Monday, February 22, 2010

Baby's Got A Brand New Bag

Whadaya mean, it's time to start shedding out?!?
What?!? You expex me to wer dis tent?!?

I don't know 'bout you, lady!

Ya gotta admit, Iz pretty hansum in blu!

The next morning:
Whadaya doin wit that flash box in mah face this early?

Gess I'll chex out the paddock.

You gotta fix da strap? I spent all nite gettin it undunz!

Breakfas tastes jus as gud in blu!
EvenSong back in:
I love how this whorl on Jackson's neck brings the white hair to the black side, and vice versa.
Note: Having computer problems at home again, so I may not be very "present" on-line for a few days.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Took Kate out for her first trail ride of the season today [ya-hoo] and it was pleasantly uneventful [ho-hum]. Took along the video camera, just in case I ever figure out how to upload it to Blogger, but technology failed me again: battery as dead as the proverbial doorknob. So you'll just get the prose version of our non-adventure.

Running late, I groomed her a bit as she munched on some breakfast, then balanced the saddle on her back for the trip to the trailer, grabbed my headstall and helmet, and headed for the parking area by the house. Off-loaded gear into the tack room, then loaded Kate up and hit the road for the same section of the John Wayne Trail that we did last summer for Aarenex's virtual trail ride.Got to the trail head just as Pat was calling to see if I had wimped out. [I have admitted here before: I'm a fair weather rider.] Pat and Shari were both nearly ready to go, so I tacked up and worked Kate at the end of the 12 foot lead for a few minutes: she snaked her head once or twice, but no buck snorts, so I mounted up and we were off.

Pat was riding her off-the-track appendix Quarter Horse gelding Rambler, who has settled into being a very pleasant, if somewhat speedy, trail horse. Shari was on her young Appy gelding Tonka. Pat has been working Rambler regularly at the indoor down the road, and has already been on a couple of rides with the Trail Riders club. Shari has worked Tonka at the indoor twice this past week, once from the ground, and once yesterday, riding. This was his first trail ride of the year, and his season last year was cut short mid-summer by a nasty wreck loading in a trailer, so he really only has about the same experience as Kate, though a little more concentrated , since he was just started last spring (as an un-handled 4 year old).

We climbed the steep-ish hill to the railroad grade, and it was just enough to take the edge off of the horses. Then we settled into the long climb up to the Boyleston tunnel. It was a gray day, mid-40's, but damp, and with a chill wind blowing in our faces.

What was most pleasing was that slow-poke Kate kept up with very little prodding. Part of that was probably her "freshness" and part the fact that she's carrying a little less weight than last summer. She even led for a little bit when we turned around to return to the trailers, though she much preferred Rambler to set the pace. Even little Tonka led for a mile or so. Kate followed Rambler across one little streak of a mud puddle, with only slight hesitation and a good hard look, then walked right through it on her own on the way back down. We had one group spook, initiated by Kate, who suddenly leapt two strides in between the geldings, who then also jumped forward. But everyone stopped at that. We looked around and couldn't find any excuse, but the trail is so open that Kate could have spotted movement anywhere off in the distance.

All in all, it was a good ride. We didn't go quite all the way to the tunnel--we all started getting a bit chilled, so we turned around at about three miles, making it about 6 miles total, in 2 and a quarter hours.

Loaded up the horses, and everyone headed for home. A good first real ride of the year.

p.s. I'll have photos of a new experience that Jackson has recently encountered, later in the week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Cure for Busy Beavers

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a board down in Kate's paddock. Thinking she and Maddie or Beth had gotten silly over the fence, I went to retrieve it.
What I found was not a knocked loose rail, but this piece of lumber-fodder:
Upon closer inspection, I found several more devoured boards.
I didn't do it, Mom!(And I don't think she did--the gouges all seemed to be from the opposite side of the fence.)I have never had trouble with the girls chewing wood in the past.
I thought about what was different, that this would come on in a week's time. (We currently feed in the dark morning and night, but I'm outside every weekend, and I hadn't noticed previously.)
I figured it could be one of three things:
Something missing in their diet (either fiber or some mineral).

Misty has not attacked any of her fence, but instead decided the one straw bale that I kept in her stall (reserved when I switched to boys to the east paddock and pellet bedding) was fair game.
So, my project two weekends ago was to replace the worst-gnawed boards.
Beth helped.
Then, I did four things:
I liberally soaped the top edges of all the paddock fences.
I added some lower quality grass hay to their regular ration of timothy hay for additional fiber.
I added Purina's 12:12 mineral supplement to their daily ration. The last time I talked to the local Purina representative, he said the 12:12 wasn't necessary, since I was feeding their "Enrich" vitamin mineral supplement; but it seems odd that the first winter I didn't include the 12:12 was the first winter I had fence boards chewed on.

Lastly, I finished the project I started last fall of creating feeders along the south wall of the barn. dp at Food for Founder has gone through a series of prototypes for slow feeders (search her blog using the word "feeder")--designed to give a slow-motion but continuous supply of hay, to mimic more natural grazing patterns, thereby relieving boredom and not stressing their digestive system in the way that twice daily bulky feedings do.

Originally I was going to construct the feeders outside the main aisle of the barn, and dug two post holes in three locations to serve the three paddocks. This would have required not only the feed grid of 4" by 4" galvanized steel, but sides, a slanted bottom, and a small roof to keep out both rain and horses.

But in an "AHA!" moment a couple of weeks ago, I realized that if I pulled a few of the tongue and groove boards from the bottom of the barn's exterior walls, I could mount the grid on the inside, slant a less expensive sheet of OSB (rather than plywood) against some hay bales (instead of permanent posts) and not have to weather- and horse-proof the feeders.

I got Kate's small 6 foot feeding station in last weekend, and she figured out pretty quickly how to use it. She has never quite cleaned it out, but is eating slightly less hay than previously.
I have a rubber mat on the ground in front of the grid, and there is very little waste, as Kate cleans up her droppings regularly, as they are easier to access than the hay behind the grid.
(By the way, Funder, please note that Kate is, indeed, one dirty pony!)
The 4" by 4" openings are a bit larger than recommended, but I'm tracking her intake and haven't noticed that Kate is eating too much too fast at this point.
So this weekend's project was for Maddie and Beth's paddock. This will be a wider grid, about 11 feet, between the barn posts, because it will serve two.
The site from inside the barn, immediately adjacent to the hay stack (Kate's is at the far end of the barn, and bales of hay need to be moved down for her each week).
Unscrewing the boards.
Boards out.
Tacking up the grid.

Leaning the 4'X8' OSB against hay bales stacked two high. It is necessary to have enough of an angle that the hay will slide down continuously against the grid, otherwise the horses can't get to it with their lips. If it doesn't slide, I may have to line the OSB with a cheap poly tarp.
Throw down some hay.
Feeder full. Can the girls figure it out?
Beth was the first one to come over, but Al had gone inside with the camera.
A fringe benefit of this system is that it meters out the hay slowly enough that we may be able to put two meals worth in the feeder at a time, and, during Al's early morning "quick feed," a check to make sure the hay is still shifting against the grid properly may be all that is needed.

At first, I think Beth and Maddie thought they were putting one past me, sneaking into a forbidden snack shack. (Again, Funder, notice the mud-packed horsies.)By evening, they were wondering why I hadn't put their dinner in their tire.Beth nose.
Maddie nose.
We'll see how much they have eaten in the morning.

Monday, February 1, 2010

I am not a photographer....

....I just play one on the interwebs.
If I were a true photographer, I would have seen a photo opportunity as soon as I spotted this cloud bank moving in through my office window, not after it had progressed well across the valley.
First it slowly obliterated this farmstead across the way.Then it moved east up "the Pocket."
I also got some pretty awesome shots (subject matter, not quality wise) out the airplane window on my Christmas Eve flight to visit my mother in northern California.

Mount St. Helens, with Spirit Lake in the foreground, and the Puget Sound area (Seattle) blanketed in clouds behind.The Wilamette Valley of Oregon, likewise shrouded in clouds.Crater LakeDowntown Seattle, on the return trip.
(Em-biggen the photo to see the Space Needle to the far left, just above the ship's stern, and the University of Washington above that, on the little bay at the end of the I-90 "floating" bridge. The Seattle Seahawks and Mariners stadiums are to the right.)
Then home to EvenSong Farm!