Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

It's Baby New Year!

I hope 2011 is just as rewarding as 2010!

In 2010, I completed my first year of vet school with straight A's, I got married, and I had a baby! I think we were quite blessed in 2010.

In 2011, I anticipate a much more challenging time as I head back to my second year of vet school in the fall after a year break to be with my baby. I think that taking classes and having to be away from my baby for days at a time will be the hardest thing I have ever done. I already am not sure how I'll be able to swing it. If I had to go back right this very minute, there is no way I could leave her yet. She is just way to dependent on me and she would not cope well with Momma being gone. I really hope that by next fall, when she is a year old, that she will be a bit more independent of me, although I know she will still need me a lot (and I'll need her!). See, my husband and I live 2 hours from the school, so I'll have to stay in an apartment near school during the week. Some evenings, Todd will be able to come down, bring baby, and stay with me down there, but only after the ground freezes and they are not busy at work anymore.

In 2011, I am also planning a party to celebrate our marriage last year. We will celebrate on our 1 year anniversary. With being pregnant last year, I didn't much feel like partying, but I definitely will this next summer!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Holidays!

My baby was 3 months old on Christmas Eve.

I am so blessed.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Snow circles

No, I didn't lunge a horse out there! After the last big snow, I looked out over the pasture one morning and saw that the horses had made a perfect circle in the snow. They did this as a group through the knee deep snow!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sassy meets Pumpkin

Here is the 'Sassy and Pumpkin Meet' post, as promised.

Remember, we got Pumpkin in the Spring to serve as a guard animal. Todd had some problems with coyotes in the past and thought a guard animal would be something to try. Usually, donkeys are used with cows, but I also know that mules can be pretty fearless protectors. I found Pumpkin through a rescue. She was a 4 year old pony mule. The rescuer said that she chased dogs in the pasture, so we decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, Pumpkin did not take to the cows. She stood on the hill along the fenceline, calling to the horses (mine) that she could see across the valley. She ignored the cows, unless they were in her way. In that case, she pinned her ears and the cows scattered. They were scared to death of tiny Pumpkin, even though they were much larger.

Todd's nephew had a horse that he had lost interest in. He'd just gotten her that spring from a friend of his who was planning to attend college the next fall. But then, he also got a motorcycle and the horse fell on the back burner. The horse, Sassy, was a 5 year old paint/appaloosa mare who'd only been trail ridden previously. She is super friendly with people, but had been kept alone since her previous owner acquired her as a weanling. Sassy didn't have any social skills. She had been standing alone in a little pasture for most of the spring and summer and her pasture was getting rather eaten down, so Todd's nephew decided to turn her out with the cows and Pumpkin.

I thought that Pumpkin would be delighted to have an equine friend, but boy was I wrong! She saw Sassy as an intruder. She ran a couple of circles around Sassy, then promptly rounded up her cows and drove the painted intruder away from them!
If you look closely in this picture, you can see Sassy standing at the gate begging to be let out, while Pumpkin stands guard in her cow herd.

The tiny little mule had shed out into a lovely shiny chestnut color over the summer.

When I entered the pasture, Sassy followed me, looking for some security. I walked up the hill away from the cows.

Pumpkin watches from within her cow herd. Click the picture to see it bigger if you can't pick her head out!

Pumpkin decides to come up and see what's going on.

She sniffs the intruder's poo.

Then she sets chase after Sassy! Sassy runs for her life! This picture captures Sassy's stance well. It's almost as though she doesn't know how to run. She sort of "stots" like a mule deer.

Sassy runs right through the cow herd!

Pumpkin returns to the center of her herd, while Sassy must stand outcast.

Pumpkin comes again to check Sassy out and perhaps give her another talking to.

Sassy watches, prepared to run.

Within a week, these two were best friends. Pumpkin was definitely the boss of the two-some. This was the start of Pumpkin taking the protector role in the herd. Unfortunately, she took that role too far. She was with the cows that were about to have their first calves. Most of Todd's cows calve in the fall (to sell during that time when the demand is higher due to lower supply), but he always has the first calf heifers calve earlier so that their calves have a bit more substance to them going into winter. So, as summer went on, the heifers started having their calves. Pumpkin decided that the calves were hers. Some of them, she tried to steal from their mothers. I watched her do it. She would basically walk alongside the calf, circling around it and blocking it from its mother. The calf would start following her. If the mother tried to intervene, Pumpkin pinned her ears and even kicked the cow! The cows gave up. Probably if she'd been with the more experienced cows, she would not have gotten away with this. She had to eventually be removed from the pasture with her pal, Sassy, to prevent any further problems.

Pumpkin is a very interesting little animal. I remember when we visited the rescue, she was in heat. She displayed and teased the horses and managed to convince a gelding to mount her! It was kinda funny because she is so little. So, Pumpkin displays very intense heats, even though she is a mule, and is therefore sterile. There must be something in her that wants a baby so bad. I bet she would be a fantastic nanny to a foal that lost a mother...if she could be made to lactate.

Now, Sassy and Pumpkin are integrated into my herd. Pumpkin is no longer the queen of the pasture, but she doesn't seem to mind so much. I think she likes being with the other horses.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blizzardy weather

Oh the weather outside is frightful, but inside is so delightful.

While Daddy and baby Wren doze...

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!

We are having some blizzardy weather here in Wisconsin. While snow makes farm chores difficult, it is so pretty. It's the weekend, so my honey was home and more than happy to watch the baby while she napped, giving me a chance to get outside and play in the snow.

I went to visit the horses. While they have a barn available to them, they prefer to stand out exposed to the weather. If it gets really harsh, they just stand behind some brush or a hill to block the wind.

They have a nice insulative layer of snow.

During the winter and in dim light Chico and Cody look almost identical (Cody left, Chico right)

Sassy and Pumpkin have pretty much been accepted into the herd. Kachina is delighted because she is no longer the low horse on the totem pole. Both Pumpkin and Sassy are at the bottom. Kachina is the horse that I most often see pestering them and using her new-found power to move them around.

Kachina and Catlow rest, butts to the wind.

Catlow is unimpressed with the storm.

Kachina has icicles hanging from the whiskers around her eyes. They don't seem to bother her.

Growing baby

Wren is getting so big! And she's becoming more fun every day. She will be 3 months old exactly on Christmas Eve.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

There are now seven equines in my pasture! AHHHH!

On Sunday after Thanksgiving, we turned Pumpkin (pony mule) and her friend Sassy (paint/appaloosa) out with my horses. Pumpkin was originally adopted to be a guard animal to protect calves from coyotes and wolves. She started out not being protective at all but progressed to being too protective. She was with the first calf heifers and started stealing the new calves from their young mommas. She managed to break the bond between one pair and Todd spent a whole week trying to get the cow to accept her calf back. He had to pen them up and actually chase the cow into a chute and maneuver the calf to his mom to allow the calf to suckle several times a day. The cow eventually rebonded with her calf. Needless to say, Todd is not too pleased with the mule. He tried putting her with the bull but she kicks him in the head and steals the grain he needs to keep his energy up to breed cows. Todd is tired of maneuvering around the two, so they'll spend the winter with mine. Next spring we'll return Pumpkin to the rescue (they made me signn a paper saying she'd go back to them if we didn't want her anymore). Sassy is for sale. Todd's nephew is no longer interested in his horse (he got a motorcycle last summer) so I'll probably take the initiative to get her sold. She is a 5-year old grade mare who has only been trail ridden by a teenage girl before she sold her to Todd's nephew last summer.

We kept the two in the mustang pen overnight to let the horses get used to eachother through the panels. Then we turned them out. I blocked 4 of my herd out in the big pasture and left Cody (boss mare) in to meet the newcomers and put them in their place (this has always worked very well before). Pumpkin is a little animal with big attitude. She thinks she can bully anyone into getting her way. She's really good with people, but a bully around cows and now we'll see how she is with horses. Sassy is just a follower. She was never socialized with other horses. She was kept alone from weanling stage through this summer as a 5 year old. Pumkin is her first equine friend and she follows her everywhere.

My horses realize something is up. Cody is on this side of the fence and Kachina is on the other side of the fence.

As Pumpkin and Sassy head out where the other horses are, the herd of 4 scatters and Cody really wants to scatter with them. She runs out into the other pasture along the fenceline to stay close to them and get away from the newcomers.

Cody really wanted to be with the other horses. I think the mule's fearless attitude, combined with the fact that there were two of them and only one of her left her feeling very vulnerable.

Ghost watches the goings-on from a safe place.

And there goes Pumpkin, exploring her new place, with Sassy hot on her heals...I wasn't worried about Sassy ganging up on Cody, she's a big chicken with other horses.

Cody watches, horrified as they get closer.

Seriously, the mule is fearless. If she wants to go somewhere, she goes and expects everyone to get out of her bowling pins reacting to a bowling ball! Cody is freaked.

Here, you can see Cody has joined the others. She ended up running up into the woods, then made a decision and went through the fence to be with her buddies. Meanwhile, Pumpkin and Sassy head out to explore other parts of the pasture. Don't worry, Cody is fine. The two strands of hotwire snapped easily as she went through...normally she has great respect for the fence.

As they go out of sight, Kachina can't stand not being able to gawk at them, so she goes trotting with a purpose, through the gate (which I now opened) to check them out more. But she doesn't go near them, she comes around so that she can stare at her buddies.

Cody and Chico look for the newbies...doesn't Cody look freaked out?

Griffin and Catlow look for the newbies and hope that Kachina doesn't fall prey to the evil mule.

Then Pumpkin decides to head out into the big pasture where all the other horses are...I don't think she went to meet them, rather to explore her new territory. She didn't pay much attention to them. Sassy, hot on her heels...

Kachina watches with fascination...she's still separated from the others by a fence, but now she's safe from the mule and new horse.

At this point, there are now two distractions for my horses. Griffin and Cody are staring at the mule and horse, while Catlow and Chico are staring at the turkeys who have discovered the pasture and are foraging up near the house.

Cody, with Chico's help, confronts the mule and tries to run her off.

They succeed. I noticed that as time went on, the two geldings were the ones running the newbies away from the herd, while the mares stayed together and stayed out of it. Normally, my mares put the newbies in their place...but they've never faced a mule before.

Sassy must also have some arab in her; that tail stayed curled over her back anytime she got near the other horses.

Fearless Pumpkin leads Sassy to check out the turkeys.

Kachina can't decide who is scarier...the turkeys or the new horses.

The geldings stand guard.

The mares stand back.

The herd decides to take action.

I wanted them to all meet in the big pasture because there is no place for anyone to get caught and ganged up on. It's just big open space. The only danger here then is someone gets up to much speed and can't stop when they encounter a fence...thankfully that didn't happen here. My fences are very well marked so that the mustangs could see it well when I first turned them out.

Pumpkin and Sassy take flight.

My horses (minus Kachina who hasn't managed to get up the courage to come through the gate to meet them because it means walking toward the turkeys eventhough they are far far away) stand and watch the newbies. I think their colors are beautiful in the fall sun with the dead grass as a backdrop.

They seemed to be doing well, so I left them to get to know eachother better. Later, I watched them from the house. Pumpkin was grazing in the middle of the pasture, fairly close to the herd, while Sassy was standing in the far corner near the house watching them...everytime she got anywhere near the herd, Griffin would jump in and run her off...really run her off. He was running her full speed up the fenceline. Funny that Pumpkin was allowed to grazed closer to them. They did chase her off, but halfheartedly and they seemed to mostly ignore her. I wonder if Sassy is outcast because of her spots...Griffin is from a herd where all the horses are solid white.

Monday morning all 7 critters are upright, although they are segregating themselves. The pasture is big enough so this works out just fine.

This morning they are getting along even better, though Sassy is still an outcast...I think that's a combination of Griffin chasing her off and Sassy not knowing how to defend herself.

I think I'll have to go back in my pic files and post some about when Sassy first met Pumpkin...very entertaining!