Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sunday Stills

Stormy, Johnny, Oskar, Bergie and Donovan having a lazy Sunday afternoon


Asterik, Lotus and Silver


Homer and Elfin

Lucky and Lightning having a pre-breakfast grooming session

Noble and O'Reilly had some play time while waiting for breakfast

the deer on our farm are really, really scared of us

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things We Got Right

(post by Jason) As most of you know over the course of the past several years Melissa and I built out the farm that we now live and work on. We had to think about everything from driveway placement to pasture size, fencing, cross fencing, waterers, barn placement and type; literally EVERYTHING to do with building out a farm and making it run smoothly and as efficiently as possible. Of course there were setbacks and things that we would do differently. No project of this size can be done without them, nor did we have unlimited funds. But there weren't many setbacks, mostly because we were already doing the work on a property that was not set up with efficiency in mind and we had lots and lots of time to think through how we would build things differently. At this point we are far enough into it that I feel comfortable sharing some of the things we got right.

1. Adequate Hay Storage - If I had to pick one thing that made my life immeasurably easier when we moved the horses to this farm having adequate hay storage buildings would be the number one on the list. I guess hay tarps are a form of hay storage, we used them for years before we moved down here in order to secure a reasonable quantity and quality of winter forage. But tarps like to develop holes, leak even when there are no apparent holes, blow around or off when it is really windy, are unwieldy to handle at every stage and don't work at all unless the hay is dry AND is sitting on a dry gravel pad with dry ground beneath it. If the day ever comes that we, in our dotage, are down to one or two pet horses I promise that wherever I live will have a ground level covered hay storage capable of holding a year's worth of hay and if it doesn't I will build it.

2. Automatic Waterers - I fought hard for this one because in the summer it seemed like we were forever dealing with dirty and/or almost empty troughs at our other farm. In the winter during cold weather we got to either chop ice multiple times a day on the cold days or deal with temperamental, and in my opinion unsafe, electric trough heaters. And oh my God are trough heaters ever expensive to run; they use a TON of electricity.

In the four years since we started the transition to auto waterers we have never had one freeze up and we have never had a horse not take to them quickly. They keep the water warm in winter, cool in summer and clean at all seasons, all of which encourages the horses to drink. Because we are hooked to county water there are no issues with water quality and we can monitor usage every month when we get our water bill. Perfect all the way around in my opinion. As an aside the horse's water consumption actually went UP when we switched from troughs to auto waterers. This is mainly because the temperature of the water stays more consistent year around and because the water stays much cleaner when no one can stick their hoof in the trough to play.

3. Gravel Pads in all High Traffic Areas - Safer for the horses and far safer for us while we feed and check them.

4. Feed Bags - Melissa has posted extensively on this topic. Feed bags are a huge labour and time saver on this farm. One person can comfortably feed every horse it's individual feeds, meds and supplements and know for certain that the right horse consumed the right things.

5. Multiple Use facilities - We have one barn that is solely dedicated to horses. It has permanent stalls, a permanent heated and air-conditioned feed room and office, a twelve foot wide concrete center aisle and a permanent hot/cold wash rack. Although there are times I am pretty glad we built it I am very glad we didn't replicate it twice more when we built barns on the remainder of the farm. Instead we built open, multiple use storage facilities with attached lean to's which can very quickly be configured into temporary stalls in the number that are needed at the time.

5. Bulk Feed - I commented to friends earlier this morning that when I was done feeding horses I had to move a ton and a half of feed around the farm to get us set up for next week. This elicited a lot of platitudes until I told them I would be done in about a half hour with absolutely no lifting required thanks to gravity, garbage cans and front end loaders. The equivalent tonnage in bags (60 bags) meant a  sixty mile round trip to the feed store and handling each bag at least three times once I got them to the farm. I am so glad we ditched the bags and now have our feed delivered to us in bulk !

6. Electric Tape Cross Fence - We originally weren't sure where we wanted some of the permanent cross fencing so instead of making a series of expensive and possibly bad choices we bought some attractive and very functional t-post covers and set up temporary three strand electric tape cross fencing. The key with any electric fencing is to keep it hot to keep horses or livestock off  of it. We have had zero challenges or injuries and it is easily portable and quickly repaired if a strand of tape happens to get broken. About the only detriment is the wires woven through the tape tend to rust out and every few years the tape will need to be replaced. We like this cross fencing so much we have decided not to replace it with permanent fence.

Most horse farms tend to be laid out with one main barn somewhere on the property. Inevitably you wind up with some conveniently located pastures and paddocks and some very inconveniently located pastures and paddocks. Our number one goal was to avoid that typical horse farm set-up, hence the multiple, multi-use barns. We are able to store halters, feed, blankets, feed bags and other supplies close to each pasture on our farm which is a huge time saver and makes the work go much more efficiently.

Share with us some of the things you love about your farm, whether you own your own farm or board. We always like to hear great ideas !


Johnny and Stormy

George and Gibson


Moe, Homer, Apollo and Hemi

Merlin napping, Walden and Fabrizzio grazing

Kennedy and Toledo

Chance and Grand

Largo and Toledo trotting through the pasture . . .

. . . then Largo and Oskar took off at a gallop

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


We were lied to today. Not just a little lie but a big, fat lie. Every weather forecast I looked at told me it was going to be 49 degrees today, that the wind would start out light in the morning and increase gradually throughout the day, and that it would be partly cloudy. Today we had another day with the dentist. Since we knew we were going to be outside all day today with no breaks at all Jason and I obsessively checked multiple weather forecasts all day long on Monday and Monday evening. When you know you probably won't even have a potty break from about 5:30am until sometime in the late afternoon you want to make sure you get your clothing strategy correct. 

Since I am far from a weather expert I would really like someone to explain to me how it is even remotely possible for it to snow when it supposedly 49 degrees. 

Anyone, anyone, Bueller, Bueller??

All I know is that is exactly what happened today. It was fairly pleasant at 5:30am as I was feeding this morning. Somehow as the morning progressed the temperature seemed to be going down instead of up. I started the day with only one pair of long underwear on under my jeans, turtleneck and sweater. This was a mistake. This was definitely, at least for me, a twofer day for long underwear. However since every weather forecaster in middle Tennessee lied to me I was one layer short of where Melissa needs to be to be comfortable. To put it in perspective Jason wound up with his coveralls on. Enough said.

To be fair to the weather forecasters we did have occasional periods where it was sunny and almost 50 degrees. Apparently they just forgot to mention the cold and snowing periods that would happen throughout the day. It was bizarre really. We would have what felt like gale force winds and heavy snow flurries for awhile, and then almost instantly the sun would come out, the wind would die down, the snow flurries went away, and it was relatively pleasant. And then after a period of this pleasantness Mother Nature would flip the switch and the sky was completely overcast, the wind was roaring, and the snow flurries came back. This schizo weather pattern went on all day.

Largo having his turn with the dentist; sunny

Stormy; the weather was changing from sunny to overcast and snowy 

It was grey and cloudy and spitting snow flurries for Donovan's turn with the dentist

sunny for Kennedy

It was grey, overcast and spitting snow while Johnny had his teeth floated.

To say that Jason, the dentist and I spent quite a bit of time complaining whining discussing the weather would be an understatement. We soldiered on and tried to enjoy the sunny and pleasant times when they came. Finally we were done with the dentist, done with afternoon chores and done for the day. I was so happy when I finally got to stand in a warm blistering hot shower and warm up. Then I had that moment when you realize the person who took a shower before you (ahem,  Jason) used up all the soap and didn't bother putting a new bar of soap in. So then I was faced with turning off my precious hot water, getting out of the shower, finding another bar of soap, and then starting all over again.  I just couldn't stand the thought of getting out of my hot shower and instantly being cold again so I skipped the new bar of soap.  For anyone who needs to know you can not only do a full body scrub with shampoo, you can even use it to shave. The end.


Leo, Trigger and Moe

Rip trying to decide if he wants to get up or lay back down

MyLight, Calimba and Cinnamon found something very interesting . . . 

. . . and then  Norman joined them to stare at the interesting thing

Dolly, Lily and Maisie

Tony and Baby

Elfin doing his "dogwalk" so he can roll on the other side

Africa, Murphy and Lighty

Bruno and Lucky having some play time while waiting for breakfast

Ritchie was being goofy, Leo ignored him and grazed

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sunday Stills

Apollo, Trigger and Thomas

Romeo and Lotus

Somehow Lofty made his way into the grey horse club today; L-R Gus, Asterik, Silver, Cocomo, George and Lofty

Donneur (apparently almost every horse on the farm felt the need to take a nap this weekend!)

Wiz and Africa



Darby and Alex

Stormy (finally a horse looking alert!)

Walon and Bergie

Homer, Leo and Elfin


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Diary of a Road Trip

I went on a road trip earlier in the week. This was not an epic, coast to coast road trip but a short jaunt where I made it home exactly 38 hours after I had left. When one of my traveling companions asked if I was going to blog about the trip I initially responded no. It was a really short trip and we had no vehicle malfunctions or other mishaps. Then I started thinking about how this road trip was a classic example of what it is like to travel with horse people (in other words nothing happens on time) and decided this trip was, indeed, blog worthy. 

The plan was that 3 horse girls (me, Lauren and Amy) and 2 horses were going to leave middle Tennessee Monday morning at 8am and return at some undetermined time on Tuesday.  We had exactly two things on our schedule. We had an appointment with a vet to evaluate one of the horses on Monday afternoon, and an appointment to go cross country schooling on Tuesday morning.  Why were we going to see a vet in Atlanta? In addition to doing all of the usual vet "stuff" Dr. Keeton is also an accomplished rider herself and can get on and ride a horse when you have one of those 'you can feel it but you can't see it' things going on. She also does both chiropractic and acupuncture as well so she is the perfect one stop covers it all vet. For anyone in the area that would benefit from a vet that can hop on and ride to evaluate a horse you should definitely look up Kim Keeton in the Atlanta, GA area.

At our scheduled departure time of 8am 2 of the 3 people and one of the horses was ready to go. Eventually all three people and 2 horses were loaded up and ready to go. At 9:20am we hit the road. I sent Jason a cheerful text message to let him know we were leaving. 

My text: We're leaving now!

Jason's text: WTF ??

We drove for awhile then made a somewhat extended pit stop to fuel up with diesel and air up the trailer tires before heading back on our way. At this point we all thought we would have no issues being on time for our 3pm appointment with the vet. Since I mistakenly thought our appointment was at 3:30pm I really thought we had plenty of time! 

Like all good horse people we had no trouble keeping the flow of conversation going and we solved the riding and training issues for many people we have observed out and about in the horse world. We kind of sounded like old men meeting for coffee at 5am that solve all of the world's problems. However instead of saving the world and solving all of it's problems we kept our keen intellects and sharp wits focused on solving the horse world's problems. When you have three intellectual giants solving people's problems it is impressive how many people and horses you can theoretically whip into shape. We stopped for a quick lunch when we were north of Atlanta and then went on our way again.

As we got closer to Atlanta we began consulting Google Maps to see how far away we were from our destination. At this point we began realizing that we might, in fact, be late. This was also the point in time when I realized our appointment was at 3 and not 3:30. Our awesome friends Stacey and Carol were putting up our horses for the night and also letting us use their barn and arena for our vet appointment, so the flurry of texts and phone calls began as we started warning everyone that we weren't going to be there on time.

At first we weren't too worried about it because how often is a vet ever on time? Sure it happens sometimes but it isn't wrong to count on a vet being late either. So of course Dr. Keeton arrived for our appointment not only on time but early.  Thankfully Stacey's horse Taco was also scheduled to see Dr. Keeton so Taco went first and covered for our late arrival. 

By the time we had done everything we needed to do with the vet, fed the horses, gotten them set up for the night, swept the barn, etc. we finally left for dinner at about 8pm. I sent Jason another cheerful text message to let him know what we were up to. 

My text: We're finally finished and have the horses tucked in for the night. Going for dinner now!

Jason's text:  WTF have you all been doing ?

Once we had eaten and made it to our hotel room we somehow decided that setting the alarm for 8am would get us and two horses to cross country schooling at 9:30am. I'm not sure why any of us, including myself, thought this was going to work out but we all three agreed it was a great plan.

We greeted our day on Tuesday morning and ate a leisurely breakfast at the hotel. We chatted about the missing airliner, about my trips to Russia, and various other things. We then made our way to Stacey's car that she had so nicely let us drive to the hotel so we wouldn't have to unhook our truck from our trailer. As we piled in the car to head back to Stacey and Carol's barn One Direction came on the radio.  Amy turned up the radio and we all commented on how much we loved the song. Lauren made the astute comment that was a bit odd that three adult women were cranking up the radio to sing along with a boy band. 

The facebook status update:  Three grown women in a stinky Honda listening to One Direction and talking about how great they are. Can't make this stuff up!

Jason's comment:  nothing for a change

As we are driving along enjoying our boy band Amy's phone rings. She looks down and sees it is Stacey calling her. Then we all three look at the clock: 9:42am. Guess we won't be making it to cross country schooling at 9:30 and no wonder Stacey is calling wondering where we are!!

We leave for cross country schooling a mere hour later than we were supposed to arrive. I send Jason another text message to update him on our progress.

My text:  We're leaving for cross country schooling now!

Jason's text: I thought this was happening at 9:30 ? It is almost 11 ?

 As we are driving to the facility where the cross country course is we realize that traffic is being re-routed due to an accident. We all three watch in admiration and awe as the driver of a Wal-Mart tractor trailer did a masterful job backing up his truck to turn it around with cars crowding him from every direction and not nearly enough room to do accomplish what he needed to do on the narrow side road we were on.  Seriously, you had to see this backing job to appreciate it. 

We finally made it to where we needed to be, Taco and Doc had a fabulous schooling session. In the midst of their schooling we realized that were going to be - 

- wait for it - 

- can you guess - 

Late for our follow-up appointment with the vet.  I know, shocking, since we had been on time for absolutely nothing so far on this trip. We get this all worked out with the vet who decided she actually did not even need our presence for what she was going to be doing. Seriously, Dr. Keeton is great to work with!

I sent Jason a text message letting him know we were going to be late (again) to meet the vet. 

My text: Running late for vet appointment

Jason's text:  I don't understand how you can think this is fun

Once we were done with cross country schooling, vet work, etc. we loaded up the horses and all of their stuff and were ready to hit the road to go home. We had a departing lunch with Stacey and Carol at IHOP.  After lunch we spent a few minutes in the parking lot trying to unsuccessfully catch a stray cat, and then we were on our way home.

We solved more horse people problems on the way home and had an uneventful drive back to middle Tennessee. I walked back in my house exactly 38 hours after I had left.  Despite doing absolutely nothing at its scheduled time we still managed to accomplish everything we set out to do.  All in all it was a pretty classic horse people road trip; late for everything yet still get it all done.  

Since Jason would rather gouge his eyes out with a plastic spoon than be late for something he would have found the entire 38 hours an exercise in torture. When I got home Jason and Carter were both alive and well despite my absence. As I looked at the pile of dirty dishes stacked in the sink Jason proudly told me the dishes in the dishwasher were clean. There was an alarming amount of dirty laundry and extra dirt on the floor (seriously Jason it was 38 hours). However Carter was fed, clothed and had even had a bath. Jason certainly felt like he was #winning having managed to accomplish those three things and stay on top of everything at the farm.  

Two days later I am still confused as to what day of the week it is after being away on Monday and Tuesday. All day today I kept thinking it was Friday. Yesterday I kept thinking it was Monday. I have, however, managed to do everything I was supposed to do and be everywhere I was supposed to be on time over the last two days!


Bruno, Fabrizzio and Merlin waiting for the farrier

Faune kept offering to remove Romeo's halter for him

Murphy and Renny

Silver and Donneur

Griselle and Miracle

Homer and Moe

Lighty, Wiz and Africa

Tony and Trigger