Well, I am back in ID. I just got in last night. This break went so fast. I did get to ride my horses, but not as often as I had planned. The cold weather and that darn manuscript that I had to work on prevented that. Because I’ve been rather busy, I haven’t written in a while, so I’ll catch you up now. I have lots of pics to add to this post, but the disk my mom burned for me of her pics will not open right now. I'll update this post when I get the pictures from my mom.
This shows the view standing on my parent's porch, looking down toward my grandma's house. The horses are right behind her house (you can see the shed where Ms. Turkey lives). Their pasture encompasses both treed hills. You can kinda see the orange panels through the trees to the right of Grandma's house.
All last weekend and week, I let the horses out for a little longer each day and then brought them in each evening (bribed with oats). Thursday night (Nov. 27th) was the first night that we left them out overnight. I figured they’d been transitioned onto their grass pasture at that point, and had eaten down the best spots. Surprisingly, they came in for their evening little bit of oats, I also gave them hay, and they showed no interest in going back out to graze! And they were still in the paddock the next morning, even though I left it open. I guess they were used to the routine, and the green grass has lost a bit of its novelty. But I was surprised that they chose to eat the hay (which was a bit dusty with mold – some of the hay was rained on a bit as they were baling it up - I’ve been giving the bales that are moldy too to let them pick through it themselves) rather than go back out and graze on pasture. The hay bales in our barn are about 5% slightly moldy grass hay, 60% grass and some grass/clover mixed, and about 35% clover. We also have large round bales that are grass with a bit of clover mixed in. The horses LOVE the clover hay. They eat it like it is candy. My parents are going to give them a feeding of clover every few days, for variety. For now, they’ll just give them two feedings of hay a day, with the option of grazing on pasture. After snow covers the ground and it gets really cold, my dad will drop a round bale out so that they can free-graze that as needed.
Chico’s abscess is not quite healed up. It still is breaking open and oozing serum/pus. Chico himself is actually keeping it open. I think it must bother him when a scab forms over it and prevents drainage, then he bites at it and reopens it. He’s still not lame on it, and it is not worse, just still slowly draining. I rode Chico out and around our property first. We went through the woods and then down by the pond. Then I rode him up the road to our neighbors place and rode around the cranberry marsh. Cranberry marshes are fun to ride on because each long rectangular “bed” is surrounded by a raised sand/dirt road (sand and clay are the two predominant soil types in our immediate area). These long straight sandy roads are great for trotting and cantering down. Back when I had the thoroughbred (Taz), I took him down these roads a couple of times and let him gallop. He was a race horse in is younger years and he sure did remember how to run! Cantering down these roads with the mustangs and Cody was really fun. On our ride, Chico was pretty confident, but also very cautious, and there definitely were a few things that worried him. He’d go anywhere I asked, but while softly blowing through his nose at the strange sites (large shed, snowmobiles stored in a row, neighbors cows). The one thing that he did not blink an eye at that surprised me was the huge fertilizer/pesticide boom extending off a large truck. I think it looked too much like panels and stuff that he’s used to. I expected him to at least look at it funny but he didn’t.
I took Catlow on a long ride the next time I rode. Catlow was awful. Well, she was mostly just awful while we were still on my parent’s property. Once we got further away, she settled down. On the property though, she was in a different world and she was very nervous. When I took her up to the house to saddle her, all she could do was pace and get huffy because she could kinda see where the other horses were in the pasture across the road, but not really. She was very upset, and overreacted to a lot of things. She felt that she should not be up there all by herself and needed to be down with the other horses. I saddled her up, and worked her from the ground in the field, but it made her more upset, so I took her down to the others to lunge her a bit more. I wanted her to calm down before I mounted up. She did calm down, but after I mounted something spooked the others (or they just felt good) while we were there and they took off running to the other side of the pasture and Catlow went ballistic trying to follow after them. I just sat calmly with her head pulled around to my knee and waited for her to stop circling. Then I decided we were going to get out and ride. My grandma came around the corner of her house (Our barn is right behind my grandma’s house, just down the road from our house) with a red wheelbarrow, and Catlow wouldn’t go near that thing. She even refused to go around it (because that was going the opposite direction of where the other horses were). She wasn’t just being stubborn; she was scared. I had to dismount (she was shaking), and walk up and touch it. Then she immediately approached it to sniff it, then as soon as she was okay with it, she was heads up looking for the other horses and the next thing that might be out there to eat her. I rode her down on the marsh. She could still kinda see back toward home, so she was looking back and was definitely on alert, but I did some trotting, flexing and some cantering on her. By the time we got to the other end of the marsh and out on the road still riding away from home, she was much calmer. Definitely on alert, but more relaxed. So I rode her out a long ways and did a big loop (probably ended up being a 6 mile ride). She really did relax quite a bit, but then, just before went got back home, I think she became aware of the fact, and so became hyped up again (walking really fast and trying to keep breaking into a trotting while looking for the other horses). I took her back up to the house to unsaddle her and she was just as bad as she was before the ride. Pawing while tied, pacing, high headed and trying to look down to see the other horses. My dad walked up and was talking to her and scratching her on the chin and she was getting irritated and nipping at his hand. He was surprised because he’d never seen her like this before (I have though, when I used to take her out for walks when I first started working with her). I know she will get better (she did before), but she needs time to settle in and get used to this new environment. When I get back in March, I’ll start working a lot with her and get her riding out relaxed again. It just takes lots of one on one work to get her to trust me more to feel safe with me when we are out alone. She is the sweetest calmest horse when she feels comfortable, but right now, like I said, she is wrapped up in her own little stressed out horsey world and humans don’t have much of a place in it when she is there.
Then on my next ride, I took Cody out. She was very good. Alert and cautious, but much more relaxed about the strange equipment than Chico was (Cody grew up on a cluttered farm). I also took her down the cranberry marsh road. She was quite good. After we came out of the woods onto the road, she became more nervous and thought there was something scary back through the woods (I think she was seeing the snow on the side of the sand hill through the trees where we had just come from and she couldn’t tell what that big swath of white was). She became a little hyped up and so I took her off the road into a meadow and we trotted little circles in both directions for about 5 minutes. By then she forgot what she had been worried about, so when we were finished, she walked on out rather calmly like she hadn’t been worried before.
My dad rode with me on Thanksgiving Day morning. The kids were at the house, and of course wanted to sit on a horse, so we got them both up before we went. They are just tickled to sit on the horses. Hopefully it lasts until I can get my horses relaxed and obedient enough to where I can take them out double with the kids. I think it will though. Partly because we are not dragging them down to the barn and pushing them to do things with the horses. Instead, they are only allowed to just sit on them, then Grandpa and Aunt Kara go off and ride them (and Grandpa and Aunt Kara are their favorite people, so by default, riding horses is just really cool).
We just rode around our property. My dad was on Cody and I was on Chico.
It was rather uneventful. They were together so were pretty much completely relaxed (meanwhile, Catlow was screaming for them back in the corral). We we got back from the ride, my dad wanted to see if Cody would follow him up onto the deck. She did.
Remember, the 9-day deer/gun season in WI is a holiday and the woods are PACKED with people. It is required that hunter's wear blaze orange for safety, and it is essential that anyone in the woods for whatever reason, wear blaze orange.
The evening of Thanksgiving, after we got back from my sister’s house, my dad and I trimmed up all three. I wanted to get that done before I left so that my Dad wouldn’t have to worry about it while I was gone. And if he does have to do it, then he’ll have seen how I like to trim them and so would stick to my program. My dad’s mom’s brother is a farrier and my dad spent a lot of time with him, so he learned to trim horses from him. But he did it the old way where you cut out a bunch of sole every time you trim instead of letting it callous up and exfoliate on its own. I explained what I’m trying to do with these horses and he completely understands the barefoot trimming and thinks it’s great, so I know my horses are in good hands.
Pulling burs from Chico's mane (where are they finding these things!)
Rasping Chico's hooves. He didn't need much done since I'd done him most recently.
On the barefoot topic, I’m sure each of you (if you do the barefoot thing) have run into or know people who are rather traditional and will not ride a horse off their property unless it is shod on all four feet. I know a few, and one of their strongest reasons for not being open-minded about the barefoot thing is that they’ve never seen a working ranch that does their horses barefoot. Because of that, they think barefoot riding is only for pasture pets and those phoofy new age horse people (which I apparently am!). Well, I gotta tell you that I have seen a working ranch that keeps their horses barefoot - my friend’s husbands family who lives in SE Montana! They are very open-minded educated cattle ranchers, and they know people who are proponents of keeping horses barefoot. They told me that their horses do really well. Granted, they do not use horses to do EVERYTHING on the ranch – often they use trucks when they can – but there are times of the year and places where horses are the only way to access and move cattle, so they are for sure using horses as work animals. And I know they’d shoe their horses if they couldn’t handle it. I just thought you’d all be interested.
Hope and Possibilities
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