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 !

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Magnesium Chloride

There are few things worse for equestrians and equines than riding in a dry dusty arena.  Even with a mix of sand and rubber, the recent dry hot spell of weather has completely baked our outdoor 20x60 meter dressage arena, turning it into a mini dustbowl.  And that means either watering the arena or simply not using it until after the next rainfall.....


....applying magnesium chloride to the arena surface.

This month, we took delivery of 2400 pounds of Mag Flakes and spread it across the arena.  Within a couple of days, the mag "melted", absorbing moisture from the air, and holding that moisture in the sand.  The arena now looks like it has recently been watered.

Levelling and grooming the arena just before the application was horrible work, kicking up a dust cloud that we would not have allowed a horse to work in.  Levelling and grooming the arena after the Mag was in place resulted in NO DUST.  And riding in the arena a few days later (when the seven day long heatwave finally broke) was fabulous!  Not a bit of dust.  No coughs from horse or rider.  And the footing was more stable.   Very nice!

We've been loving the Mag indoors for over a year.   Now we're loving the Mag outdoors, too!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

For Ann - The Foxhunting Story

Before I moved to the UK from the USA, I visited for 3 months on a job rotation with Sun.  While in the UK, I promised myself I would go foxhunting, to have a childhood dream come true.

This is the true story of that experience, something I have never done since that first time.  It is rather long, but I hope you will enjoy reading it.


              My One Foxhunting Experience

              By Kimberley Brown

Stonehenge.  It is quite a sight, this ancient man made formation, especially so as it stands all alone on a grassy hilltop, surrounded by miles of grass fields so typical of the Salisbury Plain area of Southern England.  As I drove over the ridge of one hill, topped by a small woodland area and down the other side, Stonehedge could be seen in the near distance, just beyond the next fork in the road.

A lone guard watched over Stonehenge.  In another hour and a half, visitors would be permitted to see the massive rocks up close.  I videotaped for a few minutes, but soon turned my back on Stonehenge and filmed the fields and buildings 2 miles out in the distance.  The morning mist was still heavy in the air making the distant views appear pale and ghostly.

Stonehenge was not my planned destination for the morning, but a pleasant side trip, as was a quick visit to Woodhenge.  I was on my way to the buildings across the fields.  I had arranged to spend the day foxhunting in Salisbury Plain with the Royal Artillery, a branch of the military.

Entrance into Larkhill Camp was swift.  A simple "Hi there!" in my bold American accent told the guards everything.  They were expecting me and replied back, "You must be Kimberley."

By the time I finished showing my passport and signing in, four more riders arrived to sign in.  Following one of them for a couple of miles, we arrived at the camp stables.  I was soon greeted by Lesley and her fiance and Huntmaster, Major Jonathan Seed.  I was told how the morning would proceed, what to expect and that I would be riding Simon.

Lesley introduced me to another rider, Francesca, telling me that we would be riding together.  Having never foxhunted before, I entered into this with very little idea of what to expect, so when I heard I would have a riding partner, I just accepted that either, as a visitor, I was being given a guide of sorts, or that when hunting, you ride in pairs, maybe for safety reasons.  I didn't know, and didn't ask.  I planned to take everything in stride today; to observe, partake, learn and enjoy.

More horseless riders appeared, most still not yet in their boots or coats.  Like me, all of these riders would be hunting with camp horses.  Two large lorries appeared and 12 horses were loaded up, fully tacked.  Jonathan and Lesley's horses were loaded into their own box which was hitched to Jonathan's car.  Riders got into their gear, and at 10am, a caravan of lorries and cars drove out of the yard.

We arrived in a small village a few miles away and pulled into the car park behind a pub.  There, horses were unloaded and riders were assisted up by the grooms.  Lesley pointed Simon out to me and I was soon in the saddle.

It didn't take long for me to learn why I would be riding with Francesca.  Simon and her mount, Peter, are inseparable when they are within eyesight of each other.  The two of them would become frantic each time we would separate them by even one horse.  They insisted in being side by side.  Fortunately, everyone who would be riding in the field today knew this, each finding it quite humorous.  Many of the subscribers had ridden them both and understood all too well how these two chestnuts behaved, slamming into each other and sometimes trying to exchange bridles during quieter moments.

The hounds arrived in another horse box, were unloaded and soon were on their way down the road, headed for an open field.  Once everyone was mounted, we followed the Huntmaster down into the village, trotting smartly down the road.  Simon and Peter trotted together, probably in perfect step, both quite content!

Villagers watched us trot down the center of their little town.  One woman even stopped hanging her wet laundry and came to the stone wall along the front of her garden to see us off.  Shortly, we turned up a long driveway and towards a large white manor house.  We had arrived at The Meet.

Horses were packed into the side yard as well as the front.  Glasses of hot mulled wine where carried through the gathering and each rider drank.  Near the top of the yard, my video camera was being used by a gentleman capturing the memorous occasion for me.  Knowing this, the Huntmaster, Jonathan, called me and told me to ride over, making it quite clear that we were to leave Peter & Francesca behind.  I wondered if Jonathan might be testing my skills as I rider, as I firmly convinced Simon that I was in charge, and not just today's passenger.

It was a proud moment for me, especially since one does not normally ride his mount this close to the hounds without invitation to do so.

As I approached the Master, he ordered me to stand my horse by the hounds for a nice shot.  Sure enough, to my right, the pack of hounds had returned from the fields surrounding the village.  As I rode Simon towards the pack and turned him to face the camera, Jonathan properly introduced me to the Huntsman, around whose horse the hounds waited.

Returning to Francesca and Peter, it wasn't long before we started off again.  Going up behind the manor, we followed a muddy dirt road into the fields, first at a walk, then a trot.

As we topped a hill, I could see that the Salisbury Plain truly did go on for miles and miles.  There were no buildings in view, short of the village behind us.  Gentle rolling hills of grass lay ahead.  Separating some fields were dirt roads.  Some fields had tire marks cutting across them.  Some fields appeared to be short grass, while others looked to be scruffier in nature.  Every so often, there was a covert of trees and small woodlands.  Some fields appeared to have a bank of thin hedges and brush along one side.  In general, the view was quite peaceful and inviting.  It would be pleasant and relaxing to ride here, or so I thought.

I lost track of time after we entered the Plain, and didn't look at my watch again until 1pm.  During those two hours, alot happened.

The ride started quietly enough.  Early on, I decided I liked Simon's gaits.  They reminded me alot of a certain Dutch mare I am particulary fond of.  And, despite the fact that Simon preferred to stay up with the Master, Peter obediently tagging along, I decided that Simon was quite fun and good at his work.  Simon nimbly side stepped things I didn't see until it was too late and jumped the occasional hole that I failed to steer him around.  He showed no feelings one way or the other regarding puddles and, like the other horses, showed no signs of concern when surrounded on all sides by other horses in very close quarters.

The field consisting of approximately 50 horses, cantered lazily along the muddy dirt roads while the hounds worked quite a way ahead of us.  It was quite pleasant.  The morning sky was a bit grey, but the air was not too cool.

Shortly after reaching a long slender wooded strip of land that separated two fields, a few hounds spoke.  Our Huntmaster yelled a command to the field which I didn't understand, but obeyed instantly.  We all cantered down the sloped field, halting our horses at different points and turned to face the woodland.  Francesca and I were midway down the field, leaving half of the field on our left and half to our right.  All was quiet except the occasional voice of a hound.

Francesca explained that we were lined up to face off and turn the fox around if it tries to enter the field.  Ah!  I understood the plan now.

Soon, the horn was blown signaling the hounds to return to the Huntsman.  The fox had won.

It was a nice break, our pleasant rest in the field while we waited as the hounds did their work, but I was anxious to get going again, as were the horses.  We were once again on the move.

It wasn't too long before the hounds went into full cry.  Halting his horse and holding his hand up, the Huntmaster yelled "Hold!".  Simon heard this and stopped!  Everyone was quiet.  The horses all stood perfectly still, ears pricked forward.  We stood at the top of a rise and watched the hounds work on the next hillside.  I whispered to Francesca, wondering again why we were never closer to the hounds.  She whispered back that we were waiting to see which way the fox would run.

As I realized that we were at the top of a hill covered with very rough ground and started to wonder how long it would take to carefully walk down this nasty hillside, Jonathan gave the signal to follow and started cantering down the hill!  Simon followed instantly.  And here we were, at least 40 of us, charging down a rather steep hillside towards a muddy track used as a road, yelling "Hole!" whenever you spotted one, chasing after a pack of hounds that was out of sight!

I thought of Magic Mountain.  They don't stop a rollercoaster once it's started.  I felt like I was on a rollercoaster.

We made it down the hill and Simon, seeing that the sunken road was two waterfilled tire tracks with a grass section in the middle, treated it as a dropped in and out.  We jumped down onto the grassy part of the track and back up onto the lip of the next hill and galloped on.  Galloping uphill was great fun!  Cantering downhill was scary as hell!

The hounds continued to give chase, and as the fox backtracked, we soon where cantering down the same hill back to the sunken track below.

Oh boy, this rollercoaster goes in reverse!  Fear kicked in for a long moment and was eventually replaced with a sense of submission.  My life was in Simon's care.

We were soon covering new ground, and were at a full flat out gallop.  The footing improved from scruffy wild grasses to lush dark green shortcropped grazing grass.  Even though the ground was wet from the daily rain of England, Simon never slipped.  I soon believed that as long as I stayed balanced and let Simon manage things, I would be okay.  At a full gallop, even though I tried, I couldn't judge the ground as well as he could, and there were a lot of ground obstacles to beware of.

I stayed in two-point, but further back over the horse than I was taught two-point to be.  This, when galloping downhill, felt safe and kept me close to the saddle.  Proper Hunt Seat Equitation was not foremost in my mind.  Survival was.

The fox went to ground along a long natural ditch.  The hounds were unable to get to him.  Since a farmer had specifically paid for vermin extermination, the Huntmaster was obliged to kill this fox.  The Terrier was called in over walkie-talkie.  Once he and his terriers arrived, the hounds were sent off and we would be on our way again.  I learned from Jonathan that the fox would be dug out and shot.  It is against the law in England to rehunt a fox that has gone to ground, as in effect, the fox had won.  However, an exterminator can kill the fox.

We had a good hunt.  Now, while we waited for the Terrier, we rested.  My heart, still racing, finally slowed a bit, and then it hit me.  I was in pain!

My left ankle was screaming at me.  My right thumb was in anquish as I pried the fat hunt crop and thong out from under it.  My hams felt as if they were on fire.  My cheeks were wind burned.  My back was starting to lock up and my neck wasn't very happy.  But, we must be nearly done, I thought, until I checked my watch.  It was only 1pm!  I raised my stirrups another notch and found that both of my ankles approved of this idea.  Next, I wondered if anyone would mind carrying two hunt crops.  Maybe if I just dropped it and forgot about it...

Francesca, seeing my discomfort, handed me a flask and said "Drink this.  It will give you courage and stamina."  Without asking what it was, I drank.  The gulp of homemade sloe gin began to work it's warm magic.

The terriers arrived and we were off again.  This time, the hounds found scent only a hill away.  Some waited at the bottom of the hill, while others, including myself and Francesa on our enamoured chestnuts, followed the Huntmaster to the hilltop.  In the distance, I spotted two deer as well as a couple of army tanks.  At the top of the hill, a sign warned that we were not to leave the road, as the field was mined.

Due to the safety factors, the hounds were called back and put to another area where we followed them at a canter while they searched for scent.  Cantering 20 or 30 abreast at times, the hunt field was quite a sight!  I often found myself behaving more as an observer than as a participant, trying to record it all in my mind.

After a bit, we cantered back at the spot where we had put our first fox to ground.  The terriers were done with their work and the fox was dead.  Now the hounds were given their reward and incentive to find another fox as they tore the carcass apart, rolling on it, eating it and running around playfully with pieces of it in their months.  The hound who was carrying the brush, dropped it.  The brush was retrieved by the Huntmaster who handed it over into the care of the Terrier.  It was a good hunt, completed.

Even though we had several breaks in the action, I was very tired.  My body had had enough.  Some riders said their gooddays to the Huntmaster and headed home.  But, Francesca, who so generously shared her candy bar, sausage pies and sloe gin with me, kept me going.  I was damned if I was going to quit!  American pride kicked in.  Or maybe it was pure Taurus stubborness.  During each interlude, I was offered more courage from different riders.  Sloe gin was tasting better and better!

The afternoon weather was surprisingly mild.  Some expressed concern that the scent might not be so good because of it, but our next fox appeared within a short while of moving off again.  And what a chase it took us on!

My weary body, having already taken enough abuse for one day, was complaining now at a full gallop.  My ankles were okay, but my back, my hams and my shoulders were sore and tired.  Galloping at Simon's top speed, riding in two point up and down hills was getting to be a bit much.  When the hounds are in full cry, when the field is giving chase, Simon has only one speed.  There was no half halt on this horse.  If I put my feet forward and leaned hard, I might have been able to pull him up in an emergency, but then what?  So I just stayed on.  I steered sometimes, hoping to better negotiate galloping across the dirt roads, ditches and mortar holes (at one point we galloped through the artillery shell practice target zone).  I only felt one bobble in the saddle, popping off a track and onto a new hill, Simon taking it at a funny angle, but then I got right back into the rhythm of the gallop and was okay.

It was on this very long chase that several funny things happened.

First, I noticed that I was carrying on conversations with other riders who would gallop up along side and ask how my day was going.  I was engaging in pleasantries at a dead gallop!

Second, galloping straight down a slippery hill of rough grasses, it occurred to me that this was what "break neck speed" really was.  To fall would be disasterous.

Third, I remembered that this hunt country doesn't have fences or stone walls and I wondered what jumping at this speed on a horse with no brakes would be like over walls - and was suddenly thankful!

Fourth, I started to miss my desk job.  It was then that I decided these people around me were all crazy and that I, too, must be a bit crazy.

Finally, I realized that despite the intense beating my body was taking, despite the ever increasing levels of pain I was experiencing, I felt an exhiliaration like nothing I'd ever felt before.  Out of sheer fear, or simple intelligence, I might never do this again, but for now my soul was soaring!  I would never forget this day.

In the end, the fox went to covert in a large woodland at the top of a hill.  The hounds were unable to find him.

Looking back from the direction we came, somewhere way out in the distance I could barely make out what might have been where this hunt started.  It was indeed a long chase!  I marvelled at Simon's stamina.  He was winded, but he recovered more quickly then I.

Now I was done for, totally beat tired, knackered as the English would say.  But still, I stayed on and wished others goodnight as they headed home.  I wanted to be able to say that I rode to the very finish.

More courage, more stamina was passed around.  Then, at a walk, we moved onto another area of the Salisbury Plain, still well within the military zone.  An interesting note to make here is that while some other hunt countries are having trouble with "Anties" (Anti-Foxhunting) and "Sabs" (Hunt Saboteurs), the Royal Artillery doesn't have the problems.  This is partly due to the fact that they are far from suburban areas but also because the area is mostly dedicated to and protected by the military bases.

During another lull, Francesca and another woman asked for their horses to be held, so they could run to a nearby covert.  No sooner did they ask this, and the hounds gave voice again!  Galloping off, Francesca hoped out loud that this wouldn't be a long chase.  I laughed and was thankful that Lesley recommended I didn't eat or drink anything for 12 hours before riding.

At the next break, a gentleman on a massive grey asked if I would like to trade horses.  He could see Simon was full of energy, much more than I had, and his own mount was tired.  I gladly accepted the offer to trade and a chance to lag behind the field a bit.

Trying to get on this grey gelding was a laugh.  I was too tired to climb and he was too tall for me to even reach the top of the saddle!  A leg up failed as I couldn't find the strength to launch myself up.  I apologized and was soon quite ungracefully pushed onto the loin of the horse, who refused to stand still, and I wiggled my way into the saddle.  It was quite a sight I'm sure and was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

An older gentleman held the grey from the back of his horse while I looped the stirrup leathers a few times, trying to get them short.  But while doing this, the field left at a trot.  And my kind sir thought to follow!  After trying to adjust my leathers at a jog, I had to ask him to walk again.  Once sorted out, then we galloped on to catch up.

Sure enough, my grey was quite tired, but still capable and safe.  I was thankful for the different saddle, the differing width of horse, the change in gaits, even the different reins.  Any change felt good.  And it was such fun to watch Simon's new rider try to separate from Peter and Francesca without much success.

The day was nearly over, so they all told me.  The sky was getting darker.  One quick chase led to the second kill of the day.  We were at the edge of the base.  Buildings were nearby.  As always, the Terrier was quickly on hand, driving up in his Land Rover.  This time, however, the horse box for the hounds also arrived.  The hunt was officially over!

I watch Jonathan and the Terrier struggle in a tug-of-war that left Jonathan holding a fox tail, the brush, and the Terrier holding the long slender bone + flesh of the tail.  Jonathan called me over and presented me the brush, telling me it was from the first fox of the day and how to cure it.

I was thrilled and honoured!  I thanked him, and for the hundredth time of the day answered "Yes, I had a wonderful time!"

It was over!  I had fulfilled a life long dream.  I had foxhunted and in England no less!  I had the brush!  I had video tape footage of The Meet.  I had mud all over my white breeches and dressage show jacket!  I was knackered, but alive and pleased.  My three month trip to England ended with a truly traditional and exhiliarating equestrian experience.

So why were we all still mounted, I wondered?

As soon as the hounds were loaded up, we trotted off again, away from the buildings and back onto the Plain.  I asked Francesca and her new partner where we were going.  She informed me that we were headed across the field back to the stables, which was not far now, just over the next rise.  I looked at the horizon and saw nothing but Salisbury Plain.

Riding along beside another woman, I looked down and saw that her mount was moving in a gorgeous, beautifully suspended extended trot.  The little mare was covering ground both economically and with grace.  "How far?", I asked, grimacing no doubt.  "Just a short way", she answered, and like everyone else followed that with a query about how my first foxhunting experience was.  When I told her how sore I felt, she recommended a hot bath, a couple glasses of port and codeine.

Several minutes later, still at a brisk trot, I felt ready to just roll off and walk the rest of the way.  No sooner did I start feeling mutinous when the Huntmaster himself, Major Jonathan Seed, trotted up along side to chat.  He could see that I was putting as much of my weight as possible into my hands which were braced against my giant grey's withers to avoid the pains of posting and he recommended a hot bath and whiskey.  Ah, a pattern was emerging.  I smiled.

Three miles later, we were allowed to walk.  We had arrived back at the stables.  We walked the last 200 yards and put the horses into their stalls fully tacked.  They drank a bit and waited patiently for their grooms to untack them before they started to eat the dinners that had already been put in the stalls.  Amazing horses.  I said my goodbyes, my many final thank you's and drove 60 miles back to my flat in Sunninghill near Ascot.

Once home, I discovered how badly rubbed raw the insides of my legs were from so many hours in the saddle.  Dried blood had sealed my jodphurs to my skin.  Getting undressed wasn't going to be possible without a lot of pain.  So, taking advice I'd received from one rider, I poured a Scotch, took a couple codeines, and jumped into a hot bath, fully dressed.  Recovery was going to take time...

The next day, I had planned to drive 4 hours north to Lancashire to find my Great Aunt's birthplace.  Less than an hour into the drive, I turned around and went home to yet another hot bath and more rest.

My heritage could have to wait until my next trip to the United Kingdom!  Foxhunting still had me knackered.  No muscle was without complaint.  But my smile was still strong.

Kimberley R Brown
January 31, 1993

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Saddle Fitting

Today, we had Anthony Cooper, Saddler come to Kearsarge Meadows to fit saddles for the horses.   Ideally, this is something we do at least annually, similar to Spring Vaccinations and regular dental work.   I like to think of it as preventative in nature, allowing us to ensure that this very critical piece of equipment is fits comfortably for the horse, thus reducing the chances of back pain.

Each horse at our barn has its own saddle, which is fitted to the horse.   While it would be seem to be much more economical to share saddles amongst horses, this proves to be a false economy when back issues occur due to poorly fitting gear.

Tony easily made each horse's saddle fit like a glove.   Even saddles which were not originally purchased for the horses in question were adjusted and finetuned.   All of the owners were thrilled to have their favourite saddles fitted successfully, something that is not always possible!

Most notable today from Kearsarge Meadows' perspective was the fact that our little homebred Bea Yewtee got fitted for her FIRST SADDLE today.   As her "Mum", this is such an exciting milestone!   Bea will be wearing a 17.5" Wintec Pro, custom fitted to her cute but rather pudgy body.   In another 6 months or so, after she has been working under saddle for a while, developing new muscles and losing her baby fat, we'll have Tony back out to adjust the saddle again.

Overall, the visit from Anthony Cooper (and his pooches) was a great way to enjoy a productive rainy day.   Thank you, Tony!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fading Daffodils, Asparagus, and FROST WARNING

It's that wonderful time of year when the last of the daffodils and tulips fade away, their color only to be replaced by the lilacs, azaleas, and rhododendrons that are now coming into full bloom.

On the farm, apples, crabtrees, and cherries are in bloom.   And the asparagus plants are providing great edible stalks to accompany dinner.   The vegetables that will be going into the ground soon are getting used to the outdoors in a cold frame, protecting them from the wicked gale forces winds of the past week or two.   And the grapes and hops are already growing like crazy.

We are into the 2nd week of May, have already mowed twice, and yet tonight, we will have FROST.   Ugh!   Summer is just around the corner, but is not here quite yet.   So, this afternoon, potted plants will come back indoors and the barn windows will be closed against the wicked cold.   Again.

Meanwhile, the horses just seem to take the weather in stride.   When they get too warm, they seek shade.   When the sun is shining on cold windless days, they bask in the light, absorbing heat.   On windy days, they put their tails to the wind and lower their heads or seek shelter in and around the field sheds.

Today, they are chasing loose hay as it floats across the pastures, nibbling on the early spring grass, and are goofing around, the way horses do, engaged in horseplay.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

NH High School Equestrian Teams

Thanks to the good work of John Keller of 3778 Photography, there are some great photos of the Kearsarge team on his website, including these of our own Kearsarge Meadows dressage horse, Piper Warrior and his rider, Eliza.

Well done, Eliza and everyone competing in the New Hampshire High School Equestrian Team events this year!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Piper Goes to High School

This past weekend, the first 2010 New Hampshire High School Equestrian Teams North District competition took place at Wakewood Farm in Plymouth, NH.   There, several NH High School Equestrian Teams competed in a wide range of classes.

One of the Kearsarge Meadows horses, Piper Warrior, made his show debut over fences at this show, representing Kearsarge Regional High School.   He also showed in a couple flat classes.

This was Piper's first competition over fences, something for which he and his teenaged jockey, Eliza, have been training for the past few months.   It was also their first competition together.   So, the goal for the day was to simply go out, give it a try, and keep Piper happy.

Completely blowing that goal out of the water, Eliza and Piper overachieved on the day and placed very well, both over fences and on the flat.   And not only had a very good first outing, they helped the Kearsarge Regional High School Equestrian Team start the year in 2nd place!

Well done to Eliza, Piper, and the whole KRHS Equestrian Team!   We are very proud of you all!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Playing Ball

With nasty weather rolling through, today was a great day to stay indoors and enjoy some quiet time with the horses.   This included spending extra time doing pre-spring makeovers, grooming and shedding out some of the shaggy winter coats, removing any little knots in the tails, and tidying up manes.   Old and young all enjoyed the TLC, nearly falling asleep in the cross-ties.   It was all very chilled out, low key, and relaxing.

After a snack, Jeddien and I did a bit of ridden work in the arena.   To cool down afterwards, we played with the Parelli ball.

Playing with the huge inflated ball is a unique way to help the horses learn new skills and become calmer about new things.

Jeddien pushes the ball around with her nose and her legs.   And like a good ball player, she can kick the ball with both her left foot and her right.   Sure, it might seem a bit goofy, but it's a good laugh we enjoy together!     :-)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Refusing to Perpetuate Gloom & Doom

In broad financial terms, Holy Moly!, what a century it has been so far!   First the bubble burst, with a resounding Dot KaaaBoooom!   I personally lost A LOT of money on the stock market.   Ouch!   Then the USA was attacked and the US started (or continued?) spending bilions of dollars on yet another war.   More recently, the big financial institutions broke all their piggy banks.   And the auto makers cried that they weren't making profits.   Of course, as usual, the government is blamed and now Tea Parties are coming back into fashion.

Closer to home, we feel the financial down turn as well.   My former employer, Sun Microsystems, was bought out after way too many unprofitable quarters.   Several rounds of layoffs impacted tens of thousands of employees across the globe.   After 20 years of service, most recently as a Director, I was laid off as well.

Thank you for your contributions.   Good luck finding a new job.

And Kearsarge Meadows feels the pinch as well.   The price of good quality shavings, used for bedding for the horses, has continued to raise in price over the past 5 years.   Thankfully, the price of good quality local hay has not increased at the same rate.   Horse owners who can still afford to own horses are tightening their belts, budgeting less dollars for lessons, shows, and board.

But even with the income slowing down, we are still paying our employees, matching Medicare & FICA contributions, paying taxes, and buying insurance.   And, as promised when we hire them, our employees still get their well deserved pay raises in thanks for their continued good work.

Thanks go to our wonderful clients who continue to give us their custom, allowing us to stay in business, and continue staffing excellent horse loving employees.   Together, we continue to see through and beyond the gloom and doom.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring Vaccinations

A true sign that Spring is on the way is Spring Vaccination Day at Kearsarge Meadows.   Each year, before show season swings into gear, we get all of our residents vaccinated against several equine ailments.   This is part of our preventative medicine program.

(Photo from TNT Equine showing Dr. Deme Erickson, DMV) giving a shot

Friday, March 5th, Dr. Jen Sula, DMV, from Blackwater Veterinary Services in Salisbury NH will visit.  Working her way down the barn, she will check each horse one by one.   Heart sounds, gut sounds, respiration, eyes, and a visual check of their overall condition.

Next, each will receive vaccinations against:
Fortunately, instead of jabbing each horse 7 times, some of the vaccinations are provided in combo shots.

Finally, blood will be drawn from those who will be out and about competing this year.   It's sent to the University of New Hampshire's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory where they test for Equine Infectious Anemia in what is known as the "Coggin's Test".   Proof of a negative result is required to compete.

Some may question the expense of this spring ritual.   However, we have enjoyed an excellent record of horsey health.   And therefore, no vet bills for nasty equine illnesses.   We really like Preventative Medicine!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2009 IRS W-2 Forms

Today, 2009 IRS W-2 form, also known as the the "Wages and Tax Statement", were prepared and mailed out to the employees who worked for Kearsarge Meadows during the 2009 fiscal year (January to December).

If you were an employee at Kearsarge Meadows in 2009 and you had a change of address that you forgot to let us know about, please telephone or drop us an email and we will immediately send you a duplicate set of W-2 forms.

Thank you!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To Clip or Not To Clip ?

So far this season, while the amount of snow we have received has been less than 3 feet, the temperatures seem to have been much colder than last year.   This week, however, we are enjoying a bit of a January Thaw and it feels wonderful.

Our competition horses start competing again in three months!   Accordingly, Jeddien and Piper have recently came back into work after a couple months of vacation time.   Both still have full winter coats and therefore are not being worked too heavily yet.   To work them to the point of sweating requires extra care in cooling them down, insuring their coats are fully dried after work, and preventing them from getting chilled.   This is where clipping the coat comes in handy.

Clipping a horse is not the easiest of tasks and can be quite a messy job as well as hair transfers from the horse to the floor and onto the person doing the clipping!   The horse needs to be calm and sensible as the loud vibrating clipper glides across their body.   The handler needs to be ready deal with ticklishness, grumpiness, anxiousness, and anything else the horse throws their way.

And then after the fact, the newly clipped "undressed" horse must be appropriately blanketed and rugged up according to the weather, hour by hour, until the end of winter.   So clipping is not a task one jumps into without careful consideration.

To help make the longterm effects of clipping more sensible and manageable, there are several different "clips" (think haircuts) that can be used.   This fabulous website from Peasridge Ltd in the UK shows many styles of clips from which to choose.

Right now, five of our horses are sporting the "Bib Clip"...   Just the hair under the neck is clipped short.   This is an easy and quick clip to do and a super clip for introducing clippers to youngsters and horses who have never been clipped before.   The resulting haircut also made giving IV injections really easy for our Equine Dentist.   :-)

The clip we will use next is the "Low Trace Clip".   This is just enough of a clip to let the areas of the horse's body that tend sweat first cool and dry off quickly.

Now back to the question. &bnsp To clip or not to clip?   There is no easy perfect answer.   It is something that is completely dependent upon the horse, his coat, the work he is doing, the weather, and the level of committment the owner wants to invest in blanketing, both in terms of time and money, throughout the rest of the winter season.

Today, I will clip one.   My nose is already itchy in anticipation of the horse hair that will soon fly!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Winter Wonderland Continues

We are now well into 2010 and winter continues.   Snow, cold, and wind are this winter's main themes.   We are also enjoying a lot of winter sunshine.

The horses don't seem to mind the weather at all.   Those who need it get blanketed before turnout.   Heated water troughs are in each pasture.   And hay is delivered to the fields throughout the day.   So, with their basic needs taken care of, the horses are all content.

Admittedly, less training and riding is going on in the cold weather.   But on the milder less windy days, since the snow in the woods is not very deep, trailriding is still enjoyed.   And when work with any of the horses needs to be done, we simply retreat to the indoor arena.

Spring, when it finally arrives, will be greatly appreciated.   Until then, Winter Wonderland continues.