Tuesday, August 31, 2010

De-Worming made easier

Today was one of the horse's favorite days (not) - worming day. We have to do this a few days each year and I finally woke up and realized these days could be hard or easy. I've mentioned this on the blog before but a couple of years ago after a morning of chasing down horses and having paste wormer all over my hands I decided their had to be an easier way. Since the majority of the horses live outside 24/7 I don't have the luxury of just going from stall to stall and worming all of the horses. And once you've put the tube of wormer in the first horse's mouth out in the pasture, they all KNOW what you want to do and play the "you can't catch me" game.

Thus the next time worming day rolled around I prepared feed as I always did. I put the feed in the feedbags, put the feedbags in water to soak, then removed them from the water and add any medications and supplements that might be needed. Except that morning every horse had a "supplement" in their feed - paste wormer! To my delight they all ate it, every single one of them. A few of them tried to not eat it but that is the beauty of feedbags, they cannot walk away from their feed, it just goes with them. They can't graze or eat hay instead of eating the "poisoned" feed. So after awhile they just gave up and ate. Although surprisingly most of them don't even act like they notice there is anything different in their food, they just gobble it up like normal.

I've refined my approach a bit since my initial attempt at an easier way to get through de-worming day. I now know the ones that take forever to eat their wormer laced feed, there is a handful of them, and I just shove the tube down their throat the old fashioned way. They will eat their wormer laced food eventually, I simply find it quicker to just shoot it down their throats than stand around waiting for them to finally eat. However it is a lot easier to do this with four or five horses and not all of them. My hands (and my hair) are not covered in horse slobber and paste wormer and there are no "runners" to chase down.

I don't know how well this approach would work without the feedbags. It would be easy for the horses to just not eat, go graze or go eat hay. The other advantage I have is all of the horses are used to eating soaked feed every day, and it is so much easier to mix and hide stuff in soaked feed. I guess my point is I am not sure how well this work if you just mixed the wormer in with dry feed in a feed bucket in a stall. Luckily for me it works like a charm for our set-up!

Homer trying to get Slinky's attention over the fence

Pay attention to me little pony!!

Fine, if you are going to ignore me then I will ignore you!

Lily was very unhappy after having a bath. I have no idea what prompted Jason to start scratching her belly with a broom while she drip dried in the wash rack but he did.

Her expression changed from grumpy to happy

Josephine (Jo) wanted Wilhelmina (Mina) to play with her. Mina kept ignoring her so Jo decided to stand on her. Of course we all know they are the World's Cutest Fainting Goats.

Then Jo tried butting Mina

Then Jo tried pawing Mina with her leg

I'm not exactly sure what Jo was doing here but it didn't work because Mina did not get up to play.

Dutch and Murphy were grazing and The Don (rooster) joined them

The Don hanging out with Fuzzy Punch and Murphy

Trigger, Levendi, Apollo, Homer, Thomas and Baby

Ivan and Lightening playing over the fence

Missy, Harmony and MyLight

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Farm Progress

We've been busy with our farm building projects at the new farm lately. Jason managed to dig the trenches, lay the pipes, get everything hooked up and the lines re-buried for our first 940 feet of water line. He did this by himself (well with the help of a trencher) in a single day. I was extremely impressed by this. Jason was impressed by himself as well, as he should be! He said he would never EVER do that much work in one day again. Can't say I blame him for feeling that way.

We also have a driveway which is quite convenient. The barn has all of the trusses in place and about half the roof done. We are having the roof insulated so it makes building the roof slower as they are putting up the insulation as they go. The people building our barn were also on vacation last week so obviously nothing happened on the barn. That will change this week. I must say we have been more than pleased with the people who are building the barn. We did a "test run" when we had them build the first run-in shed before having them build the barn. They do exactly what they say they are going to do, exactly when they say they will do it, at exactly the cost they said it would be. How rare is it to be able to say all of that in the same sentence about a builder!

In another week or so things are going to start looking less like a construction zone and more like horse heaven!

We have a driveway - you don't realize how convenient a driveway is until you don't have one!

The barn without about half the roof done

Parking area in front of the barn

Jason put some tile drain down where the stalls will be and had gravel fill put in. This is our first step in preparing the stall floors.

Jason is so proud of his water lines and taps he took a picture of the water running. I thought it was cute.

Spike making bedroom eyes at the mares across the alley

Jo and Mina hanging out in the barn
Cinnamon enjoying a good roll in the dust

Followed by the big dusty shake afterwards

Sparky walking along; Sparky was originally running wild out west and was rounded up by the BLM. We don't know exactly where he came from or exactly how old he is as we were not his original adopters. I sometimes wonder if he misses (or even remembers) being wild. We've had him for 14 years. He really likes wearing his sheet and blanket in the winter, and if Sparky doesn't want you to do something it doesn't happen. Domestication seems to be agreeing with him. He is a great example of how adaptable our equine friends really are.



MyLight, Missy and Harmony

Lucky enjoying a good chest scratch on the fence (I can assure you Jason is NOT smiling as he looks at this picture - all he sees is potentially another fence board to repair!). I like Lucky's closed eyes and pointed nose, he was really enjoying a good scratching session.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Life Without Horses

For the love of all things holy, don't tell Melissa, but I have a confession to make. After having spent the first thirty years of my life in blissful ignorance of horses, I've found that in marrying a horse woman (and running a horse farm for my living), that I actually kind of like horses. Every morning before, during and after feeding, I greet, scratch and play with nearly every horse on the farm, from the newest (Boo), who I great by saying "Hellooooooo Saddlebred" (and his buddy Justin the QH) to the oldest.

My days are often very long and occasionally quite physically tiring. One of the things I do to make long days filled with physical work bearable is to take many short breaks to fool with the critters. It never fails to calm me or to put a smile on my face, no matter how hectic the day.

In truth, I can't really imagine life without horses, but let's just keep this our little secret, eh ?

How do horses (and/or horse care) make you feel ?

*** Editors Note *** We are having trouble posting pictures tonight. Rest assured they will be forthcoming as soon as our technical glitches are rectified !

Monday, August 23, 2010

Justin and Boo

There is so much to love about the stories of Justin and Boo, not the least of which is that their owner, a very remarkable young lady, has been completely and solely responsible for their bills and care since she has owned them. Now this might not seem that impressive until you realize that she bought Justin when she was eleven years old, and then acquired Boo when she was thirteen. Since she was eleven years old she has paid the board bill, the farrier bill, the vet bill, purchased tack - and has done this completely on her own. I am even more impressed that she has done this on her own for two horses since she was thirteen!

Justin is a 29 year old Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross. When his mom went on her horse hunt at the ripe old age of 11 Justin was not what she was looking for. As she said, color is important when you are 11, and what she wanted was a sorrel horse with a flaxen mane and tail, and most importantly, with lots of chrome. When she went to look at Justin what came out of the stall was a fat mud colored horse with no chrome and a star that looked like the western hemisphere on his face. She was in love and agreed to buy him… in 4 months.

Justin with his facial marking that resembles the western hemisphere

During that 4 months she found a boarding facility and purchased tack. When the big day finally came she was up at 5am (in her words up earlier than she ever had been for Christmas) and their beautiful friendship began. Her mom would drop her off at the barn at 7am and pick her up at 5pm, and she and Justin spent their days together.


She began riding Justin bareback and within weeks had mastered all three gaits bareback. She only bothered to use her tack when her mom happened to be around. She said some of her favorite memories are of her and Justin flying flat out a gallop, bareback, across wide open fields. When she would walk out to the pasture to get Justin to bring him in to feed him, she would ride back in bareback. But not at a walk. They would fly to the gate – she would close her eyes and hold her arms out to the side while they flew. When they reached the gate Justin would slide to a stop and then wait for her to get off.

I love this story she told me when a fellow boarder saw her and Justin. The fellow boarder had come down to talk to the barn owner (83). The boarder looked up to see her and Justin running flat out in the pasture. Shocked and alarmed she exclaimed “We need to do something to help that kid – her horse is running away with her!” The barn owner just smiled and said “She’s alright… that’s her dad over there – he’s timing her!”

Justin did some showing off for me in my arena - here he is galloping along

Justin and his mom also did a lot of showing locally. They showed in hunter flat classes, Justin's show name is SS Just Like Clockwork. He would switch gears from racing around the pasture to being a steady eddy at the shows and they were regular winners.

Justin's earlier years were not as idyllic as his years with his mom. He was someone’s dressage prospect when he got into a trailer accident. His people
dumped him at the local auction… notorious for passing through sick and unsound (physically and mentally) horses. He ended up in the hands of a horse trader who was looking to make a quick buck. Problem was, the horse trader didn’t get along with Justin and his wily ways. So Justin was turned out in a dirt arena and essentially forgotten. There were only scrubs of grass here and there, he was not being fed, and the only water he drank came from accumulated rain in an empty bucket. He had lost a tremendous amount of weight, and was about a 2 on the scale with remnants of bloody wraps hanging off of his legs when he was rescued. Justin's rescuer spent a long time re-habbing him, and apparently she had a good feeling about the 11 year old girl who looked at him when he was ready to find a new partner - and she was right.

Justin and Boo being rambunctious; they love to play

Boo is a a 22 year old Saddlebred gelding and was originally on the racking horse circuit. Racking was hard for Boo, as he had a tremendous amount of hock action. That made it hard for him to ‘sit’on his hind end and shuffle off. Problem was that once he got his hind end in gear, he was so good that the trainers kept making him do it. It made him crazy (not a cute crazy but more like “I will run THROUGH that wall with you if you touch my mouth again” kind of crazy).

Boo wound up working his way through a series of bad situations (that tends to happen when people fry a horse both mentally and physically) and ended up living in a pasture by himself for four years. Through a series of twists and turns someone told his mom about Boo. At the ripe old age of 13 she had decided to purchase a second horse to show. Boo was described to her as “a big, bold chestnut Saddlebred named Rex. A real show horse."


After hearing about Boo's history, she was expecting nothing short of a giant fire breathing monster. He came in late one night, as it had taken the owners all day to catch him out in that field (remember he hadn't been handled in 4 years), put shoes on him and drive him to the barn. They put him in a stall until the morning. Just as she did with Justin, she woke up early and jetted out to the barn. The stalls at this barn were hollowed out from years of use, and this particular stall had about 10 inches of difference between the barn aisle and the stall floor. She flipped on the light and opened up the door, expecting to see her giant fire breather named Rex. Instead, she saw the cutest little pony with big brown puppy dog eyes looking at her with his ears pricked forward as far as they would go. He was so cute, and she smiled as she asked him “How are you doing Boo-boo?”

The first few years of Boo ownership were touch and go as Boo was quite unpredictable. One time, they were riding up to the arena (her horses stayed in pasture, and to get to the arena, they had to walk up a gravel road about 1/8 mile away). They were halfway there when Boo lost it for no apparent reason, as they ambled along bareback with only a halter and leadrope. Boo wheeled with enough speed to rival a good reining horse and then took off down the small trail next to the gravel road at a dead gallop; she had to dodge tree limbs and saplings as he blindly ran down the steep trail.

Boo has a big, floating trot stride when he really gets going, it is lovely. When I was watching him run, buck and play in my arena it made me think about the story of Boo jumping the Honda Civic - not planned by him or his rider!

Being young, his mom just laughed at him the whole time while attempting to stop him. But there was no stopping him. They quickly made it to the bottom of the trail, where everything opened up. In this area to the right was the tack and feed building for the pasture horse owners. She assumed that as this was where he was fed every day, this is the direction he would take. Wrong. Straight ahead at the entrance/exit of the trail there were two trees about 12 feet apart. In her words: "In case you’re wondering, that’s just enough space to park a Honda Civic… a brand new Honda Civic. As Boo passed his exit opportunity to the right, I looked forward to see what was ahead. He was going so fast he didn’t even have time to think… and so we jumped over the Civic. I’m sure it was a fantastic sight to see from the ground, but the only words that came to mind as we were sailing over were “Holy S***!” Thankfully, he cleared it. But, it was a while before I rode him up to the arena after that!

The Don being curiously followed by yet another horse (he has to break them all in!)

Boo and his mom spent many years showing together on the local Saddlebred circuit doing the hunter classes. They won more than their fair share of classes and championships. Later they dabbled in barrel racing and gymkhana events, and did well in them as well.

I hope you enjoyed reading the stories of Justin, Boo and their amazing owner as much I enjoyed learning about them. All three of them are wonderful in person. Jason and I are very blessed to be in a business that regularly allows us to meet not only amazing horses, but the amazing people associated with them.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Fun and Transitions

Over the past few weeks, a lot of folks have asked us about when and how we planned to transition to our new farm. Since we bought the property in late January, Melissa and I have run the gamut on this; we've literally talked through and thought about every option possible.

Melissa and I are in this business for the long term and we are financially committed to it's success. It is a major part of our living, our lifestyle, our savings and our nest egg all wrapped into one big package.

It's a sad truism that most horse businesses that sink do so because of poor (and often grandiose) financial planning. We've taken every reasonable step possible to ensure that we won't fall into that trap. For almost six years, since the day we got married, we have chosen to live in cash on a small fraction of the income we earned, and we've diligently saved and invested the rest. We are both risk averse from a financial perspective, so other than a small mortgage on the land (which we mostly did for tax reasons), we decided early on that this new farm will be built out and equipped strictly with cash and that the money would come from a combination of our personal savings and cash flow provided by the business. When the property is built out and complete according to our vision, we will have close to two million dollars invested in it and we will owe nothing against it. We believe that the first thing we owe to our clients and to ourselves is the safety of continued financial solvency.

In order to achieve building out this property in a reasonable time frame under this methodology, we decided some time ago that we needed to move in stages. Stage one was quitting my corporate job and focusing my efforts full time here on the farm. I did that about three months ago. Stage two is nearing completion and we're excited about it ! After finishing the barn and doing a little bit more fencing we will almost be ready to move our first group of lucky horses down there. We have been clipping pastures to thicken the grass sward in preparation for this event for the past five months !

Melissa and I have managed to hire and retain excellent help at our current location. We need to repeat this experience at our new farm and that is the next thing on my agenda. In fact, we need two people; one to act as competent horse help under our close guidance and another person to act as competent caretaker during the (very few) hours Melissa and I aren't there. Neither Melissa nor I feel comfortable entrusting our horse care to hired help no matter how good they may be. Nobody is invested in the success of this venture nearly as heavily as we are, and we're both "worriers" and perfectionists to boot.

Fortunately, the two farms are close enough to permit one or the other of us to be at either farm all day, every day and we will continue to do most of the hands-on horse care ourselves. This was the primary reason we wanted to buy something reasonably proximate to our current location and I am SO GLAD we did ! Excepting that the location is different, our goal is to ensure that the horses and our clients will notice no change to the level of their care.

We are at a very exciting stage; one which we have been working towards for a very long time. When all our friends were buying fancy new cars, big new houses and going on amazing vacations we chose to live very differently, and I believe our decisions are starting to pay off for us in a very big way. I'm not trying to sound smug when I say this but it's (finally) beginning to be fun to be us right now !
Lily, I like her soft expression in this picture
Levendi enjoying his afternoon siesta

some of the Big Boys surrounding the Kubota; they always find the Kubota of extreme interest

Elfin says "If I had opposable thumbs I would so be running that chainsaw right now."

Cinnamon and Bonnie grazing in the shade

Lucky and O'Reilly

Slinky let the fence hold his head up while he napped
B-Rad and Alex
Harmony and Missy
Spike, Slinky, Lucky and O'Reilly

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Pigs In Slop

We had some steady rain off and on yesterday afternoon and evening. There is an area at the corner of my arena that is a low spot and tends to make a puddle after it rains. I watched the some of the horses in this pasture having a grand time with this puddle today. They were having so much fun in the muddy water that the best description for them was they looked like pigs in slop. It was fun to watch them cavorting and being so silly.

Ogie was the first one in and he splashed the water with his front legs for a few minutes. Asterik watched him.

Then Asterik decided to join Ogie in the splashing

Asterik decided to take the fun one step further . . .

. . . gray horses are genetically programmed to get as dirty as possible and Asterik was no exception today

A few minutes later Winston joined in the fun. Winston and Asterik splashed and played and rolled while Ogie watched. B-Rad and Alex also watched.

Chance on the move

B-Rad grazing while Alex looks around

Faune, Sebastian and Winston were almost hidden in the early morning fog

Leo and Grand

Cuff Links, Lily and Harmony

Trigger and Lucky playing over the fence


Snappy, Teddy, Clay, Silky, Spike, O'Reilly, Lucky, Lightening