Thursday, December 25, 2014

Blogger Gift Exchange 2014

I really have enjoyed participating in the Gift Exchange Tracy has put together the last two years. I get to find new blogs to follow and give and receive great gifts. It is amazing how far $20 can go.
So, my gifts came from ACHIEVE1DREAM of Equestrian Journey. She has an awesome Friesian/Arab named Chrome, who drew my grey loving eye :)

This year I asked for something pretty specific, something I have long admired: Professional pictures of Rosemary and Comrade. What she gave me far exceeded what I expected.

All photos are by PonyPrintsPlus, taken at the 2012 Spring Fling, a VA Welsh Breed Show

8x10 Rosemary

4x6 Rosemary, In Hand Breed class

4x6 Comrade, Ridden Welsh
Rosemary has not shown much, but at this particular show she had a spark. The pictures they took were super and now I have two. Seriously doing a happy dance. It is hard to get really good pictures of black horses, so these are special. Comrade's picture is one I wanted because we both look good in it and it shows how far we had come.
Now I get to look for frames that will do the pictures justice. I can't wait to see if my person enjoys her gifts as much I as I love mine.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Rocky Solution

Sometimes we have simple needs and when we get them fulfilled it brings so much joy. With all the expense of integrating our horses into Peggy's barn, we did not plan to do gifts. So, of course, I had to get a gift for Peggy anyway. She mentioned that she wanted a muck bucket cart since that is what we use a lot to pick pens. I found a deal during Cyber Week and got her one. I wish I had pictures of when she received her "not" Christmas gift. She strutted down the aisle pulling it along like she was walking a cat walk. Totally worth the $30 I spent.
Well with all the rain we have had, the ground is saturated and slippery. Mom told Dad she just wanted rocks for Christmas. Dad has not been able to get it for her yet, but Peggy jumped the idea. She asked her guy that does her "dirt" work his opinion and what was available. We knew we wanted pea gravel (river rock) for the new run in shed. He said that there is a small sharp gravel that should be okay with the horses to use in the gate areas. Peggy said to go ahead and bring a load and dump it in a pile to be distributed when it was drier.
Yesterday Peggy and Larry went off shopping. Soon after a truck pulls up and it is the guy. He said the truck was coming to dump. No problem. Well later Mom looked out to see the dump truck going into the paddock. Winston said "WaHoo, a reason to run around like a demented Arabian!!!" Luckily none of them ran out the gate. The truck dumped the rock by the gate. Then went to move out and cue the spinning tires. "OH BOY, not good" The guy brought his truck in to pull the dump truck and we had two trucks spinning the tire. I looked at Mom and said "Why don't they use the gravel they just dumped?" Seemed like an obvious thing to do.
Stuck Truck, gravel pile and the non demented arab

They did eventually use the gravel and get moving. All good right? Nope they got stuck again trying to make the turn for the outer gate. This time they got out faster. I think they will be less quick to dump in the field again until it dries out some. Larry happily got on his tractor and smoothed out the gate area before spreading the gravel. He started on the next gate today. That will be so much better than having a mucky gate area. I took the muck bucket cart over to the pile and got a load to put around the water pump. Ah simple pleasures. Our rocky solution will be a lasting gift and will make life easier for us all.
Now I just need to mail my Blogger gift and wrap a few more presents and I will be set for the season. Next month starts my crazy schedule of inventories at work, so I will enjoy this bit of normal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chestnut Cob Chaos

The long wet days started to show in the Chestnuts. Those boys were starting to act cranky and got into trouble. Comrade especially would hear me call him and get excited thinking I was going to work him. I felt like the worst person ever when I could not.

 As Comrade started pushing Roscoe around more and making cranky Cob faces at the others, my mantra became "I have got to ride that pony!" Easier said then done this time of year. But after he pushed Roscoe literally through the stall guard I knew it was imperative. Roscoe did look hilarious standing there with a rubber thin guard over his neck and the wide guard below and both still attached to one side of the stall. He was like "Huh, what now?" He stood while I detached him and then went back to licking a bowl. Cobs are such characters.
 My mom had Sunday off which helped to get chores done sooner. She satisfied her jingle bell craving by taking Rosemary for a drive with bells on her harness. Unfortunately they had to cut the drive short because she is showing some lameness. Damn Mud.
Afterwards she and I went for a ride. I just put the bareback pad on Comrade to save time and she did the same to DaVinci. As we walked to the arena, I got glared at by Roscoe. Yep I was in trouble. I kept walking and tried to ignore him. For this ride I put Rosemary's bridle on Comrade to try out her boucher bit. He was full of energy, but not sure how to work with the different bit. He went back to holding his head and neck still. So I did lots of bending lines and some  counter bending to show him he could in fact still move those parts. With all his energy, I moved him up to canter. I could tell he was trying to figure out how to avoid the bit. From his butt to his withers was a great, but then he was stiff. We circled and I kind of exaggerated the bend to get him to soften. Back down to trot actually showed a difference from the beginning. He slowed his gait and stepped truer. His neck got that nice jiggle and he was listening.
Upside down, but this is the bit.

 The boucher works off the poll and it's effects we evident. I really liked how he was able to carry it through changes of direction. Normally he pops up, adjusts and then softens back into a frame. He was still energetic, so I asked for right lead canter. This direction has been a little sticky, but not this time. Comrade stepped smoothly into canter and carried the gait well. Still a bit stiff in his neck though. After a few laps and circles, we transitioned to trot. And for once Comrade sat down into the transition and pushed forward for trot, rather than diving on his forehand.
Ah, the little things that make us happy. We took them both for a trail ride and Comrade showed that he certainly had not worked enough. My legs said otherwise. I felt like I was walking bow legged when I got off. I guess I know I was down and around him :)

Now it was time to face the ticked off little boy. I backed him away from the gate so Comrade could go back out. With muddy ground, not fun. As I led Comrade in, Roscoe charged. I had to let go of the reins and watched Comrade run off with them dangling. Mean while Roscoe pushed out the gate and into the barn. Split decision, who to go after? Comrade stepped through the reins, answering that question. Just like with Roscoe and the stall guard, he stood patiently while I got his foot back where it belonged. I walked back to the barn to see Roscoe in a stall. I went over to "scold" him and while I was putting the bridle on the halter hook, he put his head in the bridle and tried to pick up the bit. I opened the door and held the bridle and he put it on. I snugged up the cheek pieces  and led him out to work in hand. All the while I am thinking to myself "I am just reinforcing his rotten behavior." But who can resist a horse that literally puts the bridle on himself. Surprisingly he did not seem to mind the boucher. We had to do a lap around the house alternating between backing and yielding his hind quarters to get him over his spooky, stupid moments.
Then we got serious. I asked him to circle and maintain the correct bend. Once he listened, I used my elbow to ask him to move over. To the left he moved off easily, crossing nicely. To the right he tends to fall in so it took more elbow. He still crossed well when he did the exercise. I am not super at in hand work, but between the two of us we made it work. Mr. Workaholic was just lapping it all up. Though it was not planned, it seemed to fulfill his need. If only he and Comrade could express their need for work in less aggressive ways. I will never mention that the most rotten one gets worked in their hearing ever again. They take it to heart.

Today Comrade is making faces at Rosemary and Winston. His bubble is really big and the boys are stepping carefully around him. If the rain would stop, maybe I can catch up on burning his energy.
While the Red boys cause chaos, they did end the year at the upper end of the Welsh standings. Roscoe finished, National Reserve Champion 3 and over Section D Stallion. He is second to the same stallion he was to as a weanling. Small world. Comrade finished tied for fourth 3 and over Section D Gelding. I never understand why they skip a placing when ties are involved. He actually has the third highest points, but a tie in second pushes him to fourth??? Now to find a good picture for the award ceremony.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Let's Talk Slow Feed Hay Bags

With the onset of colder weather, slow feed hay bags have become very important. We want the horses to have hay as much as possible with out them eating us out of the barn. These bags help considerably, allowing them to "graze" rather than gobble.

Lower left corner: Shire Greedy Feeder,  then Green is Greedy Steed, upper left and center Two SmartPak , lower center: Hayburner square Upper right: Hayburner Hex 

So here is what we have found about different bags:

We have 4 of these, two styles
Nibble Nets: Great bags, pricey (can get to over $100), fairly durable, comes in 3 hole sizes.
They have developed a lot of different styles to suit a buyers needs. Peggy bought the hanging one sided feeder and one double net. The mesh over time does wear out from the horse's teeth. We used baling twine and landscaping mesh to fix big holes. The solid backs  and the areas around the "D" rings used for hanging, tend to show wear quicker than the mesh portions. Duck tape helped extend the life for one Winston used. We only use the ones we have now as quick fill in's because the holes are too big for our horses. They do make a 1.25" hole bag now, but the smaller hole increases the price.

We have 2 of these.
Extra Greedy Steed Premium Hay Net: Super bags, mid range price ($40), durable, easy to fill
These bags are from a NZ company. Peggy ordered these in the spring. The bags are knotless and are available in other styles and sizes. I really like the construction of the bags which helps with easy filling. The bright green color makes finding them in a field easier. They use rope for the drawstring which is thick enough to make tying and untying less frustrating. If tied to a fence, the rope will start to show some wear. We have not had to replace any rope yet. The company does not mention it, but we have seen shrinkage. Not excessive, but enough to see a difference. We have used these bags in the trailer and at shows. A filled bag lasted the Cob boys the whole 7 hours drive and wait time. We just refilled for the ride home. Overall a great buy.

We have 2 Hex bags and 4 square bags, each 1/2 bale size
Hayburners Hay Nets: Smallest slow feed, mid range price($35-40), fairly durable, fairly easy to fill
I wrote a review about these about a month ago. Peggy found these when looking for bags made in America. This company really tries to make durable slow feed bags. The products are the smallest holes out of all the bags we have found. They come in square or hexagon patterns and have different strengths available. We have the half bale size and each horse gets one bag. That one bag will last the horse the day and night. The biggest problem with them is the material shrinks in a bottleneck fashion after getting wet. Hopefully they have solved this problem since we informed them about it. The bottleneck makes filling them difficult. For horses that need slow feeders in a stall, these bags are the best. The hexagon hole bags did shrink, but do not have the bottleneck and are still easy to fill. They include repair materials with each bag for those who have horses tough on bags. Comrade has made a couple bigger holes when we hang the bags because he grabs a big bite, then proceeds to shake and pull until he gets it to come out. We solve that little issue by feeding them loose on the ground.

We have 8 of these
SmarkPak Small Hole Hay Net: 3.5cm holes, low price (under $20), durable, super easy to fill
After our shrinkage issue, Peggy found these nylon mesh bags. These bags have a wider opening which makes filling them a breeze. By far the easiest bag to fill. The holes are too big for my guys, but it still slows them down a little. They have a great nylon drawstring that seems to very durable. We feed these loose on the ground and have not seen any wear from the horses hooves or teeth. The biggest issue I have with these is that they lose a larger amount of hay as the horses move them around. And for some reason my guys think that hay is no good. That problem just comes from the bigger holes, but is really minor. It is nice to have an "easier" option for some of the older guys. We just have to refill more often than the other styles. I wish they were a brighter color other than black because some days we "miss" them out in the field. 3 people looked for one yesterday with no luck finding it and today I went out and it finally appeared. For the price it is a great bag.

We have 1 of these (soon to have 3 more)
Shires Greedy Feeder Hay Net: 1" holes, low to mid price ($20-36), durable, super easy to fill
Mom went to a local feed/tack store and came across this bag. If the HayBurners bag and the SmartPak bag had a baby, it would be this bag. It has the small holes of the Hayburners and the non shrinking, easy to fill aspect of the SmartPak bag. This bag holds over half a bale of hay and has the same great drawstring found on the SmarkPak bag. It is still black, but the drawstring is blue. Mom would have bought more, but 1 was all that was left. They had sold 4 more earlier. After a day and night, the girls still had a flake left in the bag this morning. They do offer a smaller size for people who don't need to fill a bag so much. The materials and construction are durable. The funny thing is that when Mom told me the brand, I remembered Peggy talking about these bags early on. She said the holes sounded too big when she saw them. So I don't know if the 1" holes are a new development, but I will take it. I ordered more today and if it was not Christmas I would have gotten one for each horse. Definitely a great buy.

We have 1 of these and more material to make others
Homemade Fishnet Net: Mom bought fishnet in Florida and we made a little net for Winston over the summer. The size of the holes is similar to the Hayburners, very small. At first it took him forever to eat it, but over time he figured out a method and can clear it in a day. If you are handy this is a cost cutting way to get a great slow feed hay bag. Our little bag holds 3 flakes and serves as an "just in case you need a little more" bag. It is a beige material and is somewhat easier to find. We just use baling twine for a drawstring which is a little difficult. Eventually I would love to use some of the fishnet to fix the bottleneck bags we have. I just need the time to open them and add the fishnet. One word of warning, some fishnet has tears leaving bigger holes that may need repair.

Overall slow feed bags are the way to go. They give the horse a way to eat that best suits their digestive system. For the most part, we feed ours loose on the ground. The drawstrings are securely attached to the net so that the horses don't get tangled. I love to watch them nibble and flip them around. They move more than if it was tied to a fence. That can make it hard to find all the bags, but they all appear at some point. For 7 horses with no grass, we use about 4 bales a day. Each horse gets about 4 flakes a day more or less. They get a full bag in the morning and then Peggy checks them and will add more bags if needed. All the horses enjoy the bags, even the old guy.
So that is our experiences with different bags. Sometimes trial and error are the only way to go.

Life has been a bit crazy with work and the holidays. I am working hard to finish my Blogger Gift in time. Plus some recent developments have caused us to think long and hard about what Roscoe will be doing next year. More on that when it becomes final. Hopefully this weekend I can enjoy the drier conditions. Stay warm everyone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stud-ly Shifts

Geez, this rain is insane. We are sloshing through loads of mud and wet clay. One of the sacrifice areas gets really slick with this much rain, so we have started doing turn out shifts. It really only effects two, Sonny and Roscoe. Those are the two that can't EVER go out together. That would cause a National Geographic worthy moment due to their stud-ly natures.
So we came up with a way to only use two pens and a bonus factor is Roscoe can't run himself skinny. He gets all worked up because the girls just had a strong heat cycle and teased him like crazy. I noticed he was looking leggy. It could be a growth spurt, but I tend to believe it is the hyper awareness. Sonny stays in a stall at night if there is any bad weather, which helps. During the day, Roscoe stays in the stall while the other four geldings go out. Then at night Sonny comes in and Roscoe goes out with the boys. Luckily Roscoe is totally okay with being in a stall when no one else is. The boys can visit him and for the most part, he can see the girls too. We just have to make sure we use the extra Comrade proof latch. Comrade let himself out the other morning and then came over to let out his buddy. Did I mention how we could NEVER let Roscoe and Sonny meet on the same side of a fence? Yeah, definitely have to Comrade proof. So far, so good. Roscoe takes advantage of being in the stall to get a nap. My horses are so adaptable, it makes these shifts easier on us all.
Stud-ly Separation Required

Well with all the rain it was a great time to pull shoes for the winter. We get to save some money, but I get another horse, DaVinci, added to the cue for trims. Dottie only gets her back shoes pulled. She has a old hoof injury that damaged the coronet, so it never goes away. Her shoes help keep that damage under control. I did manage to get 4 of 7 horses trimmed last weekend. I really hope it dries out some when I trim Jenna back at the old barn this weekend. Then I just have two more and I will be caught up.

Maybe then I can attempt to ride again or do my holiday pictures...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Hilton Herbs Mud Defender Now Available

For six months spanning from Nov 13 to Apr 14, Dottie was part of a Hilton Herbs trial. The trial was for new Mudfever/scratches products. Dottie responded well to the products, a supplement and a lotion. The results we saw definitely made having the lotion as part of our medical kit worth any price. The supplement would be worth having if your horse has a severe or chronic case.

Anyway they contacted me a couple months ago to do a review for the products. My review was part of their product launch during the Equine Affair in New England. I wish I could have been there. The two products are:
trial lotion upper left and trial supplement

Mud Defender Lotion priced at $44.00 for a 500ml bottle. This is a great price because a little bit of the lotion goes a long way. Even after the trial we still have two bottles left. We found it helped more than just scratches. And after seeing the ingredient list, I am not surprised. Calendula tincture is one used. Calendula works great on bumps and cuts in cream form and now helps this lotion too. The quality of ingredients Hilton Herbs uses is one reason I allowed Dottie to do the trial.

Mud Defender Supplement starting at $64.00 for 4.4lb bag. This is a mix of flax meal, brewers yeast, kelp, garlic, calendula flower, licorice root and Echinacea root. Again the quality is evident. I definitely recommend the supplement, though the cost could be high. Dottie, due to her size, needed 5 of the 4.4lb containers for a 3 month supply. Because the ingredients included things we already fed to her, flax and garlic, we did exclude them while she was on the trial. So that could help save some money.

Right now customers can get a free shirt with a supplement purchase. So if anyone has a horse that is suffering the effects of mud, steer them towards these products. Helps rain rot too. With all this rain and snow, they might need it soon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Two for One

I was still dragging on Saturday which surprised me. I guess Black Friday takes more out of a person than a horse show. Peggy and I did a bunch of cleaning in the fields before she started feeling sick. So I finished the necessary everyday tasks before I put my mind to riding. With this lovely time change that meant it was already getting dark.

I decided to get on Rosemary bareback and also decided to bring Dottie down to the arena. If I had more time I would have put her pad and bridle on, but that was not happening. Normally I would pony her with Rosemary. This time I did not even try. Rosemary is too quick for Dottie to keep up with, if you can believe that. 16 hand Dottie gets out walked by 14 hand Rosemary all the time. So I just closed both arena gates and let her loose. Now I would not do this with any other horse, it would not be good. Though I did do it after Roscoe was born, which was fun.
Ah, how time flies
 Anyway, I knew from a previous time that if I lead Dottie then take off the lead she will follow Rosemary on her own.
Rosemary and I had to push her off the fence line a couple of times when she got distracted by grass, but overall she followed us the whole time. She only walked, even when we trotted. Dottie made sure to change direction and stay on the inside track during the ride though. She also made sure she was there to get her piece of sugar when I was giving some to Rosemary. That is not a stupid horse.
Sugar decided how long the ride ended up being which was not long. Though not a typical work session, the ride did engage both their minds and require them to move in the sand arena. I like that fact that it is a two for one deal for me. With all the horses we have, being able to work more than one at a time is very helpful.
The next day Dottie gave me an awesome ride out on the trail. She even jumped something she would normally walk over and picked up a canter afterwards. I love that this 21 year old Draft may not have the best muscles, but she is feeling well enough to put in the effort. She is one happy horse. Hopefully, I can get her doing more of what she enjoys over the winter.
Nap time after losing all that hair
Dottie's clip art on her haunch

Trace clip #2, Dottie, is done in time for the warm blast we had. That leaves the grey boys left to do. I wish the weather would figure out what it wants to do. These temperature jumps and dips are hell.