Thursday, October 29, 2009

Signs of Fall

Everything has been nice and routine around here for the last couple of days. This happens to be just the way I like it! It looks like the rain will be making a return tomorrow afternoon through Saturday. According to our forecast some of the showers could be heavy. After our record breaking drought a couple of years ago I swore I would never complain about rain again. I am still not complaining about it . . . yet (well maybe a teeeny bit).

We are finally starting to see some nice fall colors in the trees. I am running about 2-3 weeks behind with my picture posting so this isn't really reflected in the pictures. The pastures are starting to really decline as well. We have a mix of warm and cool season grasses on the farm. The cool season grasses are still thriving, however the warm season bermuda grass has really been starting to take over the last couple of years, with some pastures being mostly warm season grass. The warm season grass is starting to go dormant. In some pastures it is already completely dormant and brown while in others it is a quickly fading green. I expect that within the next week or two all of the bermuda grass will be completely dormant until spring.

We have a love/hate relationship with warm season grass here, namely the bermuda. The great thing about it is you can't kill it, and it can handle drought conditions. Thus it really started to spread on the farm during the drought a couple of years ago. The bad thing about it is you can't kill it. During normal precipitation years our cool season grasses get good growth for all but about three to three and a half months per year, and growth slows to a crawl during that time. The bermuda grass goes completely dormant a full month before the cool season grasses slow their growth to a crawl, and does not exit dormancy until about a month after the cool season grasses have really hit their stride again. Thus we lose two months of good grazing everywhere there is bermuda grass. So while we were glad to have it around during the drought we would be happy for it to move on now, but that definitely is not going to happen.

Between the fading bermuda grass and the color in some of the leaves it is really looking like fall on the farm.

I'll end this post with one of my favorite horse quotes. I will admit I have a long and lengthy list of favorite horse quotes but I happened to see this one today. Anyone who has ever had a great ride on a horse can summon up a memory that would be perfectly described by this Arabian proverb: "The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears."

I summoned all of my creative resources (I have very few) and named this the "gray horse picture." Cuffie in the front, Harmony behind him, with Buffy and Lily in the back.

Snappy grazing with his new friends. Snappy has had quite an interesting life and travelled the world. He was born and bred in Poland, somehow discovered by the famous New Zealand eventer Mark Todd and evented through the 4 star level. He was sold to an eventer in the U.S. who crashed him at a cross country jump (rider error). After having tendon surgery on both front legs as a result of the crash he took up a new career as a show hunter where he was champion everywhere from the winter Florida circuit to Indoors. Although I rarely get to see it he has an amazing, huge and fluid gallop stride.

Asterik loves to roll! Asterik is a Holsteiner and was successful on the "A" circuit in both the hunters and the jumpers. He unfortunately was retired young due to a freak accident. He stepped on a nail at a horse show and it damaged the collateral ligament in his hoof.

A typical scene to start my morning: Mina and Jo, world's cutest fainting goats, waiting for me to let them out of their stall. The sub rooster (The Don is 'the' rooster) is often hanging out with them in the stall.

Sebastian and Faune grazing with a gorgeous blue sky behind them. Sebi is a Connemara/Irish Draught cross imported from Ireland. He foxhunted, showed on the A circuit in the hunters and jumpers, you could trail ride on him . . . he was one of those horses that you could have fun on and do everything with. Faune, the 'big French guy,' is a Selle Francais imported from France. He won everywhere in the hunters.

Leo is a Dutch Warmblood whose greatest dream in life is to be a hard keeper and to be fed lots and lots of food! He is Mr. Personality and a fun guy to be around every day. Leo showed successfully on the A circuit in the hunters, and prior to his hunter career he showed through 4th level in dressage.

Ivan is a Thoroughbred and retired Grand Prix jumper. Ivan is a mischievous guy and way too smart for his own good. He is an expert at opening stall doors and gates and taking himself on self guided tours of the farm. We have to "Ivan proof" everything.

Clay is a Quarter Horse whose original career was as a race horse. He then became a trail horse. I can absolutely see Clay as a bomb proof trail horse that you could take on the hard trails where you wouldn't want to be riding just any horse. I have to admit I just cannot picture him as a race horse. I've tried. Nothing about Clay says 'speed' to me, especially his personality. When I try to envision Clay as a race horse I hear the buzzer going off and see the gates flying open . . . and I see Clay just standing there taking it all in. I am told he actually had a fairly successful career on the track! Clay is 30 years young and I tell him every day how handsome and spry he looks.
A happy group of mares and ponies. Cuffie and Missy are the ponies and MyLight and Buffy are the Thoroughbred mares.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Resources and The Search Continues

Jason and I had an interesting weekend. Tennessee Equine Hospital is the veterinary clinic that we work with at Paradigm Farms, and we have a long running relationship with them. The clinic has an excellent staff including seven equine veterinarians and an equine surgeon, and there is always someone available 24/7/365. They have been building a huge new addition to their clinic over the past year and it was just completed a few weeks ago. This addition includes a new, fully equipped, state-of-the-art surgical suite for horses.

The new facility a few weeks prior to completion

The practice also installed a new bone scan machine as well. Some of the other services they offer include video endoscopy and gastroscopy, shockwave therapy, digital x-rays, digital ultrasonagraphy, a full laboratory, IRAP, Laser therapy and chiropractic care. The practice also has a complete reproductive facility located one mile from the clinic. Their reproductive services include foaling services, embryo transfer, artificial insemination, and semen collection and freezing.

Another view of the facility a few weeks prior to completion

Jason and I really enjoyed touring the new facility and learning about how much thought and planning went into it. Since we've certainly contributed our share towards financing the new addition we felt a sense of ownership as well! Tennessee Equine is a very highly regarded practice and they had over 1,000 people attend their Grand Opening party on Saturday evening. Earlier in the day they hosted a separate reception for other veterinarians in the area and over 40 vets attended. We are grateful to have such a strong affiliation with this great practice and are thrilled with the new additions to their facility.

Architectural sketch of the completed facility

Our other interesting excursion this weekend was out trip to look at another potential piece of land. We have been looking seriously for three years now. Our goal was to stay proximate to our current location, to find relatively flat, open and fertile land (the flat part is not that easy in middle Tennessee, we've driven lots of miles in our search to wind up looking at wooded hillsides), and obviously we have a per acre price range that we have to work with. We were really excited when we went to look at this land. The location was one that made us BOTH happy, the land was very flat and open and the price was within our range. It was starting to look like we might have finally found THE ONE after years of looking and a few failed purchase attempts.

We were in a state of bliss thinking that the never ending search had finally ended. And then we got the maps from our realtor and over 60% of the land is flood plain. We were expecting that some of it would be flood plain and would have worked around it. We can't work around the majority of it being in the flood plain.

I feel like banging my head into my desk about 10,000 times right now. It would be more pleasant than the thought of continuing our land search. We love the family farm but we really want to buy a bare piece of land and lay it out MUCH better than this farm. If you are a horse living here you would see nothing wrong with the place. Human visitors are in awe of the beauty of this farm. However, if you are the person doing the work around here you dream every day of a farm with a work friendly layout, and a system where you could manage the pastures with a lot less effort and headache. We keep the pastures looking lovely but it is not easy with the way things are set up here.

To say that Jason and I are both disheartened and discouraged would be an understatement. I keep telling myself that one day we will finally find the right location. Jason is so sick of looking he is ready to give up and move a couple of hours away to west Tennessee. Land is very affordable there and very fertile. We would also be living in the boonies in a non-horsey area and quite frankly that is not appealing to me at all. I like being in a 'horsey' area as I have access to so many trainers and other resources here. Maybe I should just quit holding out for something proximate to our current location and accept that a move is in order. UGH.

We have toyed around with the idea of moving to the Lexington, KY area. Land around Lexington is much cheaper than in our area and the area is very horsey. I love Lexington and have friends there. The only thing that stops me is they do get more winter than we get here. Anyone that knows me knows I hate cold weather. I would rather fry than freeze. The other option we have thought about is moving further south to the Birmingham, AL area. Jason likes the idea of moving there, even less winter weather than here and if you buy land in the low mountains there the summers are not bad.

So what would you do, hold out and keep around here or move to a new area (taking all of the horses with us of course)?

Some farm scenes of the place we are trying so hard to leave. We love it but we would love to have a friendlier layout for the humans. Entrance to the paddock right in front of the barn
Looking across one of the pastures; it is hard to get a feel for the size of the pastures from most of the pictures I post; this would be one of the smaller pastures

A small portion of the big boys' pasture. Leo is in the very front with Ivan behind him. In the very back I think it is Homer, Levendi and Elfin.
Homer, Levendi and Tony hiding behind them.

In the Gator we have my Dad, Bugle on the passenger seat, Bush in the back and Trooper on the floor board. Levendi is hoping for a treat.
Levendi and Trigger grazing

MyLight and Buffy in the front with Missy and Harmony behind them

Teddy and Mr. O'Reilly
Snappy, Chili and Lucky

B-Rad and Ogie

Sebastian, Faune, Asterik, Trillion and Winston

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Visitor in the Pasture

We had an interesting visitor a few days ago. The mares and Cuffie were acting very snorty and spooky during breakfast one morning. Usually this is a time of focused eating. I did not not see anything amiss and thought maybe it was because it was somewhat windy.

Cuffie staring at the strange visitor

I finished up feeding the other horses and noticed things were getting more intense in their pasture while the horses in the other fields were quiet. Usually if it is a weather related frisky all of the horses are participating. Then I finally saw something that looked different. A turtle lumbering through the pasture. It had exited the tall grass and was in the short grass around the gates. I guess the horses had spotted him long before I could see him. He (she?) was very slowly lumbering across the pasture. He was headed in the opposite direction of the pond so I guess he was heading from the pond somewhere else, although I have no idea where.

Harmony looking from a safe distance

She moved in a bit closer

He would stop and lift his head and stare at the horses while they stared at him. After a few minutes of staring he would start slowly making his way through the pasture again. The horses finally lost interest in him and he completed his journey across the pasture. I wonder where he went.

Everyone finally lost interest; Missy and Lily finally lost interest and went back to grazing

Trigger; he is an Appendix Quarter Horse retired from the hunter ring

I could not resist this shot. Dustin on the left and Tony on the right. Dustin is a Westphalian and retired from the jumper ring. Tony is a Dutch Warmblood and was nationally ranked in the Amateur Owner hunters.

Cuff Links and MyLight grazing together. Cuffie is a Welsh pony retired from the hunters and MyLIght is a Thoroughbred retired from dressage.

The pet cows lounging around

Norman; he is also retied from the pony hunters

Sparky the donkey and Traveller; Traveller is yet another retired pony hunter

Clay and Snappy; Clay is a Quarter Horse who started his life as a race horse and ended his career as a trail horse. Snappy is a Polish bred horse who competed through the 4 star level in eventing before switching careers to the hunter ring.

Peaceful grazers; Slinky (another pony hunter) Clay and Snappy

Cuffie and Harmony

B-Rad, Ogie and Winston; B-Rad is a Belgian Warmblood and retired from the jumper ring. Ogie is a Thoroughbred and retired eventer. Winston is also a Thoroughbred and retired hunter.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Know You Love Your Farm When . . .

Yesterday was a GREAT day! Not only was the weather spectacular again but three huge trucks full of gravel came rolling up to the farm. You know you love your farm when, more than 24 hours later, you are still elated over this turn of events! My horse friends totally get my sheer bliss and joy about three loads of gravel. My non-horse friends don't get it at all.

I could stand and stare at this lovely, gravelled gate area for hours

After all the rain we've had I was beginning to think the trucks would never be able to make it out here. Thankfully a few days of 70's and sun dried things up and the trucks were able to dump gravel in several places around the farm.

It is almost impossible to keep the areas around the water troughs dry because of the constant dumping and scrubbing, so the troughs are all getting a gravel pad.

Another gate area with gravel spread

The horses found the presence of gravel piles in their pastures terribly exciting. The big boys especially used their gravel pile as an excuse for much running, snorting and spooking. Jason has moved and spread about half of the gravel. The delivery trucks could not spread the gravel because it was still wet in some areas and the last thing I wanted to deal with was a 40 ton gravel truck stuck out in one of the pastures. Thus Jason is getting some tractor hours in, using the bucket to move and spread the gravel.

This used to be our wading pool in the middle of the alley; you will recall we put a tile drain in a few weeks ago to drain it, and the gravel got rid of the last of the mud

The shed where we keep feed, blankets and halters for some of the pastures. My blanket wagon and the little trough I use for soaking feed are in front.

Hopefully we will be able to finish moving and spreading the gravel in the next few days. I am ecstatic over the areas we've already addressed. I had Christmas in July when I got a new horse, and now I'm having Christmas in October with my gravel. It really takes a horse person, or a farm person, to understand why gravel is such a life changing event!
The best part is that we don't get the knee high, boot sucking mud that I experienced when I lived in New England (that fifth season called mud season), so it only takes a couple of inches of gravel with no site prep to solve mud problems here. We should not need to add any more gravel for a few years. Winter should be much more pleasant this year now that all of the gates will have large, gravelled areas. The main reason this is such a big deal to me is because I spend a lot of time in the mud around the gates every day. That is where the horses gather to have their feedbags put on so it will be nice to not be doing that in the mud.
I hope everyone has a great weekend, I'll be enjoying my gravel!

The big boys come running over when they notice the pile of gravel. It becomes a great excuse for lots of snorting and spooking. Levendi is the 'brave' one who paws at the gravel.

For anyone who is interested, this is a video clip from feeding the fish in the pond the other day.

Lightening grazing in the front while Teddy naps and Mr. O'Reilly grazes in the background. Lightening is an Arabian and retired trail horse. Teddy is a Quarter Horse and retired from dressage. O'Reilly is an Irish bred horse retired from the jumper ring.

Snappy and Chili grazing. Snappy is a Polish bred horse who competed through the 4 star level in eventing and then switched to a career as a show hunter. Chili is a Quarter Horse who worked cattle and hit the trails.

Mr. O'Reilly

Silky, a large pony grazing in the front. Behind him are Clay and Snappy. Clay is also a Quarter Horse who started his career on the race track and ended his career as a trail horse. Chili is grazing in the very back.

Cuff Links and Lily. Cuffie is a Welsh Pony and showed in the pony hunter divisions (medium). Lily is a Quarter Horse/Warmblood cross and she showed in the jumpers.

Buffy, Harmony and MyLight grazing, all three are Thoroughbred mares. Buffy showed in the hunters, Harmony is a retired polo pony and MyLight is a retired dressage horse.

Ivan and Apollo hanging out. Ivan is a Thoroughbred and retired Grand Prix jumper. Apollo is a Hanoverian and retired dressage horse.

Asterik, Trillion and Winston. Asterik is a Holsteiner and he showed on the A circuit in both the hunters and jumpers. Trillion is a Dutch Warmblood and was one of the top horses in the country in the Regular Working Hunters. Winston is a Thoroughbred who also showed in the hunters.

Ogie and B-Rad hanging out. Ogie is a Thoroughbred and retired event horse. B-Rad is a Belgian Warmblood and retired show jumper.

Sebastian and Faune grazing. Sebi is a Connemara/Irish Draught cross imported from Ireland, and he was one of those horses that you could do everything with. He foxhunted, showed in the hunters and the jumpers, he evented, did trail riding . . . what a great horse. Faune is a Selle Francais imported from France and he won everywhere in the hunters.