. πŸ’™

In only a matter of weeks, all going well, our daughter will arrive into our lives and change it all unrecognisably, in the most wonderful way. Until then, I’m so grateful for the holed up times just with all my boys, in this cosiest of seasons.

 

Hope you are all having a lovely week. ✨πŸ”₯πŸ•―πŸŒŸπŸπŸ‚

Happy FridayΒ 

The weekend is here at last… Friday takeaway night in is the perfect end to a busy week and is always a hit with the whole family, the boys loving their own rat-sized share of a prawn cracker… πŸ’™

Out in the field my biggest boy is enjoying the cooler weather, grazing without his fly rug on as the wind changes the air, and adopting his autumn habit of hanging out in his “den” under his favourite tree at dusk, bridging the gap between summertime outdoors and wintering in with his own little sheltering corner. ❀️


Wishing a lovely weekend to you all. X