Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Every once in a while, the stars align just right to cause an adventure to happen. I'm not talking about the fun ones where you get to see new sights, experience new thrills, and generally have a fun, happy time. These kind of adventures are the ones you are glad ended just fine, but hope not to repeat again too soon. Of course, this adventure involved horses.

I was sitting inside just finishing my lunch and a bit of reading. I am accustomed to the noises outside, but always notice when there is a new or odd noise. I can't tell you, now, what that noise was, but it arrested my attention immediately. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of a stallion excited! As I know our *Beau's voice well, I knew it was him (*Leo does not have a mature voice yet for all he thinks he does). I jumped up from my seat and looked out the windows.

There were *Beau and *Red, heads hanging out of their fence, snuffling noses with THREE RED HORSES THAT SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN THERE! I popped my head out of the door and said, "*Walker girl, what are you doing out? And how did you get out?"

I ran down the stairs, threw off my slippers, crammed my feet into my boots, whipped my coat around me, stuffed treats into my pockets and slapped my hat on my head. Out the door I ran and the fun was ON!!

Before I even approached the horses, I went to check the gate to their paddock expecting some damage. There was none. It was simply unclasped. Great, I have a mouthy, smart horse that can undo gates. I'm betting on *Leo.

Although all three know me well, and love their treats, they were FREEEEEEEEEE, free as the wind, free as the snowflakes flying through the breeze, free as....well you get the picture. And so, they were having little to do with me. Each time I got close they veered off into another direction. Finally after a bit, *Jack noticed that I had treats in my hand. He decided that treats were far more interesting than running around in deep snow following some mare that likes to kick his butt whenever she gets the chance. *Jack followed me all the way into the paddock and I shut him in.

One down; two to go.

This time I knew I had to have a halter. You see, when you are dealing with more than two horses, it is best to divide and conquer. I knew I could get *Jack with treats. *Walker is a bit harder; being older and more experienced at evasion.

I approached with the halter in one hand and treats in the other. She politely took the treats and let me slip the halter on, even though it isn't her color (what red horse would wear hot pink, really??). Off we went to the paddock, *Leo following like a good little foal. In *Walker went, but alas, *Leo refused to follow.

Adventure time for *Leo!! Off he went. He's starting to become more brave, and wants to venture forth without mom. Afterall, he is a big colt now of 8 months old! *Leo explored and I followed. Finally, after about 5 minutes of exploration he ended up back at the paddock gate. I grabbed the halter from *Walker and slipped it on *Leo.

With foals, aw heck, with horses...well you know the old can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. When a horse decides they will not do something, there is no making him. The key to a good relationship with a horse is to have them always want to please you. The problem with foals is that they haven't figured that out yet because of their lack of experience.

So here we stood, a hot pink halter on a gold champagne 8 month old, paddock gate open. Halter in my left hand, a too-big halter I might add, which allowed *Leo to snake his teeth around and graze on my knuckles from time to time, and treats in my right hand. All the while I am having to convince both *Walker and *Jack that they don't want to come back out of the paddock. Finally, about 20 minutes later, *Leo decided he wanted to do what I wanted and came in.

Like I said, some adventures you don't necessarily wish to repeat too soon.

The gate now has a second clasp on it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I'm sure some of my readers may have wondered exactly what a day at "Green Mountain Curlies" might be like. I thought in this edition I would walk you through a "typical" day.

5:30 a.m. Wake-up and get-up out of bed. Have coffee. If not for my 2 cups of coffee my day would be much more difficult! Between this time and about 7 a.m. I also put together Chuck's lunch (nice wife, aren't I?), pour out our OJ, and feed the cats their brekky.

7 a.m. Wake-up Guin for school and fix brekky.

7:30 a.m. Head down cellar to mix the horses' brekky. Typically Chuck heads out to give them their morning hay while I'm mixing. Then we both feed them.

8:00-12:00 Pick manure out of all 5 paddocks. During winter I cannot get it all, so I concentrate on their run-ins and loose manure where we usually throw the hay. Then I top off their water. Hay them again and tend to other small things. For instance, I wash two feed buckets each day, Mon-Fri. I need to bring up hay to store under the porch. Then I will do ground work with one of the horses. This morning I took *Glory for a walk and then brought Silken down to work on some lateral flexion and also do some lunge work.

12-2 p.m. Inside for human lunch and house work/computer work.

2-4 p.m. Back outside to hay if they need it and for more work with horses. Today, I worked on *Suncatcher's mane. He seems to have developed a fungus so I'm treating it with DermalAide. Today was his second application and he is so cute about it. He was laying down resting when I came in. I began to rub it into the skin of his mane, vigorously. He lay there, literally groaning with pleasure! It was funny to hear. Then I worked with haltering *Leo. Today, we got it on all the way, but boy is he a mouthy colt! That halter went into his mouth way more often than I could seem to get it on his nose! Next up was *Jack. *Jack is now living with *Walker and *Leo in preparation for weaning *Leo. So *Leo was slightly concerned when I took *Jack out, but he settled quickly. We went down to the arena and met Guin coming up with Dude on the way. While in the arena we worked on Game 4, more W/T transistions in-hand, including trotting over ground poles, and we played with our huge Cage ball. Lastly, while Guin stayed in with *Jack and *Leo, I took *Walker out for a short walk. She didn't seem too stressed with leaving *Leo behind, but I could tell that tension was rising by the time we got down to the barn, so while there I asked for head down and rewarded her with a small treat. Then we turned around and went back. Guin said that *Leo was actually okay about it UNTIL he saw us heading back. Funny guy.

4-5 p.m. Do evening hay, mix supper for the horses, and feed.

5 - 10 p.m. Come in, have a cuppa tea and relax a bit. Then get supper for humans going and take care of more inside chores as needed. Chuck is very sweet in that he typically does the supper dishes for me. Then we will relax for the evening by chatting, reading, or watching a movie.

10 p.m. Off to bed.

As you can see it is a full day. I try to plan just one day "off the farm" for running errands, going shopping, etc. It doesn't always work out, but I do as I can.

So, if you ever decide to come for a visit you'll know just what to expect.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Short and sweet. Sometimes that's all the training you need to do with a youngster. Tonight that was what Guin and I did with *Bill and *Jack.

After everyone was fed and settled for the evening, I went down and turned on the arena lights. The lights are metal halide and so need a bit of warming up before they are bright enough. Then we haltered the both of them and walked down.

Our main purpose was just to get them used to the idea of being in the arena, at night, with the lights on. Things look different at night, both outside and inside, and for horses the more experience they get at different things the better off you both are.

We just did some walk/trot in hand, took them through the labyrinth a couple of times, and worked on backing up by the Driving Game.

Neither of them was worried or concerned about how different things looked and both stayed "on task". Considering that *Bill is just a long yearling we felt he did very well!

Both walking down and walking back, because it was dark and things were shadowed differently (and covered with snow), we did have a couple of threshold moments. But once they got a good look at whatever had their attention and saw that we were relaxed about it, off they went again.

Our only sticky spot at all was when *Jack and I stayed behind to turn the lights off! It was very dark, and *Jack was a bit surprised. I just kept speaking to him and we made our way to the arena door.

By next year we hope to have a small light installed just for those times.

I love having a lighted arena! What a blessed life we have!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Today began chilly, at about -2F at 7:30 a.m. but by 11 a.m. we had warmed up to almost 20 and we got to the mid-20's by the late afternoon. We had off and on sunshine and everyone, humans and horses alike, enjoyed being outside.

I have noticed that when we have a couple of days of really frigid weather, as we just did, that the following day the horses spend a lot of time napping. Of course, the amount of hay the consume lessens considerably, but it amazes me the amount of time that they will spend lieing down and sleeping. Adult horses rarely spend more than 2 hours out of 24 laying down to sleep, but most of mine today spent more than that. As I worked outside, the feeling surrounding our space was of total relaxation and peacefulness. Lovely!

This afternoon, I took *Jack down to the arena to do a few minutes of in-hand work. We walked and trotted in hand, and I varied the speed that I traveled, which *Jack noticed and changed his speed to accompany me. This is good! Then we did a trip through the TEAM labyrinth and next I decided to begin teaching him the Yo, of the Parelli game 4 "Yo-yo" game. Please note that I am not a "level" anything in Parelli-speak, but I have found much to his 7-games and enjoy using them with the horses as alternative training techniques. Therefore, how I do his games may not be "perfect" according to his goals.

Anyway, the "Yo-yo" game is one in which the horse is asked to back away from you while you stand still; get to the end of the line and "dwell" for a while; then on request come back into you. The object, of course, is to make the requests you use as subtle as possible.

Now *Jack understands the voice command of "back-up" and he understands pressure on the bridge of his nose and that he must move backwards when I walk towards his head/chest area. He has known all that since he was but a foal. Today was the day to incorporate an object to drive him backwards (that happens to be Game 3). As I had my TEAM wand in hand, I simple held it pointing toward him and began moving it rhythmically toward his chest, between his front legs. I then said "back" (I believe that Parelli discourages the use of voice, but as I drive I prefer them to be extra familiar with voice cues). *Jack just looked at me. When he hadn't responded in a few moments, the wand tapped him between his legs. I could see on *Jack's face a "What?". Again, I said back, and when he didn't respond, I increased the amount of contact (that's PC for the wand 'tapped' him harder, lol). At that he took a tentative step backwards with his left fore and I immediately stopped the movement and praised him. We did this 3 to 4 times, and each time he needed the contact of the wand to respond. So, it was time for a break.

We walked off, we did the labyrinth, looked out the door at the turkeys, and then went back to Game 4. Lo-and-behold he got it right away! As is usual he simply had needed a bit of "dwell" time to process what I had been asking. This time when he gave me two lovely steps backwards with just a wave of the wand toward him, I lavished praise on him and gave him a treat. Oh *Jack liked that! And we quit.

I was very proud of his good work.

Next out was Silken and Dude (you will notice there are no astericks next to their names; that is because we use the asterick* to denote a curly coat. No *, means no visible curls). I brought Silken in and Guin brought in Dude. I like to start my work sessions with a trip around the arena. It sets the "mood", i.e. "This is now learning/work time, not relaxing time". So, Silken and I made a trip around the arena, and we varied our speeds in the walk and trot as I had with *Jack. I took Silken through the labyrinth for a first time and she did well. Then I began the games with her. Silken knows the games and is a sensitive mare. What she will help me with is my subtlety.

Each horse responds differently to the different games. For instance in the Yo-yo game, Silken's yo is much better than her Yo. She does not like to be asked away from the human. She does it, but you can see in her eyes that she doesn't like being "sent away". So I make sure to do it gently, quietly. I think that I can become even quieter yet. Silken also has a default behaviour and that is to do the Circle game, or game 5. If she is confused at all, she circles you. So, one must be aware of it and ready to interrupt her circling. But, it is a game she does really well!

And her Game 7, or Sideways game is soooooo smooth. Lovely to work with, lovely to watch. Again, I know I can become more subtle with it though as I got a couple of tail-twists and snorts with a head bob. She was telling me that I was "shouting" and that she could hear me just fine "thank you very much"!!

After a bit with them both, we went out and just walked around a bit with them. Guin and I agreed that it was fun playing with two horses at the same time and want to do more of it.

After that it was time to wait for my new helper! Beginning today I have a cute-as-a-button 9 year old coming to help with afternoon chores and learn more about horses. Today, she helped me water; mix supper; give the night hay out; and feed supper to the horses. While we worked I asked her to think about a topic for each Friday that she would like to talk about regarding horses. I did catch her by surprise with this but she decided that today we should talk about the insides of a horse! So I told her how they were the same and how they were different. We spoke about their brains, their digestive system, and how they are prey not preditors and how that effects their insides and thinking. I had a great time and I think she did too! I'm looking forward to next Friday.

We hope you had a lovely day today as well.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Was I complaining yesterday about snow? I'll take snow. When it snows it is warmer than today was!

I spent as little time as possible outside today. We began, at 7:30 a.m., with -10F and a small wind. Eventually, by 2 p.m. we managed to get to 8F, again with a small wind. By the time we fed about 2-1/2 hours later it had dropped to -4F.

On days like this the only thing that matters is feeding and watering the critters. All they really want to do is eat hay and sleep in the sunlight.

My policy is not to work a horse at more than a walk between 0 and 10F, they can do a bit of light trot between 10-20F. The reason for that is that they will work up a sweat and trying to cool them down in those temperatures takes a long time and can be difficult on them. So, you just don't work them to a sweat. It also is not good for them to breath so deeply as they would need to. Heck, it's hard on us to breathe in those temperatures!

So days like today mean no working with the horses because it is hard on both of us. But they love to see me come out and give them hay. Yep, I'm the most popular human on earth when I have hay in my hands on days like today!

Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I love snow. I love winter. But the winter I love is one that allows you to enjoy the outside, the snow, without freezing. Ahhh, if wishes were fishes we'd never be hungry, eh?

For me, one of the best things about winter BUGS. Bugs crawl on you, bite you, sting you, and dive-bomb you. I enjoy working with the horses even though it is cold, because there are NO bugs to drive either one of us crazy.

But, being the "at home" person who runs the farm on a daily business means that I am the one that deals with the snow. Believe me, I am thankful that we have a tractor. I do count the money saved each and every time I plow. But, it is just January 2nd and I am heartily TIRED of plowing!

I try to keep my sense of humor; I am always one to make lemonade from those darned sour lemons, however I am running out of ideas for making plowing fun.

So, I'm including a few pictures from the first snowstorm, back on 12/03/07, where I actually was smiling while I was plowing. It is hard to find me doing that now.

Ideas are appreciated!!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008


Yes, we have finished with 2007 and begun 2008.

2007 did turn out as we had imagined it would. We had hoped that by bringing in Stephanie, that we would expand our business. We built fences; we built a new arena; we also built three new winter paddocks. Then the bottom dropped out and we learned to NEVER depend on anyone but ourselves. Occasionally, you get fooled.

The only thing left now, though, is to make new goals, new decisions, and go forward.

I could wax philosophical and ponder on why we needed to learn this lesson; but, rather than doing that I will simply take the sour with the sweet.

And the sweet is: we have a larger arena, with LIGHTS. It isn't totally finished because winter came on fast and strong this year. We also had to fire a carpenter. What is it with "professionals" these days? Ah, never mind, that could be a totally separate blog.

What else is sweet? We have each other, we have 3 lovely, intelligent and strong daughters and a great new son-in-law. We have 11 horses that we have plans for, and we have a future.

Another sweet is, I have signed up for the "Ride A Curly" contest on Curly Horse Country. I did this to help me set the goal of accrueing hours in riding and driving. For me it is not important to win, but just to achieve those hours. Only active riding and/or driving counts; not time working with them on the ground. But, I also have horses to work with on the ground, most especially a particularly sweet 2 year old named *Jack. He is the light in my eyes.

So, today I began to approach my goals, as the horses have had December "off". *Jack and I went to the arena and worked with the TEAM (Linda Tellington-Jones) Labyrinth. On the third time through he only followed my guiding hands and voice. I did not need to hold the lead at all! He had never experienced the Lab before, so I was mightily pleased. With *Leo I began to re-introduce him to the halter. And then this evening *Beau accompanied us to the arena to see it under the lights. It was a new experience for him, and he was a bit up at first, but quickly settled to the labyrinth and walking/trotting/cantering on line.

Our 2008 is off to a good start. We hope yours is too.

ps *Red is healed from his stringhalt and is doing pretty well!