dancing horses

dancing horses

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year is Over

And what have we done?

Well, I really had to stop and think. I'm not sure where the year went but 2013 is coming to a close.

Steele is now officially 3 years old. He's just over 15'2 which is the same size Irish was when I bought him at 3. I can really see the mature horse that he's becoming. I haven't backed him yet despite getting lots of advice that I should start him. In the end I decided not to because he just didn't seem mentally ready. I have to say that I'm happy with that decision. But that doesn't mean that we didn't do anything this year. I sat down and tallied up the list of where Steele and I are at in his training:
  • he will stand still in the cross ties while being groomed and worked with. He seldom paws now but stands quietly and respectfully. 
  • He lifts his feet easily- I run my hand down his leg and saw 'foot' and he lifts his foot and places it in my hand. He sometimes get a little antsy if he thinks that I'm holding it too long but corrects easily. 
  • He can be easily caught in the field and haltered. 
  • He leads quietly beside me and does not pull on the line even when spooking. He sometimes tries to get the grass but is easily corrected
  • He opens his mouth for the bit 
  • He's worn a saddle and has had weight across it, does not spook when the stirrup leathers flap around him. He tolerates weight being placed in either stirrup
  • he lunges fairly well, reaches into side reins. 
  • He understands the basics of steering with the ground driving. We've had a couple discussions about steering but I made sure to win. 
  • He's been led all over the property including down the road and has helped me to get the mail. 
  • He will stand tied while being bathed
  • he is respectful of personal space
  • we started some liberty work - he will follow, back up, turn and trot over ground poles without a lead line.
I was watching some training videos by Stacy Westfall. They are quite good and one thing that caught my attention is that she said to pay attention to how a horse responds when you put pressure on them. So I've been paying attention to this with Steele. When he's thinking about something he will do this weird chewing or he will paw and/or stamp his feet. Running away is a last resort.

So my plans for 2014:
  • we won't be working on driving/lunging because the weather is too harsh. But I think that the time off is good for him as well. 
  • I will continue to work on ground manners 
  • Get a saddle fitting so that...
  • he can be backed come spring. I want to find a trainer that can come here rather than send him away for 30 days. 
  • teach him to self load
  • take him off site so he can experience work in other locations
There will probably be more plans as we go along but this is the broad sketch.

I hope that everyone has a prosperous, healthy and happy New Year.

See you next year!
c'mon Irish, give me a kiss, it's New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Starting Over

One thing that I've learned over the years is that no matter what we believe, the path in life is rarely straight. It runs straight for a while and then there's a curve thrown in. Sometimes a U-Turn.

One year ago I essentially retired Irish. (http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2012/11/there-is-peace-in-answers.html). What I didn't share was how awful the winter was. He was frequently sore, often unsound. Often he wouldn't eat and appeared mildly colicky/ulcerish. His weight dropped. There were signs of struggles in his stall- he ripped his feed bin off the wall 3 times before I gave up and switched to an over the door feeder. I was frequently treating dings and cuts- again signs that he was falling over and/or struggling to get up and hurting himself in the process. Irish became withdrawn and irritable.

Come spring I had virtually decided that I could not put him through another winter like that. So I decided that I would give him a good spring and summer and decide what to do in the fall. As you may recall in that time I began to play with his feeding program (again!). http://journeywithadancinghorse.blogspot.ca/2013/09/lets-talk-about-diets.html. Since that time Irish has appeared to thrive. He's back to being his lovable, sociable self. His weight is holding steady at 1149.  He also began to show signs of being sound. That went up and down over the summer and I was very careful with how I used him.

 Come fall I had a horse that was round(er), shiny, interested in life and cavorting in his field. So how could I put him down? It wasn't going to happen. I made a few decisions. One was that I was keeping him on his current diet. However, now that there's no pasture I give him a feeding of soaked alfalfa and beetpulp at night (the alfalfa is good for weight and disguises the beetpulp which he's not crazy about). He's come to love his night feeding. Steele gets a handful at night too. He wears bell boots all the time so he can stop pulling off his front shoes (which lead to abscesses). I've weaned him off the previcox and he seems to be holding his own. I am prepared to put him back on if necessary. I also decided to not blanket him either. I worried that the blanket was also causing him difficulty to get up. I did cave and put one on when the temperature plummeted to -25. However, he's maintaining his weight and had developed a nice thick coat so I'm not worried.

Normally I love to ride on Christmas day but for a variety of reasons this did not happen. Today however was mild, there was no ice and a nice fluffy amount of snow. I saddled Irish up and we headed to the ring. He was quite excited at first but the beauty of being 13 is that he's not overly foolish and it wears off quickly. He was forward and bouncy in all 3 gaits, although out of shape. There's nothing like a canter in snow. I'm glad my neighbours are far away otherwise they would have heard me exclaiming 'yes, yes, yes' when he did a lovely uphill trot-canter transition. Who knows what they would have thought. It occurred to me that I had my horse back. But not at the level we were working at pre-diagnosis. I've decided to start all over with him at training level. I have no idea how he'll do and I doubt that he'll be able to handle the higher level work on his hind but I don't really care. I'm going to work him like a green horse and we'll progress as we progress. There's no pressure to succeed at anything. It was great to ride and just work out what the puzzle was today. What's interesting though is that I'm not encountering that resistance I've had since, like forever. Make no mistake- he's still Irish- which means that he's easily distracted (oh look a squirrel!) but he was not frustrated and neither was I.

So there you have it. I have two green horses that I'll be working with. Who knew? Irish may not make a ripe old age, but he'll make 14. And I'll take that. It's more than I thought I'd have 6 months ago.

'oh oh, she looks like she's making plans again'

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the night before Christmas on Oakfield Farm

Tonight is Christmas Eve. The kids are home for the holiday and we have more family coming for dinner on Christmas day and Boxing day. I just finished the rolls for dinner and had the dough for the cinnamon buns rising when I headed out to the barn.

I took both horses out in turns to give them a good grooming. After all they have to look good for Santa and for the relatives. I find grooming to be a soothing activity. I enjoy cleaning off dirt and detangling manes and tails. I gave Irish's mane a trim and put Cowboy Magic in both tails to get the knots out. As I brushed and curried I felt very content. I know how fortunate I am to have the family and animals in my life. This is my second Christmas having horses on my very own property. While the work is sometimes hard I wouldn't trade it for anything. When I was a child I became enamored with the idea that animals talk on Christmas eve at Midnight. I used to try to stay up and listen but I never managed it. As I shut off the light and headed back to the house I thought how cool that would be if it really happened. There was a lovely soft snow falling and the world looked very pretty.

Irish wake up. I think I hear Santa! 

zzzzzzz, hmpf whazzat?

wake up! wake up! I'm sure it's him. 

oh for heaven's sake. Go back to sleep! 

no, I hear something. I'm sure. 

Belle : relax. it's only us. 

Steele: ohhhh

d'Arcy  Hi!! Hi! Merry Christmas! It's SNOWING!

Irish:  how did you two get out? 

Martin I let them out. I can do that whenever i want. I just don't let the servants know. It's not good to let them get too comfortable. 

Steele : Did you see Santa out there? Does he have carrots and apples and candy canes? 

Irish: I didn't think that you liked candy canes. 

My palate has matured. Now that I'm older. 

Belle: Santa also brings dog treats 

d'Arcy: And balls! don't forget balls! I love balls. Balls are the best. Except for treats. Treats are the best.  Balls with treats are AWESOME. 

Martin: you two need a bit more dignity.

Belle: Agreed.

Irish *sigh* *yawn* you know santa won't come if you're awake. 

d'Arcy there's lots of time. We wanted to come out and give you holiday greetings.

Belle:  After all you can't come in the house to visit us.

Irish: we should be happy with our good fortune. I've been around and heard stories. There are lots of animals that aren't as lucky as us. 

Steele: really? how sad. Hey, how did you come to own the female servant? 

Irish I met here before my third birthday. A friend had seen me and told her to come and meet me. I quite liked her so decided to keep her. I can proudly say that most of what she knows I taught her. 

Steele: is there anything left for me to teach her? 

Martin: oh don't worry humans needs LOTS of training. Just the other day the male servant stuck his foot in my face while I was sleeping at the foot of the bed. It's not enough that I let them share it with me, he has to take liberties! Well I taught him. 

Steele: What did you do? 

Martin: Well I bit him on the foot. You should have heard him yell. 

Irish: I don't recommend biting. Cats may get away with it but we don't. 

Steele: Oh I learned that already!

Belle: I can't believe you bit him. Before \I adopted these two I had a very hard life. No one seemed to love me and they kept me locked in a cage. 

d'Arcy: NO

Belle: yes. haven't you noticed I don't like small spaces? But life is good here and I'm happy. 

Steele: Me too! I knew she was mine as soon as I met her. And the male servant is very entertaining. He does lots of interesting things. I wonder what we'll do next year? 

Irish: Oh I'm sure that she has lots of plans for you. I've seen the look in her eye. I know that she's contacted the lady to come and fit you for a saddle. 

Steele: I remember her. That's where I was born. I was a Christmas baby you know.

Irish: you were a November baby! 

Steele: same diff!

d'Arcy: I was born in the summer. I don't remember much but I remember coming home. I learned what to do and what not to do. I learned about hockey. Hockey was the best! I miss hockey sometimes.

Irish: Hockey? 

yes they used to take me to large houses with ice and I would watch the game. At one time I wanted to be a referee. After all I learned about the whistle and am the right colour but more and more arenas would not allow dogs in them. Can you believe it? they allow children but not dogs!  But now I have work and lots and lots of sticks. There are lots of sticks here. And water. And smells. 

Irish: I used to show in a hockey arena. They would take out the ice and put in dirt for horse shows. It was a bit freaky to see my reflection in the glass. I didn't always take too well to that. 

Steele: now that sounds interesting. Tell me more about showing. 

Irish: you'll learn about it soon enough. But you get your mane braided and you can't scratch it no matter how much it itches. And then there's this person called a 'judge' who decides how good your are. There's lots of people, horses and some dogs....

Martin: any cats?

no, no cats that I've ever seen.

Then I'm not interested.  

Irish: how about the rat living under my stall? are you interested in that? 

Martin: it's Christmas. You can't expect me to hunt on Christmas eve! 

Belle: *rolls eyes* no of course not. you might break a nail. 

Martin: pffft! 

Irish- now now, that's enough. It's time for us all to get some sleep. You don't want the servants to wake up and come looking for you. 

Steele: *yawn* well I am kinda tired. Goodnight! Merry Christmas! 

Irish: Merry Christmas.

Belle: Merry Christmas. 

Martin: Merry Christmas. 

d;Arcy: Merry Christmas. I love Christmas. Christmas is the best.

Merry Christmas from Oakfield Farm to you


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Clever is as clever does

Keeping horses at home has opened up whole new insights into their behaviour. I've heard people refer to the size of a horse's brain and state that they really are not that smart. I've always referred to Irish as sweet but not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I am amending that opinion though.

A few days ago I came home from work and headed to the barn to do the evening chores. I couldn't see Irish so figured he was in his stall. Steele was outside eating hay. I decided to spend some time with him before getting at the chores- which include supper. Steele was quite happy to stand outside and schmooze with me. I heard Irish in his stall and then I heard him come out. I figured he was going to do one of two things:
1. head out the field because he wasn't ready yet to be shut in the barn
2. come and get his share of the affection.

I watched as he nonchalantly sauntered by me. He didn't make eye contact and appeared to be trying to make himself smaller. I figured he take off once he hit the gate to the field.

I was wrong.

Irish went around to the other side of Steele, gave me a flinty look over his back and then bit him right on the arse. Steele looked at me-
"sorry, got to go"
With that, Irish herded him right into his stall. Irish then went into his stall and turned around to look at me. I swear he was saying
"okay, we're in. Now close the door and give me my supper. "

Which I promptly did.

As I was doing on the chores I realized that horses have managed to arrange for room, board and servants. We pay all this money and do all this work simply  for the pleasure of their company.

So who's the smart one?

uh oh, I think she's on to me

Monday, December 16, 2013

snow Day

Well we survived the storm. Sunday dawned with snow but it didn't seem too bad. I did the barn chores and decided to let the horses out for a bit. I had to shovel the snow away from the doors to let them out. I headed into the house for some much needed coffee. I was sitting enjoying my coffee and surfing the internet and before I knew it an hour passed. I looked out the window and realized that there was a full on blizzard. I pulled my winter gear on and headed back out. The horses were hiding in their stalls which were fast filling with snow. While I was drinking the wind had changed direction and was blowing the snow right into their refuge. I hopped over a drift that was forming in the barn aisle and grabbed a shovel. I shovelled the snow away from the Steele's door and then closed it. Irish saw what I was doing and left- he doesn't like to be in during the day.
"I have to be free!"

 However, 30 seconds later he dove back in.
"well maybe not THAT free"

I got his door closed and came back into the barn. It took me 30 minutes to remove the snow from the stalls and barn aisle. I headed back to the house for more coffee. The rest of the day was spent decorating the tree and baking. The snow changed to freezing rain and then rain. By 4 it was mostly over. I headed back out and had to clear yet more snow away from their doors. I wanted to get it dealt with before the rain sodden snow froze again. Wet snow is very heavy. Sunday night the temperature plummeted again. I took one look at the icy roads and decided to take a vacation day (I save some every year for just this reason). I dusted off the snow shoes and took the dogs into the woods. I enjoy snowshoeing but the first time is always interesting- it takes a while to get the actions down.

When I came back the horses were excited by the noise that my shoes were making as they crunched through the crust.

run away from the servant with the large feet!

love this one of Irish's trot. Note the BC photo bomber
love the look on Irish's face "I can't believe your rolling at a time like this" 

perfect timing

playing with photo processing

It's easier to enjoy the snow when you don't have to shovel it!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Battening Down the Hatches

There's a big storm heading our way so Ed and I spent the day getting things done. It is bitterly cold out. With the windchill it was -25. One of our errands was to get the Christmas tree. Since we always get it on the coldest day of December it seemed that we were keeping the traditions intact. Our area is prime for growing Christmas trees which is nice. We bought our tree from the farmer himself. Yesterday it was in the field today it's in our living room. Now that's fresh. It also means that a 8 foot tree cost $15. Despite wearing many layers Ed and I didn't hang around long. It was difficult because the man selling the trees was chatty. He was also in a ski suit. We chatted for a bit and then made our excuses and dove into the SUV with as much dignity as we could muster.

Another errand was to buy some heated water buckets. With everyone's advice (on the blog and FB) we decided to invest in the buckets. Thank you so much for the input. We had to go to two different feed stores - the first store had only one- I guess they have been flying off the shelf. We also picked up some Christmas presents for the dogs and a bag of beet pulp.

When we came home we had lunch and then headed to the barn to figure out how to run the wires so that the horses couldn't get into trouble. Ed went first but I needed to take a little longer. In addition to the layers of thermal undergarments, fleece shirt and jeans I added a hoody, my insulated coveralls, a scarf, my hat, warm mittens and my baffin boots. I trundled into the barn. Ed was already hard at work. He stopped and took in my appearance from head to toe.
"are you cold?" he asked with a smile.
"not now" I said.

I looked at him- he was wearing sneakers, a quilted flannel shirt and a pair of gloves. How he didn't shiver to death I'll never know. I know that we both had our thoughts on each others fashion choices.

We got the buckets installed and plugged in. Steele came in to check on our work. I can see how these are going to make my life easier. And the worry over colic will be offset by worry over having electical items in the stall. However, I like how the buckets have wire around the cord so that it's  not tempting.  We will be putting in proper conduits to keep the buckets but for now we have it set up in a workable manner.

After that I took the dogs for walk in the woods. It wasn't too bad when we were in the woods. The dogs also had on their coats. When I got back I decided to bring the horses in early out of the cold. Steele was in Irish's stall hanging out so I chopped up an apple to put in his feed bin. I noticed that there was a hole in the bottom.
how on earth did he do this?

With a sigh I realized that I couldn't go in until I fixed this. I found the bin we took out of Irish's stall. But I had to remove a block of wood from it. I then removed Steele's and put in the new one. By then my fingers were frozen. Steele came in and checked out his new bin. He looked pleased.  I could then grab the apple throw it into the bin. II got the horses in and then headed into the house for a break.

We then headed back to town to buy groceries. Our theory was that most of the shoppers would be back home. That turned out to be correct.  We were able to get groceries, including the Christmas Turkey and a roast for tomorrow. It was then time to go home and collapse on the couch.

It was a busy and good day despite the cold. Tomorrow we will decorate the tree. I also hope to get some baking done.

Hopefully we won't lose the power tomorrow. After all this hard work that would be just too much.

It's bad enough I have a frosted nose, thanks for getting rid of the ice...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter is here

And it's arrived with a vengeance! After a relatively balmy fall the temperatures have plummeted. In the summer the chores really don't seem too bad. In winter though, the work level goes up. I can't use the hose anymore and it's much colder in the morning. Lugging water buckets is good for my core and arm strength (or so I tell myself). The manure is freezing to the cart which makes emptying it harder as well. However, I have found that I'm warm enough with my insulated coveralls, insulated  baffin boots, wool hat with ear covers and rubber winter gloves (a great find at the local Co-Op). And I really don't mind the chores because it means that my horses are home.

The high over the next few days is to be -10 C. Today the water buckets were frozen solid. It took a ton of banging with a stick to break up the ice to get it out of the bucket. I realized that if this winter is going to be a brutal my water buckets are just not going to cut it. My current system is to have buckets in the tack room (which is heated) and switch them out in the morning, supper time and night time. At night I add some boiling water and so far they haven't been too frozen over. However, I worry that their water intake will be too low.

So I turn to the internet for help. Tell me about your solutions. Do the bucket insulator cozy things work? If you use the heated buckets how do you secure the cords? I worry about the heated buckets with the electric cable. Especially with a young one who gets bored and starts exploring....

from last winter.....

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Surprises in the hay

The other day I was doing my morning chores. Both horses have hay racks because Steele liked to take his hay and make a nest with it. Anyway, I was on auto pilot and my mind was half on my job and half on the cup of coffee waiting for me when I got back to the house. As I put Steele's hay in his rack a tuft of hay fell on the ground.

I bent down and put it back in the rack. As I turned around to leave something made me stop and go back. I pulled the hay back out and looked at it again. It was the dessicated corpse of a rat. It must have been caught in the hay baler.

My feelings as I was holding this dead rat in my (fortunately) gloved hand were ones of surprise tinged with interest in how flat it was. I threw it in the muck bucket along with the hay. Then I headed back into the house for my coffee.

 I know, I know, I'm weird.

What weird things have you found in hay?
not only doesn't she feed me enough, now she's giving me dead rodents!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All Steele wants for Christmas is

His two front teeth!

Well not really. But he's starting to lose more baby teeth. As the adult teeth come in they push out the milk tooth. Tonight at supper time I heard something rattling around in Steele's food bin. I went over and found this:

I have it sitting on the windowsill of the tack room. It's the first one I have seen. He didn't seem bothered by it all.

Now he just needs to take care of them.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

In which Steele gets in mess

The weather has been rainy. Really rainy. To the point that I'm wanting snow just to make the world less soggy. There is mud everywhere and the world is brown and grey.

The other day when I came from work it had started to rain really hard. The horses were out so I brought them in. I wanted to take the dogs for a walk so I decided to put fleece coolers on them to dry off. I decided to not put the leg straps on because I wasn't planning to be gone all that long.

Fast forward 45 minutes later. The dogs and I return to the barn. All of us wetter but feeling good after stretching our legs. It was time to give the horses their supper. I opened the door and saw Steele standing near his door. He turned his head towards me.

 "it's about time you got back"

"what the...." (I've been saying that a lot lately).

This is what I saw:

"what on earth did you do?"
"I'm not sure but could you give me a hand?"

I opened the door. Steele didn't move.

"this blanket is obviously defective. "

All I can figure is that he tried to roll in the shavings and it moved on him. What's great is that when he got stuck he stood still until I sorted him out. He wasn't stressed or panicked.
which is good - horses that panic get into more trouble.

"I'm still wet you know, stop taking pictures and dry me off!"

yes dear.