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! 🌻

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!