Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Year's Resolutions....

Well... it's nearly the new year, and with it comes the setting of resolutions....

I think my horses have some resolutions as well.  First and foremost, don't stress yourself.  Being a big draft horse in and of itself is HARD WORK!

Poor Ren!  Did I wake you?

 Number two, eat so much food that your owners are constantly having to muzzle you most of the year to keep you from turning into a whale.


Number three, distract your owners from cleaning the house/being productive (cough cough *George*!) because you need someone to come play with you and take you for a ride.

(No picture... George did this yesterday with Shae while I was visiting my sister's family!)

Yup, all in all... three very achievable horsey resolutions.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Just in time for Christmas, it managed to snow in Maryland.   Not just a little snow, but a whole lot of snow - around 22 inches in all.  This is a rare occurrence in Maryland.

Ren and Shae seemed to really like the snow, so we left them out for about 1/2 the day.  In the morning, George went out to check on them, and ended up playing with them in the field.  By around 1 pm though, I figured it was time to bring them in to the barn.

Just as eager as ever, they both came running!

Ren is wondering why we think she needs to come in.  I think she would have happily stayed out all day.

"What?!  No treats??" (Ren's face says it all.)

Icicles in the mane - just lovely.  Needless to say, I let the girls warm up in the barn before brushing!

With dreadlocks and icicles, Ren sports quite the look.

Ren also was quite taken with the camera... either that or she was looking for treats.  It's sometimes hard to tell.

"Seriously?  No food?"

The next morning, we managed to catch the other horses on the farm being let out.  They were excited and raced all around before settling down to eat.

Everything was just covered in snow.

We decided to take a little ride out and about the fields.  Here, I am wearing about 6 layers of clothing.  It was COLD!  Shae didn't seem to mind in the least.

Looking back at our house.

George LIKES the cold.  Can you tell?

After our ride our girls had fun romping all around in the field at a full gallop.

Then, they settled down to their most favorite pastime - eating.

... and eating some more.

Beached whale?  Or Shae wallowing in the snow?  You decide.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Harvest Day 2009

Last Friday, we borrowed a trailer and headed of to the elementary school I teach at to do horse demos for Harvest Day 2009.  Basically, instead of doing a Halloween parade, my school celebrates the Maryland harvest - we bring in local experts and teach the students about Maryland agriculture, etc... It's such a productive use of time on a day that usually is filled with chaos since all the kids can think about is Halloween, costumes, and (of course) candy!

Over the years we had farmers, watermen, pie makers, demos on vegetable canning, representatives from Native American museums, and this year, they asked me to bring my horses!  Apparently, it's been a couple years since they've last had horses at farm day.

George did barefoot trimming demos for the students and I did horsemanship demos with whatever horse wasn't working with.  Unfortunately, George didn't take any pictures of me... but I managed to grab some shots of him.  Remind me to have a stern talking to my husband about that!

Here, Shae demonstrates how far she can stretch her neck to eat while George trims and talks to the students.

We had 8 rotations of students come through, each between 1 to 2 classes.  All the classes were wonderful about behaving themselves, and the horses seemed to enjoy the extra attention.

Here, Ren waits patiently for her turn.  The kids loved the horses, and my girls could have cared less that we left the farm to go to a busy school!   George fielded all sorts of questions from the students such as, "How do horses defend themselves?"  "Why don't wild horses need trims?" and, "Does it hurt the horse to trim their feet?"
Maybe SOMEONE took some pictures of the demos I did... grumble.  Shae enjoyed showing off her bow for the students and shamlessly begged for treats every chance she got by offering to stand on the pedestal.  I did a combination of ground work and riding for the students.  We discussed the role that drafts had in Maryland agriculture and early economy, as well as their role today.  Next year I would like to differentiate what I present to each grade group and maybe do some simulations in reading body language.  We'll see!   Right now I'm just thankful we found a trailer toborrow to haul our girls to the school and a friend willing to come all the way up from St. Mary's County to trailer them!  Thanks so much Steve!
I'll post any pictures if I track any down!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's Fall....

... and it's raining and miserable outside.
So, I figured I would update the blog with some pictures I took of George warming Ren up last weekend before our ride.  Her sidebones still make her feel stiff and short right out of the field, but through warming her up, she loosens up and starts to feel better. I really, really, really HATE Blogger's new picture interface.  It's so hard to try to align pictures and add captions now!!  ARGH!  Most of the pictures look a lot better if you click to view them full sized.

Ren likes to act all flashy.
Here she is showing us how she can stomp on any enemy we meet out on our trail rides.

Her winter coat is just starting to come in.  I'm going to miss her dapples over the winter.

The leaves are starting to turn here in Maryland.  Ren's really changed how she's using her body these days.  She's starting to bring in some natural collection to her movement as you can see below as she trots towards George.This is a great picture to click on and view full sized.

Here's just a close up of her trotting towards George. I love how she's more toned!! Yay!  Click to view.

"Where's my treat?"

She's also working really hard on staying connected with her person during her warm ups.  She's willing to consider that it's really easier to just hang out.  Again, click to view full sized.

Of course, everyone likes to kick up their heels once in a while...
The leaves are just starting to turn!  I love the change of seasons, but HATE the cold!

For some reason, Shae's pictures didn't turn out quite as nicely as Ren's.  She's working on finding/developing that stretch down at the trot and even a little at the canter.  Unfortunately, the farm is putting out round bales to feed now that the grass is starting to die off, so Shae has a VERY BIG hay belly in this picture (grumble).  We've ordered her a brand new muzzle - I'm sure she's going to be thrilled.

And in case you wanted to see that first picture full sized, here's a version of it that you can click to enlarge (did I mention that I really don't get Blogger's new interface?  Not nearly as user friendly as it used to be).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A slightly early surprise...

Spring (my mom's little mare I've been training this summer) decided to have her baby a little early... I was hoping she would wait until she returned to her home in September, but apparently yesterday afternoon was the appointed time for this little filly to grace the world with her presence!

When we got to the barn, Spring had already given birth. However, the baby was VERY new (just minutes old). We helped the baby stand (she couldn't get any traction on the rubber mats in the stall) and moved her outside where she met with more success. In this video the little filly is about an hour old. Now we just need to figure out a name!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Shae's on the Mend...

Well, it's been an interesting week. We had the vet out on Monday to look at Shae's hind right hock - it was very swollen and she was really hurting (didn't want to put weight on it, etc...). The diagnosis was pastern dermatitis (scratches) that allowed an infection called lymphangitis to set in. Luckily, we caught it VERY early and she's on a course of antibiotics which really seem to be helping. Swellings pretty much gone - and we clipped her feathers off the affected foot. Still doing the topical treatment, but I'm really glad I had the vet come out. I went online and researched the conditions. Boy, they can turn into some nasty looking infections! Nothing Shae has even comes close to the online examples I found. Luckily, she's in a nice, clean field without any standing water. However, the Maryland humidity, high temperatures, and night-time dew make it easy for mild cases of scratches to be a summertime problem for feathered horses and their owners. I'll have to take the camera out and take some pictures of her.

Ren's sidebones are flaring up a bit as well.... luckily, I have a little gaited horse that we moved over to the farm for me to start, so I've had a horse to play with despite my girls' limitations at the moment.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back to Working with the Girls...

A gal with an arab gelding came by the farm yesterday. He just had to say hi to the big beautiful Ren. Ren pinned her ears and let him know that being fresh is NOT tolerated.

Since it's been pretty warm here, Ren sports ever so fashionable braids. Not only does this help with keeping her cooler, but it also assists me with not getting my hands tangled all up in her massive amounts of hair. I guess I COULD cut off most of her mane, but her long curls really are cute. It's taken forever for her to grow out a chunk of mane that was missing that I'd hate to see it all cut off.

Ren really does have a massively large head.

I realized that Ren is really toning up. Just look at this before/after picture of her. The picture on the right is her the day after she came off the trailer from auction, while the second picture was taken yesterday. I'll have to get a picture of her standing in a similar position to the first one to really get a feel for how she's changed.
You know, I just realized that most of the pictures are of Shae lately. I'll have to make sure we give Ren equal time.

Today Shae worked on change of direction...

...her very distinct and separate trots...
... extending out...
... and high steppin' Friesian style!
... trying to find some relaxation at the trot (not always easy for a breed that typically carries their head high...)
... and bending WITHOUT collapsing the shoulder in! (Susan, that picture's just for you!)

Then we did a couple canter circles at the end of the arena that Shae was acting goofy about two days ago. Apparently there was some kind of monster at this end of the arena that Shae wanted to turn and bolt away from. We spent quite a bit of time approaching and retreating from this end of the arena yesterday. (Note: I am still trying to figure out where this horse eating monster is hiding... perhaps it is behind the car? Lurking somewhere in the sand? Behind one of the posts?) Whatever it was, obviously it wasn't there today. Shae was great!
The only thing I can think of is that two days ago I was doing a bit of isolation exercises with Shae. For example, we did some one rein riding, then riding with me just giving her a leg cue I wanted her to respond with lightness from (no rein). During these exercises I really didn't care what direction she wanted to go in, I was just asking for forward (either walk or trot). However, when I applied the leg cue - I wanted her to respond with lightness to it without needing a rein to support. Transitioning from this exercise to a more collected style where I was using all of Shae's leg and rein cues to tell her where we were going might have given Shae the idea that she could be dominant. In any case, two days ago we spent a good 20 minutes down at the far end of the arena schooling through Shae's issue. It involved a lot of approach/retreat backing up, sideways, and (finally) relaxation on Shae's part. Yesterday, I started off riding more collected and Shae didn't seem to have any issues. Silly horse.

What did we do today?

Well, George and I did some groundwork and then hit the trails early this morning. He rode Shae and I rode Ren. Ren and I did a lot of canter work out on the trails today. Ren is SO much slower then Shae that anytime Shae breaks into a trot, Ren can work on her canter. It's really hilarious. Ren tries so hard! At one point, we startled some deer out of the corn field. Shae and the deer were running beside each other while Ren and I brought up the rear. No way were we ever going to catch them! As an aside, neither of our horses spooked at all when the deer came out running. I was very impressed with both of our girls. Ren just cast an eye in the deers' direction and kept cantering.

A case of the Scratches....

While we were away over the Fourth of July weekend, Maryland humidity, nighttime dew, and the heat took a toll on Shae's rear right foot. I came back to find a nasty case of scratches right below her pastern and above the back of her hoof. Very icky. This time of year is always a challenge to keep scratches away 100% - both my girls have feathering and in Maryland it rarely dries out in July and August. When I left, both Shae and Ren had some small itchy areas on their rear feet. I just didn't realize how effective my once a day spraying of anti-microbial spray was being at keeping fungal skin infections at bay. Well, 4 days of not having their back feet sprayed certainly showed me how bad fungus can take hold! Ren's feet looked fine - just a little scab here and there (actually, her feet looked better then when I left, go figure), but Shae's one foot was NOT a happy sight.

Shae was definitely bothered by it - she wanted my foot as far away from me as possible and was contorting herself in all sorts of bizarre ways to keep her foot from being prodded at (she's too well behaved to jerk her feet away from you, but she stretched this way and that. It was a real challenge to clean it up.)

That's one shaved hock.  Poor Shae!  In this picture, the swelling is almost gone.  Thank goodness!
After giving Shae's back foot a soak, a betadine scrub, and then a thorough drying, I figured the topical anti-fungal spray I was using last week just wasn't going to clear this up quickly enough for my liking. So.... I headed out to the friendly CVS where I proceeded to purchase Monistat cream, Desitin, Lotrimin (Clotrimazole) cream, and one other anti-fungal athlete's foot cream that I can't remember off the top of my head. As I was purchasing it at the counter, I really did wonder what the cashier thought of my anti-fungal purchases!! Bet he didn't think it was to treat a horse!

Anyway, I mixed up the creams together and smeared it on. The back of her foot looked 70% better the very next morning and is 90% better today. No more oozing icky-ness. Just some scabs that are flaking off to show happy healthy skin underneath. Shae is no longer trying to keep me from poking and prodding at the back of her hoof. I figure three days of treatment should be enough. I think I can go back to the Eqyss Micro-Tek Anti-Microbial Spray to clear up the last bit of it. I'm not going to keep using the creams as I've heard that some fungus's develop a resistance to them. Hmmm.... Something to ask my doctor sister when I see her...

Fourth of July Weekend In WV

This past weekend, we left our girls at home to go visit our friends on their farm out in West Virginia. I don't think Ren or Shae minded the break, and I KNOW George didn't mind taking a break from studying for the bar.

Click on any picture to view full size.

We spent the weekend riding my friend's 3 horses through the mountains (their farm butts up against a huge 17000 acre state park), relaxing, and catching up with Susan and Frank.

Here are some pictures we took of the land we traversed by horseback.

Yup, we rode up to the top of that mountain...

Someone on the river caught one BIG catfish.

The weather was lovely - in the 70s and (best of all) few bugs!

I was actually really surprised at how much ground you can cover on horseback. I'm sorry we didn't take the camera with us on the trail rides, but it was big & bulky. We need to take a digital pocket camera with us.

Here are Susan's horses parked under a gigantic tree in their pasture.

Up close and personal! Meet (left to right) Susan's three geldings: Gabe, Boogie (my mount for the weekend) and Othello (George's mount for the weekend).

This is the VERY SCARY HAY BALER. When we put the boys away this machine (which was obviously something that eats innocent horses for lunch) produced some interesting antics from our three steeds.

They went from one end of their pasture to the other.

For Othello, that's a LOT of effort. His favorite gate is the "mosey."

Boogie also felt the need to investigate the tractor.

... and of course, after investigation, they all felt the need to run away to the other end of their pasture again.

Like me and George, Susan leans towards drafts. Both Boogie and Othello are 1/2 Shire.

Here is the barn and Susan's trailer which we tacked out of. Susan and Frank are splitting time between Maryland and West Virgina, and are in the process of getting their WV farm up and running.

George and I had a blast and are planning to visit again after George takes the bar. Now if we could only get our two horses down there... I think Ren would just love some "hill therapy" in the form of WV mountains, don't you?