The Accountant

T and I have been partners since I was just a youngster. She didn’t want to be the first to climb aboard, following a green-horse-equals-broken-back experience but, other than those first couple of weeks at the trainer’s, she’s been my main burden. (Burden. Funny, right? I do pack her around.)

Me and my favourite burden.

And we’ve gotten along famously … most of the time. The trick is, we horses do our best to communicate who we are and what we need but humans don’t always pick up what we’re laying down, if you know what I mean. You’re lovely beings but, sometimes, a little … well … lacking in sensitivity. But I say that with the utmost affection for the bipeds that feed me through the cold months of Canadian winter.

Ever so grateful.

Truthfully, I’ve been lucky. From the beginning, T made every effort to understand me and keep me happy in our work together. I’m not the bravest horse in the barn (although I prefer to think of it as possessing a highly-evolved sense of self-preservation) so sometimes T has had to be understanding and patient with what turns out to be my misinterpretation of a situation. Like the time two guys passed us on the trail on bikes. I’d seen many cyclists, but never with long, skinny appendages sticking out of their backs! OMG! Terrifying beyond belief! Oh … fishing poles you say? Well, shall we continue then?

A guy walking through the pasture with a tripod over his shoulder also looks pretty weird.

I’m just not big on surprises, or change, or new things. I like stuff to stay the same. I like routine, which I expressed to T many times during our rides when I would attempt to move onto the next exercise before she asked for it. She thought I needed more variety, to have things mixed up a little more, but it only frustrated me and had me offering five different moves at once.

Showing off one of my best moves … gate opening/closing.

And then she read a book (thanks, Michelle!) called “Is Your Horse a Rock Star?” It’s written in a humorous  fashion but has some great stuff about horse personalities in it, a bit like a Myers-Briggs for horses. T was pretty surprised to find out I was The Accountant, maybe because of my flair for drama, but an accountant is what I am.

A couple of key points: “Accountants like predictability. They want you to have a plan and stick to it.” I know, right? And, these two items from the list of don’ts really hit home: Don’t … “1) Change routine or 2) Surprise them”. I do not like a surprise, unless it looks like a carrot. But I guess that wouldn’t really be a surprise, unless it tastes like an apple, which would be okay too, but what if it tasted like chicken. Yuck. Anyway… I digress.

Looks like grass, tastes like grass. All good.

Where was I? Right. The Accountant. So, once T realized that she wasn’t ruining me by keeping too much routine in our training sessions, I was a happy lad, eager to do my job well and on schedule.

Like the Myers-Briggs, my personality type is defined by four letters, DLAF. The D is for dominant versus submissive. I’m number two in the herd and don’t let anybody forget it.

I even challenge the boss once in awhile.

The L is for lazy versus energetic. I take a bit of exception to this one but, it’s true, I don’t expend a lot of extra energy unless we’re dealing with the third letter in my code…

But I do have my energetic moments.

A is for afraid versus curious. I am quite curious also, often the first to notice and approach anything new in our environment, but I’m happy to let one of my herd mates do the get-close part. That’s just smart, right? If they don’t get eaten, I move in for a closer look.

Every now and then I let curiosity override fear.

The final letter is F for friendly versus aloof. I am most definitely heavy on the F side of that scale. What would be the point of aloofness?

Giving my girl a little nuzzle.

So, that’s me, the bean counter, the number cruncher, the pencil pusher, the Accountant. Just between you and me, I think T is the same, which is maybe why we get along so well.


It Was a Humdinger!

Spring storms are a pretty standard event in Alberta and this one did not disappoint. At least there was plenty of warning. All of the weather forecasters were in agreement that something was coming and then Environment Canada made it official, issuing winter storm warnings and, in our area, a blizzard warning.

It started snowing early in the day, lightly with a steady breeze from the north. As the day progressed, the wind picked up, the snow got heavier, and by early evening it was a full-on, raging, no-holds-barred, batten-down-the-hatches, run-for-cover spring storm. And when T and Nollind opened up the barn and whistled, that’s exactly what we did … run for cover.

Nevada was first in when the call came, turning his head away from the wind and running for the gate. He used to be the last one to look for those creature comforts, now he’s first in line. I guess that’s age doing the talking.

First in the barn, last in his stall. I think he wanted the aisle.

I’m not really a big fan of being indoors. It helps when the whole herd is in there with me, but I’m just an outdoorsy kind of guy. I like to be able to move around as I please and roll if I feel the need and a ten-by-ten box stall just doesn’t provide that kind of freedom. It beats the tie stall I endure when we spend time camping in Kananaskis Country, but it’s still a box.

Being indoors is far more tolerable with a good neighbour.

However, when I can hear the wind howling past the walls and the snow billows in whenever the door gets opened, and I’m down to only a small percentage of my previously heavy winter coat, I suck it up and appreciate the shelter.

I’m not sure just when the snow stopped, but the wind eased through the night. The storm had passed. Now we just had to wait patiently for the humans to come and let us out. It wasn’t easy to be patient. I wanted to roll so badly I could hardly stand it. Nevada kept telling me to relax and enjoy the warm barn, but the dust from the shavings and hay felt like it was crawling around on my skin.

Good ponies were we.

Finally, the door slid open and the cold morning air blew in bringing T and Nollind with it. After a few good-horsies-for-not-getting-yourselves-into-trouble-overnight, hand-fed snacks, we were out the door and frolicking in the fresh snow.

Post-storm frolic.
More frolicking.

I have the stall #1 so was first out and didn’t get very far before I dropped into the fresh snow … for the first time. I lost count of how many times I lay down and rolled after a half dozen. It. Felt. So. Good.

The post-roll shake is almost as good as the roll.

Our world that was turning to delicious green has been transformed to bright white, but it won’t last long. The spring snow never does. Patches of earth are already starting to show through. Until then, the hay nets are filled, the sun is shining, and I’m in the great and glorious outdoors!

Spring has Sprung!

Greeting card by Avanti Press.

The title of this blog probably brings to mind daffodils, green grass, baby bunnies, and all manner of beautiful spring-like images. Spring is great, I’m completely in agreement there, especially on the heels of a frigid February, but it’s not all rainbows and unicorns out here on the farm.

Spring for horses means mud, lots of mud. The paddock beside us can be dry and pristine and ours is still filled with mud. It’s like we manufacture the stuff or attract it in some way.

Then there’s the hair thing, the shedding of our winter coats. You humans just put your heavy coat away in the closet and pull out the light spring jacket. How great would that be? We shed, for weeks, months even. And all that loose dead hair gets itchy, so we roll, in the mud. Getting the picture?

What’s that? I’ve got a little something on my face?

I should clarify on one point. Most of us “shed” our coats, a process that starts slowly and picks up momentum as we get deeper into spring. Nevada “ejects” his coat. It’s like he just hits a button on the first really nice day and it starts rolling off in sheets. He leaves these white mats everywhere he rolls and when he gets a grooming it looks like it snowed in that one spot.

This year he pushed the “eject” button on March 19.

So, where was I? Mud—check. Hair—check. Right. We’ve now arrived at the ugliest part of spring … manure. T and Nollind are diligent about cleaning up after us in the summer months so we can live and graze in a nice clean pasture. But, in winter, when the piles of poop freeze to the ground, they just leave it where it lands. The snow covers it every now and then which makes things look clean for a few days, and then more snow covers up the next layer, and so on. When all those layers of snow and ice disappear, we’re left with a lot of … well … shit. If you’re really disgusted by that idea, just keep in mind that it’s only processed grass.

What’s left behind when the snow melts.

Do you know that the average horse will produce 50 pounds of manure daily? Crazy thing is, we only eat about 25 or 30 pounds of hay each day. Aren’t we remarkable? Anyway, if you take four of us times that 50 pounds and multiply that by the 150 days or so since the last time they were able to clean the paddock, that’s 30,000 pounds of manure we’ve dropped on the ground over the winter, the majority of it in a 100 by 200 foot paddock area.

Can we get a little cleanup in here?

I think you’re probably getting the idea that early spring is not a pretty time on a horse farm. But it’ll get better. One day, when things are drying out, they’ll show up with the Kubota and its snow blade (aka manure blade), the rakes, the shovels, and move what they can of the winter accumulation. Spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning when horses are part of the family.

Rosa working on her 50-pound contribution.

Once the big cleanup is complete, the green grass will find its way to the surface, as will the dandelions, our paddocks and pastures will become the picture of pastoral perfection, and spring will truly have sprung.