Posts Tagged With: winter

Winter Doldrums

Fetlock icicles jingle as the horses chase each other around the pasture. Snowcapped ponies bound through knee-high drifts. Blankets of all colors decorate each pony, and they resemble balls on a pool table as they scramble to and fro.

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This winter makes me long for summer.

For days that sizzle with sunlight.

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For horse shows and flyspray and sunscreen and campfires.

For days that I don’t need to shovel mountains of snow.

There are 42 days until spring.

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The ponies frolic and play amid the snow. They snort and buck and make snow angels. They don’t notice the cold, and they barely blink at the frozen landscape.

Maybe someday I’ll take a vacation to somewhere warm during the winter.

. . .

When I’m retired.

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De[Fence]

Snow flakes twist and whirl in pulsating spirals through crevices in the barn walls. Their turbulent dance explores each available space throughout the indoor arena. The graceful flight culminates in one last frenzied spin before touching the floor.

Ponies huddle together for warmth within shelters. They occasionally reach their delicate lips over to itch a neighbor, sharing the misery that is winter.

An ear perks up, followed by another. A slam; a clack; a whoosh. Dusty peeks his head around the shelter’s wall. Brave emerges entirely.

The ponies sniff around their enclosures. They explore the world with their mouths, and frequently stir up action by delivering a mid-air kick to a friend. Mind-numbing boredom coupled with curiosity pushes them to consider the world outside the pasture. Phoenix reaches her head over the fence, looks both ways, then nibbles frozen grass. Dusty canoodles with Lexie, who lives in the next pasture. Braveheart reaches forward and delicately rubs the electric tape between his teeth.

Each of these activities takes a toll on the hotwire. If it doesn’t bend and stretch back into place, it snaps, rips, or snags. The ponies stay within the boundaries of Firefly Farm, but they sometimes discover areas of weakness within the inner fence and “go for it,” traipsing the meadow or another pasture.

Fence is time consuming and costly to repair. The mare and gelding pastures previously used solar fencers, but they aren’t effective in winter. The tape is a sightline only, and it isn’t effective anymore.  After fixing and re-wiring and tying and fixing again, I’ve come to one conclusion: it’s fencer time.

I spent the entire morning and the better part of the afternoon installing a new fencer for the back pastures. The snow screamed past my ears, destined for parts unknown. Burning chill permeated my bones, and I rubbed my hands, grateful for heavy-duty gloves. The whistle of wind through trees and a little black-and-white Border Collie kept me company.

Along with the ponies. Their warm snuffles tickled my neck, and more than once the wind carried a whinny: a plea for more treats. Snowflakes rested upon their backs; their tails dragged ice crystals. I inspected the job once before retiring to warmer quarters.

Brave touched the fence with his teeth, and instantly recoiled, licking his lips. Dusty watched, then backed away. Phoenix ducked into the shelter.

The fence is complete.  My work is done. Oh–never mind. It’s time for night chores.

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Winter Blahs

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They shred and then toss your motivation in the air like confetti. They creep inside the marrow of your bones, and practice their football-type blocking drills until you’re sore and aching. They glamorize lounging with a lapdog by the hearth, wrapped in a Snuggie.

“No!” I say.

The winter blahs crept through the seemingly impenetrable walls of my house. They slipped in through cracks and crevices. Somewhere vulnerable. Perhaps an exposed section of un-caulked tile. Somehow, they found their way in.

I want my unwelcome houseguest to leave.

When I’m at the barn, an assortment of chores keeps me busy. There’s always something to do. Re-wiring, fixing, clipping, brushing, trimming, cutting, filling, emptying.

The moment I step into my house, however, my energy is gone. Completely, utterly gone.

My energy and adrenaline are up the moment I enter the barn. An alert barn manager is someone who gets things done; who notices everything. They don’t get hurt. My attention is focused everywhere at once–I can’t relax or I might miss something.

Once I step inside my house, my balloon deflates. There’s no danger; no imminent threat or worry.

So I snuggle in with my lapdog to read by the fireplace. We love wrapping up in a warm quilt.

Why a quilt? Because Snuggies are ugly. (But that’s a post for another day.)

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Ol’ Man [Winter], He Just Keeps [Snowin’] Along

The afternoon chill has each pony standing still, head down, tail to the wind. Breath huffs out in gray clouds from each nostril. The mist quickly dissipates in the harsh winter air. Snow falls from the top of a blanket as a hoof stomps.

This scene is wholly different from the image that occurred two days ago. On Wednesday, most of the ponies played naked. There was no need for blankets or turnouts.

Instead, today was the worst of both worlds. Snow blew sideways during the entire day while the ground stayed soft. The horses rarely moved unless it was to come inside and eat. Everyone enjoyed warm bran mashes both morning and night to chase away the chill.

Lexi has steadily shown improvement and is eating again. Her pasture mate, Senorita, is leaving Firefly tomorrow to start life at Dreamfields. The two girls have become great friends. Once Senorita leaves, Honey will be considered an outdoor boarder. She’ll be Lexi’s new companion at night to keep her company. Braz and Misty will be joining them during snowy, windy, or stormy days.  (The RAMM pasture doesn’t have any shelter, and Braz and Misty are both in stalls at night.)

Melody and Savannah have been stuck inside since this morning. Though they both enjoy time outside, the weather has been uncooperative. They’ll go with the other girls in the mare pasture tomorrow if it continues to snow. I’m unable to keep the run-in stall doors open when the snow blows in–otherwise, the stall shavings become wet and freeze.

Hopefully winter will subside sooner than usual and spring will suddenly, miraculously appear. If not, the ponies of Firefly Farm are prepared to brave the elements.

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Apple Days

  Days like today are crisp with an apple-like bite in the air. The ponies frolic and play in their pastures, enjoying the snow.

 

   The horses are delightful. I fed them all this morning and enjoyed horsey hugs. Savannah worried me, because she refused to eat all her breakfast. She wanted to eat al fresco instead of en stall. She abandoned half of her breakfast to Melody. I worked with Savannah; even trying to feed her from my hand, but nothing worked. I eventually put her outside with Melody, and that’s when they switched places and Melody proceeded to eat Savannah’s food. Fortunately, at that moment, Savannah’s owner came inside and learned of her pony’s appetite issue. I told the owner to give Savannah more grain later if she wanted; simply because it’s better to overfeed one horse and properly feed the other rather than overfeeding one horse and starving another.

   In that same vein, I have attempted many cures for Senorita’s cribbing/windsucking habit. The best appears to be the easiest. I had put her in the indoor arena and let her pace among the stalls while the other horses ate, but it seems that this doesn’t always work, either. The other horses are feeling threatened by her and are kicking stall doors or attempting to bite through the stall bars. I don’t care for the situation. Therefore, I started feeding her out in the pasture after everyone else comes inside. It appears to be working! She has been putting her teeth on the T-posts, but isn’t doing it as frequently as she has in the stalls. She’s more relaxed and calm. Then, if she wants to, she’s also able to meander around the pasture for a few moments before eating again. 

  

   Coffee and Dusty are delightful. They’re so easygoing and fun. They don’t mind changing to the other pasture with the smaller run-in shed. They seem content and relaxed.

   Lexi is a super-smart stinker. I have the funniest time with her. My dog, a border collie, helps me with chores each night, moving the horses into the pastures. She herds them into the correct pasture, then generally does a good job making sure they don’t run back into the barn. Tonight, however, Lexi left her stall to go into the pasture with Bandit following.  She ran into the pasture no problem, but as I went to close the pasture gate, she breezed past both Bandit and I–heading back for her stall in the barn. So Bandit and I jogged all the way back into the barn, wiggled a lunge whip through the stall bars at her rump to get her moving, and she and Bandit blazed a trail for the pasture again. I booked it back to the pasture gate, telling Bandit to hold the horses in there and hoping I could shut Lexi in for the night. Wouldn’t you know it? Lexi’s owner came at that exact moment–and saw me being the out-of-breath/outsmarted-by-her-horse-barnowner. Supposedly the human brain is bigger than a horse’s brain–but some moments, I have my doubts. I would have been laughing very hard if I were the horse’s owner.

     I haven’t ridden Honey since Friday, but today she came up to me and wanted a hug and a neck scratch. That isn’t an odd occurrence anymore. She’s become more friendly as I’ve been able to work with her recently on ground manners. She doesn’t care for being constantly ridden without using her brain on groundwork. She is definitely a horse that needs a gentle trainer. She becomes resentful if you’re not careful, and rude if you don’t pay attention to her desires.

   Braz is constantly with Honey during the day now that it’s just Lexi, Senorita, Braz and Honey in the big pasture in the back. They are thrilled to be constantly, and there are two herds of two back there. Braz fusses over Honey as though Honey is her daughter. The relationship is adorable to watch.

   Savannah is a mixed bag these days. She appears to have lameness issues with her owner, but she isn’t having these issues with lesson students. Whenever we’ve used her for lessons or birthday parties, she’s been calm, gentle, and sound–but as soon as her owner comes in, she acts lame at the trot and canter. It’s very confusing. We do the exact same exercises, the exact movements with students, but Savannah is appearing to refuse movements for her owner. I didn’t use her for lessons at all last week because I wanted to be certain to give Savannah some time off, but unfortunately it seems she was still lame for her owner yesterday. One positive out of all this is that the owner is working through Parelli level one, so she’s able to do a lot of groundwork with Savannah. Savannah did level one and part of level two with me when I owned her, so she’s already familiar with the program.

   Melody is fantastic as usual. Cold weather makes her very happy.  She bucks and plays and generally acts like a foal.

   The pastures are finally frozen, so it’ll be fun to let the horses out back again once hunting season is truly over. The girls can go out there and play, the boys will be given a chance to burn off some energy, and everyone will appreciate how next year we’ll have larger pastures. I’m planning to expand the current pastures very far to the back, leaving a very generous driving lane with perhaps some area for a few cross-country type jumps. (Very low ones, of course–under 2 feet.) I want to have the ability to use the lane as a true “driving” lane so one day I can use a carriage, but I also want some “trail” riding area. Possibilities, possibilities… For now, I’ll be content to let the snow cover the grounds and pretend everything is exactly how I want it. Next spring, the neighbors will be tired or my relentless T-post pounding–and people will be terrified of my giant, “manly” biceps. That’s ok. If they hurt my feelings, I’ll just flex my arm and send ’em running.

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To a “T”

   There was a light, pattering rain falling when I finished chores this morning. The horses were fed and in respective pastures–Senorita, Savannah, Melody, and Lexxi were in the driving area beyond the pastures; Coffee and Dusty were in the new pasture with all that delicious green grass, and Braz and Honey were in the RAMM fenced pasture. The kids were having a blast, just enjoying the crisp, pleasant air and the delicious buffet around them.

   I decided to pound in the rest of the T-posts for the new pasture. I set up the large, beautiful pasture, swapping out temporary T-posts with metal T-posts and ribbon wire fence. After that was complete, I put together a temporary T-post grazing area beyond the pasture with the shelter in it. I arranged the pasture so it’s easy to move part of the ribbon wire to allow the kids to graze in the new field.

   The girls have become increasingly easy to call in. I simply call to them, “Gi-irls!” and clap my hands a few times. They come running. The boys are a different story. I call to them, and usually Coffee will start to trot over until he sees that Dusty hasn’t moved an inch. Then Coffee looks between us as if to say, “Whaddo I do?” Sometimes he’ll go back to grazing, and other times he’ll trot right over to get grained. Often I’ll have to grab Dusty’s halter and put it on him before he’ll come in. I’m not annoyed by this behavior–I think it’s cute. Coffee is a Dusty-In-Training, and that’s a good thing.

  I’m silly, but I enjoy personifying the horses. Dusty, the wonderful, adorable boy, is Sean Connery. Tough as nails, stoic, and loved by all the ladies. Coffee is kind of a Jack Black guy. He’s so loveable, fun, and funny. He constantly makes me laugh with his silliness–he’d be a class clown if he were in school. Melody is the head cheerleader who has no self-confidence unless she has her posse with her. She’d be a “Mean Girl” in the movie. Honey is the gentle, sweet, sensitive girl who is always at the library, hiding because she’s not certain of what to do. I think of her as a Bella Swan type. Braz is the beauty queen, with her long, flowing mane. She’s on top of things, highly intelligent, and full of fire. She’s like a cross between Halle Berry (beauty) and Erin Brockovich (Intelligence.) Savannah is the girl who can do every sport and succeed. She won’t take nonsense from anyone, but is incredibly gentle and calm. You could think of her as Venus or Serena Williams. Lexxi is last but not least. Savannah is her new best buddy, so she’s coming out of her shell more and more. It appears Lexxi is becoming more of a “Yes” girl. She wants to be in the middle of things, but doesn’t want to be first. When I bring the girls in, she hesitates at the gate as if to say “After you.” She’ll be the first one at the gate, there’s no question about that, but then she isn’t sure what to do afterward. I see her as the girl who’s at the back of the classroom and always half-raises her hand–not certain if she has the acceptable answer, and not sure of herself enough to chance getting it wrong in front of everyone else. Odd as it may seem, I see her as Edmund from the Narnia books. He draws his confidence from his brothers and sisters, then eventually receives it from contact with the White Witch. Lexxi finally has a buddy she follows and can watch to see the right thing to do. If she were human, she could fall in with the wrong crowd–thank goodness she’s a horse. I can see how she could easily become a bully if she were friends with the wrong horse, though. She desperately wants to be loved and accepted. 

   The back pastures are now complete for the winter. I guess there’s nothing left to do except sit on a La-Z-Boy and watch soap operas, eating a plate of bon-bons while cocooned in a snuggie. (Now you know I have to be joking. Curse that ugly blanket with sleeves! I don’t own one and never will. Those are on-par with Croc shoes and adult onesies.) On Friday, we’re getting a small shipment from Texas–a ton of metal and wood to build a pre-fab shelter for the back pasture. Perhaps that will keep me busy for a little while.

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