Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘horses

Fifth Nest

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Cyndie finally found it. The location where our hens have been laying eggs beyond our coop. Eighteen eggs, to be exact.

We’d had our suspicions about the general direction for some time, but were mistakenly searching between the trees around the area when all the while they have been sneaking behind some rolled up fencing stored right beside the outside of the shop.

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Based on the variety in colors of eggs, we suspect between three and four hens have been taking turns laying there. They aren’t all laying there every time, as we have usually found six eggs per day in the coop nest boxes from the eight hens.

Yesterday, Cyndie spotted the Domestique running from the shop area which clued her in about refining her search location.

The chickens have been taking advantage of the horses being out in the back pasture, returning to their old stomping grounds under the barn overhang to scrounge for goodies. Since the horses tend to make swift sprints back into the paddocks at random intervals, the chickens occasionally find themselves alarmed.

Cyndie captured this image of Rocky standing tall over them as they closed ranks during one such incident yesterday.

When the horses aren’t racing back into the paddocks, they were thoroughly enjoying the comfort and open space available in the back pasture.

It was another glorious day in paradise.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

Hay Delivered

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One of the best parts of our relationship with This Old Horse is that they provide all the support needed to care for the horses, and the greatest relief for us is that we don’t have to find and transport baled hay. Yesterday was magical in that a trailer full of small squares was delivered right to our hay-shed door.

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Since I was conveniently an hour away at the day-job when it arrived, the work of helping to unload and re-stack it in the shed landed on Cyndie. [monotone fake concern…] Too bad I wasn’t able to be there.

Despite the fact it was wintery-cold outside, all I wanted to do when I got home was go hang out with the horses. They were out on the back pasture, so Cyndie and I picked the chore of clearing out two years of overgrowth from within, and around the outside perimeter of the round pen. We were standing where the horses could clearly see us.

Our previous herd would quickly move their grazing to get very near wherever we happened to be, but these mares are much less connected to people at this point. They randomly appear to adjust their positioning with respect to us, though it usually involves maintaining a distance that reflects their understandable caution.

We look forward to showing them plenty of reasons to develop a special connection with us over time, starting with the fact we will be the primary ones serving up their rations of hay.

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Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2021 at 6:00 am

Racing Memories

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On their second day with us, the horses showed another side of themselves. After they had their morning feed, Cyndie sat with them as they took some naps and generally lounged around the paddock.

There weren’t many signs they were having any trouble with the amount of green grass available in the paddock, and areas that hadn’t been munched yet were dwindling fast. They had already communicated interest in getting onto the back pasture by demonstrably posing at the gate, staring into the field longingly, so we decided to open the gate.

We anticipated the possibility they might frolic into the field with enthusiasm, since our previous herd of Arabians often did, but we had no idea how much of a transformation back into racehorses we would witness.

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They raced hard around the perimeter and then raced back into the paddock so they could race out again and take another lap. They raced so much they worked up a sweat that they then tried to wipe off by rolling on the ground. Then they raced some more. The video above was the third blast of about five, broken up with pauses to roll or go get a drink.

It was thrilling to witness how they came to life and appeared to revel in the freedom to go full speed again for a little while and to stop whenever they wanted. It was also a little bit scary to stand somewhat exposed to the thundering herd when neither we nor they knew for sure where they were going to go next.

By the time my sister, Judy, and husband, Scott, stopped by to visit, the horses had calmed considerably. When we opened the gate a second time to let them see some of the excitement, the entrance was entirely subdued in comparison. I suspect the mares may be feeling their age. I worry about the body stiffness they might be feeling this morning.

Taking extra caution while we are getting to know each other, Cyndie responded to Mix’s invitation for a little post-workout brushing by reaching from our side of the gate.

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She turned around so Cyndie could get her neck, too. None of the other three have shown more than the briefest of interest in being touched by us yet.

They have shown total acceptance of the chickens, who are slowly closing the distance of proximity with the new tenants.

Since the mares seem to remember how to race, we are confident they remember how good it feels to be groomed, too. It gives us plenty to work with as we slowly, but surely, warm up to each other evermore.

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Settling In

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Despite innumerable projects that deserve our attention this time of year, we preserved much of the day yesterday for just being with the horses. We continue to gain insight into the significant difference between these horses who have been rescued from a variety of situations and histories, and the four pampered Arabians who lived with us previously.

As we were sitting in chairs beside a gate to the large paddock mid-morning, the four mares were finding themselves inclined toward taking a nap. A real lying down nap. All four at the same time.

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A short while later, since naps on the ground tend to only last about 5-minutes, they remained spread out and took to calmly grazing where they stood.

Slowly, but surely, Light made her way toward my feet at the gate, closing the distance by halves, then inch by inch as she munched. I purposely left my boot where it was, protruding beneath the gate in the direct path of grass she was working.

 

When she got to my boot, she pressed it gently, as if to make a connection with me. Then she just kept on munching grass just beyond it.

There has been very little drama between the mares, but as they crowd around the overhang when we are about to set out feed, we’ve seen Mix get a little testy with those around her. We’ve also noticed Swings having some bouts of anxiety that cause her to pace back and forth in one specific spot near the first gate they entered.

We watched as Light appeared to intervene one time to help interrupt the routine, getting Swings to break the pacing and walk calmly away with her. 

Cyndie reported this morning there is already a worn path along that fence that is beginning to get muddy.

We have been a little concerned about how much newly greening grass was available to them in the paddocks, but their digestive systems appear to be handling it thus far. Yesterday we dumped the inaugural wheelbarrow load of manure into the compost area. Cyndie and I embarrassingly held a small celebratory moment over the occasion.

Rocky showed up soon after to start scratching into it, knocking down the nice shape I had created.

Elysa and Ande stopped by to greet the horses and then I successfully installed the pump in our landscape pond to restart the soothing sounds of the falling water.

With that chore completed, I feel justified to now spend even more time helping our horses get comfortable with us and their new surroundings. The grass in the paddocks is already grazed to such an extent we are considering opening the gate to the back pasture for them this afternoon.

They’ve already demonstrated interest several times by standing at that very gate and ogling the greenery spread out before them.

I am happy to be able to say we are all settling in nicely to our new, mutually beneficial relationships.

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Written by johnwhays

April 18, 2021 at 9:36 am

Horses Again

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It was a little before noon when the truck and trailer rolled up our driveway with our new herd of four Thoroughbred mares: Light, Mix, Mia, and Swings. Their names being remnants of the longer versions the racing industry dreams up for their potential champions.

Zodiacal Light (18); Pleasant Mix (17); The Yellow Sheet [Momma Mia] (21); Gate Swinger (26).

From the sound of banging coming from inside the trailer before it even stopped rolling, we got the impression the horses weren’t entirely happy with the situation. That attitude changed swiftly upon their assessment of the paddocks. 

We wanted nothing more than to have them know this is their new home where they could relax and forget all their worries.

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It seemed as though the sky came alive with energy in a reflection of how exciting it was to have horses back on our land. We felt great joy when they rather quickly took turns laying down which offers a clear demonstration of their comfort level with the surroundings.

The chickens appeared to be a new phenomenon to the horses and garnered a fair amount of attention throughout the day, but just in terms of curious interest as opposed to concern over any possible threat.

We aren’t aware of there being a commanding leader at this point among the four mares, but early impressions indicate a willingness to follow Light when she initiates a relocation to different space. She put on a brief show of alerting on the chickens while the others were grazing. Focusing with her head high as the hens rustled in the leaves among the trees, Light rushed up to the fence to get a closer look, then ran back down with the others, still staring. 

It wasn’t that big a deal, except that she repeated the exercise about three times.

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There was only a minor hesitation about drinking from the automatic waterer for all of the horses except Swings, who struggled mightily to convince herself it would be okay. She would bring her head down close, but then give in to nerves and pull away. Finally, it seemed she had become so thirsty she needed to force herself to push through the hesitation. After about a minute of lip smacking, tongue in and out, inches away “I will, I won’t” behaviors, she just shoved her muzzle into the refreshing goodness and took one of the longest drinks ever.

Putting out feed pans in the evening was a fresh adventure. We were so used to a simple routine with our other horses, it was eye opening to realize this was a whole new ball game. They didn’t know where to go, we didn’t know where to put the pans.

Two horses are supposed to get larger servings than the others, but of course, all four quickly engaged in the circus routine of snitching bites from one pan and then moving to push someone off another which kicks off a domino effect of rearranging.

Add in a couple of spontaneous emergency response drills and it becomes impossible to know who has eaten what. The servings this morning weren’t much different. It will be a while before we all figure out an efficient routine.

As dusk settled in last night, the four horses seemed settled enough for the amount of excitement the day had brought them.

I think it brought even more excitement for us. It is incredibly precious to have horses here again.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2021 at 9:08 am

Excited Anticipation

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The day has come for us to receive a new batch of horses to graze our fields for the summer. Everything appears to have fallen into place right on schedule, including a delivery of bags of feed, stacked neatly in the barn a day in advance of needing them.

I have looked at the photo of the horse’s faces for a couple of weeks now and learned to identify them by name so I can make a proper introduction when they arrive around noon today.

We will have our Wintervale flag planted down at the driveway entrance to welcome the truck and trailer.

It’s a little intimidating to find how much we’ve gotten out of the mode of daily caring for large animals. Our chickens are no comparison.

Luckily, Cyndie is very thorough in thinking through details like remembering to ask about restocking our cabinet with medication for treating potential emergency situations.

Between the professional level of detail already shared by the good folks of This Old Horse and Cyndie’s ability to ask pertinent questions about the nitty gritty details of responsibly caring for horses, I feel able to relax and focus on the simple joy of immersing myself in the magical energy of glorious equine beings.

I anticipate it will be an interesting mix of ‘brand new’ and ‘same old’ in the days ahead. I look forward to getting to know the difference between the Arabians we had here previously and the Thoroughbreds that will be here now.

I hope to be an open vessel to whatever messages they might wish to convey as we mingle together when I am scooping manure for the compost pile.

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Written by johnwhays

April 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

Posts Pounded

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We made our way around the entire loop of our fencing yesterday, pounding posts back down that our winter freeze had pushed up. Two years ago, after we no longer kept horses inside the fence, I loosened some fence lines to see if that would reduce how much the corner posts appeared to come up.

I don’t think it made any positive difference, but before tightening the wires back up in preparation of turning the electricity on, I wanted to get all the corner posts back down. Most of them moved down multiple inches easily, but a few hardly budged.

We didn’t fuss over those.

If nothing more than psychologically satisfying, it felt like a worthy effort. We rewarded ourselves after all the work by immediately turning on the electricity to the fence wires.

The familiar “click-click-click” came on and the display ramped up to a respectable 12Kvolts energy. Mission Accomplished.

Almost.

I still need to walk the length and verify voltage is present on all sections.

Cyndie already identified three locations where some arcing is occurring, so I want to look into those in hope of solving the causes.

That situation is no different than what we dealt with regularly back when we previously had horses, so it feels perfectly acceptable for welcoming the arrival of our new 4-horse herd.

We are stoked! We’re expecting to receive delivery on Friday. Hopefully, that can be confirmed after today’s visit from This Old Horse.

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Written by johnwhays

April 12, 2021 at 6:00 am

Complicated Water

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We have water in the paddocks again, but it took far more than simply opening a valve. Friday morning brought constant drizzle with few, if any, breaks. Only periods where it leaned toward actual rain that succeeded in changing the state of our clothes from merely damp to becoming downright wet.

Our guy, Mike, from the excavation company that originally installed our paddock water fixture showed up prepared to do battle, but the circumstances of the cracked valve and seized fittings forced a suspension of work to visit the hardware store in River Falls for an altered solution.

Multiple times, the buried column beneath the waterer needed to be bailed out to allow Mike to see what he was doing. The complication of our setup involves the freeze/thaw cycles that our having turned off the water for two winters fouled up.

Unlike the spigot inside the barn, where the water shutoff is down below the frost level, the line to the waterer is a different situation. There is insulation wrapped around the line and a length of heat tape along the top section of hardware to because there is water in the line all the time.

When temperatures drop, I turn on the electricity and the fixture doesn’t freeze. When we shut the valve two years ago, I flipped the circuit breaker off and forgot about it. We’ve now learned that in the ensuing winters, the water in the line froze and cracked the shutoff valve.

Turns out, the easiest solution is to just leave it on. We’ve got it running now and ready for the return of horses. If we don’t keep horses over winter (still an unknown at this point) we’ll need to make a decision about what we’ll do with the waterer next fall.

I had no idea it could be so complicated to have an automatic water source in the paddocks. Obviously, the fact we experience severe cold temperatures adds one level of complexity, but the fact our location is so wet seems to be a compounding factor.

Yesterday, Cyndie and I finished cleaning up the barn to a degree I didn’t think possible. It looks fabulous and reminds me of the impression we got when we first walked in to see it nine years ago. The four stalls still look almost new.

The final exercise I want to finish today involves pounding down a few more fence posts and tightening up all the wires before turning on the electricity to see where there might be arcing. With that complete, we will feel entirely prepared to host a visit tomorrow from a representative of This Old Horse who will confirm our facility as suitable.

More important for us, this will allow them to know where they are headed and how to position a trailer for offloading horses and smoothly introducing our new guests to their summer accommodations.

I look forward to the horses discovering where they will be able to get a cool drink of water.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2021 at 10:05 am

Remembering Cayenne

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Cayenne was a most elegant Arabian mare and a particularly precious member of our initial herd of four horses that christened our new Wintervale property as a horse ranch back in the fall of 2013. Yesterday, she departed this world to join Legacy’s spirit in the world beyond our knowing. 

Cayenne was foaled from Dezirea in 2005 and lived 16 years, which can roughly be translated to the equivalent of 48 human years of age. For the five years she lived with us, she seemed to split her time equally between palling around with geldings Legacy and Hunter, but Hunter was her lifelong buddy.

In the image on the right, the two of them were giving me a wonderful reception upon my return from a week of biking and camping one summer. 

That’s Cayenne on the right.

Last night, Cyndie and I reminisced about the time Cayenne scolded Hunter after he petulantly farted his displeasure toward Legacy for being driven off a preferred grazing spot. She amped up her energy and pushed Hunter twice as far as he wanted to go, making her point very clear and assuring he got the message.

Cayenne always looked well kept. When others had rolled in the mud or tangled their mane into a knot, Cayenne looked ready for show. The aroma of her hide was always sweet. I loved to bury my face in her neck and inhale her healthy horse scent.

The word that often came to mind when thinking of Cayenne was, royalty. 

One other word that came to mind was, magical. As in, magician. One morning we found her calmly grazing all by herself inside the web-fenced arena space despite the gate being closed. She somehow either jumped or high-stepped her way over that webbing without tipping a post or tangling a hoof.

Cayenne also maintained the neatest stall out of all four horses. Despite her penchant for painting the back wall with her poop, the rest of the shavings on her floor basically remained clean. I guess she reserved her mess for the water bucket in that stall. She had a habit of soaking her mouthfull of hay or feed pellets in the water as she ate. Made her bucket a murky disaster by the time we came around to refill them.

Wednesday morning the horse manager discovered Cayenne on the ground and in bad shape from an overnight episode of colic that the equine veterinarian assessed as beyond treatment.

Hunter was already grieving and they gave him an additional moment to come close to pay his respects. He brought his head down to the flank of her lifeless body and took a breath to confirm she was no longer in there. As he picked up his head, he smacked his lips in acknowledgement and turned to look out over the distance beyond.

Cayenne is gone but she will never be forgotten.

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Written by johnwhays

April 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Thirteen Eggs

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We now know that all thirteen of our hens are producing eggs. Friday we collected one egg for each hen in our brood. Our little chicks are all grown up.

 

They are thriving in their first exposure to spring and full access to free ranging our fields and forest. Crawling insects are under an all out assault.

When I was primping the paddock in preparation of our anticipated new equine tenants, the chickens showed up to join the fun; happy to help.

 

Now I’m going to go outside and clear out the last remnants of moldy hay from the hay shed and de-clutter the barn and I couldn’t be more excited about the reason so to do.

New horse companions are slated to arrive in less than a month.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2021 at 9:39 am