Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Heavy Sky

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Who doesn’t like posts about the weather? It’s like a friend that everyone knows. We interact with the weather every single day. It’s our common denominator, even though it could be completely different for us at any given moment.

We didn’t receive the hail that our children in the Twin Cities reported, but the wild weather was swirling all around us. Poor Delilah was on full alert trying her darnedest to scare away the intimidating thunder with her most energetic ferocious barks. She leaped straight into the air to get after one particular rumble in the sky.

She puts out an incredibly valiant, yet futile effort to combat the ominous sounds and flashes of thunderstorms. The noise and her frantic energy quickly get tiresome to our weary ears and fractured ambiance.

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While out feeding the horses, the clouds put on a spectacular show that became very difficult to read. I wished I had taken one of the skywarn classes offered by the National Weather Service. The rain came in several waves with just a scattering of lightning and thunder. Between each, we saw moments of sunshine and general calm.

On an evening with a looming threat of severe weather, we lucked out as the worst cells slid either north or south of us. As nightfall descended, we walked out to deliver the trash and recycle bins to the road and got a good view of the backside of one of the big cells.

Our sky was beginning to look much less heavy already.

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2022 at 6:00 am

First Sighting

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After all the years of hearing them and losing chickens to them, yesterday I finally saw my first coyote on our property. It was mid-morning and I had tethered Delilah to a small tree while I coaxed the horses back into the paddock from the pasture. Actually, Mix and Light were already in by the barn.

Swings was close to coming in but decided she still should kick into a big run, which helped energize Mia, who was much further out in the field, to also accelerate into a run. It saved me from needing to trudge all the way out there to get her. I hustled behind them to close the gate before they might decide to keep running and loop right back out again.

That’s when I noticed the odd-looking gangly juvenile coyote standing in the paddock near the waterer, all ears with spindly legs and an ugly long tail. It didn’t seem very jumpy but looked like the rush of horse energy showing up was enough to convince it to take a walk.

I tried to hurry my latching of the gate chain and rush back to get Delilah so we could add a little convincing of our own to show that intruder it shouldn’t be here. I’m sure that Delilah was clueless at that point, but she definitely picked up my urgency and gladly rushed off in pursuit of anything just as fast as she could drag me.

As we rounded the backside of the barn I caught a glimpse of the lone young coyote moving beyond the hay shed toward the north loop trail. Its pace wasn’t the least bit threatened which led me to feel it was acting with a rather cocky level of self-confidence. Too bad I couldn’t move fast enough to allow Delilah to close much distance on the trespasser.

When we reached the road, I saw the rather mangy-looking youngster trot across the neighbor’s lawn across the street. It looked back to check on our pursuit once before disappearing over the horizon.

I wish it hadn’t looked so comfortable in the paddock before leaving. I take some solace in knowing it won’t find any chicken dinners here for the time being.

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2022 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Should Be

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This is as it should be. The horses are peacefully enjoying the fresh green pasture. Simply idyllic.

I am very happy to report that the horses have been very calm about moving through the gate to the pasture when I open it. They have also been self-policing their minutes on the field. When my timer has gone off reminding me to usher them back to the confines of the paddocks the last two days, I have found they had already returned on their own.

Yesterday they were all willing participants in receiving their spring dose of dewormer medication. By all indications, they have become well adjusted and are at peace with the accommodations we are providing. It is interesting to think back to how they presented in the early days after their arrival a little over one year ago.

It’s been rewarding to witness the slow changes as they began to grow more comfortable with us and their surroundings with the passing of each month. They are beginning to take on a look that says they agree that this is exactly where they should be at this point in their lives.

They must be happy that the close calls with severe weather recently have all turned out well for us. There was nothing visible yesterday morning to indicate a big windy thunderstorm rolled over us the night before. At least, in terms of trees and branches that is. There were plenty of hints we had experienced a flash flood.

The diagonal line through the field in the image above is where the runoff flattened the grass on the way to the drainage ditch along our southern property border. We really need to find our rain gauges and get those set up again. I prefer knowing how much rain falls from big storms.

Cyndie recalls storing one of them last fall in a very smart place where we would be able to find it again in spring. So far, no luck.

Her new milestone of knee replacement recovery for yesterday (just over 3 weeks out) was, taking her first walk on a trail through our woods. She did it without a cane or any supporting devices. She’s not pain free yet, but she is definitely making good progress on using that leg more and more. The machine providing compression and icing is a godsend that really helps the rest periods between all the exercise she is getting.

I think I would like one of those fancy machines with a sleeve that fits over my whole body. I suppose I could always take an ice bath.

Okay, that just changed my mind. I don’t want to take an ice bath.

Although, yesterday’s heat and humidity was rather oppressive…

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Full Afternoon

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When we reached the driveway yesterday after a couple of errands in the Cities, I stopped the car to check for mail and let Cyndie move over to the driver’s seat. Her new right knee was no trouble for her as she tested a quick stop and then piloted the vehicle up to the house and into the garage.

She just keeps checking off new firsts every day. After resting with the leg raised and wrapped with the cooling/compression machine while we had some lunch, she made her way out to assist me in getting our landscape pond cleaned up and the pump pushing water over the falls again.

That’s a milestone we were overdue to accomplish. It feels super to have that off our list and even better to again hear the soothing sounds of the splashing water.

Speaking of milestones, yesterday also marked the day Cyndie stopped using a cane when walking.

Activity moved from the pond to the paddocks and Cyndie walked all the way to the barn and back to the house after spending time with each horse and offering to brush them.

I went from the barn to the shop garage where I successfully fired up the lawn tractor for the first time this season. There will be no such thing as “no mow May” at our place. I mowed the two spots around the paddocks where the grass grows fastest.

Two of the more urgent projects on our spring to-do list have been checked off and both happened on the same afternoon. When spring growth finally kicks off, it doesn’t pause to wait for anyone who meant to get some things done before the leaves pop open.

I am thrilled to be able to move on to the next big thing. Friday, weather permitting, we are scheduled to receive a visit from the tree service. That’s another task I am hoping will happen before the leaves all fully open. As it is, that project is already about a week late in terms of the buds popping on branches.

Spring is springing out all over the place, and delayed though the warmth and sunshine may be, higher heat than my body is adjusted to is now showing up in force. I forgot what it was like to move hay around while working with sweaty bare arms.

I was very ready for a shower after the full afternoon of spring projects we successfully handled yesterday.

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2022 at 6:00 am

Fresh Grass

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The horses have had a few days of brief visits to the back pasture now and it just makes them yearn for more. On the first day, they only got 15 minutes to munch. We increase it by 15 minutes each day for about two weeks, after which we can leave the gate open and they can come and go as they please.

Judging by their poop, none of them appear to be having any digestion issues upon the change in their diet, but it’s early yet. Hopefully, they will adjust without a problem, but it’s something that deserves our attention and we’d rather be over-cautious than have them suffer any ill effects.

When I opened the gate that first day, Mia was again the first to notice. She cautiously eased her way through the opening and quietly grazed just a short distance inside the back pasture.

Curious about whether they would stampede their way out into the field, I started recording a video when Light and the other two finally showed awareness that Mia was out there without them.

Their entry was actually rather tame but it is still fun to watch them make their way through the gate for the first time this spring. The audio is marred a bit by the sound of the breeze but after the view changes direction, you can hear all four of them snorting, which is kind of endearing.

When I went out to move them back into the paddock on Saturday after an hour, Mix and Swings had already come back on their own. I always like to see the horses making good choices that free me from needing to force them into the desired behavior.

A horse that limits its own time on green grass is a real convenience.

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Written by johnwhays

May 9, 2022 at 6:00 am

Happiness Abounds

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Yesterday afternoon I had the most spectacular time granting the horses a special treat by allowing them a token of grass beyond the confines of the dwindling blades available in the paddocks. Delilah and I showed up early and went immediately to work in the round pen while the horses were up near the barn wondering what we were up to. I rigged up some web fence to allow for an isolated alley limiting access to just the pen.

After that, I spent time scooping old remains of manure left from the time we allowed them to be in there over winter. By the time I was done, it was the normal hour for their feed pans to be served. While they finished that and then munched on some hay, I pushed the wheelbarrow across the paddock and scooped manure. When I was near the gate to the round pen, I undid the chain and opened it up to provide them clear access.

Not one of them paid me any attention down there, so I kept making my way around the paddock and scooping poop. Finally, I looked up to see that Mia had wandered away from the barn into the middle of the big paddock. I took a pause from my scooping and walked toward the gate to demonstrate it was open.

I would describe the look on her face as one of surprise as she cautiously approached at an angle to get a closer view. I walked inside the pen and she followed.

It didn’t take Mix long to notice.

She made her way toward the wheelbarrow to make it look like she was only partially interested and then joined Mia in the pen.

When Light figured out what was going on, she immediately ran down to join the other two.

So far, so good in terms of those three remaining agreeable in the confined space. It didn’t take long for Swings to realize where everybody went and show up for the fun.

I stepped away and watched for a while to see if they would continue to be friendly and freely share the new opportunity.

Satisfied, I wandered off to dump the wheelbarrow and rescue Delilah who was waiting patiently in the barn. It was time to take her up to the house for her dinner. As we came out of the barn to get one last look at the horses, they put on quite a show to demonstrate how happy they were.

They took turns at first, running out and back in… because they could. Then they all joined together to do some tight quarters racing from the round pen up to the barn, around the small paddock, and back through the large one into the pen again. Swings came out and stood up on her hind legs, looking about twenty years younger than her age, as the others romped.

I’m not sure who was having more fun at that moment, the horses over their good fortune, or me being able to witness their excitement.

Pure happiness, all around.

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Written by johnwhays

April 30, 2022 at 10:52 am

Calm Existence

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It is a blessing indeed to make it through a day with animals and a wife recovering from surgery and experience no unexpected drama. Maybe I am feeling particularly appreciative because the day before yesterday was noticeably less so.

Not surprisingly, the Siamese cat with the pretty blue collar showed up on our deck again. I figured a return visit was likely given the way the neighbor’s big Pyrenees guard dog chased after the kitty when I returned it the first time. We chose to pay it no attention in hopes it would return home on its own.

All was going well, in terms of our ignoring it until Delilah got up from a nap and went ballistic over the presence of the uninvited feline visitor. I don’t know what it is about this cat that the dogs become so worked up over while other cats nearby walk around unnoticed.

Ultimately, the plan appears to have worked because there was no sign of the Siamese anywhere yesterday. I didn’t want to do anything that might invite continued future visits.

I also didn’t see the barn cat that we thought might be living in our hay shed, but I wondered if it might be hiding in there somewhere and had possibly been near a skunk. The unwelcome aroma was vague but present when I opened the big door to the shed. Something about the presence of the odor led me to believe it wasn’t coming directly from a skunk. Seemed more believable that it was a “second-hand” stink.

It was time yesterday afternoon to move more bales to the barn, even though there are moments when the horses are showing more interest in biting the fence boards than eating more hay this time of year. They loiter near the fence to the pastures and hope I will notice and give them what they want.

Cyndie has approved a plan I devised yesterday to rig up a way to allow them access to the round pen later today. With little activity in there the last few years, grass has overtaken the sand. It would be just fine with us if they grazed that grass down to nothing like they are doing in the paddocks.

That should buy us a little time of entertaining their cravings until we deem the grass in the back pasture ready for being stomped on and eaten. The first day they get on that tall grass, they will only have 15-30 minutes to munch. Access will be granted after they have already eaten the morning or evening servings, so they don’t feel overly hungry in the moment.

Each day their time on the pasture will be increased by 15-30 minutes. The microbes that inhabit a horse’s gut vary depending on what is being eaten. We want to allow time for the microbial population to change in balance with the new green grass being offered.

They’ll be excited enough as it is to be grazing in the pasture. We don’t want to spoil the otherwise calm existence by introducing new digestive problems.

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2022 at 6:00 am

Wanting Green

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The horses are starting to seem a little hangry with the amount of grass surrounding the paddock that is turning deliciously green.

I’m wondering if they will be so excited when we open the gate to the back pasture that they will take off running as if they were in a race like they did last year. The other option, which I’ve witnessed more often than not, is that they will take one step through the gate and start munching grass like they may never get another chance.

At present, they are twisting their necks to reach under the bottom boards of the fence to nibble any blades they can reach and then they look at me like I must be thick-headed not to understand they want out.

I tried cleaning up manure before the next series of predicted rainy days and made it about halfway through the paddock before the wheelbarrow was full and I was out of time. I see again more evidence proving an off-handed comment our fence installer made about the ground being high along old fence lines.

My mind tried to imagine why there would be a build-up of earth along a fence over the years but now, having heavy animals, I see they compress the dirt everywhere except under the fence, leaving that as the higher ground.

The horses pack the ground so densely that it’s hard for the grass to grow. Never mind that grass seems perfectly able to grow through our asphalt driveway.

Even when an odd tuft of grass does overcome the compacted soil and start to grow, the horses kill it by munching it down to a nub.

Given enough evolutionary time, I wonder if horses could learn to leave enough grass growth that it doesn’t all die so that they always have some fresh green blades to eat.

I suspect they’d prefer to not be confined to a paddock or any fenced boundaries so they wouldn’t have to worry about overeating in one limited space.

Won’t be too much longer before we can open up the pasture for them. I offered to drive Cyndie down along the path around the back pasture so she could watch them in case they take off in a gallop again. Even though she is making good progress a week and two days after her knee replacement surgery, she isn’t ready to walk the uneven surfaces of our property yet.

Her first physical therapy appointment was last Tuesday and the therapist gave her permission to take a stroll outdoors on our driveway with her walker as soon as the weather takes a turn toward warm and dry. It was a pretty safe grant to make since Cyndie is healing well and the weather shows little sign of improving for quite some time.

She’s going to get a little hangry herself, waiting to get out of her post-surgery confinement so she can walk outdoors again.

Soon, I say.

Relatively, that is.

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Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2022 at 6:00 am

Uncharacteristic Behavior

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Yesterday was a soaking wet rainy day. A good day to nap, which Cyndie did a lot and I did a little. As time passed, I witnessed the progress of Cyndie getting control of the pain that had the better of her the day before. In a prudent attempt to start with the lowest dose of pain medications after the initial anesthesia fully wore off, she ended up getting behind the level of pain the procedure caused.

Subsequently increasing the dosages takes time to ultimately catch up to a desired level of relief. However, once that point is reached, it is possible to move back to the lower dose at precise intervals to maintain the desired pain control. That relief allowed Cyndie more and longer periods of beneficial rest.

Meanwhile, the cold rain presented the horses with their own challenge. I had left the two paddocks open to each other which historically led to Mia and Light being pushed out from under their preferred overhang by Mix. When we separate pairs by closing gates, the two chestnuts have their own side to seek cover without being harassed.

As Delilah and I came upon the horses yesterday afternoon, we found all four horses squeezed under the overhang on one side. With the promise of food about to be served, I knew the congeniality under the one side wouldn’t last. What I didn’t expect was that an odd pairing of mares would happen while I was inside filling the feed pans.

Swings had uncharacteristically moved to the north side and had paired with Light. That left Mix paired with Mia on the south side; the two least expected to get along. I decided to do away with convention and set out feed pans in random order in the spots they had chosen.

For a while, as I cleaned up manure around them and refilled nets with hay, they all munched calmly in those positions. As I was pondering the novelty, it occurred to me that I should take a picture. Before I was able, they rearranged themselves back to the usual positions.

With the chestnuts back together on the north side, I closed all the gates for the duration of the rainy weather.

Just to finish off the oddities of the experience, as I was completing my tasks and preparing to head back up to the house with Delilah, I noticed Light was making things difficult for Mia and she kept retreating back out into the rain. I don’t know what leads to these periods of orneriness every so often but from what I’ve witnessed over time, the horses tend to get over whatever it is that’s bugging them a lot quicker than humans do.

Maybe they were just irritable because they didn’t like being cold and wet. I can’t blame them for that.

I’m choosing to cling to the memory of the brief moment in time when all four of them appeared to be getting along just fine squeezed together under one side of the overhang.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2022 at 6:00 am

Small Banquet

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Once again, the phrase “dined like royalty” comes to my mind to describe the homemade feast Cyndie served yesterday for a visit from our son, his wife, and their friends. Beyond her classic culinary artwork of two varieties of scones, Cyndie tried her hand at making hummus out of peas and baking naan bread for the first time.

The main dish of curry chicken and roasted vegetables was followed by her version of a turtle cake from a copied recipe of St. Paul’s Cafe Latte.

As often happens, there was so much delicious food consumed, there was little room for dessert. That’s no problem for Cyndie. She had “to go” containers available so slices of the chocolate caramel decadence were sent home to be enjoyed later.

We were blessed with an afternoon of warm sunshine that felt even nicer than the actual temperature, especially compared to our recent extended spell of rainy, snowy days.

The horses had been brushed earlier in the morning but were perfectly covered in mud by the time we all showed up to visit after a stroll in the labyrinth. While Mix showed interest in checking out the new guests, the other three paid little notice, choosing instead to linger in the altered state of almost sleeping, but not really.

The day was a wonderful celebration of sharing the wonders of Wintervale while we are mired in the muddy conditions of early spring.

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Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2022 at 10:19 am