Saturday, April 7, 2012

Bea Yewtee & The Blue Tarp

Horses spook.   It's part of their nature and what helps this large prey species survive in a world full of horse eating predators.

Unfortunately, when we are riding the horse, they also tend to spook at things that really don't strike us humans as being worth giving a glance at, let alone turning tail and running away from!

Things that can fall into this "What!? Are you kidding me!?" category include scraps of paper, leaves floating in the wind, sparrows, shadows, and reflections.   More understandable spook causers are falling tree limbs, dark potentially deep puddles, mountain lions suddenly appearing out of nowhere (or, yes, a kitten), and blue tarps.

Yes.   Those very popular blue woven polyethylene coated all purpose lightweight tarps.   With their easy movement in the breeze, their crunchy noisy texture, and their bright blue sheen, they can truly make a horse very worried very quickly.

And so, accordingly, blue tarps make for really good training tools with horses both young and old.

This past week, while doing groundwork with one of our younger horses, we brought a blue tarp into the arena.   This was her first encounter with it.   And even though it was quite some distance away, she snorted and was on Ultra High Alert.   But with a little help and guidance, she soon discovered it was not going to kill her.

In some trail classes, blue tarps are part of the obstacle course.   I would speculate that a true good working horse on the range would be expected to be able to cope with tarps and so much more.   And of course police horses would be trained to tarps as well.   But a dressage horse?

By nature of her breeding (Da Vinci x Bustron) and her owner's ambitions, Bea's planned future is as a dressage horse.   So this young mare is not likely to have to perform over or even near blue tarps.   At least, that is what one would expect.   (Never say never.)

Tarp training goes beyond showing off, having a horse standing on or even UNDER a tarp.   It works on the general relationship of horse and handler.   It gets us closer to being able to tell the horse something is safe and having them believe us.   The tarp training helps the horse develop mentally while also encouraging their natural curiosity in a safe training environment.

And actually, it is good fun!   All good things.   :-)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

White Pastures & Spring Vaccinations

Winter has arrived, albeit a bit later than usual, but it is here now.  At last for a while anyway.  We have snow everywhere.  However, with maple sugaring weather forecast for this week (pleasantly warm days, crisp cold nights), winter does not have much longer to go.

With the approach of Spring, we are once again looking forward to a visit from our veterinarian and the delivery of spring vaccinations.  And for those horses who will be leaving the farm, whether for pleasure trips, competitions or training sessions, blood will be taken and submitted for Coggins tests for Equine Infectious Anemia

Now may also be a good time to check on how long it's been since WE have received our most recent Tetanus boosters!  Ouch.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winter Browns

Last winter, we had A LOT of snow.  And no really good January or February thaws.  The snow piles and snow banks grew to impressive heights.  Managing the snow became a chore in itself.  And an added expense as we paid to have snow moved from one place to another.

This winter has been just the opposite.

We had an impressive 15 inches of the white stuff just before Halloween!  It quickly melted away.  Then, we had another storm for Thanksgiving.  Then.  Well.  Nothing really.

The snow plow has been sitting idle.  The snowblower has been collecting dust.  The new snow shovels still look brand new.  We have grass exposed in the pastures.  We're even considering tapping some of our maple trees.

Instead of a snowy white winter, we have been dealing with a rather brown winter.  It's not right.  Meanwhile, family and friends in Europe are being pummelled by heavy snows and bitter cold weather.  It's just not right.

Some people suffer from winter blues.  Not us.  No, we are suffering from winter browns.

Having said all that, an article in this week's Intertown Record newspaper reminds us that only a few years ago, we had a similarly snow free start to the winter.  Then all hell broke loose on Valentine's Day and the local Sunapee Mountain received many feet of new snow during the weeks that followed.

So, I guess there's still time for more of the white stuff....  But for now, the horses are fully coated and nibbling on brown dried grass in their pastures.  Odd.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Big Dilemmas - Who With Whom

Obviously the menu is critical. And of course, the flowers and overall decor. But for a fabulous dinner party, one must put great care and effort into the seating arrangement

Who would be best placed next to the recently widowed Lady? Who would be amused by an evening of conversation with the boorish Baron? Would the famous Inventor prefer a more technically minded dinner partner or a sports fan? Which guest would be best to seat along side the Politician?

These are critical problems to solve. Done well, the dinner will be the talk of the town. Done poorly, the whole town will be talking about it for weeks to come.

This is not a problem we encounter on the farm. No, if we have a dinner party, we simply have to decide whether to add an extra picnic table.

But pasture assignments ARE a challenge. Which horse should go out with which horse, and in which pasture?

Some farms make this easy. Got a mare? She goes in the big field to the left. Got a gelding? Put him in the field to the right with the rest of the boys. Alternatively, some farms provide individual turnout paddocks.

We do neither. First, we believe horses, being herd animals, need pasture mates. Next, we believe that horses need to be matched and grouped on their own merits. And so far, we have found that mixing mares and geldings in small groups of 3 or 4 works just great. And a scientific study helped confirm we are doing well with our horses. In it, it said that geldings are much more likely to relax, roll, and lie down in pasture if a mare is there. Why? Mares are natural nuturers who instinctively watch over the herd. Multiple mares? Even better, as they will take turns watching over the sleeping horses. Very nice. And natural.

So we work hard on finding a good pasture arrangement. And everytime a new horse moves in or a horse moves out, we have to rethink the seating plan. Who goes with whom?

Several weeks ago, a big fairly young horse moved in. Under saddle, but not fully mature and still growing, we put him out with a retired mare who would be most likely to be okay with the amount of grass and winter hay he would require. After the usual scuffles, they hit it off famously. Eating side by side, mutual grooming, missing each other when separated. It was cute. And both owners were pleased to see their horses having best buddies.

More recently, a previously boarded horse moved back in. And of course, seeing her, her old pasture mates were thrilled. So, assigning her pasture was easy. Sometimes it is like that.

Then, last week, we moved the big youngster and his old lady friend to a pasture which had been rested, allowing their pasture to be rested for a few months. The pasture is between two others. One which has 3 geldings, the other which has 2 mares and 1 gelding.

At first, things went just fine. However, within a short amount of time, the big youngster was no longer interested in the retired mare. Instead, he was more interested in a big young gelding on the other side of the fence with two other geldings. All day long, the two big youngsters would play fight, pull off each other's fly masks, and ignore anyone who wanted to bring them in for the night! The two horses bonded over the fence.

A dinner party disaster! The Baron was ignoring the carefully selected people seated next to him and acting like old mates with the waitor!

Now the challenge. It's seems obvious we should try putting the two big goofballs in a pasture together. But how? What to do with the mare? What about the other geldings who will lose their buddy? Should a third be added to the twosome or with that result in jealousy and fights? And there are other things to consider, such as who's wearing shoes and who's not? And how safe will it be for the owners to extract their horses from the pasture for riding? In general, what are the risks of allowing these two youngsters to play WITHOUT a fence between them?

It's a dilemma, but one we face over and over as horses move in and out, and has horses look beyond their groups and express interest in other horses on the farm. In the end, the solution will either be the talk of the barn, or talked about all over barn.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall & Thanksgiving Turkeys

Let's see. Where did we leave off? First of all, does it seem to you like summer just zipped by!? For us, there were only a few weeks where T-shirts and shorts were appropiate. Now we're back to long sleeved shirts, sweatshirts, flannel lined jeans, and hoodies. Yup, it seems Fall arrived in a hurry this year.

In August, we saw Tropical Storm Irene.  We suffered no damage here, thank goodness.  We were very lucky and only had a strong summer rainstorm.   Can't say the same for our neighbors in Vermont, however!   Yikes!   The Green Mountain Horse Association showground was just one area of Vermont which was badly damaged. (Barn D shown here during the storm. The link will take you to more photos at the GMHA website.)

September brought the USDF Regional Championships, which were as fun as always. One of our horses attended and placed well in the Freestyle classes.

Then in early October, the local Warner Fall Foliage Festival, preceeding peak colors by mere days, was a big success with perfect weather.

But the big surprise this Fall was when we got SLAMMED by an almighty massive snow storm on the last weekend of October! We measured 15 inches of the white stuff on the farm. Amazing really.

This past week, we've enjoyed a week of weather in the 50's and yet we still have big piles of snow along the indoor arena, snow which slid off the roof and serves as a constant reminder of what's still to come.

Winter. Four to five months of winter.

Meanwhile, as time continues to march on, we're finally seeing wonderful growth in our Thanksgiving turkeys. We purchased our lovely Bronze Turkey poults in late July. It was not until October that we started to believe they would be more than "rock cornish game hens" by TG. Now, the difference in their size, week by week, is truly evident. They will be good sized in time for "the end".

Parting with these wonderful pet farm birds will be, as it always is, difficult from an emotional perspective. We round them up and load them into canine travel crates, all while our dog barks and whines at them, as if in warning! Then off the go on their road trip, returning a few hours later in plastic bags.

But until that day, we know they are enjoying life free ranging around the farm all day, sleeping in a cozy shavings lined stall at night. They munch on pumpkins, eat and play with apples, enjoy dust baths, sunbathe, and even waddle up to visitors' vehicles, greeting them with their "ar, ar, ar" turkey calls.

None of them is gobbling yet, but they will soon. Looks like we might have a couple toms. And that means more for Thanksgiving Dinner, the big Fall Feast.... and weeks of leftovers.

Friday, July 22, 2011

HHHH - Hot Hazy Humid & Horses

It's the middle of summer. Seems like only a few weeks ago we were wondering where to pile the latest snow. Today, it's threatening to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the relative humidity / dew point level is categorized as "Oppressive" by the meterologists, and we have hazy skies from the weather AND thanks to smoke drifting in from forest fires in Ontario, Canada. It's not the most pleasant weather New England has to offer. Especially if you work outdoors.

Yesterday - another blazingly hot day - and today, our morning staff arrived earlier than usual. Instead of keeping the horses in their stalls for their leisurely breakfasts, we put them straight out to grass. The horses were out of the barn early, making their own decisions about sun vs shade, in the shed vs out of the shed, to roll or not to roll.

Meanwhile, the staff accomplished their work in record time. This morning, the barn was spotlessly clean before 10 am and our employees were able to go off and make their own decisions about how to cope with the building heat.

Today, the horses will probably all have the day off. Tonight, if things cool down, some may get ridden. But for now, man and beast simply need to ride out the day, and the HHH weather, in their own ways.

Dare I say it..... Yes, I miss snow.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Chorses

Now that summer is here, the outdoor chores are stacked up like incoming jet aircraft approaching LAX International. These include mowing, and not just the little front lawn. I'm talking about riding trails, paths to and several meters clearance around the outdoor arena, and grass parking areas. From start to finish, a full mowing job takes 4 to 5 hours. In addition to that, brush hogging of the eight pastures, to keep weeds at bay and allow the grass to dominate, is another form of mowing which consumes many long hours.

Then there is the gardening work. A small part time job in itself. The veggies are growing well, the bittering hop vines are currently growing out of control, and the four year old Cabernet Franc wine grapes are thriving. I was not 100% convinced they would survive our cold climate, but they did. Thanks go to Vintage Nurseries in California for excellent quality vines!

And of course, as we do every year, summer is when we get our baby turkey poults and start raising them with an eye on Thanksgiving dinners for ourselves and several turkey sponsors.

And then there is building maintenance and paintwork that needs attention! While the old Colonial house and big attached barn were painted a few years ago, the huge indoor arena & stabling building was only painted on one side last fall. Three more sides to go. It looks totally overwhelming until remembering... How does one eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

With the summer weather, more of the horses are being ridden, both indoors and out. And with that, more time is spent grooming the indoor and outdoor arenas. That's a fun little task that results in beautifully smooth surfaces.

While chores are being tended to, the horses are reaping the benefits, happily grazing on safe dry grass pastures. Their summer coats are in full bloom, some are nicely dappled, and without exception, all of the horses' hooves are hard and sound. It's great to see all of the horses healthy and happy.

With all the work involved in maintaining a working horse farm, it's hard to believe we, the owners, find time to fish or ride motorcycles or spent time with family or BBQ or..... Thanks to all of our great employees, we do.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April Showers Bring.... MUD SEASON

The saying goes "April showers bring May flowers". However, as most New Englanders know, April showers bring our fifth season: Mud Season.

After an impressive April Fool's Day snowstorm, we are now enjoying rain and melting snow. Mud season is well and truly underway. The pastures we are currently using are all muddy. However, the pastures we have closed, protecting them for later use, will be the first to recover from winter, the first to become lush with early spring grass.

Mud season means daily leg hosing for the horses when we bring them in from pasture. And, depending on how thoroughly each individual equine has saturated their still shedding winter coats with mud while rolling, some of the horses are getting early spring baths as well.

While mud season only tends to last a few weeks, for horse people, it feels like a very long season. Shows are only weeks away and the horses just don't seem to take that into account. They love to roll in the mud. And when they run around, they kick mud up all onto their bellies and between their legs. They get mud throughout their tails and even into their manes. Oh yah, it's wonderful.

But April showers also brings May flowers. And grass. And the promise of new locally grown hay. But for now, it's all about Mud Season. Say it with me: Yuck.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Even the name of this equine medical condition sounds unpleasant.   Alternative names include Mud Fever, Dermatitis, Greasy Heel and other names which are no less appealing.   Googling for information, horse owners can find all sorts of gruesome photos and read tales of utter frustration by those trying to cope with the condition in their horses.

Scratches can be described as a crustiness of the skin of the legs.   Once the skin gets infected enough, rubbed hair comes out in clumps.   The hair can feel "greasy".   There can be scabs and oozing of the skin.   Swelling of the legs.   Pain.   And more.   It is not pleasant for the horse and in some cases can apparently lead to severe illness and death.

Looking for a cause to their own horse's case, horse owners will find that scratches can be triggered by fungus, bacteria, unrelenting moisture, parasites, stall bedding, and irritants in the environment.   That's a rather long list of potential causes to try to eliminate.

Recently, we have tried to address a fairly longterm, but not so frightening case of scratches on the lower hindlegs of a draft horse.   Like many, we have been through the cleaning, shampooing, disinfecting, complete drying, and various commercially available medications and preparations.   Believe me, there are a lot of products on the market from which to choose!   But, her condition continued.   It didn't get much worse, but it didn't get much better either.

On the advice of her farrier during his January visit, we decided to try a different approach to addressing her scratches.   This started by trimming off her thick feathers, the very long lower leg hair typical of her breed.   We also trimmed her luxurious tail which she would swing back and forth, brushing it against areas where the "infection" was most prevalent, possible spreading, aggravating, and perpetuating her skin condition.

Next, without knowing which of the many possible scratches causes were active and dominant, we mixed up a simple ointment to slather onto her legs.   Using rubber gloves, the mixture was applied in the evening when the horses were in their stalls.   No bandages were applied.   Over the next couple of days, the mixture dried, leaving a think white coating which eventually disappeared.   We did another application a couple of weeks later.   And one more after that.

Last weekend, the farrier returned and was impressed at the noticable difference in the mare's hindlegs.   Her skin was softer and less crusty, her lower legs were not as thick, and she was happier to accomodate the farrier during his farrier work.   He asked what we had used, eager to suggest the treatment to another client dealing with a stubborn case of scratches.   And so our "Secret Recipe" was shared.

PLEASE consult with your own Veterinarian before trying this!

The concoction we used was a mixture of the following.

  • 15 SMZ/TMP Sulfamethoxazole and Trimethoprim 800mg/160mg tablets, very finely ground up with a mortar and pestle
  • Dose of Ivermectin for 600 pound horse   (Roughly half a tube)
  • Half an ounce of 1% hydrocortisone anti-itch cream
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) of aloe vera gel

Mix well, breaking up any little clumps.   Then, while wearing rubber gloves, apply by hand, truly slathering it on.

When done, the mixture has a pleasant consistency which is easy to apply on the legs.   Since we use the tropical green No-Ad Aloe After Sun Gel, the final mixture is a very appetizing pale green in color, kind of like Key Lime Pie.   So don't leave it on the kitchen counter!

With mud season underway, for horses prone to scratches this is Scratches Season as well!   To help prevent infections (and be able to inspect for any injuries), we hose off all muddy legs when the horses come in from pasture.   Standing in dry clean shavings all night helps give the legs time to dry and the skin time to breathe.

Removing the feathers and trimming her tail may in itself be playing a big part of the improvement in this one mare's legs.   None-the-less, we will play it safe and continue to treat her every couple of weeks with our special key lime pie ointment and see how things progress as mud season continues.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Full Power!

First, it is worth saying that the great water trough aeration test was interesting, but unsuccessful at providing a cheaper alternative way to provide water to the horses.   While the water kept moving and remained unfrozen in what I will call "the bubble zone", eventually the tank froze up from the edges INWARDS.   We discovered a very thick lining of ice inside the trough.   And of course, the unfrozen water was frigidly cold.

For the aeration system to work, more air would need to be used, which means more power, more electricity, more costs!   And the motion of the water would probably be so intense that the horses would not want to drink from it anyway.   And there is the question of whether they would drink the water if it were colder than a slush puppy?

So, we were back to electric powered de-icers and our experiments using 500 watt aluminum de-icers.

The thing we learned with these fabulous little de-icers was that while doing a satisfactory job, they require occasional CLEANING in order to operate at their most effective levels.   The aluminum gets...   slimey.   The photo to the left shows 2 de-icers and a build up of...   I don't know what, really.

During a spell of wicked warm weather, I put one of the de-icers on a timer, powering it up at 5am and then shutting it down again at 3pm.   This worked great, until....

....the warm weather was immediately followed by a wicked cold snap with temps dropping back into the single digits at night.   During the transition from practically balmy weather to downright artic weather, I failed to take the little de-icer off the timer.   Sure enough, it became imbedded in a couple inches of ice at the bottom of a trough.   It took a long time before it was able to free itself clear of the ice and start working on the water again.

Don't get me wrong!   I like the aluminum de-icers.   And of course the fact that they use one third of the electricity that the big boys use is good for the bank account.   However, if I am clever, I can use roughly the same amount of electricity if the big plug hole heater coils are on timers.   And now, with spring still weeks away and the water troughs still needing to be heated to prevent them from freezing, we have reverted back to that setup.   Thank goodness for the timers!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Great Water Trough Aeration Test

Plan A - Movement Through Aeration

Full marks on the concept, design and prototype!   Successful results, hmmmmm, not so much.

Through experimentation, we found that using air bubbles to create movement in a livestock water trough DOES definitely slow down the freezing process.   However, after several hours of testing at single digit temperatures, ice started to form around the edges of the trough where the water movement was the slowest.

After draining the water out of the trough, we found that ice had also been building up inside the trough all along the interior wall.   So it appeared the agitated water in the middle of the trough was going to be the last to freeze.

Plan B - Continuous Movement Through ..... TBD

Keeping the water moving definitely delays freezing of the water.   With this in mind, the engineer has returned to the drawing board to continue trying to find a solution that is less reliant on heaters.

The 500 Watt De-icer

Meanwhile, with temps still around 10 F degrees, the Model C-500 cast aluminum utility de-icer from Farm Innovators, purchased from for $27.99 each, are doing a great job while using less electricity than the big heating coils usually used in our troughs.

And as our mare Bea Yewtee demonstrates, she clearly approves of the new lower watt de-icer as well.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter FREEZE & Snow

After a relatively mild December, January has really provided a very sharp reminder of just how cold and snowy it can get in New Hampshire!   And February is already looking to be just as wintery!

Back to back storms have resulted in large snowbanks around the property, at the end of the driveway, along the roads, at the supermarket, everywhere you look.   All in part due to the fact that the back to back storms have hit us without the benefit of the usual "January Thaws".   The snow has remained fluffy and just keeps accumulating.

And to top that, temperatures dropped to the lowest WE have ever seen in our 6 years here, bottoming out at -14.   FAHRENHEIT, not Celcius.   Brrrrrrrr!!!

Since we plow the pastures, the horses always have space to "graze" on their hay without stomping through deep snow.   But even providing that luxury may become a challenge as the storms keep rolling in.

As winter progresses, some of the horses are in light work....   But most are just resting, staying warm and well fed, and enjoying the season.

Without exception, all of our horses LOVE the snow.   Each of them rolls in it every day.   And they are all happy to soak up the winter rays, sometimes standing around, snoozing in their pastures.   Even when the winds blow, instead of seeking shelter, we often see them standing outside, haunches to the wind.

It's all very peaceful until one of them starts feeling playful and instigates a round of horseplay.

As long as the horses have water, food, shelter, and are blanketed according to their coats and condition, winter is NOT a problem.   As an added precaution, we put on fly masks to prevent damage to the eyes due to the bright sunlight.   I like to think it also protects their eyes from possible harm from icy cold winds.   I can say that, because I pulled a flymask over my own face the other day while leading a horse back to the barn, just to try to prevent my face from freezing in the wind.

It may have been a serious fashion faux pas, but it worked surprisingly well.   My eyes were sufficiently protected.   Watch.   Flymasks will be all the rage next winter, on horses AND their owners!   :-)

(Photo to left)   2009 USDF Region 8 3rd Level Dual Reserve Champion "Jeddien" is dieting as part of her 2011 new year's resolutions.   So, the afternoon hay delivery to the pasture via a snow sled is always greeted with enthusiasm.   As viewed from straight on, it's pretty obvious the 20 year old mare is not wasting away from winter cold.

With record breaking arctic temperatures and 100 gallon outdoor heated water troughs, we have been watching $$$ quickly evaporate into the cold air.   1500 watt heaters work great, but suck up the electricity.   Using timers helps...   Reducing the contents of the troughs to 50 gallons helps as well.   Still, we believe there has to be another way.

We are now experimenting with two new concepts to help reduce costs while continuing to provide outdoor water for horses in each pasture.

1)   500 watt aluminum de-icers from Farm Innovators

        and....   wait for it....

2)   Aeration systems.   Yes, aeration.   Georg's own custom design!

Even early into the aeration experiment, at 8 degrees Fahrenheit, Georg's aeration system is preventing his test water trough, which has about 50 gallons of water in it, from freezing.   Just by keeping the water moving with air bubbles.

Stay tuned for how THAT works out!   Meanwhile, stay warm and stock up on flymasks!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011 !

And so it all begins once again.  A new year.  And with it, thoughts about new goals.

By the end of 2010, Kearsarge Meadows lesson horse Piper Warrior and farm owner Kimberley had achieved their 2010 dressage goals, and then some.  They made it to the 2010 USDF Region 8 Championships in 3 categories!  And they finished 2010 with several National & New England Dressage Association (NEDA) year end awards, including:
  • Champion - NEDA Year End Award, USDF Freestyles
  • Champion - Top Scoring KWPN Dutch WB at the NEDA Fall Festival / USDF Region 8 Championships
  • Reserve Champion - USDF All Breeds, KWPN First Level Freestyles, Vintage Rider
  • 3rd Place - USDF All Breeds, KWPN First Level, Vintage Rider
  • 3rd Place - USDF All Breeds, KWPN Training Level, Vintage Rider
  • 4th Place - USDF Region 8 First Level Freestyle Championships
  • Multiple High Score of the Day show awards

The 2010 NEDA Year End Championship for USDF Freestyles came with a massive championship ribbon and a gorgeous embroidered Mountain Horse jacket.   Very nice!

For the USDF All Breeds KWPN Reserve Championship title, we received a really nice 2 1/2 inch USDF silver medal on a red ribbon.  That was quite a surprise.  Now that we know about these awards, we would like to see Kearsarge Meadows horses earn some more All Breeds medals!  Gold would be nice....

Anyone looking at Piper this morning would find it a little difficult to imagine the woolly black warmblood ready to compete again in four months time, but that is part of this year's game plan.  Well, that's only if he does not sell before then.    (Click here to view Piper's online for sale ad.)

And the plan for Big Ben is for him to enjoy lots of dressage arena time before he is sold.   (Click here to view Ben's online for sale ad.)

For another youngster in our barn, Jeddien's daughter Bea, training begins in earnest this year. Jeddien will be giving lessons to those who want to feel the upper level movements of dressage and also those who want to have a safe, easy, pushbutton ride.

And finally, we have a number of students who will be competing this year, training for and pursuing their own riding & competition goals.  Whether their goal is to perfect 20 meter circles at home, develop a more confident trail horse, have a few enjoyable outtings with their horse, or compete in the 2011 USDF Regional Championships, we'll have fun working on progress and success together.

Today, January 1st, 2011, it is a whooping 55 degrees outside!!!!   Our woolly horses are outside, rolling in the melting snow, and enjoying a sneak preview of weather not meant to arrive in New Hampshire for another few months.  It's all a bit surreal.

So, for now :   Happy New Year, Everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Now Hiring!

Part of the challenge of running a boarding stable is in the hiring of good qualified staff to help care for the horses.   During the summer time, when school is out, there's often a surplus of young women seeking an opportunity to be able to breathe the scent of horses for hours on end .  But during the rest of the year, finding good people can be a lot more challenging.

We are now actively looking for a couple more people to join our team.   But they have to have the right stuff!   Horse handling skills, general horse health & care knowledge, handiness with stall & barn cleaning tools, a polite & respectful attitude towards clients and coworkers, and a strong belief that the overall wellbeing of all of the horses on our farm should be given the highest priority.

Interviewing candidates for these skills begins well before their first visit to the farm.   A little can be learned about the candidate via email and telephone.   And in this day of social networking and Web 2.0+, even more can be gleaned about a person by what they publish online about themselves and others.

When the face to face interview takes place, we look for the ability of the candidate to think in terms of safety.   Whether it involves approaching the horse in a pasture, handling a leadrope, opening a gate, or picking a hoof, each test in the interview provides an opportunity for the candidate to demonstrate safety in action.

Being safe around horses is not easy to teach, and certainly is not an approach learned in a day or two.   This is a big reason why we only hire people who have a lot of experience with horses.   Not cows.   Not dogs or cats.   Not pigs.   Horses!

So, if you know of anyone in our area who is savvy about horses and wants some part time work, please send them our way!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Falling into Winter

Summer on the farm this year was dry.   The vegetable garden required watering to keep the crops growing, but WOW our artichokes, tomatoes, and hot chili peppers thrived.   The pastures all continued to have grass, but only due to careful management, restricting the number of horses per field.   And the grass on the riding trails did not need mowing every week, as was the case last year.   That meant more time for riding!

So far, autumn has been fabulous!   The fall colors in the trees came slowly, peaking on schedule, just in time for the local Warner Fall Foliage Festival, and continues to linger.   Very nice!   However, winter is not far away!

Fuzzy Coats & Heated Water

Most of the horses on the farm are already looking pretty fuzzy.   Jeddien and May, the matriarchs of the farm, both have good coats.   And Piper, dark brown in summer, is just now developing his deep silky black winter coat.

With the temperatures dropping into the 20's at night, we are already seeing ice on the outdoor water troughs!   And so this coming weekend, we will probably be putting the heating elements into the troughs, setting the timers, and start watching the monthly electric bills climb.   But each of our horses will have access to drinkable water all day long, all winter long, and that's vitally important for their continued health.

Trail Riding vs Hunting

From a horseback riders' perspective, one of the joys of fall weather is the lack of bugs!   The freezing nights and cool days keep the pesky flying bloodsuckers hibernating, allowing us to venture onto the trails and into the woods without having to fend off attacks!   The sound of crunching leaves under the horses' hooves sends out a loud warning to the deer and turkeys, which tends to make meeting them less likely.   And so, with no bugs and less likely encounters with wildlife, even the more timid horses tend to be a bit braver on the trails in the fall.

The downside of this time of year is that it's also hunting season.   Hunters are stalking and hiding in the woods across New Hampshire, hoping to shoot a trophy deer.   Hunting is posted as prohibited on our farm's land.   However, just in case, we still expect all of our trailriders to hack out with hi-viz vests.   Riding out in pairs and chatting while riding also helps make their presence known.   The slogan, "be visible, be safe!", definitely applies on the trails at this time of year.

Winter Training

Locally, the horse show seasons are put on hold from November to March.   But training and preparation for the Spring continues, albeit with less intensity.

Winter is a great time to work on submission, suppleness, and lateral work.   Since we allow our horses to develop their natural heavy winter coats, when we train, we do so in such a way as to avoid them getting sweaty and overheated.   Cooling down a hot, wet, heavy coated horse is not easy nor fun.

Of course, body clipping is an option, but requires extreme care in managing the horse's wellbeing as he is effectively "naked".   When we do clip, we find the trace clip most effective.

One of the trace clips we use, the "Medium Trace Clip", keeps the horse's back warm, but the belly is still exposed to the elements.   So for those colder days and nights, blanketing is still required once that clip is done.   There are variations to the trace clip, which can be viewed on this great Clipping Horses website.   For the youngsters being educated about clippers and those horses in very light work, the "Bib Clip" is very good.

So, Autumn is here!   And hopefully it's here to stay for another few weeks before Winter comes blasting in!

Stay visible, stay safe, and enjoy the fall !