Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year's End

Closing out a busy year.
We got in chicken keeping this year, and our girls have grown up to be quite the big ladies. They have been laying eggs for a couple months now, and we are getting 4 to 5 eggs per day. It's more than enough for JD and me, so I have to give them away to make room for new ones each day.
The chickens are very funny. They love people! We let them roam the property when we're here, and they always run up to see us, clucking away.
I started running in the fall, and entered six 5K races. After the first three, I started placing in my age group, and have earned a first, second and third, in the last few races I ran in. It's a real sense of accomplishment at my age. Even in my 20s, I couldn't run 3 miles. Despite the snow on the ground and sub-freezing temperatures, I am keeping it up and even ran today in the wind and cold.
I did a lot of training with Sailor this summer, and even did a two-day clinic with her. She did exceptionally well, much better than I expected. We went out for trail rides a couple of times with me riding her and my neighbor Joan riding Titan. Both horses seemed to really enjoy that.
Titan's back was bothering him in early fall, so I called the vet and he got his first acupuncture treatment. He was very good about it, although Sailor seemed very distressed about all the needles. The results were amazing. He was much less back sore afterward, and the results have lasted. I think I will have him treated again in the spring.
Here's Titan's Christmas picture. You can tell he looks thrilled.
Happy New Year to everyone!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Chicks, man!

For a long time I've wanted to have my own chickens as egg layers, and on May 25, these five little Barred Rock girls arrived. It's been quite an adventured caring for them, and now they are all of 5 weeks old and last night, they moved outside into their coop. JD has been building it for weeks.

And here they are this morning in their coop. Can you believe how fast they grow? From what I understand, Barred Rock hens will grow to be about 7 to 8 pounds, so they will be big chickens that lay brown eggs. We'll have to wait until about October for that.

Their names are going to be Maggie, Maizy, Mabel, Fiona and Sadie. So far, I can only tell Maggie and Maizy apart, and maybe Mabel. I think I'm going to need a web cam to show them off, don't you think?

The horses are doing great. I took Sailor to a Tom Curtin horsemanship clinic, and we made great strides together. I'm back to riding her on the road, and my confidence level with her has gone way up. Titan is himself, which is my good old steady eddie. So now I have 2 good trail horses, which is amazing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Winter that wasn't

Looks like Titan is wondering what's missing from this picture taken today. Of course, it's snow! This is what my back pasture has looked like almost every day this winter. On the one hand, this has been my dream winter - temps in the 30s and even 40s, no snow to slog through, no blizzards to keep me stuck at home.
But the downside of this bizarrely warm weather is the environmental impact. Because there is no snow, the mold count never went down from the fall. In fact, according to my doctor, the mold count in this area is the highest it's been in 70 years. The result for me is an asthma condition, something I've never dealt with before. I'm on 2 different inhalers trying to get my breath back. I can't run or over-exert myself because I just about collapse. It's very discouraging.
The other downside is the tick scourge. We're already taking ticks off the dog and cats, and we're already putting Frontline on them. Usually that doesn't start until April. I shudder to think of how bad the tick infestation is going to be this year.
In another strange development, the sap has been running for more than a week or so, and JD has already made our first maple syrup of the year. It's much darker than usual, which I guess we can attribute to this weird weather.
You'll also notice Titan isn't wearing a blanket, which is usually mandatory in February in upstate NY. He's enjoying being naked on a day in the low 40s.
How's everyone else doing with the non-winter of 2012?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ice Ice Baby

Well, it was only a matter of time before our fantasy winter with temps in the 30s and 40s came to an end. We had one warm day - Tuesday - when it rained all day. Then of course, on Wednesday the temperature plummeted, and our world froze. Everything at the farm is coated with a sheet of ice.
Since my horses have not yet learned to ice skate, this presented a problem. They spent yesterday morning stuck in the barn, while I waited fruitlessly to see if the sun might melt the ice sheet that blanketed the back paddock and pasture. By noon, that clearly wasn't going to happen.
So I got a long rope and a large barrel, and made a makeshift fence to keep them in a small area of the paddock just beyond the run-in shed. I sanded and salted thoroughly, and even even tossed around some old hay and manure for added traction.
They were able to go outside in this little area, which I hope helped their sanity at least a little bit. When JD got home from work, he improved my arrangement by making it a little bigger and sanding a bigger area.
But it was only 5 degrees this morning, and it's not supposed to get much higher than the 20s today. So my poor horses are going to be stuck for a while longer with a space not big enough to run around in. But the way I look at it, it's much better than going outside to find a tragedy.
Wish they could understand that, but there's not much else I can do.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Riding Mr. T.

Titan was kind enough to pose for me yesterday after we took a mid-afternoon ride. The weather was super - sunny and about 45 degrees, which is as good as it gets up here in northern New York in January. The two of us are coming along as partners. He is learning what I want and seems to want to please me. From what I've gathered from riding him, he was never ridden with any finesse or equitation skills. He neck reins like a dream, but leg cues are somewhat mysterious to him.
We've been working on simple transitions, like going from a trot to a walk. At first, he would continue trotting even when I cued him verbally and with my seat that his gait should change. Yesterday he was getting it, becoming consistent at slowing to a walk when asked. In the spring, I'm hoping to find an instructor who will come to my house to give us some lessons to refine these skills. He also needs help with collection, which is apparently something that has never been asked of him.
He's such a good boy, so pleasant and best of all, so unflappable. Learning new skills at 16 years old has been a little challenging for him, but he is trying. I can tell when something is new to him, because he furrows his brow like he is trying very hard to figure out what I want. I get the feeling he was always told he did everything perfect. Now he's being told that while his old ways were OK, he has to work a little harder to step it up to the next level. Without anthropomorphizing, I think his feelings get a little hurt when he is corrected. I make sure to praise him profusely every time he gets something right.
His papers from the APHA arrived the other day, so now he's officially mine! I'm looking forward to some great times with this big guy.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A tumultuous year

Top: Noble
Bottom: Titan & Linda

As 2011 winds to a close, I need to reflect on the major changes in my life.
First, I said good-bye to my 13-year partner - my first horse - Noble, who passed away on May 5. This was a heart-wrenching decision, but she was in extreme pain and her heart was failing. Being able to orchestrate her passing helped. Her entire family and even some close neighbors were with her, and I was able to spend time with her after she was gone. We led Sailor to Noble's body so she could examine it, and it was touching to watch her check her friend so gently and thoroughly. Because Sailor was allowed to draw her own conclusions, she did not panic or get distressed at the loss of her friend. All in all, it went as well as something like this can, and I am comforted in the knowledge that Noble had a good death. She is buried on our property, the land that is her namesake, where I know she runs free for eternity.
I spent the next 2 months training Sailor and riding her about 4 times a week, and she was coming along beautifully. Just as I realized that her training was where I wanted it to be , she was injured in a very routine round pen exercise. She was laid up until September. That was the end of my summer riding.
With Sailor on stall rest, I couldn't bring in another horse and risk getting her all riled up. After she seemed mostly recovered in mid-September, I began my search.
It was a discouraging and often frustrating experience. Most of the horses in my price range were basically untrained, or needed extensive work. I found one I liked, then the owners reneged on selling her. I made an offer on a very nice gelding (whose price was listed as negotiable) only to be told that the asking price was firm.
Just as I was about to give up, I got a phone call from someone who knew I was looking for a nice, settled trail horse. She told me about a man who just returned to the area from down south, and who was selling all his horses because he was getting on in years. He had one left - a Paint gelding who was his wife's trail horse for the past 13 years.
The first time I rode Titan, I could tell he was a very 'zen' horse. Even the noise of trucks and heavy equipment nearby didn't fluster him. He just exuded confidence and serenity. I called the owner that night to say I would buy him.
So Titan has been living here since Oct. 29. We had a long stretch of warm late fall weather, so I've had a chance to ride him many times. He's the easiest horse I've ever had - I just go out to the pasture, and he comes to me to be tacked up. It's been a wonderful experience with him so far. There's a part of me that thinks Noble found him for me. And if I hadn't waited, I wouldn't have purchased him, because until 2 weeks prior to trying him out, he was in South Carolina. The strangest thing is, he looks much like Noble - a sorrel horse with a white blaze. Only Titan, at 16 hands, is much taller.
So life goes on, as does my horse adventure. I'm looking forward what 2012 has to show me!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Preparing for a sad event

It's finally springtime, and the horses have new green pasture upon which to graze. But the joy of spring is overwhelmed by what I must do quite soon. Noble took a turn for the worse over the weekend, and is having significant difficulty moving her legs. The vet came out on Sunday, and said her circulation is poor, meaning her heart is failing. So I am in the terrible position of having to plan her passing. I want to bury her on our property, and it would be much easier if all the plans are in place before she goes down and can't get up.

We have some logistical issues with fencing and gates that I hope can be dealt with. Much of our property is on bedrock, but I think I have located a spot where the excavator will be able to dig. Making these phone calls makes the whole thing so real, it's hard for me to even process. But she is 31 years old, and has led a full, good life. Buying this place was my gift to her, so she could live out her final years in peace and dignity. She has had that.

As my first horse, Noble means more to me than I can express. The best way to explain it is that she gave me my childhood dream of having my own horse. Through much of my adulthood, I had resigned myself to the fact that this would remain a dream. Noble gave that dream wings, and we had adventures together that will forever remain part of me.

Please think of me as I go through this process. I know it is part of what we sign on for when we assume the care of animals. But saying goodbye to my partner is proving to be one of the most challenging trials of my life.