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.

Advertisements

I’m a Regular!

It’s official! Despite my horse-ness, I am going to be a regular on the “dog blog”! Once I’m settled in and Chico realizes he can’t do it without me, I’ll start pushing for a name change. Maybe the “dog and pony blog” or “horse and hound tales” … something like that. For now, I’m happy to stay with the status quo.

Me at home … the first of many horse photos.

Since you’ll be seeing more of us, I thought I’d best tell you about the herd here at Almosta Ranch.

Nevada has been here longer than any of us. He and Alta, T’s thoroughbred mare, were the first horses on the place in 2003 when T and Nollind came to live here. Nevada had been purchased as Nollind’s first horse the previous fall.

Nevada and Alta in the early days.

Alta went on to a new home in 2012. I guess it was kind of my fault. After I grew up and was trained, T liked riding me better than she did Al, maybe because of my smaller size, but more likely because of my awesome personality. I just can’t help it. Alta went to a good home though, where she was spoiled alongside another senior horse and had the easy job of taking a newbie out on the trails.

She looked better in English tack than I do but I’m cuter overall.

I arrived on the scene in 2004 from the Innisfail Auction along with a buckskin yearling they called Dorado (or sometimes Earl – more about that another time.) T chose Dorado at the auction because she’d always wanted a buckskin and he was sweet and well-handled. Nollind liked my colour (lucky me) and bought me from a meat buyer. I told you my story back in 2017 when I had my first guest blog. We were the “project horses” for T and Nollind—Dorado for T and me for Nollind.

Dorado and me when we first arrived. Pretty cute, huh?

It turned out that Dorado was not the clever, sensitive type of horse that T prefers. But, guess who is? 😉 While Dorado was busily showing himself to be the dull, pushy sort, I was snuffling T’s hair and blowing warm air on her face while she was bent over doing some task around the barn. She was such an easy target for my charm. Long story short, Dorado was sold as a three-year-old and I became T’s main mount.

Teaching me to be a saddle horse.

There were a few other horses who came and went along the way—Sox, Calypso, Willow, Eddy—but I’ll tell you more about them in some future post. Now that I’m a regular (I’m a regular!) I have plenty of time to tell horse stories.

Rosa came along in December of 2007 at just a year and a half old. They adopted her from a place called Bear Valley Rescue who’d bought her at auction. Rosa is a registered Quarter Horse but ended up at auction when the people who owned her had health issues. When she first arrived at Almosta, she had never been handled by humans. She was like this wild thing that would move to the other side of her paddock whenever T and Nollind were near, even when they had food! (Chico and I share a love of all that is food so have little understanding of how this is possible.) I’ll tell you more about Rosa’s journey from wildie to complete mush-bucket another day.

Baby Rosa wanting to go home.

In 2012, when T and Nollind were down to just the three of us—Nevada, Rosa and me— they decided to put the extra space to use and started boarding horses. The first boarder, a Clyde-cross named Olga, arrived in September that year and by winter two years later there were eight boarded horses plus us.

Nevada and I are there by the post on the right.

More horses meant more problems including a stretch we were all afraid of the electric waterer because a new horse told us it was dangerous (seemed reasonable at the time), baby buggies in places they had no business being, and fence rails chewed through. And then there was the horse that brought in the winter scourge of 2015. That was the turning point. After the infestation was resolved, the boarders were no longer replaced when they left of their own accord (and I think one of them was given a not-so-subtle nudge when her son was caught tormenting the dogs for the third or fourth time.)

It took many baths to rid the herd of the skin scourge!

By the fall of 2017, the boarders were all gone but Gidget. She’s part of our herd now and is like one of the family, as is her owner Judy, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be here as long as they want to be. You probably think Gidget looks like a sweet little buttercup of a horse with her pretty blonde coat and sweet eyes, but the horse dentist nicknamed her Blonde Diablo and we, her herdmates, are sometimes inclined to agree. More about that in a future post.

Sweet, right?

I could tell stories all day but I’ve gone way over my Chico-stipulated, 500-word post so I’d best shut this horse’s mouth. Until next time … happy trails!

Winter Whoas

We knew it would come. It always does. Winter weather of the prairie variety. Technically, it’s been winter since November in our part of the world, we even had some wintry weather in early October, but we didn’t have any serious winter conditions until a week ago. Last Friday it blew in and hasn’t left us.

We horses are generally very good at adapting to changing conditions and weathering cold temperatures, but this year I think we got a bit complacent, maybe even forgot just what Old Man Winter can be like when he turns on us. We went from weeks of mostly above freezing daytime temperatures and reasonable overnights to the minus 20s, 30s, and even into the 40s with the wind chill. The wind has come from a variety of directions but all of them nasty COLD.

Winter weather moving in.

The biggest concern around here when we get a big weather change is Nevada. He’s just not as tough as he used to be. Years ago, he was the guy who’d head out to graze in the worst of conditions. We’d watch him walk out into the storm, thinking he was crazy or incredibly brave, or both, and we’d inevitably feel compelled to leave our cozy shelter and follow our fearless leader.

At 28, Nevada’s much more sensitive to changes in weather and feed. T was three days into adding something new to his diet when the weather turned cold and snowy. She and Nollind had fed him and headed out for a dog walk when I started to see the signs of a bellyache—stretching out like he needed to pee, pawing at the ground, restlessness, and no interest in his hay cubes.

Nevada enjoying his daily private lunch.

I watched to the south where I’d seen the peeps and Chico disappear over the hill. “Come back! We need you!” Thirty minutes later, they reappeared half a mile from home, making their way at that excruciatingly slow pace that humans travel. “Hurry!” I wanted to shout.

T noticed the symptoms right away and they came to the old guy’s aid. Light walking, TTouch belly lifts, resting him out of the north wind that was now blowing with bitterness. Nothing was working. After an hour and a half, the symptoms were getting worse. Time to call the vet.

Looking south into the snow.

I’ve never been treated for colic and had the “up your nose with a rubber hose” experience, but from what I’ve been told, it is not at all pleasant. As soon as the vet rolled in Nevada attempted to perk up, trying to convince everyone he was just fine. He even passed some manure. But, based on his heart rate and some dehydration, he got the hose treatment anyway, for fluids and electrolytes, along with a shot of painkiller.

When the sedative wore off, he was right as rain, but grumpy about being cooped up in the barn. I was in there too, to keep him company, but I had hay and he had none. As the herd boss, he’s not accustomed to watching another horse eat.

Outdoors is (almost) always better for this guy.

Nevada’s not a big fan of staying indoors, and moving around is good for digestion so, with his heavy winter blanket strapped in place, we were turned out into the weather. Hay nets hanging in the shelter, fresh straw, some loose hay in the big brown feeder and we were set for the night. I think T would spoil us anyway but, when Nevada is under the weather, we all benefit. She and Nollind were back to check on him twice that night, bringing treats for all and a top-up on the hay. When the weather gets mean, it’s a bit like having room service.

Gidget enjoying room service.

By Saturday morning we were down into the -20C range (-4F), the wind had increased and it was feeling very cold. I probably didn’t need one, and she knows it, but T put a blanket on me anyway. I got a new one this year and, I admit, it does feel better than the old hand-me-down that never quite fit me right.

I love the name on my new blanket. Suits me, don’t you think?

A blanket always feels great at first, cuts right down on the wind-chill factor, but then the itch sets in, especially up around the neck and shoulders. Drives me mad! So, I roll, I rub on things, and I mooch scratches from the humans when they’re out each day. It’ll be off as soon as it warms up some and, now that we’ve had our first blast of real winter, I’m optimistic they’ll let me run clothing-free for the next cold snap. Until then, I’ll just accept the blanket for what it is … a gesture of love and caring from T.

After a roll in the snow to remove the blanket … Drat! Still there.