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!

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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.

Home for the Holidays

It will be a different kind of Christmas this year … no desert … no Logan. The four of us spent the past two Christmases in and around Quartzsite, Arizona—exploring the desert, lying in the sun, lounging by the Little Red Fireplace. This year we’ll be here in Alberta, and just three of us, unless you count the horses and cats who bring our number up to ten.

Christmas Day last year at Dome Rock BLM (Logan in his favourite spot).

Logan was always the ringleader when it came to opening gifts, being a greater lover of toys than I am. Last year it was a little candy cane squeaky thing. Silly, but he loved it. No matter his age, he never lost the enjoyment of something that squeaked or grunted or otherwise made a sound between his teeth. I inherited a whole basket of the goofy things. I hope T and Nollind give me a bone for Christmas this year. I prefer quiet deliciousness to noisy tastelessness.

Logan with his Christmas toy.

We’ve been out walking in our winter wonderland every day since the snow came. T started out in boots when the snow cover was light, moved up to snowshoes after a dump, and now she’s back to just boots with all the Chinook melting that’s happened this past week or so. For me, it’s four paws all the time, although I wished I had some doggie snowshoes on those deep-snow days. On the plus side, I’m looking svelte, fitting up my near-ten-year-old body for the winter adventures to come.

I keep up just fine on the hard pack.

And by winter adventures I mean Canadian winter adventures, the kind with snow and sunshine and, yes, sometimes cold. T and Nollind had been planning to take us south in early December, then mid-December, then just after Christmas, and then early January, but they’ve decided we’re staying home entirely this year. Sounds like there are a few reasons why, not the least of which is the old horse, Nevada. He’s had some health issues since the end of summer and T wants to be here to care for him on a daily basis. She thinks he needs her right now, and she might be right. I see the way he looks at her every afternoon when she goes out to give him his extra feed and supplements, like she’s just saved his life yet again.

Home on the range

Logan almost kept us home last year but Nollind built him a ten-foot ramp and we were off to the south. Maybe he could do the same for Nevada? Instead of the Fang trailer behind Sid we could haul a horse trailer.

The ramp that made it all possible last winter.

But, since I don’t think that will happen, I’m settling in for a Canadian winter—putting energy into growing an extra layer of fur. I’ll be fine. I actually like snow, as you might remember from my I Love Snow post this spring. And, as much as I miss Logan, there are more frequent adventures and long walks in my days as a solo, easy-travelling dog. Life is good.

Making my version of a snow angel.

I’ve heard talk around the house that we might even head out for some winter camping to places like the Cypress Hills and Kananaskis. In our first trip south in 2011, we spent some time camping in the snow in Utah and northern Arizona. Playing in the snow during the day and tucking into a warm trailer at night? Sign me up!

Snow at Bryce Canyon in 2011

From my home to yours, or wherever you may be this holiday season, wishing you and your furry (and non-furry) family a very Merry Christmas!