dancing horses

dancing horses

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Baby it's Cold Outside

This has been a more snowy winter than we've had in a few years.  This photo has been circulating on FB:

Can you imagine Steele in the house? He'd eat all the snack food and hog the remote! 

On a more serious note, this is the first year that I have not blanketed Irish. This was not a rash decision but I had his weight up in the fall and I wanted to see how'd he do without one. Theoretically horses do fine witout blankets- centuries of evolution has designed them to have coats that insulate during the cold weather. However, let's face it, Irish is a far cry from Prezewalski's horse 

Once at a show, someone expressed surprise that Irish stayed in his stall even though the door was open- I joked that we both know that he couldn't make it on his own. The benefit of having him at home is that I have a fair degree of control. I could not only monitor his weight (which I can do if boarded) but I can make judgements. I did put a blanket on when we went from 5 to -28. I also put a rain sheet on both of them if it's a cold rain. 

However, he seems to be doing fine without the blanket:
round pony prancing in the snow

His weight has not moved and he never looks chilled to me. 

So my horse is on a basic diet of crushed oats, and alfalfa/beet pulp, no blanket and outside from 7 to 5 every day (unless the weather is really really bad). And he's thriving. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Oh the Carnage!

After a weeks reprieve, winter has returned to Eastern Canada. Last night we had a winter storm. I woke up at 5 a.m. and realized that the power had gone out. I checked with my cell phone and saw that the power company was predicting that it would be back on around 8 a.m. I set my phone as an alarm and went back to sleep.

When the alarm went off I got up and headed out to the barn. I couldn't pick out the stalls until I let the horses out. So while they were eating I grabbed my camera and took a few shots:

the view from the road

This red breasted nuthatch was grumpy because he thought I was late with his seeds.

as you can see the snow was heavy on the trees and wires - hence the power outage.

I headed back and let the horses out. I picked out their stalls but the power still hadn't come back on. I decided to stay outside and play a bit. So, in fit of exuberance I built the horses a companion:
I didn't have a carrot for a nose so I used an apple for the eyes.

It's been at least 20 years since I built a snowman. Naturally Steele was curious. Initially he hung behind me and eyed this new intruder. But then his natural bravery took over. Irish was on his heels.
what the heck is this?

 They quickly discovered the apples. After that the poor snowman didn't last too long. See d'Arcy's look of horror. He better be careful! 

While Steele decapitated the snowman, Irish ate his arms.
A few paws later and the snowman was no more.

I decided to head back into the house. As I headed in I saw a scene that made me laugh out loud. d'Arcy my BC was laying outside the fence 'herding' the horses. Steele had his nose down blowing on his face but d'Arcy completely ignored him. Steele pulled his head back and looked at the dog. He then spied the snow crusted on the fence. He cocked his head a bit and then reached his nose out and bopped it. A large clump of snow fell and plopped on d'Arcy's head. Looking pleased with himself Steele pranced off.

I headed back into the house and back into bed where it was warm. I checked and now the power was expected to be off until noon. So Ed and I headed into town to find a restaurant for breakfast. We do have a generator but it didn't seem worth it to hook it up for such a short time.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Refresher

After weeks of snow and freezing temperatures we are getting a January thaw. Starting yesterday the temps rose over freezing. The warmer temperatures combined with some torrential rain resulted in the snow disappearing.

I was excited that I would get a chance to play with my two horses. I let them out first and I could see that Irish was full of himself. So I decided to start with him. When I brought him in he was pretty much covered with mud. Fortunately a friend had given me a curry comb like this a few weeks ago:
It does an awesome job on removing dry mud. I cleaned Irish as best I could, tacked him up and headed up to the ring. To say he was 'up' would be an understatement. I knew that we would not be starting the session on a long rein. When Irish get like this, I have a routine I follow to get him relaxed and listening. Mostly it consists of lots of circles asking him to bend and step into the outside rein. When he tunes me out I do something to up the ante- like a throw in a small circle, ask him to leg yield on a circle or change direction. This keeps his attention on me and lessens the chance that he will spook and spin. And if he does, because I'm working on keeping him on the aids I am more prepared. We did this at a walk and then I asked him for trot. I'm sure that our work was not very exciting to anyone but us. It was good for me to work on sitting up- when Irish gets like this I have to fight a tendency to curl up and hang on to the reins. I was happy that I was able to resist this tendency and sit up in the saddle and use my seat to ride. He did not hang on his forehand for the ride and I did not hang on the reins.  By the end of the ride he was soft, forward and happy. I came to a halt and dismounted. Right after I dismounted, we heard some ATVs in the woods across the road. Irish went back into high alert. I was glad that I ended the ride then. It would have been annoying to have done all that work only to start over. Of course there's always the possibility that he wouldn't have reacted because he was too busy listening.

After Irish it was Steele's turn and he was more than ready. As soon as I let Irish out he came into the barn

Is it my turn? can we do something now? 

I brought him in and did my best to remove the mud but he had worked very hard to get it all in there. It's pretty bad when you have to make sure that your mouth is closed when you groom! Anyway, we were finally done and I hooked up the lead line and brought him up to the ring. Irish came trotting back and forth as we walked up the hill but Steele kept his eye on me and never even tried to go off with him. In the ring we walked around the perimeter and he walked beside me like a trained horse. I then hooked up the lunge line. I wanted to see how much he had forgotten having had 10 weeks off.

And the answer was....


He did not put a hoof wrong. He got a little excited at the canter and gave a few bucks. I pointed the lunge whip at his hip which made him move away and stopped the buck. I don't want to encourage bucking during work for any reason. This did not last long though. He was prompt for all the voice commmands so we worked at changing direction without me changing sides. He picked it up pretty quick. I then took him off the lunge and we did a bit of free work. Again he was tuned in and quite happy. I stopped the work then while it was all good. I let him wander and pick at some grass while I looked for rocks that had worked to the surface. I then headed to the gate and picked up the lead line. He came trotting right at me and stopped for me to hook it on. We then headed back home.

I love that the youngster was quieter and more settled than the coming 14 year old.

All in all it was a very satisfactory day. The weather is due to stay nice for the next week or so. I hope we get to enjoy it some more. But until real spring comes I will enjoy this pseudo spring.

How's the weather where you are?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Breaking News

This just in from our field reporter...well barn reporter....well barn servant, Teresa:

It turns out that Irish does not approve of cats who have bells on their collars.

I just don't like the jingling sound. Said Irish during the interview.

I mean, there's this sound and like, you can't tell where it's coming from. I've heard that trolls also wear bells, so how's an alert horse to tell the difference? Besides, do you know how unnerving it is to hear ~jingle~jingle~tinkle from your hay? It's taken years off of my life! 

Other horses appear to be more tolerant.

Despite his youth, Steele appears to be unfazed about the tinkling feline.

I was all like, what's that? Should I be worried? And then I thought HAY. Literally. You gave me hay and I figured it was all fine.  Can I have my apple now?

When questioned, Martin (the feline in question) was relunctant to be interviewed, limiting his statements to no comment  and can you get this thing off of me? it's ruining my image. 

And that's the news.
Live from Oakfield Farms, this is Teresa signing off.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


It's been interesting- now that Steele is 3 he's starting to show how he'll mature. The other day in the snow I got a new favourite photo of him:

I think that it shows his potential for dressage. When I look at this I see a horse that's naturally uphill and has a natural self carriage. When I observe his gaits from the ground they look to be comfortable. His temperament is bold without being brash, lovable and he has a level of pride that won't allow him to suffer fools.

All I need to do is not ruin it.

I know that we'll have good moments, bad moments, brilliant moments and brilliantly awful moments. I am not a seasoned dressage trainer who's competed on numerous horses at a national level. I am a middle aged woman with her 3rd horse.

And do you know what? That's okay. I'll seek out help to back him and regular instruction. I won't be perfect all the time but I will always try to be perfect.

And I think that it will be fine.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Day after

The blizzard ended yesterday around 4. We got a lot of snow. Ed went out and plowed the driveway so he could take our son to the airport and back to University. This morning I figured that Irish and Steele would be excited to get out after spending the day outside. So I brought my camera with me. I opened the door expecting to get lovely shots of them in fresh snow.

It was  a total flop. Irish sauntered out to the hay box and Steele moseyed into Irish's stall to clean up any hay he left behind. This was the most exciting thing I saw:

See how the snow stops about 4 feet from the barn? It certainly made my job easier than the last time when it was piled up 3 feet against their doors.

Anyway, obviously the ponies were not going to cooperate so I went into the house for my morning coffee. After Ed and my son left I grabbed the snow shoes and took the dogs for a walk. However, the snow was too deep to take them on my usual route. Even in my snow shoes I sank a good 5-6 inches with every stride. So we hung out in the woods where it was more shallow.
I give up. I can't really go any further

 On my return journey I came around the field to the top. Irish spied me and went to yellow alert. When he saw me in my snow shoes this was his reaction:

look at that hind end- it looks good to me! But he's still a big chicken

This was Steele's reaction:
hey, what's up with your feet? Let me see!

hmm, interesting. do they come in my size? I could really mess with Irish then!
 Horses are like people- all are very different.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Another Storm Day

There is a blizzard hitting the east coast of Canada today. It started last night and is still going strong at noon today. Police are advising people to stay off the roads and a lot of businesses, colleges, daycares and public offices are closed. It is a day to hunker inside and wait for it to all be over.

Unless you have animals. They need to be cared for no matter how you feel or whatever the weather. Responsibility is getting up and donning 4 layers of clothing to head out to the barn to feed, clean and otherwise take care of the horses. Love is not minding doing it. Don't get me wrong. The weather has been very very cold: -29 with the wind chill. For those of you on the Farenheit system that translates to freaking cold. So cold that the ends of your fingers get numb despite the gloves and when you come in you start to get feeling back in your face and it doesn't feel good. But despite that I don't mind having to do it. It comes with the territory.
from the kitchen window this morning. Turns out this was a lull in weather
So I put on my layers and trudged though the drifts to the barn. I made sure that their hay racks and water buckets were full and came in for coffee. (let me just say that with these frigid temperatures I am glad I have the heated buckets).

I went out again around 10:45 to check on them. Turns out that horses are not as impressed with the concept of a 'snow day'.

I went into Steele's stall to put on his halter. I wanted to put him in the cross ties to clean out his stall.
uh uh
He backed away. I came to his head again and started to put the halter on.
This time he shook his head, backed up and gave a little rear.

hmm. I don't think so. I don't really care that he probably wanted to go out and that this was not typical for a morning routine. The reality is that he had no choice in this. The halter was going on and he was coming out to stand in the cross ties. period. I approached him and he reared up a bit higher. This time I was ready and smacked him on hte belly with the halter. He came down with surprise. I stood very still and waited for him to think about this for a second. He blew softly and I came up to him calmly and cooly and put on the halter. Once it was on I led him out and put him in the cross ties. I then carried on with my plans. He pawed while I cleaned out his stall but I ignored that. I did not want to do anything that would escalate. Instead I waited for him to stop pawing and then spoke to him softly.
'good boy'
His ears came forward and he looked at me. I carried on with the cleaning. He started pawing again but this time stopped much sooner. I spoke again. And that was it. He stood there giving the impression of a well behaved equine.

I know that he feels like this being all cooped up:
But that doesn't mean that he can be bratty. I wasn't angry with him, there's no point. I believe that you get much farther just carrying on and being calm then getting upset. It's days like this though that I wish I could win the lottery (of course that would entail actually buying a ticket) so I could build an indoor. It would come in handy.

After Steele, I brought Irish out. He too was not impressed but knows how to express his feelings without getting into too much trouble (that comes from being older and more mature he says). I then refilled the bird feeders and hung them back up outside. I wasn't expecting the birds today but they came and I want to make sure that they have some seeds. I threw them a couple of chopped apples too. 

In the meantime, I've put a roast in the slowcooker and plan to stay inside.

What do you do on bad weather days?