Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Frosted Whiskers

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We knew it was dramatically cold outside before we even got out of bed.

BANG!”

It appeared that either someone had dropped an anvil on the roof over our heads or the extreme cold was distorting the components of our roof and/or the snowpack frozen upon it. It’s the second time this week our structure has complained in the form of a loud boom overhead in reacting to the depths to which the cold has bitten.

The horses haven’t complained. They are impressively stoic about the deep freeze but they can’t hide the icing that collects on their whiskers and eyelashes.

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Light was modeling some gorgeous frozen eye lashes Wednesday morning.

At double-digits below zero (F), they don’t try to lick their feed pans clean, an exercise that otherwise happens regularly. At these temperatures, their own saliva freezes as it contacts the rubber pan when they’ve gobbled most of the pellets.

On any other day, that pan would be licked spotless.

As I was snapping photos of Light’s icy highlights, she decided to show me her tongue can still be used for other purposes. Was she sending me a message?

At least she didn’t make the “raspberry” sound toward my general direction.

“I love you, too, Light.”

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Written by johnwhays

January 21, 2022 at 7:00 am

Indoor Pursuits

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One day after a big melt, everything froze solid again and the wind chill is biting. Putting on the equivalent of a spacesuit to walk the dog makes sense because when we step outside the cold feels like we are in outer space.

The horses didn’t seem to pay the Arctic cold much attention, except maybe to more fervently devour hay for fuel to generate desired body warmth. We didn’t waste much time after the morning “cheers” (Ian’s and my more descriptive variant of “chores”) of seeing they got properly fed, knocking away ice that formed on their waterer, and doing the requisite housekeeping under and around the barn overhang.

We headed straight back to the house to thaw out.

The rest of the day was given to indoor pursuits, beginning with scouring the local newspaper over a warm breakfast. Cyndie and I then each independently processed the day’s Wordle challenge. After that, I lost myself in a jigsaw puzzle while Cyndie was occupied at the other end of the old family table toiling on a craft project.

We also took turns scouring our closets and dressers for clothes we can live without in a burst of decluttering. Getting rid of shirts that I haven’t worn in years is an exercise I really enjoy. I need to be in the right mood for it to go smoothly and when I am, it becomes easier as I go to dig ever deeper and jettison excess versions of button-downs or short and long sleeve tees with minimal hesitation.

At this point, there are many shirts I was only wearing to the day-job that now deserve to be retired, since I’m no longer employed outside the home.

My uniform for working at home tends to be rather limited and one combination of base and outer layer pullover shirts can last me for days before needing to be tossed to the laundry.

It all gets covered with the spacesuit when we go outside anyway, so if I can avoid working up a sweat, nothing gets too dirty except the treasured outer covering of my lined Carhartt overalls. Those now have so many accumulated layers of having been soiled that they almost stand up on their own. Makes it increasingly easier to climb into them over time.

Anything to make the project of dressing for outer space a little less onerous between the hours of indoor pursuits where we are warm and cozy.

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Minor Trim

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The mares received a visit from the farrier yesterday and got their feets fixed. They are all standing on good footing now. Like the previous time the new farrier, Heather, was here to work on our girls, Light got a little too upset to tolerate the attention.

As a result, they made a point of starting with Light first. She wasn’t much better this time, either. Next visit, Tom is going to remember to bring a little something to calm her nerves before they start.

The other three horses stood reasonably well and allowed Heather to finish what she started on each.

Here is Tom holding Swings while Heather capably plies her trade. While the horses mostly stood in place well, none of them were all that relaxed about having their legs picked up.

I think I’d rather toss 250 bales of hay for my workout than repeatedly hold up a resistant Thoroughbred mare’s leg while trying to file it.

We had closed all the gates and put halters on the horses at the start of the day in anticipation of the scheduled hoof trimming appointment. As soon as each one is done, they get freed from the halter and sent on their way.

The two chestnuts walked down to the still closed gate to the hayfield and held vigil until I showed up to open it.

I was waiting until Mix and Swings were done so as not to create any distractions while work was still in progress.

Of course, when I finally showed up and opened the gate, neither horse walked through. They turned and followed me to the next gate and the one after that. I guess they just wanted to make sure I got everything back the way they like it, so that later when they really want to get out in the fields, they will be able.

Kids. [shaking my head]

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Written by johnwhays

January 18, 2022 at 7:00 am

Light Series

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As in, a series of images of our horse, Light, on a very cold morning. Our four horses moved from eating all the pellets in their feed pans to chomping hay before the pans were even empty, a significantly uncharacteristic behavior. Before Light started in on the hay, she hesitatingly drifted down toward the waterer which seemed logical, except she didn’t drink.

She stood and looked through the opening between the two paddocks and then continued her slow stroll forward toward her goal.

I was thinking about capturing a shot of Swings munching hay from a hanging net bag in front of the soft color of the pre-dawn sky and ended up watching Light in the distance. I could tell she wanted to lay down so I just kept pressing the photo button as it played out, staying with the task until she climbed the rise to rejoin the others in fueling their body furnaces with hay.

I assume she had an itch under her blanket but she sure was methodically slow about relieving that urge, if that’s what it was. The temperature was pretty cold (-4°F), but not as extreme as a few days ago. Maybe that is just the speed she moves when she is cold.

Both Cyndie and I commented on how cold it felt out there this morning. It struck me that the icy bite of the chill this morning felt almost more harsh than when it was -20 the other day. What that tells me is that the difference between the two extremes is less dramatic than people’s perception of the big numbers implies.

The horses are really going to enjoy, and fully absorb, the bright sunshine out there today.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2022 at 11:14 am

Counting Bales

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The way I view it, managing the inventory of hay bales to feed horses is an imprecise science. Whether guided toward serving sizes by weight or “flakes” from the bale, there is widely varying uniformity of both and an uncertain outcome of which horse will eat it and when they do, how much they will consume. Horses we’ve had all seem content to spill and waste as much as they actually eat.

I was once told that if horses get hungry enough, they will eat whatever is served. Given that ours are recovering from a variety of levels of neglect, we’d rather not put them in that level of desperation. Not sharing the same sense of smell as a horse leaves me wondering when they are ignoring a serving because they don’t like the smell.

Cyndie is much quicker than me to declare a bale as “bad” because it is musty, moldy or smells dusty. That hay gets tossed for some other purpose, usually, landfill somewhere on our property.

All that makes it hard for me to judge if we have enough or how urgently we need to bring more in. Today we are basing it on the space we have for storage. As the stock in our hay shed has dropped to a single layer, we have put in the call for another delivery.

Of course, in order to reduce it to one layer, I needed to move 42 bales into the barn. I also ended up rearranging the scrap lumber stored on the right side of the hay shed to create more space for stacking new bales.

The floor of the hay shed is dirt and we put down pallets under the bottom layer of bales, hoping some air beneath them will reduce mold development. It doesn’t really work. As we ended up doing in the past, we’ve decided to leave the bottom layer of old musty bales in place this time and stack the new incoming bales on top of them.

It’s a treat that we don’t need to do the work of lifting and hauling the hundreds of new bales that will be arriving but it is not lost on me that I will be lifting and stacking them all five-high in the shed.

Yesterday was just a warmup for a much bigger upper body workout to come. Hopefully, these bales will all smell perfect to Cyndie and the horses.

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Delicate Impressions

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There is a new covering of snow that has created a fresh surface for our forest creatures to make their marks upon. I’ve gotten no better over the years at differentiating the identity of the range of little footprints made by squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, moles, and mice, but I know all of them are out there running around.

It starts with one or two crossing our trails while snow is still falling and by 24 hours later, it looks like everyone is out and about. Yesterday, we found evidence of a feathered friend, or friends, dancing around on the white carpet.

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I love seeing the gentle wisps of wing feathers adding context to visible footwork scribbled in the snow.

While I had my camera out to capture all this art, I spotted a different sort of impression. I love the combination of the shadow of sunlight and the indented snow impression on either side of this dried plant that wind had pressed down.

No pictures were taken during our last walk of the night because it was too dark, but there were plenty of beautiful views we enjoyed as I pulled the trash bin down our driveway to the road.

I wore a headlamp but never turned it on. With the small crescent moon reflecting light onto the white snow-covered ground, there was just enough light that I could navigate my way.

The sky was crystal clear, which explains the space-like below-zero temperatures we are experiencing again. We put blankets back on the horses earlier in the night after giving them a break for a few days. The stars were so bright we almost didn’t need the reflections off the slice of the moon that was visible.

I noticed the horses were standing at the bottom of the slope from the barn, near the gate to the hayfield, as we passed by. As Delilah and I neared the top of the last rise in the driveway before it drops down to the road, my peripheral vision picked up motion to my right.

Turning my head to figure out what it was brought an unexpected startle of the four horses jogging along the fence beside us. We all stopped as I turned my whole body to acknowledge them and exchange greetings. Delilah seemed unimpressed with having company on our trek.

As I resumed pulling the trash bin along the driveway, the four blanketed horses decided to run off in a beautiful semi-moonlit arc off the rise and back down toward the outer perimeter of the paddock fence line.

The delicate impressions of walking the trash to the road always make the chore well worth the effort, even in hazardous wind-chill conditions.

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Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2022 at 7:00 am

Stall Averse

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It has come to our attention that Mix does not like being in a barn stall. She really, really doesn’t like being in a stall. Being in a stall causes her to have a temper tantrum. She kicks when she has tantrums.

We were expecting a visit from a farrier yesterday morning, so in anticipation we decided to put their halters on and bring them inside out of the falling snow to feed them breakfast. When the farrier arrived it would be easy to bring them out one at a time.

Except, it turned out the farrier needed to reschedule. By the time we got back to the barn to let the horses back outside, Mix had kicked a couple side boards into Swings’ stall next door.

She didn’t stop there. She also shattered boards of the corner hay bin I built.

Mix doesn’t like being in a stall.

It pains me to consider what bad memories of being in a stall might be triggering her reaction. She flipped out the first time we brought them all in but eventually calmed down and spent the night. I’m not sure why yesterday seemed to be so much worse for her.

Now we know of a project we can work on after I repair the damage. We would like to teach all the horses that the stalls are a safe place for them.

Sometimes, Cyndie “hears” messages from horses. In this case, I wish she could convey the message to Mix that there is no need to panic in the stall. Or, at the very least, “Please don’t kick out the boards when you tantrum.”

Looks like I need to study up on “horse-proof construction.” I’m going to need some bigger screws.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2022 at 7:00 am

Blanketed Horses

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Blessed with excellent supporters to care for our horses while we are away, we arrived home yesterday afternoon to find everything perfectly in order at Wintervale. It was the first time we have seen the horses wearing blankets. That was accomplished by two people as the temperatures were about to drop to the depths.

When we showed up to feed them in the late afternoon, the straps on Mix’s blanket were dragging on the ground, but all the others were in good position on their backs with straps appropriately attached.

I calmly reached under Mix’s belly and pulled the two straps across to hook them up again and she didn’t even flinch.

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It is a relief to find them coping so well with the extreme cold that gripped our region over the weekend.

After dinner, Delilah put herself to bed in her crate earlier than we would have dictated. I think she was worn out by all the adventures we enjoyed up north and the day of travel returning home.

Pequenita was very happy to have us around again, even though it appears she was receiving over double her usual ration of wet food servings from the stand-in caregiver who was feeding her while we were gone.

There is no denying that as much fun as it is to go away on adventures, it is always nice to return to the comforts and familiarity of home. Especially, when you find everything in perfect order upon settling back in.

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Written by johnwhays

January 3, 2022 at 7:00 am

Chilly Sunrise

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When the air temperature is below zero (F) and there is a fog of ice crystals in the air of our valley, the rising rays create sun dogs of reflection 180° apart. Those conditions were met yesterday while I was feeding the horses.

When Delilah and I walked to the end of the driveway to put outgoing mail in the mailbox, our vantage changed so the sun was behind the pine trees on our neighbor’s land. I walked across the road to get the telephone pole out of frame, but I didn’t notice the wires were still in the shot. Oh, well.

Still looks pretty cool.

In fact, it was downright COLD! Poor Delilah was hopping along on three legs every so often to give a paw a break. Eventually, she resorted to simply running and pulling me along behind her to get back to the house, and her breakfast, as quickly as possible.

If ever there was a way to feel like a load, trudging along behind a dog that urgently wants to run faster than you can is pretty high on the list. Being a little numb and wearing the equivalence of a spacesuit with lead-weight boots does wonders to enhance the impression.

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Written by johnwhays

December 30, 2021 at 7:00 am

Fresh Snow

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While hiking with Delilah on our trails in the freshly fallen snow, I noticed this uncharacteristic specimen hanging about head-high on a tree.

Maybe the handiwork of some ingenious squirrel?

When we emerged from the woods and continued around the perimeter of our pastures, I caught sight of three of the horses standing out in the open. Only Mix appeared to have enough sense to stay under the overhang. I’ve never understood why horses choose to stand out in the rain or snow when they have the option of cover available.

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Mix was still a little wet, so she hadn’t spent all of her time sheltered.

Thus far, all four horses appear to be coping well with the winter weather we have been experiencing, but the real test comes next. We are expecting a cold spell for a few days that threatens to go below zero (F) at some point.

I went out late last night to plow before the temperature dropped too much for comfort. Clearing snow in the limited illumination of the ATV headlights is an imperfect science. I’ll find out this morning if I missed some spots. Not that I plan to spend much time racing around on the four-wheeler to finish cleaning up when it’s wickedly cold out.

This is “stay indoors and work on jigsaw puzzles” weather.

If we are lucky, Cyndie will return from her mom’s today and it will get a little more festive around here. I’ve been alone since the day after Christmas and the isolation is starting to get old, especially coming on the heels of all the socializing of the holiday gatherings.

Cyndie and her brothers have been working to move furnishings to her mom’s new residence in the Friendship Village community and clean up and stage the old residence for filming by the realty company. That meant immediately stashing any and all Christmas decorations. I wasn’t surprised when Cyndie’s plan for a one-night overnight mushroomed into three nights away.

Too bad I can’t bring the horses inside the house to keep me company and get them out of the cold.

They’d probably prefer to go out and stand on the deck, anyway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2021 at 7:00 am