Friday, April 29, 2016

One more day!!


So Moon comes home tomorrow! Last night I fed at the barn for the last time before winter, and packed up the last of Moon's gear. Just his halter, a brush and shipping boots were waiting at the barn still. It was bitter sweet unhanging his sign after the four years it's hung there.

I'm heading off with the weirdest mix of excitement, nerves and eager anticipation.

So in love with this boy, even after 6 years <3 
I spent four years in university studying animal production. I'm an Aggie. I studied agriculture in school, and LOVED everything from feed formulation to rotational grazing to throwing metal squares into a field and counting blades of grass. This is my dream world. I don't work in it 9-5, M-F, but the idea that my evenings can be a passionate pursuit of agriculture?! I'm beyond excited. It's more then just bringing Moon home. It's an opportunity to farm.

I'm getting to farm.

I know some people think, it's just horse keeping. Fence off some grass, let a horse eat. Supplement some hay if they're looking skinny. Keep them watered.

But I'm talking about Manure Management. Stocking Densities. High Intensity Rotational Grazing Systems. Natural Parasite Control Methods. Pasture Improvement.

I know. Some folks would roll their eyes and yawn, but for me, this is my passion. I'm seriously EXCITED about managing manure.

Now, I don't know if we're going to do best on a harrow system where we spread the manure out, or maybe we should cover and compost, and then spread at the year end?

I know that one horse produces enough manure in a year to fertilize 1 acre of land. Which to me, means if I accumulate and cover it, I should be able to compost this summer's worth, and then in the fall when Moon goes back to H's, spread that manure over 1 paddock. And after 4 years, I should be able to have fertilized every paddock once. And then start again. Which is a perfectly manageable level of fertilization. I'd also like to introduce some new seed stock next year with frost seeding. That's when you seed the grass in the spring, where the spring frosts have opened little cracks in the soil for the seed to fall into and germinate. The downfall is that it means keeping the horses off one paddock until the grass becomes established there, but I'm thinking if I divide one pasture in half and make it the last pasture grazed in the rotation, I could have everything seeded in 6 years. Without much loss of production. The first year would be rough, but after that, the improved yield of the seeded areas would compensate for the loss of area.

I also hope to do a soil sample back there to determine the nutrient levels. I've had the soil tested for compensation, but not to actually determine the health of the soil.

I'm probably going to ask for a manure spreader and harrow for christmas ;)

I'm learning also that a good manure pile has lots of space for air, which means I need to make sure to add some leaves and lawn clippings and weeds and such to help the manure aerate. Which is great because we always have tons of grass clippings and leaves to deal with!

We also will have the bedding from the chicken coop, which is another great thing to compost! Plus whatever vegetable bits come off our garden this year :)

My math says that we'll have 5 rotations per paddock, if Moon stays until the end of October. Granted, I doubt there'll be much growth after September, so it's possible it might just be a hay bale supplement in that last month.

I'm hoping that every time I move Moon into the next paddock, I'll run the lawn mower over the area to cut down all the weeds. The biggest issue is going to be the rocks in the field, but I guess I'll slowly pull them out, plus hopefully he's not munching it so short that I need the deck on the mower crazy low. At least we have the riding mower for out there.

I'm also really hoping to pick poo every other day or so back there, so it never accumulates. That's gonna be a wait and see one, but if I can keep to doing it, it'll be a HUGE advantage.

What more can I say?? I'm excited! I'm prepped...kinda. I'll finish prepping tonight. I have this weird anxiousness to me, that I really hope Moon can't read tomorrow morning!

I still get a little worried when I think back to the move I made to H's, and Moon went down on the fence post. I just keep thinking about what if he breaks a leg or impales himself on a tree the first day at my place?! I'd be horrified.

Really, it's like anyone making a change in the world of something they love. All I can do is hope I've covered all the bases, and know that if something happens, it's just a freak accident. Freak accidents happen.

So tonight's busy schedule includes picking up all the debris (bits of wire I cut off the fencing, bits of fence posts and such). Then I need to jumper the last couple of new fence lines. Test the fence to make sure it's energized properly. Run the last of the wire for the sacrifice paddock (including the gate). Put out his water trough and fill it with water. I might find two tires and put his food and a second water bucket in the first paddock just for while he's waiting for us to finish with his shelter area.

Move the wheelbarrow out to the back field and look for some sort of manure rake. And make sure I have an area to be my muck pile :)

And I need to find my flagging tape and put that up all around the fencing :)

I wouldn't mind trying to find my plastic tack box and putting Moon's rain sheet and grooming gear in it. A couple of fly masks too as he should start wearing them. His tooth cleaner that he needs.

Hours. Just hours away from a lifelong dream. It's crazy. I keep checking if I'm ready. Am I ready? How will Moon be??

By this time next Friday, we'll have a horse and chickens on our farm. We'll be a farm. Our garden goes in in a couple of weeks! Maybe Sunday I'll hang my clothes line and put laundry out for the first time. Ride Moon around the paddock :)

I was thinking about not putting the east gate in, but finally opted to do it, and I'm pretty happy that I can kinda "sneak" next door to ride in the open cattle field.

Man I wish I could jump. Seriously, I really really wanna jump. I know that's not happening (hello 24th week of pregnancy!), but a girl can daydream. Even just getting to hack down the the path to the house or up the road is going to be amazing.

Eeeee!! Wish us luck that this weekend goes amazingly well!! You'll be hearing lots more about Moonpie in the coming weeks, that's for sure!! A whole new adventure for us!

Last time feeding at H's until winter...

Thursday, April 28, 2016


I can't believe it. Tonight is my *last* feeding day at the barn before Moon comes home. Tuesday me and my besties went out for our last trail ride together before we all go home for the summer. It's the weirdest thing; almost like boarding school would be, where you spend all year together except "go home" for the summer to live your individual lives. It makes me excited to see how different we all are when we get back together in the fall.

Last trail ride of the summer with the besties <3

Of course I'll be missing out on the fall pony camping trip since "apparently" it's not appropriate to strap a month old infant to your back and race over the hillside for four days straight ;)

But I'm really, really hoping to be back in the saddle this fall after LO is born, and start a new adventure in riding.

It's bitter sweet going home for the summer. I think it's a little easier knowing that we'll be back in a few months, and that for as busy as summer's are, there's the perk of having Moon right there in my own backyard.

I think back a lot to our adventure together.

I got Moon in 2010, having first met him for the first time SIX years ago now. He was just a little 11 year old boy. Next month he turns 17!  It took me six years to get him home, but oh the adventures we went on while we waited.

I credit H, bestie and owner of the place he currently lives, for really taking me from a horse riding and owner, to a horse care giver. I know WAY more about caring for a horse now then I ever did before. And am more confident in myself about the decisions I make too.

The last week has been total exhaustion preparing for Moon coming home. My family came out on Sunday to slog through the joys of shelter building. I have to say, I'm even more impressed by it then I expected! The hydro posts I got from H last fall worked BEAUTIFULLY for a super sturdy post-framed shelter, and we notched them so that the beams actually sit recessed into them. It's beautiful. The shelter part for Moon is 10'x16', with a nice overhang over the front and back as well. Then I have an extra 8'x10' tack and feed room off the side!!!

I'm beyond excited for the tack and feed room! When I started this whole thing I didn't expect that luxury, but it's going to be awesome. I've already decided that I'm going to put a little window in the best side, a nice door out to the paddock area, and a little "dutch window" that opens over Moon's feed bucket so I can just dump his food right in from inside the shelter!

In the long run, I REALLY want to add some solar panels to the front of the shelter and power some lights :)

Last week I rolled out (by hand...on a 100lb spool) the wires to fence in the sacrifice area. The sacrifice area is a smaller paddock where the waterer, feeders and shelter are, that I can keep Moon in when I don't want him destroying the field because of wetness or the grass being grazed too short. It has gates into three rotational grazing pastures. I also added a gate from the sacrifice paddock out to the "track" that I made run around the outside of the fencing, for my longterm goal of making a x-country track out there :)

So the wires are all hung now a few feet into the bushline, and I'm super pleased with how it looks. I dragged myself out last night to install the last hydro pole I had that wasn't the right size for the shelter and an extra, to make a great little entrance gate beside the shelter :) I like how big and tough it looks, and I really want to put a solid gate there in the long run.

The family is coming back out on Saturday to help finish the shelter since I needs the last of the roof sheathing up, and the girt braces around the outside. And maybe a couple pieces of plywood to kinda section off the tack area.

I still need to drag the water trough into place and fill it. I need to finish one run of wire just to close off the sacrifice paddock, but I wanted to wait until we were done the shelter so we have easier access. I also gathered up all the lumber strewn around, and need to quickly pick up all the wire bits and pieces.

I really can't believe how quickly it's come together. I'm totally in love with the whole set-up right now :)

TWO more days!! Seriously, I can't believe it. Sunday morning I'll wake up and my pony will be in my backyard. To just brush him isn't going to be a 30-minute drive. I can just go snuggle him for five minutes for the hell of it! <3

I'm so excited for this summer. So so excited.

Moon's Shelter, 1/2 built! :D Hopefully finished framing this weekend! (sheathing, kkckboards and tack room finishing still to come!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

T-17 days!!

Moon moves home in 17 days!!! :D

Not saying things are fully set up for him, but we're gonna be working hard over the next couple of weeks to get there!

We finally are getting some nice weather, which hopefully will get the ground thawing and drying, and the grass growing! The field is still totally brown.

I was out yesterday until sundown (oh my abs!!), and got all the gate anchors installed and even one set of gates :D And I ran the last two fence wires on the front fencing which I didn't get to in the fall :) Somehow it's easier to roll out that giant spool of wire that weighs 100 lbs now :P

The husband is going to spend Sunday helping me install the solar energizer (and ground rods) and hopefully get the sub-dividing t-posts and wire installed. That will leave us with 3 pastures to rotate through, and if the weather holds up, I might even be able to get the sacrifice paddock done and the shelter started :D I'd really like to have the sacrifice paddock done when he gets here, just in case the pasture grass needs a bit more time. It still felt pretty loose yesterday.

Of course, I still need to clean the last bits of our wedding off the pasture too! A picnic table, bbq, sandbox...but that shouldn't take long. And I'll just set them up in the field closer to our garden :)

I'm so excited. I can't even explain it. To think that it's going to be a quick quad ride to see my boy!! Going out yesterday was a blast; a minute long ride and there I was!! Pasture!! I seriously can't wait! I think I'm going to start trying to ride him from the pasture up to the house and then back most evenings :) I just can't wrap my mind around what it'll be like to have him RIGHT there. Anytime I want! I think about how giddy I get when we go horse camping and he's RIGHT THERE! Now that'll be every day!! :D

Our day-old chicks arrive the weekend after Moon does, and I'm so excited to see our place become a real farm :) Supporting all the things we love :) Even the garden looks ready to start planting in the coming weeks :)

I did have some issues with supplies being sold out at the local farm supply store. Those darn gate anchors. Thankfully at the last minute I worked out that I could buy the plastic circular screw in insulators, and use that to affix the one end of gate wire too. I'm just going to make little wire jumpers to carry on the electricity into the gate :) And hubs managed to grab just enough of the proper gate anchors that I can use them on the hook-end of the handles :) PERFECT!

Tonight I'm going to try to finish all the gates, and then roll out some of the wire for the dividing fence line :) Gotta get ready to get lots done on Sunday! :D

That first picture of Moon's big old white nose in his very own backyard is gonna be worth all the hard work <3 Been waiting 25 years for this moment...

Friday, April 1, 2016

Bump Riding

So after finding out I was pregnant, I thought "What's riding going to be like?" and "Do I even keep riding??"

Which of course led to me scouring the internet for forums and blogs where riders spoke about how long they rode, the dangers of riding, what type of riding they continued and what docs thought of riding.

Of course, what's out there can scare the crap out of you. Or in my case, make you feel a little like you're 99% crazy and everyone thinks it.

Take Zara Phillips, who did Polo and Dressage while pregnant. While I've been in the polo circuit enough to know that it's probably outside my own pregnant comfort zone, if I had a local club I was involved in, I might still do some slow pitch and enjoy it.

Dressage? Seriously? When blogs like: THIS ONE exclaim that Zara was endangering her child, I balked a little.

Add in these stating that after 12 weeks placenta abruption is quite likely, or these that claim most doctors just don't support it.

It starts to be a bit of a struggle, when the internet world is telling you not to ride, especially not after 12 weeks. I'm not saying to continuing to ride is for everyone. And I agree, knowing your horse is a huge proponent of continuing to ride. But do we really need to start telling woman they're endangering their child because they keep riding??

I can honestly say I've thus far taken more painful spills navigating our staircase then I have on horseback. Heck, at 16 weeks I was in a car crash that resulted in $5k in damages and am still waiting to find out if my car is written off.

Do you know what the responding paramedics did when I said I was pregnant (and NO, I didn't call them. The other driver was a bit dramatic, and YES, I told the paramedic I felt fine). The paramedic said "Well you should be fine, but if there's any bleeding, don't hesitate to come in."

Because that's what that is. That's exactly how my OBGYN feels too. Pregnancy isn't a disability. If you've been healthy and not had any issues (which I haven't), no reason to turn your world upside down and spend 9 months on a couch.

Heck, my physician even gave the thumbs up to me travelling and flying out of the country at 26 weeks and 29 weeks.

Where I'm going with all of this, is that I really think riding while pregnant is a personal decision, and it doesn't necessarily come with the multitude of guilt people like to add onto it. Especially if those people aren't horse people.

For me, it's the furthest thing from endangering my child. Smoking? No. Drinking? No. I'm avoiding sandwich meats, rare steaks, taking my vitamins and not eating pre-packaged salad. But not riding? No happening.

It's more then just some need to "prove myself" as many people claim on the blog and forum world. I'm not still getting on my horse so people won't think I'm incapacitated because I'm pregnant.

Moon is some piece of my soul. And it goes beyond just his being. It's insanely hard to describe if you've never had the joy of a heart horse, but he's an extension of my being. We somehow almost "feel" what the other needs, and how we move together is more instinct then thought.

Moon and I last summer...we're far from perfect, but perfect together <3

Yesterday I mounted up and the weather was miserable. Strong north winds, crisp air, everything was creaking. We rode away from H and S2 who were gonna condition ride and go in the opposite direction, so I set Moon off at a trot. We trotted a good 1/2 mile before I got him to walk again, and we started doing leg yields down the road. He had a couple of spooks because of the wind, but he's Moon. They're like "stop and stand in place" type spooks, not anything the least bit scary.

We trotted some more, and then let me tell you, I've never experienced this before, but LO (little one) can apparently use my bladder like a spring-board during posting trot...and despite what I was certain was an empty bladder, I spent a good 1/4 mile feeling like my bladder was being pounded and wondering if there were any thick brush around for a quick...lady's break. Not sure how I'd do that discretely while holding an 1100 pound animal, but I was feeling desperate.

Thankfully it was 100% LO-on-bladder related, and when we went back to walking I felt better. I have to tell you, my legs are both in fine shape, and out of shape. I've put on around 15 pounds already, and that's actually a fair bit of extra weight to carry in a fairly short period of time. I can feel my legs start to swing after awhile, and I can feel the muscles being worked. Thankfully no pelvic pain this ride, which is a blessing.

That said, I read an awesome article by a Biomechanics researcher, that said it's not Kegels as the key to a strong core. I've been told over and over "Do kegels" and somehow that'll make all the postpartum stuff easier. Interestingly, what the article spoke about, is that strong muscles are like trampolines, elastic and taught, but not tight nor loose. Overworking and holding a single muscle area, makes that muscle stretch. Which means you have to keep holding it tighter and tighter and tighter to perform, to the point where it's constantly tight, and thereby weakens. A trampoline isn't over tightened, because it would stretch the fabric and thereby make it weaker.

Apparently instead, what we should add into the equation, is strengthening our glutes, but also to learn to relax our muscles. It spoke as though our glutes are the springs to the trampoline fabric; they create the right amount of counter tension to keep everything nicely in place. So if we work both the kegels and the glutes, we're making the whole system strong equally. AND, if we also learn to relax muscles, we're able to not overstretch them in our strengthening.

The whole thing really hit home to me. And made me DETERMINED to focus on an exercise routine that was balanced. I've read so many amazing articles that talk about the power of squatting, and even more, how horseback riding builds those muscles.

So here I am, working key muscle areas while I'm riding. That's a win. But it's more then that. Horseback riding is one of my favourite fitness activities; I don't run, I don't like biking, I'm a terrible swimmer because I hate water...

But riding gets me moving. And moving makes me feel less puffy and inflated. After a ride, even though I got on feeling like a balloon about to burst, I feel "normal". Non-pregnant even. Another huge win!

Next week is my 20-week OBGYN appointment, and I'm excited for it. My doctor has been 100% supportive of my horseback riding, just telling me that it's probably wise to avoid jumping or highly competitive environments (where one would be inclined to shove and rough-house). But every time I go in, I feel like I've reach another milestone, and I don't want to give up on riding anytime soon. Getting on Moon next week, I'll know that I made it 1/2 way through my pregnancy still riding.

And never mind still riding. While that posting trot might have been bladder-ly difficult, and sitting trot is off the books, I still managed a BEAUTIFUL canter through an open field with my boy yesterday. Clocked in at 16mph to boot. Not just because I'm able to open him up and feel his feet pound the earth (something we both need), but because somehow in the last couple of years together (I'm pretty sure it happened during our monster riding session in Spruce Woods last fall), but he now has speeds WITHIN his gaits. Which means I can collect up that beautiful stretched out canter, into this stunning uphill collected one. He moves almost on the spot, in this rhythmic rocking horse gait. Something I only ever dreamed of getting out of my stiff necked giraffe for years.

We covered 3.6 miles in 55 minutes :) Not bad for a pregnant woman ;)

Floating across a field, 4.5 months pregnant, and the world just melting away?? That is bliss. That's the thing that carries you through the next 4.5 months, and that's the peace and serenity you channel in that L&D room.

If horseback riding teaches us anything, it's that tension is bad, be soft, be fluid, breathe. Don't hold too tight to the reins.

Maybe LO will be born on horseback...

Me and Moonpie @ 16 weeks