Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Did I mention the coyote?

No, I see I didn't - can't believe I forgot to mention the coyote!

Sunday's ride included a slight bit of bushy-tailed excitement. We were trotting right along, Sunny in the lead, down a two-track lane with a bit of grassy verge separating it from a barbwire fence on the right and a big, recently harvested field to the left. It was blowing to beat the band, enough so that you couldn't hear the person behind you unless he or she shouted (or rode really close).

The horses were all prick-eared and interested - strange place, wind, etc. All of a sudden this small furry thing popped out of the grass just ahead shot off into the underbrush. Sunny sort of levitated to a stop - just hung in the air briefly, eyeing the thing streaking across the grass in front of him, then settled right back into his trot. There was barely time for the guy behind me to yell, "Coyote!" and it was gone - disappearing under the barbwire and into the underbrush.

He couldn't have been more than 15' in front of Sunny's nose, and when we passed the spot were he'd been there was a neat little round circle pressed into the grass - must have been a favorite napping spot!

J, the vet, who was right behind me - the one who yelled - said it was one of the healthiest coyotes he's seen in quite a while: nice coat, no mange. I know ranchers don't like them, but where I grew up in MI there wasn't much call for hunting them. Less ranching there, and lots more trees than people made for good denning conditions, so we'd hear them sing and yip most nights and occasionally see them crossing the field in front of the house. But this is the closest I've been to one in a very long time.

I honestly would have expected it to be bigger, but from the back of a moving horse, at least, it looked pretty small - about the size of a smallish cocker spaniel, maybe.

Anyway, I was quite proud of Sunny for not being phased when it jumped and ran in front of us. Although I suppose he's probably familiar with coyotes as there are dens of them out in the back pastures where the cows are, so maybe that's not such a surprise.

That one lone coyote, a distant jack rabbit sighting, and a couple of hen pheasants where all the wildlife we scared up the whole ride. Too much wind for even the wildlife to be out and about, I guess.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, Sunday...

Would have been the day to take pictures, but I needed both hands. We headed out early at the vet's where Rufus is staying. The farrier had agreed to come by and put shoes on him then, as he'd run out of time earlier in the week. Rufus has been sore-footed on the gravel lately, and Saturday when we stopped to check on him he was a bit camped out in front. Sure enough, the farrier found a tiny abscess blowing up from a stone bruise.

Other than that, he complimented Rufus on having very good feet. With the abscess pressure relieved and a shoe on, Rufus was a whole new horse. (Somehow, I don't think it's fair that T's turn at the foot-soaking penicillin routine comes in the nice weather, though - Sunny's nail incident was January and the warmest it got was 5' that whole two weeks!)

With Rufus shod, we hooked up the trailer and collected Sunny. Then it was back to the vet's to sort calves off cows. We saddled for that, and Sunny was a trooper. I was interested to see his reaction, as he's been pastured with cows but I've never actually chased anything with him.

He caught on quick - no idea if he'd actually be cowy, but he was definitely all for making them run away, and tracked after stragglers with every indication of interest and enjoyment.

After we finished working cows we loaded up and headed down to ride along the James River a bit east.

Did I mention the wind was blowing around 35 mph (sustained) with gusts into the 45-50 mph range? No need to worry about no-see-ums today! The wind actually wasn't a problem, but Sunny's lack of withers was.

Grrrr... I really thought I had the saddle thing nailed finally, as he's been working comfortably in this saddle/pad combination all summer. But we haven't tackled any really big descents, and the first long downhill with any kind of slope to it, it was really apparent that he wasn't comfortable. The saddle doesn't slide forward badly, but it moves enough to bind under his front legs, and I can't cinch any tighter. I think there's going to be a crupper in his future....

So I did a bit more walking than I planned, but at least I got my exercise for the day. The other three careened up and down the draws and generally had a good time. We skirted the edges and Sunny got a lesson in being lone horse. Not that he cared much. He was pretty sure he knew where the trailer was, and didn't really mind the rest being out of sight. We did get a couple of nice loping stretches in, and determined that Sunny can stretch out and trot as fast or faster than the QHs with us could lope.

Truly funny? Buddy, the vet's big QH must stand 16.2 - I used a height/weight tape on him last time we wormed Rufus, but on dirt, so it's only ballpark.

Sunny's all of 15-15.2 on a tall day.

So loading them in the trailer two by two, and Sunny's in next to Buddy, who's a good 4-6 inches taller, and a good two feet longer. Sunny looked like he shrunk in the wash - either that, or Buddy had a Mini-Me, as they're both bright red chestnuts.

Once a weekend...

Is starting to be a habit! I really need to do a better job of posting from home, because posting from up here is no fun.

No weekend pics, although it wasn't from a lack of exciting going's on. Friday I only checked on the four-feets. They were fine, and informed me that they were quite happy eating, thank you - lol! I was pleased to find that none of them had (at least then) new wind tangles.

Saturday was another head-counting day with no riding - too bad, too, as it was beautiful and still. The horses were all up under the loafing tree dozing, but after I woke them and then stopped to chat with the farm owner, they headed out to pasture.

Chatting involved leaving the nice bare spot under the tree and stepping into the yard. Mistake! No-see-ums. At least that's what I grew up calling them. They're not gnats, they're tinier. And they're in the grass usually on hot sticky still days. Well, it wasn't sticky, but it was hot & still, and in about 60 seconds I was covered.

And it took just about that long for the horses to discover that the pasture was also infested. Somebody snorted, somebody did the all-over-body shake and suddenly the whole herd was off at a lope around the perimeter and back up into the lot and then down to slide to a stop back under the tree.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Don't fear the tractor...

A new bale for the cows...

Standing up the hill by the gate as T started the tractor I could see the black cow-dots popping up over the hill at the first sputter of the engine - by the time we headed down to deposit the first bale they were all collected at the gate waiting.

And the horses
Don't guess fear of the tractor was a problem -
more like don't get run over
by the tractor!

I thought for a minute Eyore,
having escaped flattening-by-tractor
by the fuzz on his hairy little ears,
was going to get his head stuck underthe bale.

Finally, for your,
"Oh man, what a thing to do
to a poor defenseless horse!
moment of the day.

Thunder - so not an enthusiastic Mizzou fan.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy feets!

The boys & girls all have nice short feet, and they all stood very politely for the farrier. She was very complimentary, saying she was impressed with how patiently they waited. It was good to hear, but today was a sunny, lazy day, so that helped!

This time I had them all caught and ready for her (I was mortified last time to still be collecting them when she drove in - she shouldn't have to wait on me!).
The upper lot is well-fenced in sucker rod & railroad ties, but the ties are getting old enough to be suspect at the bottom, and I'm afraid if somebody really tested one, it might snap.

I wasn't anticipating any disasters. Still, in the interest of safety I only tied the ones that like to be nosy to the posts I know are solid. The other four I haltered and just let stand guarding posts with their leads looped rather than tied. They were still standing politely without fussing when we finished up 2 hours later.
(Embarrassingly, Thunder and Sunny - two of the tied ones - self-released not once, but at least twice apiece. Note to self: must remember to bring out more green Tabasco sauce to discourage rope nibblers!)
I miss them during the week. And given the amount of wind-tangles the mares accumulated amongst them this week, they missed me, too! I didn't get all of them quite tangle-free this afternoon, so I think tomorrow will be a pony spa day at the farm.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Happy Yellow Wheels & Cows

It seemed like a very quick weekend for some reason. Saturday we spent the day in Sioux Falls. I spotted this neat number in the parking lot, and couldn't resist grabbing my camera - How crazy-cheerful would you have to be to drive around on those wheels all day?

Sunday we helped friends work their cows. I did get some between the ears time, but not with Sunny :( These cute little red swivels belong to Buddy, a truly humongous quarter horse. I hopped on him briefly to run over and open a gate. Man, am I glad I normally ride a short horse, but I have to admit, his lope was awsome (shhh, don't tell Sunny!)

Casper, Buddy & Rufus
The boys snooze while we work.
That's MY baby in there!
Anxious mommas looked on after their turn through the chute.

T ran the chute hydraulics & loaded needles.
K and I had the messy, kicking end.

The toughest part was keeping the smaller ones facing the right way, as they were wiggly enough to end up backwards if we gave them the chance.

After the cows had all had their turn at the pointy end of a needle, we went for a ride. I started on Casper, the grey, and ended up on Rufus. Rufus was a bit sore footed on the gravel, so since I'm a bit lighter, T and I swapped and we mostly kept to a walk and the sandier bits of the road.

When we got back we swung by the farm to check on the fourfeets - all upright & accounted for :)

Didn't get to the canning, or most of the chores I had planned. Two days go quick!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Wildlife & canning

Labor Day dawned overcast, windy, sticky, and gray, and pretty much stayed that way. We ran out to the farm in the afternoon to check on the critters (all fine) and ran across this little guy - a skink, I'm informed. He was very happy to be re-released, and promptly disappeared into the grass.

This lovely fellow careened in the open truck window, bounced off my head, and stunned himself. You can't tell from the picture, but the dragonfly was about as long as my palm is wide, and so was the lizard - wonder who'd have eaten who for lunch? His eyes were so pretty, I couldn't resist taking a picture - I'm amazed that it turned out, none of my horse pictures did!

Then it was back to the house to check on the progress of our a.m. canning session.
3 1/2 pints of spaghetti sauce

8 pints of salsa

I picked 6 lbs of Roma tomatoes off of one plant for the salsa, and that much again off two more for the sauce. The salsa turned out really well - we ate what didn't completely fill the 9th jar for lunch. And since I took on the tomatoes & onions, T did the hot peppers. His hands were still burning hours later. That'll teach'm to wear gloves-LOL!

The tomato plants are still flowering, and there are lots still to ripen, so I think I may try tomato juice next weekend.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Weekend work

It's Labor Day weekend, right?

The horses... were not laboring.

We, however, were.

Last night Sunny & Solitaire had gone fence creeping, and were NOT were they belonged. Too many weeds had grounded out the electric. So...

weed-eating was first on the agenda
in the interest of keeping
the electric up and
the four-feets looking over
the right side of their fence.

We moved on to...

a little Eastern Red Cedar eradication.

Then tackled a bit more pruning to the loafing tree,

...and finally headed over to check on Rufus and co.

We walked the fence there, too, as last night when we stopped by three (very happy) cows were out in this alfalfa field. By the time we got them back on the right side of their fence, it was too dark to see. We found their escape route this morning,
...with a little assistance from Quazar,
and made sure they were contained.

Then we fed the barn cats,

...and hit the road.

This little guy's for Mikey - no rattles, & no venom, but no one told him that - he struck at my boots when I bent over to take his picture. We made sure he was out of the road before we drove off.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Weekend Review: Sunday

Riding! Yay!

My favorite view: Between the ears!

Sunday was again gorgeous - even chilly as the sun came up. I love fall :)

We hooked up the trailer, loaded Rufus and headed over to the farm where I caught Sunny & we saddled up to ride. Both boys were quite relaxed about the whole thing, although Sunny dawdled & "wiggled" down the road initially. Nothing like the cool morning two weeks ago when he felt it necessary to step out with a slight hunch to his back.Sunny was still in the bitless bridle but with a new 36" cinch (his old one is a 32-incher, and I think he was pleased to go up a couple of sizes!) in place. I know it made ME happier to have a bit of extra latigo when the cinch was snug.

The gravel was cement-like since we hadn't had any recent rain, so we mainly stuck to walking with some trotting where the footing was better. T wanted to work on Rufus's barn sour/buddy issues, so he spent some time riding way out ahead and way back behind. Sunny, for the most part, could care less where Rufus is. Rufus is not yet enraptured with Sunny's presence either, as we discovered on the way home when Rufus, in the lead by a 1/4 mile, was reluctant to turn around and come back to Sunny and me.

In addition to Rufus's issues, T & I both worked on leg yields, changing pace at the trot using seat & energy rather than reins, and finding and maintaining a nice jog/sitting trot pace. Who says a pleasure ride can't be productive! LOL!

Excuse us - we're in passing mode!

Catching up again

Rufus and T had a couple of "discussions" but T is getting better at anticipating when Rufus is about to balk and keeping his feet moving. Rufus is also learning that balking gets him more work, not less. Sunny didn't break a sweat, but Rufus (and T) got a bit more of a workout - grin.

Back at the trailer

We rode for about 2 hours, enjoying every minute of it.

Bonus of the day? I drove the return route, and managed to back the trailer back in on the first try. (I know, not a huge deal for those of you who jockey long trailers all the time, but I don't, and this sucker's 22' if it's an inch!)

All in all, a good conclusion to the weekend.

Weekend review: Saturday

Fall seems to be creeping in to SD early this year. Saturday was the very best sort of pre-fall day: high blue, sunny sky; light breeze to discourage the bugs; pleasantly warm low-70' temps. It was lovely.

We didn't ride, but did spend some quality time with the four-feets. After a summer of riding bitless, I'm contemplating transitioning Sunny back into a regular bridle if for no other reason than I might at some point actually decide to dabble in a show or two. He can at least tolerate wearing something reasonably comfortable when we're not trail riding!

I have half a dozen different snaffle varieties from Myler pinchless, comfort-types to french link, O, D, and full-cheek varieties. (All true snaffles, with no shanks.) He's been equally annoyed with all of them. It doesn't seem to be a teeth thing, or a me-thing necessarily, so I thought I'd at least try a curb and see if that worked any better. Anyway, since T is using my "very mild grazing curb" with Rufus (who is completely happy with it), I ordered another "very mild" short, swept-back-shanked, grazing curb to try on Sunny.

He was unappreciative. Very! Many gagging faces and much slobbering ensued. I just let him wear it for a while without riding, figuring it was best to see how he'd carry it and let him get used to it for a bit (no pun intended!). I'll give riding in it a try once I've let him wear it a couple of times.

While he slobbered, T did leading exercises with Amyra and I fussed over the mares - shadowed by Thunder (4 year old gelding), who couldn't see why HE didn't get any attention, thank you very much! So when Sunny's time with the nasty metal thing was up, I figured - well, why not see what Thunder made of being bridled.

Clicker in hand, I asked him to touch and then open his mouth for the bit. Here's why I love the clicker - within 2 minutes he was happily lowering his head and opening his mouth to take it. Once he was comfortable accepting it and letting go, I actually let him wear it for a few minutes at a time. Many more funny faces ensued.

Notice, he doesn't actually look put out at all - just slightly perplexed that he can't spit it out.

His half-sister Star (6 year old mare) also got in on the fun. Although she was less thrilled with the whole works. After accepting it twice she had to go away for a few minutes and think about it, ultimately she determined that being clicked for taking the nasty thing was worthwhile. She walked over to where I was fly spraying one of the other mares and hovered until I noticed her again. When I offered her the bit, she took it nicely.
Considering neither Thunder nor Star have ever been bridled before, not bad. (Well, actually, good, for them. Not so great if you're marking off things they should know by this point! Sigh.)

So that was Saturday with the four-foots.