Category Archives: Horses

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R is for Riding Ringo

R is for Riding Ringo

Look past the fuzzy winter coat and you’ll find a cute pony in there! C. from Austria is an exchange student staying with our neighbours for a semester. She’s been helping get the horses back in shape after a long, wet winter off… It’s great to see that grass growing and the sun coming out a little more often!

O is for Oh, Oh Ornery Olivia

And so another fitful night passes in the truck and still no piglets. This waiting around reminds me of my mare’s gestation. Horses are notorious for being flexible in their due dates and, apparently, though nature more or less decides what day the foal will arrive, the mare can control the hour.

Bonny and Brio

Bonny and Con Brio, about 3 weeks old

Given this was our first foal (come to think of it, our first birth) on the farm, we wanted to be well prepared. We built a new foaling shed and fenced a new paddock so mare and foal could have some privacy. I readied a garden lounge chair, sleeping bag, and flashlight. We took Bonny’s temperature twice a day and dutifully kept a chart, watching for the telltale temperature drop that would indicate the imminent arrival of the foal. Dad and I went on a now legendary shopping expedition to the drug store to beef up our equine medical kit. The list of purchases was a bizarre one – everything from balls of string to latex gloves to baby bottles to half a dozen giant tubes of personal lubricant. I cannot imagine what the other shoppers or the sales clerk were imagining when they saw the two of us and this unlikely assortment of goodies. We fondled Bonny’s udder for days and when it seemed she was about to pop, I started camping.

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Brio has always been quite the character. Here she is smooching with her farrier, Mitch.

Bonny was always a roller and even though she was hugely pregnant at this point, this did not stop her for indulging in one of her favourite activities. Each time she rolled that first night I slept in the lawn chair (it seemed like six hundred times, but was probably more like every hour) I leaped out of the sleeping bag convinced she was in labour or colicking or something dire… Nope. Just rolling in the grass, snacking a bit while she was down there, heaving herself to her feet, looking curiously at me and my flashlight.

Another night passed and another and another. TWO WEEKS passed and still no foal!! By this time, Bonny was the size of an elephant and I was exhausted. She was still rolling around on a regular basis (though by this point she couldn’t get all the way over any more and had to roll on one side, lumber to her feet, turn over, and roll on the other side), her temperature was dipping and rising, her udder was the size of a cow’s, and it didn’t seem possible she could hang on to that foal any longer.

Conventional wisdom says that mares are most likely to foal in the wee hours of the morning, so I wasn’t so concerned when I left Dad on mare watch while I went off to do a short shift at the bookstore where I worked at the time, I had no sooner arrived late in the afternoon when Dad called the store in a panic. “What do I do? It’s happening!”

“Call the vet! What’s she doing now?”

There were strangled cries from the other end of the line, grunting and then Dad came back and shouted into the phone, “It’s here! It just plopped out on the grass! It’s trying to stand up! Oh no!”

Then there were fumbling sounds, more grunting and a bit of swearing, and Dad came back on the line, panting – “It’s trying to stand up but it’s going to fall on the electric fence!! Come back! Drive fast! I’m holding it up!”

The line went dead and I sprinted out of the store and raced for home. That was the longest 20 minutes of my life and by the time I got back home, it was all over. The cutest little foal in the world was standing up in the wobbly way of foals. The vet was there, scratching the filly’s backside. Bonny was completely unperturbed. Within another half an hour Con Brio was nursing and an hour after that was cantering around the field before collapsing in the grass for a short nap.

I could not believe I missed the big event after my lengthy stakeout!

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Brio’s most recent lesson in being a horse… here, being introduced to the spike harrow.

 

K is for Kindle… Kinda

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For some reason, it took me a while to figure out that even though I don’t own a Kindle per se, I can still take full advantage of being able to download and read all sorts of great titles using my Ipad and Iphone. Because, of course, there’s an app for that.

Having discovered this Kindle app, I have been delighted to find I can read some of my favourite magazines at a fraction of the price and without having to worry about adding to all the stacks and stacks of old paper magazines I really should be¬†recycling (but can’t bear to part with because, you know, I might just need that article about the benefits of mason bees or the best way to use kale in a casserole…).

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Not only was I delighted to be able to browse through virtual magazines to my heart’s content, when I was desperate to find something decent to read about the nuts and bolts of farming with horses, I was able to shop at some crazily late hour and download a couple of good reference books. These were not only delivered to the Ipad instantly (so I could read in bed), but I’ve been able to schlepp them around with me ever since so I could bone up on stuff like drag harrows when I’m standing in the lineup at the bank (now that I’m the proud owner of some awesome farming devices, I need a crash course on how to use them), I didn’t even need to have the Ipad with me as everything syncs automatically to my phone.

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I have both a spike-tooth harrow and a spring-tooth harrow, a fact I am still finding hard to believe…

For those of you who are shaking your heads in disbelief that I somehow missed this memo, I’m curious what books you are carting around in your phone/Ipad/Kindle/other e-reader. For those of you who, like me, took a while to warm up to the idea of virtual books, what’s holding you back?

 

I is for Irresistible Implements

I’ve had a very, very long day and do not have the strength for a proper post. But there is something terribly compelling about these post-a-day challenges, so here’s a teaser…

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Not long ago I FINALLY (after several years of looking) found several very cool horse-drawn farm implements for sale at an irresistible price. This spike harrow was the first one we asked Brio to drag around… [Much] more on this topic to come, but for now, let it be known we are on a rather steep learning curve as we try to get horse/harness and implements sorted out!

Hogs and Horses

DCF Horses and Hogs

I’ve been backing up photos through google+ (an option now available if you happen to use Picasa) and it struck me how many of the farm photos show groups of animals hanging out and getting along. Ducks and chickens, turkeys and Bantams, ducks and sheep, turkeys and hogs… The cat, Iago, and anybody who will stand still long enough for her to snuggle.

I’ve had horses for many years and one of the things I heard people say with an air of total authority was that horses and pigs do not get along.

DCF Ringo and PhilipI beg to differ! Ringo in particular is happy to befriend creatures of all stripes – he loves the cat, follows chickens around, and chats through the fence with the hogs (this is our old boar, Philip). When a particularly adventurous group of piglets got out, where did they head? Straight for Ringo! They tugged on his tail and chased each other through and around his feet and he just stood there, head down, curious and gentle.

The oddest bond he has ever formed was with a wild rabbit. The rabbit regularly sought him out and would sprawl in a sunny spot in the horse paddock. Ringo would amble over and proceed to give the rabbit a massage, which the rabbit appeared to thoroughly enjoy. How on earth this peculiar relationship ever began is beyond me. Why would a wild rabbit sit still long enough to allow a HUGE animal like a horse to walk over and give it a back rub that first time? Mysterious, but kind of cool.

Unfortunately, hawk, owl, or eagle likely got the rabbit because after several months of the rabbit hanging out with Ringo it suddenly disappeared.

Perhaps in the course of the Great Photo Sort Project I’ll come across a photo of the bunny and post it…