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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The Boss Mare Calls

Yesterday when I went out to work with Hawk, my 4 year old gelding, I noticed that he was really not happy living alone away from the herd. I had just locked him up the day before. He was nervous about being alone. I decided to bring Elvis the 3 year old in to be with him and perhaps work with Elvis a bit too before he leaves to be started. I could see the herd up by the trees on the north quarter.

As I headed out to the pasture, Hawk was calling and begging to come along. When I got a little farther Josie the old boss mare saw me and she started yelling and pointing out she would like to be out with HER herd too.

I took a short cut across the hummocks in the swamp – not too scary, they are still frozen and don’t wobble – and was just nicely on the other side when I heard the sound of running horses. I am quite used to seeing them come when I call but they were running like they were on a mission. Their hooves were thundering on the partially frozen ground. Continue reading “The Boss Mare Calls”

Many Years of Classifieds

The years slip by quickly. Too quickly. Mark sent me a reminder of that today.

Let me put a little perspective on this little flashback. It was the mid 90’s. We still had a couple of our 6 kids living at home. We had just been through the 20+ percent interest of the 1980’s with almost more debt than we could survive.

After we sold the dairy, we worked at haying half the hay fields around the area, ran a silage operation, had up to 140 head of cows calving, raised a fair number of horses, tended a big garden, and raised kids. We never seemed to have enough money but we certainly had enough to do. And on the subject of years slipping by quickly – some of those years went by way too fast. Could use a rerun. There were a lot of good times.

Then Dave hurt his back. The surgeon asked  him if he “had to keep farming”. Well, that was a dumb question. Of course Dave had to keep farming. That was what Dave did. But every time he drove the tractor or the cutter or the truck for too long, he was back laying on the floor. Continue reading “Many Years of Classifieds”

Winter Pasture – Jan 2017

A New Year and New Pasture Problems.

The first half of January 2017 we got a bit of new snow and cold with night temperatures in the minus twenties and thirties. The horses continued to do remarkably well out on the pasture. Dry and cold aren’t really much problem for horses.

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On the really cold days when the wind is blowing they are usually lined up along the windboards. The day this photo was taken it was cold and windy.  In the photo they look warm and comfortable. And when you go stand where they are, it is much much warmer and no wind. They soak up the sun’s rays. Their coats even feel warm on the sunny side. Continue reading “Winter Pasture – Jan 2017”

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.

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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”