Monday, December 22, 2014

Fighting for their supper

My poor horses, having to deal with this:

Handsome is wearing soaking boots because of THRUSH! Aaarrggh! I'm so frustrated about this, I would chalk it up to fall swampiness but he has thrush in the middle of summer when the ground is dry. Since the feed is always the same I'm wondering if it's the culprit. I swapped out their feed last weekend so I can see if the added sugar in it was causing the thrush. Not that I was feeding sweet feed, but there was molasses in it. I'm hoping that not having any molasses will have a positive effect. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Dressage: How it used to be

Post by Thomas Kirst.

If for nothing else, make sure you watch to the end where you can see a woman pat down the sweaty horse and then enthusiastically shake her hand off. Hehe.

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


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.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Wisdom from Denny Emerson

If you're on Facebook and you don't follow this guy, you should. His post this morning was too good to pass up:

"ENGAGEMENT" The act of stepping under, planting, and lifting", and how it is related to connection:

In the first picture, Essie is allowing Veloz to trot along with little to no connection, because if you "connected" a 100 mile trail horse, back to front, and asked him to engage his hocks for miles, you would swiftly do him in from sheer exhaustion.

In the photos of Mr Watjen, he is creating push from behind into a carefully monitored constraint with his hands and body position to encourage the horse to step more under (engage) and LIFT, rather than simply PUSH, which is what Veloz is doing.

"Negotiated driving aids into negotiated restraining aids to create the engagement which leads eventually to greater lift, which in turn leads eventually to creating the strength required for some degree of "self carriage".

Correct, systematic dressage work is akin to human athletes working on weight machines at the gym, to build strength, power, and greater athletic ability.

You can't build lifting strength by pulling back on the reins. You can't build lifting strength by driving from behind into no contact. You can't build lifting strength by driving from behind into hard, rigid constraint with the hands against the bit.

You use "negotiated driving aids into negotiated restraining aids", basically half halt after half halt, and let the "magic" of time do its job of building lifting power.

All our good American dressage riders learned this concept "with their mother`s milk", so to speak. This knowledge is starting to trickle down into the other disciplines, into some more than into others. LEARN IT if you aspire to improve your riding skills.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Healthy bars

Cindy had a very good question about my last hoof post: What do healthy bars look like?

In a nutshell:
  • Healthy bars end at the midpoint of the frog
  • they are straight instead of bowed
  • they stand up, not pushed over onto the sole
  • they are not so long and deep that you can't see the bottom of the collateral groove
  • really healthy bars point toward the frog and not the toe

In detail: 

First we have to know what the internal bar structure looks like. In this photo you see a pretty nice hoof, the heels were nice and wide and the corium was healthy. You can see that the bar corium (outlined) angles in from the heels to the midpoint of the frog.

(I encourage you to click on these photos and zoom in to see the detail, they are important.)
Photo by Cheryl Henderson
In this, slightly less healthy, hoof you can see that the bar corium has started to angle toward the toe but they still end at the midpoint of the frog.
Photo from HP Hoofcare

 In this, really unhealthy, hoof you can see the bar corium (bright red) points straight toward the toe but they still end at the midpoint of the frog.
Photo from HP Hoofcare
What all these hooves have is common is that the bars all end at the midpoint of the frog. That is true whether they are healthy or terrible. So when I trim I try to get the bars to end at the midpoint of the frog- to keep the external structures similar to the internal structures.

The angle is a different story. You can tell by the above hooves that if the hoof is contracted and unhealthy the bars are going to point straight at the toe. You can't change this by trimming, only the full weight of the horse on the heels will get them to open up and point the bars toward the center of the hoof. What you can do is make sure the bars aren't so long they are digging into the hoof and aren't laid over so they are suffocating the sole. Essentially, you want to trim the bars to give the horse comfort; that will facilitate the hoof transforming into a healthy shape.

The following two photos show my second trim on a contracted hoof. I use the bar lamina to outline the bars from the heel turnaround (seat of corn) to the frog. I then try to make the bars as straight as possible and I slope them "downhill" from the heels to the frog. I do this so the bars are "passive," meaning that they don't bear weight which is especially important if the bars are impacted. While I do this I try to take off as little sole as possible, this can be a very time consuming process of taking off thin slivers at a time. It takes a sharp knife, a steady hand and lots of practice (I admit, I still need more practice) and can be made even harder by a fidgety horse. 

In this closer view of the above hoof, you can see the bar lamina as the demarcation between the inner/unpigmented bar wall and the sole. In this horse it's easy to see because the sole is slate colored.

If you can't see the lamina the bars are laid over the sole. If there is a black line along the bars it means they've laid over the sole and trapped dirt and thrush under them. That trapped dirt and thrush will destroy any sole underneath it, not good.

This next photo is after my first trim on a pony. The circled areas show bruising from overgrown bar, bruises that weren't visible until I started pulling the bar off the sole (Excess bar puts too much pressure on the corium below it, crushing blood vessels and creating these bruises.). Lots of horses have these bruises but you don't see them because the bar that causes the bruises also covers them up.

This last hoof is mostly healthy and shows little sign of contraction. You can see how the bars on this hoof angle in toward the frog instead of pointing down to the toes. I didn't make this happen, I just followed the bar lamina. These bars are pretty close to ideal, if your horse has bars that look like this chances are that horse is sound.

Bars should look similar to this

Here's a how-to guide to trimming bars similar to the way I trim:

Questions? Please comment.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Legendary White Stallions

Check out this Nature documentary on PBS while you can, it expires on Feb. 11.