Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

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!