Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Clicker Training for Elephants

I love elephants, I always have. Therefore I think it is really neat that middle Tennessee happens to be home to The Elephant Sanctuary. The Elephant Sanctuary is a non-profit organization that takes in old, sick or needy elephants. Typically these elephants are being retired from zoos and circuses. Their facility is located on 2,700 acres of land.

The sanctuary is not open to the public as their main goal is to allow the elephants to bond with their groups and just be elephants. Many of these elephants spent enough time being stared at during their tenures with zoos and circuses.

In some ways I feel like we are kindred spirits with the Sanctuary. The sanctuary has beautiful facilities to care for the elephants while at the same time doing their best to let the animals live as natural a lifestyle as possible in a non-natural setting. Of course there are differences, with a big one being the horses retired with us are not needy and have loving owners willing to provide for them.

I follow the Sanctuary on Facebook and about three weeks ago they posted a video where the leg chain was removed from Billie, one of the residents. Billie has been at the sanctuary for five years and remained so traumatized by her lifetime of harsh handling that they had never been able to remove her leg chain.

It looks like they finally got her chain off through the use of clicker training! I've used clicker training with the horses from time to time when there has been a tough issue to deal with, such as my horse's needle phobia. Obviously clicker training is used with many species and I thought it was fun to watch the video of Billie's chain being removed while hearing the clicks in the background. In the video description posted by the Elephant Sanctuary it said the targets they were using to direct Billie's foot were bamboo sticks with cotton tops.

I just had to share this story that combined two things of such interest to me, elephants and clicker training!

video of Billie's leg chain finally being removed

You certainly feel the love when you see these eager faces watching you at meal time. Asterik, George and Romeo

Tiny, Rampal and Johnny

Lily and Cuff Links

Lightening, Lucky, Spike and Noble

Noble, Regis, Thor, Lucky, O'Reilly, Spike



Thomas, Tony, Hemi, Baby

Apollo, Elfin, Grand


Kennedy and Toledo

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Happiness Is . . .

We've covered extensively in this blog that Jason is Canadian and is always hot. He thinks anything over seventy degrees is warm. If it is a dry day with bright sunshine he can walk around in forty degree weather in just a long sleeved shirt and feel comfortable. I cannot relate to this. At 70 degrees I'm walking around in a long sleeved shirt and feeling comfortable and I have no idea how anyone could comfortable wearing this at forty degrees.

Today Jason told me we needed another water trough. So we made a short trip to Tractor Supply Company and purchased a new 100 gallon water trough. As I came walking up to the barn this afternoon after feeding horses this was the scene:

Jason relaxing in a water trough???

I won't lie, the first thing that went through me head was "OMG am I really married to such a redneck? Is this my life?" I know, I'm ashamed of having the thought but I'll admit I had it. My next thought was "if a water trough is all it takes to make Jason happy I should consider myself lucky. He could have picked something a lot more expensive and high maintenance . . . like a horse."

Happy Memorial Day to everyone. It looks like Jason may be spending his hanging out in a water trough!


Lucky, Spike and O'Reilly


Apollo and Elfin


Trigger, Tony and Levendi

Ivan and Thomas

Shed in use! Lucky, Lightening, Regis, Snappy and Slinky

Murphy and Darby


Wiz, Clay and Fuzzy

Murphy and B-Rad having a grooming session

Toledo, Johnny and Tiny

Kennedy and Rampal

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night . . .

Jason and I were both a bit on the cranky side today. Neither of us has what would be described as a good night's sleep last night. We had some thunderstorms last night which were the cause of our troubles. Usually I sleep well in both rain and thunderstorms, I guess the noise soothes me, but we have a saying around here "if Jason isn't sleeping no one is sleeping."

Jason channels his inner Goldilocks when it comes to sleeping. Everything has to be just right. We have ongoing and often volatile thermostat wars. Jason grew up in Canada and gets hot easily. I grew up in the south and get cold easily. Dual climate control in our vehicles saves us on road trips.

Jason thinks somewhere between 60 and 65 degrees is perfect for sleeping. I would be a block of ice trying to sleep at those temperatures. So we attempt to compromise. We set the thermostat on 70 (I would prefer 72) and we have the ceiling fan on. I *hate* having a ceiling fan on me at night, and often wake up with a slightly sore throat thanks to it, but in the spirit of compromise I go with it.

Jason's other Goldilocks requirement is that he has to have a noise maker to sleep. Except the regular noise makers designed for just this purpose apparently are not soothing enough to him. He likes the sound that the air purifiers make so we have a collection of them just in case one dies. He also has some ungodly number of pillows that he arranges in various positions, sometimes slamming them down on me in the middle of the night as he flings one out of the way.

If all of Jason's many requirements are met he sleeps like a baby. You could set a bomb off under him and he wouldn't even change his breathing. I, on the other hand, am a *very* light sleeper.

Last night Jason was sleeping like a baby. Heck even I was sleeping well. I am assuming there were some strong winds since the electricity went out. Jason was immediately awake. The air purifier/noise maker wasn't running any more, nor was the ceiling fan. As I mentioned above if Jason isn't sleeping no one is sleeping so we were both awake.

After the electricity had been off a couple of hours I will admit with no air circulation at all even I was starting to get warm. Being next to Jason is like sleeping curled up to a space heater. On a cold night this is pleasant. On a warm spring evening with no air circulating not so much.

Jason starts complaining about how hot he is. I not-so-lovingly tell him to shut up. A few minutes later I ask him if he wants me to open the window and he says no in a very surly voice. We're both laying on top of the covers, Jason sweating and me warm, in grouchy silence, staring at the ceiling. Whenever I can't sleep instead of counting sheep I usually ride over jumps in my head, or ride full courses, work on trot lengthenings etc. Typically if I take my mind off the fact that I'm awake instead of asleep I drift back to sleep.

I was just drifting back to sleep and then The Don started crowing. I won't type exactly what went through my mind as I head the The Don break into full crow outside my bedroom window at about 3am. I should also add the The Don is incredibly *loud* when he crows. Before Jason had a chance to launch into a tirade about it I pre-emptively told him to shut up again. Thankfully he took my suggestion and we continued to stare at the ceiling in silence with The Don crowing away with gusto.

I decided to start counting the seconds between crows. I told myself if The Don got up to three seconds between crows that meant he was winding down and we could have silence soon.

Silently I start counting. One one thousand. Two one - COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOOOOO.

I start over. One one thous - COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

I keep starting over. One one thousand. Two one thousand. Three one - COCK A DOODLE DOOOOOOOOOOO

I repeated this cycle about a hundred times. Just as I was getting ready to go outside in my PJs and throw a tomato (or two or three) at him, The Don decided he had pushed his luck hard enough and was silent.

Jason and I were once again laying on top of the covers in complete silence. About five minutes later the electricity came back on. The ceiling fan started spinning, the air purifier started making noise, and Jason was quietly snoring within a minute. I went back to mentally riding over jumps and practicing lengthenings. Finally I drifted off to sleep again, and was woken by the sun shining what felt like five minute later.

Needless to say Jason and I were both cranky, grumpy and irritable today. The horses didn't seem to mind.



Sebastian and Clay

Chili and Fuzzy

Traveller is currently acting as Miracle's babysitter. He had some help from Bubba the goat while eating his dinner.

Miracle had help eating her dinner from Jo, one of the World's Cutest Fainting Goats

Jo and Mina, World's Cutest Fainting Goats, busy leading their hard and exhausting lives

Rocky and Tiny

Clayton and Stormy

Rampal and Johnny


Norman and Sky

Kennedy having a grooming session

Thor waiting very impatiently for breakfast (we were tired and moving slow!)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Scarlett O'Hara Moments

Our wonderful vet from Tennessee Equine Hospital was at the farm today. He was looking around and commenting, as he often does, that when he thinks of the perfect life for a horse our set up is what he thinks of. It is always nice to hear these things from your vet!

As he continued looking around and enjoying the view he noticed a broken fence board. This is pretty out of character for us so he commented on it. The broken board was in a section of fenceline that separates a pasture with mares from a pasture with geldings. Jason feels like his second job is keeping this section of fenceline in good repair.

I told the vet that I had actually seen the board be popped off this morning and already let Jason know that we had another board to repair. I then told him that Jason loves to make declarations about things from time to time. I call them his "Scarlett O'Hara" moments. You know her line from Gone With The Wind, " God as my witness I shall never go hungry again!"

I've already told the story about one of Jason's Scarlett moments. As we went about our epic 4 year search for a new farm one of his declarations was "With God as my witness I will never pick up another rock again!" Well, we all know how that turned out.

I told the vet today about Jason's most recent Scarlett O'Hara moment. While Jason was repairing the 10,000th or so broken fence board in the section that runs between mares and geldings he made the declaration of "with God as my witness I will never have mares and geldings sharing a fenceline again." He said it with so much passion I couldn't help but start laughing which only annoyed him further. Jason finds it very annoying when I laugh when he is being really serious which in turn only makes me start laughing harder.

Jason: "Why are you laughing, this is NOT funny!"

Me: "Oh yes it is, it is VERY funny!"

I have to say that I am actually in agreement with him and his latest Scarlett O'Hara declaration. It can be fun at times to watch the mares and geldings flirt and watch the boys and girls groom each other over the fence but quite frankly it isn't worth it in our opinion! From a time, labor and money perspective none of it is cute enough to make us enjoy continually replacing fence boards.

At the new farm not only will their be no shared fencelines between mares and geldings, all however many thousands of feet of four board fence we end up with will have a strand of electric wire on the inside of it. No more mares and geldings breaking fence boards. All the horses like using the fence as a scratching post as well. There will be no more of that either, and no more leaning over the fence for any reason. At times, while he is replacing another broken board, Jason jokes that he is going to wire the hotwire directly into the main electrical service and any horse that dares to be up against the fence for any reason will be lit up by a blue arc.

It really is true, horses are born looking for ways to hurt themselves. I see this truth played out every day. The only part that amazes me is how often they do silly and stupid things and do not get hurt.



Stormy and Tiny

Buster, one of the pet cows

Thor and Lightening


I could take this picture every day; Gus, Romeo, Fonzi, Asterik, Silver and Chimano bursting out of the woods on one of their daily runs

Tony and Trigger

Clayton hanging out, Stormy eating leaves, Toledo grazing

Grand, Levendi, Hemi and Leo

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Fun with Construction

As everyone knows when you have a big (or sometimes even a small) construction project the inevitable budget busters come along. We've had a couple of them already. We underestimated the cost to finish the interior of the barn. Actually we were pretty accurate with all of the costs with the exception of electricity. The barn is well off the road, and the cost to move the electrical service that far was not a small number. It makes me seriously dread what the cost will be to run electricity to the second barn after it is built.

Our other unexpected expense was our stupid rock. Having to bring in the backhoe for a day was not something we had planned on when we went to install that water line.

The latest expense overrun was having the bulldozer work done to prepare for building more fencing. There were a lot of wooded areas where the fence lines will be and we knew we would have to have someone with a bulldozer do some pushing to clear a path.

I should have known something was off when Jason started talking about the dozer work as we were feeding today. "The dozer guy really outdid himself. You should see this area he cleared around the big oak tree by the creek. It is so beautiful. " I thought to myself "huh, Jason seems unusually impressed with this. That's nice." And I carried on with my work. It should have more clearly registered with me that Jason of all people isn't going to use the word beautiful to describe work done by a bulldozer.

He brought it up again this afternoon, talking about the beautiful work by the dozer operator and commenting again on how he outdid himself. Then he says "I'll need to pay him on Monday. It's fine to write that check, right?" I said of course it was, assuming we were still talking about the same amount of money we had originally planned for. I still wasn't catching on to where this was heading. I think Jason was hoping that I was going to be quick on the uptake but I was being dense. So he had no choice but to just put it out there.

"The check is going to be for $XXXX" he says. I almost croaked. I was sure I had misheard so I said "WHAT???????" in a very loud and unfriendly voice. Jason repeats this number that is triple what I was expecting. I couldn't help myself. I launched into a rant about what a totally over-the-top ridiculous sum this was to push out a fence line and how sick and tired I am of all things associated with construction. Jason and I take turns ranting and raving on this topic and today was my turn. I ended my rant with "I don't care what it costs to run a bulldozer per hour, I don't care about the fact that it ended up being more work than we expected and I am sick and tired of having to think about, talk about, answer endless questions about, and more importantly PAY FOR all of this stuff."

I felt better once I got it all off my chest. No doubt I'll hear another variation of the above tomorrow as I listen to Jason's version of "why I am sick of construction projects."

the bulldozer at work

Jason looks at this and comments repeatedly on the "beautiful work." Well it should be #$%&! beautiful for what it cost!

I look at this and think, did he really have to clear a path *this wide* for the fence?

Dozer work had to be done for almost a full mile
I'll admit I would like to go trail riding through this picture

Bear and Bush love to ride on the Gator

Cuff Links

Clayton and Tiny

Silky, Missy and MyLight



Tony and Chance

Hemi and Leo

Alex, Darby and B-Rad

Murphy and Chili