Springtime at the Barn

They’re home! Hooray! My people are home! Don’t get me wrong, our winter team is a marvel, out here looking after us in all kinds of wild and woolly conditions. In fact, in case I didn’t mention this before … you rock, Judy and Marg! But, as great as the winter team is, it just doesn’t compare to having my very own person back at the barn. T looks after all of us, of course, but she’s mine—always has been, always will be. As soon as T’s home, it’s me getting the grooming and scratches and treats. Nevada and Rosa do too of course, but I’m her number one.

Ready for my spring spa treatment!

So, what does springtime look like around the barn? Well, you might think muddy. But, no, not this year, or most years in recent history. If anything, it’s more likely to be dusty. Although, we did get one good dump of snow in April, the blowing sideways kind. But, after many months of winter, I don’t want to talk about snow anymore, so I’ll just post one photo. Here you go …

That snow fence is amazing stuff.

The other thing there’s no shortage of, besides dust, is hair. And Nevada is the king of the shedding blade. The red and white hair rolls off him in sheets. And, no matter how thoroughly T grooms him, every time she gets out the shedding blade, another layer rolls off. It’s quite a natural phenomenon. After Spot’s first few trips to the grooming kit, there is hair everywhere. The day of his first grooming, one of those dust devils came through and created a cone of swirling white hair fifty feet into the sky!

And that’s only a portion of the day’s shedding session.

Now Rosa and I shed too, of course, but in little clumps and individual hairs, not like we’re peeling off a fur coat. As you can see in the photo below of Rosa post-grooming, there’s no sign of brown or black hair on the ground, other than a few wads of mane and tail hair.

This year, we horses weren’t the only ones to get a spring cleaning. On one particularly lovely day, T dumped out all the grooming kits and started cleaning and organizing. You might be wondering why we have so many grooming tools and multiples of a bunch of them. Well, T wondered the same thing, not really sure where it all came from. I guess that’s what happens when you have a bunch of boarders coming and going for a number of years.

A tool for every part of my body … times three or four.

The other thing that starts happening around the barn in spring is getting horses (and rider) in shape. In the early days of spring, this means a little time in the round pen. I think T does this to get some of the winter kinks out, or see if there are any, and this year we had a few. I just couldn’t keep my attention off a horse grazing in a distant pasture, and Rosa’s one quarter Thoroughbred rose to the surface, and she put on a grand show of galloping around in a circle (even though she wasn’t asked to).

Starting to find my stride and pay attention.

Rosa does this every year, works so much harder than she needs to the first time out. As soon as T asks her to move, she takes off at a dead run, motorcycling around the pen like a crazy horse, working up a sweat. Once T asks her to stop and restart a couple of times, she realizes she’s only being asked to walk or maybe trot. I’m pretty sure she learned this from the first trainer they sent her to as a youngster, because T never chases or asks us to run.

“Oohhh…you just want my attention when you shake that flag. Okay. How’s this?”

We’ve been in the round pen a couple of times now, out for grooming a few times, and have had our hooves trimmed. Pretty sure the saddle is coming out soon. I know horses who would run off at the suggestion (like T’s former horse, Echo), but me, I’m generally keen to do anything, which is why I’m always right here at the gate, ready and waiting.

Until next time, this is Fur-iday Files correspondent Storm signing off, from the field.

My Name is Storm and I’m an Easy Keeper

I am a pasture horse. Always have been, hope I always will be. Pasture horses live outdoors, have room to wander, use an open-sided, come-and-go-as-we-please shelter, and enjoy free access to feed as needed (or wanted). The other thing I am, is what the horse industry refers to as an easy keeper. Always have been, likely always will be.

Easy keepers can survive on very little feed, which is great if he’s a wild horse on sparse vegetation, but not so great in the type of grass-filled pasture often found on Alberta farms and acreages. You can probably guess what happens when you combine an easy keeper with a lush pasture (see pic below).

Thelwell

T has long been managing my easy keeperness—limited hours on pasture, limited amounts of pasture, regular exercise. But no matter how hard she tries, by the end of summer, the cinch on my saddle has to be let out a notch or two.

The past couple of summers, Nevada needed more access to grass and, since we’re a herd, we all benefitted. But then Rosa developed laminitis and had to be sequestered to a dry paddock. Sucked being her, right?

This year, she and I were put on a track system and fed hay for the summer. “What?!” I exclaimed. “No summer grass?!” I was incredulous. I fell into a deep despair. Or maybe I just pouted. Either way, I was not a happy horse. Nevada and Gidget were grazing on lush, green blades across the electric fence that divided the pasture, while Rosa and I nibbled at whatever tiny, green shoots we could find and ate our dehydrated food, aka hay that is normally saved for winter.

My nose out of joint.

As the season went on, and it was a dry one, there were no more green shoots. The paddock and track were dry and brown and grazed down almost to dirt.

On the plus side, T put a tire feeder in the back of our track area and kept it filled with loose hay. It meant a quarter-mile walk for every meal, and a quarter-mile walk back for water or shelter, but at least we didn’t have to pull hay from the netted feeders. It would have been a lot easier for her if she’d put the tire feeder closer to the shelter and water, so I’m thinking there was a strategy afoot to get us walking more.

Honestly! It just fell right out of the feeder!

I’m probably the trimmest I’ve ever been at this time of year (although I don’t look it in my bear-like winter coat), and Rosa is trotting around kicking up her not-sore heels, so it seems the sacrifice of a summer of grass was worth it. As much as I hate to say it, T’s torturous plan worked.

But the grazing season has not been completely lost. When T and Nollind returned from a recent trip, she started letting us out on a little piece of pasture near the house for a short time each morning. First it was just fifteen or twenty minutes, then half an hour, an hour, two hours, and so on. By the time we could stay out all day, we’d pretty much eaten everything there was in that small area.

Can we have some more please?

And that’s when my dream came true. T opened the gate to the big pasture, the big pasture that hasn’t had a horse grazing in it since last fall and is filled with grass. The grass isn’t green like it was in the summer, but there are some green shoots down low if you dig, and the dry stuff tastes pretty good too.

There’s still hay in our net feeders, but I think we’ll save that for a rainy or snowy day when it’s just too unpleasant out in the pasture. Until then, this easy keeper is a pasture horse again!

One Weird Summer

It’s been a strange summer for me. My typical life in the summer months looks something like this …

  • I graze. I graze some more. And when I’m finished with that, I eat some grass.
  • I hang out with my best buddy, Nevada, and the two of us boss the mares around.
  • T saddles me up two or three times a week and we have a workout in the outdoor arena.
  • Once a month or so, Rosa and I hop in the trailer and the humans haul us to the mountains for a trail ride.
At the trailhead of our last mountain ride in August 2020.

This summer is just weird. And not in a good way.

  • I try to graze, but the area Rosa and I have access to has almost no grass, and hasn’t for most of this dry summer. Food-wise, things are more like winter … hay in slow feeder nets.
  • I hang out with my best buddy, Nevada … across a fence. And I have only one mare to boss around.
  • T saddled me up last Tuesday, but before that, well, I’m not sure when we last had an arena workout.
  • And as for the mountain riding, it hasn’t happened at all. That other trailer has left the yard on multiple occasions, but the horse trailer stays parked.
So happy together last Tuesday.

Now, I’m a pretty easygoing guy, but I miss hanging in the shelter with Nevada, I miss having two horses below me in the pecking order as opposed to one, I miss my time with T even if it means I have to work, and most of all, above all else, I MISS GRASS!

Eating our hay while Nevada and Gidget graze across the fenceline.

As you know if you’ve read my posts before, Rosa has metabolic issues which make her prone to inflammation in her feet when she eats green grass. But why do I have to miss out? Why do I have to be her dry-food companion? I know, I know. It’s because I’m what horse people refer to as an “easy keeper”. In other words, every blade of grass goes right to my girth line.

I admit I was a little pleased on Tuesday when T had to adjust my saddle fittings down a size rather than up. And after our ride, she turned me out in a grassy paddock for an hour so I could get my fill of the green stuff. I’ll work every day if it means an hour or two of grazing! I hope she’s reading this.

Can you tell how svelte I am?

My understanding was that we’d all be together again for the winter, once the grass was gone. But now there’s a haystack in our shelter, along with five of the barrel slow feeders. I have a feeling this two herds of two horses might be permanent. As much as I miss my longtime buddy, I know he needs extra feed to get him through the winter and it’s difficult for him to get enough without Rosa and I getting too much. Gidget is somewhere in the middle with her need for feed so she’s a better pasture mate for Nevada than I am, as much as I hate to admit it.

Our bed and bale.

On the plus side—and I do try to keep a sunny outlook—our paddocks are right next to each other so we can visit over the fence. And our track area runs right alongside Nevada and Gidget’s pasture. So, other than shelter time, it’s almost like we’re in the same space.

Visiting over the fence. (I love this photo—we look the same height. Yup, that’s me, 15.3 hh.)

And, you know, if I think about it, in my herd of two, I’m now the alpha horse instead of second-in-command to Nevada. I’ve been promoted!