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.