Winter Pasture – Late November 2016

The daytime temperatures were just above freezing up until the very end of November. The nighttime temperatures were around -8. Nice comfortable weather for horses if not perhaps a little warm. Some of the warmer days they even rolled in the snow to cool down.

The kind of days that make working with the young horses particularly fun. No bugs and just a light jacket.  The snow was gradually decreasing, the paddocks were a bit icy but not bad.

20170103NHBlogWinterPasture1.jpg Continue reading “Winter Pasture – Late November 2016”

Winter Pasture – Nov 24, 2016

I hear rumblings from some horse people that they think turning horses out on winter pasture is not good for the them. That they are cold and uncomfortable.

I disagree.

With a few protocols, of course.

They should be checked daily and frequently have their ribs and backbone felt, they should have fresh warm water, and they need shelter from the wind such as windboards, forest or sheds. They need to have some fat reserve heading into the winter and the pasture has to have adequate good quality grass. They need to have been exposed to the weather during the fall so they develop a good coat. Continue reading “Winter Pasture – Nov 24, 2016”

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 5

Young horses are prone to accidents but most often they grow up strong and healthy and now after a couple of years of watching Marco grow up the scariest part of the dream arrives. Finding the right human for him.

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Young Marco loved visiting people. In fact, it was nearly impossible to visit any of the other horses without him trying to get your attention back over to him. So we needed someone who is going to give him lots of attention.

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He was sweet natured and easy to work with so it didn’t have to be a highly skilled professional but, of course, someone who had the skills to bring him along without spoiling him or destroying the trust he had already developed.

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He likes to “use” himself and loves to be learning new things. He likes life to be “interesting” not boring. He would pick up the plastic tarp or the ball and intentionally try to stir up some excitement with his buddies. Round and round in an arena was probably not his calling.

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As soon as we offered him for sale (on Northernhorse of course) we got a call and a visit from a young lady who appeared to be just what Marco needed. You know his whole future depends on the handling, care and training he gets. People who don’t raise baby horses probably don’t understand just what it feels like when just the right person arrives to look at purchasing him.  The perfect person arrives and your heart soars with hope that they will choose him. Your dream is that you will get to see him in the future and that he will be happy and loved and well cared for.

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Kayla is making our dream for Marco come true. Watch for more stories about Marco. Kayla has offered to update his story from time to time here on the blog. It will be interesting to see her dreams with Marco and how they unfold.

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 1

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 2

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 3

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 4

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 4

Summer goes fast in Alberta. Seems the snow is barely gone before the grasses along the ditches are heading out. The countryside changes from greens to golds and yellows and hints of red. The days shorten even more rapidly than they lengthened or so it seems.

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Before you know it, it’s weaning time.

At first it is all very exciting to be back in the paddocks you were born in and racing around with Mom and mates.

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Then Mom is gone and you are left with old George and your buddy Hawk. George waits patiently while his newest charges figure out that looking for Mom is a waste of time. He soon lures them over to the nice hay and bed that have been set up and gets them learning about “life after Mom”.

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Marco got busy figuring out what it was he was good at.

Slope sliding…

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Racing in the snow…

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Stopping…

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A few dressage moves…

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He made some mistakes…

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For which he appeared to almost lose his head…

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But soon he learned how to get along in the herd and join in the dance.

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Not everyone has the opportunity to watch baby horses grow up. Only the very luckiest. When you spend lots of time out watching this process, they get into your heart. They become your friends.

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 1

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 2

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 3

 

Premonition

As Dave and I stood watching Josie and Keeper who were showing obvious signs of impending birth, we discussed how cool it was that both Josie and her daughter were foaling at the same time and how bad it would be if they did the same as a couple of our cows a few years back and lay down together to give birth and then walk away with the wrong baby.

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We stayed up late. For us. We even sat in the car for an hour or two after dark in the hope that something was happening. It is so hard to tell exactly when a mare is going to foal. They can keep you in suspense for hours if not days. Then you slip away to go shut a gate or make a coffee and sure enough… you come back to find she popped him/her out already. Finally we went to bed.

Dave went out at daybreak to check. Keeper had foaled. And, luckily we didn’t have to wonder if there was any trading going on as the other baby was still safe in Josie’s belly.

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Keeper didn’t waste any time letting us know that she didn’t like Josie being around her baby. Josie had been there at the birth and being the boss mare she made Keeper feel intimidated. Mother or not. The baby was with Keeper but Keeper was worried so we moved Josie to another paddock to wait for her to foal.

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Oreo, Keepers filly,  is just the sweetest little thing. Dave was waiting for a black baby with 4 white socks but when he laid his eyes on Oreo, he immediately claimed her. Keeper was my saddle horse for a few years and really likes me so getting my hands on her baby was no big deal. Like Maggie’s filly who is now a week old, she was instantly friendly and trusting.

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Watched Josie all day. Even phoned a vet at one point but they were too busy to do much of anything and we ended up deciding we were just helicopter midwives and that really nothing much was wrong except that we were a bit impatient. She was still a bit crampy and it had been awhile but she wasn’t up and down or sweating or particularly stressed.

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Watched Josie well into the night. Sure enough next morning at day break we had another baby. This time a nice big colt. Josie was proud and had him up nursing and all was well. Watched her teach him to tuck in by her shoulder and travel with her. She stood over him (right over him) almost every time he went to sleep.

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By 4 in the afternoon we decided to put them all together – they have been together for years and all know each other. Josie will be boss but every herd has its boss and now Josie has the youngest foal which tends to make them more cautious for the first few days.

Checked a couple of times before bed. All was well.

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Checked early the next morning. Josie parades by proud as punch with Oreo, her granddaughter at her side. Keeper is nursing Josie’s colt, Swap who is really her brother. Keeper has a confused look like she knows something is not quite right but… the boss mare has informed her they are trading, Keeper really likes Swap and Josie is making it really clear that the one she has is the one she wants and therefore the one she is keeping.

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Both mares are good milkers. Both mares love the baby they have. Just going to let it be. Besides I had a premonition.

Here are some videos of the new babies.

Keeper and Oreo

Another one of Keeper and Oreo

A video of Josie and Swap (before she swapped him out).

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – Part 3

PART 3: He wiggles into your dreams

So it isn’t long before this soft and furry time sink has got you convinced that he is the number one, most wonderful horse ever born. SPECIAL. Very SPECIAL in fact. He could be or do anything in your mind at this point.

You admire his smarts when he hangs out under mom’s tail when the bugs are biting.

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You love that every time he sees you he comes to see how you are doing.

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He is, of course the best little Mama’s boy ever. Even she knows he is Very SPECIAL.

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You could spend hours every day watching him and his friend Hawk play. And do.

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And you love that he even breaks away from paying with his friend to come visit you.

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It is all part of what makes up your dream for him. It becomes important, of course, to learn who he really is and to keep up his education so he can have his feet done and be easily wormed and handled when necessary. This is the real fun part. Getting to be the young horse’s first contact with people. A big responsibility with rewards that are beyond my skills to describe.

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You start noticing who comes snooping around the barn door when you are working in there?

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Who grabs the plastic bag from the tack store and removes the new ball before you get a chance to? He holds onto the ball handle while the bag blows away.

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And you suddenly realize that you now have dreams for Marco. Dreams that might include all kinds of successes. Dreams that he will always have this happy, trusting look in his eyes. Will the trust you have been developing be tossed away by misunderstanding? Will he get the care he needs? Will his start be the kind of start that opens lots of opportunities for him? Or will he fall through enough cracks that his only opportunity will be at a slaughter plant? Many of us have seen it go both ways. There are lots of things that can go wrong. And right. But first he needs to grow up a bit. And where better than in a herd on a ranch in western Alberta.

A Horse Breeder’s Dream  – PART 1: He enters our lives and our dreams

A Horse Breeder’s Dream – PART 2: Marco Learns about halters and lead ropes