Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekly Stills

Sunday Stills has been experiencing technical problems and I have been experiencing keeping up problems.  So, I am instigating random weekly (or maybe whenever-I-get-around-to-it), photo posts.  First up, frozen fungi:)

and the work of a busy Pileated Woodpecker...

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Ride

I took Tessa out for a ride this afternoon.  We are sticking to the gravel road as it is the only place free of ice and I was a bit apprehensive about her feet.  I trimmed them this morning and took quite a bit of hoof off, but she actually felt better today than she did on our last little jaunt.  If I can gradually increase her work over hard surfaces without making her sore, her feet will toughen up.   We are both woefully out of shape and my joints are going to need to work up to riding again, but I am hoping to get a lot more time in the saddle this year.

Tessa was definitely feeling like Spring today, excited to be out and barn sour all at once.  There were lots of starts and stops, charging forward then wanting to spin around and race home to her donkeys. 
It was a good ride regardless.  Rather than fight with her, I opted to make a conscious effort to accept whatever she offered and channel it into something constructive.  When she got fast and really wanted to motor on, I said, "no problem as long as you stay in gait".  It takes a lot of propulsion and collection for a horse to gait well.  It is something we have had to work on, mostly because I have never trained a walking horse before and we have both had to to figure it out as we go.  She knows what's wanted now, but it takes effort to maintain.  Channeling all her nervous energy into that got us a nicely energized running walk.

When we hit the T intersection, she wanted to duck sideways and head for home and with her first sideways step, I asked for a sidepass.  It is a new concept for Tessa, but as that was what she was giving me, that was what I asked for.  We did about ten feet of the most beautiful sidepass and somewhere in the middle of it, it turned into my idea rather than hers.  The next time around I asked for a sidepass before she could try it and, while what I got wasn't beautiful, she had grasped the concept.  The next time I ask, she will at least know what I am talking about.  We got a lovely bit of shoulder-in that way as well.  Her sudden stops were turned into backups and swerves off course became serpentines. 

We were out for about an hour and it feels like a good start to getting both of us back to work.  By the time we rode up to the barn, Tessa was listening well and relaxed.  Perhaps just a bit perplexed as well, certainly she was thinking hard by then.  What could have turned into a fight ended up being an excellent training exercise. 

When I was young, I was always taught to "never let the horse win" and I rode that way for a long time.  I still hear that phrase any time I am around other horse people.  I have certainly gotten into my fair share of fights with horses over the years.  I can't think of a single instance where it accomplished anything.  The trouble with the "never let 'em win" attitude is that it presupposes an adversarial relationship.  As soon as there are "winners", there have to be "losers".  Regardless who "wins", something in the relationship is lost.  Better, I think, to ride out and accept whatever the horse can give that day.  Channel it into something good and you both get to come home winners.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

This and That

The vet was out this morning and everybody got their shots.  She begged off on dental work as it was ridiculously cold.  She promised to come back when it is warmer and not charge me another farm call so I can live with that.  Tessa and Emma both need some work done.

This was the same vet who was here in the Fall to take x-rays of Ramsey's foot.  She was greatly impressed with how much the foot has improved since then.  I know it is better, but it is nice to hear from someone else. 

We are both rather less impressed with how chubby Emma and Tessa  have gotten.  Given the feed I have available, that is a problem that may not have an answer.  Especially as I am already feeding a mix of hay and straw out of nets with 1 inch holes.  It is hard to restrict things more than that.  Hopefully the ice will relent soon so they can get out and get more exercise.

She took x-rays of Lakota's feet as well and there is some interesting stuff going on there.  He has made a lot of progress, but also had a set back as he got a terrible abscess recently that has just ruptured.  I'll hopefully have an update on him soon.

I tracked down a small load of firewood just in time.  I was just about out and it was 8 degrees last night.  Have I mentioned how ridiculously cold it is?

I did take Tessa out for another short ride yesterday.  We were out for about 30 minutes, just up and down the road, but it was nice and she did well.  She is barefoot and in the past has been ouchy on hard gravel, but she felt pretty good yesterday.  Her feet are really coming along nicely since I balanced her mineral intake and I think they could be real rock crunchers if I can just get her working more. 

She has rather cute little ears don't you think?

It's gonna be a while before we can get back out in the woods to resume donkey trekking.  This is getting really old.

Thanks to those who left cost info.  I guess there isn't quite the interest I thought there might be, but I find it interesting and appreciate the feedback.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Counting the Cost

An anonymous reader posted an interesting comment about hay prices and economics in Oregon...

 "....In Oregon and WA so much hay, grain and alfalfa being sold to Asian countries - feeding any equid has become prohibitive. Even at harvest it's over $100 per ton for grass hay. Orchard hay from eastern WA and Oregon, are running at $200-$300 per ton depending on whether you purchase in bulk or go get it yourself or from feed stores. In western Oregon currently pay feedstore prices over $200/ton for field hay and $300+ for orchard. Oregon alfalfa is being shipped to Calif due to the drought. In WA, alfalfa is going to Japan and far east....."

It's got me thinking.  I was a bit surprised at how it compares to here an I am wondering what it costs to keep a horse or donkey in the rest of the world.  I think this might be of interest to a lot of people and I am hoping that you horse/donkey owners out there will join in and let us all know what things are like in your area.  You can leave a comment here or, if you are a blogger and would prefer, feel free to write about it there and post a link in my comment section.  (I haven't figured out how to put up one of those blog-hop link thingys though.)

In my little patch of universe, the mixed grass hay (which is about all that is available here) is selling for $3.50/bale. That might not sound like a lot, but they are small bales.  The bales average, at best, 30-35 pounds.  If you do the math, that is $200-230 per ton, not including trucking.  Second cutting is going for $4-5 per bale.  Alfalfa is not readily available here as it does not grow well in this area so if you want that, it is likely to cost $10-15 a bale, again for a small bale.  Same for straw.  Much of the hay grown in this area is shipped to areas just outside of NYC, where it is sold for 2-3 times these prices

Veterinary costs have skyrocketed in the last few years and have become downright prohibitive.  The vet is scheduled to come out here tomorrow to do routine dental checkups and vaccinations.  It will cost $70 just to get her to show up, $80-100 per critter for dental work as long as nothing is wrong and $40 each for vaccines.  I could do most of the shots myself, but NY state won't allow me to buy the rabies vaccine and it is required by state law.  Rabies is prevalent here so I would do it regardless.

The frequency and types of vaccination is another topic I wrestle with, but lets leave that for another day.  Vets will not come out for an emergency unless you are an established client, a good part of paying them for routine care that I could do cheaper myself is a type of insurance so that they will come out if I really need them.  These are routine minimums and I am expecting this to be at least a $300 vet bill.  Just a few years ago, it would have been under $100.  I'd like to have a new set of x-rays taken of Ramsey's foot, but I don't think I can manage the extra $150 that would cost right now.  

Farrier costs average $30 for a trim and, last I checked, $70-80 for a set of front shoes and $120-150 for all four.  Just one of the many reasons I do my own hoof trimming.

This little bit of geography is also one of the most economically depressed areas in the country.  Taxes are very high, yet wages are nearly half of the national average (I looked it up on the bureau of labor and statistics).  While there are some jobs out there, few of them pay much above minimum wage or provide full time hours.  This used to be a manufacturing town, but it is all gone now.  The area has also been hit with two catastrophic floods in the past ten years.  It has not recovered well.  I am fortunate to have a very necessary job that can't be outsourced (yet) so it is at least fairly secure, (I work as a very specialized type of lab tech in a hospital).  The hour long commute over poorly maintained, twisty, windy roads though is brutal.

So, I am curious, what's it like in your neck of the woods, wherever that may be?

  • Where are you?
  • What kind of hay is available and what does it cost (remember to tell us a price per ton or at least what a bale weighs as it varies tremendously.  Weight is the only way to compare.)
  • What are routine vet costs?
  • What are farrier costs?
  • What is your area like?
Inquiring  minds want to know:)

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Madness

I just couldn't stand it anymore.  Despite the fifteen degree temperature and howling wind I stole fifteen minutes, saddled my horse and went for a ride.  It was a very short, very cold ride but a ride nonetheless. 

Poor Tessa.  There she was, munching hay in the barn, cozy and out of the wind.  Sharing a meal with good company, not having been ridden in months, when a mad woman shows up, throws a saddle on her and three minutes later she finds herself carrying the mad woman down the driveway.  Such a good girl she is, I didn't even brush her first.  She was a bit snorty and twitchy, but made no effort to pitch the fool off her back nor argue with her crazy plans.

I know, it's not the best way to do things.  It's not called March Madness for nothing though.  It was cold, it was windy, it was asking a lot of a young horse who has not done anything all winter.  It was foolish.  It felt so good, I think I will do it again tomorrow.  I will at least brush the poor horse down first though.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Where would I go...

I often think of picking up and moving.  Truth is, I am not fond of New York and never have been.  I came here with my mother twenty odd years ago under pressure from her family for her to get treatment for an untreatable cancer.  Somehow, I've never managed to get out.  I stay now because the people I care for are here and won't leave.  I am not always so sure that that is a good idea, especially as I sit here on yet another cold, windy, misery of a day, desperately waiting for Spring to show up for real. 

I think about where I might go.  The far northwest of my childhood calls to me.  The misty, quiet, depths of old forest; the mild, sunny summers and even the wet, rainy winters.   Perhaps the rugged, tree lined cliffs of Oregon where the Sea Lions and Pelicans play.  Maybe even the vast quiet of the high desert.  A land of stark, subtle and shy beauty that feels wholly indifferent to human presence.  Or perhaps I should go even farther afield. 
I have to admit it, Bloglandia is not helping much, tempting me with visions of Spring and dogs already swimming in the streams.  I think I would like to walk the hills of Devon and, who knows, maybe the Donkey Sanctuary could find a use for me.  Can I bring a small herd and a dog with me?

If they did not suit, the wild hills and shores of Shetland are intriguing.  I would love to walk a beach of jewel colored stones to visit the wild, wary seals.  I can't sing worth a damn though.  Probably better for everyone if I skip that part.

Ah well, I guess what I really need to do is make some phone calls to try to track down some more firewood.  I've no more than a week's worth left and the wind is blowing in the latest arctic blast. If I have to deal with a frozen Spring with no heat, I really am going to run away from home.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Spring Dreams

"Hey guys, what's happened?  Did you all forget to set the alarm?

"You do know it's breakfast time?"

"You all sure do snore a lot."

"Better watch out Tess, you're gonna end up with some pretty funky bed wrinkles doing that you know?"

"Hellooooooo, anybody in there?"

"Jeez Ramsey, do we need to start brushing your teeth?"


Happy Equinox
Even if it is snowing and miserable, Spring has to win sometime.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Interspecies Relations

Lest you think the poor kitty is being abused by the big donkey.....

Turn about is fair play.

Donkeys are just much better sports about it.

Maybe Ramsey should join the diplomatic corp.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

By Any Other Name


"Well, I suppose it's one of my names, we all seem to have several.  I go by Tessa, Tess, Horse, Aunty Horse, Aunty Tess, Honkey Donkey, does get confusing doesn't it?  You certainly have more than enough names."


"I don't think so kid.  What about Brat Man, Little Brown Brat, Super Brat, Ramsey-Man, Pipsqueak?  Come to think of it, there's an awful lot of brats in there, what do you think THAT means?"



"Of course she has more than one name, they're Emm..."


Sunday, March 16, 2014

All Grown Up

Tessa, AKA, Daisy's Irish Jig, turns six today. 

This is when horses are generally considered full grown adults. 

You know what this means, don't you? 

Time to start saddle shopping in earnest.  The horse is done growing and the ice has to let up and let us out sometime after all, right?  Right??? 

Maybe I should pray to St. Pat.  It's not like anything else has worked after all.

Happy Birthday Tessa!

Here's hoping for many more (and that we can get back out on the trails sometime soon.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Being Shiny

We had one beautiful day, it was sweet.  Let's not talk about the weather otherwise.  The best thing to do is soak up whatever you can get, have a nice meal with family and be shiny. 

Some days, shiny is the best you can do.

"Hey Ma, you aren't posting any pictures of me looking goofy are you?"

The Handsome Prince