It’s Good Fur-iday!

Some holidays land on a different day of the week each year, like Christmas or Canada Day, and every seven-ish years (depends on that funny human thing called a leap year) on Fur-iday. A bunch of others are specific to a day of the week, like Thanksgiving (in Canada) on a Monday or Labour Day, also on a Monday. There’s no chance any of these will ever fall on Fur-iday. Only one lands reliably on a Fur-iday every single year and that is today, Good Fur-iday!

Since Good Fur-iday is part of the Easter holiday, we at the Fur-iday Files thought we’d send out a greeting and good wishes to all of you celebrating. This year, like last, it won’t be a time of big gatherings and community Easter egg hunts due to the pandemic, but I hope you’ll find a way to connect with those near and dear. And, if you can’t do that, eat chocolate, plenty of chocolate. I hear it helps. We dogs, cats, and horses aren’t supposed to eat chocolate but will put in a request for some species-appropriate snacks.

We’ll be spending part of the Easter holiday with friends G, S & R, a little home-on-the-farm day camping. I’ll tell you all about it next week and fill you in on what else has been happening in my world.

Until then, from me and Storm and Hank, and the rest of the four-leggeds here at Almosta Ranch…

Happy Easter!

My Coat of Many Colours

In the world of horse colours, I am a roan.

Roan is a horse coat pattern that has a mix of coloured and white hairs on the body, with the head and “points”—lower legs, mane and tail—mostly solid-coloured. Roans come in three main varieties: blue, bay and red. I’m of the bay variety. For those who aren’t familiar with horse colours, a bay is a brown horse with black points.

My late-summer look.

The interesting thing about roans is that we tend to change colour with the seasons. In my case, I look almost like any other bay in the winter…until you get close. If you come right up and part the long winter hairs, you’ll see the grey hair hiding underneath, waiting for spring.

December.

When my winter coat starts to shed out, I’m a mottled mix of grey, black, and brown with a brown head and black legs.

Mottled March.

As spring progresses, I become a rather striking, if I do say so myself, grey with a dark head and black points. Lucky for me, this was my appearance the April I ended up at auction as a two-year-old, and what caught the eye of the people who became my new family (T and N). Even though I was a little small for my age and kind of scruffy, my colour made me stand out from the herd.

This is in May, so I’m already losing my grey around the shoulders, chest and flank.

When spring turns to summer and I’ve shed out all of those long, brown, winter hairs, and the shorter grey spring hairs, my coat very much fits the roan definition—a mix of coloured and white hairs.

Middle of summer (Sigh…doesn’t that grass look delicious?)

As summer winds to a close, the white hairs start to disappear in a crowd of dark brown, almost black, hair, and I go through the darkest phase of my seasonal changes.

My autumn trail-riding outfit.

And then, like magic, with the cold weather come the shaggy, red-brown hairs that hide everything else and, from a distance, have the humans mixing me up with Rosa, who is a true bay.

At my full “bay-ness” in January. That’s my doppelganger in the background.

At two, I was small for my age and I didn’t grow much bigger, just 14.1 hands high, which is technically pony-sized. And, I don’t have the kind of conformation that would win ribbons, my neck is about two-thirds the length it should be and I’m a bit pigeon-toed. But, I’ve got colour nailed. Nevada is pretty splashy in his red and white, but he looks much the same year round. I have the element of surprise on my side. Just when you think I’m a very average-looking, somewhat-overweight, kinda-small, bay horse … voila! I’m a grey!

An average-looking, somewhat-overweight, kinda-small, bay horse in February but, you can see the grey lurking underneath.

I’m in my mottled stage at the moment (see photo #3 taken yesterday afternoon). It’s not the best of my looks, but leads to the most dramatic phase of my roan-ness. I’ll check back in a month or so to give you this year’s spring look.

Ground-Horse Day

We have groundhogs in Alberta and in many other parts of Canada, but I’ve never seen one out here on the farm. We do, however, have a lot of other little critters that live in the ground, small cousins of the groundhog, and none ventured out of their holes on Tuesday to see their shadows. An early spring, perhaps?

When Canada’s most famous ground-dwelling weather forecasters, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam, and Fred La Marmotte, all called for an early spring, horses across the province were celebrating. But then word came in from Balzac Billy, Alberta’s “Prairie Prognosticator” calling for six more weeks of winter.

The groundhogs rely on seeing their shadow, or not, to predict the timing of spring which has always struck me as rather circumstantial. Doesn’t it just depend on whether or not the sun is shining on February 2, and what does this have to do with the weather to come? Just saying.

Unlike the groundhog, I don’t have a warm burrow to hide in until spring (although our shelter is a pretty close second) so what’s coming in the next six weeks has a lot more impact on my life than his. Why they’ve been the go-to animal for weather prediction for nearly two hundred years despite the complete lack of science behind their approach is a mystery.

The closest thing we have to a “burrow” in the background.

Even Wikipedia says, “While the tradition remains popular in modern times, studies have found no consistent correlation between a groundhog seeing its shadow and the subsequent arrival time of spring-like weather.” No shit!

I, on the other hand, a horse, consider a number of factors when making my prediction— El Niño/ La Niña patterns, climate change, and the PDO (Pacific Decadal Oscillation)—science-y stuff. If I wasn’t an accountant, I think I’d have been a scientist. I also consider the behaviour of local birds and animals and, most of all, my hair coat.

Checking the wind for signs of spring. Nope, not yet.

As you probably know, horses shed their coats in spring, and most do it quite reliably at the same time every year. The growth and shedding of our coats is driven by the amount of decreasing or increasing daylight. More science-y stuff. But I’ve noticed in recent years, as I’ve grown older, that my shedding varies from year to year, sometimes starting as early as February, which it has this year.

I’m shedding!

You might be thinking that my body was tricked by our mild January, and there is that possibility, but I believe that nineteen years of living in Alberta, combined with my very sensitive nature, has turned me into an equine weather forecaster, a ground-horse if you will.

So, the 2021 spring prediction from Storm the hypothesizing horse … drum roll please …

The crowd waiting in anticipation of the announcement.

🌼 AN EARLY SPRING! 🌻