Thursday, August 30, 2012


One thing the horses all do is hang out in the woods.  With one exception all of the pastures have a large wooded area (one pasture has to make do with a treeline) and the woods are a frequent hangout spot.  The woods are dotted with horses in all seasons and are usually their preferred choice of shelter over the run-ins.  

We have nicknames for the various pasture groups, everyone knows the Big Boys for example.  We have another group that Jason and I fondly refer to as "the dysfunctionals" at feeding time.    They have earned this nickname due to the fact that they often adopt a spirit of non-cooperation at dinner time.  They are great in the mornings and usually greet us at the gate, but they always head to the woods in the afternoon.  If they are in the woods at dinner time you know you are sunk.  Getting them out of there can be next to impossible sometimes.  Their wooded area is also quite large so they are usually scattered about in there and you have to traipse all around in the woods and try to shoo them all out.

I have decided they do this for their own entertainment.  I'm pretty sure they have some kind of point system worked out:  

Human was trying to come shoo me out of the woods and she walked through a giant cobweb.  100 points!!

Human was trying to come shoo me out of the woods and tripped over a vine.  75 points, 150 if she face plants!!

Human was trying to come shoo me out of the woods and started screaming because she thought she saw a snake (to the horses' delight I tend to think every stick I see on the ground is a snake). 200 points!!

I could go on and on with various ways the horses would be keeping score of my reactions as I traipse through the woods.  I'm sure they have strategies like going for the big points word in Scrabble, so the horse who can make we walk through a cobweb, face plant, AND make me think I saw a snake would probably score enough points to win that day's round of laugh at the human.  The fact that I subject myself to all of this for the sake of feeding them seems to be lost on the horses.


Gus and George

speaking of woods we have Stormy and Clayton demonstrating the fine art of chilling out in the woods

Calimba and MyLight

Murphy and Sam grooming, Lighty grazing

Fuzzy and Renny

Winston and Titan

Another spectacular sunrise over the farm featuring orange and purple

a couple of minutes later

Chili, Sebastian and Sam in horse heaven

Leo and Chance

some of the Big Boys on the move; Tony, Trigger, Apollo, Hemi and Moe

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cost Effective Grain Feeding

(Post by Jason)

As I have indicated in past posts it is no surprise that grain prices have been trending sharply higher in recent weeks. Since the next harvest is over a year away and the current harvest is poor I would say that grain prices and thus feed prices are likely to continue to climb through spring/summer of next year unless something dramatic happens regarding the ethanol mandate (currently 40 % of the US corn crop is used to make ethanol) between now and then. Thanks to huge increases in the price of grains, horse feed prices in our area are up nearly 25 % since January of this year and  they are nearly double what they were 4-5 years  ago. While none of us can change what we are paying for feed, here are a few things we do to ensure we're getting the biggest bang for our buck.

1. We test our hay and our pasture regularly. Hay (or forage of some sort) makes up the great majority of most equine diets. Nobody can adequately figure out what grains and supplements might be necessary if they have no idea what the nutrient levels of the largest ration component may be. Every time our hay changes we send a sample to Equi Analytical Laboratories, 730 Warren Rd., Ithaca NY 14850. Their website is . Make sure to get a package that includes a value for Digestible Energy. This measures how many calories the forage contains.

2. The most important nutrient in any equine grain feed is energy density (followed by energy source). We compare similar feeds on a cost per calorie basis rather than as a cost per pound or cost per bag. As strange as it sounds, it's often the case that inexpensive feeds aren't very energy dense and you can actually save money by providing more and better nutrition while feeding less by choosing a more expensive feed.  Energy is measured in calories or kilocalories. Feed companies aren't required to put energy numbers on feed tags so most of them don't do it. In order to compare energy numbers you'll need to get the owner of your local feed store to call the feed manufacturer or call them yourself. I have never been refused the number when I have called. Right now our base feeds are the two most expensive feeds our dealer sells yet when you compare them to others that look cheaper on a cost per bag basis ours provide far more value.

3. We quantify how fat or thin any horse on the farm may be by writing down everyone's body condition score regularly. We adjust grain feeding up or down based on how individuals are trending over time, what they are getting for hay or pasture, and what the weather is likely to do in the next several weeks. Fat horses on good grass don't need much if any grain to maintain their body condition score.

These are just a few of the things we do to try and make the best use of every pound of grain we have to feed. Buying feed is the largest monthly expense we have on this farm. If you include the cost of producing or buying forage and the cost of producing pasture, especially in the middle of a drought, our feed costs are mind blowingly high. In spite of all we are doing to actively address this issue I can assure you that we are very much feeling the increase in feed prices just like every one of you. In the mean time let's hope for an easy winter and a big crop of corn and beans at harvest next fall.


Sam, Johnny, Dutch and Wiz

George and Asterik

Lighty.  I called him and called him and CALLED him and he finally picked up his head and looked at me.  He did however make me walk all the way out and lead him in so I could have the privilege of feeding him!

Stormy and Kennedy

Faune and Gus looked so pretty having a grooming session in the morning sun. My little point and shoot camera just couldn't capture the color of the sunlight very well.

Alex and B-Rad hanging out


Silky and Maisie

Noble, Fabrizzio and Walden all looking handsome, too bad I didn't zoom in more when I took their picture!

Toledo and Clayton

Sunday, August 26, 2012

He's Just Not That Into You

Nothing is more entertaining than watching the mares and ponies and all of the shenanigans that go into their herd dynamics.  The Pony Wars are nothing new around the farm, we have written about them often.

In my last post on the pony wars I described Norman the pony’s personality.  As we all know Norman is very cute and he has a magnetic personality that draws in horses and people.  Norman is also fully aware of these qualities.  He loves to be in a relationship with one of the mares.  He does, however, have very specific ideas about the boundaries of the relationship.

Norman likes to keep things in the early stages of a relationship where both parties think the other is perfect.  He likes being in that phase where everything is fresh and new, you do a lot of things together, yet at the end of the date everyone goes home separately.  Norman is not interested in moving in together, getting engaged, or (horrors) being married. 

Norman and Calimba have been in a relationship off and on for the past year.  Calimba really likes Norman.  Norman also really likes Calimba.  However Calimba always wants to push their relationship to the next level.  She wants to get engaged, or at least move in together.  Whenever she starts pressuring him for more Norman immediately starts backing off and spending time with others.

Norman and Calima

Clearly Norman and Calimba have reached that tipping point in their relationship again.  Calimba is trying hard to convince Norman that he would be happy in a more committed relationship.  She grooms him, she follows him around and will gently rest her muzzle on him, and generally is doing all she can to change his mind.  It isn’t working. 

Calimba wooing Norman with some grooming

I think her girlfriends are going to give her the book “He’s Just Not That Into You.”  I’m sure there is already a well worn copy floating around in their pasture from Norman’s previous relationships.  

What else is there to say?



Darby, B-Rad and Alex

Thomas, Hemi and Apollo

Faune and Winston

Johnny and Largo



Baby and Trigger grazing,  Moe napping

Lightening and Noble

Chili and Sebastian

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's For Breakfast?

Today was a de-worming day.  I've posted in the past our approach to worming.  We mix it in with their soaked feed in their feedbags then serve a delicious meal of grain and de-wormer.  Today the success rate for happily consumed paste wormer was 100%.  Usually there are 1 or 2 horses, and not necessarily the same ones, that just know there is something in the food they don't want.  Sometimes I wait them out which is something you can do with feedbags.  Other times I just deliver the goods the old fashioned way but shoving the tube in their mouth.  Today felt like Christmas in August at the farm as everyone downed their extra special breakfast.  

There were a few who clearly smelled the de-wormer paste in their food.  They immediately did the dramatic sniffing which is always immediately followed by spitting out the first bite, which is promptly followed with walking around trying to get away from the food.  I always have a good inner evil laugh at the last bit of the routine as they try to escape their food by walking away.  Hahahaha, you can walk all you want but the feedbag goes with you!!   None of them kept it up more than a minute or two before they just gave in and ate.  Most of them, like always, never even realized there was anything different about their food.  Success!

I like this approach so much better than having my hands, my hair and my face covered in horse slobber and paste wormer.  Plus I know that they all of it went in the horse and none of it was spit out.  It also eliminates having to deal with any runners.  I've mentioned the runners before.  They are the ones that take off once they realize there is something going on, such as vaccinations or de-worming, that they don't want to participate in.  Chasing down the runners is a sure way to wipe the smiles off of our faces.  

I will take a 100% success rate any time so I was quite happy today.

I always order a lot of tubes as we have a lot of big horses.  Most of them get about a tube and a half, a couple of the really big 18 handers get 2 full tubes.

I posted this picture on the farm's facebook page.  My mom always used to make smiley faces on our pancakes with syrup when I was a kid.  I like to carry on the tradition with the horses.  I think the smiley face of Ivermectin is quite charming and should make any horse smile.

Lighty and Johnny never realized there was anything different about breakfast this morning.


Johnny and Tiny are happy that it has rained and they have grass again


Toledo and Rocky

Fuzzy and Renny

Murphy and Dutch

Asterik and Silver on the run

 Rampal and Johnny

Cuffie and Silky


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Hate Farm Equipment

This post was written by Jason and on his own blog. It is so appropriate in regards to our daily lives on the farm that I felt we should share it here:

I have a publication called Amazing Farm Inventions lying open before me on my kitchen table right now. The theme of this month's magazine is, " Made it Myself; Ideas Born in Farm Shops". Some of the ideas are pretty off the wall and some are pretty impressive. Clearly the folks who did this obviously like working on equipment  in their shops AND they have enough spare time and brain power to think their way through some seriously complex projects.

I find both of these things extremely impressive because I operate at a much more fundamental level than this when it comes to farm equipment. When I jump on a tractor seat early in the morning what I really, really want the tractor to do is start and run for as long as necessary with no problems or interruptions along the way. Then I want to shut it off, go to the house and forget about it  until I need to use it again. When my baler isn't tying properly or the middle row unit on my corn planter inexplicably seizes up and refuses to drop seed or I manage to put a rock through the feeder house and sieves on my combine I tend to get angry and frustrated rather than creative. The same thing happens when tires go flat, batteries go dead, PTO shafts fly apart or any of the other maladies that plague farm equipment occur on a somewhat regular basis. It's not that I can't fix most of the stuff when it breaks. It's that I get no joy whatever out of the process, especially when everything here is serviced on time and put away ready to go.

Gramps used to say that machines didn't break when they were parked in the shed. I agree but I will take that a step farther and say that machines don't break if you don't own them at all, either. If I could figure out a way to cost effectively custom hire every bit of machinery work done on my place I would happily do so. I'm not one of these guys who farms because I have an iron fetish.  Given that a lot of my full time farming neighbours are hiring more and more of their time sensitive machine work done I don't think I'm alone in thinking this way, either.

Don't even get me started on equipment that is so poorly engineered that it's difficult or impossible to service, adjust or fix without dismantling it. If folks like me who buy equipment have to contort ourselves into pretzel-like shapes to change a fuel filter or check the oil it probably isn't going to become one of our favourite tasks. When it comes time to replace it, we will probably be looking at a different brand. Speaking of fuel filters, why is it that none of the tractors I own have an easily accessible fuel shut off valve located on the line somewhere above the filter ? It's easier to soak my arm in diesel fuel every time I change a fuel filter than it is to find and turn the fuel shut off valves on both tractors at this farm. But I digress.

Truthfully, I can't really imagine what it would be like to farm with no equipment whatsoever. Four wheel drive tractors, front end loaders, round balers, bush hogs, manure spreaders, air compressors and innumerable other pieces of equipment make my life tremendously easier than it would be without them, especially when they run right. And when they don't believe me when I say I can turn the air blue with the best of them.


Griselle and Sky

Moe and Homer

Grand and Elfin are big buddies

George leading Gus and Asterik on a mission

Darby and Fuzzy were the first to head in for breakfast

Murphy and Dutch followed by Wiz (Johnny, Lighty and Chili in the background)

today's drooping lower lip is brought to you by Clayton

Traveller and Silky

Slinky, Fabrizzio, Walden, Lightening and Thor

Tony and Baby grooming