Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

I’m back! It’s been many months, long winter months, since I last posted on the dog blog but they’ve finally given me a chance to have another go. They’re such proprietary little guys, something about people signing up for a dog blog not a horse blog, what if they don’t want to hear from a horse, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn’t want to hear from a horse? Go ahead, raise your hands. Just what I thought. Everyone loves horses. Case closed.

So, back to that long winter. OMG! What was that? The longest, coldest, snowiest winter in forever is what I say, although, according to the meteorologist types, only the amount of snow was one for the record books. And my, was there snow. My three herd-mates and I hardly left the paddock after December. It was just too much work and for what? Not like we were going to dig through that mess and find anything to eat.

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Me the day the snowbirds arrived home. Does my expression say, “Where the hell have you been? Do you have any idea what’s been happening here?”

 

And where were Chico and Logan and our caretaking humans for this epic winter? I know you know. In Arizona! The land of no four-foot snow drifts, no freakishly cold wind chills, no need for winter blankets, and no me! But, seriously, just like I told you last fall, I’m not much of a traveller, so I wouldn’t want to be hauled all the way down there. I’d just feel better if the peeps and pooches were here to suffer through the winter with us. Selfish? Perhaps. But then I’m a horse and we’re kind of all about what’s most comfortable, safest, easiest, and generally best for us.

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Getting my funky (or is that fungi) hooves doctored after a long winter of wet feet.

 

Winter is finally over here in southern Alberta, and the green grass is starting to grow. Spring is a miraculous time for a Canadian horse. Not only do we have fresh food after months of eating desiccated grass, but there are no bugs! It’s like two or three weeks of bliss when it’s warm enough during the day to grow grass but still cold enough at night to keep the bugs from coming out or hatching or whatever it is they do before they set to harassing horses.

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Those first bites of green grass are like the best kind of candy.

 

If I had to choose between the cold, snowy season and bug season I think I’d have to go with cold and snow. Just imagine yourself standing in a field full of flies and mosquitoes covered in a scent they find very appealing with your hands tied behind your back. Your only defences are to run, stomp, roll on the ground, or shake your head. Welcome to summer in the life of a horse. The only other defence we horses have over humans are tails, but I’d take human hands any day of the week. We can swish the little tormenters off, but you can kill them or apply bug spray.

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Blissful spring day.

 

Spring is also the time when I have to get back to work after a winter off and it gets tougher every year. I thought I’d kept in reasonable shape over the winter but this year I’m sixteen and it does seem to make a difference. The consolation is that I think T’s hurting too. I can tell by the way she walks when she gets off. Snicker.

Well, I should wrap this up. The boss hounds said to keep it under six hundred words or they’ll edit me and I don’t want them to cut out my best stuff. I still didn’t get to telling you about my accountant tendencies so I guess that’ll have to wait until next time. Until then … here’s mud in your eye! (More about that horse racing inspired toast when I return.) Oh, oh. Six hundred and eleven, twelve, thirteen. Gotta go.

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Guest Blog: Storm!

Howdy! My name is Storm. I know this is generally a dog blog but, I might as well tell you right up front, I’m not a dog, I’m a horse. Chico and Logan have been promising me a guest spot for months and, at last, I get my chance. I’m also on the To All the Steeds I’ve Loved Before list for T’s blog, but she’s only on Echo and I’m at least a couple of horses after that.

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Happy to be one of the steeds she’s loved.

 

So, a little bit about me for starters, I guess. I mentioned I’m a horse. Well, technically, I’m not. I’m actually a pony. The dividing line between horses and ponies is 14.2 hands in height (a hand is four inches for those who might not be familiar with the units used to measure equines). I’m 14.1 (that’s 14 hands plus one inch). If I’m overdue for a hoof trim and you count my thick winter coat, I can probably squeak out that extra inch but, in the world of horses, I am not a horse.

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The saddle makes me look taller. Right?

 

I’m 15 years old and have lived here at the van Bryce farm for going on 14 years now, since I was just a year and half old. The story of how I came to be here is kinda cool, if you like feel-good-happy-ending animal stories. I was apparently born in August of 2002 but I don’t remember much about my foalhood. My earliest memory is being at the Innisfail Auction in April of my two-year-old year. I was standing in a pen before the auction started and a few people came by to look at me, but not very many. I was kind of small and had that half-shedded-out-spring-scruffy thing going on, so I probably wasn’t what most people were looking for.

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Me in April 2004

 

And then I had the misfortune of being first horse through the ring. Who bids on hip #1? Everyone is sitting on their hands waiting to see what the prices are like before they bid … except for the meat buyers. They’re not too fussy.  For them it’s all about price per pound. So that’s who bid on me, and bought me, for $180. Of course, I didn’t know one buyer from another at the time. What I did know is that the man who bought me from the auction ring wasn’t the one loading me into a trailer at the end of the day. Here’s the story as it was written for part of an article T did for an equine magazine.

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My new herd. Nevada (behind me) and I are still best buds.

 

The man had never been to an auction before and was feeling a bit anxious about the process. He and his wife had come looking for a couple of young “project horses” to add to their herd of old reliables. The first horse in the ring was a little bay roan colt (me!). The man was tempted to place a bid but this was the first horse through (what did I tell you?). It seemed a bit rash. Before he could think too long, the horse was sold, and he recognized a local meat horse buyer. “I should have bid on that roan horse,” he commented to his wife, “I think I should have bid on that horse.” He fretted for the next five or six lots, kicking himself for not bidding on the roan (me!). Suddenly, he was standing, “I’ll be right back.” His wife watched him as he worked his way through the crowd to the dealer who had bought the roan (me!). There was a short exchange of words, a handshake, and he made his way back to his seat, a smile on his face.

In that moment, my fate was changed, all for a $20 bill.

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I think it was my smile they couldn’t resist.

 

Well, I hope to have the chance to tell you more stories from my view of the farm. One of the challenges is that I have to dictate while one of the dogs types (hoof + keyboard = disaster), which means I can’t just pop in whenever I want. I have to be invited.

I hear they’re headed south soon so it’ll likely be spring until you hear from me again, unless I can get my stories sent down to the desert somehow. If you’re thinking I’m upset because I don’t get to go along, not at all. You see, I’m The Accountant around here, and I like things to be the same, the same, the same. But more about that next time.

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I don’t mind the snow at all.

 

A Dog For All Seasons

T is a real weather nut. She’s always checking the forecasts on her phone, has half a dozen apps on there that show her forecasts, current conditions, wind predictions, and radar. It’s cool. I get it. Weather is pretty interesting and does have a big impact on how we spend our days, especially living out here in the country.

For example, when I go out first thing in the morning, I might go for a little wander around the yard if it’s nice, check out who or what has wandered through the yard overnight, take my time. But, when it’s raining, lift-me-off-the-ground windy or just plain frigid, I’ll lift my leg for just enough time to relieve the pressure and hustle back to the door, praying that T or Nollind hasn’t gone off to make tea or some other such thing. “I’m back! Let me in!”

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Any weather is good weather for a cuddle.

T has weather apps that cover our winter destinations too but she doesn’t look at them nearly as often as here at home. You see, the weather down in southern Arizona is usually kind of predictable. Sunny and warm. To my way of thinking, predictable, especially when it’s sunny and warm, is a good thing, a very good thing.

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Just another boring winter day in Arizona. Sigh…

Now, here at home, where we live three-quarters of the year, the weather is never predictable and rarely boring. In fact, during this particular fall season, we’ve had all four seasons for the price of one.

September started off a lot like July and August were, hot and dry. It felt like the summer that just wouldn’t end. T and Nollind got more miles out of their flip-flops this summer than ever before. In fact, one of T’s weather sites said it was the hottest summer in forty years!

Fall arrived around the middle of September, with cooler evenings, a little frost here and there overnight, and the leaves drifting down off the trees. I love fall. We can walk at any time of day without getting overheated, there are lots of animals out and about for us to track, and evening cuddle time comes a bit earlier.

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A September walk in the hay field.

But then, just barely into October, winter arrived with a fury like I’ve never seen so early in the year. The temperatures dropped below freezing and the wind blew the snow into drifts that were way taller than me and hard enough for us to walk on. We’ve seen big storms out here on the prairie before, but never in October, not even in November. It was like we’d fast-forwarded two months and landed in the middle of a blizzard!

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Digging out.

The horses had to be brought into the shelter and blanketed, Nollind got the truck stuck and had to pull it out with the tractor, and I basically spent the whole day trying to avoid going outdoors. You’d be amazed how long I can hold it when there’s such a powerful incentive! Even just outside the door, sheltered by the caragana bushes that surround the house, the snow was swirling everywhere because of the very strong winds. One quick trip outside and I was soaked and shivering.

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The horses trying to stay warm by eating. I like their strategy!

Now, the next day was a different story. The snow and the wind had stopped and we went for a walk. There is nothing like a roll in fresh snow. It’s even better than green grass. I must have rolled a dozen times in our short walk around the property—just couldn’t stop. Of course, the snow didn’t last.

Once the sun was out and things warmed up to normal October temperatures, all that snow melted and made the grass turn green again.  It’s like spring! Don’t worry though, the horses aren’t fooled one bit. They’ll happily eat the pretend-spring grass but they haven’t stopped working on those winter coats they started on back in September. I should probably do the same.

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The last of the snow drifts (this one was five feet high!)