Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Manure Geek.

I was standing out in Moon's paddock on the weekend, taking a rest of picking poop. And as I gazed off towards the sacrifice paddock, I found myself smiling. For the simplest reason. I could see my pasture management in action.

The sacrifice paddock is still hanging onto some grass, but it has deep paths worn in it, rocks are churned up, the dust blows across the dry soil that's exposed in some areas and it looks more grey than green.

The middle paddock, the one I was standing in that Moon had spent the last 10 days in, was also getting that "grey haze" over it. The paddock he had come from previously, had a nice green to it, but the paddock he hadn't yet been in was tall and lush with green grass. None so tall it had gone to seed, but a nice healthy length ready for eating.

I'm a geek, but look at the left paddock that's growing green (regrowth), the middle paddock Moon just finished grazing (now rest), and the right paddock that's been untouched!! Fabulous rotational grazing!! The sacrifice paddock is in the front of the image. 

As I gathered up the last trailer load of poop, I appreciated that not only were the paddocks looking healthy and so far I've managed to time my rotations well, but no grass was being lost to the poop. Horses don't graze where they've pooped, and their poop contains weed seeds and worms. Good grass can be lost under the poop and less desirable weeds can spring up. While I don't get super excited about picking paddocks (and there were two trailers full from this middle paddock....and it's bigger so takes longer to drive around), I really appreciate the benefits of poop picking. Even when I'm sweating away on a hot Sunday afternoon.

It makes me feel like I'm actually managing the manure and the outputs/inputs of our farm. And that matters to me.

Beyond all the poo picking, not much has been going on. A couple of short rides, a couple of lunge sessions. I spent a week on a work trip, and the husband G did an AMAZING job looking after the whole farm. You can imagine how I felt when he messaged me that Moon wouldn't come up to the barn to get my husband walked it out into the field for him the first three days. Nothing says love like your husband loving your horse. Heck, yesterday he even asked if I minded if he fed the pony!! Um, of course not!! It's awesome to see Moon actually come up when G goes to feed him now, where before he was distant.

Two of my loves, wandering in the field <3
(it's extra brown and crunchy bc we hadn't had rain in weeks at this point!)

When the farrier came for trims last week, I was thrilled when she commented on how awesome his body condition was. Score one for the non-plentiful grass!!

I've also almost got his scratches cleared up; the one hoof has one tiny patch, and the other has two. Just a few more days of treatment (I had run out of cream). I also have his gums looking better around that bad tooth of his. Unfortunately though, he managed to sunburn his nostrils, so he's got some skin peeling in that area. It's even in a spot where his fly mask doesn't reach. Poor pony.

Sunburn :( Flymask doesn't cover here. 

Of our 20 chickens, we still have all 20 and they now live outside. It's awesome to let them out of the coop as they run around. They're way less adorable as they get older.

Getting big!

Outdoor chicken coop

I can honestly say that third trimester fatigue is hitting me now, and I have a hard time staying energetic. I'm really, really glad we did as much as we did when we did.

Cause we needed this big of a garden too... ;) 

Monday, May 9, 2016

Getting my Aggie on.

I'm sure I've said countless times how I spent 4 years in university studying agriculture. All the joys of manure management and rotational grazing and...I work in public health. Go figure.

Well, this weekend we OFFICIALLY have a farm! Okay, not a real legit farm with enough production to make it count, but we have something other then a dog and a horse. Two livestock species makes a farm right??

Start small ;)

Dog and a chick??
Pardon me while I divert from my tales of ponies for a second...

Cat and a chick??

Friday we got our first batch of chicks!! The day-olds arrived at the local store for pick-up at 12:30...and it took until 2:15 for me to get mine thanks to the learning curve of the staff in handing these things out. I rushed home with our box of 20 and since I was heading right out and the delay was so long, agreed with the husband to lock them up securely in the basement furnace room. In their dog kennel brooder with a heat lamp...

20 chicks in a box...let the adventure begin!

I got them all settled and headed out the door...

The thing I didn't think about was how much cooler our basement was and that the chicks would knock over their waterer....

I came home at 10pm to find that they were soaking wet, on chilled bedding and one poor fellow had not only gotten soaked and chilled, but I guess semi stampeded by his siblings and was laying prone off in one corner of the kennel. I was pretty sure he was dead.

When I picked him up, he took tiny jagged breaths, eyes held tightly shut.

Okay, these are $3 chickens that we're raising for meat. Culling it wouldn't be the worst thing.

Death, after he started to look a little better. 
But nope. I raced the kennel upstairs to the warmer pantry and lowered the heat lamp. I quickly changed out the bedding and gave everyone a rub down to dry them off. Fresh water and food, and then time to take care of "Death".

Chick magnet....
I thought "Maybe I could warm him in the microwave??" Nope, probably wouldn't end well. What about the oven?? Nope, too crispy. The steam shower?? Too humid. I opted to rub him briskly and wrap him up well. He couldn't keep his body upright so I put him in a tupperware container to prop him up, and under the heat lamp he went.

After about an hour (yes, I pretty much stared at him until 11:30), he was able to hold his little head up. So I dipped his beak in water a few times (full of sugar), and he seemed to take a few sips. Another rubbing and back in his cup. I kept checking on him all night long...

By morning he was out of his cup and traipsing around with his siblings!! :D I was thrilled. Over a $3 chick :P

Good puppy. 

Cutting my chick story a little shorter since this is a pony blog, I'm happy to say that today we still have all 20 chicks and they're doing great. Death is named and marked, and let's hope he's a she and I can convince hubs to keep her around as a layer ;) Even though she's a broiler ;)

Chick asleep on the dog...


Okay, pony stuff.

I got some rides in last week, which was awesome. The scratches seem to have really gone down; just a bit on the outer edges still seems a bit crusty. Hoping we're through that soon.

Pony ride

Moon I'd say is totally settled in. He seems like a normal happy horse, doing normal happy horse things. He still hates his beautiful run-in, but what can a girl do. And he's taken to galloping across the paddock which is just beautiful.

Flies are getting bad so he's masked and blanketed now. He doesn't seem to be dropping weight, though we really need some rain because the grass is all brown and not doing so hot.

Happy and content pony face. 

Saturday I spent an hour and a half and picked all the poo in the paddock, which felt AWESOME. I loved it. Total aggie (someone who studied agriculture) moment. I love manure management! And clean paddocks! No flies making worms! No weed seeds gathering there. No loss of grass because the horse won't eat where it pooped! Just nice and tidy pastures!

Got an entire quad trailer full of poo :) Not bad for a week! I'm hoping to stick to the once a week picking.

One week. And a lot of that is dead, dried grass...we need rain. 

I even got to start our muck pile!! :D That was exciting. It seemed a bit dry, so Sunday I added all the bedding with some water from our chicken coop! Composting makes me excited lol.

One fence wire came down, but it was a ground wire. I got that hammered back up Sunday as well. Nice thing about picking poo is it's a great chance to inspect all the fencing and wires.

I also spent Sunday evening, though I was utterly exhausted, installing eavestrough on the shelter and then connected the eaves to the water tote. So if it actually rains this week like they promised, we should have a decent collection of water in the water tote, for filling the trough. Right now I'm hauling 2 garbage bins full of water to Moon every 3rd day. It's a lot of work.

Sophisticated poo pile. Beside our composting grass pile....

He got his blood taken for an Eastern and Western Encephalitis titre study, and his West Nile Vaccine as well.

I'm still loving him at home, because even when I'm tired, I still have a reason to go see him. And it takes all of 5 minutes. No matter how tired you are, you can spend 5 minutes throwing food at a happy horse.

That's my story. Farrier comes to our new place for the first time on Saturday. The trees are finally budding out and we've got the start of leaves. It's wonderful. Shade! Chance of snow for Friday, but I'm sure it won't amount to anything.

Just keep on trekking.
Ride shadow

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

First Ride @ Home

Omg. If anyone, anyone out there wants to tell me it's horrible having your horse at home, I'm not listening. 

Normally the drive to the barn is just under 40 minutes round trip. Which isn't bad considering it was once closer to an hour. But yesterday it was *awesome* to hop on the quad after supper and scoot out to the pasture. The only thing that would improve it is getting that tack area finished. I had to haul my gear out there bc i really didn't want to leave my saddle and bridle so exposed, and ended up having to go back for my girth :P

Pony face came over to greet me again. Somehow he had managed to break one of the leg straps on his flysheet already...I have no idea how. I jimmy rigged it back together, since the other one he broke last year anyway :P Horses. 

I wanted to put his flymask on, but was a little nervous about leaving it on overnight in the dark. I opted to leave it off for one more day so that he could really memorize the paddock, and then I'll probably leave it on starting today. The flies have all come out and I'd rather they're not all over his face. 

So I groomed and tacked him up. His leg is about 75% unswollen now, which is really nice. I think there might be some scratches going on his other hoof, but I can't be sure. Started treating them both and hoping it helps. He was maybe a little sore at the trot, but I think the terrain might have had something to do with that too...

We headed out of the paddocks into the pasture surrounding our place. Followed the deer trail. It's thick old grass that's fallen over, and plenty of rocks under that. I'm already expecting him to have hooves of wonder by the end of summer. Seriously, some great hoof building terrain here. 

I rode him to the dugout at the back of our property, which is all dry. He was NOT interested in going in there, probably a throwback to that time we tried swimming in a gravel pit...

I got him through anyway, and it was great to have a spot to work on his back muscles. Then we wandered to the road allowance, and did a nice trot up it to the road. We went up the road almost a mile, where I let him look at the neighbour's cows and horses. He just turned around and wanted to go home. So we did. I just *felt* that he wanted a run, so I let him canter. Lord I'm in love with his canter. Such variability and I could slow it into this beautiful uphill thing where we barely covered terrain but he was still cantering. I'm 24 weeks pregnant now and felt 100% at home on him even at that pace. I really felt like I could put a total green rider up on him and they'd be totally fine. Which is weird considering how much of a dick he'd gotten to be at the barn. Still a good ride, but nothing like he was yesterday. 

We rode back down our driveway, stopped in the excavation hubs was working on for his garage and then headed down the trail back to the pasture. I honestly was thrilled by the whole ride. I was sore and can definitely feel the physical difference (wow, did my butt hurt!), but it just felt so good. Maybe it was the throw back to the early years when I first met him, and we were exploring this area together in our early relationship?? I don't know. It just felt calm and peaceful. We were a team. 

I rode back into the paddock and took his bridle off, and the jerk trotted off for what I was SURE was going to be a roll!! Except he was still saddled!! Insert me chasing him across the field and him running faster because now I was a crazy person :P I did stop, walk over, he stood and I led him back to undress properly. I totally should have known to at least put his halter on :P 

Legs treated and a quick brush, I let him out to roll. Then reblanketed him. I tossed his grain in his bucket and he gave me the "I'm still not sure about the shelter" face. But I shook the pail twice and the sound of the grain was too tempting; he came in to eat ;) 

After I went and sat on the quad and couldn't help but notice that he walked a pattern, over and over in the paddock. Not like a fence line pacing type thing, but up one fence line; stop in corner, look around. Poop. Down the front fence, stop in corner. Look around. Cross the field, and he would either check his grain bucket or shove his hay net around and eat what fell out. Then he stopped for some water. Followed by circling a tree, heading to a deer trail, backing out of the deer trail, and then walking back up the first fence line. It was weird, because the pattern was so consistent. He'll easily have marks worn in by the week's end. 

And he seemed to have "places" for things. Almost all of his poop was in one corner. Every time he rolled, it had been in the same spot; that dried patch of grass where the dance floor was, probably because it's dustier? He always seemed to pee a couple feet away from the poop spot. He always backed out of the deer trail, not turn around. 

I really don't know. My friends have all assured me that horse do walk patterns in the paddock, and as long as he's eating, pooping, urinating and drinking, don't sweat it. And he's not running the fence line or calling. 

So we'll go with that for now. I'll just keep watching him. 

I'm currently thinking I'm going to try to ride three evenings a week or so, so that he's getting lots of exercise and stimulation. Tonight I'm going to plant our potatoes and move dirt from the garage excavation to fill in some of the low spots on the drive to the back field. That'll help hubs finish the work he's doing on it, and the path will have less potholes before the next rainfall. So no riding until Wednesday. 

Thursday I'm going out to the barn for a visit and watch the girls ride. And Friday our chicks come home!! :D Plus I'm going to a baby gear sale with the girlfriends. So no ride until Saturday after Wednesday. Hubs is spending the day with his buddy, so you know I'm gonna go for a nice long ride and then spend the afternoon getting my chicken coop ready for its new occupants. 

I'm also headed out to Ottawa in a week and a half, so super excited about that :) I can't wait to have a mini vacation. And hubs will look after pony face for me ;) Lucky man ;) 

Monday, May 2, 2016

He is home.

I can't even describe the weekend in proper details.

Friday felt like Christmas eve. Only I knew what my present was.

I woke up Saturday nervous and anxious. I kept thinking about how if I'm this nervous about bringing a 900 lb horse home, what'll it be like with a 9 lb baby?!

I barely choked down a piece of toast and then headed to the barn. The air was silent. I struggled to find words to even keep conversation with my best friend; I struggled with the mix of guilt and joy that went through me. I was leaving her place for the summer, but I was taking my boy home.

It's hard.

Pony home <3 (And that weird brown patch is where our wedding dance floor was!)

I gave him a bit of a grooming. Put his shipping boots on. H wanted to load him because she was worried about me getting bumped while pregnant. So I worked the back end. She did amazing with him. At first he was obstinate and kept turning sideways to the trailer door and refusing to budge. But after maybe 5 tries she got his front feet in. Then he touched the roof once, but she got him back in and stepped up nice into the trailer. I was sooo proud <3 I put the bum chain up and closed the door, and was thrilled to see him loaded in my trailer. I worked so hard to refinish it years ago, and this was his first real trip in it!

H told me to drive, so I hopped in the cab, and almost started crying when I unwrapped the little gift she had left me on the steering wheel. "I love you to the MOON and back" read the little sign <3 I love her.

But I had to drive, so I compartmentalized and headed out. It was a slow drive, and I swear I only got up to 80 km/hr once, but we made it. I stopped in front of our house and H unloaded him. He came nicely out of the trailer too. We walked him out back together and I let him loose in a big field of brown grass.

Paddock A; grass is still brown

That afternoon we did more work on his shelter, putting the roof sheathing on and adding the support braces. My husband kept laughing because I'd be off gazing at my pony instead of helping with the build lol.

Moon took a few canters and gallops around when I first let him out, and then settled to eating. He pooped, rolled, peed and drank water. Seemed content enough.

That evening I went out with the quad (we have 15 acres that's a 1/2 mile deep; our pasture is the back 5 acres, and the front 10 is all can't see the horse from the house and it's a five minute walk to get back there). Moon had unfortunately developed Scratches, also known as Mud Fever on one pastern, and his leg was stocked up when I loaded him on the trailer earlier in the day. He also had a bit of a hitch in his step.

So I led him back to the house using the quad!! I couldn't believe how awesome he was about it! Walk and trot!

Then I cold hosed his leg, which had already gone down about 50%. The scratches is a decent patch, and I'm gonna try to get some ointment for it today or tomorrow. The only thing I've done in the past with other horses is furacin sweats, but I'm not even sure where to buy furacin and if it really worked.

I also started treating his bad tooth with the mouth wash, so hopefully that clears up with regular washes. Saturday we also dewormed, so here's to a worm free pony!

I went with my "go to" mixture for injuries for now...Bactine!! And a side of BlueKote since it's anti-fungal :) That covers both infection types!

I'm hoping as well that the dry paddock he's in now will help cure it as well. Where he came from is a lower area, and while they have WAY nicer grass because they get more moisture, it also means the ground is wetter in the spring. There is seriously no winning.

After I treated Moon I put him back out in the field. I couldn't believe the way he walked and trotted around with me without any halter or lead rope. It was amazing. I feel like already, our bond is really coming through. We need each other. I love it.

Sunday morning after breakfast I headed back out to the field with hubs and we finished fencing in around the shelter. Then I put up some temporary cross members to keep him out of my "tack" area. It'll eventually be a proper room.

Makeshift tack area :) 

For now, I hung up his blanket and his grooming kit :) And a lunge line and while. The essentials.

Then I let him into that area, and fed him from his bucket in the shelter. You could tell that he wasn't totally in love with the new space and a little scared of the shelter. He did enjoy the cool water out of his new big trough that H got us for Christmas <3 We set up the water tote beside it, and I just need to add the eavestrough to the shelter to collect rain water :) I put the trough in the shade behind the shelter so it wouldn't get hot and gross for him hopefully.

Not quite in love with his shelter how he's keeping one leg out of it ;) 

Then I lunged him a bit, which was fun. I need to clear some of the rock piles left from our wedding still, and you can totally see where our dance floor was!

He's almost floating in this picture!! <3 Even with the sore leg. 
Such a good boy. 
When I came to check on him in the evening the bugs were out, so I put his KoolCoat on. Love that thing. Helps his dark-ness keep cool in the summer sunshine, plus protects him from bleaching out. He really is a chestnut!! And keeps the bugs off.

I found three woodticks crawling on him so chucked them off too. Tonight I'm going to try his fly mask, so they're not in his eyes and ears, and to keep his pretty white nose from sunburning again.

I spent probably 30 minutes just watching him. He grazed. He tossed his hay bale around a bit. He went for a roll. Peed. Pooped (I need to buy a muck fork to start cleaning up after him!). Looked off into the distance. He called once when the neighbour's donkey was breying.

Going for a roll in the "sacrifice paddock"

Checked on him again this morning and he looked fine. Still alive anyway. Hubs told me to go give him a pet, and he came right up to the fence for me. When I got back in the car, my husband smiled and looked at me. "You two have something special" he said smiling at me with this look in his eyes like he really understood.

We do. <3 6 years. Countless miles. Adventures. Harrowing experiences. Challenges. He's my boy.

Tonight I hope to actually saddle up and go for a ride down the property!! :D I can't wait! To think I could even squeeze it in before supper! :P

Our beautiful shelter; I even put the sign that hung on our wedding podium up :) 

Okay, so one other thing. A lot less exciting.

I'm feeling guilty. I've had so many people comment on if Moon is "lonely". Why I brought him home when he's a herd animal. If he's scared. Alone. Misses having friends. I honestly spent hours just watching him this weekend, wondering if I made a selfish move. 

Moon doesn't know about how much easier it is for me to see him when he's this close. He doesn't really care that I feed him 7 days a week now instead of one. He doesn't understand that this move means I probably get to ride him two or three nights a week. He doesn't understand that it means I'll actually probably see him once our baby is born, and the weeks right before hand. 

He just knows that he's somewhere else. 

I moved him for me. I guess I appreciate that he's out on pasture a little earlier, but I also know it's not as nice of pasture. He's going from really nice green grass, to my dry uncared for prairie. It's an old cattle field that hasn't seen hooves in years. I really hope to improve it every year, but it's not as nice as where he came from. Though again, I appreciate that he's out of the mud while his scratches heal. 

I don't know. I googled "How to tell if a horse alone is stressed", and couldn't believe the number of people who said it was cruel. Selfish. Inhumane. Terrible. Should never be done. 

I try not to humanize him, but sometimes I think Moon's an introvert. Just like humans, yes, they're creatures that are social. But I could honestly spend a week puttering around home totally content without seeing another face. Hubs is the same way. Sometimes I think Moon is the same. And every day I'll see him. And in a few weeks we'll add some chickens to the mix. We have deer and birds and squirrels. He's got sunshine and green grass (and brown grass) and cold fresh water. A shelter with shade and rain protection. Dust to roll around in. 

He's not running fence lines. He's not calling. 

I know when I've moved him before, he's run the fence. I know separated from the herd at H's, he's run and run and run that fence line. He hasn't done that. I can tell he's started to make a track along the fence line, but he seems to wander up and down it as he grazes. He's alert, but he's also in a brand new place. I'd expect him to be alert. 

I know that he comes to see when when I walk up to the fence. But he won't come up to anyone else in my family. My dad even tried holding treats out and he couldn't be bothered with him. But when I show up he comes sauntering right over to me for scratches. And I *never* bring him treats. 

Is it possible that my horse really does have a personality like me?? I mean, I've been totally content when out with friends, to camp alone in my own little tent. I like my space. My chance to putter and do my own thing and feel free. Am I projecting onto my horse based on what I want, or is there a chance that he really doesn't need a big social circle to be happy? That him and I, we're friends, so he comes to visit, but everyone else? Meh? 

He called only when the neighbour's donkey was breying, and I think I told myself that was more like a "What?" when he heard him, then an actual "I miss horses!" scream. 

I don't know. The only world says I'm a cruel person. Hubs thinks the horse looks content. I worry if I'm a great big jerk. Everyone else I know went out and got a 2nd (or third) horse as soon as they brought their horse home. Am I mean? Am I making him suffer? Is this torture? Is he falling apart inside?? 

How do I know?? His poop is normal and plentiful. He's grazing and eating hay. He's drinking water and peeing. He's rolling. He's listening great on a lunge, and behind the quad and seems almost even more easy to work with. He's had a few good gallops to stretch his legs, but then just wanders about. He's not pacing. He's got scratches, but it's not caused by stress here at home (I know stress can weaken immune systems and in turn make them more susceptible). Tonight I'll see what he's like under saddle. He just seems quiet and peaceful and maybe...

I guess he feels a little like an old fellow. 17 next week. He seems 17. Quiet, dependable, does what I want. 

Why does that worry me?? Compared to the cranky gelding who was biting the other horses and chasing the boys around and hoarding the mares, and being a total jerk to the other feeders at the other barn? And calling at the rail and screaming, and jumpy? 

Seriously, Moon at home seems like a horse with a sedative compared to the charged creature he seemed lately at the barn. 

Is the bossy cowsish jerk the happy Moon, and this sedate beast the stressed horse?? Or is he content to be spoiled and not have to look after anyone else? He really did have a hard time when he took over as herd lead at H's when Manwell passed away; maybe he's happy to be retired from that job now? That he did it because someone had to, but now that he doesn't, he's happy to just be a pony in a field, eating and pooping??

I don't know. 

I wish like hell he could tell me. I want him to be happy. First and foremost, happy. 

Is this a happy horse?? Or a stressed and lonely horse?