Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Gear Review: Source Outdoors Dune 1.5L Hydration Pack

During a snack break.
I thought it might be of some interest if I posted a review of new gear as I try it out.  Perhaps this comes from overhearing the reviews my hubby listens to about trail running gear.  Many items can successfully cross over from trail running to trail and endurance riding.  I recently acquired the Source Outdoors Dune 1.5L Hydration Pack, a backpack-style water bladder carrier designed for trail running.  A few days ago was my first ride with the pack.

What did I love about this pack?  It was comfortable and highly adjustable.  Although my back got a little sweaty wearing it in fairly humid conditions, it really was an unobtrusive presence during my ride.  The straps are all attached, so there are no dangling ends.  This is great, as there is very little chance of catching the straps on a piece of tack or tree branch.  And it's great for those mid-ride potty breaks - ladies, no worries about getting your straps wet by accident.  I did not have to remove my pack to take a "nature pee."  The fully loaded bladder and pack are still very lightweight, and sat very close to my back, therefore not interfering whatsoever with my balance in the saddle or while mounting/dismounting.  I had no problem using the tube, reattaching it to the magnet, or drinking.  I definitely drank more water, more consistently throughout my ride than I do with just bottles.  I did carry a single bottle of electrolyte-supplemented water in addition to the plain water in my pack. 

What did I not love about this pack?  Near the end of my nearly three hour ride, I couldn't get any more water out of the drinking valve while riding.  I assumed the bladder was empty.  In fact, I think the bladder had kinked in the middle as it lost volume and I wasn't able to get water until I'd removed the pack and manipulated the bladder a bit.  I am hoping this tendency will decrease as the bladder gets a little more "broken in."  As the volume of water decreased, the pack got lighter, and had more of a tendency to bounce on my back at the trot and canter.  However, I really didn't find this to be an annoyance at all (contrary to what I'd expected).  I did have to tighten the straps considerably once I began posting trot, compared to what was comfortable at the walk.  The waist strap did tend to ride up, but it was comfortable at the higher position so I let it remain there.

The sternum strap has a whistle built into the buckle.  I used this to signal my dog.  I forgot, however, that I'd never blown a whistle from Rhio's back.  He handled it just fine, but did have a little startle response.  The integrated whistle turned out to be a great feature!  But I do recommend you try it out from the ground around your horse first.

The water bladder is unique in that it is shaped to reduce sloshing.  It has a "hole" in the middle of it.  Between this design, and turning the filled bladder upside down and sucking all the air out before you put it in the back, I had very little water sloshing noise at all.  Rhio did indicate he could hear something weird up there when we first started trotting (perhaps just the motion of the padded, ventilated back against my tank top) but he quickly got used to it.  The pack did not make my tank ride up, which has been an issue with some hiking packs I've had in the past.

The drinking tube is fabric-covered (UV protection according to the manufacturer) and this makes it really easy to handle.  As with all bladders, the water that remains in the tube gets warm, so your first sip is always warm to hot (kinda yucky).  The water in the bladder stayed fairly cool, but not cold.  The drinking valve comes with an attached cover, which is nice.  However, I did find that I needed both hands to get the cover off and twist the valve open.  This may be a skill thing, and perhaps I will be able to operate it one-handed with more practice.

The waist belt has a small pocket on both sides.  I could *just* fit my iPhone 6 SE with a LifeProof case in this pocket - it was a bit tight. I prefer to have my phone on my person, and having it accessible for photo taking was nice.  I typically use a running waist belt for the phone if my riding tights don't have pockets (none of my summer tights do!).  It was perhaps slightly easier to get the phone out of the pack pocket than out of my waist belt.

There is also a slim pocket along the length of the pack, and a bungee-cord outside attachment (you could put a lightweight jacket in this I think.)  I did not use either of these features.

Overall, with just one pleasure/conditioning ride with the pack, I am happy with it.  I will hopefully be trying it out on a 50 mile endurance ride very soon!

P.S. It does come in a few colors!  I got mine for about $100. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Happy Herd

The boys are comfortable enough to nap while Daria keeps watch.
All is well in our little herd!  Daria is lice-free and her new summer coat is growing in all glossy and black; neither Red nor Rhio got lice, and no one has had any ticks yet, either.  The EquiSpot topical I started for the lice is also a tick preventative.  My pasture doesn't have any brush or long grasses, so it's relatively unfavorable tick habitat, but the ticks are out in force already and having some protection on the horses (and the dogs!) is paramount. 
Daria, during a 8" spring snow storm just over a week ago.
I am now able to leave Red and Daria home alone - even overnight! - with no "extra" help for Red (i.e. not even a titch of tranquilizer required.)  Rhio and I have put on about 115 miles since January, and with his brand new shoes put on today, we are ready for the first ride of the season, in about a week and a half!  But before that, we are hosting a distance riding clinic this upcoming weekend and Rhio gets to 1) mark trail for our short practice ride 2) be a demo horse and 3) lead the group of riders on the practice ride!  I guess we've been having a busy spring.
Some of the views through Rhio's ears on this spring's rides.
My handy husband built me a hay box last week.  I wanted to be able to feed hay in nets to reduce waste, keep more hay in front of them all the time, and allow us to go away for a weekend camping without needing to have someone come feed the horses.  I have a full-bale size net, and because Rhio wears shoes (which could get caught on the net), I can't put the bale-in-the-net directly on the ground.  So, we designed this small hay box so that he can't catch his feet on the netting (ok, I suppose if he decided to stand IN the box - and horses do the darnedest things sometimes!), but that is still small and low enough to the ground that little Daria will be able to eat from it!  With two half-bale nets affixed to the board portion of the fence, and the box full with a full bale, and probably some loose hay as well, they should be good for 2 days. 
The box is just big enough for 1 bale, sits about 4" off the ground, and has solid sides but a slatted bottom (for drainage).  We used eye bolts so I can secure the net into the box, but they protrude too much and get caught on the net when I am putting it, full, in the box.  So, we are going to move the eye bolts to the top instead of the inside surface.
"Slow feed" nets are a big deal right now - rightly so, as they are very helpful for lots of "easy keeper" horses in reducing/slowing hay consumption, keeping them busy "grazing" more hours per day, and help keep small amounts of forage moving through their digestive tracts all the time (healthier horses.) My nets are not truly "slow feed" - because the diameter of the holes isn't small enough for the horses to really be slowed down, once they figure out how to use them. Red and Rhio have net experience, and they were thrilled with the box-o-hay immediately! They were actually preferentially eating out of the box, instead of loose hay I also put out. Daria has been skeptical of the whole thing, and has been scrounging for dropped hay beneath and around the nets rather than trying to eat from them, once the loose hay is gone.  I have every confidence she'll figure it out.  

Red uses the net like a pro.
Why don't I use true "slow-feed" nets, with all their health benefits? This is a purposeful choice on my part, because in the past Rhio has actually not been able to keep enough weight on if he is fed exclusively with a small-holed "slow feed" net.  My nets have 1 3/4" openings, the "slow feed" versions from this company (Hay Chix, www.haychix.com) are 1 1/4" or 1" openings.  The horses must learn to pull the hay through the holes, without biting the net (which just lifts the net off the hay, and doesn't result in a mouthful of hay.)  I don't know if Rhio just doesn't/won't spend enough time eating with a true "slow-feed" net, or if it really just limits his consumption too much.  At any rate, we will see how it goes with these nets.  Although the horses spend a reasonable amount of time "grazing," my pasture is very sparse in grass (our soil is too sandy) and it's not really come in well yet. They have reduced their hay consumption from winter, but I know that even in the summer, the majority of their feed will be hay.
Just 'cause he's so handsome!  It was recently his 22nd birthday (April 13th.)

Late afternoon light made this a great shot!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Quality Couple Time

My hubby and I have similar sport interests - he is a trail runner and aspiring ultramarathoner, and I do endurance.  Our sports are parallel in so many ways.  A few times in the past, we have trained together.  Today was one of those days.  He needed a 10 mile run today and I'd previously scoped out a quiet road nearby (unfortunately it's paved) - so Rhio and I joined him for a ride/run training session.  And it was great!

Rhio loves to have a buddy, and it turns out a human will do just fine.  We kept a nice, steady, slow trot for much of the ride, and hubby kept up his nice, steady jog pace.  We got some funny looks, especially when we decided to take the last few miles home along the shoulder of a county highway.  But, it was fun!  We got to spend time together, and we all got our miles done.

My hubby has recently acquired a spiffy new GPS watch with a heart rate monitor and a whole slew of fancy functions.  I use a tracking app on my iPhone to track all my rides.  We were within 0.01 miles of each other's elapsed mileage for the entire workout - which I find pretty impressive for my free app on my phone! And it was a nice way to validate my app's functionality - at least along a road with no tree cover.   Rhio and I did 9.4 miles in 2 hours exactly, with an average speed of 4.7 mph and a maximum speed of 8.1 mph (ok, so lots of steady slow trotting, a tiny bit of medium trot, and a sprinkling of walking - this is great early spring conditioning ride!)  So far for 2017, we have 33 miles of conditioning - not bad, considering the weather.  In comparison, my husband has 30 miles for this week alone!  But he does have the advantage of doing many of those miles on the treadmill, so he can work out no matter what Mother Nature throws our way.

Rhio's and my first competition will be May 6 and 7; we are planning back-to-back 25 mile rides.  My husband's first race is a 50K (32 miles) along the Superior Hiking Trail on May 20.  We all need more miles under our hooves/feet before May, so let's get cracking!

Even on a Sunday afternoon, there was little traffic here.

About a mile from home.  Rhio wore his hoof boots on all four feet because the majority of our route was asphalt.  I won't train much on asphalt, due to the concussion, but occasionally it will be fine. 

Almost home!  It was a "balmy" 18 degrees, but with little wind.  More sun would have been nice.  But, we did manage not to totally freeze.  Such is life trying to put on miles in northern Wisconsin in March.

Coming down the driveway - Red and Daria (can you spot her?) are waiting for us.  Red had a little extra calming help from a bit of tranquilizer, but he is doing great with Rhio leaving!  This was the second time in three days that I've ridden.

Post-ride, looking fine!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A Mini!

Red and Rhio need a buddy.  They are a two-some in a pretty isolated setting, and Red is already overly-attached to Rhio.  Rhio needs to be able to leave the premises to ride, and so Red needs another equine to keep him company.  "Herd of One" is not in Red's vocabulary.  In the past, he has gotten so upset, running the fenceline and calling desperately to Rhio (who was still on the property and in sight of Red), that he slipped, fell into a gate, and the gate fell on top of him.  Luckily, he wasn't hurt.  Since then, I have used a light tranquilizer whenever I took Rhio away to ride, until they were fully integrated into J.'s herd.  Once Red has other buddies, he still worries and frets when Rhio is gone, but it is manageable and I don't worry that he will hurt himself. 
She's about 31" tall at the withers.

So, here is Daria!  She is a 16 year old American Miniature Horse mare.  She was a broodmare for a friend of a friend, and is done having babies.  Her new task is to keep Red company.  We brought her home Sunday night.  We had hoped to make it home before dark, but that didn't quite happen.  She is black, so the horses didn't immediately notice her when I unloaded her out of the trailer.  I brought her over to the outside of the wooden fence and put a little hay down for her to eat.  The boys acted all silly and Arabian, prancing and snorting.  Daria was unimpressed and chose to munch a little hay instead of worry about them. 
Rhio wondering what the heck she is!

Meeting Rhio for the first time.

I don't have a place to keep her separate from them, but allow them to get acquainted, so I really had no choice but to just put her in the pasture with them after a short time.  This is one of those instances where you should do what I say, and not what I do!! It is always much, much safer for everyone involved to let a new horse meet the herd gradually over a few days, across a fence for example.  However, I know that my boys are fairly well "socialized" and usually take to new horses pretty well.  They have never lived with a mini before, but they have lived with mini donkeys without incident.  So, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. 

Another good reason for a separate area for a new horse is to prevent spreading disease to your herd.  This is a definite disadvantage in my case, because Daria has lice. While lice are not uncommon in minis in the late winter, due to the fact that lice love the warmth underneath the thick, dense winter coat, they are contagious.  How am I dealing with this?  First, before putting her in the pasture, I treated her with a permethrin spot-on (made for repelling ticks and flies).  Lice are insects and can be killed by regular insecticides (i.e. fly spray), but you have to get it down to the skin.  There is also a powder formula, which you brush into the coat.  I couldn't find any of the lice powder enroute home from picking her up, but what I could find was the spot-on.  So, that's what I went with.  The very best solution is to remove the thick hair (body clip), shampoo with a permethrin shampoo, and then treat.  But, it is March.  I cannot remove her warm hair nor give her a bath in March! Lice are very itchy to the horse, and poor Daria has scratched out big patches of hair on her neck, the backs of her hind legs, and her face.  I believe that she has "chewing" type lice, which eat dander.  This makes any type of internal medication given to the horse useless.  In an attempt to prevent Red and Rhio from getting lice, I put the spot-on treatment on them as well, and will continue the spot-on treatment on everybody every 2 weeks.  Additionally, every other day I've been grooming Daria really, really thoroughly (which she loves) and putting fly spray into her mane and tail, down at the roots.  Today, I couldn't see any active lice.  However, they have most definitely laid eggs, which are glued to the base of the hairs and hatch in 10-14 days.  So you can see, this isn't going to be a quick fix! 
Big patches where she's missing hair from rubbing it out.

Other things I'm doing to reduce the chance of spreading lice, since I can't keep her separate: when I groom her, I use only her own dedicated grooming tools, and they are washed and disinfected after each use.  I do not handle Red and Rhio at all while I'm grooming her, or until after I've changed my clothes.  My outwear goes directly into the washer on hot, then the dryer.  I don't let her hair fall to the ground, but bag it up and remove it to the garbage immediately.  Luckily, only horses (donkeys & mules too) can get this lice - so I don't have to worry about the people or the dogs getting them.  However, I could potentially carry lice from Daria to the boys, so I'm trying to be ultra-careful to reduce the chance I'll accidentally give some lice a free ride.

Otherwise, she seems to be settling in just fine and getting used to the routine.  Rhio postured at her pretty intensely for the first hour or so, making sure she knew he was herd boss.  Since then, he's been just fine with her and the two are often hanging out in fairly close proximity.  Red, however, chases, bites, and kicks at her - but only when I am putting out hay.  Once they've settled down to eat, he is fine.  They all move about the pasture together, and can often be seen dozing under the pine trees.  It is only the third day she's been here, so I am optimistic that we will soon have a happy, content Herd of Three. 

And, I can't wait for that first really nice day, so they can all get therapeutic baths. 
Where's Daria?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Phase Three: They're Here!!! (The First 24 Hours)

Third conditioning ride of 2017, bringing us up to about 20 miles so far!
Almost home: Rhio's shadow and Pete's tracks in front of us.
After a wonderful 9.5 mile conditioning ride around the local gravel roads at my friend J's house, where the horses have been living since November 2015, I loaded up the boys for the two hour trek north.  With the incredibly warm weather, it was a breeze to get the trailer out of its winter spot (thanks, J! I drove into the driveway and my trailer was already sitting in the middle of it, ready to hook up!).  The boys hopped right in, as they do - I love that trailering is just not an issue for them.  It *has* been an issue in the past, when they were younger.  But, since they both had to ride in many different trailers, with many different horses, over the years (I've only had my own trailer for 10 months), they've become pretty consistent loaders/haulers.  Except that Rhio never eats hay on the trailer, ever.  This is a big bummer, but I work around it.  Luckily, most of my hauling is relatively short trips, and he does great as long as he has a tummy full of hay, grass, or beet pulp before we leave.  I'm digressing...
Munching on their first meal at home.
We arrived home about an hour before full dark, and I let the dogs out before I unloaded the horses.  The dogs had been inside since lunchtime, when hubby came home from work to let them out.  Our four canines are not in the slightest habituated to horses.  So, this made for an "interesting" exercise in dual dog-and-horse management.  Red and Rhio are completely unfazed by dogs, luckily.  Birch, our 7 month old Golden Retriever puppy, was ... overwhelmed? overexcited? taken aback? half scared to death? immediately drawn to gulping down massive quantities of horse manure as fast as possible? I'm not sure quite what the right word or phrase is here, but he proved quite the challenge. 

While trying to lead both horses, Birch was underfoot, and/or jumping up on me in his "I'm scared to death, you must save me!" mode.  Somehow we managed to get all of us into the pasture successfully, though I was trying to get Birch *out* of the pasture the whole time! As soon as I'd released the horses, and they moved off in curiosity within their new space, Birch discovered that barking and bouncing seemed to make the big, scary mystery creatures run away!  Wow, this is fun! Ummm, no, Birch, this is NOT how we do things!  I resorted to putting Red's rope halter around his torso like a harness and using the lead rope as a leash.  It actually worked great! I kept puppy in tow while I got a few flakes of hay for the boys, then took the dogs inside and fed them.
Filling buckets by headlamp, at the back corner of the house.
After all the critters were fed, it was time to haul water for the horses.  For now, I have a 20-ish gallon small rubber tank that was in the barn.  The water source is on the far back corner of the house away from the barn.  Which is entirely inconvenient, and I have already vowed, after a single evening of hauling water, that my next barn will have a water source.  With a hose, and buckets hefted into the back of the truck, I successfully filled the tank.  Whew.  Guess I won't be needing the gym for my strength workouts!

While I was settling the horses, hubby made dinner, and so I came inside to a hot meal, then before bed, we went out together to do a bedtime check and give the boys a little more hay.  Oh, I am in love with this!

First morning at home!

Rhio doing 'crazy lips' for hay.
This morning, I put my insulated Carhartt overalls on over my pjs, and went out to give hay before the sun was even over our forested eastern hill.  I was greeted with nickers, and Rhio's 'crazy lips' - a gesture meaning that he's anticipating something he likes.  There was light ice on the water, and the heavy, wet, squishy snow of the night before had hardened into a very hard and crusty layer, which made it very difficult for the horses to move around.  Luckily, I knew it would be near or above 50 again today, and soon the frozen snow would soften once again.

I went back inside, content that they were doing well, and had my tea while their beet pulp was soaking.  I finished making their meals, and went back out to feed.  I'd accidentally make their mashes a bit too sloppy for Rhio's liking, and he's a slow eater, but I used the quiet time while they were eating to clean the barn.  There was one pile of manure in the center of each stall, and a few in the doorway to outside.  It looked like one of them had laid down in the west stall, and sure enough I found some shavings stuck to Rhio.  He does love to lay down and rest, so that was a sure sign that he was already comfortable in the new digs.  Also, I've been thinking of the west stall as Rhio's and the east stall as Red's, for some reason.  I guess he concurred!

I finished up my morning with the horses just as our little "valley" was finally lit up with full sunlight.  Or was that the sunlight shining out of me?

Doggies "helping" with chores: Smokey tests the water.

And Birch cleans out the feed buckets!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Phase Two: All the Little Tasks

Inside my barn, looking at both stalls.  I intend to leave this whole area open to them, but it's not really designed to be used that way.  So, I'm trying to make it safe.
Tomorrow.  Tomorrow's the day that Red and Rhio come home. I'm pretty sure my weekend plans consist of watching the horses out the windows, and going out to see them/feed them/brush them/give them my apple cores every hour or so. I think I'm all ready for them.

I've been waiting for the FedEx guy all day, and he finally came!  In 20 minutes, I had the last 15 feet of poly tape up and had walked the whole fenceline, checking and tightening. The top and middle line are connected to the fencer, and when I plug it in, it clicks!  Hopefully that means it's all nice and hot. So, the major component of the horses-at-home project is complete - I have an enclosed pasture.

The whole fence is complete.
Over the past week, I've been doing a bunch of little things to make the barn and pasture ready.  I bought a pipe gate, and although it could use a little adjusting, it'll work for now.  I cleaned all the junk out of the stalls, and looked over every surface for protruding nails or screws (found a few).  With the help of a bunch of salt and a bunch of upper body strength, my hubby got both the big sliding barn door and the person door chopped out and opening/closing as they should.  I bought 6 trial bales of hay and have them stacked in my hay shed.  The hay guy can deliver in loads of 100 bales, if I (and the horses) like the hay, so hopefully I'll be calling him early next week to set up a delivery.  Thanks to my hubby's simple and cost efficient solution, I found a way to cover the sliding stall door hardware so I feel that I'll be able to leave the barn and stalls open for the horses to have free access.

On the left, the metal plate that the stall door latches hook onto.  This sticks out into the area I want open for them at least 6 inches.  Hubby's great idea: tennis balls!  I cut a slit in them with a hacksaw, and popped them over the ends.  Now, as long as the horses (ahem, I mean "Rhio") don't think they're toys, I'll be all set!

The bottom plate which holds the stall doors when they're closed.
And, I've found them a friend.  Daria, a retired broodmare Miniature Horse is going to be joining my herd soon.  Her only real job will be to keep Red company, so I can take Rhio away for an hour, a day, or a weekend.  She is from a friend of a friend, and I'll be going to pick her up sometime in the next several weeks.  I'm guessing she'll also be popular with nieces, nephews, and kids of friends - so come visit us! 

I still need to get their water set up, and sweep all the cobwebs and spiders (eww!) out of the nooks, crannies, and corners of the barn. And, of course, my list of things to get for the barn grows and grows!  Mostly, though, I just can't wait for tomorrow!!!

Sliding door to my little room.  It's not really a feed room - I'll be keeping their feed in the house, because there's no water at the barn and I make them soaked beet pulp every day.  And it's not really a tack room - too small for my stuff, and I'll mostly be riding away from home, so I'm going to leave my tack in my trailer.  But, it'll hold halters, grooming stuff, blankets, treats, fly spray, etc.

Interior of one of the stalls.  They have crank windows on the back, protected by bars, so I'll be able to have cross-ventilation in the summer.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Phase 1 of the Horses at Home Project

The barn with 2 strands up.  The tall posts are for the gate, and the building you can just see on the right is the 3-sided hay shed.
My little barn needs gutters.  There is ice blocking my person door.  And the big door is iced in as well.  So, a bit more work before the horses can come!
My husband and I are renting a house with a very cute, tiny barn (containing 2 stalls and not much else) and a small pasture.  Upon our move-in several weeks ago, the "pasture" was merely the perimeter of 70 wood posts with most of the insulators still present.  The poly tape fencing, the gates, and the fencer were all removed.  Today, with sunshine and 32 degrees, I began the process of enclosing the pasture so that Red and Rhio can come home.

The snow is over my knees, but a significant January thaw (including rain!) made for a pretty tough crust, now covered by about 4 inches of fluffy new snow.  I was able to walk on the crust probably at least 75% of the time I was working out there today, but the other 25% consisted of breaking through unexpectedly, often while walking backwards unrolling a spool of poly tape.  Between that, and the repetitive kneeling/standing/kneeling at each post, and the pounding/screwing of insulators, I'm pretty tired tonight!  I got the lower and middle "rails" done, and started on the top - before I ran out of screws, daylight, and energy. 
Just getting ready to begin - a line of posts without any fencing.  And Birch, "helping."
My "helper" is also tuckered out - 7 month old Birch spent his day racing around in the snow, "inspecting" my work, and chewing on lots of sticks. 

I need a few additional supplies, but I hope to get the fence completed tomorrow (except for a gate, which I haven't purchased yet) if I can find the supplies locally.  In the tiny town of Eagle River, we do not (yet!) have a farm-type store, and the local hardware store only stocked T-post insulators and supplies last time I was there - so I may have to hunt around to find the few things I need. 
A new insulator on the left, and an old broken one I had to replace, with the too-short screw.

Don't fool yourself into thinking I was working with gloves on - no chance!  My fingers/hands/wrists are so fatigued, I don't think I could open or close another insulator right now.
The posts are untreated, and are deteriorating.  Most of the insulators had to be tightened (the screws used are too short, so I will have to keep a close eye on their integrity), a few had to be repositioned entirely due to cracks or dry rot in the post, and more than a few had to have a second screw added (which I did by hand, through the flat plastic part, since I don't have a functional cordless drill).  So far, all the posts seem solid in the ground (but, the ground is frozen!)  - that is another thing I will have to check this spring after the frost is out of the ground.  I picked 2 inch wide poly tape, so I hope this looks and acts like a nice, solid fence for the boys.  Rhio is famous for getting out (by crawling *through* a fence that isn't electrified), so I'm glad the three strands of tape are fairly close together.  Now let's all cross our fingers that when I finally hook it up to the charger, it is nice and hot!  I probably won't hook up the bottom line until the snow melts however, as there were multiple places I had to clear the snow to even put it up. 
The plow bank in front of the gate area.
My next tasks to prep for the horses include getting a gate, and melting snow/chopping ice so I can both open the barn door, and get the horses through the gate area (blocked by a plow bank), and getting hay.  I expect I'll be posting more as I progress towards getting the boys home!  I am beyond thrilled to have them in my own backyard, finally, for the first time in my horse ownership life. 
A little bit is actually done!