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.