Sunday, October 30, 2011

Abruptly, Winter Came

I am in a new situation this year, when it comes to pasture.   In the past, we carefully metered out pasture time, balancing scant grass with lots of hay.   That was in Bentley Creek, where we just had a few acres of pasture (of course, last year, we finally fenced an additional three acres, which we had been planning on doing for seven years. Then we moved.  The horses never grazed in the new pasture!).
While the mares are distracted, Stormkite closes in on the hay.

This year, we have seven acres of pasture, fenced off in two large, one small and one sacrifice area.   One of the large pastures is still full of long, rich grass.  The grass happens to be snow-covered at the moment, but it’s there.  I have never come to October thirtieth with long grass in the pasture, and the reason it’s there is that it has been so darn wet this year.  I don’t want to put the horses in it for long periods, because they will trash the pasture, turning it into mud and making it that much worse next year. 

So there it sits, in all its long greenness. 

I confess, I did put the herd out in it for a few hours yesterday.  The snow was barreling in and I wanted them to get some grass before it’s totally covered.  

They ate for a while, and they got soaked by the wet snow.  As the wind came up, they were still out there, but then I noticed that they were all gathered in the corner closest to the house.  They were looking over the fence, eating, looking over the fence.

The pastures this morning.
No animal communicator I, but I had a feeling that five little horses were using their collective consciousness to tell me it was time for them to come in, but they didn’t want to admit it.   The gate to their shelter was open, so they could have gone in, but they instead planted themselves where I had to notice them. 

I did notice them.  After a while, they went up toward the gate, still munching, mind you, still not wanting to leave that long grass, but I definitely got the feeling they wanted me to tell them to come in. 

I try not to pretend I understand what horses’ thoughts are, because I notice that when people do that, they often come up with an interpretation that sounds more like the person’s thoughts than what the horses’ thoughts are likely to be.  Which brings out a big word that always starts arguments on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums: anthropomorphism.

However, I think the grass was so good, and those mares were so happy to be in the grass for a change that they didn’t want to leave, and they would decide to stay in the grass, if they were doing the deciding (the gelding doesn’t get a vote).  But the weather was so bad, they were definitely amenable to the idea of coming in for some goodies and hay.
DeCato, alert, chipper and dry this morning.

So I finally broke down, found a dry pair of gloves and my winter boots, and called them in.   I spread out some hay pellets and alfalfa cubes, turned around and there was Stormkite, followed in seconds by Dee, DeCato and Starlight.  No Hudson, but that worked out, since I fence those four separately from my big bully, anyway.  I shut their gates and looked out for Hudson.  I didn’t see her anywhere, so I yelled a booming, “Hudson!”

I turned to refill my goodies scoop, turned back and there she was.  I don’t know how she materialized that fast, but she must have run, full-tilt, from wherever she was when she heard me.  Their quick cooperation to my request that they come in verified my sense that they had been hoping for just such an invitation, though they couldn’t bear to leave that grass without a prompt.

They were soaking wet and it was supposed to drop to 25F by 7 a.m., so I felt a little worried about their warmth.  However, when we met again this morning, they were all dry and warm, a testament to the amazing ability a horse has to keep herself comfy.  I don’t think I would have been able to dry off a set of thick, wet clothes by standing in a stable overnight in below-freezing temperatures.  

But given a pile of hay and a roof, those ponies are dry and toasty as the early winter settles in.

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