Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Switching Sides

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When we go away for a weekend and have somebody else take care of the horses, we close gates to isolate the four horses into two groups of two. It makes things a little simpler at feeding time if each of the four can’t move around and switch feed pans with all of the others. They don’t always do that with us but the fact they suddenly do it one day without warning is part of what makes it a little less safe for an inexperienced handler.

When I got home yesterday afternoon, I opened up all the gates again and granted them free rein. It is interesting to watch how the two pairs quickly take advantage of the new access to the “other side.” They didn’t rush to take advantage of the ability to connect with each other without a fence between them. The first order of business was to walk over to each other’s paddock and breath the air there. In case it was any different.

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Light had stepped out of frame by the time I snapped the shot on the right showing Mia grazing in the larger paddock. On the left, Mix and Swings wanted to be by the willow tree they haven’t had access to for a few days.

When I showed up with feed pans later, they duly took up their regular positions: Light and Mia on the left, Swings and Mix on the right.

Horses, dog, and cat all seemed happy, healthy, and glad to see me. Our sitter, Grace, takes good care of them. We are so lucky to have her covering for us when we want to get away.

Yes, for when we want to “switch sides” between home and the lake!

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2022 at 6:00 am

Going Again

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Guess where we are going today. It will be my fourth weekend in a row at the lake and I couldn’t be happier about that good fortune. I feel a little sorry for Pequenita though because she seems really starved for contact with me and I keep disappearing on her for days at a time.

The horses don’t seem to mind. Yesterday while I was on the lawn tractor and Cyndie was using the trimmer in the labyrinth, we spotted all four horses out “horsing around” in the hay field. What first caught my eye was Mix making aggressive moves toward the chestnuts but instead of running away, all four just rearranged positions while staying in close proximity with each other.

Then one of them laid down, rolling back and forth a couple of times before hopping right back up. Suddenly they all took off in a run back toward the paddocks. It looked like they were having fun on an otherwise uneventful day.

I came inside for lunch and scanned a few news headlines. That had me thinking how nice it is that horses don’t pay attention to headlines about search warrants or the reaction commentaries from extremists on both sides. Maybe the new national pastime has become unnecessarily overreacting to news releases with inflammatory trigger words and accusations about the nefarious motives of the “other side.”

There is a wonderful distraction awaiting our arrival up north in a few hours. It is called Round Lake. I plan to immerse myself in the rejuvenating water of the lake to do some back-floating and cloud watching. No headlines will be viewed during this news-free time. It’ll be my version of horsing around.

It will also be a nice break from raking gravel and rocks into a supportive shoulder for our new asphalt driveway. We made some good progress the last few days and I’ve set a goal of trying to finish 50 yards per day whenever we work on it. I’m guessing we’ve completed about half of the 600 combined yards of asphalt edges for both sides of the driveway.

That would be just six days if we achieve 50 yards each time we work on it.

If we keep going away for long weekends at the lake, it might be October by the time we get all the asphalt shoulder covered. Somewhere in the next 6 weeks we will have a fiber optic cable buried along the length of the driveway, as well.

Sure hope they don’t decide to show up on a Friday when we are planning to depart for the lake place.

I don’t like the struggle of choosing between two highly desired options.

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Written by johnwhays

August 12, 2022 at 6:00 am

Swings Escapes

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In a moment of brutal reality that revealed the hazards of a lapse in attention, I failed on two counts while tending to the horses after their evening feeding last night. I stepped through the gates to pick up empty feed pans without closing multiple doors behind me. Then, I allowed my panicky reaction to overcome my attempts to calmly coax Swings back inside.

Sure, they look calm now, but just a few minutes before taking that picture, there was a lot of running, snorting, and neighing going on.

I noticed Swings start moving just as I was about to step back through the gates with an empty pan in my hands. I reached for the gate to keep her on the correct side of it but she moved uncharacteristically faster than I could react. Things then quickly went from bad to worse.

My response of, “No, no, no, no…” didn’t help much as I meant to implore her to stop but just as much was voicing my thoughts of really not wanting this to be happening. I was alone with them, as Cyndie had taken Delilah and a wheelbarrow to clean up after having pruned some raspberry bushes. The two big sliding doors of the barn were wide open.

I knew that if Swings stepped through the little half door I had not closed she would be able to choose whatever destination she wanted. Without hesitation, as I fumbled unsuccessfully from behind her to try altering her progress, she knocked over a fan to walk into the barn. As I feared, she then continued right outside through the big doors.

Instead of remaining calm and encouraging her to stay put, I simultaneously scrambled around to reach a lead rope, yell for Cyndie, try to type a text to Cyndie, whistle for Cyndie’s attention, and plead with Swings to stay put. I didn’t want my whistle to startle the horses, so it was barely effective at drawing Cyndie’s attention.

The other three horses in the paddock were getting riled up over Swings being on the outside and Swings kept changing her mind about where she wanted to go. It was beginning to feel rather like an episode of Keystone Cops. Horses running to and fro and me flailing around with a phone and a lead rope trying to position myself where I could steer Swings back toward the barn.

Luckily, Cyndie did pick up on my yells and attempts to [sort of] whistle for her attention and came to help. Swings decided to trot around the back of the barn. At least this took her farther into our property instead of the front side where she had an easy path over the hill and off our property.

Swings headed out of sight around the bend beyond the chicken coop but returned before we had a chance to head after her. She started up the trail past the compost piles but came back from that, too. I steered her away from going around the barn again and Cyndie prepared the closest gate back into the paddock, getting shocked by the electric fence in her haste.

Meanwhile, the horses in the paddock continued to freak out over the whole scene. By this point, Swings seemed ready to rejoin them and it just took the right circling around for her to arrive at the gate Cyndie was holding open.

Just like that, the whole adventure was over, and everyone returned to grazing. Shortly after, Mix came up to me at the gates under the overhang and I noticed her breathing still hadn’t settled all the way down to normal. I felt like she was commiserating with me over the drama we had just experienced.

I latched all the gates and securely closed the barn doors, freshly retrained about prudent management of access points at ALL times.

Lesson re-learned. Thanks for that, Swings.

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Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2022 at 6:00 am

Heartwarming Moment

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One of my favorite scenes to watch is when the four horses choose to make their way together out of the paddocks and into one of their two fields. The herd sauntered out into the hay field yesterday morning after they had finished their rations of feed and the scene warmed my heart.

We don’t know why they spend most of their days standing in the dusty gravel under the barn overhang, stomping flies off their legs and periodically munching on old, dry hay. That’s where we usually see them, which makes the times we spot them out on the grass more thrilling.

From the manure drops showing up in the fields, we know they must be doing some wandering at night so at least they are taking advantage of the open gates we provide. I really like that we can give them full autonomy most of the time. Just because they don’t move when I think they should doesn’t mean they aren’t fully satisfied with their accommodations.

The opinion of the vet who reviewed pictures of Mia’s wound is that it is not a problem and looks to be making progress in healing. That’s welcome news. One of the handlers from This Old Horse stopped by with a salve to apply around the outside of the sore to keep flies away.

It is very reassuring to have the rescue organization supporting the well-being of the horses. Relieves some of the pressure of being responsible for large animals which allows us to focus more of our attention on simply loving them up and giving them a good home.

It warms our hearts that we’ve been granted the opportunity to do that.

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Written by johnwhays

August 3, 2022 at 6:00 am

Twice Blessed

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I arrived home yesterday, shortly after noon, and found everything in such great shape I could hardly fathom our good fortune for having found our latest house/animals sitter. Not only does she provide excellent care for our horses, dog, and cat, she cares for our home in every way. I swear it was cleaner when I walked in yesterday than when we left it last Thursday.

She brings in our mail and hauled our trash bins up from the end of the driveway. We checked in with her on Sunday night when we learned there was a tornado warning and she was already aware and waiting downstairs with Delilah.

Everything down at the barn looked great. We’ve been watching and treating an open wound on Mia’s leg that I thought still looked bad so I tried to get a picture to send to Cyndie for her review. Mia did everything she could to foil my attempts.

The good news is that those with better knowledge than us about this kind of thing have a more positive opinion of the progress. Someone is going to stop by to apply more salve to assure things keep going in the right direction.

From the looks of the property, that storm threat the other night didn’t bring much in the way of wind or rain. It is very dry and the prediction is for it to be hot and continued dry for the rest of the week. That’s not very conducive to the main concern I have right now about working on the gravel edge of our new asphalt driveway.

I only have two days before I’m scheduled to head back up to the lake for some biking in the woods. I’m holding onto the possibility that I won’t be working too hard here prior to that departure.

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Written by johnwhays

August 2, 2022 at 6:00 am

Being Horses

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This morning I am feeling overwhelming awe over my opportunity to live in such a beautiful place and care for these four rescued thoroughbred mares. In a conscious effort to compartmentalize all the ills and angst-inducing news roiling our planet, I am focusing on the peace and tranquility of my immediate surroundings and soaking up the soul-nourishing thrill of it all.

Being home alone with our animals brings on plenty of opportunities for contemplation. Half of me is thinking about which of our unending projects I can tend to on my own –chainsaw use is not allowed when I am alone– and half is wallowing in the bliss of all the pleasantries of solitude.

Partial solitude, that is. Delilah frequently reminds me that I am not totally alone. She also influences which projects I choose to tackle and when because some tasks don’t lend themselves well to having a leashed dog along. I am extremely grateful for her patient tolerance of my extended lingering this morning after tending to the horses.

The completion of the morning routine at the barn is regularly the trigger for returning to the house to feed Delilah breakfast. That she would accept any delay in being fed is absolute generosity on her part.

While the horses were calmly consuming their morning feed servings today, I quietly made my way down to open the gates to the freshly cut hay field. I was dumping a wheelbarrow of manure onto the most active compost pile when the horses took advantage of the renewed opportunity to roam the front field. They were just making their way over the hill and out of sight when I returned to the barn.

Curious about what was drawing them to immediately head to the farthest reaches of the field, I convinced Delilah to walk away from the house toward the high spot in the driveway to see what the horses were doing down by the road.

They were munching on the grass along the fence line as if in a gesture to demonstrate that they could. It was as far from the barn as their confines allow. With Delilah’s generous patience providing me ample opportunity, I just stood and watched our herd of four gorgeous horses being horses. Mix turned first and began to make her way back up the rise in the big field.

She stood at the top for a moment and looked absolutely regal, then moved into a happy trot down to the gate into the paddocks. The other three walked along behind. They appeared to be reveling in the regained access to the full reaches of their current home.

It is such a rewarding honor to be able to give them as much autonomy as possible throughout each day.

Their happiness is contagious.

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Written by johnwhays

July 3, 2022 at 10:21 am

Summer Progress

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The last few days have felt very much like classic summer days. I guess it is right on schedule as we now find ourselves in the Independence Day holiday weekend. Cyndie headed up to the lake with her mom yesterday and I stayed home to tend to our animals. We weren’t successful in securing coverage allowing us both to be away over the 4th of July weekend this year.

One classic sign of summer for us is the sight of our field converted into hay bales.

This year, Brad, who grazes cattle on our neighbor’s land, had his guy cut our hay field when cutting fields adjacent to us. A win-win for everyone as we wanted our field cut and hoped someone could use the hay, it was conveniently located for them to cut and bale, and it gives Brad a little more hay supply than he would have otherwise had.

Meanwhile, our horses have the back pasture for grazing. Yesterday evening, Delilah and I wandered out into the pasture to pull some weeds and the herd showed up to munch nearby.

The sound of the methodical biting of mouthfuls of grass as the horses torque their heads to break the blades and chew is a wonderful summer soundtrack backed up with songbirds, and the calls of frogs and crickets. It provides a soothing, meditative mood that nurtures my soul.

In contrast, serving up pans of manufactured nutritional feed pellets in the dry, dusty surface under the barn overhang can be a little irritating when things don’t go smoothly. I wish I didn’t so frequently find fault with the conditions as being either too wet and muddy or too dry and dusty. The days between those two states are way too few.

Since we allow the horses some autonomy –usually temporarily separating them into two groups of two– they are able to wander over and check out what the other horse was served, triggering a back and forth movement that foils the soothing sounds of contented munching we so enjoy.

Of the four horses, Light is the most prone to stepping into her feed pan, often tipping it rapidly and spilling the contents. In attempt to avoid them trying to eat the spillage out of the sand, which is not good for their gut, we have tried serving Light’s pan on a rubber mat.

I think we’re gonna need to use a bigger mat.

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Written by johnwhays

July 2, 2022 at 9:58 am

Looking Fine

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Well, I didn’t take a picture of the cut hay field, but Cyndie did.

Despite the downpour we received on the day I got home from my bike trip, the land is really dry around here. That means the horses kick up a lot more dust when stomping to shake flies loose and areas of grass are turning brown. Luckily, the strawberry patch Cyndie put in last year is not showing obvious signs of being too dry.

In fact, the plants are bearing fruit!

Doesn’t that look fine?

Fresh homegrown strawberries taste so much better than any other version of strawberries. There is nothing quite like biting into produce just picked from the garden.

Things tend to taste even more fine than they look.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2022 at 6:00 am

Home Fields

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As we rolled up the driveway on Saturday after Cyndie picked me up upon my return to the Cities, I asked her to stop at the barn. I wanted to let the horses know I had returned home. The unpacking of wet things could wait a few more minutes.

Swings greeted me first from her spot against the fence rail under the overhang. She breathed in the scent of my hands and lifted her head to let me scratch her neck. It feels pretty special to have developed a relationship with these horses after all that they have been through. I moved from Swings to Light and then to Mia. The chestnuts had each waited patiently on the other side of the overhang space. They breathed in my scent and accepted a few scratches

Finally, I looked to Mix who had yet to approach. She stepped up to the gate when I looked toward her. The herd welcomed me home.

Home to our fields. Cyndie took the above picture while I was away. The horse is standing in the back pasture. Beyond the fence is the hay field and it looks very different today. Yesterday the field got cut by a neighbor who will be taking it as round bales for his cows. It looks pretty good freshly cut. I’ll have to take some pictures.

Cyndie was in that spot to capture the grazing horse because she was taking pictures of the limb that had broken off one of the old maple trees near the back pasture.

It’s nice to be home but it means I have to get to work using the chainsaw first thing. After I finish mowing, that is.

Something tells me I’m not on vacation anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2022 at 6:00 am

Big Swing

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The temperature took a big swing of over 30°(F) in one day and we went from a high heat advisory on Monday to cool and wet yesterday.

I decided to take advantage of the rainy weather and started pulling weeds. I soon found myself pulling thistle that was mixed with poison ivy. That was enough to get me to change my focus to a different area where vines are taking over. Both projects turned out to be more overwhelming than handwork can solve.

I’m going to need to bring out the brush cutter on the back of the diesel tractor to interrupt the unwelcome trends growing in these two areas. We seem to have arrived at the peak vine growing time of the year as they are showing up everywhere we turn and in greater density than either Cyndie or I recall noticing in the previous ten years.

It’s hard to know if we are making any headway in controlling the vines because previous years’ efforts seem meaningless under the current onslaught of multiple climbing species showing up far and wide.

Speaking of big swings, I snapped a photo of Cyndie trying to interrupt a budding dreadlock in Mix’s tail while the mare was gobbling her morning feed.

 

It speaks volumes that Mix was agreeable to the annoying activity going on behind her while she ate. The horses really are allowing themselves to receive more attention from us every day. It’s wonderfully rewarding.

It’s a big swing from how they were behaving when they first arrived, a little over a year ago now.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2022 at 6:00 am