Sunday, April 29, 2012

Herding Cats

As everyone knows I love warm weather and truly despise cold weather.  However there is one downside to the grass growing, the birds singing and warm temperatures.  The horses can make feeding time very frustrating.  They are spread out all over the pastures grazing instead of hanging out around the hay feeders by the gates.  

Morning feedings are typically easy.  If they aren't waiting at the gate for breakfast they typically come quite promptly, often at a gallop, when called.  However all bets are off for dinner.  They know when you are feeding breakfast in the morning that without a doubt they are going to be fed.   After breakfast we are in and out of the pastures for various reasons such as catching horses for grooming, for the farrier, etc.  Thus when you start calling them for dinner you are lucky if anyone even lifts their head.  Apparently if they are not 100% sure you are calling them to come eat they aren't going to come.  Some groups are more difficult about this than others. 

On Friday afternoon I was hiking through the pasture calling Murphy, Wiz, Fuzzy, Darby and all the names over and over.  Their pasture is large and I couldn't even see the horses so I started walking.  I had our schipperke Bear with me on a leash.  Bear hurt his back a few weeks ago and has been on a serious medication schedule as well as on crate rest and house arrest, going outside only for bathroom walks. Needless to say Bear had a lot of pent up energy and had been bored out of his mind.

Last week he was allowed to start increasing his exercise with walks around the farm on the leash.  So Bear and I were walking through the pasture calling the horses who were nowhere to be seen and totally ignoring us.  Finally we spot them behind the woods, as far away from the gate as they can possibly be and still be in their pasture.  

Bear and I cross through the woods and I'm thinking that surely they will start heading to the gate now that I am standing right in front of them screaming their names.  No one even lifts their head from grazing so I start waving my arms and yelling at them to get moving.  A couple of them raised their heads to watch the crazy person flapping her arms around.  I continue my crazy person act and finally a couple of them start walking slowly towards the gate.  

About this time Bear decided to do his best imitation of a horse pulling back.  He pulled back on the leash and popped out of his collar.  I stood there holding the leash attached to the empty collar while Bear seized the moment and took off.  He decided to run right through the horses with me running after him in hot pursuit screaming "Bear, come back here NOW!!"  

Of course the willful little dog ignored me and kept running.  The dog and the screaming person running through their midst really got the horses moving though.  They took off at a gallop - in the wrong direction.  

Great.  Now I have the dog running in one direction and the horses running in another.  I kept up my pursuit of the dog.  However he has gone a month without freedom and isn't about to give it up now.  He is having a grand time as I wear myself out chasing him across the pasture. The little jerk ran under the fence into the next pasture.  Thanks to our lovely strand of hotwire along the top board of the fence I can't climb over to keep up my pursuit and by the time I ran to the gate and went through he was going to be long gone anyway. 

I screamed a few things at no one in general (since the dog and the horses have all run off and I have no audience) and start back across the pasture to make another attempt at herding the horses to the gate for dinner.  This time they can tell I'm feeling pretty crusty, my tone of voice must have said "don't mess with me" and as soon as I approached they started moving towards the gate.  All was going well until a little black blur named Bear went streaking past me.   The horses sense my distraction as I try to decide if I should make another go at recapturing the dog or keep herding them, and they took off running back to where I had originally found them. 

I screamed a few more things at no one in general since, yet again, I had no actual audience to listen to me.  I make my way back to the horses and scream "geeeeeeettttt out of here" and they wisely realize I am about to snap and run to the gate and wait for me.  Why couldn't they just do that the first time?

Bear sat well out in the pasture and watched me feed the ungrateful horses, gloating in his freedom.   Once they were fed I began walking across the pasture again to try and retrieve the dog.  Like the horses, Bear seemed to realize from the way I stalked towards him and my tone of voice that the smartest thing he could do would be to relinquish his freedom.  He finally let me catch him and he trotted along next to me on his leash as we exited the pasture.  My tour of duty attempting to herd cats was over for the day.

Thankfully Bear seems to be none the worse for his escapades.


Traveller, Calimba, Cinnamon, MyLight and Silky

Hemi, Thomas, Levendi and Apollo


Rocky and Toledo were having a grooming session . . .

. . . that turned into playtime

 Apollo and Thomas chatting over Hemi's back

Lightening and Snappy

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Horse, Explained

I did not write this post, I stumbled upon it on the world wide web.  There was much in this post I could relate to.  When I was a kid I had all the Marguerite Henry books, I pretended to jump over fences, and not only did my model horses have fake weddings, my real, live pony "married" my best friend's gelding.  My dad was the minister, our moms sewed a tuxedo and wedding gown for our horses to wear, and baked cakes made of sweet feed for their post wedding reception (I have to say yet again that I was truly blessed with the best parents a person could ever hope for!!). I should dig up the wedding pictures and scan a few to post one day.  

While I related to some parts of the post others made me laugh, especially the text in bold.  This post was good for a few laughs and fond memories for me so I thought I would share it:


The Horse, Explained
Nicole Cliff

(To visit the original post click here.  The text below was copied/pasted from the original post.)

You may or may not be familiar with The Horse. Perhaps as a child, you had many Marguerite Henry books, or you watched National Velvet every day after school for four months, or you pretended to be taking jumps over fences during long car rides. Perhaps you held fake weddings for your model horses (in retrospect, your pink My Little Pony was ill-suited for a life with your foot-high faux-Shadowfax).

Some of us, apparently, actually got to take riding lessons as children, which allowed said children to get all of this out of their system at an early age, while others did not gain access to actual horses until moving to the sticks in their mid-twenties and discovering that full-board was cheaper than their city parking space had been.

In your mid-twenties and beyond, the equine learning curve is steeper. You are further from the ground. You do not bounce upon making contact with the ground, so much as splat. You are closer to being aware of your own mortality. (You are mortal, in case you didn't know.)

If you haven't spent a lot of time around horses, you may have the idea that they are like dogs and cats (really big, dangerous dogs and cats). This is untrue. YOU are like dogs and cats, in that you are a predator. Let's not get sucked into the canines/intestines/primates-eating-fruit aspect of our disputed status as omnivores. The fact is, if someone says to you "hey, let's try this new brunch place that has amazing cocktails," there's a decent chance you'll say "great, meet you there." Your dog feels similarly. New things are fun! That is because you are a predator.

Prey animals do not think new things are fun. New things, if you are a prey animal, usually mean a swift death. Horses are like deer. They see something unexpected, they freeze for a second, and then they book it on out of there. They don't like to leave the herd. They have no interest in breakfast cocktails. If you try to take your horse to a new brunch place, you need to convince them that a) you've been there before, b) there are no cave trolls at the brunch place, c) there will be other horses at the brunch place, and d) you will be a royal pain in their ass until they quit dicking around and agree to go to the brunch place.

There's a decent wash-out rate when people begin riding horses, for just this reason. It's also why you should begin your equine journey on a five-thousand-year-old Quarter Horse gelding. They've been to a lot of brunch places, and if you give them something resembling the correct cue, they'll do what you say.

Or, you can be kind of a fool, and buy (see picture) a stunningly beautiful three-year-old half-Thoroughbred mare who, if asked to come up with a list of her fears, would instead come up with a (brief) list of not-fears (her own stall, dressage arenas, baths, treats, boy horses). This is not...necessarily...a disaster, if you have a good trainer (thanks, Aurora!) and are not in a rush. But it's not what you would call a good idea.

What happens, though, when you fall in love with an ill-advised horse, is you become kind of a wonderful bitch, in a good way. You have to be braver than you really are, or you'll get hurt. You have to fake it. You have to convince this beautiful, dumb, flighty creature that you are a strong and bossy person who knows what's best. You need to pretend you're a horse, as a rider, in a way you never really have to empathize with your dog or cat. "Oh, there's a plastic bag drifting across the arena. That's terrifying." "That other mare is in heat, and if I get too close to her, she's going to kick me in the face." "Everyone's getting fed right now, so we kind of want to duck out at the gate."

Horses are sublime. They're gorgeous mythical beasts that emerge from antiquity to destroy your bank account and break your collarbone. They're fragile. They're dangerous. They need new shoes every six to eight weeks. They eat your heart. They fall in love with your vet, and deliberately colic themselves in order to spend more time with him.

You are not vitally important to your horse, not really, not like you are to your dog, ever. They never figure out who you are, and why you do the silly things you do. You have to forge a relationship with your horse while knowing that, given the chance, they'd probably rather hang out with their buddies than spend time with you. But then, one day you pull up to the barn, and you realize that your horse has memorized the sound of your car, as opposed to other people's cars, and has wandered over to the gate to greet you.

It makes you feel lucky. Not just "oh, God, I can afford to do this idiotic sport" lucky, which you should feel every day, but some kind of stupid semi-spiritual lucky, because you've managed to connect with an animal ten times your size, and convinced them to ignore every instinct they possess in order to let you clamber onto their back and stick a metal bar in their mouth. It's crazy. It doesn't make any sense.

You're a horse-person now. Maybe it'll pay off when the zombies come, and the gas pumps stop working


Asterik and Silver

Sam and Johnny

MyLight and Silky


Johnny found the perfect tree branch for scratching his itchy head

Jason hanging out with his loyal fan Thomas

Moe and Homer

Sunday, April 22, 2012


It would be an understatement to characterize this post as past due since Faune retired with us in 2007. Faune is probably one of our best known residents, and many people know him as "the big French guy." He arrived at our farm prior to our blogging days and he is long overdue for his very own post. I harassed asked his mom way too much about this post as I wanted Faune to have his own post so badly. His mom came through for me in a big way and actually wrote the entire post herself! In her own words here is the story of her journey with Faune. She wrote this post for me this past Sunday, April 15th, which was Faune's 19th birthday.


Faune wasn't something I planned on in a lot of ways. I was young, a workaholic, traveled way too much, and was in a long relationship with someone who was undoubtedly not a horse lover. Yet, I like to say "Faune Happens" - that is, sometimes the most important things you'll experience in your life aren't planned at all. They're planned for you, actually. I have owned my horse Faune for 12 years, and I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to be owned by him. Because in actuality, he owns his people - not the other way round.

A picture of Faune taken shortly after his mom bought him

My parents like to say I was "Born Horsey" and began asking for a horse when I was 3 years old. Growing up in Chappaqua, NY I eventually became a very competitive young equestrian and I was fortunate enough to have parents who supported my habit, and provided me with the opportunity to own some amazing animals and train with some of the best Junior Equitation trainers in the Northeast, like George Morris, Kip Rosenthal and Jane Grenci of Fox Hill Farms. But it was never the competition that I liked the most. It was the times when it was just me and my crazy horse - out on the trails of the Rockefeller Estate on our off days. It was magic and I often think about just how unafraid I was to trundle along out there by myself on my equitation horse, Elliot (Fair Isle). Later in my life, I wouldn't be so brave. Luckily, I was going to paired with a partner who would help me with that.

Faune and his mom waiting to go in the ring

Like a lot of girls, I wasn't able to take my horse to college, and my competitive junior career ended when I attended Syracuse. Although I rode on the inter-mural Syracuse Equestrian Team, my life was absorbed mostly with College and boys, of course. The years without a horse were empty in so many ways. I didn't actually realize how empty until later. After college I moved to Washington, DC for grad school and eventually made my way to Boston - all fairly horse free at this point. I was a partner at a small public relations firm and working 80 hours a week - traveling every other week - and basically just existing without my passion in my life. Faune had other plans.

Faune certainly did not have any trouble clearing this jump!

I began riding again at a local barn outside Boston, first just weekly lessons, which allowed me to get back in shape and realize just how barren my life had become without my first love - horses. The trainer I was working with at the time suggested it was time to go shopping, a terrifying prospect now that it was going to my dime. But, I went along with it, never really thinking I would find the right horse for me. All those years off had created a much more timid rider now in my 20s, and I would need the right partner to baby me along.

Faune enjoying his favorite treat, a slurpee

Still, on a trip down to Palm Beach in January of 2000, I enjoyed trying a lot of amazing younger horses. If I'm being honest, I had my heart set on a gray, somewhere between 16.2-17hh. If you know Faune then you know it's laughable what I actually ended up with. I had tried about 2 dozen horses between WEF and Vermont, mostly young hunters and a few jumpers who were nice enough to do some lower level amateur hunters. I wasn't looking for "the best." I was looking for a partner who could help me get my confidence back. They were all lovely, but mechanical. Nothing really felt like a good fit.

Faune taking a look around before heading into the ring

On my last day at WEF, the broker and I walked through a small aisle of horses and we stopped at Faune D'Helby's washstall. There, I came face to face with one of the largest horses I had ever seen. He was 17.3hh and chestnut, with a large white blaze and four white stockings. I didn't like the look of him one bit to be honest - as I had never really loved chestnuts and surely I couldn't ride such a big horse, right? But, we decided to try him because I was heading home the next day.

schooling at a Vermont show

I sat on a few others before Faune was ready to go, and again, the same feeling of "just not me" was clear. Remembering the long process of trying horses as a kid, I simply knew I had met my match when I rode Elliot. It was instant. Then I sat on Faune. The first time you sit on Faune it's like you're sitting on a big, soft couch. As we walked to the ring, he curled his neck all the way around to touch my boot. I know now that he was in fact, looking for cookies. But still, I was smitten. It was instant, just like I remembered.

showing in a jumper class in Vermont

Faune was a gifted horse in a lot of ways. A really beautiful mover despite his size. A dream to ride. He was easy, relaxed, and calm. He had a sticky left lead change, that worried my trainer but to be honest, the horse could have had three legs at this point. He was coming home with me. We had him vetted and I was told that his left stifle showed some early arthritis. It didn't change my mind one bit. I wasn't sure what I would be doing with Faune as he was suitable for both hunters and equitation. We would just see where it would go.

Faune grazing with his friends in retirement

Faune was born and bred in Normandy, France in April 1993. His dam was Nymphe De Thurin and his sire was Digne Espoir, a successful stallion out of Ibrahim. He was imported by a family to do the jumpers in 1996 but was later sold back to his importers, apparently. Faune spent his first showing years doing the jumpers and then was moved into the professional hunter divisions with a few trainers. He was being sold as an "either/or" - hunters/equitation or jumpers; the horse would be suitable for both. For me, I didn't really know what I wanted to show in - so I was happy to shoot for the 3' amateur hunter divisions and go from there.

Faune having a lazy retired day

I do find it funny thinking that Faune could have ever been competitive in jumpers, because his canter is a perfect hunter lope, and to gallop would just not suit him really. He was brave in many areas, but not as brave as a good jumper would have to be. Still, over his career my horse did indeed do a little of everything.

I moved Faune to an amazing barn in Dover, Massachusetts, called Shining Valley Farm, where I began training with Krisanna Onorato, one of Paule Valliere's gifted students, now running her own farm, owned by Ron Zohar. Krisanna began showing Faune in the professional hunter divisions locally (he was later a Horse of the Year in Zone 1 before an injury sidelined them), and I spent my own time just learning to ride properly again.

We call this look of Faune's "cow nose;" he gets his hay cube mash all over his face

As I began to get deeper and deeper back into my horse life, my professional life had to change. After a couple years, I left my firm and took a much less stressful corporate job so I could spend more time riding and taking care of Faune. I also got rid of the guy who eventually asked me to choose between him and Faune. It was the easiest decision I ever made. Looking back, those were the best years of my life, and not because I was beginning to show again, but because I was living again and was excited to get out of bed every morning just to see my horse later that day.

Over the next several years I spent my time deeply engrossed in my horse - his health, his training, and some showing. We started out in the 3' hunter and equitation divisions but over time, as I got older and had a few more falls, I began to experience a lot of anxiety jumping my horse. Faune is one of those horses that is so easy to ride, you never really worried about much while riding him. In fact, in flat classes, I would just whisper to him when it was time to trot, canter or walk. That's how pushbutton he really was.

Melissa on Faune. I've had the pleasure of riding Faune a couple of times myself and my words to Jason were "he's like riding a big couch."

But as my confidence waned, so did his. He began stopping off and on, which compounded my growing issues with larger jumps. We moved down to the 2'6" hunters where lots of ladies like me were riding their horses to get some confidence back. To be honest, I really enjoyed the 2'6" division and was never embarrassed that we weren't ever going to be a 3'6" team. In fact, I didn't care if I never showed at that point as Faune was doing great with Krisanna and seemed to be really enjoying his routine. Most importantly, my horse was happy - spoiled, fat and simply a joy to be around. He has his quirks, for sure. Like his obsession with treats that once led to an emergency visit from a vet at HITS, after Faune had reached over and ate a plastic bag that USED to have horse cookies in it. Oiled and lubed up, the bag passed whole about 6 hours later.

In the summer of 2006, Faune got injured at Vermont Summer Festival taking a bad step in a Adult Equitation flat class with me. I felt the step and knew right away he was off. We shipped him home and our vet diagnosed a slight left hind medial suspensory strain. This is, of course, devastating for any horse person, because you know it's going to be a long road. And it was. Faune also coliced 2 days after getting home and I was terrified I was going to lose my horse as I watched him be walked around the driveway waiting for the vet. Thankfully, banamine and some oil got him right again. I spent the night in the barn, outside my horse's stall. I mean this when I say it - I will do anything for my horse. Anything he ever needs he will have.

Amy demonstrating the best way to groom Faune

Faune spent a very short time on total stall rest and then we began turning him out because a big horse like mine needs to move, even if he can't be ridden. Faune was a great patient, and I think really enjoyed his time off. We did both stem cell and ultrasound therapy on his left hind, and the swelling dropped within 8 weeks. Faune was brought back very slowly over about 8 months time, first handwalking, then walking under saddle, and at month 6 or 7, began to trot. Faune and I bonded even further during his recovery. I would often get to the barn late in the evenings, and walk him under saddle alone in our indoor ring with Stevie Wonder playing in the background. I would sing "Overjoyed" to him as we walked - and I really think he loved it. Of course he mostly loved the post-ride treats that I peppered him with.

After that injury, we never really showed again I don't think. Although Faune came back and was fit and beautifully sound once more, neither of us really wanted to be competitors anymore. I was happy to do my lessons 3 times a week, hack my horse and go on the trails. We were so fortunate to have our farm on the Norfolk Hunt, where we had access to hundreds of acres of beautiful grounds to explore. We just enjoyed each other and I let my horse and myself relax into a purely pleasure role. Faune had had other health issues crop up as he aged, including very nasty and chronic bouts with Lyme Disease, which accentuated his arthritis.

Around that time I also began to notice a "stiffness" in his neck; the feeling that he was just uncomfortable somewhere. I started him on acupuncture, massage therapy and other non traditional methods to get him more comfy. No one else seemed to sense what I did - that something was just not right. He was still sound, still perfectly happy, but there were some days I noticed him carrying his head very low, and seeming ouchy. A neck x-ray showed nothing. But still, it was clear to me something was wrong.

The day I decided to retire my horse wasn't something I came up with on my own. My horse told me it was time. Very clearly. We walked from the upper barn to the lower outdoor ring and as we approached the gate, Faune stopped. I leaned down and said to him, "what is it buddy?" He just stood there, looking at the ring. I dropped the reigns and said, "you tell me what you want to do." Faune backed up out of the gate and walked me back up the road, and onto the trails. Faune was just done with the ring and he was telling me he just wanted to be a horse.

I started looking for non show barns to move him to so that he could enjoy more time outside, just being a horse. After working with my vet to try to keep Faune in the area, we decided a more temperate climate would be best. I looked into farms in Kentucky,North Carolina and then I went to visit Paradigm Farms, owned by a friend who I had known and chatted with on the Chronicle of the Horse boards. One visit was all it took, and the next several months were spent jointly planning my horse's trip and future life with Melissa at her family's home farm. It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. It still is. But it was the right one.

By the way, my feelings on Faune's head and neck proved not to be my imagination and a few months into his life with Melissa, Faune faced his biggest health challenge yet. I'll let Melissa mention it if she cares to,but suffice to say that her unwavering care for my horse, as well as the amazing care provided by her vet, and later, the University of Tennessee, saved my horse's life. I am forever grateful for their love and care for my most cherished possession. For my best friend.

Melissa here to explain the two pictures below. To make a long story short Faune developed this strange wound on his poll that wouldn't heal. We wound up at UT Knoxville veterinary clinic for surgery (this was before our vet clinic built their new surgical unit) as it turned out Faune basically had a "super bug." It had walled itself off at the poll but if it had gone systemic he probably would have died. The surgeon had to remove a significant area around his poll to debride the infection. The surgeon said this had been a very long time in the making probably a year or two, dating back to when his mom first noticed the neck/poll soreness. After two weeks at UT Faune came home with a large chunk of his neck and poll missing, a few drain tubes and an intense daily care session that involved removing all of the packing from the wound, cleaning the wound, and then repacking it. We had to do this every day for months while the area healed. During this time we had to make sure the whole area was covered so we made him his little bonnets every day. We had a huge box of stretchy material and I would cut off a section, pull it on Faune's head, make a couple of snips for ear holes, and then he was ready to go for another day. This is Faune waiting for me to cut the holes. I called it his gangsta look.

I have had two amazing horses in my lifetime. My first horse Elliot, with whom I was so bonded that when I had to go away on family vacations, he would bite me as soon as I returned, telling me in no uncertain terms that I was not to go away again. And my Faune. My high maintenance, accident prone, spoiled, oversized dog of a horse, whose favorite treats are Krispy Kreme donuts, Slurpees, and anything peppermint.

It's funny how things work out, as within a year of my horse moving away to retire, I faced a challenging battle for my own health, and wouldn't have been able to focus on my horse as much as I had been able to prior. Today,I sleep well knowing that my friend is safe in the care and keeping of people who love him and allow him to be himself. When I visit, although it's sometimes hard to swallow that he doesn't seem to mind if I am there one way or the other - after all, his herd is his family now - I am forever grateful that he has the opportunity to retire in the most beautiful place, with trusted friends who will always put my horse's wellbeing before their own. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Happy birthday to my dear Faune. My best friend. Thank you for showing me how to feel again.

With love,
Your Mom

Faune grazing with Poco the pony a few years ago; he adored Poco

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Blogger has decided to be extremely difficult today. I was already scrambling for time without blogger being difficult. After much angst blogger finally uploaded some pictures so I will have to leave it at that for now. Have a great weekend!

Fabrizzio and Walden trotting through the field

Toledo and Kennedy hanging out

Homer and Elfin

Tony and Apollo

Tiny and Rampal

Toledo and Rocky

Largo and Clayton


Lily and Calimba

Snappy and Thor

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Herd Dynamics During Introductions

Transitioning new horses into a group is always an event that owners worry about. We stress over it as well although for different reasons. The owners worry about the social aspects while we worry about someone getting hurt. Through the year and with a lot of horses we've never actually had an injury happen during group introductions but you never know when the streak will end. We are talking about horses after all.

When introducing horses to a group the concept that he horses have reinforced to us repeatedly through the years is introducing a horse into a small group has the potential for a lot more drama than introducing a horse to a large group. The dynamics I like the least are introducing a third horse to a group of two, or a fourth horse to a group of three. It is almost guaranteed big drama for awhile because the herd dynamics are being changed so drastically. I'm not saying always and never here, obviously sometimes introducing a third horse is super easy, but if I'm strictly looking at the odds I'm going to be a lot more nervous about the small group introductions.

On the other hand we find that the easiest introductions are with a larger group. For as playful, active and rowdy as the Big Boys can be at times they are, without question, the easiest group on our farm for a new resident to join. Why is that? Because they function in a manner that comes a lot closer to resembling a true herd dynamic than a small group of 2,3 or 4 horses. When we've had occasion to introduce a new guy to the Big Boys the drama usually lasts about 3 minutes. There is some nose sniffing and squealing, but everyone doesn't even bother to participate. They lift their heads to see what is going on and then flick an ear as if shrugging and saying "oh it's just some horse, not all that interesting," and go back to what they were doing. The net effects on the herd dynamic is minimal with them so the drama tends to be minimal as well.

When we introduce new horses the existing members of the group typically respond to the new horse in one of four ways:

-The "chargers" are the ones who tend to dart aggressively towards a newcomer in an effort to run them off. They are acting like a kid on the playground saying "these are MY friends and you can't have them." Charging does not come out of dominance but because they are insecure. Some of the chargers are more serious about it than others. We've got our own form of profiling going on around here as the chargers typically have a common background. They are the ones that usually had very minimal or no turnout prior to living with us. The more serious chargers are usually the horses that had limited turnout and hadn't been turned out with other horses in a long time. They are extremely possessive of their friends and are still insecure about keeping them. Usually the chargers only stay this way for a couple of years. After a couple of years these horses typically move out of the charger group and into one of the other groups. The chargers also tend to be the most strongly herdbound horses.

-Then we have the "greeters." These are the horses that never miss any of the action, be it running and playing or meeting a new horse. There is nothing aggressive or negative about their response to a new horse. They just view the newcomer as an instant friend and want to get to know them and become best friends immediately. New horses usually latch onto a greeter for obvious reasons for the first day or two while they get to know everyone and then they start to branch out. I've yet to see the top horse in the pecking order be a greeter. They are friendly enough once their superiority is established but not in the same way as a true greeter.

-The "indifferents" are pretty self explanatory. They don't feel the need to be a charger, nor do they feel the need to have a meet and greet session with a newcomer. Their response to a new horse is basically neutral. After the first day or so of sticking closely with the greeters new horses often like to pair up with one of the indifferents for awhile. It is a low stress horse for them to be around as they aren't being pressured to interact constantly by a greeter and it lets them step back and take things in for awhile in a more neutral relationship.

-Finally we have the "boss" horses. These horses may also be a greeter or indifferent, but it is also very important to them that a newcomer understand that they have the power. Boss horses are not chargers, they aren't insecure like the chargers. Once the newcomer acknowledges their high ranking in the group they drop it quickly and move onto being indifferent or a modified version of a greeter.

Next I was going to write about how the newcomers to the group tend to act but I'm out of time for now so it will have to wait until another post!


I took this picture in the Big Boy's pasture. From where this picture was taken I was a mile from the road. The run-in shed to the left is where Rampal, Clayton, Rocky and friends live. The run-in shed in the middle is for the Big Boys, and the shed to the far right is where the mares, Norman and Cuffie live.

Leo, Grand and Chance
Faune and Gus grooming each other

Hemi, Thomas and Tony

Dutch and Wiz

Gus and George having a grooming session

Johnny and Sam

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crazy Shedding Season

This has been the worst shedding season I think I've ever seen. Our winter this year left me little to complain about, and I'm famous for being able to complain about cold weather. December, January and February are months that I typically just complain about it and I count the days until March. When the first week of March comes we are always guaranteed to be in spring at that point with the grass starting to really green up.

This year after our pleasant winter it was almost like we skipped spring and went straight to summer. By late March not only had the cool season grasses greened up but the warm season grasses had as well. Most of the days in March saw a high temperature in the low to mid 80's with a couple of days just barely missing the 90 degree mark.

The horses always start lightly shedding in late February through March, and then really let go of the hair in April. This year the light March shedding wasn't making most of them happy since we were having summer temperatures. They spent hours grooming each other, rubbing on the trees, rolling vigorously, and generally doing whatever they could to encourage their hair to come out even though for most of them they weren't in heavy duty shedding time yet.

This spring I have joked that we live on a farm of ragamuffins. Every year a few horses (not necessarily the same ones each year) do what I call patchy shedding. They let go of their winter coat before the summer coat has fully grown in underneath so they walk around with bald patches for awhile. This year the patchy shedding was crazy. One day a few weeks ago I was grooming MyLight with the shedding blade. When I'm using a shedding blade I put some muscle into it and go pretty quickly. After a few strokes I realized I wasn't just taking some of her hair out, I was taking MOST of her hair out. Her neck and shoulder had large basically bald patches where I had used the shedding blade.

This pattern continued to repeat itself with horse after horse. I would run the shedding blade over them with enthusiasm and bald spots followed. After a couple of weeks the bald spots were replaced with new summer hair but then new bald spots replaced the old ones. I was almost embarrassed to have the vet out for spring vaccinations last week given the state of everyone's coats with their rub marks and bald spots. Thankfully he just laughed at my embarrassment and said he'd had more than one client have him out to examine their horse thinking they had a skin condition due to the crazy shedding patterns they were seeing. I realize I shouldn't be happy about the misfortunes of others but I will admit I was glad to know I wasn't the only one. (And more glad that at least I knew the horses were just shedding oddly and didn't think I needed the vet out to diagnose a skin condition!)

The shedding is starting to calm down now. Some of the horses are completely shed out now. Most of the horses are almost finished losing their winter hair and just have patches on them, mostly on their barrels, that will finish in the next week or so. Some of the older residents are further behind in their shedding but that is normal.

Last week our temperatures returned to more normal spring temperatures from the summer days we had been having. Now that the horses are better prepared for it I'm sure they won't mind if the summer temperatures return.


Asterik and Lotus having a good time

Wiz and Johnny

Something had Walden, Fabrizzio, and Thor's attention

Sebastian, B-Rad, Alex and Darby