Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Getting Ready for Winter

I've been doing a little work with Beautiful every day--bending, leading, and a little trotting out in a circle. She really wants to please--and picks up everything fast. She's so young, we don't do much--maybe ten minutes total--real light.

It's interesting how poor hoof quality affects the whole skeletal system and musculature. She still moves a bit on her toes--which gives her that up and down look rather than a fluid forward motion. It's like she's learning to move again--teaching her body how to balance her weight in this new position.

Sometimes, when she starts to run around the round pen during her free play, she's trippy. So, I'm thinking of this stage of development/training as physical therapy.

I'm sure it will be a year before her feet are where we want them--after having been clubby for so long. That tendon above the heel will have to stretch and move fluidly. She'll have to slowly start to use the heel to toe motion. And, the muscles in the neck, shoulder, and hind will have to develop to support a body that is more level than giraffe--as it used to be.

It's a slow process, but looking at her, she appears to be coming together well.

It certainly doesn't take much food to keep the weight on her. When she first arrived she ate all the time, but that has finally slowed down. She's a little chubby, but not bad--nothing that would threaten her health.

Last night it got down to 27 degrees--the ground was completely covered in frost--and on the way out to the barn to feed, a flock of Canadian Geese flew by. There were probably 50 geese in formation and it was quite beautiful.

Trying to make sure the horses keep weight on, but don't get too fat, is always an exercise in educated guessing at this time of year.

We have them separated into individual stalls during feeding--which is GREAT for keeping them on individual diets.

For example: Shadow, the 18 year old herd leader who could "get fat on a freeway" as my farrier likes to say, he gets his hay, plus Senior Feed-- & salt block.

Red, the 28 or 29 year old gelding--who looks 13--gets more hay with alfalfa--and more senior feed--plus salt block.

Cowboy, the 13 year old paint who broke his P3 last year and perfectly sound today because of my excellent farrier--I worry about him developing arthritis in the coffin joint due to exostosis--so he gets Red's diet which is high in Glucosamine--and a bit of MSM in a joint supplement on the bad days--plus his salt block--which they all have in their troughs--so there's no need listing them.

The fillies, 4 year old Cowgirl, and 3 year old Cia, get a good deal of roughage in the form of grass and alfalfa--plus whole oats with a mix of supplements.

The Mustang, Beautiful--1 year old--gets less hay than the fillies and less grain because she was gaining weight too fast--plus Horse Guard supplements.

The pony, Jasmine, is fat--which is odd because I barely feed her anything. Obviously, she doesn't need much.

The next thing on my schedule for the horses is a wormer that gets the tapeworms--Quest or other. This is the time year, now that it's freezing, when they work best.

And blanketing is always a debate. I once used them, but then read that if it's cold and dry--the blanket pushes the hair down and keeps it from it's natural insulating capacity--apparently, it's supposed to stand up to get full affect. (I saw an illustration of this in Horse and Rider one time--I'll try to find something on the Internet that does the same.) Anyway, the horses have shelter to keep them dry--which would be a primary purpose for blankets--because a cold wet horse is going to be cold to the bone--and drop weight fast.

The heated, automatic waterers are working great. I check them every morning and evening--even putting my hand in there to check temps--and that water stays pretty warm. It's amazing and I highly recommend having at least one out in your pastures--if you pasture them together. Your life will be so much easier!!

I haven't mentioned my barn kitty in a long time. I think I last told you she moved into the house. Well, she's in her own room since my husband is allergic to cats. I take her out to the barn with me every day when I feed and clean. Believe it or not, she mouses while we're in there. She has caught a couple in front of us.

One night we were out working and she caught one leaving the goat pen. One of the goats, my sweet little "English" who wouldn't use her horns to save her life (we thought)--saw the cat with that mouse and came running at her and hit her with her horns--tossing her about two feet in the air.

The cat was stunned, but she jumped back up and got the mouse again. English went after her yet again and again until finally the cat was afraid to come out of hiding and when she finally did, couldn't find the mouse.

We've got crazy animals around here--makes you wonder what happens when you turn off the lights in the barn at night.


  1. That's a wonderful goat story and how faithful she was to her friend, the mouse. Another great children's book. Makes me think that life on the ranch could lead to a children's book career! Now to find an illustrator.

  2. We've had winter arrive a little early in the season. Cold, below freezing temps and snow covering the ground yesterday morning. Usually don't see this kind of weather until at least mid December around here. Giving the horses extra hay already. Their coats are nice and fluffy so don't really worry about them being cold. They have a great run-in shelter.

    Made me laugh about the wondering what happens when the lights go off! Yeah, I do too!

  3. I always wonder too. Yang lives in the barn(barn kitty) and someone dumped off 2 half grown kittens and they have taken up residence too. Oliver the goat lives just outside the back door of the barn where he is sheltered from the wind and he has a large "doghouse" that he lives in. I wonder about their conversations. Pepper, Dixie and Ditto are in at night too.

  4. Blankets...Jet was such a mud monster last year that I've put her in a heavy fly sheet to help keep the mud off. I had the flu for a few days last winter and when I came back out to care for the horses, she had heavy clay caked so deep there was no getting it off without a bath. Well, you can bet that wasn't happening in December. So she went until June covered in a little more mud each day, until it finally began to shed off...

    And that's my blanket story... :)

  5. The Goat & The Mouse, sounds like an Aesop's Fable. I agree, you definitely have children's stories in that barn. I mean, the barn at night? Oh what you could do with that.

  6. P.S. I'm just saying, wouldn't you write the story and submit it, then the publisher matches it with one of their illustrators? I don't think you'd submit it illustrated?

  7. Yeah, life around here does sometimes seem like a Children's book. Speaking of which, I watched Disney's movie, Spirit, for the first time last night. Where was I all these years?

    What a great cartoon about a Kiger Mustang!! I'm going to rewatch Misfits again, too--the one with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe where they go out to catch Mustangs. I haven't seen that for years--and now that I have one I'll probably see it all different.

    Sounds like we all have barns with crazy things going on. And muddy horses!! Yikes! That's my least favorite thing about this time of year.

    Thanks for the suggestion about the Children's book--you're right, I probably wouldn't need an illustrator--just a good story!

  8. Hi Linda,
    I don't know what kind of set-up you have with Beautiful (and you don't have to listen to me because I really am still learning too...), but it is my belief that horses need to learn how to move naturally by having lots of room and reason to move on their a large pasture with hills and rock and stuff is best, but of course, we all have limitations. I'm just thinking that if Beautiful has a small space that she stands in most days, she probably hasn't really moved enough for her muscles to relearn how to handle her new hoof angles. Just an idea, that might make you have less work when you start working with her even more. The horse of a friend of mine had always been pastured on flat ground, and so when trail riding, had to learn how to walk up and down hills. That seems so basic to me and my horses, but how was she to know how if she'd never done it before? Thankfully, most mustangs are pretty good about watching where they are putting their feet when they move, since they've had to do it since birth...

  9. Kara--That's actually a good suggestion, and I agree with you. Originally, we had to keep her in a tight space as we lowered the heel, but now she's doing pretty well and really needs to move out naturally. I'm scared to let her out with the others, though (they're on 14 acres). I'm not exactly sure what will happen!! Maybe I'll move the roundpen over and just make her a HUGE turnout where she can run. Thanks for the suggestion--it motivates me to think differently. I'll have to figure something out along those lines.

  10. When we turned out mustangs out with the herd, initially I couldn't catch them (they weren't really completely gentled yet though), but we had an enclosure that we could run the whole herd into and then I could catch them easily. It seems like ours really learned from the others about respecting the fence and all that.


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.