Thursday, December 11, 2014

As I Was Cleaning Stalls Today...

...I laughed at how having horses stalled at night is not the end of the world!  Here's some bright spots:

     *How therapeutic I find the job.  It seems all my senses open up when I'm working out or around the barn.  The sounds of the breeze, birds, horses, etc., are like a chorus of joy to my soul.  I always walk back into the house feeling good.  I find I enjoy doing this task first thing in the morning, before coffee or breakfast.  It's a great way to start a day.

     *We've had an unusual number of wind storms and heavy rains.  It's a good feeling to know "The Boys" are tucked into the barn at night when the rain is going sideways and/or the wind is howling. Knowing they are safe and sound (and quiet) gives us a sense of peace (and makes sleeping easier).

     *Turning them out in the AM and bringing them in at PM gives J (the AM Guy) and me (the PM Gal) more opportunity to interact with them as opposed to when they were turned out full time in the large summer pasture.  They are now "automated" to walking (quietly) out or into their stalls.  No drama, lead ropes or halters.  This has also given us an opportunity to get to know more about Gal whom we haven't done much with (yet).  It's apparent that someone loved this horse and spent time with him.  He's an easy going guy and comes with a great set of ground manners.  I'm thinking those attributes will be handy when we start to ride him.

     *J tells of his arrival to the barn in the AM.  He opens the door and calls out "Good Morning"! Initially he would arrive to find what appeared to be empty stalls.  But when he peered inside he found both horses down on their sides, sound to sleep (and snoring).  These days as he calls out he's met with bumps and thumps as two sleepy-eyed horses covered from head to toe in shavings pop up from their beds.

     *We are in deep winter and darkness comes around 4 PM.  I'm currently not riding like I did last year and although I take one or two walks each day; I find my upper body muscles have been losing their tone.  My new morning routine has firmed me back up.  I not only clean the stalls but prep them for the evening return, leaving grain as the only task left to be done at night.  This makes evenings, when dinner is cooking and time is more limited, quick and simple.

     *Speaking of bringing them in.  As the days have passed with their new routine of being stalled at night, they now bring themselves in.  Last night I got out a little late to find Elvis already standing inside his stall with a look of "where's my grain"?  Gal was standing in the loafing shed outside his entrance to the barn; he knocked on the door to be let in.

So let the shavings fall where they may, because work is part of having horses.  Speaking of that, it's about time to head out to the barn for the evening shift.  Looking forward to seeing and handling My Boys!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Complicated Keepers

Galileo's (Gal's) arrival in October proved he was the Leader of the herd.  That wasn't surprising since Elvis, who has always lived in a stall, doesn't know much about socializing.  He's an easy going/"follow the leader" kind of guy.

Whereas Bob was also the leader; he served as a gentle mentor and teacher for Elvis.  Elvis didn't know to seek shelter during a storm but Bob showed him how to sense when rain (or thunder/lightning) were coming and get out of the elements.  Soon Elvis began to pick up some of the tricks of being a pasture horse vs a stall horse.  Good life lessons.

As fall arrived I felt confident in Elvis wintering here.  There was more for Elvis to learn and I knew I could depend on Bob to teach him how to break ice in the stock tank for a drink when it was frozen, negotiate on frozen ground, etc.

Sigh - my plans came crashing down when we suddenly lost Bob from a kidney stone.

I had hoped Gal's leader qualities would carry on the training Elvis needs.

But Gal is the type of leader which I've only encountered once before in my years of owning horses. He's not only aggressive towards Elvis but he's also a jealous leader.  In the picture above he's about to nip Elvis and then run (stampede) him away.  And Elvis is about to crash into the gate in his haste to escape.

As the weather deteriorated so did their relationship.  I couldn't get my hands on Elvis because Gal would run him away from me.  Gal also proved to not be an "old campaigner".

He obviously doesn't know much more than Elvis about living outside in the elements.  When it rains he stays out in the middle of the pasture, soaked to the skin.  He doesn't appear to care for the large, insulated loafing sheds, in fact I don't think he likes them one bit.

Elvis, being the monkey see/monkey do horse he is, also now avoided the loafing sheds, can't blame him because if he did go into them Gal would chase him back out onto the pasture.  I worried about Elvis picking up some of the aggressive habits Gal presented to him.

As the ground became muddy and slick, I had to make the hard decision to put them in separate pastures for Elvis's protection.  Gone in a flash were my seasonal rotated pastures that have served us so well.

Initially I left them both outside full time in their prospective pastures.  Gal in the middle pasture near the bedroom side of our house with a loafing shed available (which he still rarely went into).

And Elvis in the back pasture with access to the paddock and large foaling stall to get out of the elements (which bless his heart, he still went into to get out of the elements and eat).

But that didn't work either.  Although Elvis was content with this arrangement, Gal hated losing sight of Elvis when he went inside to eat.  The result was Gal's charging around and calling out for his "friend" in calling out all night in calling out all night long right outside our bedroom window.

After three sleepless nights of this I had to go to the next level of care, one I hated to do.


A stall for Gal.

With Elvis still using the foaling stall.

Each morning I now start my day by cleaning two stalls.  The stalls are empty as "The Boys" are already outside in their own personal pastures compliments of J who goes out earlier in the AM and turns them out.

Each evening as dusk arrives, I now bring them back in - Gal to his stall and Elvis to the foaling stall and paddock area (closing the gate that leads out to his pasture).

We've had to invest in heated water buckets so the water doesn't freeze in the stalls at night as well as shavings...shavings...and more shavings.

I've had to break out blankets to keep the darlings warm when our temps have dropped into the teens, whereas I rarely blanketed our easy keepers who sided up next to each other in an insulated loafing shed and remained cozy.

As much as I love our Complicated Keepers, I sure miss the days of our Easy Keepers!