Sunday, October 26, 2014

Riding Miss Gwenevere

I've been riding Miss Gwenevere! Yes I have!

After cutting down a thousand trees, mowing and waiting for the horrible biting flies to go away, I was able to start riding again. Yippee!

I've been able to get on Gwen about twice a week for the past two months and she's doing really well. I'm also doing really well. I'm happy to say that I'm no longer nervous/scared/anxious about climbing onto her back. I tack her up, walk to the mounting block and just get on. It doesn't seem like much but to me it means a LOT.

Anyway, she's been working on moving her hindquarters, her shoulders, walking figure eights. She even got in a few steps of shoulder-in the other day. Progress!


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chicken keeping for beginners

One of the perks I was looking forward to after purchasing our home was getting chickens so, as is my fashion, last spring I placed an order for way more chickens than any beginner should have.

My wee chicks arrived in the beginning of April and I excitedly set up a brooder for them in the basement. About a week later this turned out to be a very bad idea, I had no idea how much dust 27 chicks can make! There was dust all over the floors, the walls, everywhere! Even though I moved them outside as soon as they feathered out, mopped and vacuumed the basement as thoroughly as possible (including the walls), my husband still complains that the basement smells like chickens.

4 day old chickies

1 week old chickies

Lesson 1: Brood chickens outside.

I ordered an assortment, so I had no idea what breed most of my chicks were, or their sexes. It's been really fun to watch them grow up and see how they turn out... until the roosters start coming into their own. You don't want a lot of roosters; they fight each other, they gang up on the girls and they can start to turn their aggression on you.

There are four roosters in this photo

One of my Easter Egger pullets


two silkie roosters

Lesson 2: Don't order a straight run of chickens (where you don't know what genders you're getting) or have a plan ahead of time for processing your excess roosters.

Fortunately, my husband does some work with an organic farmer that processes chickens and agreed to help mine through their life "transition." Thank goodness, I tried to do one myself and it didn't go well, it's a complicated process if you don't know what you're doing.

Now I'm left with three roosters, chosen for their gentler dispositions. I probably still have too many roosters, I can see the leghorn chasing the hamburg around my yard right this moment, but I'm hoping that my 22 pullets will keep them living together in reasonable peace.
brown leghorn

Dominique

silver spangled hamburg
Aren't they handsome?

Lesson 3: Be prepared to get smitten with your chickens.

I got my chickens to provide food not to be pets, so I didn't handle them when they were chicks and I don't handle them now, yet every time I go outside I end up with a flock of birds swirling around me. I feel like the chicken whisperer. They also decorate my yard quite nicely, with all their different colors and shapes.  Speaking of that, they also decorate my egg cartons quite nicely; I have white eggs, brown eggs, pink eggs and blue eggs. Chickens are also super easy to care for, at least mine are. I let them out in the morning and close them up at night, make sure they have food and water, check for eggs twice a day and turn over the coop bedding once a week or so.

I'm going out to check for eggs right now!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The triumph of clicker training over fireworks



Tonight was my community's annual fireworks show, which would be great if I hadn't moved my horses a half mile away from where they shoot them off. No joke, we can practically see the guys light them from our house. I think some of the shells land on our property every year. They are CLOSE.

Anyway, I've been freaking out about Gwen and the fireworks. You may recall that my girl is a bit "jumpy," and by "jumpy" I mean extremely nervous and spooks at just about anything. In preparation I contacted my vet and got a tube of Dormosedan to sedate her for the show, the only problem being that she HATES getting tube medication and the last time I gave it to her it didn't work.

So about an hour before the show I was contemplating my choices, and decided not to try sedation. Instead, I filled my pockets with treats and planned to give her a reward every time we heard a boom.

It worked GREAT! After the first few she couldn't care less about those silly fireworks. Clicker training success!!

Unfortunately my supply ran out before the finale... but she kept it together and only jumped a little bit, but even Handsome jumped at that so I can't blame her for it.

I'm so proud of her, and now I have a plan for next year- a larger supply of treats!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sweat equity

Sorry I've been missing but I've been busy, and not the fun kind of busy either, where I could tell you that Handsome's canter pirouettes are coming along and Gwen is piaffing on the long lines nicely. No, I've been busy busting my hump trying to turn almost 30 acres worth of overgrown scrub into something useful.

Here's the first field that we managed to open up:


It still needs a ton of work, there are some more trees and brush I want to pull out and it needs to be mowed regularly for about two years before the weeds stop overpowering the grass, but it gives the horses something to chew on for a little while- about three days, which is really obnoxious considering how much work it took to get it to this point.

Some of the brush and trees I pulled out of there, it looked a lot more impressive before the grass grew up
Here's the next area in my sights, crap-ton of work left to do here:




And then there's this area, looks beautiful doesn't it?


Well look closer... oh, what's that? It's a BOG! 


So that's where the pond is going at some point in the future. Sigh. It wouldn't be so bad if half our property wasn't waterlogged. That's what we get for looking at the place in the winter- a freaking marsh.

We got some new family members two months ago, want to see?




I could sit outside and watch these guys toodle around for hours, chickens are better than TV!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Hurry up grass!

I'm pretty sure that's what the Quarters have been saying for the past month. Unfortunately only the top two inches of soil have thawed so far, it's going to be a little longer before there's actually anything to graze on. Winter apparently still has it's ridiculously cold fingers in us.

I'm setting up my temporary paddock again, hoping that the horses can graze in there for a month while we get another section of our property cleared. The little Dude has been having a great time riding around in a backpack watching MomMom work. I'm currently scouting out a good place to set up a little ring so I can actually ride this year, it's a little tricky because I have to find a flattish, DRY spot of land that is already clear of trees where I can set up a ring that shares a fence with a pasture. Maybe that way I'll actually be able to accomplish something riding-wise without having both horses freak out.

In other news, I've become addicted to Kickstartr. Here's the latest project I've found that horse folks might be interested in, as if you don't already have enough ways to spend your money:








BTW- the barrel racing OTTB project did get funded. I'm waiting to hear how it's all working out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Barrel racing OTTBs

I was kicking around on Kickstarter the other day and found a group that's training off track thoroughbreds to barrel race, The X Project. Here's their opening paragraph:

In the past three years, over 70,000 Thoroughbreds have been registered as foals, according to Jockey Club statistics.  After their career on the track is over, these horses need to find a second career. The lucky ones find their way into rescues or trail homes.  Other lucky smaller ones into polo homes and the taller ones into hunter/jumper/dressage homes.  However, the Thoroughbreds standing 15.1 to 15.3 hands tall, the smaller/stockier build Thoroughbreds, seemed to fall through the cracks and a dim future awaited them until the Dreaming of Three's 100 day trainer challenge barrel race (Proceeds from this Event went to CANTER & Bright Futures Farm)!  

I backed this project with a bit of a knee-jerk reaction. People finding alternative uses for OTTB and keeping them from slaughter always seem like a good idea to me. Especially when they could save cuties like Stone Broke that are currently available from CANTER.


She's 15 hands of adorable, too bad my husband is adamantly against me having a third horse.

The thing is, I know nothing about barrel racing, much less whether a thoroughbred would be suitable for it. It seems like they should be, they're fast and most nowadays are bred for sprints anyway. But do they have the temperament and the bone integrity for it? What do you all think?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Things I wish I knew

The Quarters got their teeth floated yesterday. The vet I was having do their teeth is no longer traveling to my area so I had to look for local recommendations to find a replacement. I got one for a woman who is not a vet and all she does is teeth. I figured that someone who concentrates solely on teeth would probably be better than a general vet who just kinda "also does teeth."

Might be the best decision I ever made for my horses.

Comes out ex-dentist really wasn't doing a good job at all. My poor handsome boy, his teeth were so bad his jaw was literally locked up. She explained to me that when horses put their heads up, their jaw drops back; head down and the jaw slides forward; when the head moves from side-to-side the jaw also moves to compensate. Except his didn't: his teeth wouldn't let it.

"So that explains why I've been having such a hard time trying to get him to stretch into contact?" I asked.

"Yup," she said. "He literally couldn't do it."

Hoo boy, it was simultaneously vindicating and horrifying. It means I am not the worst rider in the world but now I feel like the worst horse owner in the world for not knowing his mouth was in such bad shape.

Gwen's mouth was better, but that's not saying much. I did decide to get her wolf teeth pulled. The dentist said the roots of wolf teeth dissolve away and fall out on their own when the horse is in their early teens, which would mean that Gwen had a time bomb in her mouth. I would not want to be sitting on her when one of those teeth worked loose, she's enough of a handful already thanks.

Gwen's wolf teeth, don't look like much do they?
Ugh, poor Handsome had to wait until he was almost 14 years old to get his teeth fixed. I feel terrible about that. This is why I share as much hoof knowledge as I can, so that owners have another resource to keep tabs on their horse's health and hopeful catch problems before they get too bad. Seems I have some learnin' about teeth to do.