Monday, May 28, 2007


Aahh... I really do love weekends. Especially long ones! I have had a lot of fun just hibernating and relaxing. The only problem is that I've already burned my tongue and sliced my finger, pretty deep. Oh well. They should both heal fast, I just don't like the inconvenience of wearing bandaids for the next few days!

Anyway, I feel tons more relaxed - I hadn't realized how hard I've been going lately! I hope all your weekends went well, and that you had fun barbecuing or visiting or whatever your plans were. And try not to cut yourself cooking!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Paddock Paradise" by Jaime Jackson: Part 2

One important observation from wild horse bands all over the world is that they do not usually wander aimlessly around their territory. It may look like it to humans, but when you study them closely, horses have distinct paths, looping and meandering trails, which they tend to travel on. These paths will take them to water, grazing areas, salt and other minerals, dustbathing areas, sleeping areas, and more. It may take them several days to cover all the ground, and some areas may not be visited at all in some seasons.

The description of herd life and the pictures of wild horse social dynamics in this book are fascinating. The author spends quite a lot of the book describing the wild horse's life, which is good - We need to know what wild living really is like before we can copy, modify, and tweak it to our own horses' needs!

He does not say exactly how he came up with the idea for "Paddock Paradise," but however it ocurred to him, the basic idea is a long, meandering track that is basically a large fenced loop about 10'-20' in width. The width is important, because having it narrow enough encourages the horses to keep moving. The twists and turns keep them always "looking around the next corner." Along the track you will put their feeders, their salt and mineral blocks, and their water, at different locations, so that they keep moving often to get to the next thing. There will also be a few areas where you can widen out the track to create loafing areas.

I love this idea, especially because it ties in perfectly with a rotational grazing system, to really maximize your pasture health as well as your horses' health! AND, save money on feed by having productive pastures because the horses are not constantly on them!!!

Overall, some of the key reasons why I am building a "Paddock Paradise" for Mira this summer are:
  • Constant movement keeps a horse's joints supple, strong, and young.
  • Moving all day keeps your horse much more fit, even when you can't ride.
  • Less need for warmup and cool down when you do ride.
  • Horses are not bored - their minds are stimulated and they get to "fulfill their innate horsieness." ;-D
  • More natural herd dynamics.
  • Apparently needs as little as one acre to work.
  • I believe "Paddock Paradise" would dramatically lower risk and incidence of colic, for a lot of reasons!
  • Lessens or eliminates need for frequent hoof trims, and naturally creates a tough, resilient, well-shaped hoof.
  • Horses that are moving and exploring are HAPPY HORSES! :-)

I hope you enjoy this review, and I recommend this book to anyone who wants to find out more about simple, non-labor-intensive ways to increase their horse's health, mental wellbeing, and longevity!


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Paddock Paradise" by Jaime Jackson: Part 1

This book is only about 100 pages long, but it if you want a truly information-packed resource on holistic horse health, practical advice, and an imagination inspiring nudge, you will want to get this one!

Jaime is a farrier/barefoot trimmer who studied wild horses in the high desert for 4 years in the 1980's. Being a farrier, he was especially interested in their feet, which were (obviously) never trimmed or cared for by humans. Domestic horses are prone to many different kinds of lamenesses, and a huge number of horses are chronically lame to some degree or other, even at very young ages, sometimes even before they are started under saddle. Farriers, vets, and horse owners spend a great deal of time and money each year treating lameness in horses, yet lameness issues are still some of the worst killers of horses. When Jaime realized that the wild horses he was watching were almost never lame despite traveling dozens of miles a day over all kinds of terrain, (soft, hard, rocky, slippery, sandy, wet, dry, and gravelly ground) he started thinking, and examining lots of cadaver hoofs, footprints, and photos of the wild horses. What he found caused him to rethink hoofcare, and revolutionized his techniques, especially in regard to use of typical horse shoes...

In the last couple decades, other horse people ended up on similar paths of questions and discovery, and now barefoot high-performance horses are becoming an accepted reality. And successful rehabilitation of thousands and thousands of "hopelessly" lame horses has caused an entire industry to rethink a lot of traditions and practices, for the good of the horse.

However, one thing that the various barefoot "gurus" have consistently found, is that movement, and LOTS of it, is far, far more important for the health of a horse's feet, (and whole body) than the particular style of trimming. Horses that stand in a stall or under a tree most of the day will never have hooves that reach their full potential, unlike horses that travel 20 miles a day or more.

So the dilemma for horse owners has been, how is it possible to provide enough room and motivation to encourage their beloved horses to move that much? Even in very large pastures, horses will often stand near the gate most of the day, swishing flies. We do not want "pasture potatoes," but very few of us horse owners have the resources to give our horses several thousand acres of open land to simulate a wild environment. Riding consistently is very good for horses, but they still tend to stand around the rest of the time.

So, what is the answer to this puzzle?!?

Part 2 coming tomorrow. :-)


Monday, May 21, 2007

Developing Feel: Try Closing Your Eyes

This evening Mira and I went on one of the longest rides we've been on. :-) I was having some trouble getting her to relax and slow down, though, and she kept trying to lean on the bit. Without really thinking about it consciously, I closed my eyes for a few seconds, and just focused on relaxing and being very soft, but definite, with my hands, and it was amazing! I ended up doing that for quite a bit of the ride (we were on a quiet, open section of road) and it was just a fabulous ride. She was soft and calm, and we both had even more fun than we usually do!

After I got home, I remembered reading somewhere that riding with your eyes closed could help with developing your feel - I cannot remember who said that, but they sure were right! Just do it for a few seconds at a time, and see what happens!


Fun Surprise

Somebody gave me several hundred feet of woven wire fencing today! It is used, but in good condition, and would have cost me at least a couple hundred dollars new. So, thank you - you know who you are! :-D

I plan to use it soon to start putting up my "Paddock Paradise" track. It gave me a head start on that project!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bad camera, bad camera!

Weeelll, I'm afraid it might be a little bit before I have any NEW pix to put up - I'll have to make do with old, unposted ones for now, as the digital camera is being very bad. *shakes finger at it*

It is broken, and won't even turn on... :-(

Mira is still doing well, though, thank God! A funny story: Yesterday was one of her days off, when she did not get ridden. We just groomed her and played a little bit. Well, I started rubbing her belly with the rubber curry, and I discovered some old long hair left over from winter back near her udder. She likes getting her belly groomed anyway, but I guess this stuff had been really itching or something, because as I kept brushing she stretched her neck out, leaned into me, and even picked up her hind leg next to where I was brushing! (Not agressive at all - think of what a dog does when you are scratching its belly!) I went over to the other side and she did the same thing there too... LOL. I guess she got her day at the spa yesterday. :-D

As soon as I get a spare moment, I want to write a review of Paddock Paradise, by Jaime Jackson. I got it weeks ago, and have read it several times. Now that I've had a little time to let it percolate in the back of my head, I would like to share it with you! Sneak peak: I liked it.

Anyway, ta-ta for now!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Back to Riding!

First, thanks to all the recent commenters. I enjoy hearing from you!

Second, quick recap of Mira's last 6 weeks - see early April posts for full details - basically, I was afraid she was injured and needed to be retired, (something I have been expecting anyway, because she's 27 years old). I was really depressed about it. I don't mind her being a pasture pet so much as just that she loves going places. And it is not possible for me to get another horse to ride yet - in a few months, yes, but not now. Well, the vet examined her, and surprise! He said she was fine and to start riding again! After that I let my young siblings ride her a few times, but not me, because the kids are lighter and I wanted to make sure she could handle the weight on her back. Then the trimmer came and confirmed what the vet said: She was fine, and I should definitely ride her!

So, for the last week I've been riding her again, almost every day. She is kind of out of shape again, so we'll build up slowly back to where she was, but she feels great!

The first two rides she did do some crowhopping (small bucks) - she had this attitude, like "What?! I thought I was retired!!! Do I have to start working again?" By the third ride though she had calmed down and was her normal self. She has enjoyed going around the neighborhood and trotting past all the horses up and down the road again, that's for sure. I try not to always let her trot past other horses, but she really is a show-off - If I let her, she will pick up her tail and do a floating trot past them, and you just know she is telling the other horses "Look at me, I am SOO beautiful!" It's so cute watching conceited horses! :-D

I am going to ride her again in a few minutes, and hopefully get some better pictures of her to post over the next few days. Have a Fabulous Friday!


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Kentucky Derby 2007

I really enjoyed the Derby this year. It was a bit odd though, because this year I didn't know enough about the horses to pick a favorite, which is definitely unusual. I always have a favorite, and, my favorite always loses! So this year I just watched and waited to see who would win. This Derby was one of the more exciting ones for sure! Street Sense, the favorite, ended up 19th out of 20 horses at one point in the race. At that point I kinda wrote him off, and focused on the others. But, then he came from the back and WON!!! I love stories like that. :-) And of course, now I'm going to be rooting for Street Sense in the Preakness!

It was really touching also to see how totally excited the jockey was to achieve his dream. And even better to see how well loved he is at the track- you could tell by how happy everyone else was for him.

Here's a video of the race...

All in all, a fun race. Only a couple weeks now 'till the Preakness! Will this be the year for a Triple Crown Winner?


Saturday, May 5, 2007

New Pictures

Here are some of the latest pictures of Mira - all taken in the last week.

In "Horse Heaven" - knee-high grass! (Well, it's all gone to seed, but it's still fun)

Wondering why I keep kneeling and pointing that thing at her:

Now that her coat is short again, the C-shaped scar on her right hip is visible again. I don't know how visible it'll be in this picture, but it is there! I don't really know anything about how it happened or how long ago - it was well healed by the time I got her and I just figure it is a useful piece of unique ID. ;-D

I hope everyone is having a GREAT weekend! Next few posts, Kentucky Derby, how riding Mira again is going (yay!), and more.


P.S. Working on a few formatting issues - please bear with me. :-)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I'm Back

This is just a quickie to let y'all know that I plan to post PICTURES tomorrow! Mira is totally shed out now, and her summer coat is very short and tight and smooth, which has been a real boon for keeping her clean. So it's been a lot easier to get good pics the last few days!

By the way, I really didn't fall off the earth the last week or so - just been crazy busy with work and friends and yardwork and chores and all the other stuff spring always brings. Life is good right now, but I did miss not being able to stay caught up with everybody's blogs... Hopefully things are starting to settle down now!


Tiny-Scale MiG: Post Script

Just an update to let you know how my efforts and experiments turned out this spring. We are almost to summer now, which in this area means brown grass and no more growth until fall...

Read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series, as well as Tiny Scale Hay Making for more information about what I was trying to accomplish and what I have learned so far.

MiG Stands for Management-intensive Grazing, which could be described, VERY briefly, as:

"The thoughtful use of grazing manipulation to produce a desired agronomic and/or animal result. This may include both rotational and continuous stocking depending upon the season." (Thanks to Stockman Grass Farmer.)

I have been very enthusiastic about MiG for several years now, ever since I started learning about the many benefits of grassfed meat and dairy, and how good this technique is for the environment. At first though, when looking through the articles and advice on actually DOING MiG, I was pretty indimidated. It seemed so... complicated! However, gradually I've stopped worrying so much about that and just decided to start small wherever I can. :-D

THE RESULTS: The grass that I grazed Mira on this year has done quite well. We have very poor soil and pretty pathetic grasses, to be honest. I was mainly attempting to manage the grasses so that Mira could eat a lot but so that the grass would improve in health at the same time. It seems to have worked! Comparing areas side by side, the places that were grazed/cut at least once are actually taller now than the areas that I was unable to harvest. It was a thrill when I realized that, and I think it's interesting that even though no fertilization was done (Usually she wasn't even on a patch long enough to leave one pile of manure) the grass still looks greener and healthier just because of getting cut/grazed once or a few times. I wonder why?

Anyway, for those of you who have been waiting with bated breath for the next installment, (;-D) I hope you are glad to know how this series of experiments turned out!