Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Many Horses Are In That Pasture?

I'm sure you have all had one of those mornings where you aren't really completely awake yet, you know something just isn't right, and you can't put all the pieces together. I had one of those mornings this week.

Morning feedings are one of my favorite times of the day. It is quiet and peaceful, and all of the horses are thrilled to see you coming (I pretend they are thrilled to see me, really they are thrilled about the food), they nicker at you, and sometimes they put on a show and come at a full gallop from the opposite side of their field. I have a daily routine in the mornings for feeding everyone and generally the horses follow a set routine as well. One morning I was walking down to one of the pastures, as usual scanning through the fields making sure everyone is there and waiting.

I did my head count and realized something was off. So I did my head count again, and something was still off. Finally the fog cleared out of my half-awake brain and I realized I was counting two extra horses! But I had already done my head counts in all of the other pastures as I took my early morning walk and all was as it should be. I was now wide awake and almost in a run as I was heading toward that pasture, completely freaked out and wondering what the heck was going on. As I got closer I realized that two of the horses hanging out under the tree weren't horses at all, they were cows!
Extra horse number one
Extra horse number two
I have to say neither the cows nor the horses seemed particularly bothered by the situation and they were all grazing happily or standing around resting a hind leg and mostly ignoring each other. On the other hand I was really bothered by the situation. We do have some cows on the farm, but I had no idea how they would have gotten into one of the horse pastures. I walked the fence line all the way around the field. All gates were closed securely and there were no broken boards anywhere. So the cows were either playing limbo and these two had an impressive win, or they were inspired by the U.S. team winning the gold medal in show jumping and decided to give it a try. Neither of these scenarios seem very plausible to me, but they are the only ones I can come up with.

Now I had the challenge of removing the two cows from the horse pasture. Of course when the horses realized I was herding the two cows out of the pasture they immediately decided the cows were their new best friends and that they were incredibly herd bound to them. And they were going to go WITH the cows. I knew everything was going too easily as I quietly walked behind the two cows and herded them towards the gate. Now I couldn't open the gate even though the cows are right there because the horses will go with them.

It finally dawned on me that I had the easiest solution in the world to this dilemma. Feed the horses on the opposite side of the field and herd the cows out while they ate. So I hike over to the opposite end of the field and hold up their feed bags, and the horses immediately decide the cows really aren't that cool after all and coming charging over. I put on everyone's feed bag and hike back over to the other end of the field, open the gate, and shoo out the cows.
Nice hock engagement, maybe they were trying out for the show jumping team

Baby got back!

This must not have been the jump off round, she isn't making a final dash through the timers

Unfortunately I did not take any pictures while the horses were interfering with my cow cutting. I simply didn't have enough brain cells to handle taking pictures, cutting cows and herding horses all at the same time, especially first thing in the morning. I also jogged a few miles as I made my way back and forth across the pasture and was a bit frazzled and out of breath. I was fairly impressed with myself that I managed to do accomplish all of that without calling in reinforcements. Not bad for a morning's work!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

There is an Election Coming

in November, and Leo definitely thinks he is running! I told Leo's owner that I refer to him as our politician because he certainly acts like one. He has things to do, people to see, babies to kiss and all of that good stuff. Leo is a very handsome Dutch Warmblood gelding who is enjoying retirement with us. He took great care of his amateur mommy in the hunter ring on the "A" circuit until repeat suspensory injuries lead him to retirement.

When I see this picture I feel like Leo is telling me to cue the music for "I'm Too Sexy" Leo is a really handsome horse just standing out in the field, and he has three beautiful gaits as well. I'm sure he had a fabulous jump to match his lovely movement. It seems that it is always the really good ones who have both the temperament and the talent that have the unfortunate injuries and the rogues seem to keep going forever.
Leo grazing with Homer
Leo with his head buried in the grass
At first Leo fell madly in love with Poco the shetland pony and Sparky the donkey. He was never more than a few feet away from them and they made a really cute triumvirate.
Poco, Leo and Sparky
Apparently he was really using this time to get the lay of the land like any good politician, and after awhile he began branching out and spreading a little bit of Leo time around for all of the horses in his field. This is still the case today. I never see him spend time with any one of his roommates in particular, he just consistently makes the rounds to all of the horses in his field. He loves to engage in mutual grooming with other horses, and I have a collection of pictures and videos that feature Leo enjoying a "groomfest" with several of his roomies.
Leo and Homer grooming each other

Leo and Apollo grooming each other
Leo and Faune grooming each other
Apparently Leo learned through his political informants that I was going to write about him this week, so he offered me this series of pictures a few days ago.

I need to get my makeup on

Going for the Gold
Just the look I was hoping for - thanks Leo!
Apparently one side wasn't good enough
Making sure he gets every inch ground into the dirt
A job well done

I hope you have enjoyed meeting Leo!

Monday, August 25, 2008

They Are Really Cute Little Creatures

. . . but wow are they destructive!! People are always surprised to learn how we ended up with goats on the farm. It was not by design, and very much by accident. In the fall of 1996 we noticed three goats (mommy, daddy and kid) living under the bridge which is near our driveway at the bottom of the hill. We asked everyone we knew if they were missing any goats or if they knew of someone that was missing some goats. No one ever stepped forward to claim them and we worried they would get hit by a car. So one Saturday afternoon we had what we refer to as the goat rodeo and rounded up these goats and brought them to the barn.

They lived in one of the stalls at first since we didn't have any other goat proof location for them. Being the animal lovers they are my parents fenced off a new paddock behind the barn with goat proof fencing, and then built the goat condo for them as well. Isn't this what everyone does when stray goats show up? They also proved to really helpful when we have new residents on the farm. We use the goat paddock as our quarantine paddock and so far each and every horse has fallen in love with the goats as they spend their first days on the farm in the goat paddock.

Ivan's first day with us

Buffy's second day with us. I think Buffy loved the goats more than any other horse ever has!

Faune's fourth day with us. He liked to hang out with the goats.

We all learned to love the goats quickly as they are highly entertaining little creatures. They would jump up in the air and crack their horns together while playing, hop around everywhere, climb on everything, and would stand for what seemed like hours and beat their horns into the nearest tree or fence post. We quickly learned that this activity was not that cute after all. I don't know how many trees they have destroyed as I've lost count over the years.

One of the stumps they haven't knocked over yet- but they did destroy the tree!

You can see some of the other stumps remaining of former ramming posts
They've been systematically working their way around the paddock destroying trees. We hadn't had to cut any up for awhile as they had been content to ram repeatedly into the stump that was left behind from a favorite tree. They finally managed to uproot the stump though so they moved on to a new tree. Jason noticed the latest tree was starting to tilt a bit and felt we should pull it down with the tractor before it had the chance to be blown over and fall over the fence. Pulling the tree down was the easy part as we simply did that with the tractor. Getting rid of the tree was the hard part.

Dad manning the chain saw
Bugle was our supervisor for the day. Bear felt he'd had far too many supervisory responsibilities lately!
The goats had really outdone themselves this time, and had chosen to destroy a bois d'arc tree, also known as an osage orange tree. As it turns out the wood from these trees is one of the hardest woods out there. My dad, Jason and our friend Carlos decided to tackle sawing up this tree last weekend and 4 dull, overheated chain saws later the job still wasn't done!
Trying to revive one of the chain saws

The three of them (with Bugle supervising) did manage to get through most of the tree before they had run through all of the chain saws. By the way, in case you are wondering, my chainsaw was never brought out for this job!! I knew things were really going to get ugly when Jason came walking out with an ax in his hand! While my dad tried to get one of the chain saws going again Jason, Carlos and myself took turns with the ax. There are two pictures of me swinging away but they are so un-flattering I am refusing to post them. It is my blog after all!

I knew things were getting desperate when I saw Jason walking out with this
Jason taking a swing
Carlos taking a swing

It took awhile but we did actually chop our way through that tree - once! We decided to wait until the chain saws had recovered to finish off the stump. It was a tough job and I am confident that everyone involved hopes we don't have to cut up an osage orange tree again!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ruling With An Iron Hoof

Just like people, some horses enjoy being leaders and others simply want to be part of the pack. Of course we have a wide variety of personalities on the farm, but one retiree in particular stood out as determined to be in charge. The fact that he is a stallion no doubt had much to do with his strong personality. He was named Mister and I thought it was perfect as you could just hear him saying "that's Mister to you."

Mister always had a cocky look about him
Every now and then his forelock just had to be chopped off - it would get really out of control!
A palomino mini, does it get any cuter than this?
Barely taller than the grass in the spring of 2007
Mister is a miniature horse and is all of thirty one inches tall. Is he the cutest thing you have ever seen or what? Every day as I was caring for Mister and enjoying having him on the farm I would think to myself "I can't believe I am getting paid for this!!!"

Almost immediately upon arrival Mister became very obsessed with Ogie. I have mentioned Ogie before in this post. Ogie is one of those horses that is always liked by other horses. He is a very gentle, reassuring presence and does not have a demanding personality. I think Ogie could be turned out with any horse, be it a mare, stallion, or gelding, and they would think Ogie was great. Ogie is a retired eventer in his late 20's who had fallen on some hard times. Thankfully a wonderful woman stepped in to care for him. She does a lot of wonderful rescue work and founded the The Bucket Foundation which is involved in both small and large animal rescue. If you are looking for a good rescue to support, I can personally attest to the wonderful work done by The Bucket Foundation.

Ogie posing for the camera

Mister quickly decided that he was in charge of Ogie and took control of his life immediately. Ogie could not go anywhere or do anything without Mister's approval. One time I saw Ogie make the mistake of trying to hang out with a couple of horses that were not in Mister's crowd. Mister marched over to Ogie, who had his head down sniffing noses, reared up, grabbed Ogie's lip, and lead him back over to a place in the pasture he approved of! If only I'd had my camera with me at the time!

Ogie and Mister in April 2007

Mister standing watch while Ogie naps
When Ogie needed to come into the barn for the farrier, to be groomed, or for any reason Mister had to come as well. I made this mistake once (and only once) of bringing Ogie into the barn without Mister. I heard a terrible racket outside and rushed out to see Mister trying to find a way through the gate so he could get to Ogie in the barn. I opened the gate and Mister marched himself into the barn minus halter or leadrope and calmly stood beside Ogie. And from then on whenever I needed to take Ogie anywhere Mister came too and I never bothered putting his halter on to lead him. There was no question that he was going with Ogie, whether you wanted him to or not.

Mister and Ogie grazing nose to nose
Mister waiting patiently while Ogie is worked on by our farrier
What, Ogie and Mister grazing together
Mister enjoyed retirement with us for a year and a half. His loving owner ended up purchasing a small acreage perfect for a mini and a companion so he lives with her now. Who can blame her for wanting to look out her window and see Mister? He moved in December and I still miss him every single day. We all say that life on the farm just isn't the same without Mister. On the other hand I am not sure that Ogie misses Mister. I would think he is thrilled to be out from under the iron hoof and to be able to exercise some independent thought again!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Week In Pictures

Since the horses here are retired you would think it would be hard to take good pictures. However, it would be easy to put three times as many pictures in this post just from the shots I have taken in the last week. What is amazing is how many great photo opportunities I miss! I have my camera with me often but not always, and inevitably I find myself wishing I could grab my camera.

I would imagine a lot of the pictures get repetitive to people over the months as they are basically various poses of horses grazing, napping, rolling and interacting with each other, but I never tire of taking pictures of happy and content horses. No, they aren't leaping over huge fences, performing a precise dressage test, or trail riding against a gorgeous moutain backdrop but I love the pictures from around the farm just the same. But of course I am slightly biased . . .

Teddy and Buffy grazing together
Bella taking a drink
Faune and Trillion grazing together. It looks like the answer is BFF!
Trillion and Sebastian; I just like the light and trees in the background, and of course the pretty horses!
Bonnie with Lexi in the background.
Apollo and Elfin sharing a drink
Faune would have a "come to Jesus" talk with anyone else about this!
Homer and Elfin
Elfin doing his "dogwalk" to roll on the other side
Sparky had to create as much dust as possible
Harmony grazing in a tranquil setting
Ogie munching contentedly

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Day I Ran Screaming From The Barn

I now have proof that even when you have your dream job there are still days when you want to run away screaming!! I am sure you are wondering what would be so hard about caring for retired horses all day that would elicit such a strong response. Read on and you will find out!

I had just cleaned stalls and was getting ready to prepare the evening feed for everyone. I open the door to the feedroom and without really looking I lean in and pull the lid off of one of the feed cans. Then I happen to look up and come face to face with one of my biggest fears - a SNAKE! The hot water heater for the wash stall is located in the feed room, and wrapped all around the pipes was this gigantic snake just a couple of feet away. I could have won an Oscar for best dramatic performance as I started screaming and slammed the door shut and ran out of the barn in a blind panic.

Jason has really been hounding me lately about having my cell phone with me. I hate being interrupted by a ringing phone when I am enjoying my time with the horses but I was soooooo happy that I had that stupid phone in my pocket. Jason had just gotten home so I called him in the house and told him to get outside now. Honestly I am amazed I needed to call as our house is right next to the barn and he should have heard the screaming! I then called my dad as well as I wanted a full court press against this snake.

Jason and my dad approach the feedroom door and somewhat hesitantly open it and peer inside. The snake is still in the back corner behind the water heater, wrapped around the pipes. They are unable to determine what kind of snake he is as his head/eyes are hard to see. So the snake extraction begins. My father fired off a couple of rounds with a .22 (no one needs to worry, in his 'retirement' he has been the firearms instructor for the sheriff's department so he is an excellent shot and well versed in firearms) and then steps aside to let Jason remove the snake.

Mr. Snake is attempting to slither under the drywall and head into the office that is on the other side of the wall. The snake made it about halfway in before Jason pinned him with his shoe. So Jason is ramming around in this little room occasionally throwing things out...a feed bucket....sponges, various horse medications and one knows what is going on and he is cursing a blue streak and barking out instructions for tools like a drill sergeant.

I would go and retrieve the requested tool, and being the brave soul I am would then hand them to my 9 year old nephew Tristan so he could give them to Jason. I mentioned in this post that Tristan was here visiting for a week - his brother was very jealous he missed the snake incident!

Anyway, Jason was requesting a wide variety of tools including a handsaw, a shovel, a hoe and a pair of channel locks (which is finally what he latched onto the reptile with). Aside from retrieving tools I mostly stood outside the barn and shouted out helpful things like "have you gotten it yet?" and "is it poisonous?" (the answer is no by the way) and "will there be more snakes?" I think the one that really irritated Jason was "how much longer will this take?" Jason finally made a dramatic entrance into the aisle holding/throwing the snake out first in a pair of channel locks.

The snake in the aisle with the channel locks still around it. Some of the miscellaneous items that were removed/tossed from the feedroom in the background
My father was almost rolling on the floor he was laughing so hard, my eyes were as big as saucers and I was still screaming on occasion and my nephew was incredibly entertained by everything from the snake, to my reactions to Jason's language. Then my mom came down so she could see what all the excitement was about.

Jason and Tristan admiring their catch

Our visitor was about five and a half feet long. I will have nightmares for a long time! Now for all of you thinking that you will never step foot in Tennessee or send a horse here because we have too many snakes, the last time I saw a snake on the farm was in 1996. It was also a harmless snake but of course I was still terrified of it. If I never see a snake of any kind again, even a tiny snake, that will be JUST FINE with me.