Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Chick flick - The babies are here!

We decided to add to our flock this year, as we lost a number of hens during the drought last summer. In the past, we've gotten chicks from our local feedstore, or a local breeder, but this year we decided to order from McMurray Hatchery.

It may seem odd to get chicks in January, but we chose to order them now for two reasons: they need to have time to mature before it gets too hot, and many times the hatchery is sold out by mid-March. Keeping chickens sure is popular!

Chicks are sent immediately after they are born, via USPS. This may sound awful, but they can survive for about 2-3 days on energy from the egg yolk. Ours arrived yesterday at the post office around 9 a.m. - the post office called my husband, and I went to pick them up immediately. When I arrived, I could hear them peeping the moment I walked in the door! I told the postmaster that I was there to pick up the box making all the noise, and he gave me sort of a funny look, but went to fetch the box. I took them home and got them settled in their new digs:

We did have an unfortunate thing happen yesterday after I took them home. Sometime during the day while I was at work, the power tripped in the barn. We think it was the space heater that I left on, even though I had power cycled it several times just to make sure it would NOT trip the breaker. The heat lamps went off, and the poor little guys got really cold. Chicks need a constant temperature around 95 degrees for the first week of their lives, and yesterday it was only 60. By the time I got home and found them, four of them were cold and not moving, and the rest were huddled in a tiny ball, trying to stay warm. I rushed all of them into the bathroom in the house, turned on the heater and plugged in a heat lamp, and sat with them until the hubby got home. The four that were not moving I carefully held under the heat lamp, trying to warm them up. Two of them unfortunately did not make it, but the other two started to revive and kept improving. We continued to hold them and give them water for about four hours, and when we went to bed they were sleeping under a heat lamp. This morning they seem to be mostly recovered, although I won't feel completely comfortable until it's been a day or two and they are running around more with the others. I feel really bad that this happened - after surviving such a long trip, they didn't make it because we weren't careful enough. Lesson learned, and hopefully that will be the last problem we have!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Oooooo, I WANNA GO!!!

Has anyone else seen this?

I've seen Cavalia, and find shows like these to be excellent entertainment, even though some of the "dressage movements" are more tricks than classical dressage. However, it looks like a neat production and very high-class. Plus, they will be in Central Texas in August. I am SO there! Anybody else in the area wanna come and make a night of it?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Mid-week critter: Lifetime achievement awards

One of the things I did to pimp my tackroom was to hang up a bunch of my old ribbons. As I was doing so, it occurred to me that the majority of the ribbons belonged to Cash, so I decided to take a picture of him with all his ribbons.

Quite the decorated hero, isn't he? 

In the grand scheme of things, it's not a lot of ribbons. Eventing is not like going to hunter/jumper shows or breed shows and coming home with half a dozen ribbons from half a dozen classes. For eventers, it's one ribbon per show if you have a good ride. When you ride at a USCTA event (now USEA, I'm showing my age) in Open Training with 40 people, that brown 8th place ribbon on the far right means a lot. 

Some of those ribbons carry a lot of memories. The small blue ribbon up by his eye (with the faded purple ribbons) is from the first time we ever evented together - we were at Pine Hill and went Beginner Novice. I remember it being especially sweet because someone laughed at us while we were walking down to the dressage arena, and commented on "how funny that horse looks" (Paints didn't event back then). Apparently funny-looking horses can do really well eventing! The big championship ribbon on the left is from a USDF adult dressage team I rode on when I was going to grad school at RPI, as is the USDF medal that's hanging off Cash's ear. My cousin came down from Maine to see that show, and somewhere I have a print photo of her making faces with Cash.  I wonder where that picture is. I wonder if my cousin remembers that day like I do.

Gosh, the more I look, the more I remember. I am so lucky that Cash carried me through so many amazing experiences - for me, he is one in a million.

I'm going to go hug my pony now.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jousting practice 1/22/2012

So I'm a few days behind with this post, but I just got access to some of the pictures taken at the practice this weekend.

Saga was apparently a Very Good Pony! His biggest challenges to date have been the sound of armor on his back (it's clanky) and the sound of the lance hitting its target. Currently the target is a quintain, but eventually it will be another jouster's shield.

The hubby picked up where he'd left off after the last jousting practice, with making passes at the quintain. He started from a walk, then went to trot, then finally canter. Saga did much better than the first time and was apparently much more confident.

LOVE the "attack" expression on Saga's face!

Next, hubby got out his helm with the clanky chain mail aventail. This was causing a lot of problems in their ride last Wednesday, but Saga settled down quickly this weekend. He was so good that hubby added his steel breastplate to the mix, which is even MORE clanky, plus the chain mail clinks against the breastplate for extra added noise.

Now with breastplate (shiny!)

Saga did well with the extra armor, and they ended the day making canter passes at the quintain as well as "measuring passes" down the jousting lane against another horse. (A measuring pass is where you ride by each other but do not actually target the other rider.)

Measuring pass. Note that both riders are carrying lances but are not targeting each other.

Reddums spent the practice showing a new jouster the ropes. As an experienced jousting horse, Red's perfect for demonstrating how it's done. We usually start folks off with the quintain - it's surprisingly difficult to ride, hold a lance, and hit a target at (any) speed!

"You were supposed to hit it," says Red. Note the disgusted look on his ears.

It occurs to me that I should do a post about all the armor and equipment that we use, but here's a quick version for the purposes of translating this post.
  • Helm - Hubby made his out of 12 gauge stainless steel (stronger than a football helmet!). It's modeled after the Lyle Basinet (c. 1370, currently located at the Royal Armories in Leeds). The hubby is wearing it without the faceplate, which is added when we're actually breaking lances.
  • Aventail - The chain mail "skirt" that goes around the bottom of the helm. This protects the throat.The aventail is made of four-in-one stainless flat rings that are riveted closed. I'll have to take a close-up of the mail
  • Breastplate - On his torso, he's wearing a 12 gauge stainless steel breastplate. It weighs a ton and is quite clanky.
All of the equipment that we are using is historically accurate. My husband made almost all of his armor, except for the chain mail. The armor is NOT for show - it's real armor,  designed to protect the rider from impact, as well as from flying lance shards. People have died doing this sport (King Henry II of France, anyone?), and so we make everything as safe as modern technology and metal can make it.

The next practice is this coming Sunday, if the arena dries enough. Fingers crossed!

Many thanks to AJoustersWife for all the pics in this post.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How Fuzzypony and I almost ate dirt (or, why I hate off-leash dogs)

Yesterday while the hubby was off at jousting practice with Red and Saga, Fuzzypony and I headed out on Taran and Cash for a relaxing trail ride. We ran into another horse owner who lives nearby, and the three of us spent the better part of an hour wandering the trails and chatting.

Isn't it funny how you can talk horses FOR HOURS with another horse person, even though you've just met?

At one point we got to a big field and decided to do a little trot and canter, just 'cause. Fuzzypony was cantering on the left lead, and Cash and I were on the right lead. We were passing left shoulder to left shoulder, about 20 feet apart, when out of the corner of my eye I saw Taran do this cutting-horse-esque pivot and spin to the left, throwing Fuzzypony over his right shoulder. He bolted directly into Cash and hit us broadside on the left. Fortunately, the impact threw Fuzzypony back into her saddle, but shoved Cash to the right and unbalanced me off Cash's left shoulder. I thought I was going to eat dirt, but had the presence of mind to throw my right arm over Cash's neck and pull myself back up. Cash, bless him, stopped almost immediately, blowing and wide-eyed. Taran had stopped next to us; Fuzzypony was unharmed but really shaken.

It had happened so fast I had no idea what caused it, so I spun Cash around... and then I saw the *&@%@$ off-leash dog that had spooked both horses. He'd apparently come careening around a fence so that he was directly behind Cash and directly in front of Taran, where neither horse could get a good look at him. Neither Fuzzypony nor I actually saw him until after he'd spooked the horses.

And the owners? They eventually got the dog to come back to them, put him on a leash, and walked away without a word. No apology, no checking to see if we were OK, NOTHING. We didn't go after them because frankly, we were too mad and too shaken to have a coherent, polite conversation with them. We probably should have, but I also didn't particularly want to ride my spooked horse over to where their very large dog was located.

I get that people want to let their dogs run - I let my dog run too, but only on my own fenced property. Of course, there are no leash laws in our small town, except during fawn season in the spring. But FOR REAL people, if your dog doesn't have good recall, KEEP YOUR DAMN DOG ON A LEASH. If we'd both hit the ground, we would have had two loose horses and possibly two injured people. That's not OK on any level.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jumping lesson 1-21-2012

I should preface the jumping lesson details with the note that it's been a fantastic week of riding. Tuesday Kiddo #1 and I went for a nice, long ride (me on Saga and her on Reddums) before she went back to college for the semester. She had a great time and we both got some T/C work in out in one of the fields nearby. Wednesday Fuzzypony and I headed out for a short bareback trail ride around dusk. At one point we were going down a very twisty, windy trail with cedar trees all around (it's sort of like a tunnel) and I commented how I felt like we were in a chase scene in a bad horror movie. Fortunately, nothing horror-movie worthy happened to us!

Then on Thursday the hubby, Fuzzypony, and I headed over to the retaining pond we like to ride in. The hubby had a really rough time with Saga, because he was wearing his jousting helm with chain mail. Saga doesn't like the sound of armor, especially when it's on his back. He jigged a lot, which of course made hubby tense and grab the reins, and soon we had this self-fulfilling cycle of constant pulling back which resulted in head-flinging. I have learned not to comment much on the hubby's riding (that's why we take lesson from a 3rd party) but I ended up suggesting that they just work on walk on a loose rein, and if Saga trotted, make an immediate correction but then go back to a loose rein. They ended on a good note, but it took a lot of work. The plan now is to figure out a way for me to wear clinky armor when I ride so we can get him more accustom to the sound. Never mind that hubby's armor is a) too big and b) really frickin' heavy... we'll figure something out. It may involve tin cans full of rocks to make noise, but we've gotta do something. If anyone has any ideas, LMK.

Friday night Fuzzypony and I took another short ride over to the retaining pond. Saga and I worked on a lot of T/C, with me focusing on using my core to rate him, remembering to turn my shoulders when trying to turn him, especially to the right where he tries to pop his shoulder and fall out. We had some really nice moments, until our canter departs, which just did. not. happen. Apparently, one can use one's core and forget one's legs to the point that your horse feels nice and adjusts well, but isn't actually with you. I'm still trying to figure how that works (or doesn't), but clearly I need to get him in front of my leg somehow. Dressage lessons are no doubt in order.

Finally, on to the jumping lesson on Saturday. I was on Reddums again and managed to keep him much more forward and balanced than last time. We got into our fences better (mostly), but I am still popping up way too early after the fences - or rather, on top of the fences. The deep AP saddle that I'm riding in isn't doing me any favors, but it's still a problem I need to work on. I'll bring it up with Paige next week and see if she has any great ideas on how I can fix that.

We did a fun line with a Christmas tree under the first jump. It's bigger than Red's been jumping, and of course it looked funny, so I was expecting a little goofiness the first time though. I aimed him at the lowest part of the jump on the right, which was a mistake. If your horse usually jumps right, fer heaven's sakes take the left side! I thought I was going to eat a standard, as you can see in our brilliant leap, where I caught more air than he did. Oh well, eventers are nothing if not persistent, so when Paige said to "go ahead over the second fence if you think you can make it" of course I went for it. I mean, I was still on, still had reins and stirrups, so why not? The second fence actually wasn't bad, given how... erm... creative the first jump was. She told me after that she was surprised that I had gone for it and made it, and I was like, well, of course, I'm going to get the job done regardless of how it looks. That's part of what eventing's about, right?

Fortunately the second time through was rather more together (which is to say, I rode better and Red made me look good), so we quit on that.

The hubby also had a really good ride on Saga, which ended with jumping the same line with the Christmas tree.

He worked on a lot this lesson - heels down, hands forward & grab mane, chest up - much of which is very difficult for him because he's just not flexible in the way that I think a lot of riders are. He physically cannot get his heel down more than an inch without absolutely jamming his foot into the stirrup, which of course tightens his entire leg. He can't sit Indian style at all - his hips just don't rotate in the socket that way, which makes it hard for him not to pinch with his thighs and knees. He gets frustrated because his body physically cannot do what the instructor often tells him to do, but Paige is sort of working miracles by providing alternatives and seeing what is possible, then working with that.

One really funny thing that happened - Hubby asked Paige what to do if you were jumping and there was a tree branch over the jump (he was talking about a scenario we had once when foxhunting). She looked at him quizzically and said, "Clearly there's something wrong with the arena you're riding in!" We both laughed and explained what we'd meant, and marveled once again at the difference between our riding world and her riding world. I swear, one day we're going to get her out and take her foxhunting!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hay analysis

The hay analysis for my 420 (now closer to 380) bales of hay, imported from Canada, is in. YAY!

Below are the percent of total (%) and grams/pound (g/lb) values of the hay, from Equi-Analytical. The values in the Recommended Daily Dose column also come from Equi-Analytical, and are based on a 1100 lb horse in light work.

The final column, Daily Intake (High/Low), shows how much of each nutrient each horse gets per day, based on roughly 20 lbs of forage per day. I've also noted whether or not they're getting enough of each nutrient by using HIGH (meaning yes, they're getting plenty), or LOW (meaning they might need a supplement).

Nutrient % g/lb Recommended Daily Dose Daily Intake (High/Low)
Crude Protein 13.4 60.7820 g1214 g/ day HIGH
Estimated Lysine .52 2.429 g48 g/day HIGH
Water Soluable Carbs 7.2 32.8
ESC (simple sugars) 4.8 21.6
Starch 1.6 7.0
Non Fiber Carb. (NFC) 13.3 60.1
Crude Fat 1.9 8.8

Calcium 1.02 4.6325 g92 g/day VERY HIGH
Phosphorus .28 1.2917.8 g25.8 g/day HIGH
Magnesium .17 .7917.8 g15.8 g/day LOW
Potassium 1.94 8.8131 g176.2 g/day VERY HIGH
Sodium .027 .12225.1 g Not reported

A couple of things to note here:
  • NSC (which is what I'm so concerned about for Saga's feet) is equal to WSC + Starch. In the case of my hay, that's 8.8%, well below the 10% I was hoping for. Hurrah! (Please, please tell me I did that math right.)
  • Nobody's hurting for protein around here!
  • Magnesium is a tad bit low, but they are already getting a magnesium oxide supplement. I've decreased that to 1 tbsp/day, so they're probably getting a bit extra, but not much.
  • Although Sodium is not reported, I'm not terribly concerned. The boys have free access to loose salt, and since I have to refill it regularly, I know they're making use of it. :) 
  • They are getting a LOT of Calcium. Worse, the Calcium:Phosphorous ratio, which should be roughly 1:1 or even 2:1, is more like 3.5:1. Supposedly horses are OK up to 6:1, so maybe I shouldn't panic? The literature seems to agree that as long as the ratio does not fall BELOW 1:1, I'm OK. Well then, I won't panic. Yet.
  • They are also getting a lot of Potassium. However, the literature says that most forage is between 1-2% dry matter in K (at 1.94, we're right in there), so horses generally get way more than they need with no adverse effects. Well OK then, I guess we're fine.
Here's the rest of the nutrients (separated out since they are reported in ppm):

Nutrient ppm mg/lbRecommended Daily DoseDaily Intake (High/Low)
Iron 203 92335 mg1840 mg/day VERY HIGH
Zinc 20 9335 mg180 mg/day LOW
Copper 13 684 mg120 mg/day HIGH
Manganese 91 41335 mg820 mg/day VERY HIGH
Molybdenum 1.2 .5Unk
5-8 ppm
10 mg/day HIGH

More thoughts:
  • I should probably look into a zinc supplement.
  • HOLY CRAP they are getting a LOT of Iron. Fortunately it doesn't appear that it's toxic; so I'm not going to panic.
  • They are also getting a lot of Manganese, but it's supposedly one of the least toxic minerals. Again, no need for panic.
I wish I knew how much Selenium was in this, but it wasn't reported for some reason.

So, overall, the hay looks pretty good! I can supplement a little for Mg and Z and get them where they should be, but otherwise they don't really need anything extra in their diets.

The question is, should I continue to give them the tiny bit of vitamin/mineral supplement they are currently receiving? I think I might, since it has some extra stuff (namely vitamins A, E, and D) in it. I'll continue to give beet pulp to Cash and Saga since it's doing a good job of keeping the weight on them, and of course the ground flax. Otherwise, the feeding program around here seems pretty reasonable!

What do you think? Any suggestions on things I should change up?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mid-week critter: I need titanium blinds

The cute little doggy? The one that doesn't stay in his bed?

 Yes, this doggy. Don't let the innocent look fool you.
He did this to the blinds in our bedroom.

At first I thought about replacing these with titanium mini blinds, but they don't seem make them. Yes, I checked.  (Maybe a new product opportunity for some enterprising person?)

I'm thinking about these instead - chain mail curtains. I'll just have to figure out how to attach the curtain rod to the wall to it NEVER comes off.


Monday, January 16, 2012

If your horse was a car, what kind of car would he/she be?

Over the weekend, I was trying to describe to a non-horsey person how different Cash, Saga, and Reddums are to ride. After fumbling around for a bit, I discovered that cars make the perfect analogy for someone who has never been on a horse.

For example, Cash might look like your typical QH-bred Paint - midsized and just sort of average-looking, but that hair trigger and incredible maneuverability makes him special.

Not very exciting-looking, right?

The best comparison for him is an F-150 Lightning - looks like a normal truck, but man, when you step on the gas or turn the wheel, you'd better hang on, since there's some serious power and handling under the hood!!!

Holy Horsepower, Batman!!!

Saga, on the other hand, is like a mid-1980s vintage Crown Victoria. Not very fast from 0-60, but excellent at cruising highway speeds (i.e. galloping 'round foxhunting).  Big, plush, and comfy, and of course, longer than a school bus. Drives approximately like a land yacht, or a couch.

 Long, large, and comfy. How can you not want one of these?

Reddums is most definitely an Audi Quattro Rally Car. Total off-road vehicle, a go-anywhere, do-anything kind of guy. Sure, he's a little short and kind of wide, but it doesn't matter if it's mud, dust, trees, open fields, jousting, jumping or dressage - he's there for you and doesn't let you down. He shines up pretty nice too, come to think of it.

 I see a distinct resemblance in form, don't you?

What about your horse? If your horse was a car (or truck), what kind would he/she be?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Yay! Progress!

After yesterday's exciting flooding episode that resulted in us having to pull up the entire kitchen floor in the guest house, today was rather more successful. We salvaged all of the laminate floor except one board, where the edges were too badly damaged to reuse. Fortunately we'd bought extra flooring so getting a replacement piece was not a problem.

The floor and cabinets had dried out overnight, so we finished re-laying the floor this afternoon. After that, we got the baseboards (which was the start of this whole project) laid in. Yay! Dad also did a bang-up professional job putting the end cap on the formica countertop in the kitchen, so it's really starting to look finished! We still have windowsills and transition flooring pieces to put in, the trim all needs a touch-up coat of paint, and there are a few other odds-and-ends that need to be done, but having the guest house completed is in sight. It sure will be nice to knock that off the list!

Once we'd finished the flooring and baseboard project, my dad gave my hubby a "Soldering 101" lesson to repair some wiring that Anie had broken in one of her terrified-of-thunderstorm moments. Hubby's comment was, "It's like welding, only much, much smaller!" Of course they had to go to Home Depot to purchase a soldering iron, so we have another 'power' tool to add to the collection. Not that anyone is complaining, mind you.

The final project was to learn how to glaze windows. Part of the house has really nice wood-paned windows, but the glazing has all dried and cracked, and most of it has fallen out. We had someone who was supposed to reglaze and refinish them for us, and... well, he did a great job right up until he stopped showing up (long story, not worth telling). Dad has done glazing before and offered to show us so we could finish up the work... turns out, it's really pretty easy to do, and if you liked playing with play-doh as a kid, you can glaze windows without a problem.

 Glazing putty is available at your local hardware store. You want to start with a clean surface of both the window and the frame. Dad demonstrates how you take the putty and roll it into a long ribbon between your hands.

 Next you sort of smoosh it into the groove between the window pane and the frame. This is the fun, squishy part.

Keep smooshing is down the window pane until you get to the corner. Use your finger to smooth it out a bit, then clean the window with water and vinegar.

We didn't get quite as much done this weekend as we had planned, but considering we managed to rip up and rebuild a kitchen floor in the mix, we didn't do too badly. We have a lot of other small projects planned for this week/weekend, so hopefully we can knock those out quickly.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Not actually our planned activity for today...

My parents have come to visit us for the weekend. My dad is uber-handy, and we'd saved up a couple of projects that we wanted some advice on. We'd had a few small things planned but nothing big, although we were going to do some work on the baseboards in the guest house while my parents watched the Saints game.

The hubby went into the guest house to do some final measurements, and when he stepped into the kitchen the floor squirted water at him!?!?!? A little exploration revealed that the water filter under the sink had been leaking for some time. The floor in the guest house isn't level, so the water had leaked all the way under the laminate floor all through the kitchen. Fortunately there's a heavy-duty vinyl moisture barrier under the floor, so the water didn't leak through to the plywood sub-floor. 

Unfortunately, the water was all through the kitchen and we ended up ripping up the entire floor. You can see the wet spots on the vinyl and the towels we used to mop up. There was an incredible amount of water under the floor.

We pulled out all of the flooring, dried it off, then set it outside in the sun to dry a bit more. Fortunately it was sunny and 60 today, so it dried out pretty quickly.

We managed to salvage all of the flooring and put about half of it back in this evening. We put heaters and fans on in the kitchen in hopes that the area under the cabinets, which had the worst damage, will dry out some more overnight. 

We'll finish reinstalling the rest of the floor tomorrow, and then maybe we'll get around to installing the baseboards. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Pimp My Tackroom

If you recall, I have been working to finish the Taj Mahal of Tackrooms. I've spent the last couple of days tidying this and organizing that, not to mention hanging up all the stuff I had piled up. Here's a tour of the latest customizations:

 First, gotta have the Sign Of Doom. This is actually just to the right of the tackroom door, first thing when you walk into the barn. Da lawyer says we gotta have this... CYA and all that.

 My neighbor down the street (who has three horses of her own) gave me this cute sign after we delivered and stacked 100 bales of hay for her.  I put it over the door into the storage room.

 I had stored all my ribbons in a box several years ago when I no longer had a place to hang them. This week I found the box in the attic, ironed the ribbons, and hung them up. Most of those are from Cash, but maybe this year I'll be able to add a few from Saga?

You'll also note the hanging over-door hooks I'm using to hang up our (super classy) reflective shirts for riding at night, jackets, and a few hats. I also bought one of those hanging shelf things you can put in your shower and hung it off one of the over-door hooks. It's a perfect place for storing gloves and hanging headlamps - 'cause there's nothing quite like mucking in the dark!

The bridle rack is home-made, using the scrap end of a landscape timber cut into 2-inch sections and screwed into a backplate that is then screwed into the wall. Some day if I'm feeling really classy, maybe I'll put brass nameplates on each bridle hook.

 Saddle racks are working really well!

 This is an antique armoire, circa 1800, imported from England, courtesy of my father-in-law. It's actually too tall to fit anywhere in our house, so instead of storing it disassembled in the attic for who knows how long, we decided to use it in the barn to store saddle pads and the like. I think it looks pretty darn classy, and it hides all of the usual tackroom clutter quite nicely! In a pinch, it's big enough to use to store any dead bodies. Ahem.

 To the left of the sink I put a collage of Cash's eventing pictures, and to the right a poster from the 1996 Olympic Equestrian Games in Atlanta. That strange light-colored stripe in the wood is just a spot that still needs polyurethane... oops!

I keep meaning to take a picture of this - MC gave me this doormat for Christmas and it is just the COOLEST! Personalized and everything. You should have heard the SQUEEEE! sound I made when I opened the tackroom door and found this. Awesome!

And just in case you think it's all done and beautiful, we still have to put up the last bit of paneling and trim behind the door. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we can get it done next week or weekend!

Still more to do in here, but it's really coming together. It's so nice to walk into such a lovely space every time I go out to the barn!

What's your favorite part about a tackroom that you've seen? Do you ever think about what The Perfect Tackroom would be if you got to build one?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mid-week Critter: This week on Wild Kingdom

Warning: Some images may not be appropriate for younger views. Parental discretion is advised. ;)

In today's episode, we see the wild Malamute kill and eviscerate his chosen prey, the Duckus Stuffedus.

First, he attacks!

He holds his prey down to deliver the death bite.

Having ensured it's dead, he begins the evisceration process.

I believe he's searching for the liver pate. It's likely in there somewhere.

As you can see, being a wild Malamute and hunting your own food is exhausting work. The Malamute will now likely nap (not in his bed) for the rest of the day to recuperate from his exertions.

Tune in next week to Wyvern Oaks' Wild Kingdom!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Caring for the land

Last spring when we were building the barn, Red and Saga (then the only boys that were here) were relegated to the back pasture for nearly 3 months. Being constantly grazed, along with the drought that we've had, have taken quite a toll on this pasture. 

Here's what the back pasture looks like today. :(

For comparison, this is the pasture next to the barn. Still not in great shape (thank you drought of the century), but better.

You can really see the difference if you compare at the fenceline. Back pasture is on the left.

Since the forecast was for rain (which, BTW, came true), I decided to spread some rye grass seed on the back pasture. I know it's not the best for overseeding, but it grows quickly and will help provide some protection from erosion so the more native stuff can get a foothold. This 50-lb bag covered almost 1/2 acre.

Slowly but surely, we've also been spreading our composted manure on the pasture, starting with the most bare spots. The hope is to build the topsoil back up after so much was lost this summer. Last year we were able to do a really great job with rotational grazing, but we were much less successful this year with the drought. In fact, the boys haven't been out on any of the pastures since the barn was finished, and now that some of our pastures have nice growth, I'm even more wary of putting them out for fear of founder! Balancing the health of the land and the health of the horses is really hard!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A fabulous weekend of riding

This weekend was fantastic for riding!

Saturday, hubby and I enjoyed a great jumping lesson with Paige at Couraggio Farm. As always, she gave great pointers and had a wonderful sense of humor (especially since we're not actually H/J folks)! Hubby and I switched horses, so he rode Saga and I rode Reddums.

I would like to point out what a great job Saga did taking care of my hubby. This is just a short video clip from the end of the lesson, but the improvement he showed in just one lesson was amazing! I'm hoping to convince the hubby that we can do lessons more regularly... MUCH more regularly!

I was somewhat less successful with Reddums. He's very hard to rate to fences as his canter stride is really not very adjustable. He also is not in great shape right now (although he would argue that Round is a Shape) so he has a harder time carrying himself. If I let him get flat and quick, he can't take the short spot, and he absolutely cannot put in a long spot to save his life... and you can see in this video (the first fence anyway) what happens when the pilot screws up royally.

Oh well, he tries hard and he's really fun to ride. He's teaching me to wait and not run at the fence, which is what I got used to doing with Cash (or rather, Cash would run and I would do my best to sit still and not get in his face - which would just make him run more.). I have a lot to learn, that's for sure!

Sunday we had the first jousting practice of the year in preparation for Lysts on the Lake, the largest Jousting tournament in the world, in early May. Last year the hubby rode Reddums, but the armor is heavier than ever, and most of the horses being used are drafts or draft crosses, so this year he's planning to ride Saga. Training a horse to joust takes a lot of time and patience, and a lot of baby steps - you know, sort of like training them to do anything else! They have to get used to having their rider carry clanking armor and waving a lance around their heads. They have to be OK with facing down another horse charging almost directly at them. And they have to stay straight and not shy from the line, even when the opponent's lance strikes their rider and shatters - loudly. None of this is easy, even for the boldest of horses, and Saga is not overly bold!

We've trained a number of horses to joust, and one thing we have learned is everything in baby steps. One of the first things we do is to get a horse accustomed to having the rider carrying something that's going to be moving over their heads. Horses do get bumped accidentally, or toss their heads into the lance occasionally. We bump them all the time on purpose so that it's no big deal when it happens. Here Saga demonstrates what a jousting horse has to put up with.

This is the dumbest hat EVAR, dad.

And although Saga won't be doing mounted combat, we also spend a lot of time walking/trotting/cantering around hitting posts and fences and such, so they get used to the sound of an impact happening over their heads/backs. Here hubby demonstrates smacking a quintain with a sword. 

This seems like a bad idea, dad. That thing might spin around and hit us!

Saga wasn't too sure about the sounds related to stuff being hit, so we moved on to something he was more  comfortable with.

Next, we practiced making passes against another horse - no lances, shields, or armor, just going head-to-head at a walk, trot, and canter. Saga has always had issues with this in the arena, so it was a little harder than it seems it might be. The big black mare he was up against is also a bossy one, but after a few runs he was going against her steadily. Good boy!

Finally, hubby did a number of passes at the quintain with a lance, starting at a nice relaxed walk. Eventually they worked up to a trot, and finally did a few rounds at a relaxed canter. Yay! Here hubby exhibits lovely form (and Saga's doing great too!) while accidentally missing the quintain. Oops! 

We are very much looking forward to more weekends like this - jousting practice will be a regular thing until May, and hopefully we can squeeze in more jumping lessons too. I'm really excited to be able to do this after so long off!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Mid-week critter: How not to be seen

In this post, we hope to show you how not to be seen.

In this picture, there are 47 cats*. None of them can be seen.

 This is Ms. Artemis Mousekiller, 42 Wyvern Oaks, and she has learned the first lesson of how not to be seen: not to stand up.

 However, she has chosen a very obvious piece of cover (Maddy interruption notwithstanding).

But since we are not into pyrotechnics in the barn, we'll have to leave our Monty Python skit and just point her out.

I should mention that in Artemis' case, not being seen means more attack options for unsuspecting passers-by. It's especially effective at 6 a.m. when I'm not quite awake.

* Slight exaggeration. There's only one... that I know of.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking forward

The start of a new year is as good a time as any to reflect on what you love in your life, what you’d change, and what you want to leave behind. The hubby and I have been talking about this lately, and here’s what we’re thinking for 2012:
  • Family. We have four ADORABLE nephews under the age of 3, plus lots of siblings and parents we see only once or twice per year. In some cases this really cannot be changed – the hubby’s dad lives in France, and one brother and his wife are in Australia. But for family who is closer, we’re going to make a bigger effort to visit more often – not just during the holidays!
  • The Kiddos. The oldest is a freshman in college, and the youngest goes to college this fall. We’ll be empty nesters (gulp!). We want to spend quality time with them, as we’ve already discovered that once they’re off to college, parents are superfluous. Or at least, mostly good for paying the bills. Oh well - we are still going to do our best to parent, even if it's from afar. :)
  • Each Other. The hubby and I love doing projects together, but sometimes we get so busy and don’t slow down and enjoy what we're doing. We also get frustrated with each other (me especially) and I have a tendency to snarl sometimes. So, not getting stressed out about what we’re doing, and taking time to really BE together, is a priority. That could just mean cooking dinner, or it could mean me going with him to a week-long conference somewhere. But, more of it!
  • The House. The really big, huge, gotta-get-it-done projects have pretty much been completed. The roof doesn’t leak, the HVAC has replaced, the plumbing works, the barn is (mostly done), etc. etc. What’s left is a ton of odds-and-ends of finish work, some that will require multiple weekends of work, some that can be completed in an evening or an hour. We want to keep steadily eating away at that list without stressing out about it. We haven’t quite figured out how we’re going to do that yet, and we haven’t even written the list down – I think we’re afraid to do so and will start stressing if we realize how long it is! But we’re motivated, and the End Is In Sight. Now, if the things we’ve already fixed would just STAY FIXED…
  • Food. We used to go to the Farmer’s Market weekly, but we got out of the habit. I had a small garden, but didn’t plant one last spring. We also had a bunch of chickens, but we lost quite a few in last summer’s heat. We really want to locally source our food as much as possible, so we’re making a point of going to the market regularly this year. We’re ordering more chicks to increase our flock size again, and… we’re planting a garden! The hubby actually wants to do it this time (usually the garden is all me), so I’m super-excited! We’ve already bought some seeds, as well as some potato starts, strawberry roots, and onion slips. Yeah, it’s late for strawberries (I think you’re supposed to plant around Thanksgiving?), but what the heck? Might as well try it and see what happens.  Gardening is all about trial and error, and we’re going to start trying again!
  • The Horses. I want to start taking regular lessons again. Saga’s sound (knock on wood) and so it’s time. I’ve already sent an email to my jumper trainer asking to get on the schedule, and the hubby has agreed that I can make time to do something regularly. So, I’m gonna do it! I’m also hoping to go to a show or two this year – schooling shows, nothing recognized. I just want to have some goals and some fun, no stress please!
What are your thoughts looking forward to the new year?