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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Lords of the Winter Hay Stomp

On blustery winter days, turn out involves leading horses to the pastures while trudging our heavy insulated boots through deep tundra like snow, defrosting frozen lead rope snaps by exhaling warm air onto them and frequently fixing wind blown blankets (not unlike folding multiple flags in a wind tunnel). As the last remnants of the sleeping autumn grass hides under layers of frozen water (aka snow), we have to lug hay to the pastures via the kids old red plastic sleds.

There is a wild dance of sorts involved with the turn out this time of year. We scatter flakes of hay around the pastures and then walk each horse out one by one. Shane stomps out first and has his only temporary choice of the vast universe of hay piles. Evelyn dances out next and despite a variety of unoccupied piles will, with little variation, go for the dried timothy pile that Shane is munching on ... who quickly is forced to move to one of the other hay piles on a safer side of the pasture.

Bobbie is then turned out next which disrupts the temporary equine equilibrium. With ears pinned way back, he immediately goes for the pile occupied by Evelyn, forcing her to the flakes being munched on by Shane, forcing Shane to yet another still unoccupied flake pile.

Periodically, Bobbie, with a strand of timothy dangling from the side of his muzzle, like a tango dancer with a rose, will inexplicably and suddenly change his hay preference and begin the tango once again forcing Evelyn then Shane to rotate around the pasture like an uneasy violent tango.

Dion and Monte have their own pasture and there own variation of the dance. Monte heads into the pasture first and will gallop quickly around the hay, bucking with all four feet off the ground. Monte then find the deepest snow drift he can find and drops and spin like a break dancer (see photo of break dancing Dion and Monte-- which doesn't do it justice) until he's properly floured into prehistoric sized powdered donut. Seemingly shaken by the sudden coldness on his body, he jumps up, bucks and dances around until he too settles on a pile of hay.

When it's Dion's turn, he will tow whoever dares lead him out to the pasture, with the strength of a Budweiser Clydesdale (it's similar to snow skiing tied to a pack of elephants). When he quickly is let loose in the pasture, Dion will breeze around like the former race horse he was, whipping Monte and the hay piles into a frosty tornado until the storm dance abruptly stops and heads drop to the hay carnage strewn about the pasture.

If anyone of the equine Arthur Millers misses a step or stumbles, not to worry, they'll get another chance to perfect their craft tomorrow.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Best Horse Movies Ever

On these wild, cold and snowy Syracuse nights (we had a 10 below windchill this morning), there's nothing better than hunkering in with a bowl of hot popcorn, a warm blanket and a GREAT movie. OK... the hunkering comes a little after we hammer on frozen water buckets for an hour. The list below clearly represents the best horse movies ever (in my humble and slightly frostbitten opinion). Of course, there is just the "smidgen" (not a word I use everyday) of a chance that you may disagree.

10) Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (Awesome!)

9) Into the West (Most obscure movie on the list -- This is a movie you should see)

8) The Black Stallion (Great)

7) Hidalgo (What a story!)

6) Secretariat (Haven't seen it yet ... heard it was good... Yes... I'm cheating on this one)

5) Black Beauty (A classic)

4) Justin Morgan Had a Horse (On the Wonderful World of Disney when I was 7 ... it counts)

3) The Horse Whisperer (A chick flick with horses)

2) National Velvet (A classic)

1) Seabiscut (Great Movie... Great Book ... Great Horse)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas -- Horse Edition

Twas the night before Christmas
And I believed all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring
As we watched football on cable

When who should it be that knocked on our door
But Bobbie the pony plus horses times four

They looked peaceful and coy
We did puzzle and gawk
Bobbie opened his muzzle
And then tried to talk

The pony cleared his throat
Then started to speak
"You've cleaned all the stalls
While they stunk and did wreak

You've brushed and bathed us
You've fed us fine hay
For all of that kindness
We give you gifts on this day

Of course I think of cash
My bride hopes chaps
Bobbie stomps his hoof down
And we're back from our lapse

"For you kind lady
We give you our trust
We know you've been there
When we've danced and we've fussed

And we give you our hearts
With our long lasting love
With us you have friends
Cause you're a gift from above"

"And for you Mr. Sir
We have what you need
Yes, I'm still thinking money
to fulfill my long greed

Bobbie snorted and mused
As if he knew all my thinking
He spoke once again
With his big left eye winking

"This prize is well suited
Your gift is a kick
You expected fruit cake?
I ain't no Saint Nick

Yes you check all our water
But you gripe and you grumble
Yes you give us some treats
But you swear while you mumble

Your gift is the choice
If it was you or the horse
It's not even close
She'd pick us, Yes of course

So your gift is that choice
It's quite simple and sweet
You can stop all the grumble
or be out on the street

I looked at my wife
She looked at her shoes
She started to giggle
I followed the clues

As I behaved from that day
The pony never again spoke
Except for this phrase
That I knew was no joke

"From Bobbie and All"
For this he did cite
"Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night

I apologize to Mr. Clement Moore

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Bread Crazy German in America

We've had more pounding snow this week ... measured with yard sticks not rulers.

It normally takes me 45 minutes for my drive home from work each night. This week, as a result of the snow, I had two nightly drives of 1.5 hours and one that took close to 2 hours. That night I'd been gazing at tail lights and snow flakes for two hours which can be hypnotizing. For part of the drive I was thinking back on the blogs I'd been reading recently.

I remembered reading "A Horse Crazy American in Germany". She noted that when moving her horse to Germany, her horse was going to have to get accustomed to eating bread. Apparently, it's been common for centuries to feed horses bread in Germany.

One of our 5 horses is a mammoth 18-2 Hanoverian named Monte who was actually born in Germany. We never actually met his owner ... but he was shipped with a his passport (he has one ... I don't), a box of raisins and a note that said "he likes raisins". So, he gets raisins. He flips out when he gets the box, acting like a goof swinging his head and tongue around like he's experiencing extreme equine ecstasy.

Remembering the blog, I decided to give him half a slice of bread ... same reaction ... like he was remembering his youthful days frolicking with some Fraulein Phillie in Frankfurt. He loved the bread. However, his boorish American siblings were not as crazed about the bread.

Note: if you're going to try bread with your horses ... you may want to Google "feeding horses bread" No, not everyone in the world is convinced bread is a good idea.

That being said, I think perhaps I'll try Monte with some raisin bread. I'll probably put the poor guy into a coma. I just Googled "feeding horses raisins." See above disclaimer and substitute "raisins" for "bread".

Saturday, December 11, 2010

We Live in a Giant Snow Ball

Just off the east end of Lake Ontario, Syracuse New York (the area we live and survive in) annually averages 121 inches of snow. The last few sadistic winters have been closer to 150 or 200.

The recent snows you may have heard about on the national news (we don't brag about much but snow) helped push us to almost 50 inches through December 10th of this year.

My son had 2 snow days off from school and the horses stayed warm inside their cozy stalls for 3 straight days. This of course make stall cleaning more challenging ... but at least we don't have to worry about our wimpy thoroughbreds freaking out because a couple of flakes hit their muzzles just wrong or the wind messed their manes up. A bunch of divas those thoroughbreds are ... always asking for limos, fruit trays and bottled imported room temperature water.

When it starts snowing and blowing, we can't get to our pastures the normal and easy way because we have an eight foot snow drift that drops right in the middle of the desired path. So, when the snow is not blowing sideways, for winter turnout we have to walk the long way around and normally take down some rails to get the horses in. Yesterday, I built a gate to eliminate the rail removal portion of the process. I talk more about our winter snow struggles in my February 2010 post "Equine Snow Angel":

When I went into our shed to get some gate materials, I scared the walnuts out of a squirrel who in turn scared the crap out of me. Apparently, he'd be nesting in the shed for the winter ... the whole thing led me to have an odd dream last night about a talking squirrel, with a trash mouth and anger issues.

Anyway ... we thankfully have a little warm up today. The saying in Syracuse is ... If you don't like the weather ... just wait a couple of hours. There's a big ice storm coming.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Frigid Night Checks

It's 25 degrees and snowing on our tiny chunk of the planet tonight.

Part of my self imposed function with the horses are the nightly checks. On summer nights I can walk to the barn in 5 minutes in shorts and flip flops. In the winter, it may take 5 minutes alone just to find my gloves. Eventually the 25 degree nights become 15 degree nights. Fifteen degrees soon yields to 5 degrees which becomes negative 5 ... with a windchill of 35 below zero.

Night checks themselves are simple enough for me. I just check the water (sometimes needing to break the water with a hammer), adjust the blankets (sometimes needing to fix the buckles with a hammer), drop each horse a mint or carrot and make sure that no horse is suffering from colic, casting or bed wetting (equine bed wetting, of course, is a common incurable affliction).

Our whole family actually loves snow ... crazy yes... but we love skiing and snowboarding as much as any family. Our kids, growing up, would even superstitiously wear their pajamas inside out magically guaranteeing a school snow day.

However, opening our back door on a snowy and windy winter night for the long walk to the barn is like standing at the end of snow covered dock peering into an icy lake wearing only a bathing cap and a smile. Jump ... the waters fine.

Gotta find my gloves!