dancing horses

dancing horses

Friday, September 27, 2013

Oh Behave!

Last weekend a friend came to visit. Karen knew Steele when he was a baby. I was excited for her to see how he's been coming along and how clever he is.

I should have known better.

You know how children are very good at making you look like the worst parent ever? Like when in you're in the lawyers office going over paperwork regarding the purchase of a new house and your four old boy is trying to scale the book case of leather bound law tomes like it's a jungle gym. As a parent you try to get them down while not coming across like you beat him on a regular basis. Meanwhile the lawyer is chuckling and saying things like 'wow, he's an active fellow isn't he?' and you know that he's really thinking that your child is an out of control whirling dervish and you are a useless parent. And you are saying ineffectual statements like 'come on honey, come sit on mommy's lap' and 'He's really not like this' while thinking 'good lord, how much sugar did the daycare let him have today? And can I pass him off as a step-child and not a genetic relation? Oh god, I am the worst mother ever'.  

It turns out that horses are like this too.

Karen arrived right on time and we headed to the barn. While I was giving the tour the horses came in to see what we were doing.
hey, I heard that you brought carrots..
I brought Steele out and gave him a groom. We then headed out the barn to go up to the ring so she could see him move. Ed is puttering around and was just starting the weed whacker so he could get the tall grass around the fence posts. As Steele, Karen and I left the barn Irish decided that the world was ending and freaked out. He bolted out the stall door squealing and kicking and generally carrying on like a fool. Which of course gets Steele all excited beside me and wants to bolt off. I kept myself calm and walked at the same pace while he danced and whirled beside me. Fortunately he never pulled on the lead line although he did spin a bit in front of me. I refused to go around him and made him go back around me to his spot.

Now I separate the two of them all the time and there's not this silliness, especially from Irish. And it's not like they've never seen Ed with a weed whacker before. But Irish was running around like a fool and Steele is completely puffed up.

I smiled weakly at Karen and said 'they usually don't act like this'.
She was very reassuring but I'm sure she was thinking that she had arrived at a rodeo.

Once we were in the ring I let Steele off the lead and he took off at a gallop. While he was running I took down the lunge whip and asked him to move away. He bolted past me and ran down the long side.
'run for you lives!'
 As he passed Karen he put in a sliding stop that would make a reiner thrilled and looked at her.
'oh. Hi. '
I had to laugh. He tossed his head.
'sorry, can't talk now, gotta go' 
and off he ran again. So I have Steele running around, clearly for fun, Irish behaving like an idiot and I look like the.worst.parent horseowner.ever.

Irish looking all tense and worried
don't listen to her, I'm like this all the time!

After a little bit, the running around began to feel like work and Steele settled into his usual behavior. I was trying to show her how I've been fumbling around with some liberty work. Usually Steele will walk, halt, back up and turn when I ask without use of a lead line. He even follows me over some poles. Except today. Apparently this day he decided that he'd never ever seen my cavaletti's before and he wasn't going to touch them with a ten foot pole. Uh.Uh. I thought. So I had to lead him over twice and then he went over it like before.
here he is going over without me leading
Then we were standing around and Steele was getting the affection that he knows he deserves. But he had to push it and tried to bite me. Seriously? He hadn't done that since this episode: http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/07/so-whos-in-charge-here-anyway.html. I of course had to discipline him firmly for this. So Karen got to see me smack him with the lunge whip.
Mr. Saucy Face

But after that he decided to behave.

I decided to end on a good note and put him away.
they both look pretty innocent don't they?

After this we had a cup of coffee and some of my home made banana muffins. Before she left we also managed to track down Martin so she could meet him.
I was having my nap so I hope this is worth it!

oh yeah...

The critters have all promised me that they will be on their best behaviour if you come to visit.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

it's about time you got home

I've had a busy week of meetings at work. Last night I took a night off and stayed with my mom. After a long day I had that feeling of anticipation I always get when it's time to head home.

After pulling in my driveway I did a quick change of clothes and headed outside. When I came back out I noticed that one of my bird feeders was on the ground. Darn raccoons, if we forget to bring them in they raid them in the night. When I went to pick them out one was missing. Of course it's the newest and most expensive one. I trudged down to look for it but it was long gone. By now the horses had noticed I was back and came galloping down to meet me.

I'm pretty sure it's all about love.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Let's talk about diets

No, not mine. That would be a work of fiction.

Is there anything more fraught with opinions then what we feed our horses? Oh yeah- trimming. But let's save that for a post when I'm feeling braver.

Irish has never been an easy keeper. When you board it's difficult to control feeding practices. The horse has to fit in with what the current practice is. And this makes sense. I can't imagine being a Barn Owner and tryng to juggle all the different feeding fads that owners come up with. Over time he's become quite a finicky eater. I have done all sorts of additives:
  1. rice bran. He seemed to like it at first and then would go off it. And it never kept very long
  2. flax- only ate for about 2 months and then refused
  3. beet pulp- I've had my best luck with this but he only will eat when nothing else is left.
I've tried Fat n Fibre but he never seemed to like it.  When I brought him home I finally had the freedom to figure out the best diet for him. And it hasn't been easy. I've tried any number of things. Over the past 2 years I worked out that he like sweet feed and would eat beet pulp at night so I fed him sweet feed and oil in the morning and sweet feed, oil and beet pulp at night. But it still wasn't perfect. Irish would still act 'ulcery' on occasion. It would take him 40 mins to eat his breakfast. It wasn't unusual for me to save what he didn't eat and add to his supper. Nor was it unusual to hear Ed say with a bewildered air "what's he fed now?" and "why do you keep changing his diet?"

The answer to the second was easy- I was trying to find the diet that he would eat, thrive on and gain weight. I weighed him often over the first year (using a weight tape) and while it may go up or down it seemed to stay at 1085,which is less then his optimal weight.Feeding sugar to a horse that is prone to ulcers is not ideal. the sugar can aggravate intestinal upset but he seemed to only want to eat the sweet feed. It was a no-win situation.

Then one day I was reading an online horse forum and clicked on a thread about diet. In this thread there was much discussion about oat flour. It seemed that it was becoming the new thing for horses prone to ulcers. Now I don't leap on a bandwagon right away just because I read it on the internet. So I did bit of research and stumbled on the idea of feeding just oats. Oats are the original horse feed and have been fed for years. As I read some more I discovered that they are easily digested, horse on oats are less likely to colic and a reduction in ulcers. I discussed my idea with my vet and he approved of me trying it out.

So I began the 'Great Oat Experiment'. I started with a small amount and gradually increased the amount of oats. I know that oats are not balanced - particularly for calcium so I sourced a vitamin supplement designed to augment an oat diet. So now Irish is a diet of crushed oats, canola oil and a vitimin. Steele is on oats and the vitamin. And there's been a huge difference: instead of taking 45 mins to eat and leaving a lot behind Irish takes 15 mins and there's none left in his dish. Before he would eat, circle, bite some hay, eat some more and repeat. Now his head goes in his dish and stays there until it's done. While it's not scientific- his ears are pricked forward and his whole demeanor is of a horse happy to be eating. He is waiting at supper time to be fed and is not impressed if it's late. Before he never seemed to care. And best of all- his weight is 1135. He's gained about 50 pounds and during the last vet visit the vet said that he had a 'fat pad' over his ribs. He's never had that. Never.
For comparison:
December 2010

April 2012
Sept 2013

I call the experiment a success.

for more info: http://www.equineoats.org/default.aspx

Friday, September 20, 2013

Broadleaf Part 3

This is the last installment on the Broadleaf weekend. So if I've bored you to tears you'll be relieved.
That night after a lovely dinner we headed back up to the Chalet. All of us were tired- but a happy kind of tired- the kinds that comes from a day of fun. As adults we don't have as many of those as we did as kids.

We had a lovely evening of conversation, wine and laughter. Barb did people's fortunes. According to my reading I'm going to have some trials but if I stay firm there will be a positive outcome- mostly likely involving money. When I got home I had an e-mail from the attorney of long lost uncle in Nigeria. Turns out my beloved uncle has left me a small fortune. I sure hope that wasn't it because I deleted the e-mail. However, I might buy a lotto ticket just to cover my bases.

After a lovely night's sleep we arose to a beautiful sunny day. After a muffin and a cup of coffee we headed to the stable. This time I had 'Ginger'. A cute little chestnut who was keen to go.
I wish I could describe how beautiful the dikes were. But I can't. I took a few photos with my iphone. The great thing about this ride is that there was a lot of cantering. It was fabulous. I was laughing as we galloped along and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one. Here are some photos to give you an idea:

If I lived there I would be riding every day on the dikes. After a 3 hour ride we headed back to a huge brunch. It had everything- eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit, fiddleheads, potato salad, green salad, roast beef, potatoes, gravy and pie.

After that it was time for hugs and to get back to reality. It was just what the doctored ordered. I came home relaxed and happy.

I am looking forward to next year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Broadleaf Part 2

Friday night I headed to bed about 11. For me that is late. I was the first one to head off despite enjoying the conversation and wine. I know myself well enough to know that I am not one of those people who function well on little sleep.

Saturday morning dawned foggy. Which meant that the rain had stopped.
I stumbled down to the living room. Fortunately there was coffee. Suzanne makes terrific coffee. And some lovely lady had brought coffee cream as well. After a few cups and some early morning chats we put on our riding gear and drove down to the restaurant for a hearty breakfast.

Then it was time to ride. We headed over to the barn and were assigned our horses. I am always a little wary about Trail Ride places. However, these horses were well fed and kept. While they waited the horses had hay in front of them. I found out later that at the end of the day they are turned out into a huge pasture. It seemed to me that they have a pretty good life.  Most looked to be draft, paint and/or QH crosses. They obviously knew their job which was to follow in their place and to keep their riders safe. It's hard to ride a horse and not to try to 'fix' them. However, there is no point. The horse I rode was a nice little paint called Capone. She was sweet and tried hard to please. Initially she was reluctant to canter but I got that sorted.
Our trail that morning was up the mountain. As you can see the trails were lovely and well groomed. Part of the ride was across the road and there were people there to meet us and stop traffic so we could cross.
If you look carefully you will see a brown helmet between the roan and the paint. That is me. The ride was about 3 hours. The woods were lovely and it was fun to canter through them. At the end when we dismounted the owner remarked that she saw Capone cantering. 'She usually just trots. She must like you". I don't know about that but I do know that she responded to consistent cues.

As you can see we all enjoyed the ride. And it was time for lunch. Despite the huge breakfast we were hungry.

Then it was back to the Chalet. The sun came out and while we waited for our massages we made use of the deck and the hot tub.

We did have a problem with wasps as you see. We were thinking of heading  inside when someone went and got a paper bag. She twisted the top to make a 'wasp nest' shape and hung it from a nail by the door. We all looked at her curiously (I wish I could remember who this brilliant woman was!). She told us that the wasps think that there's another nest and leave. And I have to say that we say that we saw no more after that. So that was a useful thing to learn.

After a day of riding, eating, getting a massage and sitting in the hot tub I felt completely and utterly relaxed.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Broadleaf- Part 1

I just got back from a weekend off the grid. Let me tell you all about it.

Back in high school I met a girl named Cindy. I think we met in art class but to be honest I can't be sure. I am in awe of people who can remember high school in great detail. Me? I have only the vaguest memories of high school. But I do remember Cindy. She was pretty, vivacious and friendly. And she had a horse. We became pretty good friends in high school. However, after graduation our lives diverged and, as happens with many people, we drifted apart and lost touch. Every now and then I wondered where she was and what happened to her.

Yes, I am getting to the point.

A few years ago Ed and I stopped for supper at a restaurant on our way home from the city and we ran in Cindy and her husband. We chatted for a bit and exchanged e-mails. That very easily could have been it but for some reason it wasn't. We re-connected on Facebook and kept in touch.

I'm getting closer. Honest. I just figured I need to set the scene.

A few month ago Cynthia contacted me to see if I wanted to go away for a weekend with some other horse loving women to a place called 'Broadleaf Ranch'. There was a group of them who ride at a riding school in the city and they went away for this weekend every year. There was a fee that included a chalet that sleeps up to20, all the meals, two 3 hour trail rides and a massage.  I chatted about it with Ed to make sure that the weekend was free. I then thought about it for a while, after all the only person I knew was Cynthia. However, I am fairly social and independent and I figured that it might be fun and I would get to meet new people who love horses. Plus I could bring a book and my camera.

Friday dawned dark and cloudy and there was a rainfall warning for the province. It seems that a Tropical Storm was bearing down on N.S. However, the weather can't be helped so there's no point in worrying, so I drove to Cynthia's. Right before I arrived I received a text: "Front door is unlocked. I am just heading for the shower. House doesn't look like it has been cleaned because it hasn't"
 I responded with "lol. I will avert my eyes"

See how supportive I can be. I arrived and the garage door was open with the car boot open. I transferred my stuff (I know I overpacked) to Cynthia's car and headed inside. Just as she came upstairs wrapped in a towel. However, gracious as always she greeted me warmly and headed to her room to change.

Then two other women arrived- Carole and Libby. We loaded up the car and headed out to meet up with another group.In a Tim Horton's parking lot (a popular coffee shop in Canada) we met, chatted, determined the route and headed off in the teeming rain. There was one stop at a liquor store on the way and then we headed to the Ranch. We arrived about 7:00. There were 12 women all together and there were a lot of introductions. I was desperately trying to remember all the names but it turned out that I was not the only one. There were a few of us that were brand new.

You would think that that would make the conversation stilted and a little uncomfortable. Not at all. It's not often that horse crazy women get a chance to talk non-stop about horses to others without having them look for an escape route or, failing that, a sharp object to end their misery. Dinner was served by a cheerful woman named Roxanne. It was huge. I had the turkey dinner- it was wonderful. We then headed to the chalet. By now it's pitch black out but the rain had ended.  Cynthia drove up the side of mountain through woods that closed in on either side. Just when I started to think that she must have taken the wrong road we arrived. It was a mountain chalet all windows, wood and a huge fireplace.

 We all chose our bedrooms and then settled down with a glass of wine.

It was fabulous. As I conversed I realized that I was in the company of bright, thoughtful, warm women who loved horses. Turns out thatsome were familiar with my blog and wanted to learn more about Steele ( how was he going to entertain Ed while I was gone),Irish (was he still feeling better?), d'Arcy (had fame gone to his head?), Belle (what was her story?) and Martin. Martin was very popular.  It felt comfortable and that I had known them for years.

Even if I wasn't quite sure who was who.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A visit with the Vet

The vet came out today to float teeth and to give them a booster for EEE. I have Irish's teeth done twice a year as he gets some nasty hooks. I knew it was time when he started taking a long time to eat and dropping feed.

While I waited for the vet I brought them down to the small paddock and puttered around getting things tidy. After all, I wouldn't want my vet to think that I'm a bad barn keeper. I gave the horses their wormer while I was waiting. I don't need a halter or anything- they will stand in the paddock and let me give it.

We started with Steele. When I brought him out the vet was getting his tools ready and filled the bucket with water. Steele came up to inspect the bucket. He was curious and polite. The vet gave him the once over and pronounced that he was not 'fat'. Definitely not thin but not fat. Yay for me and being careful about the diet. Can you hear Steele grumbling? Also Steele was very prompt and obedient about picking up his feet and did not push into the vet once. Phew.

 He then checked his teeth. Right on schedule Steele is starting to drop his baby teeth (or caps). The vet did a little work on some edges and a cap came off. I tried to find it later but couldn't. Steele really was not sure about this whole thing and backed away. I really like my vet he's very low key and simply goes with him and allows him to figure out. Steele had one eye on me the whole time and I'm sure he was asking if this was all okay. I just kept my body language calm and praised him for being quiet. He calmed down and by the end was being a proper gentleman. I don't think he even noticed the needle.

Then it was Irish's turn. His weight is very good and he even had a layer of fat. I don't think that he has had a fat layer his whole life. So I declare my feeding regime a success.
Irish is so good about having his teeth done. He doesn't even mind the gag. I was right he did have ulcers on the inside of his mouth from the rough edges of his teeth. The vet filed those all off. Then a quick needle and all was done.

Tonight when I fed Irish was a bit reluctant but I told him to give it a try. And in a few minutes he was gulping down his feed.

I am so proud of my boys.

Monday, September 9, 2013

On a lighter note

Irish "he's behind me isn't he?"

Steele: "la la la, I'm not doing anything..."

Irish "He's about to bite me on the butt, isn't he?"

Sunday, September 8, 2013


FYI- this is not a fun post about how much I love my ponies. This is a rant post about responsibility we have for the animals in our lives.

On FB there was a ad circulating that said the following:
"Okay. Somebody must know somebody that knows someone that will take our Standardbred mare...FREE! She has to go before winter. Worst comes to worst we will need to take her to auction. We don't want to do that! Please have your friend of a friend respond to our plea."

I hate these type of ads- I've seen them on Kijiji and Craigslist and other horse classifieds. The problem is that is a very passive aggressive way of abdicating responsibility for their horse. If the horse goes to auction it's  not their fault, they tried. It's the fault of us selfish people who would not take her. After all they love her so much.  

True love is shown by actions. We have a responsibility to the creatures in our lives that depend on us.  period. This responsibility includes:
  • Adequate shelter. It doesn't have to be fancy or new. It just has to be possible for the animal to get out of the weather
  • Food. I don't mean specially formulated (i.e., expensive) supplements and vitamins to meet Dobbins unique dietary needs, but basic grain and forage/ hay. Most horses do fine just on hay. Depending on their metabolism (unless your name is "Irish". And then you need pounds of grain). 
  • Attention.  I know a horse is probably fine just being getting food and shelter but I think that they do enjoy our attention even if it's an occasional groom. If you don't think you'll be the only one in this horse's life then you need to ensure that he's used to having attention.
  • Turn out. Horses are creatures of movement. They need space to do that. Keeping a horse 24/7 in a stall with no freedom is unfair and cruel. 
  • Farrier/vet care. Hooves need to be trimmed, teeth need to be checked, vaccinations need to be given. If you can do any of that yourself, that's great. If not, hire a professional to do it.
  •  Training. And I mean basic handling training. I hate seeing ads for a 5 year old stallion that has been living in a field his whole life and never handled. I've seen horses who are unsafe because of either really bad training or no training. Guess where they end up? At a slaughter yard. That's where. A horse should be able to be haltered, led and stand for the farrier and vet. It's not rocket science. I've had people say to me in utter sincerity- "oh he just doesn't want to do X today I'll leave him alone". Seriously? Guess what you're teaching the horse to do? 
 I am not one of the those people who believe a horse should never be sold. I do believe that we have to do our best to ensure that the horse is sold to a good home. You need to have a plan for your horses if you are unable to keep them/care for them in the future. I also have one for the dogs and cat.

As for the horse in the above ad, as I see it the owner has two options:
  1. contact a standardbred rescue. There is one in the Maritimes. Or if there isn't one in their area, find a good horse rescue and give her up.  
  1. Put her down. In the end it will be much kinder then sending her to auction. And yes, I know the story of Snowman. (a great read by the way http://www.amazon.ca/The-Eighty-Dollar-Champion-Snowman-Inspired/dp/0345521099). But guess what? The other horses on that truck went to slaughter. Not good odds.  
 So to the people who put this ad up and all others like them I just want to say 'Pony up and shoulder your responsibility".


Monday, September 2, 2013

Film Star

Hi everyone Steele here.

Mom has been busy being 'show secretary'.I'm not sure what that is, exactly but it does keep her busy!

Anyway, I figured it had been a while since you've heard from me. In July I had mom take some video of me but she must have forgotten all about it. While she was away I hacked into her computer and put it together for you.

Make the popcorn, sit back and enjoy.