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.

Aaaaaahhhhhh…..
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!

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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.

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!