Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Darn Deer!

We were a little late getting out to feed last night due to some belated Christmas gift deliveries to be made now that people are back home. So it was black-black when we turned into the farm drive.
I really can't wait for the next full moon! With snow, it makes seeing things much easier - and wouldn't you know, I left the nifty headlamps my folks gave us for Christmas in the house at home :(
As we rounded the gate, I could see a horse shape in the front pasture - not out of the fence, but definitely not where a horse shape should be!

"I think they put Foxy through the fence again!" But no... T correctly identified the lone horse silhouette as Thunder, not Foxy this time. I popped out of the truck and over the fence to see if he was okay and take him back up where he belonged, while T drove on up to see about the rest of the herd.
Thunder - on the left - in warmer weather
With those high white socks,
in the dark against the snow
he looked legless

Thankfully, Thunder was fine - very happy to greet me, once he figured out that the thing coming at him from an odd direction was me. And not a bump or scratch on him that I could find - a huge relief! Bless his heart, he "led" next to me up to the gate just as if he really was wearing a halter & lead. He even slowed down and let me lean on him though the worst of the snow drifts. We paused to inspect the alley fence were it looked as if the horse-prints originated.

It looked as if the deer took out the top wire on one of their passages through from tree grove to tree grove. The lower three were fine, but with the snow crusted so hard, he appears to have just stepped over.

The electric's been off to the front section of fence since fall when it started shorting out somewhere. When the electric is on, the deer are much more mindful of how they go (usually over, rather than through), but when it's off.... And since the short seems to be somewhere underground.... I don't think the current's going to be back on until spring.

So, Thunder back where he belonged, and T off to drop off a couple more gifts while the horses munched through their grain, I adjusted the three remaining wires up a couple of notches - thankful for once for steel post fencing & plastic electric fence clips - it would have been a lot tougher dealing with cedar posts and regular fencing staples! - and wound up the broken wire where nothing could get stuck in it.

A scrounge through the barn to locate a partial roll of electrical fence tape, and I had a temporary - and more visible - top wire run at chest height from corner post to corner post along that section. Hopefully, if the deer stay clear of it, the horses will stay in until I can get out there in daylight and make permanent repairs. Hopefully it will be warmer than 5', too - can you say frozen fingers! Brrrr!!

On the plus side, if they should escape that way again, they are at least still inside "horse" pasture and more importantly, the perimeter fence, so there wouldn't be any danger of them getting out on the road.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If the cat is in the bathtub...

That must mean she wants a bath, right? Hmmm...

Poor Mabel. But if she didn't sit in the bathtub and whine to be watered, I probably would never have thought to give her a bath.

This is Mabel, a cat of many families.
Mabel has had an interesting life. She was rescued as a young cat - already declawed in front, and after a run-in with a car - by a young woman who later married the brother of one of T's sister's husbands. (I think that's right - would that be my brother-in-law, one family removed?) Anyway, Mabel lived with them, until they moved and couldn't take her. So she was sent to live with the husband's parents.

When my sister-in-law A and her husband L were married, Mabel went along as a house-warming cat. And she was happy enough with A & L until they moved to an apartment on the second floor. Being an indoor/outdoor cat by nature, Mabel started letting herself out via the screen on their second story bedroom window - not a good activity for a cat with no front claws.

But L's parent's couldn't take her back for whatever reason, so Mabel ended up with A's mom,V, my mother-in-law. Except that V's mini-dachshund Ginger did NOT like her. And tried to eat her whenever she ventured upstairs
from the basement. And Mabel, being a social creature, did not like living in the basement.

So at Christmas two years ago, Mabel came to live with us. She made the 7 1/2 hour trip complacently curled up on my down jacket in the back seat, emerging periodically to check that we still weren't willing to share any jerky with her. On arriving, she took great delight in tormenting poor Snowball, who was sure Mabel was going to eat her. For a year we woke to cats squawking and the scrabble of feet as cats lunged across us in the dark.

Eventually though, Mabel & Snowball came to an understanding, and they now nap on the bed together - not quite touching, but almost.

Mabel & Snowball
Back to the bath...
At some point among her previous residences, Mabel became accustomed to drinking from a dripping tap in the bathtub. So when she wants... well, pretty much anything, from food or water to her belly rubbed, Mabel sits in the tub and talks about it to anyone who will listen. She has a very extensive vocabulary.

And there's no place like a bathroom for captive audiences.

Occasionally, she gets herself trapped between the shower curtains while lying in wait. If the bathroom door is closed and she can't get in, she thumps on it with her back feet.

Sometimes she even sleeps in the tub so as not to miss an opportunity to demand that we turn the water on for her. (Even though the cat food and water is much more conveniently located in the kitchen!)

It's mildly entertaining, but...
Anyway, right now she's shedding, and a little dandruff-y despite frequent grooming on her part and regular brushing on mine. And hairballs are just nasty when coughed up on the floor for bare feet to find. So last night as I was brushing my teeth, there sat Mabel in the tub. Shedding. And whining - loudly - to have the water turned on. So I did.

I adjusted it nice and warm, and proceeded to shampoo her and use the showerhead (it's on a hose, so you can move it around) to rinse her off all squeaky clean.

Ordinarily, I wouldn't bath a cat
- they don't need it -
but I just purely couldn't resist.

Actually, she wasn't too fussed about her bath - I think the warm water and the massage while I lathered her felt good - but she didn't much care for being towel dried.

This morning, guess who
was sitting in the tub again.
I do wish I'd gotten pictures of her
all spikey-wet and drying carefully
between her toes with her little pink tongue!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Cows eat horses, don't they?

There's something out there! Lem'me see! Lem'me see!Sunny as herd "stallion" - very brave...
as long as I was in front of him
to be eaten first!

You'll protect us, right?
Idjits! It was actually above freezing - not just above 0', mind you, but almost 45'!! - for the first time in a month. So of course the horses had the sillies. They were seeing scary things under every bush and behind every tree and fence post.

The cows were taking advantage of the warmth, too, and had ventured out into north pasture where the horses could hear them moving but not see them. Crunching noises and pawing from the other side of the hill - it must be.... horse-eating monsters!

Much snorting, wheeling and scooting ensued.
They were having a fine old time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dreaming of sugarplums?

We had an early Christmas here yesterday morning before H flew out to spend a week with her mom and brother. The house is very quiet and empty feeling at the moment, but we'll still see the morning in with church and a nice supper tomorrow for the two of us and maybe a friend or two will drop by.

The horses made out like bandits, and have been enjoying peppermint treats from my sister and molasses-flavored oatmeal treats from T with their grain. They have some more goodies coming from my mom, as well, so they'll be extra happy to see us for the next couple of months, don't you think?

Yes, I subjected Sunny to wearing antlers again... but I wore some myself this time, too.

T was kind enough to snap us together -
and doesn't Sunny just look thrilled!

Actually, I think I'd just accidentally whacked him with my set of antlers - it takes a bit of coordination managing an extra 8 inches of height!
We caught these ladies on the way home crossing the fields on their way to share a hay bale dinner with some cattle. I only managed to capture four in the shot, but all eight of them showed us their heels in fine fashion.

The weather forecast is saying it just might warm up into the 20's here by Thursday - I'm just crossing my fingers we get the almost-thaw without the accompanying freezing drizzle.... But that's a worry for another day!

Happy Holidays from South Dakota, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Riding before walking

My mom's been cleaning out an old trunk full of pictures and albums, and she scanned this one in to send to me. She grew up with horses, and when I was born, had two. Kittle, an OTTB she was gifted after he bowed a tendon, and Cricket, an sweet old air-fern mare (Notice the sleek and muscular physique she's sporting along with her pint-sized passenger? LOL!)

Yep, that's me up there on top. My mom was bound and determined I'd be on a horse before I took my first steps. And I was. Probably the only time in my life I've been that close to doing the splits - Cricket was plenty broad, especially for my short legs.

One set of feet behind Cricket belong to Kittle, and the other, I think, are my dad's - you can just see the hand he's using to balance me. Cricket was absolutely long-suffering. She was always the one we could pile multiple children on top of - turn her loose, and she'd head for the nearest edible anything.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Christmas Moose?

Nope, just Sunny sporting reindeer antlers.
His "Moe" look, courtesy of the sheep,
is finally growing out. But he still doesn't have
much in the way of a forelock.

He wasn't at all worried about the jingle bells.
He was far more interested in my glovesand whether or not... they contained something edible.

Sorry, Sunny!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blizzard (again) and SafeTravel

Yep. Eastern South Dakota is wearing white wrapping again. Right now I can actually see the middle school three blocks away, but it's an on and off sort of thing. Thankfully, not too much new snow is predicted, so if the weather folks are right, it's mainly visibility due to windblown snow, and the the extreme cold we'll have to worry about.

Until I moved to SD I'd never really taken too much notice of the gates across on-ramps on the interstates. Those gates've been closed a fair amount this winter, keeping people from driving into really dangerous conditions. For good or ill, there are no gates on state or county roads. But there is a really great site that the news channels often refer travelers to - Safe Travel USA

Safe Travel USA links to the travel information systems run by each state, and allows you to click through and view road conditions.

There's a key indicating what the colors and dotted lines mean, and some states offer webcams at various points so that you can actually watch the weather happening.

Safe Travels where ever you go
this holiday season, everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Book Review: planning & recording

I know you're all just waiting on tenterhooks (What the heck is a tenterhook, anyway? - I had to look it up.) for my review of the horse astrology book! *grin*

But you're going to have to wait a little while longer. This week's review subject is actually more of a book-relation. It is, quite frankly, the one gift on MY Christmas list that T has strict orders to find, purchase, and gift me with this year, and for as many years to come as he can find them.

The Horse Savvy Day Planner - by Savvy Systems
If you're a planner person - and even if you're not - if you're a horse person, this is a COOL planner. Not only does it have the usual weekly layout, each week with a different horse picture and horse-y quotation, phone directory and notes section, it also has extra goodies.
  • An Equine Information section with space for 12 horse entries: sire & dam, breed info, registration number, age, markings, height, sex, etc.
  • A Vaccination & Worming section with columns pre-labeled with various vaccines and several left blank for write-in entries.
  • A Vet, Farrier, & Breeding section
  • An Expenses section
  • A Show Results section
  • And last, but not least, a monthly Appointments section for recording lessons scheduled (or taken) or whatever else strikes your fancy. peek inside this year's edition
They're spiral bound, and not in that - it's-going-to-fall-apart-in-three-weeks fashion, either. Mine sits by my desk at work, and I use it to keep track of my daily stuff there, as well as stapling in wormer and vaccine box tabs (for lot numbers), noting horse-health stuff like farrier visits & riding times. The company also has a photo contest every year - send them your horse pictures, and they might just get used in the next year's planner.
2009's edition will (it better!) be under the tree on Christmas day, which is a good thing, considering the last week of 2008's is full of post-its with dates & information to be transferred.

What can I say - I love this planner. T finds mine at Tractor Supply Company, but they're available at other locations, as well - or you can order direct.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Scenes from Tuesday

Hard to see here, because there's no sun, but
Tuesday's snow was super fluffy and sparkly.

Just frosty muzzles last night -
on Sunday, even their eyelashes were snowy.

It's great to have help!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A nice little drive....

After feeding last night (no scares, thank goodness!) and picking H up from basketball practice, we decided to take a quick trip up north of town and do a drive-by check-out of an acreage that's been listed. I'd been by it, but T and H hadn't, and the truck needed to be run enough at speed to blow some of the crud out of the engine - too much idling's not good for diesels, so....

The drive up was great - clear roads, all pavement. Pluses: 9 acres of good pasture, rural water, on blacktop, the house is big enough, new roof, newer furnace, large pole barn & separate *heated* floor shop with half bathroom of its own. Minuses: tree belt is newly planted & only about a foot high, no perimeter fencing, no windbreak, and it's 20+ miles from work & school for all of us. Still, it's a possibility.

The adventure began when we decided to cut across to the highway coming back. The gravel was perfectly clear for the first two miles of the four we had to travel. Mile three was a bit blown in in spots, but nothing the truck wasn't handling.

The four inches of snow they say we collected from this weekend's storm didn't fall neatly in 4" blankets, not with the wind we've had. It's packed into sculpted drifts around treebelts and buildings, sifted through chinks into drifts under barn doors, and cemented into ditches anywhere it had a chance to settle. Wind-born snow creepers extend out of the ditches across roads - even where the plows have bulled their way through. And especially where they haven't.

But the stretch we were on seemed good - someone else's tracks led off in front of us through the fingerling snow creepers, and most of the road was bare to the gravel. If the creepers were gradually increasing in size as we headed east, they weren't huge, and the truck was handlig them neatly.... 100 yards from the street sign indicating the next north/south intersection we smacked into a four foot drift and came to an abrupt stop. Yup. Stuck.

By this point is was black, -13', and the closest lights were a mile south as a crow flies across what looked like pasture & a creek bed. Good thing we had a shovel - never leave home without one in the winter!

Half an hour later, H wanted to call for pizza - she was hungry. But some digging, rocking, and a bit of swearing and we were backed clear of the big drift. T's thought - we should just push for the intersection - I nixed after walking (on top of the packed in, three foot deep & rising, drifts) to the road sign where the road was, yes, clear - but I was standing on top of a hip-high bank of cement hard snow by that time. Nope, not gonna do THAT much digging, thanks very much.

I wish I'd thought to stick
the camera in my pocket, though.
It sure was pretty!

Since turning around was out as we couldn't tell how deep the ditches were, I walked behind the truck with the flashlight as a guide while T backed down the road a 1/4 mile or so until we found a field entrance where we could turn around. We decided the plowed blacktop might be a safer bet than any more gravel adventures, though. Gotta love those country roads!

Still, I'd rather be stuck in a snowbank (and at least we were dressed for it, fresh from chores), than stressing over a sick or injured critter!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Not a good horse weeked: Part 3 - Sunday

Sunday did not come in quietly. It howled its way in, wind screaming around the house, blasting icy pellets of snow and snapped twigs against the windows. The cats were wired, racing through the bedroom and startling, big-eyed, at the rattling and whistling noises from outside.

The view, once daylight finally shivered across the horizon, just made me want to crawl back into bed. White. Snatches of trees & the house across the street occasionally, but mostly just white. On the plus side, it didn't look as if there'd been that much accumulation.... Of course, to accumulate, the snow would first have had to touch the ground before sailing off again.

The actual temperature was -10. The wind was gusting to nearly 40 mph. The folks at the Weather Channel were predicting a high of 3'. It actually might have made it to freezing. But it was still -6 when we headed out to feed at 2:30.

The roads actually weren't all that bad where the wind could get at them. The horses were happy to see us. But oh, crap. One of them was one the wrong side of the fence. And on closer examination, bloody. Lovely.

Foxy is low horse. She gets last chance at the hay, last chance at water, and she pretty much ducks and covers whenever one of the others want something she has. Sometime this afternoon she must have managed to get herself cornered, and escape was over the fence. From the tracks, it looks as if she actually cut herself attempting to get back over.

Warning, blood!
Thankfully, on close examination,
it appears to be surface scratches only.
And flash frozen, at that.

She is not lame - at all. In fact, she really did not want to be caught, and showed us just how lame she is not quite determinedly for about 10 minutes before she decided that evasion wasn't going to get her her grain ration.

If things happen in threes, hopefully, this is it for a while!

Not a good horse weekend: Part 2 - Saturday

Saturday morning was one of those lovely, frosty mornings where both the sun and the moon are up at the same time. The road was slick, but Sunday's nasty weather was only a grey haze on the horizon.

Sunny & company were pleased to see me - Especially when I spread some hay for them.

G was around somewhere feeding sheep, because the grain bin door was ajar and the horses were locked down out of the lot where they couldn't help themselves to the corn. I hung out for a while watching the sun come up, then left to fill my shopping list for holiday baking, reassured that Sunny was fine and I could stop worrying about him.

Cut to Saturday evening.
With the weather supposed to close in overnight, and the relatively warm temperatures already fading, I headed out to feed in the late afternoon. Only to discover that the lot gate was STILL closed, and the horses hadn't had a chance to get up to water all day.

I was just as thrilled about that discovery as you'd imagine.

So, respective gates & bin door opened & closed, and horses watered, I debated on the wisdom of giving them any grain. The pellet feeds are a really bad idea if the horses aren't hydrated when you feed them. And having just spend the night before worrying about Sunny....

Finally, I decided that I'd make sure they all drank - which they were doing - and then let them eat hay for a while before I fed the four that get grain. Since they're getting a very minimal amount of pellet feed mixed with mainly whole grain, with ready access to water, and hay in their bellies to slow their digestion.... It seemed like it would be okay.

Which it was, thankfully, but that
was night number two of very little sleep.

Not a good horse weekend: Part 1 - Friday

I can't even tell you how much
I really wish we were already living
in that horse-friendly place out in the country.

Where I could actually keep an eye on the horses.
Right out my own window.

This is how I wish my weekend had gone....

It was NOT a good horse weekend. Although, I suppose, since all of them ARE still upright, it could have been a lot worse....

The horses got a new bale Friday. When G put it out, it ended up ground side facing the herd, and even more unfortunately, close enough that they could reach it over the fence. Grrrr.

I usually have the chance to peel that part off and I certainly don't feed it, but by the time we got out there that night, Sunny, being a bit of a pig, munched his way through lots more yucky hay than was good for him. (I suppose the plus side to his being a pig is that he was the only one who'd been eating it....) But when we got out to feed, he was... off.

Just not his usual self - you know the look? Sort of semi-glazed: no whinnying in greeting when we piled out of the truck; not aggressively removing the mares from the good hay, once it was distributed; not waiting for me and following me around.

Of course, it was dark. And cold.
He wasn't sweating or otherwise really distressed. We checked for gut sounds (good) - stethoscope came in handy, there - his gums were nice and pink, and the refill rate was good. He didn't want to lay down. It was just my gut was telling me his was bothering him.

We baby-sat him for several hours, during which he'd perk back up for a while, and then go back into slightly worried-horse mode. But the "good" spells got longer and longer, and the worried spells got shorter and shorter, and finally he was tugging to go back to the hay. As soon as he was loose, he pooped and then chased the mares out of his spot. Ordinarily, annoying, but right then, I was glad to see him being his crabby self.

We watched him a while longer, but I was almost sure he was feeling better. J & G weren't home, so I left a message for her to check him later on in the evening when they got home, and to call me, which she did. He was standing, with the others, not eating, but seemed social enough when she talked to him. She'd keep an eye on him and call me in an hour or if anything changed. I sweated through the hour until her second call wondering if I shouldn't just drive back out. But finally called and reported he was eating and totally ignored her. She'd check again before she went to be at 11 PM and call me if anything looked off.

I headed out early, early Saturday morning after very little sleep, to check on him. He'd been laying down by the mud he was wearing, but he greeted me with his usual enthusiasm, so that crisis seemed past.

So that was Friday

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Book Review: jumps, choices, and decisions

The bright orange cover caught my attention as soon as I opened the box. (You knew I was going to do one of the new books, right?)

Well, I picked a good one to start with - okay, I admit it, I read the children's picture books first, but they're going out again as Christmas presents, so that doesn't really count, does it?

Anyway, I was glad I started with Francie's story. I'm not a hunter/jumper rider in training, and I've never shown on an elite level or out of a big barn with any kind of trainer, let alone a world-class one, but in college I had friends who did. Their tales of what went on behind the scenes at shows and in the training barns would curl your hair. And judging by the attention to little horse-y details here, I think the author not only did her homework, but paid her dues. And she definitely knows how to tell a good story.

If you have a teenage girl who's into horses, this is a highly recommended read.

The Perfect Distance by Kim Ablon Whitney
Francie Martinez is almost 18, a senior in high school, and she's torn. It's her last competition year as a junior; her last chance to win the Maclay Finals, THE competition of the jumping world for juniors. She's caught between her own desire to be a professional rider, and the father, who she loves, and who wants nothing more for her than to go on to a good college. Complicating the situation is her position as a lowly groom in the barn of one of the best trainers in the country. She's works for her lessons, and in the strict hierarchy of the show barn, as a less than perfect rider who's not quite good enough to win consistently, thus bringing Rob (the trainer) the prestige he needs, Francie gets the short end of the horse stick, and less of Rob's attention than she'd like. When a new boy, and some new social opportunities arise, Francie has to decide what's important and who to trust.

I loved this book! Whitney's writing style is descriptive and engaging, and Francie's an appealing heroine with real issues. The level of detail Whitney brings shows both her love for and knowledge of the sport. At bottom, the book offers an enjoyable peek into the work of the elite and the wanna-be elite - it isn't always pretty, but that doesn't make the story ring any less true.
If I had to pick a fault with this book, the portrayal of Francie's relationship with her father isn't as strong as it might have been. But given how dysfunctional the other families are portrayed as being.... When all's said and done, it's Francie and the competitive show world that receive the focus here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An embarrassment of riches!

A newly arrived box of books is a bit like Christmas morning.

Alibris is wonderful - you can find almost any book you've ever run across (and multitudes you haven't!) and most of them are very affordable. Plus, if you buy enough, shipping's free - gotta love that. So, I had a weak moment last week when I found a book I've wanted for a while was finally available, and I added a bunch of titles from my wishlist and clicked purchase.

The first box was waiting when I got home last night.

Among others:

Astrology and Your Horse
by Vicky & Beth Maloney

The Horse Girl
by Miriam Moss

Heartland #1 : Coming Home
by Lauren Brooke

The Perfect Distance
by Kim Albon Whitney

Thelwell Country
by Thelwell

The country living section's great, but I love this one from the horse section in particular!
(The print is available at Punchcartoons for separate purchase.)

And never let it be said that cartoons are not educational!

Just what the heck is an avocet, you might ask? Why a weirdly-billed, warm-climate wading bird, of course! (Well, I had no idea.)

And To the Mountains by Morning by Diana Wieler - can't find a cover image for that one at the moment, so I'll have to scan it later.

On top of these, interlibrary loan also brought me
by Judy Reene Singer.

I can't wait to get started!!!!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kitten pics!

The kitten came out to play this afternoon. I'm thinking s/he looks like a Doc to me (for Drop Off Kitten/Cat).

After chowing down...
What's this?
Food where the dog can't get at it! Cool!

Food was good, but attention was better!
And of course, Ayisha wanted in on the action, too....

T brought a couple of big inside-out tires back with him to use as additional feed bunks, so we'll get those rolled out sometime this week - Oooh, presents!
Is it wrong that I'd rather have hay feeders than jewelry?

I'd have had them out this afternoon, but all he wanted to do was catch up on missed sleep, and they're a bit heavy to manage on my own. Given my luck during the rest of the past week, I'd roll one off the truck right onto me, or somehow manage to squash Doc or Ayisha flat as a pancake!

Time with the critters was entirely too fleeting today. I headed in for work only to find 95% of our computers down. With "Out Of Order" signs taped to nearly everything, it should make for a quiet evening. Or wait, someone might actually have to use a book!!! Horrors! LOL!

Sunday flashbacks

That's Sunny as a long yearling the summer before I bought him. The big bay next to him was my then current riding partner, Dodge. See his back foot? Here's a close-up.
Long toes, I know.... This was taken almost a year after he sliced the bulb of his heel open on (we think) a strand of electric wire, probably kicking out at one of the other horses. Amazingly, he didn't cut anything crucial, and the protruding triangle you see there has shrunk down to look almost normal except for the scar.

This is Star & mom Pennie, probably only hours old & still a little wobbly.

And Star this fall.