Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Eight Years

Today marks my eighth wedding anniversary with DH <3 it's been a wild ride, and I wouldn't change a minute of it. Looking forward to many more anniversaries!
The old days... Many years and pounds ago...haha
Receiving the first of many awards at work.
Hawaii trip
California trip
Texas wedding
My favorite -- trail riding.
His favorite -- day on the river.
He surprised me last night with a fabulous gift -- my saddle collection has outgrown my available space and I had to start stacking saddles on top of each other, which is less than ideal. While I was at work yesterday, he bought me a new three-tier saddle rack and rearranged the tack shed to accommodate it -- now all my saddles have their own rack!
I think I'll keep him!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Preparation

Leaving the farm is always hard for me -- and this winter, we're doing it twice. Our impending Seattle trip is getting closer and closer, so a good portion of this weekend was dedicated to preparation. While we have an excellent farmsitter, I struggle to balance the routine so it isn't too overwhelming for a normal person. It would be a lot easier to leave during the summer, when the horses could be out 24/7 if necessary, but during the winter, I always worry about inclement weather. Last year the day we flew out to Puerto Rico, an ice storm basically shut down the county and it took the farmsitter an extra two (nerve-wracking) hours to get to the house.
So hard to leave all these snuggly babies!
Ruby has a round bale set in her turnout that should last through the duration of the trip, and the other dry lot will get a brand new bale the day before we leave. DH rigged up a water system for the main dry lot that should eliminate the need to drag hoses around in subzero temps. Ruby's water trough is huge, and if we fill it the day before we leave, I think it should last our whole trip as well. Our feed room (with it's EIGHT trash cans of different kinds of grain and feed, haha) will be topped off, as will the chicken's trash can in their coop and dog food in the house. One of yesterday's projects was to pull out enough hay from the shed for the trip -- some bales stacked near the goat's pen, and then an extra-large stack in the barn for the horses when they're stalled. Tank heaters were installed (and tested last week when it got down to single digits, brrrr), and they all work well, so hopefully no ice breaking will be necessary! Let's not talk about the disaster that is my house still, but at least that can be worked on when it's dark outside, which is why we knocked out so many chores this weekend in the daylight hours, haha. I also still haven't pulled out suitcases or started packing..... ughhhhh....
They know I was doing an excessive amount of laundry, so clearly something fishy is going on.
Last Friday was an eventful day that started with a completely dead car battery and only went downhill from there. Luckily, the evening was salvaged at my GMO's Christmas party -- got to hang out with some fabulous people, eat delicious food, and play a silly white elephant gift exchange. I received a lovely bottle of wine from one of the clinic participants who rode Trigger this fall, and then my white elephant gift was a Breyer Christmas ornament, and then some chocolate and peppermints for me and the horses -- always welcome!
Looking forward to sipping this wine in the hot tub one winter evening! (shhhh, don't judge my dachshund pajamas)
Christmas ornament! I don't have a tree at home but I'm going to display it at work I think :)
Saturday was pretty chilly, so I had no qualms about spending most of my day on the couch -- minus the time I spent with my favorite hairdresser freshening up my poor neglected hair. He did some lovely natural-looking (low maintenance!) caramel highlights to end up with a lovely balayage.
It will never be this styled again because my go-to is a ponytail or messy bun -- anything else is #effor haha
Thankfully Sunday was sunny and 50, so aside from the general trip prep we did, I also worked both horses -- go me! I tacked up Ruby first, and took her out on our little baby "trail". She was extremely looky, which is fair, since she's never been on this trail before and I rode her out alone. She spooked pretty hard over both the neighbor's sheep, and our goats (who were out in the church lot -- it probably didn't help that the minute spotty pajama bottoms saw me he started SCREAMING at the top of his little goat lungs, haha).
SPB tolerating some snuggles from DH ;)
She wanted to jig most of the trail, so we spent a lot of time halting and standing every time she broke into a trot. After a stint on the trail, we meandered over to the back pasture, where I did trot and canter sets for a while. She was sticky on that infernal right lead, but we did get it eventually. Left lead was lovely, as usual. We cooled out by hacking down the road, and she didn't bat an eyelash at being passed by several cars (one of which was a jerk in a truck who SPED UP to pass us and throw up gravel dust -- grrr). She broke a slight sweat, so she got a good rub down and then went back out to her turnout to sunbathe.
Checking out our goats in the church lot.
"ZOMG THOSE ARE ALIENS.... Or, sheep?" -- Ruby, probably

On the trail.
Cooling out down the road.
I grabbed Cinna next, and I'll admit to being a little apprehensive. She was wild in her stall Sunday morning, and we actually had to have a brief lesson in manners before I felt comfortable turning her out. So before I hopped on in the afternoon, I decided I would lunge her for a bit. I find a lot of times she needs to expend a bit of energy before she can focus, and it's easier on me to let her expend it on the lunge line, and then climb on when her brain is working. She was a bit of a flaming moron on the lunge line, but I'm a glutton for punishment, so I climbed on afterwards anyway.
One of the five seconds she wasn't bolting or generally being an idiot.
I didn't tell DH I was riding, and he was in the house working on resume things for a job interview, so I figured it would be a good test of her trustworthiness to ride without someone watching and waiting to dial 911 if I needed it ;) I didn't have anything too complicated in mind when I got started, so we worked on riding square turns and working on the quarterline (because the rail drift is real when you're on a baby who is used to working on the rail, haha). On her right lead canter, she decided she could not turn when I asked, so we almost hit the fence. I made her keep cantering after that, so she got hissy and bucked. Poor Cinna, her sad little buck just made me giggle and then she had to canter like an extra six circles so she didn't think her tantrum got her out of work.
Working up a sweat the the arena -- full winter coat + 50 degrees + idiotic running = sweaty horse!
The rest of the work was so good (minus the near miss with the fence and resulting buck) that I decided to get real crazy and head outside the arena -- I opened the arena gate from her back and swung it out, and we walked down the driveway. She spooked hard over the flapping flags and the wagon at the entrance. Both of which she's seen before, but ya know, baby horses. We walked a little down the road, came back, passed the driveway, walked a little bit in the opposite direction, and then headed back to the arena for a few cool down laps. She was even sweatier than Ruby, so I spent longer rubbing her down and then letting her graze a bit before I turned her back out.
Down near the road (I didn't take pics ON the road, because I like living haha)
#sweatysideeye hahaha
After I finished up with the horses, DH and I cleaned out the goat shed and moved a TON of hay bales around. Tragically I didn't get photos of the goat babies helping by jumping in and out of the wheelbarrow, but we successfully stripped all the bedding out of their shed and replaced it with fluffy new straw. We also caught all the adults, trimmed their feet, and checked to see if anyone needed wormer before we fed -- #productivity! We definitely earned our evening meal and subsequent soak in the hot tub!
Extra hay stacked in the barn for the farmsitter.

Freshly bedded goat shed -- it looks foggy from the dust particles, stupid phone.
How did you spend your weekend? Looks like the east coast got some snow -- brrrrr! Hopefully you got to do something productive - whether that was riding, around the house, whatever!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Feeding Hay

Whooo, look at me go! A post every day this week. And some of them even had content ;) hahaha.
Completely unrelated pic but this is in my future because it's been the Friday from hell already.
Today I want to talk about hay feeders -- specifically, hay feeders in stalls. Although I try to keep my horses out as much as possible, it is inevitable that they spend some time in stalls. I don't have the quality or size of pasture necessary to leave them out 24/7, nor would that be healthy for Ruby and Cinna, who are quite easy keepers (unless they lived in grazing muzzles). Feeding hay has always been a PITA. Too much, and they waste it and use it as bedding (Cinna in particular loves to bed down in hay). Too little, and they finish quickly and then stand around with nothing to eat for hours (because I love them, but I'm not doing a daily 1 am feeding in the dead of winter) -- that's something I prefer not to happen, especially after dealing with ulcers with Topaz.
My stalls back when we installed them. 
I've tried hay racks (my stalls came equipped with combination hay rack/swing out feeders). I've experimented with a variety of slow feed nets. I've tried tossing it directly on the floor. I've seen (but not tried) hay pillows and porta grazers, or wooden mangers. Some work better than others, some are complicated and annoying to use (not something I want if a horse is boarded, or if I have someone taking care of my animals while I'm away from the farm). Some are $$$$. 
A stock photo of a hay bag Topaz murdered 
A few years back I was rotating through options trying to find something that Topaz wouldn't destroy that was also easy for the boarding barn staff to fill, and I came across the Health E-Z Hay Feeder at my local farm supply store. The $40 price tag gave me pause, but I had a gift card from a family member, so the end cost would be about the same as trying another net (the previous one had lasted less than a week -- she was an aggressive eater). The design also gave me some pause, but after checking out their website, I decided to give it a go. (Not super relevant to the story, but they're manufactured in St. Louis, which is where I grew up, so it made me feel good to support a "local" product!).
A photo of the hay feeder, hung and ready for dinner! I don't have any photos of it alone when we hung it where Topaz was boarded, but this was earlier this week hung in my barn.
DH and I took it out to the boarding barn, where he installed it in her stall -- we hung it about wither height in the center of her stall. Our logic was that it would be hard for her to get her feet that high (although the holes are smaller than a size 00 shoe, which Topaz was NOT), and that if it was in the center of the stall, she couldn't brace it against the wall and inhale the hay.
When I initially posted the photo on my FB page, hoards of people crawled out of the woodwork to tell me how dangerous the feeder was -- because you know, people just can't help themselves. However, I am nothing if not stubborn so I stuck with it, and I'm so glad I did. It kept Topaz occupied for hours, slowing down her hay consumption to a more sustainable level, and allowing me to keep food in front of her at all times. She also got a lot of amusement out of swinging it around her stall, but she was funny like that, haha.
Tell me why she looks like a kid with a bad bowl haircut in this photo haha.
Out of chronological order (she still has her long mane lol) but you can see the feeder in the background. 
Eventually I moved her back home, and the hay feeder ended up in my horse trailer tack room gathering dust (I was less inclined to use it at home because she was stalled way less than at the boarding barn). At an auction the next winter, someone consigned a brand new one of these feeders which I eagerly snapped up at wayyyyyy under retail.
The second one is green, clearly. 
The feeders were on my mind again after I moved Ruby home Sunday, because she has a tendency to inhale her hay in like 2 hours and then stand around bored. I don't want another bout of ulcers on my hands, and since I already had two of the feeders, I decided to break them out for Cinna and Ruby. They're both easy keepers and could use the challenge to keep them eating a little slower. So I hung them from the rafters and filled them up! It took a day or two, but now both girls have the hang of it.
The feeders this morning with a little bit of leftover hay.
Considering that the blue feeder still looks almost like new after Topaz abused it for months, I'm not super concerned about the longevity. Although I'd love to acquire more of these at bargain basement auction prices, I'd also happily pay retail now that I've used them.
"Maaaahm why is my hay in a puzzle box?!" -- Cinna, probably
How do you handle feeding hay in stalls? I'm always on the lookout for new ideas and ways to make horsekeeping at my house easier! :)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Night Rider

Well would you look at that? I actually managed a ride last night!
Every time we stopped she'd swivel to stare at the goats haha.
DH was running a bit late last night, so I got home and powered through chores. It was still about 40 degrees, and I checked the forecast for the rest of the week and it was only getting colder (it was 24 with a 'feels like 12' when I got up this morning) -- I have plans after work tonight and tomorrow, so I figured last night would be my best chance to ride before the weekend.
The sideeye was strong last night. 
Ruby seemed less than impressed when I pulled her out and tacked her up, but she perked up when we walked in the arena. She was remarkably steady throughout the ride, although she was hyperaware of the goats any time we were on that side of the arena. The last time I rode her (Nov. 30 for the last no stirrup November ride -- bareback) she was so incredibly spooky she almost dropped me in the dirt more than once, so I was braced for some of that, but she didn't spook once. She did spend some time acting like she didn't know what a half halt was tracking right, and we had some canter zoomies. But she was basically perfect to the left, and gave me some nice lateral work pushing off and then back on to the rail, so it worked out.
Can you spot Cinna lurking?
In particular our left lead canter was so effortless and adjustable that I grinned like a loon the entire time -- and then for the downward transition I just had to think 'trot' and she was there. Magical!
In an effort to discourage Cinna from lunging over the fence (because my leg was right about biting height haha), I carried a dressage whip -- our first lap of the arena she came charging over and a light tap on the end of her nose made her think twice about trying again. She did pace us up and down the fence a few times, but a sharp growl sent her back off to her hay pile. Her behavior was much improved over Monday so I think shortly she'll be ambivalent to what is going on in the arena.
DH wanted to try out a new (to us) restaurant for dinner, so I kept the ride short and sweet -- but it felt so nice to feel like I'm developing some tiny semblance of a routine with everybody at home again :) now I just need to start alternating Ruby and Cinna's workouts...
Spoiler alert: this is why he wanted to try the restaurant
The high today is only 34 so I have no regrets about my evening plans keeping me out of the barn, haha. But the weekend forecast looks promising, so maybe I can actually get some riding media!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Winter Routine

My daily life in winter probably looks a bit different than the average blogger (at least the ones I follow seem to heavily skew towards boarding). And that's totally fine, I just figured I'd post a run through of what life looks like with minimal daylight and no indoor :( spoiler alert -- it kinda sucks haha.
Teeny dog thinks it sucks too. 
O'dark thirty -- alarm goes off. Kick dogs outside, layer up and grab my headlight. Let the dogs in, head outside for chores. Toss feed to the horses, mix feed for the goats, grab hay and hike out to their pen. Then fill bucket of water for the chickens, sling some grain for them. By this point, usually the horses are done eating, so I can turn them out. Head back inside, feed the dogs, then hop in the shower and get ready for work. 
#thingsthatgetmethroughtheday
Drive an hour, work eight hours (plus time for lunch), then drive an hour home. At least once a week, stop by the feed store and grab at least 100 lbs of grain for one animal or another.
Worth it when your horses look like this though, right?
Close to sunset (or after sunset) -- get home from work. Let dogs out, change into "barn clothes". Muck four stalls, fill hay feeders and water buckets, feed the goats. If it's nice (aka above 35 and without gusting wind and I'm feeling real froggy), grab a horse and work them under the lights. Spoiler alert: I'm not sure this will be a frequent occurrence haha. Head back inside, cook and eat dinner, then do laundry/dishes/other housework. Head back out to feed the horses and pull them in for the night. If it's cold, hit the hot tub ;) crash early, because DH's alarm goes off reeeeeaaaaallllllll early.
Teeny dog in a sweater doesn't understand why we go to bed at 9 pm.
Mostly, I spend a lot of time praying for the days to get longer and temps above freezing! How about you? How does your routine change between seasons as we head for the shortest days of the year?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sibling Rivalry

So you probably saw the cute photo yesterday of Cinna and Ruby touching noses, right? What you didn't see was the squealing, spinning, threatening to kick, and when Cinna lunged into her stall guards and bent one of my eyehooks.... Haha. Mares, amiright?
Blurry cell phone shot of mares being mares. 
Cinna is quite used to being top dog -- she's ruled the roost with an iron hoof since her dam left almost two years ago -- it's an attitude she came by honestly, as her mother was Queen Bee before her. The geldings mostly roll their eyes and let her buffalo them. But I have a feeling poor little Cinna is gonna get her world rocked as she adjusts to Ruby's presence on the farm. 
The geldings, unconcerned that there was a new addition in the barn. 
Last night we had the last of our unseasonably warm weather -- 72 in December, what even is this? We were under a severe thunderstorm watch, and the 10 day forecast looks bleak (aka cold, which I hate). So I booked it home from work and immediately went out to grab Ruby for a quick workout. I really wanted to ride, but I didn't want to push my luck -- she hadn't worked under the lights yet, and she also isn't acclimated to the goats (which I realized when she almost dumped me riding sidesaddle during our photoshoot last month, hahaha). 
I tacked her up quickly and tossed her on the lunge line. She had a few spook-and-scoots on the side of the arena closest to the goats, and she was listening intently to them bellowing for their dinner, but she acclimated quickly. By far and away the most interesting external stimuli to work through was Cinna on the other side of the fence -- my main dry lot adjoins the arena, and Cinna apparently took great exception to the fact that I was working Ruby and not her. She was waiting with ears pinned and neck snaked, occasionally lunging over the fence and trying to take a chunk out of poor Ruby. After some stern admonishment, she finally consented to standing a few feet off the fence, looking very grumpy.
#mareglareonpoint
I guess I know what my next project is -- hot wire to keep her off the arena, lol. We talked about it when we first built it but the boys give no shits about me working Cinna in there, so I shelved the idea. But clearly I need to resurrect it!
About the time I finished up it started raining, and the forecast was calling for heavy storms, so I pulled everyone in a few hours early. At that point I think Ruby had had about enough of Cinna's bluster, so she put her in her place pretty sharply over the stall guards -- #bossbitch
Waiting for attention
Ruby establishing some ground rules .. haha.


Clearly the pecking order thing is gonna take some time ;) and unattended stall guards will not be happening any time in the near future, lol. They sure keep me on my toes!