Sunday, December 30, 2012

A frigid day on the farm!

Ruffy and Rolex
I have no idea what the temperature was this morning, but it was damn cold, especially with a wild wind howling. Snow devils swirled through the pastures, and by day's end, cornices formed on the snowbanks, and fingers of snow threaded out into the roads. But it was another fun-filled day at the barn. We turned the horses out to blow off some steam before Butch, our farrier, arrived. Harley can be a bothersome handful when he's antsy.  The girls went out first, kicking up their heels and playing tag. Then Harley joined in on the fun and the games began.

Harley, Rolex, and Ruffy
You can see why we wanted to turn them out before Saint Butch had to deal with them!

Harley having a good roll in the snow

I went down to Dunkin Donuts to grab us some hot chocolate. I knew Butch would like a hot drink--I can't imagine having to handle steel shoes and tools in this kind of weather. As it was, the tools were set next to a halogen lamp, preheating! While Ruffy got her front shoes, complete with snow-popping pads and borium, John took Harley out for a romp. But with his departure, Rolex began having a hissy fit complete with pawing, head tossing, and hay net twirling (her favorite game--I think she'd do well at tetherball). For once, Harley wasn't the misbehaving horse. Rolex wouldn't stand still while Butch tried to trim her feet. When John rode up, we swapped. He took hold of Rolex, and I went on an adventure around the property and down into the pasture. Once I turned Harley around, it was a mad dash for home. He thundered through the snow, back up to the gate, snorting, coated in white from his breastplate down. I felt like the "Marlboro (wo)man" ad.

After Butch left, we left them inside, munching on a little lunch, and went home for hot tea, dry socks, and a bite to eat. Then, back to the barn for some late afternoon riding. Well, John rode Rolex, I dug out the buried hose!

Rolex, levelheaded once out of the barn, took John out and about for a short walk. The fierce wind forced me to head back into the barn once I'd finished digging. The late sun slanted just over the trees, giving everything a golden glow. Everyone was ready to head inside for dinner. Vance and Gator waited by their gate, hoping it was hay time!

Vance waiting for dinner
The nearly full moon illuminated the snow-covered ground. I almost didn't need the headlights, but snow drifts filled parts of the roadway.

As I sit by the wood stove, the hot metal "ticking",  and listen to the wind still whipping around the house, I hope the ponies are snug in their beds. We gave them a warm mash of alfalfa and beet pulp with lots of hay. Still, I fret about them while John laughs at me. I know if they were in my back yard, I'd be out there now, in my jammies and boots, just checking one last time before I head to bed.

Tomorrow should be a bit milder, without the brutal winds. The rest of the week will still be  Carhartt coverall weather! Time to put another log on the fire.

Here's another attempt at a movie:

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Day at the barn

I couldn't wait to get out to the barn and go for a ride in the fresh snow. By noon time, I was champing at the bit, ready to ride!

The horses were having a good romp, the snow adding an element of excitement. It's like they've never seen the white stuff before as they sniff and snort through it. Rolex played her favorite game of "I don't want to go in", so Ruffy and Harley were the captured mounts for our Christmas ride.

For some reason, the domestic turkeys at the house by the bottom field fascinate the horses. They always seem to be peering down the fields, watching for something, and today, the turkeys were gobbling rather loudly.

As usual, I've taken a mounted head-shot of Harley as he watched for turkey action down the way. Ole Mr. Fuzzy looked stunning in his blaze-orange quarter rug (a birthday present I finally got to use now that it was cold enough!). I like how visible we were on this grey day since we were riding on the road part of the way.

Our Ruffy was having a trying day--ice, snow, mud and low branches. She'd rather be in a perfectly mown field, kicking up her heels, that riding through trappy terrain, getting her dainty ankles all muddy. Poor girl---needless to say, she and John had a "parting of the ways" with some low limbs. She decided to jog home, and Harley, always willing to dash home too, began to jig as he tried to tear after her. My intent was not to chase her, but quietly catch our skittish girl. So I slid off Harley and began crunching up carrots while calling to her. She stopped and turned back, walking towards us. The old carrot trick (plus she wanted to stay with Harley, I think) worked and I caught up her reins, just as John appeared. Everyone stood for a bit, just chilling and eating carrots. Once settled, we remounted and called it a day. Harley and Ruffy were happy head for home and have an early dinner complete with warm beet pulp--their equivalent of a cup of cocoa!

Christmas cheers to all!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

White Christmas?

Well it's certainly turning white around here. The question is, will it last, or wash away with the impending rain? After a jaunt down to Dover Saddlery for some last minute shopping, we went back to the barn to try out new toys (baby pads--easier to clean) and a hay net for Harley. He likes to make a bed out of most of it, so I'm hoping this will save wasted hay.

John got in a brief ride with Rolex out back. He reported that the loggers left some nice trails. They also left a lot of slash in the pasture. I spent Saturday afternoon making 2 giant piles and had hoped we'd get the tractor out to really clean it up before someone got hurt. Too late--Harley cut his leg along the cannon, probably on one of the gazillion sticks laying about creating a giant tiger trap of a pasture. Our guys like to cut it up and run right through this stuff. Maybe once the weather settles, we can get out their and play pickup sticks again. Come spring, we'll have a couple of nice bonfires!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

And then there was light!

Very grainy, but the place is much brighter than this photo 
I drove up to the barn tonight, and lo, the light over the door was on! The electricians arrived this morning as I was getting ready to leave. They said. "Let's see if we can't get some light in here." And by God, they did. Rather than hurrying through barn chores in order to save fuel, I spent quality time brushing everyone, brushing their muddy blankets off, and just enjoying time with the horses without needing a headlamp and lanterns.

Ma, could you get the mud off my cheek?

Mr. Muddypants had dried mud caked on both sides. There was a pile of silty dust under him by the time I finished brushing and combing--yes, the mane contained mud balls too. When I was done brushing the horses, I moved on to their blankets. Pristine Pauline (aka Ruffy) is the clean one with only a few mud splatters on her sheet. Harley and Rolex look like they were in a contest for who could get dirtier. You can see Harley's sheet in the bottom left corner--formerly navy, now brown.

Now we truly are back to normal--lights, barn floor, and logger-free pastures!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A return to normalcy

The loggers finally finished up on Saturday in the pouring rain. They hauled out the last load of logs, leaving the pastures a miry mess of mud. I was told it took two skidders and a bulldozer to snake the last log truck out. Then the fences needed to be put back--posts reset, planks replaced. By Saturday night the fields were finally closed up.  As you can see in the picture, the mucky "road" across the field left a swath of churned up mud.

Post logging pasture
So, we now have an enclosed field, and a barn floor. We just need electricity (another week and a half to two weeks away) and everything will be back to normal. As The Grateful Dead said, "What a long, strange trip it's been."

Last week I lost my phone on our exciting ride. I finally was able to go look for it on Friday. With oak leaves churned up by deer and turkeys scrounging for acorns, I had little hope of retrieving it, and even then, I thought it might be toast from the rain we received Wednesday. But my luck must be turning, for there it was, laying on the pine needles under a white pine AND it still worked!

I put it in a zippered pocket, remounted Harley, and away we went--literally. He decided it was time to play bouncy boy and act like a two year old, back at the races. He pranced sideways, snorting and tossing his head, really hoping I'd just let him rip for home. Bitless bridle = no brakes! So I let him canter up a couple of hills and reined him in to an extended trot over the trickier ground. Once he'd settled a bit, I made him halt and back up--there was some unhappy tail swishing over that!  The closer we got to home, the more he calmed down. Poor Harley, out in the scary woods, all on his lonesome.

The horses were inside during Saturday's rain. They couldn't get to the lower pasture anyway--a log truck was stuck in front of the gate. So this morning, they were racing around the pasture, getting out all the kinks and pent up energy. I love to watch them tear past me, yet another part of me cringes as they head downhill, towards the swath of mud and through the remaining stick debris we need to clean up. But you can just see the sheer fun they are having--running as they were bred to, nostrils flaring, eyes alert, tails up as if saying, "Watch me run. I used to be a racehorse and I've still got it in me!"

Today, John and I took Ruffy and Harley for a loop ride out to Tatnic Woods and back via the Nature Trails. Harley led a fair chunk of the way since Ruffy didn't want that scary job. We had a couple of nice trots with Harley getting in a little canter to catch up to that big mare. He also got in a fast canter up one of the Nature Trails, one with a blue folding chair sitting by the trail. I feared he would stop and spook at it, but instead, he just swiveled his ear towards it, but kept going, afraid Ruffy would leave him in the dust.

I don't know how, or if, you can rotate a video, so lay on your side, or turn your computer on end for this!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Galloping into December

Foggy Sunrise
Heavy fog blanketed the lowlands this morning. As the sun began to come up, the moon went to bed. We could still see it around seven a.m. If you look hard in the bottom left corner, Harley, Rolex, and Ruffy are little specks in the fog, eating their breakfast. The roar of logging equipment in the woods told us it would be another few days of keeping the horses in the lower north pasture.

Rolex want a carrot?
John and I wanted to get in a good ride with the nice weather and warm temperatures. What started out as a rather quiet ramble, using carrots to lure our ponies down the road, quickly turned into a speedy ride. Once Rolex and Harley warmed up out of their afternoon stupor, we were off. Harley immediately went from a trot into a canter as he chased Rolex through the woods. Little Miss Speedy thought this was a ton of fun.

When she ran out of steam, Harley took the lead, watching for "bogeymen".  As we approached the farmstead, I noticed a sheet of plywood propped up against a rock. I knew it wasn't there last time, and just as I suspected, when Harley caught sight of of it, he spun to the left.

We thought about doing the Jepson Farm/Quarry loop, but instead went only as far as half way down the quarry road. Rolex stopped, ready to head home. Harley was happy to turn back when a large bird (didn't get a good view of it) flew out of a tree and spooked him. He set off a chain reaction--even unflappable Rolex jumped. Feeling good is always a reason to have a few "Thoroughbred moments". Once we turned for home, Mr. Prancy Pants did just that--began to jig. I put him out front, thinking he might settle, but Rolex out-paced him, pinning her ears as she moved into first place. The race was on! We had another strong canter (John said it wasn't a gallop, but Harley was haulin') until we pulled up.  But that wasn't it--we had a real gallop with Harley leaping over a few spots with rocks. I ducked my head and held on. There are no brakes with the bitless bridle! A sharp turn for home made them slow down, but not before Rolex got in a monstrous kick, telling Harley to back off. He threw on the brakes, nearly unseating me it was so jarring. What a couple of sillies. I think we all enjoyed galloping into December.
Harley enjoying treats on the trail

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You know it's cold when...

There's snow on the ground and your horse finally needs a blanket. Actually, they are just wearing rain sheets. The temperature was in the mid-20's but I didn't want them getting too wet from the snow since they would be out for at least 4 hours.

The only sound is the shushing of snow on the oak leaves. This juvenile red-tailed hawk was surveying the field below, probably looking for some lunch!

You can see your breath in the barn and the propane canister is frosted.

Yup, another fun-filled day in the land of no power. I've lost count, but I think it's been 7 weeks since the barn debacle. The carpenters were working on the floor today, though, and the layers of sub-flooring are nearly done. We may be able to enter through the front by the end of next week! Oh happy day. This is especially important now that the snow is falling. The ramp was pretty slippery today when we brought everyone back inside.

The loggers took out more chunks for fencing to access felled timber and skid it to the landing yard. Oh my, what a mess it has become. They too were working today, taking advantage of the cold weather and frozen ground.

My day began with re-digging and re-setting a fence post then nailing all the boards back in place. I spent 7 hours at the barn and didn't even get in a ride! First, get the fence horse-worthy, then, turn everyone out. Ooo--boy, were they feeling feisty! Break the ice on the remote tub and refill, spread out 2 bales of hay. Then it was off to the feed store for grain and beet pulp. Lug the bags into the feed room, muck stalls, sweep floor, throw down more hay from the loft. Ooops, almost time to bring them back in again. Where did the time go?

Maybe tomorrow, I'll sneak in a ride between rain showers. Ugh!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Winter is on its way

Rolex in the snow flurries

We awoke to a dark, dark morning. The horizon didn't even begin to lighten until nearly 7 a.m. due to the heavy cloud cover. I've spent the last few days battling a bad head and chest cold--the thought of trudging out to the barn in the early chill didn't sound enticing, but the horses needed looking after.

John and I arrived at the barn, hot coffee in hands, and welcomed by nickering horses. Ruffy tosses her head when she's hungry and Harley makes his "giraffe face"--opening his mouth and twisting his head sideways. Rolex relentlessly paws the floor. Since they all eat better outside, we walked them down the hill then delivered feed, hay, and water via the truck. The loggers were already hard at it, their saws whining and trucks rumbling in the forest. One log truck was nearly loaded and ready to pull out by 7:15 a.m. They begin work in the dark, working by headlights, and finish in the dark as well, headlights bobbing through the woods and over the pasture as they shut the gate at the end of each day. The horses don't seem to mind the constant traffic of log and chip tractor trailers passing by them all day long. Chalk it up to life at the track--trailers, tractors, airplanes--they've seen it all before.

I was beat by the time we got back to the house. Time for little breakfast and then a nap. My stuffy head and chest made me feel woozy and exhausted after mucking stalls and the multiple trips up and down the hill. The weather station predicted snow in the afternoon, and sure enough, it began to snow around 1:30 just as I awoke from my nap. As the snow flurries intensified, I decided to go out and get the two old guys, Gator and Vance, in out of the wet. They are both recovering from bad bouts of rain rot and needed to stay dry. Of course, once I brought those two in, everyone figured it must be time for dinner. They stood at the bottom of the hill, looking up at me with ears perked, as if to say, "What about us?"

Harley in the flurries
By the time I had their stalls ready--fresh shavings, water, and hay--the flurries had diminished. I took Harley up, then went back for the girls. Rolex wanted to go next, but Ruffy didn't want to be left all alone and began running the fence line. So I tried taking both together. Rolex, not to be passed by Ruffy, made snake faces at her, leaving me stretched between the two. But Ruffy wouldn't follow Rolex through the top gate, so I had to loop her rope around the fence and tell her to be a good girl--I'd be right back once I got little miss redhead in first. Ruffy stood good as gold, hind foot cocked, relaxed, but happy to come in with her stable mates. I lit the lanterns, checked everyone over and picked feet, then grained them all, and tucked 'em in for the night. I needed to get home and warm up after getting damp and chilled--just what I needed on top of my cold!

So here I sit, snug by the wood stove, tapping on the computer, knowing our gang are toasty warm in their stalls for the night.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dream of handsome Harley

Black Friday is a day I abhor. John has to work a long killer day and miss out on fun with the ponies. I, of course, managed to spend at least half the day at the barn, and did not go near any stores!

We had an icy fog last night--enough to send out the sanders. Thankfully it melted by the time I got to the barn (the first trip) this morning to feed. Our ramp was a bit slippery so I threw some stone dust onto it to keep everyone safe.

After working a few hours in the garden, putting things to rest, and cleaning up, I decided I'd done enough around the house by midday. It was time to ride! Two days left for regular hunting season, and this has brought the hunters out in droves! I saw trucks parked everywhere, including along the lower pasture where the same guys have been out on the powerline all week. I saw another hunter pull into the parking area at Orris Falls, so I decided to ride in the opposite direction, but still wearing plenty of blaze orange.

Harley was his usual jumpy self as we passed the goats/scary rock location. He settled once we got into the woods, but his ears continued swiveling around as I sang and talked to him.  I've got a fair number of folk songs reworked to use "Harley" in them, such as "Handsome Molly" and "Stewball", This also makes enough noise so the hunters will hopefully hear me! We rode a loop, but saw only one hunter in a blind--a very nice man who lets us ride behind his house to access trails. He gave Harley a good spook! We chatted about wildlife while Harley learned patience and standing still. "Lots of turkeys, but no deer. I like to come out a half hour before sunrise and again in the evening. Don't want too long a drag--it's about 500 yards back to the house." I wished him good luck and we left him to await his quarry.

Mr. Prancy Pants hopped over a couple of little log jumps and jogged back up to the road. Considering he was solo, he did very well. Oh, and earlier this week, he actually stopped and drank water from a brook! This is something he's only done once before. Both he and Rolex had a good long drink--a good trait in a trail horse. He's learning how to relax and trust me out there.

We got back to the barn while the sun was still over the treeline. I let Harley eat some hay and cool off while readying the other stalls for the night. He nickered to his friends a few times, so, feeling sorry for him, I put him back out with his pals for another hour while I finished up in the barn. Chilly rain in the 30's is tonight's forecast, so they will be in. This guarantees a good night's sleep and a tail full of shavings.  Pleasant dreams, Harley.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Ride AND Adventures with loggers

Yarding entrance in the pasture
As is we didn't have enough going on around the old place, now we've got a full crew of loggers cutting in the woods behind the pastures, in the pastures, and around the property perimeter. We're still waiting for a miracle: floor and electricity. Now we also have to shift horses around between stalls and pastures to accommodate the logging activity! This means keeping the horses inside at times during the day while trees are felled in the pastures, then booting them back out at night. But to make matters more interesting, the logging equipment and trucks are cutting across the middle pasture which meant removing two chunks of fence. This sent John and I on an emergency run to Tractor Supply for 2 tubular pipe gates to keep things under control. They offered to put up snow fence--not our choice for safety reasons. So we now have all six horses down in the lower field, held in with sliding planks, and water trucked down in carriers to fill the tub. Whew! I can't wait until they are done and gone! Hopefully, we'll then have power at the flip of a switch and a completed floor. The mild weather of the last two days hasn't helped. The ground got too soft and the loaded trucks bogged down in the soft ground. The skidder had to push them out onto the high ground. This will probably churn everything into a fine gooey mess and hold them back from finishing--grrrr!

John, keen to investigate the operation, decided we should ride down into the woods on Monday and check it out--Harley (and I) weren't so sure this was a good idea. Not only would OSHA frown on us being in the vicinity of whirring saws and falling trees, but Harley isn't nearly as brave as our curious Rolex, who didn't mind taking a closer look. I pointed out to John that the skidder was heading our way and I really didn't want Harley to see it coming at him. So we turned around and went for a nice canter back to the ring area. John headed Rolex down by the pond, but when I saw the skidder muckle onto a big felled pine and start dragging it away, I decided to keep Harley headed for home. Don't look back, Harley!

Rolex comes to investigate
Everyone seems to be doing fine together. Some excitement ensued when the girls realized they had more male company and decided to lead them on a merry chase, or in some cases, chase the poor old guys. "Oh goody, more boys to play with!" Harley tagged along in the fun, but Rolex and Ruffy like to get the ball rolling. Argos, the yearling, thinks this is the nuts, and try as he might, can't keep up with the girls. He's a QH/Percheron cross and hasn't got the TB speed. But he's having the time of his life.

Our redhead also thinks it's great fun to walk away from you when you approach the pasture. Lucky for us, Harley and Ruffy hear the crunch of carrots and come right up to us. Rolex then realizes she may miss out on snacks and better head over or miss out. But you need to be ready to throw a rope or arm around her neck with a gruff, "Whoa".

The loggers stopped work Wednesday night and won't be back until Monday. That left us with the option to let everyone out in all three  pastures with just the perimeter gates shut for the long weekend. If everyone steers clear of the felled trees lying in piles, awaiting the saw blade, it should be o.k. Our three discovered there was a whole new pasture to run around in. "Oh boy--let's go see", said the intrepid Rolex.

Rolex the woods horse
While the turkey roasted on Thanksgiving, John and I got in a ride down through the woods. He's hoping that the logging operation will give us access to the power line trail while avoiding the bog.
I have no desire to revisit that swampy mudhole! Rolex nimbly picked her way out the skidder path, undeterred by branches, or trappy footing. She's such a level-headed girl, whereas poor Ruffy hates bushwacking through brush or dealing with mucky, tricky trails underfoot. Harley gamely followed, although if he'd been on his own and seen the logging equipment, I suspect he would have stopped and tried to whirl for home. But with his brave girl out front, he walked right past the skidders, fellers, and piles of logs.

We might get some nice trails out of all this. In a couple of spots, the footing is soft and loamy right now. Sunday will be a day of exploration to see if we can hook up with the stream crossing location we used last year (before I landed in the bog hole). We'll need to get the GPS fired up and enter some waypoints to pinpoint our exact location in relation to the beaver pond and stream crossing. Given the waning daylight, I didn't want to wind up bumbling around in the woods. I suggested we get an early start, and maybe head out without the horses. That way we aren't trying to manoeuver through trappy terrain while trying to read a GPS and map and steer our mounts. And, there won't be any hunters lurking about on Sunday. We'll see what we find!

Harley being a brave woods horse too!

All the horses received a little Thanksgiving treat. Besides the usual carrots, I brought over a bowl full of apple cores and peelings from my apple pie. Harley, Ruffy, and Rolex only nibbled on it, but Vance, Argos, and Gator slurped it right up---yummy!

What's out there, Harley?
I've found an alternative use for cycling jerseys--riding! Those nifty rear pockets designed for spare inner tubes, energy bars, jackets, etc. are perfect for carrying carrots. And the vibrant colors are great for visibility if you're caught riding the roads at dusk. One of my pet peeves is the lack of pockets on riding apparel. That sleek, streamlined look may be nice in the ring, but out in the woods, pockets are a MUST!  And why do men's breeches have real pockets,  but women's have tiny zip pockets no bigger than credit card size? How useless is that? I think Kerrits finally put out a tight with a thigh pocket (accessible on horseback). Maybe others will follow suit!

We still had enough daylight remaining for John to get on Ruffy as well. Not as keen to be a woods horse and explore the skidder road, she needed some coaxing. Plus, she had no company. Like Harley, she does better with her "brave companion of the road", Rolex, out in front!

Our elegant Ruffy and John, home from the forest, in the sunset's last rays

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter riding ruminations

What's down there, Harley?
This is the time of year when I seem to only ride on weekends. There just aren't enough daylight hours during the rest of the week. I get in a morning greeting when I feed, then run off to work. And by the time I see them at night, it's dark. Ironically, I love winter (as long as there's snow to play in), except for the short days and little riding. Winter is when I wish we had an indoor arena, even though I'm much more inclined to escape to the woods. And the only way to survive winter riding is with mittens, insulated coveralls, and insulated boots. Despite the woes of winter--frozen buckets, shoveling gates clear, icy wheelbarrow path-- there's something cozy feeling about having all the horses tucked in for the night with a mountain of hay, some warm alfalfa dengie, and thickly spread shavings. Even though I may be seeing my breath,  and the horses', the barn will feel snug with the gang contently munching on hay. Is there a better sound and smell combination? Eau de cheval avec foin? Even though my feet and hands may be freezing, I could stay for hours, listening to the horses, giving them their last hugs goodnight, and especially burying my nose in Harley's fuzzy neck.

Saturday afternoon, as I drove up the road, I had to stop and take a picture of our three. Harley and Rolex were napping while Ruffy kept "guard". I had to get out and snap a picture of equine bliss:

Rolex, Ruffy, and Harley enjoying the afternoon sun

I ran a few errands, and by the time I came back, all the horses were up and had moved off to a greener spot. I gathered up leftover bits of breakfast and whistled them up to the top of the hill for an afternoon snack. Harley reluctantly left his girls and came into the barn for grooming and tacking. All it took was that one little dose of acepromazine to convince him the ramp wasn't too scary and now he goes up and down like a champ, even in the dark.

We headed down the road past the scary bleating goats, and up into the woods via a neighbor's drive, replete with tractor, wood piles, camper, deer target, crowing rooster, and assorted other items--enough to make Harley swivel his head back and forth wondering which "monster" was going to get him first! I planned to ride the Lollipop Loop, but at the top of the climb about half way, a tree was down. Too high to go over, couldn't go under, and we couldn't easily go around. Remind anyone of that childhood rhyme "Going On a Bear Hunt"? That was us. I dismounted to investigate possible alternative routes and opted for turning back. We'll come back with the saw and maybe an axe as well!

In spite of his many silly antics, Harley is stellar at standing still when I need to get back on. I can sidle him up to any nearby rock or log, and get remount easily. For this alone, he always gets a "Good boy" pat and a piece of carrot! I'd already had to dismount once before to fix his blaze orange rear flank "flags"--something I'd rigged up to the saddle, but had not stayed tied. Even when he's alone, and heading home, he's still remarkably good at standing.

We got in a couple of jogs, but I didn't want to get him too sweaty since the temperature was dropping as the sun slid over the horizon. Harley wanted to stop by the beaver pond and check things out. There may be active beaver moving about since this is the second time he's halted and peered out over the water. Ruffy did the same on our last ride here. If you look closely at the center of the picture, you can see the pile of sticks forming the beaver lodge. Oh, and the honking Canada geese gave Harley pause as well. We couldn't see them, but they certainly made their presence known.

We passed some late afternoon hikers and one hunter heading into the woods to try his luck. Firearms season ends next Saturday, so all the hunters that still haven't gotten their deer are still stalking the woods.

Back out on the roadway, someone had the nerve to park a giant backhoe across from the trailhead parking. That spooked Harley--it wasn't there before! And I knew he would do this which is why I routed our ride the way I did. If it's between our homeward destination, Harley will eventually go past whatever is scaring him.

I untacked Harley and let him nosh on his hay in the disappearing daylight, then brought in the girls for grooming and the once over check. After an early dinner, I put on their sheets, and sent the gang back down the hill where I'd put piles of hay to keep them warm through the night. Soon, it will be blanket time, but for now, we'll let them keep growing their fuzzy coats, and staying out at night.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Summer camp in the winter

We're now on week 5 of "camping out" with the horses. Have you ever had to pick feet by lantern light? How about mucking stalls by headlamp? A couple of days ago, I told John I felt like I was back at summer camp, only in much colder temperatures. As a trip counselor, I spent most of my time out of camp, somewhere in the Vermont wilds, with 8 to 10 campers and their horses. I remember doing my night watch shift, walking up to each horse in the dark without spooking them, and checking that they had hay and water. Well here I am, decades later, still checking my horses in the dark, only it's in the 20's instead of the 50's (yes, there is global warming, I remember wearing sweatshirts at night and staying close to the campfire for warmth!). We ought to bring marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers to the barn!

I've never been much of a cat person, but this little fuzzball, named Precious, has become the best little barn cat. Rather than hang out at the house, she spends all her time in and around the barn, popping out of nooks and crannies now and then to say hello. She's a friendly cat; she even wanted to say "hi" to Harley, who snorted at her! She has startled him a time or two when she appears out of nowhere in the dark barn. I'm thinking she's a good mouser!

Before darkness overtook me tonight, I got everyone groomed. It seems they are bent on finding the best wallow to roll in. Harley and Rolex were both rather dirty, but Ruffy, our little neatkins, prefers to not have caked mud on her hide. Our little mudball Rolex Girl was not keen to come inside until she realized the rest of the gang was in for the night too. As long as EVERYONE will be in, she'll deign to be shut inside as well.

Do I look fat in this picture?

The loggers began cutting today, clearing the woods out back by the ring and will soon be going along the fence line as well. Our next chore will be getting some temporary electric fencing up to keep horses and logging equipment separate.  I will be a happy camper when the loggers are done, the barn is fixed and electricity is restored. We'll have a "Welcome back to the 21st century" barn party!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Our soap opera saga continues...

Mr. Fuzzy looking for carrots
Still no floor, nor electricity at the barn, but John's car is back in working order. This, after I had to tow him into the parking lot at work Wednesday night, just as our first Nor'easter began, with snow swirling in the headlights. He drove to work that day, only to have the car die mere yards from work. Turns out it just needed a fuel injector fuse. So that was good news, and he got it back tonight!

But on the down side, Harley managed to cut his hind leg. There I was, cleaning hooves in the dark, by headlamp Thursday night when I noticed the swelling and blood. Oh man, just what I needed. So I cleaned it off and applied Vetrimycin (works exceptionally well!), knowing I'd at least be able to see it in the light of day on Friday morning.

By today, the swelling was nearly all gone and it looked much better, but rather than ride, he got a thorough brushing. Because naturally, once I put them out Friday morning, after the snow and rain, they had a good gallop, followed by a mud roll. And now that Harley's getting good and fuzzy, it takes that much more to work the dirt from his coat. He's living up to John's pet name--Fuzzy Bastard (meant in an endearing way). So I took each horse out of the field to give them the once over. Thankfully, nobody else had new injuries!

When I got home and tried washing my hands, I realized the hot water tank is either dying, or dead. Oh yeah, another problem. In order to shower, we heated water on the stove and filled the MSR Dromedary bag. This item has been a life saver for power outages (like the infamous ice storm of 2008 when we had no power for 5 days), and now, when I have no hot water! So I'm heating water on the wood stove to wash tonight's dishes, and it's a long weekend--no help until Tuesday...our saga continues...barn disaster, earthquake, hurricane, septic issues, nor'easter, hot water tanks....ENOUGH, I say!

Friday, November 2, 2012

What a month it has been

Halawa Moon, aka Gnarley, Snarley, or Harley,
October flew by with so many obstacles jumping in my path. I'm ready for a clean slate with no more problems--a smooth sailing November with more riding than the last month offered, a new barn floor, a non-problematic septic system (composting toilets are the way to go!), a sounder shoulder, no more hurricanes, electricity in the barn, and a fully functional car. Oh, and Obama still sitting in the White House. This past month added way too much stress to my already crazy life. I'm looking forward to a long weekend over Veteran's Day. But I know how it will go--I'll still be up at 6 a.m., toodling out to the barn to feed, day off or not.

Daily visits are a must for me. I like to give everyone the once over and make sure they've not scratched, kicked, nicked, or bruised themselves out there. If there ever was a reason for a padded suit--these horses are it! Storm or not, we still were down to one sound horse a week ago.  We hadn't made any plans to ride in the November S.M.A.R.T. ride after Harley's performance last year! He'd have to hack there and home, plus do the 12+ mile ride. He probably could manage it, the bugger, but since he's just recovered from his banged knee, I don't want to put too much stress on it. Rolex Girl (our tough little OTTB brumby) could probably do it to, but I think we'll pass this year and just have a nice ride to get the kinks out (of which Harley has many!) after not being ridden for over a week.

A VERY puffy and knobby knee
Harley managed to do something to one of his knees. It was hot and puffy, like he'd knocked it or been kicked. Cold hosing and bute mixed in with my homemade cardamom apple butter seemed to clear it up over time. Mr. Knobby Knees always looks lumpy and swollen. I don't know if this is post knee surgery scar tissue or what. His knees aren't pretty, but he's sound, except when he gets into trouble and whacks himself.

And then our girl Ruffy, managed to scrape a hind leg along the suspensory and cut the inside of her fetlock. I have no idea what she was up to. John thinks she did it on the fence. Regardless, we were down to one sound horse and too many things to get done around the barn and the house as winter looms ahead. So they've all been having fun being lawn ornaments and watching the hunters troupe up and down the power line. Oh, and yes, deer season is in full swing, so if it ain't Sunday, you must bedeck yourself AND your horse in blaze orange!

Ruffy's swollen leg
So our mollycoddled gang have had time to heal. The barn is awaiting new concrete footings to be poured and composite beams to be delivered. I'll be happy to see things get rolling on that front. The horses have been stars dealing with the changes---coming up the ramp and entering through the narrow cow door. Harley, always the first to spot something different, is still not happy about seeing that hole in the front. Today I bought yet another leather crown piece for his halter. He's trashed two so far when he suddenly decides he can't stand looking at the funky barn entrance and freaks out. He's been relegated to his stall for grooming unless I have John there to hold him. I don't like these cross-tie freakouts which I'm afraid could become a problem. So rather than get him stressed, I'll avoid the situation until the barn resembles something he's used to before we try the cross ties again.

So much for October--let's move on to November!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

You are like a hurricane...

Hurricane Sandy - Courtesy of NOAA
Dang--what a night it was, and we were not even in the thick of things! I hope my fellow blogger Juliette fared o.k. in Pennsylvania. This massive storm certainly wreaked havoc up and down the eastern seaboard and the gusting winds certainly had me twitching a time or two!

John and I brought the horses in around 3 p.m., just as the winds were beginning to pick up. Last out of the paddock, Harley pranced his way to the ramp like he was heading into a race. Then he proceeded to snap his halter (again) in the cross ties, totaling the crown piece. He's usually fine tied, but I think the stormy weather combined with the "hole" in  the front of the barn was too much. He freaked out in the same manner on Saturday too. That view over the barrier into the barn cellar is too scary for him. So he got a grooming in his cozy stall. Rolex, our brave brumby girl (the man from Snowy River would like her!) stood well, even when she saw a small tree fall in the woods across the road.  Ruffy, always happy to have lots of rubs and attention, was our best behaved girl, as always, in the cross ties.

While we groomed the horses, the barn beams creaked under gale force winds, sending leaves flying sideways. With headlamps and flashlights, we de-ticked and de-mudded our ponies. Thankfully, we had full water containers on hand. With the power now out at the house, we had to fill the last bucket using the emergency supply. I had debated camping out at the barn, just to make sure everything would be fine. But it was a toss-up; listen to 150 year old barn beams creak, or listen to 150 year old trees groan at the house. John assured me the horses would be fine and we headed home, dodging detritus, and leaning limbs in the roadway.

This morning, I awoke to cloudy skies, but it was quiet--strangely so, after last night's howling winds. The barn fared fine--only one pane of glass fell out of  Gator's stall, landing softly in the grass, unbroken. Pete had his generator up and running, so we had water again. I feel lucky we dodged the big one last night. I hope the equine communities south of us, especially those near the coast, remained safe, or found a safe haven from Sandy.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The calm before the storm

Three hungry horses

Hurricane Sandy is possibly heading up the Atlantic Coast. I'm hoping it will head out to sea. I've had enough stress for now: the barn disaster, building a ramp to get the horses inside, an earthquake, automobile woes, and now a storm with high winds. Enough already!

The horses all look so good this fall. I'm pleased with their condition and the weight they've put on heading into winter. Look at that fuzzy guy on the left! Do you think he gets enough to eat? And the girls are looking so much better than they did one year ago when they arrived, skinny and with dry coats. I know outdoor living agrees with Rolex Girl. She can't stand to be cooped up in her stall--she just wants to go have fun. Ruffy, such a sweet girl, will patiently stand forever while you groom her, eating up all the attention.

Happy girls, one year later, and buddy Harley

With the short days, I don't have time to get in a ride before or after work. It's a mad dash to the barn just as the sun is beginning to clear the horizon. And by the time I get off work, it's another dash to the barn so I can at least groom them in daylight. Until we have power restored in the barn, I feel like I'm in the last century, lighting lamps to get feed, clean stalls, etc. We've had a nice stretch of good weather that allowed the horses to stay out 24/7, but we've got rain headed our way by the early part of the week. Sorry Rolex, you might have to be inside for a couple of nights until the storm blows by.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fun times in the corral

This picture was taken after their first night back in the barn.  They love to have a good gallop once they've been turn out from a night inside. They'd already done one lap in the lower field, and decided to come up and see what was going on at the barn. Our new ramp makes a great platform for taking pictures! And as you can see in the lower picture, our gate needs fixing too. The old place needs a giant face lift!

A nice roll in the mud, a good blow, and some water--in that order

We got in a short ride today, our first since the barn disaster. John had to go in to work at noon, so it wasn't too long, just enough to get the starch out of Harley and Ruffy. John rode bareback, but I'm still too chicken to do that except on the premises. Plus I didn't trust Mr. Spookypants! There he was, strutting down the road with his head straight up, just waiting for that pen full of turkeys to make him jump!

I spent the afternoon working around the house, raking up leaves, stacking wood and digging potatoes. The shoulder felt strong enough to do a  little wood splitting, but I'm leaving a few pieces for John. Anyway, by the time I stopped, I was reaching overhead to stack that last bit.

2 cords stacked
And then I started in on the small crop of potatoes we have at the house.  The garden yielded a small number, but check out the size of the giant Katahdin below! Bear in mind, these potatoes grew from last year's leftovers, not fresh seed potatoes. My grandmother would be proud of me! Va bene!

All organic--about 6 inches long and nearly 2 pounds!

For further reading on the garden and my life BH (before horses), check out my other blog

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

I feel the earth move under my feet...

Map from USGS website
Around 7:25 p.m. last night, things were rockin' in southwestern Maine and surrounding states. I happened to be at work, just over the border in New Hampshire, when the library rumbled and shook. First, we thought the boiler had exploded, or some similar disaster had occurred. Then I realized we'd just experienced an earthquake.

Given our precarious barn situation, I called John--no answer. That got me a little more concerned, so I tried his cell. But due to the earthquake, phones were jammed with so many cells in use. I tried a few minutes later on the land line and got through. Yup, John had felt it too and thought it may have been a large truck, airplane maybe? Nope--just the fractured old granite underfoot giving us all a good shake-up here in New England. People reported feeling it as far away as New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. I asked John if he thought I should swing by the barn on the way home and check things out. Thankfully, the horses were turned out for the night or I might have been even more worried. Pete had checked on the barn and horses--all was fine.

Earthquakes are certainly something we rarely think about in our neck of the woods. Just by looking at the map, you can see we're not a "hot spot" for activity. But it got me thinking about contingency plans even more, what with our recent barn debacle. No shelter, no water, no electricity--am I prepared for all of those? I'd love to have a run-in shelter as a backup option, and when and if I have my own barn, that shelter will certainly be built! The other two are easier to deal with. There's lots of water sources in the area, albeit you may have to cart a truck full of containers at a time, and electricity isn't really a problem as much as an inconvenience. (Remember the big ice storm, fellow New Englanders?)  So here's some food for thought fellow equestrians. Here's an interesting link if you want to see what's shaking in your neighborhood!

I visited the horses early this morning to work on the ramp training and check that all was well. After a frosty night, they were feeling sparky, ready to come in and chow down some grain. Thankfully, all the horses seem to have mastered the ramp, but I'm hoping we'll see a new barn floor in the near future.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

There's a hole, there's a hole...a barn disaster

The last few days have been stressful for us and the horses. What should have been a simple sawdust delivery turned into a barn disaster. An oversized dump truck attempted to back into the barn to dump the load and proceeded in cracking two crossbeams and taking out the front third of the aisle as its back end went through the barn floor.  They weather allowed for the horses to stay out Thursday night since it was not too cold. But by Friday, the temperature was supposed to drop down into the twenties.

Temporary jacks and catwalks at corners
Temporary jacks shored up the cracked rear beams, but it meant the horses had to come in through the dairy cow entrance--an earthen ramp eroded years ago with a giant step up into the barn and through a narrow door. Access to tools, tack trunks, and blankets was via boardwalks cornering across the chasm. The horses would have to pass just behind the plywood "wall" we put up next to the hole.

Entrance through dairy door
The two old men jumped right up like it was nothing. Rolex didn't seem to bothered either--catfooted girl that she is. Harley stumbled around before figuring it out, and Ruffy, not sure she liked this idea leaped through the door and stood there shaking. Taking them out the next day was dicey too. We needed to build a safer way to get in and out.

John got out of work early on Saturday to start building a ramp. First, he created a platform coming out from the barn. This was completed in the near dark. We ran out of daylight, and with no power in the barn, we had to call it quits.  Once again, the old men walked up onto the deck and in. Rolex, again, went gamely through. Ruffy  balked a bit, but jumped up. Harley though, was having no part of this. It became a contest of wills, so I put on his rain sheet, turned him out, and went home, praying the rain would hold off until Sunday.  I had a rather restless night, worrying about how I would get my stubborn boy into the barn. Around three a.m., it started to rain and that made me more restless. Was he warm enough? Were there enough leaves on the trees to give him some shelter? What if I couldn't get him in tomorrow night too? By six, I was up, drinking coffee, listening to the rain, watching the temperature (a chilly 40 degrees), and fretting. With no power, the barn would still be dark, and there was no point trying to make him go into a "cave". John and I gathered up our tools, warm clothes, rainwear, carrots, etc. and headed to the barn by 8 a.m. There was Harley, at the top of the hill, looking for breakfast. We decided to give it another try, now that he might have had enough of the rain and be hungry. No go--he still balked, although I got him close enough to sniff the deck. That was it--he'd need a sedative to convince him to walk in. Off I went to get some acepromazine from the vet.

Nearly completed ramp
Help arrived when a fellow boarder and her husband showed up. The guys muckled onto a chunk of the fallen flooring with some chains and pulled it out of the hole with the trucks so we could use some of the lumber for the ramp. Two trips to the lumber yard and 8 hours of hard manual labor later, John and Les had built a safe ramp up to the entry.

Gator snorted a few times and looked at it while I tapped him on the rear to "step up", which he did in a gentlemanly manner. Vance walked right up too. Rolex clattered her way up, but even with sedation, Harley started backing away. John brought Ruffy in next to him and she balked as well. The two just stood there as we tried to coax them up with carrots, grain, sweet whisperings in their ears, and gentle urges.

John told Beth to bring Rolex back out and maybe they would follow her back in. No such luck! Rolex stood on the platform as if to say, "What's the matter with you two? Come on, I'm hungry!"
We tried this twice to no avail. By now Harley looked like he was half asleep, but not so woozy that he couldn't still try and back up. We began to make a little progress with John waving his jacket behind him and me urging from in front. He clattered his way up, then stood inside and snorted. We made it! Now, it was just Ruffy. We tried the same approach--jacket flapping from behind and me on the lead rope. I think Ruffy realized that it was o.k. at this point, and clambered up too. They both got lots of strokes and carrots for their bravery, and finally, dinner. Let's just hope we don't have such mule-headed behavior tomorrow now that they've been up the ramp. We'll have to practice. I realize it was all new and scary, and patience was what worked in the end. This will be our only alternative until the floor is rebuilt. In the end, it will be good experience for them all, but I'll be happy to have a solid floor and easy access again soon.

With everyone in for the night, out of the drizzly rain, I know I will sleep tonight, as will Harley!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Lazy long weekend

Despite the crazy, unpredictable weather, I managed to get some riding in, although none of my fall cleanup plans were completed. Once again, I frittered away my time with the horses. Poor John--I was like a 5 year old yesterday trying to get him to go with me. " Are you ready? Can we go now? Don't you want to go see the horses (again) and ride?"
Mind you, we had already been out to the barn in the morning to feed and release the ponies from their stalls after the previous night's cold rain. Here are some pictures of them in the field:

And she's off--it's Rolex, last to be put out, but in a big hurry!

Once Rolex was with Ruffy and Harley, the big chase ensued. Harley, trailing like the herd stallion, behind his speedy girls. Here's Ruffy heading into a big buck as she and Rolex tear around the field:

Let's get the Canada geese to fly up!
And yet another of the gang, still tearing around, but Harley is losing ground and tiring (just like he did at the track).

Hey girls, wait for me!
After the morning entertainment, it was back home for lunch, laundry, and other boring chores. But that would give the woods time to drip dry (good excuse for John to nap) until I could badger my partner into going back to the barn.

Clouds had overtaken most of the afternoon sun. Brief appearances made for a chilly afternoon/evening ride. And since the gang had spent most of their energy galloping around int he morning, it was a lackluster lollygag through the woods. Harley and Rolex competed for who could stop the most and go at the slowest pace. Although, this made it a perfect ride for more tree trimming. Ruffy is not very good at standing still while John lops branches from overhead. Rolex, on the other hand, is stellar! Who'd think a 5 year old OTTB would willingly stand still with branches raining down on and around her?  As you can see, it was rather dark under the hemlocks. Some day, when I can get a new camera, it won't have the dang automatic flash going off! It looks like we're out night riding when in fact, it's only about 4:30 p.m. This is the time of day when the deer are moving around. Harley and Rolex were convinced that something was out in the woods--hence her cute camel face. As long as John gave Harley a good head rub in his lap, he'd trust us to take him out in the spooky woods. A ride that we usually do in about an hour took an hour and a half with all our stops, starts, stands, and tree lopping. But since I'd ridden Harley the previous two days, I wasn't against making it a nice easy ride.

John, will you rub my ears?
Sunday was the NETSA Horse Show. I'd thought about going just to watch. Maybe we'll make it next year. At the pace Harley was setting today, he would do well in a western pleasure class (if they even had such a class). Although, he does have a tendency to carry his head too high--usually when he's afraid he'll be left behind and jogs to catch up! And Rolex could do a trail class--one where they open the gate, go over the bridge, open a mailbox etc. She's so unflappable, she'd ace it. Ruffy, well she's the jumper girl. She'd have to enter a baby green hunter class. With her lovely looks, and her willingness to jump anything, she just might have a blast (as would John). But I'm putting the cart before the horse! First we need a trailer, a truck to pull it, and Harley willing to get on the trailer. Old Eeyore might have a problem there, but one I'd like to solve!

Any recommendations on cameras from my fellow bloggers? I'd like one that can handle low light conditions with some manual controls.