It’s hard to believe time has flown by so fast.
It seems the Universe didn’t want me to race this year. Chance was only weeks away from a race when I became so dehydrated I went to the hospital. An emergency room visit turned into a 4-day stay, and worse, a month-long recuperation!
As a result I fell way behind on riding. I did however write and publish a book! The title is Natural Barefoot Trimming: The Hoof Guided Method, and it is selling on Amazon.com. I wrote another book in November and it too is published and for sale on Amazon. The title is Horses a Better Way: My Journey with Horses. I have one more book in me, and I have started it, but it’s on hold for now.
In May another horse joined the herd. Her name is Southern Sweet Tea. She too may race next year. We’ll see what happens.
I have decided to relax and go with the flow for a while – and perhaps the Universe will reveal what I am supposed to be doing. In the meantime, my goals are to earn a living and enjoy life.
It’s hard to believe it’s been nine months since I posted. Things have been busy.
We have a new horse at the farm, a Thoroughbred mare (age 6) named Southern Sweet Tea. Her owner has donated her to the Racehorse Experiment, and retains part ownership. She is healing from a bone chip that was removed from her ankle, along with fractured sesamoids. She’s doing great and is happy to be in the herd.
Chance is in training for racing this fall. I had a setback, overworking myself in the heat, so training was interrupted. Zola was going well back in July, and will be starting up again any day.
I have started work on a new book – on my journey with horses.
Yesterday I was standing in the driveway and for the first time really appreciated that the view is beautiful. I took a photo which didn’t come out as gorgeous as the view with my naked eye – because it was morning and the sun was in front of me. I also took a photo of the view to the right (westward) and the left (eastward).
I am still letting go and starting to relax and truly enjoy the farm. And I do really enjoy it. Every time I drive home I feel good when I turn the corner and it sits before me. Every time I stand in the driveway I feel at home. It has a good feel, and that’s what’s important to me.
The horses too seem to enjoy it, and to have settled in. The other day I was looking out the window and saw Lucy and Bettina standing side by side – very close, touching or almost touching. That in itself is unusual, but what struck me was that they were touching faces occasionally. They were being loving! I’ve noticed too, at hay time, that the horses are very companionable with each other. Lucy will share with Beauty, Shadow with Zola, Zola with Lena. And then they change, Lucy will share with Chance, Roxanna with Lena.
This is the first time I’ve seen them so happy – ever. Certainly since we moved to Kentucky.
With all the work that needed to be done, by Christmas I felt like I’d been here for months. it was only when I sat down and looked at the calendar that I realized it’s been just over 8 weeks.
Last week I finally settled into a routine. (I’m one of those people who needs a routine to be happy and to get things done.) The routine? Feed the horses between 7 and 8. Eat breakfast, work on the computer, do chores/run errands. At 11 work with Huey. At noon feed horses. Eat lunch, take a break. At 2 gallop and feed Chance, then work and feed Zola. Let Bettina, Zola, Chance, Beauty, and Lucy out to graze in the big field til about 4. Then feed Bettina and put her in, put Zola in, put Lucy and Chance in, feed Beauty and put her in. Feed horses at 5. Relax.
I trained Huey to drive several years ago. My goal was to put him to work as a farm horse. Nothing heavy, he’s a Paint, not a draft horse, but helpful things like pulling a drag to break up manure, pulling fallen branches, etc. That project has been on hold a long time, but now is the perfect time to finish his training. He was pretty good pulling a cart, the issue he has is standing still when pulling an item that drags behind him. He whoas well, but then will move his butt to one side or the other, or take a step back, or both – leading to serious tangling issues. Luckily he doesn’t mind getting all twisted up with traces around his legs, but it could be a real wreck if there was something attached to him. So we are working on standing still in harness. And making progress! I’ve also decided to train Lucy. She is pretty unflappable, and is really good at standing still.
I’m really enjoying riding Chance and am looking forward to getting back on Zola. I almost got on Tuesday, but just lay across the saddle instead. Not that she did anything wrong, she’s been very good, it’s just that commitment of swinging my leg over the saddle for the first time in several months – on a green horse.
The horses really seem to have settled in and seem happier than they’ve been since I moved to Kentucky. Everyone is relaxed – the horses, the cat, the dog, and me. As I was grooming Zola on Tuesday, Sissy (the cat) was lying nearby rolling around on her back enjoying the sun. What a contrast to how things were in Paris.
Of course, today there’s a blizzard going on outside!
On November 9, 2011 there were two new arrivals at the farm – mares to take part in my Mare Rejuvenation Project .
The mares registered names are Tiz Life and More Oysters. I quickly found myself calling them Tizzy and Oysters. Just as quickly I decided to find better names for them! Tiz Life is now Beauty, and More Oysters is Maura.
In this first stage of the project I am just letting them be horses in the herd. At first the two new girls were inseparable – always within a few feet of each other. Once introduced into the herd this continued for several days – then one day they were apart. Now they are still friends, and occasionally spend time together, but for the most part they do their own thing. Which is good.
Beauty is a very smart girl. I do feed her some Strategy once a day – about 2 quarts. I had only fed her twice in a 3 day period when she figured out the situation. She must be alone, in the area by the trough, with no other horses in sight – as they would take the food away from her. The fourth day I heard a whinny that sounded so close I thought someone had gotten out. A glance out the window revealed Beauty standing by the feed bucket, looking at the trailer. All the other horses were out of sight! I got her food ready and ran out and fed her. Eventually the whinny turned to a snort – and now I just have a ‘feeling’ she’s out there – and there she is.
Beauty has also been accepted very quickly by the herd leaders. Which speaks highly of her intelligence and nature. Here she is, below, with Shadow – the lead mare – and Roxanna the mustang (the real lead mare who lets Shadow think she runs things.)
I was on my computer the other day – which sits on a table at the back of the trailer – in front of a window that is nearly as wide as the trailer. Window faces north and gives me a view of the backyard. part of the west enclosure, and part of the east enclosure. As I was typing, movement caught my eye – a big wild turkey was checking out the backyard! I grabbed my phone and took a photo through the window.
I have to day I love being able to see so much just sitting at the computer. Between the back window, the window behind me and the window across from the table – I have more than a 180 degree vista.
Step by step (mine!) the farm is transforming. From nothing but weeds, areas are being tamed. When I decided to buy the farm, I was optimistic. I saw what it could be and felt I could get it there. Alone. With time. However, when I actually moved my travel trailer down to live there and start working, I was overwhelmed. I walked out into the first area I planned to work on – about 5 acres – and as I struggled through weeds over my head, along a fence line that was broken and hard to get to, I suddenly couldn’t cope. I had thought that 2 days hard work would get it ready. Now I felt like I needed a crew of 5 men! There was no way I could do this!
Luckily, I know myself. I just turned around, walked back to the trailer and took a break. I knew I was right, two days of hard work would get it done. But I had to relax first and absorb what that really meant. It meant two days of HARD work, not a few hours. But I could do it.
That first day, I took hedge clippers and cut a fence line for my temporary posts and electric tape. I started with a weed eater, with an actual brush cutting blade on it – but while it cut those tall, thick weeds okay, they were so big they just wrapped around the shaft. It was faster (have I mentioned I am compulsive?) to use the hedge clippers. Hand tools not power tools. I was determined to get an area set up and I cut a 4 foot swath through those weeds. Got my posts up. Got my tape up. And got it hot. It was back breaking hard work – but I felt good! All for an area about 150′ x 150′. If that sounds small and easy, it wasn’t.
My next step was to enlarge it. That went easier and in an afternoon I had it twice the size.
The next step was to get the whole 5 acres opened up. It took another 8 hours, over 2 days, to do it – but it was done!! What a sense of accomplishment. And I had been right – two days of hard work would have done it. I just wasn’t up to the task.
Below is a photo of the 5 acre enclosure after the horses had done a good job of clearing the weeds. The whole area is not visible – it goes up and over the hill to the left, and there is some that can’t be seen to the right.
To tell you how much stronger I am now than day one – it took 2 days of hard work (4 hour days), in the rain, to get the 15 acre section open. Luckily it was in the 60′s and I honestly barely noticed the rain – though it’s been 2 days since I finished and my boots are still wet!
The important thing is that the horses are happy.
Below is a photo taken yesterday as they stood on the hill directly across from my window. I’m sure that now that they’re out of the manicured pastures of Paris, they feel like wild horses foraging in the wilderness. Though it’s not apparent from the photo – the majority of the area, including that part in the photo, is rich in grass. It’s just long and bent over – I think of it as standing (slumped over) hay. It should take them quite a while to eat it down.
I am surrounded on three sides by the horses’ are and love it. As I write this, the horses are visible out my back window, some of them napping and the others watching over them. It doesn’t get much better than that.
I was awakened at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning by the sound of a galloping horse. I waited to see if I’d dreamt it, or if the horses were loose! Had the answer seconds later. REAL! Leaped out of bed, threw on boots and a jacket and ran outside.
Thank goodness it was just one horse. Roxanna, and not the whole herd.
Roxanna is a mustang, and whether or not that is why she is the way she is, I don’t know. But she is very intelligent. She can get out any time she wants – and she is well aware of it. She had already ducked under the electric fence a few weeks ago. I had taken Huey out to hand graze in the big field. We had walked maybe 50 feet when I heard a horse behind us. I turned hoping they had not all broken through in their fear that Huey might leave them for good – but it was only Roxanna, and she had just ducked underneath the gate.
I did graze Huey, and Roxanna stayed right with us the whole time. When I put Huey in, I put a halter on Roxanna and put her away as well. Lesson noted – Roxanna could have gotten out at any time. But didn’t.
She had gotten out before, when we lived in Washington state. I was unable to find where she was getting out – the fence was intact – until she did it right in front of me. Stuck her head under the wire, let the wire lay on her neck, seemed to measure the shock and find it not too bad, then ducked underneath. The funny thing is that once she is out and is ready to go back she gets very upset and can’t figure out how to do it. Then she races around until I hear her – and put her back in.
So it was the other night.
She had also broken out of the dry lot in Paris several times the first year we were there. Just tore it down even though it was 3 strands of the wide electric tape, on T-Posts. Never did it after those first few times.
Needless to say, if Roxanna wanted to leave – Roxanna would be gone.
I have always wondered about the Indians and their horses. They lived on the plains – very few trees – they didn’t have fences and yet their horses obviously stayed around and were at hand when needed. If I had 10,000 acres and turned my horses out, would they be anywhere nearby when I needed them? What about the Arabs? I don’t think they had fences either. In fact, when did fencing in horses start? Look at Mongolia. No trees on the great plains there – and endless vistas of grass. Why did the horses stay around? Were they ALL hobbled? What is the secret?
It seems impossible that is was exactly a month ago – today – that I hauled my travel trailer down here and started working on getting things in shape. It seems much longer.
A lot has changed in a very short time – with a lot of work. And help.
The farm had a tenant when I bought it, and I have allowed him to stay. So far rent-free, as he is a worker. He has done a lot of mowing and brush clearing. He has fixed the roof where the metal panels were missing screws. Taken the decrepit “deck” off of the house. Hauled a pickup load of scrap away. And in general, been very helpful. His name is Denny. He has a twin brother (fraternal) named Kenny, who lives in Louisville, and is a licensed electrician.
While Denny was out of town working, I met his uncle (whose name escapes me at the moment – I am bad with names), who came to feed his horses every day. Denny’s uncle has taken up bee keeping and I learned a lot talking to him about it. This spring he’s going to bring a hive to the farm, and I get several quarts of honey in exchange for the bees living here. I do have to make sure the bees have water – but that should be interesting and certainly not much work.
I also recently met the owner of the land that abuts mine to the west and north. He doesn’t live on his farm anymore, but leases the land and it’s nicely maintained. He was very informative.
I had just walked the western-most acreage – checking to see how much of it was fenced. It was quite a hike, as it is not mowed of course, and there are some fallen trees, broken fence, etc. I came to where the fence turned and saw a collapsed building on the other side, which I assumed was on the other person’s property. I also came across a horse skull. I picked it up at first to see if it was a cow or a horse, but it was clearly a horse. It was only when I went to put it down that I realized there was an entire skeleton! The poor horse died right there. So much more dramatic and sad to see the huge skeleton, as opposed to just a skull.
I also ran across an interesting rock formation – totally unexpected – which appeared to have some shallow caves, and clearly some animal activity. It was down a slight embankment and I didn’t go exploring. But will some other day.
Was amazed at how much land was over there. Nice open meadows, what looks to be a creek in the spring perhaps. So much more interesting than just flat open fields.
Anyway, as it turned out, Ralph – the owner of the adjoining land – came by only minutes after I finished my walk. As I told him about my exploration, he informed me that the collapsed building is on my land. Wow! There’s just so much of it. He also said I could drive down his driveway and check out the fence line from his side. Being careful to close the gates behind me, of course, so the cattle don’t get out. Ralph also knew about some of the previous owners. I gave him a brief tour of the house – he had heard that the woman who’d had it before had torn it apart. Which she had. He was pretty amazed. He was very complimentary on how the place is starting to shape up. He is heading to Florida, but we exchanged phone numbers.
Such nice neighbors here.
Below are some before and after photos. And for those interested – click here to see an aerial view of the farm.
I’ve been busy!
I hauled my travel trailer down 2 weeks ago this past Saturday. What a job! Thankfully I had help getting it ready for the road. Neighbor and friend, Jim, came over and assisted with removing the “skirting” that kept the wind out from under the trailer, and the hitching up.
After I got it set up at the farm it was time to go to work on creating an enclosure for the horses. Since the farm has been let go for quite a while, it was a job to clear a line for the electric fence. I bought a brand new weed eater, but the weeds proved too tall for it to be effective. Yes, it cut them, but they ended up twisted around the shaft. In the end I used old fashioned hedge clippers. Talk about a workout! But it worked.
The longer I worked the more I realized how large the task was. Lowering my sights I settled on a 150 x 150 (or so) area for the first horses. The day after I finished it, I went and got Huey and Bettina. My two oldest and hopefully wisest horses. I felt they would be the ones who would do best all by themselves, while I enlarged the enclosure.
The second day they were here, I enlarged the enclosure to about twice the original size. It was getting late, but I was so close to finishing that I kept on. At the end, as I was moving the posts (with tape attached), there was about a 20-30 foot gap that was open. I was in the process of closing it when Huey walked right by me, and out! At first I didn’t think much of it. He and Bettina were just a few feet away. I closed the gap in less than minutes, but when I turned around the horses were gone. Vanished in the dark.
To make a long story short, I notified the Sheriff’s office that they were loose. The following day I notified the local radio station and the vet’s office. On the fifth day the vet’s office called and told me he had spotted the horses on his trail cam. I went to his place and searched for a couple hours with no results. Driving out I stopped at the house on the corner and asked the woman who answered the door if she had seen 2 horses. She had! And her husband had gotten them into a corral! So there they were.
In the meantime, I had hauled Lucy and Chance to the farm, who were very happy to see Huey and Bettina.
The final step was to enlarge the enclosure to several acres, which were mostly fenced but had gaps. I spent an entire day on that project and got it completed just at dark. The following day I took down the line of electric fence that had divided the small area from the larger one. I watched Huey watch me as I pulled up the posts. He kept his eyes on me – and the growing gap – but made absolutely no move to pass through it. In fact, it was a couple hours before any of the horses ventured over to the newly opened area – and then they did not go far. I can only wonder what it was that Huey told them! Maybe he and Bettina didn’t have such a great time after all.
All the horses are now at the farm and I am starting to feel more settled. Thank goodness.