Archive for the ‘Horses’ Category

(Mis) Adventures in Long Distance Horse Trailering, Part 4

Our oldest daughter got tired of waiting for me to finish the story, so here is her account of the next day, after the horses had enjoyed a couple days’ break from trailering. Her words start here:

Aww, Dad, you stopped right before the best part!

Anyways, while Dad and Mr. G were hitching up the trailer and whatnot, my siblings, our friends, and I decided to take a walk with the horses in the G’s field. This was partly for our exercise and partly so that Mr. Anti-Trailer wouldn’t see the scary metal box that these crazy humans made him stand in.


After a little while, Jasper decided to walk off, pulling my sister so hard that she dropped his lead rope. We recaught him and walked on.

When we returned, the two G girls were each proudly walking a horse (with help). While I put Zip’s trailer halter on, the youngest of our friends, who was scratching Zip’s neck, much to his snorty pleasure, looked up a me and said, “I think I’m addicted to horses.”

Horse hugs

We pushed all the stuff we’d used back into the trailer (five or so bales of hay make it hard to do this), and took out our trusty Handy Stick. We knew we were ready for anything a twelve-hundred pound horse with a sharp pair of hooves could throw at us.

As usual, we weren’t.

Jasper usually knows that Mom is boss. But, it depends on her tone of voice. If she says “Mister Jabba-Wabba baby, do you wanna get in da twaiwer?” then he will refuse for the rest of the session. If she says “Come on, buster. Let’s get in,” he says “Whoa. She means business here.” (OK, I’m exaggerating – Mom never talks to him like a baby – but she did learn to be firmer with him).

Who's longing who?

At least, that was how it happened in Texas when our feisty steed knew he was going to only have to stay in there, with his haybag full, for five minutes or so. But this day he said, “Wait a second. I’m not wearing my rope halter. I’m wearing the web one with the blue fuzzy things on it. and everybody’s hugging each other like they’re leaving. You know, I think I’m staying in there for a while. Nope, not gonna do it.”

Bllpbllpppptt!!!!! That's what I think about trailers!

With that, he threw out buck and a rear, and galloped off over our friends’ lush lawn. A fairy-tale picture, I know, a Horse with a long mane running, free, over a green meadow.

That is, until you notice the dangling lead and the fact that your fairy-tale mount is gamely crossing a road and going for those tasty flowers in the neighbor’s yard.

Mom, Dad and I ran after him, shaking the treats. Jasper said, “Uh-uh. I know where you’re taking me.”
Mom and Dad cornered him by going around opposite sides of the neighbor’s house, and Dad finally caught his lead rope. Jasper hung his head.

Dad now took over. After longing the escapee for a few minutes, he tried to lead Jasper into the trailer. Jasper refused.

Let me deviate from the plot. May I say that sweet old Zip had been waiting patiently in said trailer for about half an hour, now?

We longed Jasper whenever he refused to get in the trailer. After a long time (our friends, after seeing Jasper’s various bucks, kicks, and rears, decided to watch from afar) we finally got him in.

Drat! Foiled again!

We were headed to Ohio. More adventures were in store.

On the road again!


Night Pics

My daughter and I snuck in after bedtime to take some pics of the barn at night.

Hey, we're trying to sleep in here!

Ducks roosting up for the night

Zip savoring his hay

...while Jasper is already done with his food.

While we were out, the ducks decided to take a midnight stroll

The goats were decidedly unhelpful with posing

Heading back in for the night

What’s your favorite thing about being outdoors at night?  Any great memories?

Another Rock in the Wall

With the unseasonably warm days we had in the beginning of November, we put some of our other work (including some of the kids’ studies) aside and got to work improving our rear pasture.

The rear pasture is about 1.25 acres and “rough” to say the least.  Based on the size of the poisonous pin cherries throughout the pasture, we figure the pasture has been let go for a good 5-10 years.  We’d previously cleared about a quarter to third of it, and then broadcast spread winter rye seed on that area.  Despite the very suboptimal conditions, the seed has taken relatively well, though not nearly as vigorously as other areas on the property with better soil and preparation.

Over the past week, we got working on the next bit.  The easiest part was cutting down about 20 cherry trees and white pines of various sizes, cutting the larger stuff for the firewood pile while my wife and kids drug the slash to the burn piles.  I also cut up a large white birch the beavers had dropped a bit further down the hill.  More on them in a future post.

Meanwhile, as I was at work, my wife and kids got to pulling stumps, filling holes, and moving rocks.  We’ve got a lot of rocks – it’s not called the Granite State without reason.  Even with the help of the tractor, it’s a lot of work.

Moving rocks is hard work!

Teamwork is essential

A smile makes the work go faster

They're heavier than they look!

Notice the huge brush piles in the background that they've been busy with as well

I’ve helped a bit, but most of the work on the wall we’re starting to build at the edge of the pasture is due to their efforts.  It gives us a new appreciation for the sturdy farmers who built the thousands of miles of rock walls 200+ years ago without farm machinery.

It's a good start!

Our hope is to have enough pasture clear by next spring to have three 1/2 acre paddocks to rotate (two in the front pasture, one in the rear). That will still require some supplemental hay to avoid overgrazing, but will be a lot better than our current situation and make for healthier and more productive pastures in the future.  The seeding plan for the back pasture is to follow the Winter Rye with a good layer of manure and reseeding with Japanese Millet in the summer, then rotate back and forth between the two for at least one more year to break up the weed growth cycle before we move on to more traditional forages.  In a few years, I would like to have a solid Orchardgrass and White Clover pasture established there.

Trail Ride Poems by Another Guest Blogger/Poet

Our 11yo daughter was encouraged by the response to her older sister’s blog posts, and asked that we post these poems, written about a trail ride from last month.



We’re going to Bear Brook Park today

On the trails, Jasper will lead the way.

He’s prancing, snorting, and kicking up his heels

Happy, excited, and hyper he feels!

For lunch we stopped at a little clearing overlooking a lake.  This is what happened:

At Bear Brook State Park

Jasper really left his mark.

When he tried to eat some moss,

We all thought he was a silly hoss!

After lunch, we walked through an enormous forest of pine trees.

Proud, tall, and erect,

Pine trees pointed in lines stand,

Pointing to heaven.

We came to a tree root.  It was sticking out of the ground like a step.  By this time, Dad and my brother were riding Zip and my sister and I were riding Jasper.

When we came to a root in the ground

Zip stepped over the little mound

Jasper, however, would not step up,

And instead he sprang over and up!

Pictures of our First Snow

Pics taken by our daughters of our first snow of the year:

Zip in his blanket.

Jasper loves the cold.

Zip (foreground) and Jasper.

Hugs and Kisses

Jessie thought the snow tasted great.

View out the back balcony.

(Mis) Adventures in Long-distance Horse Trailering, Part 3

The morning after our first day of trailering our two horses cross country, the kids had been exercising the horses before we loaded them up for another day on the road.  Our Haflinger cross, Jasper, was recovering from a rough first day and first night.

Please let me out!

My wife and I had been connecting the trailer when the kids hollered that Jasper was a bit agitated.  We turned just in time to see Jasper fall to the ground.

Actually, when half a ton of horse hits the ground, you both hear it and feel it through the earth.

Both of us dropped what we were doing and ran over to the grassy area.  Jasper was already standing up, still wild-eyed.  As we approached, we realized why.  Smoke was rising from the field next door, and as we got closer we could see that the owner of that field was burning a huge pile of wooden pallets.

Horses don’t like fire, especially when they’ve had a recent bad experience.  The previous month, there had been a prarie fire that had made its way almost to Zip and Jasper’s pasture in Texas.  Zip had taken it pretty much in stride (as he does most things), but Jasper had understandably been very agitated as the fire moved closer, and that had been in the familiar turf of his home pasture.  After an all-day highway trek in the trailer followed by a rough night confined to a stable, his nerves were in no shape to deal with another fire, and he had simply lost his footing in the wet grass while our daughter was lunging him.

Jasper is a stout and muscular horse, and as his feet had shot out from under him while walking in a circle, he had hit pretty squarely on his shoulder and rump.  We checked him all over and didn’t find anything injured besides his pride.  He was walking just fine, his feet were in good shape, and he didn’t seem tender at all.  My wife walked him over to the other side of the barn where he couldn’t see the fire (but probably could still smell it) and worked him lightly to make sure he kept moving.

By now, we were heading out much later than we’d hoped, but the delay was necessary.  Convinced he would be OK, we loaded up the haybags, pointed for Zip to jump in, locked the divider in place, and then all took deep breaths as we prepared to get Jasper into the trailer.  He definitely didn’t want to go in, and though surprisingly it didn’t end up to take quite as long to convince him as I expected, it was a lot more difficult than it had been the previous morning.

Once we were safely loaded, we headed back out to the Interstate to start our next leg.  Thankfully, we had planned this day to be a bit shorter, with a 2-night stay that would give Jasper some time to recover.

Jasper still kicked the sides of the trailer from time to time, and definitely let us know he was unhappy, but we found he was a bit more resigned to his fate this day.  He still wouldn’t eat while we were moving, and the only water he would take was in the form of buckets of soaked hay we held up for him at rest stops.  Of course, we made sure to mix electrolytes into the water for both horses.

Not a lot of rest at the rest stop...

Zip, on the other hand, seemed perfectly happy in the trailer, as long as there was plenty of hay.  Looking back, we think this might have been because being a submissive horse in a pastured herd, he had always been last in line for food.  In the trailer, he had his own hay bag that he could eat in his own time with no interruptions.

By the time we pulled into our dear friends’ homestead in rural Kentucky, though, both Zip and Jasper were ready to get out of the trailer.  While we set up the temporary electric fence in their yard, the kids (ours and our friends’) took the horses for a walk through the fields.

We let the horses rest for two nights here (actually, it was more for us than for the horses we stayed – we hadn’t seen these friends for years, and we would’ve stayed much longer if we’d been able).  Zip and Jasper loved it, were quite happy with being out under open skies again, and enjoyed the attention and treats all the kids lavished upon them.

Happy horse and happy kids... life is good!

For their part, the horses contributed about 80lbs each of fresh manure to help fertilize the yard and add to our friends’ compost pile.

After a couple days’ rest, we figured the horses would be relaxed and ready to start the next leg of our journey.

We were wrong. (Click Here to read Part 4)

Poison in the Pasture – Pin Cherry

Wild Black Cherry (photo: Ohio Extension)

Both Wild Black Cherry and Pin Cherry trees are members of the rose family commonly found in Southern New Hampshire.  Pin Cherry is a common first-generation species after logging or forest fires create an opening (thus its alternate name, Fire Cherry) and is one of my chief concerns on our property.  We’ve cut several trees down from the margins of our primary pasture, but the back pasture that we’re restoring is positively full of them.

Pin Cherry

Cherry presents a poisoning hazard to all animals, particularly ruminants.  The hazard comes from cyanogenic precursor, prunasin, present especially in the leaves and bark.  When live, these precursors are not toxic, however when the plant dies the compounds break down, producing hydrocyanic acid (cyanide) which is highly toxic.  For this reason, fallen branches and wilted leaves are the most dangerous to livestock.  This hazard can be present in cherry-contaminated silage.  Once the leaves are allowed to dry, the cyanide is lost to the air.  Pin Cherry may contain less of these toxins than Black Cherry (reference). 

Back "pasture" is beyond the far fence... it's essentially a Pin Cherry orchard right now.

Cyanide blocks the body’s ability to use oxygen at the cellular level (the name derrives from cyan, referencing the blue tinge that can occur in tissue without oxygen-enriched hemoglobin).  In most animals, symptoms appear soon after ingestion and start with the body’s physiological response as it attempts to get more oxygen – rapid and labored breathing, anxiety, and stress.  If a fatal dose has been ingested, respiratory and/or cardiac arrest will normally occur within a few minutes to an hour.  First aid exists in the form of a cyanide antidote; however, as it must be given intravenously within a few minutes of the onset of symptoms, it is usually not an available and/or practical treatment (click here for a more extensive discussion on this from the Purdue extension office).

For that reason, prevention is the best cure for cherry poisoning.  We’ve been busy removing cherry trees from areas to which our livestock have access.  In addition, it’s a good idea to check the margins of fields/runouts/pastures after storms, frosts, and/or droughts to collect fallen, branches, and leaves before allowing livestock to graze.

On the plus side, these toxic compounds are concentrated in the leaves and bark, and the fruit itself is edible.  Black cherries can be sweet (watch out for the pit) for eating or processing.  Pin cherries, on the other hand, are quite sour and are best in a sweetened jam or to add tartness to sweet recipes.

Black Cherry wood is also prized for woodworking, though again, Pin Cherry falls short here.  Not only are large diameter specimens rare, but my woodworking friends tell me it is prone to splitting.  However, we’ve found several uses for the copious amounts of wood, and much of what is too small to be good for firewood is in a separate stack to be used for smoking meat next year.  In addition, we’ve been burning all the slash too small for either purpose to use for ash to bring down the acidity and bring up the potassium levels in our fields.