Monday, December 30, 2013

Twin Tiers Horse Activity for New Years Eve, Dec. 31, 2013

PCRA New Years Eve BULL Drop (Rodeo)

When: Tue, December 31, 8pm – 11pm
Where: Rush, NY, United States (map)
Description: PCRA New Years Eve BULL Drop! (Rodeo) - $10 (Rush NY) Barrel Racers, Team Penners, Sorters and Bull Riding Fans: Come join us for our New Years Eve Bull Drop! Show starts at 8:00 pm. December 31st. Admission: $10 for an adult ticket. Kids 12 and under $5. Address: 375 Stony Brook Rd, Rush NY. Contestants information can be found on our facebook pages! Cross Over The Line Rodeo Co. Or. PCRA, Rodeo

Thursday, December 26, 2013

What To Do; What To Do

I was looking at this photo of a standardbred for sale.  

I'm not in the market for a horse, but I like standardbreds.  They are athletic and hardy, any many of them have good bone and hooves.  Plus, they are known for their steady and willing personalities. The ones that can learn to canter, after a few years of trotting or pacing on the track, seem like they would be natural foxhunters.  And foxhunting is something I have been daydreaming about doing, along with hunter paces and low-level eventing.

"Why do you need ANY other horses?"
So, I was looking at this photo of a standardbred mare for sale. And I'm not in the market for a horse, because I have three horses, and three horses is the right number for me and my set-up. 

The problem is, I don't have a foxhunter in the mix.  I have a paint pony, beautiful and athletic, who might be able to keep up, but stands just 14.1.  I have an unbroke mustang with severe separation anxiety and funky lower legs that cause her hooves to grow oddly if I don't trim them every three weeks.  Once I figure out how she'll be as a riding horse, I'll know better what her skills are, but she stands about 13.2, so not your typical foxhunter.

Then there's the star of my show, Hudson, the half draft who needs about 12 inches more of leg for them to start matching the size of her upper body, and whose body hangs on to a thick layer of fat  even during our periods of most rigorous conditioning.  She is a little too close to her draft horse ancestry to have the endurance for a hunt, even though she has the heart.
Resident cow pony.

All these facts lead to my constant dilemma: Do I get a horse that can do what I most want to do, or do I find what the horses I already own are good at, and do that?  Since I'm devoted to these three mares, I tend to lean toward the latter concept.

Mustang with issues
I have focused on this especially with Hudson, who is probably my least naturally versatile horse.  She is so broad, with such short legs, and she has a huge, thick neck and a heavy chest and shoulders.  I have done a little dressage with her, hunter paces, obstacle courses, trail trials, and most recently, an actual flat race, designed for heavy horses such as herself. 

Of these, I think that obstacle courses might be her strong suite.  They provide a lot of learning, and allow her to experience a sense of accomplishment, which she does seem to seek.  She is a horse who seems to say, "Look how good I am at THIS."  And obstacle competitions don't require unusual endurance or pounding.

Ironically, I haven't done the one thing with Hudson that she would probably excel at naturally: Pulling.  Mainly, this is because I have never learned how to drive a horse, so in teaching her, I would be learning myself.  I recently purchased some of the tools to do this, but have not embarked yet.

Starlight the paint has the brains and body to do most anything I ask, and is only limited in jumping and running activities by her small size.  She'll be the one I focus on when it comes to foxhunting. Lots of ponies go out in the hunt field, and if she can develop the needed endurance, she can handle it.  We might not be sailing over the highest walls together, but she will be able to do most of it. Still, she and I need to get a western saddle and try somecow sports, the area where I suspect she will most excel.

So, my choice is to keep the horses I have, and try to find the discipline that best matches them, instead of seeking the horse to match the discipline I most want to do, at least for now.  Serious competitors would call this backwards.  I actually am serious about competition, but I'm attached to these mares, so, the competition will just need to match the horse and not the other way 'round.

Still, that standardbred mare sure looks like she could cover some ground...

Friday, December 20, 2013

December Rain WIN!

Hooray!  I DID order those rain sheets, at some point that I don't remember, in all the right sizes, for this weekend's warmish, cold-rainish winter weather.

I was so happy when I dug through the blanket box and found them, still in their original packaging.

Since I can't resist a fabulous blanket sale, I shouldn't be surprised that I had bought them (at a great price, I'm betting) and tucked them away for just this type of weather.  I know my husband wasn't.

Hudson, wearing a whole lotta fabric.

DeCato in modest blue; Starlight in brilliant red.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Twin Tiers Horse Activities, Dec. 21-22, 2013

No activities again this weekend, but it's not surprising, as everyone gets ready for Christmas.  I do have events appearing on the calendar in January and onward through 2014, and it will start filling up as equestrian groups meet and decide on their schedules, so don't despair!

And if you're not too busy building an ark this weekend, for this weekend's predicted heavy rains, get out there and have fun with your horse!

Wait! This just in:

Verde View Open House
When: Sat, December 21, 12pm – 4pm
Where: Harpursville, NY, United States (map)
Description: Verde View Open House December 21, 2013: Holiday Open House 12p - 4p Come see the therapy herd decked out for the holidays and a uniquely decorated tree! 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Twin Tiers Horse Activities, Dec. 14-15, 2013

It's all quiet out there as winter draws nigh. 

Sorry, something about the thought of horses in December makes me reach for expressions from the era that brought us "Jingle Bells."

Since there are no horse activities this weekend (that I have found.  Please correct me if I'm mistaken), let me deck the halls of your brains with a famous, seasonal poem that features a horse and even credits him with thought and curiosity. 

How many of you dissected this poem in an English class somewhere in your past?  If you did, just knock all that out of your head for a minute, and enjoy the picture Frost paints of a beautiful moment in winter that could very well have taken place here in the Twin Tiers.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Photo Credits: Two Below Zero Blog

By Robert Frost
Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Deep Sigh in Winter

I’m wondering if I’m projecting when I sense a contentment in our barn that has reached a new level.   My sense is the mares are feeling that they have what they need.  They may not have everything they WANT, such as loads of green grass and sugary treats, but I definitely have not been getting those stress messages I have felt in past winters.  
Hudson, yes, too fat, at the bale with Starlight behind.

Before, I would sense their stress when hay was low and temps were cold, with the north wind whirling through the open barn.  I would feel it when the top horse, Hudson, led the herd up the hill to stand with their unblanketed backs to the weather, instead of staying in the barn where they were sheltered, because, for some reason, Hudson thought staying in was more threatening than being out.

The main changes that have brought the sense of contentment have all come together this year, although they have underway from the time we moved here a few years ago, as I constantly strive for the best possible living circumstances for the horses, given the location we have and the amount of cashola we can devote.

Here are the main, satisfaction factors:

1. An area that is always dry underfoot, even during mud season.  This was one of the first things we did, hired a contractor to build a dry pad under and around the existing pole barn, which would also be the foundation of a new hay and equipment barn to come, the next year.  Moving from a super-muddy location before this, I had a mud-induced hissy fit and declared to the heavens that I would NOT be walking through four inches of mud to take care of these beasts, and they would NOT be standing in mud any longer.

DeCato stays near the open end, to escape Hudson if needed.
2. A larger run-in shelter. It's large enough so the lower horses (Starlight and DeCato) aren’t afraid to be in there with Hudson.  This has been in the works for a while. 

The existing pole barn had one side when we moved here (that sounds so strange, but it was the case).  The one side blocked the west wind, and helped with the northwest wind if the horses could get inside far enough, but they couldn’t, because we had to use the majority of the barn for hay our first year.  Storing hay necessitated adding walls to the barn, of course.  The first new wall was the long one on the east side, which we sided with hemlock board and batten.  We also built a permanent wall on the north side, where the horses enter the run-in, so their gate area was smaller, but they had a critically important, north wind block.   This had the unfortunate side-effect of making the DeCato afraid to be inside, since she worried that Hudson would trap her.

Starlight in the expansion.  Excuse the mess -- we  had just finished.
Because Hudson seemed most afraid to stay in when the weather was at its worst, we added a gate to close them in during bad weather, along with waterproof blankets so when they did go out, they were protected from sleet and wind.

I believe the reason Hudson was afraid was because the south side was still open, so when the wind would blow, gusts caused its canvas tarp cover to flap unpredictably, sometimes blowing things over in the barn.  This caused Hudson to perceive the barn itself as scary during the worst weather.  But by closing them in, I could tell the lower mares were relieved that they didn’t have to follow Hudson out into the worst weather and huddle together (with Hudson taking the best spot, leaving the other two more exposed).

Recently, we solved the last housing concerns by adding square footage to run-in area, moving the inside fence line back about 12 feet, and building a south wall.  We also changed out the electric tape fencing in the barn with tube gates, so the lower horses don’t fear the threat of Hudson on one side and the zap on the other. 

Now, not only am I happy with the barn, but Hudson does not seem to be as afraid of it in bad weather.  She is getting used to the idea that it’s a safe place, not a scary, blowing, rattling, flapping place.

Finally: 3. Free-choice hay.  I can do this with the large bales our neighbor baled up for us.  We were going to sell these for cow hay, since the hay had been POURED on while down.  But we were so successful in drying it (with the tedder) before baling that it actually has provided that steady stream of low-quality roughage that is so critical for horses.  The rain decreased the sugar content, so it’s safer for them to munch on in larger quantities.   I don’t know that I would try for this again in the future (too nerve wracking to see a downed hay field being rained on, not to mention that weather conditions have to be just right for it to dry out again), but I’m happy with it this year.

That’s not to say that my mares aren’t too fat.  They are not getting exercise right now, since something I’m still lacking for MY personal contentment is a riding arena that I can use when the world is covered with ice, mud and darkness (Hey, Santa!).  So, there is still work to do for my horses’ optimum winter health, but we have come a long way.  And that feels good!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Twin Tiers Horse Activities, Dec. 7-8, 2013

Yeah, it's December, and yeah, we are experiencing a major ice and snow storm.  But we here in the Twin Tiers are tough, and there are still a bunch of great activities for your riding pleasure (unless they cancel due to weather. Check ahead!)

Whatever you do, keep shoveling until you uncover your horse, and have fun!
Birchtown Stables Winter Show Series, 2014
When:  Saturday, Dec 7, 2013
Where: Birchtown (map)
Description: Annual Winter Show Series Throwback 2014 December 7th • January 25th • February 8th • March 8th • April 5th Hunters and Equitation Shows Start at 9:30am

Jeff Lindberg Dressage Clinic at Finale Farm
When:  Dec 7-8, 2013
Where: Lansing (map)
Description: Dec 7 - 8: A two day dressage clinic (December 7-8) with Jeff Lindberg of Bishop's Gate Farm, to be held at Finale Farm in Lansing, NY. Auditors are welcome for a $10 a day fee. Auditing fee will include lots of hot chocolate and warm beverages. Lunch can be ordered for $5 per person per day. Bring a chair. Rides from Intro through 4th level.

Michelle LaBarre Dressage Clinic - Black Points Farm
When: Dec 7-8, 2013
Where: Honeoye Falls (map)
Description: Dec. 7-8: Michelle LaBarre Dressage Clinic - Black Points Farm, Honeoye Falls, NY. For info about Michelle, To ride in the clinic, contact Mary Delton at Auditors welcome.

Holiday Musical Ride
When: Sunday, Dec 8, 2013
Description: December 8: Holiday Musical Ride Carriage House Saddlery, Trumansburg, NY.