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 !

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