Saturday, September 29, 2007

Waiting for supper...

Here is The Spoiled One, waiting patiently for her evening meal. She's rather dirty right now, as I have not been able to groom her properly since injuring my thumb. Being so light in color, naturally she enjoys rolling in dirt as much as possible - mud is even better! Hopefully tomorrow I will be able to bribe, er hire, some help so as to be able to get better pictures. I am still working on the photos series on training the Salute. She is really enjoying it, and I am starting to think what trick I should teach her next - Mira does not like being bored!

Well, that's it for tonight. I hope everyone is having a great weekend!


Thursday, September 27, 2007


I'm afraid the next batch of photos will have to wait until tomorrow, as I managed to give myself a deep cut on my thumb today. It is well bandaged and should recover fine, but typing will be difficult for a while, so please excuse the short break. Talk to you soon!


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Field #3

Introducing... Field #3! I know, such a poetic name to give it :-) This is the smallest spot I plan on using this winter, approximately 20'x40'. It is located right below our pond dam, so it is also wetter than some other areas. Right now I am actually not sure whether I will use it for grass hay like Field #2, or if I might decide to plant it to grain. Either way, it is a very fertile (for our area) piece of land.

Below is a picture of the pond grass that we made hay from earlier in the summer. The poor pond is so low! I really, really hope we have a wet winter this year. Last year I think we got about half of the normal precipitation and the pond never filled up all the way. I hope to have more Mira pictures ready tomorrow, so stay tuned!


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Field #2

And this is Field #2! (Also called the quackmire due to its proximity to the pond!) This is the wettest, shadiest spot on our property, and is roughly one quarter acre in size, irregularly shaped. It is fabulous for late spring grass, and we must have a spring in one spot, because there is one small area that always has green on it (third pic). I will not be planting anything new on it this year - I simply want to manage it better than it has been so far, i.e. graze it regularly and evenly at the right intervals in order to encourage good growth and to naturally fertilize it. I may or may not put top-dressings on it. If I do, gypsum would be my first choice, again.

My ideal plan for this field would be to graze it quite a bit early in the spring, and then allow the grass to mature enough to cut for hay. We shall see whether it works out, and how much hay it produces!
Field #3 pictures coming tomorrow...


Monday, September 24, 2007

Field #1

OK, here is what I will call Field #1. This is where I plan to plant wheat. As far as I know, this field has never had anything other than brush clearing and weed-whacking done to it. No fertilizing, watering, or anything else. It is basically virgin land. I plan to wait until after we get a couple more good rains, and then rent a rototiller and work the ground thoroughly. Then I want to scatter manure lightly over the area - lightly, because wheat does not like too much fertilizer. The main thing the ground needs is gypsum to loosen the dirt (or cement as we call it!). I would estimate I'll be planting roughly 80'x100' to wheat.

I have no idea what the diamonds in the picture are from! I could not find any dust on my lens... Weird.

More photos tomorrow!


Sunday, September 23, 2007

New Photos Tomorrow!

Finally, I managed to get my act together and borrow a camera again, and I've been taking tons of pictures! So, hopefully by tomorrow afternoon I will have a bunch of them sorted out so I can post them. I am doing my best to get good clear pictures of the steps in training the Salute, MiKael. It's funny, I don't think I've ever done a photo tutorial before, so I hope it turns out well! I also have been taking pictures of the areas I want to try growing hay (and wheat) this winter. Wheat is the easiest people food of all to grow in this area. Everything else is very difficult to keep protected from the gophers, birds, deer, raccoons, etc. etc. And then the ground in this area is mostly decomposed granite, literally, so it requires LOTS of amendments and water... and water... and more water... which we don't have much of. It is most practical to grow stuff in the winter here, rather than trying to fight the summer heat and lack of rain for 6+ months at a time.

Growing wheat is super easy, though. I will tell more about that in another installment. :-) I am going to try to get lots of pictures of everything I do in preparing the ground and planting, and then photograph the growing plants every couple of weeks. Ditto with the hay - although I will probably use the native grasses for that. Not exactly great quality in them, but they will be decent supplemental forage.

Speaking of home-grown hay, our pond got really low again this summer. There was a lot of green grass growing on the bottom, and just for fun we harvested some and dried it to see if Mira would like it at all. Pond bottoms are typically FULL of nutrition of all sorts, (they can also contain bad residues, though) and so we were curious about it. I thought it smelled pretty sour, but I have never seen hay disappear as quickly or thoroughly as that hay did. I was quite surprised that she liked it that much!

OK, I'll stop rambling now. See you tomorrow!


Monday, September 17, 2007

Cooler weather and new experiments coming

It is actually starting to feel like fall now. Yay! I much prefer cold weather to hot. We might get rain this weekend, but I doubt it... Things are pretty normal around here the last few days, not much new. I am still training the Salute with Mira, and will put up pictures as soon as I can get some. Sometimes I reward her with belly rubs instead of food, and I can't decide which she likes best. :-)

I finally gave in and bought some SWAT ointment for a couple spots where Mira keeps getting bitten. I have done everything else, but before it quite heals the flies will come back and bite it again. Aarggh. I don't want her to get infected, so I decided to bite the bullet and get the "nasty" chemical stuff. It IS working very well, and I have only applied it once. That was over 24 hours ago and I still haven't seen a single fly near the spots. I'm hoping I can get them all healed quickly and not have to use any more SWAT this season.

I have been doing some more research on easy, small-scale hay growing, and as winter is our growing season, I will share my experiments as I gear up for growing more feed this winter! For a list of last season's experiments and LOTS of helpful links, click here. One reason I am passionate about this topic is because there is so much concern throughout the horse world about hay shortages. If you look at the news, and study what is influencing agriculture in this country, it becomes apparent that we really should not count on hay (or grain) becoming plentiful and cheap again. In fact, it is best to make plans otherwise. The good news is that growing some of your own animal feed, (as well as food for yourself!) can be quite simple and still produce a big supplemental supply to "boughten" food. You don't need much land, you don't need very much equipment, (nothing with motors is necessary!) and you don't need much time. Mainly what you need is the right knowledge and good timing - something many horse people have an edge on already. :-)

So I hope you all enjoy going with me as I learn more, and maybe this will inspire you to try a few things to make your barn more sustainable!


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Update on Training the Salute

Well, Mira has had about 4 "training sessions" (if you can call them that, less than 5 minutes each!) and she is still doing well with learning the trick. I had an absolutely insane week last week, so after that first time, it was a couple days before I even tried a refresher with her. I was feeding her, and before I put the bucket down, I decided to see if she remembered. So I gently tapped the back of her cannon bone with my foot, and before I could even say the "Foot-foot-foot" cue she had picked her leg up! She was very quick and looked at me like, "OK, I did it, now I WANT MY FOOD!" LOL

I was tickled pink that she remembered. :-)

We've done a couple more quickies like that, just to keep it somewhat fresh, and then today I got a banana and we did a short practice session again. This time I also introduced the concept of moving her leg towards a tap on the front of her cannon bone. I will continue shaping the trick until I can "draw" her leg in any direction I ask. And then eventually, I intend to refine until I can just point at the leg and she will pick her foot up.

To Photogchic, I'm afraid I haven't tried clicker training with her, so I can't really tell you which is the best way to go, but Mira seems to have picked this way up quickly. Too quickly, maybe - it might not keep your Maddy occupied for that long! Although, I bet she would enjoy showing off for the farrier! :-)

Ta Da!


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

6 Years Ago Today

I was thinking about this day and what happened 6 years ago and how it changed me in so many ways. I think this video might be the best memorial video I've seen yet.
I cannot say anything in remembrance that has not been said already. So I will just say that reflecting on that day reminded me that although we saw face-to-face the incredible evil humans are capable of that day, we also saw incredible beauty in the courage, love, unity, sacrifice, and utter selflessness so many people that day displayed that day...


Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I finally figured out how to start training the "bow" with other than normal tactics!!! Yay!

For some time now, both Mira & I have been boorrred with not being able to ride. Grooming & feeding, grooming & feeding, is nice but lacks... pizzaz and interest. :-) I have been wracking my brains trying to figure out an alternative way to teach a variation of the bow. What I would like is for me to cue Mira, for her to pick up her foot so that her knee is nice and high, and for her to pose that way for a couple seconds until I cue her out of it. I do not intend to teach her the real version of the bow, as that would be hard on her old bones & joints.

(I found an 11 second video of a mare that looks a lot like Mira, wearing the SAME type halter, bowing - here ya go! Link)

I kept thinking and thinking about what would be the best way to teach this trick. There are 2 main methods I have researched:

Traditional: Tap horse on cannon bone (shin) over and over until horse gets frustrated and strikes out, at which you immediately stop tapping and praise lavishly. Repeat until horse can strike leg out every time whip is pointed as a cue. This is also the way the Spanish Walk, pictured above, is usually trained.

What I didn't like - Purposely making your horse that frustrated seems very counter-productive to the overall goals of training. Plus, it works better with male horses. Mira would be more likely to bite if she got that mad!

Clicker Training: Teach horse basics of this method first, and then train horse to bow in many small steps of progression.

What I didn't like - I think clicker training is good for a lot of people, but it doesn't mesh that well with my personality. I do like their rules on not treating the horse if it is being pushy in any way, though.

My Experimental Way: (I am sure someone else has done this with their horse before, so don't take me as claiming to have invented this - I just haven't read about this anywhere is all!)

Goal-train her to move her leg towards a steady tapping that is associated with a verbal cue, "Foot." This will enable me to move her leg in any direction I need it to go, and make it a much more flexible trick than I was thinking originally.

Plan-Tap steadily on back of her front cannon bone, repeating verbal cue, and back her up. As soon as the leg starts to leave the ground, STOP tapping, praise happily, and give her a piece of banana.

Results after one session-Ta da! Three bananas, or about 20 repetitions, and she has already figured out the concept! I am jazzed :-D

I will get pictures as soon as I can borrow a camera again, and keep you guys updated on the progress! For now, I'll just say Mira was more than ready for some training and mental stimulation... I think her dream career would have been showing off several cool tricks daily for adoring crowds. She probably wanted to grow up to be a circus horse. :-D

Anyway, I am typing this in a hurry, so I hope it's at least semi-understandable. Have a good night, everyone!