Cooperative Care

I read an article today about “Cooperative Care”. It made me think about how animal handling has changed in my lifetime.

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Suggesting “training an animal to not only tolerate handling and husbandry procedures, but to be an active, willing participant in these experiences” would have got you scoffed out of the group of farmers drinking coffee at the local auction mart when I was a kid. Continue reading “Cooperative Care”

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Slow Feeder

Eddie is too fat.

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He has been living in the Jenny Craig pen all summer even though he has been my main riding horse. It is true this wasn’t a great summer for horseback riding. Some days were just too hot. Many days were too smoky. Then suddenly it was cold, snowing and windy. Eddie might not be quite so fat if I rode him more.

He used to get more exercise come fall and winter when he got to go out on winter pasture with the herd but he ended that luxury a couple of weeks ago when he decided he was now the boss of the herd and beat hell out of Dreamweaver.  Continue reading “Slow Feeder”

The Barn Cats

We have a few cats here on the ranch.

Most of our cats originated from a female whose previous owner dropped at the ranch. Pregnant of course. She managed to get herself run over on the highway about the time the kittens got their beautiful green eyes open. One of the grandchildren found them crying in the Quonset. We raised them the rest of the way and got them on the ranch medicare plan. I have a special bond with them. They think I am their mother.

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Then there is FuzzyWuzzy. I’m not quite sure where she comes from but she meows to me, runs beside me, eats 2 feet away from me but doesn’t like me to touch her. She is afraid of the other cats. She will only come to the barn and eat if I am there. She is afraid of anything that moves. She has the same green eyes. Continue reading “The Barn Cats”

Spring on the Ranch

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Procreation. Really it is all about procreation. All the excitement. Twice yesterday while working in the garden I literally had to duck because one of the male hummingbirds was graced with a female audience in the cherry tree and absolutely had to perform some of his best “look at me girls and how virile I am” swoops while his iridescent greenness flashes in the sun.

Needless to say, I don’t have any photos of this.

Nor do I have photos of the same hummingbird explaining to one of the male finches why he cannot possibly land on this cherry tree. I almost got sideswiped in that deal too.

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The wrens are dropping down from above to gather sticks for their nests. Sometimes it takes them quite a bit of time to get them into their house but they usually make it happen. Not so much the swallow that is trying to move into the Martin House. When she drops the stick, she just flies away – not to be seen again for hours.

Some days I would like to be like her. A free spirit or so she appears.

But I suck at “relaxing”. I am truly grateful to be able to do all the things I can do. I can think up even more things to do while doing things.

As I planted the 2nd bag of onions, I told myself I will give all my kids some beautiful home grown onions this fall. Then as I planted the 3rd bag of onions, I told myself I will give all my kids some nice little bundles of green onions.

Now I am trying to remember if any of them like onions or if I am about to become known as the “onion lady” instead of the “pepper lady” at the food bank this year.

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The mares are at the breeding farms. I miss the babies a lot. It is raining. I don’t have to water gardens. Perhaps I’ll make a pot of coffee, sit on the deck, listen to the rain and spend a little time enjoying this bursting of life and procreation called spring.

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Weaning – Nobody’s Favorite Event

Weaning time. There comes a time when it needs to be done. None of the participants look forward to this. The mares make you feel guilty. The babies make you worry that they will get too stressed and do “something stupid” like crawling over a fence or not eat. Stressful time for everyone. Even the other horses in the herd dislike it.

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This year we were ahead of the game. The babies had been “on feed” (eating the hay and oats they would be getting when weaned) for a few weeks now.  Things were going well.

We always have great intentions of bringing the babies in everyday and separating them from their moms for a few minutes and giving them some of the second cut hay and oats they will be dining on when weaned. Usually all the fall work intervenes.

This year Josie, our oldest broodmare was having trouble keeping weight on. All the rest were plenty fat so we knew it wasn’t a food issue. Hauled her to the vet and got 3 loose teeth removed. Apparent injury.

Of course she needed extra feed to get her weight back up. She was also nursing a colt who could use a little extra fat too. So every day we would bring Josie and Levi in to eat some extra calories, specifically the nice second cut hay and some oats that were already in stock in preparation for weaning, a bit of senior horse ration and some oil.

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Laredo and Lucy, the other colt and filly figured out in a day or two that they wanted in there too. Josie is the boss mare and would be standing at the gate in the morning with 3 foals. No other horses dared push too close to Josie in the corner so it was a simple matter of opening the gate and letting them in.

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So we did an amazing job of getting the babies used to their new diet this year and were feeling pretty good about weaning time. They had become independent, so independent in fact that they would come and visit if I was working in the barn without their moms. They were coming home from the pasture with other herd members than the broodmares. They were ready. The weather was about to change. Best to do this deed in good weather.

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Decided to put Josie and the babies in the weaning pen for a few days or as long as Josie wanted to be there. They hadn’t been in this pen since they were tiny babies in the spring.

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They raced about happily.

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They climbed the mountain.

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Checked later. Pretty quiet. Lucy and Laredo were answering their moms’ calls but really pretty calm. We were already labeling this one of the best weanings ever.

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Maybe I should have been suspicious when I saw Laredo was buddying up to his “foster” mom but it was nice that everyone was settled in so nicely.

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Checked at dawn. Pretty quiet.

Went to feed after breakfast. Very quiet. Except for the slurping noises as the two foals who don’t belong to Josie were having breakfast. Yup Lucy and Laredo were lined up on each side of Josie sucking away while her own colt Levi stood in the background. She looked really proud about how well she could look after all her charges.

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Just what the old, underweight mare needed. More babies sucking her. Well, luckily the babies spent a good part of their time this summer being babysat by the yearling Oreo. She is really good to them. They like her. Pretty sure she isn’t going to like them sucking on her so they will actually get weaned. She is moving in and Josie is moving out.

Josie is demanding that we put her back with the colts and we are carefully slinking around the yard so she doesn’t see us. I feel like a kidnapper. LOL

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