Wednesday, January 18, 2017

This is so important I am saying it again - on horse herd behavior and dominance

  • It's a direct quote from Wendy Williams' Scientific American article highlighted in my previous blog post, and I am putting it in all caps and bolding it because it is that important.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Clinton Anderson, his followers, and what they know (or don't, as the case might be)

This morning I received the following comment to an old blog post  about Clinton Anderson and his website response to an outcry in 2013 about his way of handling the death of a horse in training on his ranch. The post has generated a huge amount of traffic and currently has 158 comments.

I recently edited that old blog post to say that I would no longer approve anonymous comments due to so many people writing rude and hateful things without being willing to sign their names. But I still get them, and this is the one I received this morning:

"You people piss me off. In the wild herds of horses are based off of what? DOMINANCE!!! Hello people are you that fucking stupid? If a stallion in the wild lost to another one he loses his rank and gets cast out. In the wild if you are not of high rank you get walked on. So to you uneducated morons Clinton Anderson's methods seem primitive, but to the ones that are educated his method is true. You see it as dominance I see it at putting my foot down with a toddler like animal that will eventually understand that I am the "stallion" and grow to be apart of my herd...Aka my companion. Remember respect isn't given its earned. Fucking twats"

Whew! I did not approve this comment - its writer adds nothing of substance to the discussion, is rude, calls names, and is unwilling to put a name to his/her words.

The reason I'm posting it here and writing an entire blog post in response is twofold. First, it's a good example of a reactionary, close-minded, "my way or the highway" comment, very much like CA's statement which he put on his website back in 2013 and then removed, probably because he was told it wasn't good public relational strategy. It reveals buckets of information about the kind of person he is, and the kind of person the commenter is. 

It doesn't say anything correct or valid about horse herd behavior in the wild.

I'm happy to share some educated, documented information:

Wendy Williams, in an article in the October 2015 issue of Scientific American, describes the newest and most accurate information we have about wild horses living in bands and how they behave. 

She writes:


  • Scientists have long studied the best ways to train and treat domesticated horses, but they largely ignored the behavior of free-ranging horses. Recent research has begun to fill that gap.
  • Observations from long-term studies of wild horses show that the conventional, male-centric view of their power dynamics is wrong.
  • In fact, females often call the shots, employing tactics such as cooperation and persistence to get their way.
I urge you to read her entire article which you can find HERE. The article was adapted from her book, The Horse: The Epic History of Our Noble Companion, published in 2015, available HERE. There is much more information out there which validates her information.

I guess CA and his followers just haven't read it yet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Early morning wolf moon, Temple Grandin, and LSG pups

On Tuesday I was up early and heading out in 15 degrees with ice still on the roads. I'm not an early bird by nature but sometimes when I need to be up and out at this early hour beautiful things happen. This captures a little bit of the gorgeous wolf moon from the driveway, with the cat porch illuminated by its Christmas tree lights. 

The road was dark and there were areas where the ice was still heavy. Along one curving section of roadway a truck had gone off the road and was perched nose down in a deep culvert of trees. I was glad to get where I was going with no issues.

That same evening the temps had risen to 49 so everything melted! My daughter and I went to hear Temple Grandin speak at NCSU's Hunt Library. It was a high energy lecture about different kinds of minds and how they learn. She's a very animated, intense speaker and has so many good things to say. 

Every day this week the temperature has risen. Today I finished the tung oiling of the cat tunnel along with the front porch steps. I am SO happy to have completed that chore! Next up is completion of the last bit of painting I need to do on the front porch. 

Today in the balmy 70s outside I spent some time mucking and raking in the back field with the herd. The mud is drying out, much of it actually ON the horses, pony, and donkeys, and the raking helped me remember what the melting snow does when it falls, rests, and then melts on top of fallen tree leaves. It kicks off the composting process! All I had to do was rake a few swaths to see the start of dark crumbling humus material. For some reason that is a comfort to me - it might look like mud out there but there's good soil amendment cooking too!

We are continuing to research livestock guardian dogs. At the moment we have narrowed the field to Maremma Sheepdogs, Great Pyrenees, and Kangals. 

The Maremmas are said not to wander as much as Great Pyrenees do and the Kangals have shorter, non-white coats that would likely suit our summer climate and our red clay better than solid white junior polar bear coats. We've been invited to meet some Kangals who guard horses locally and also a Great Pyrenees who does the same. And even though I don't yet know anyone local to us who has Maremmas, I have to admit that this photo from Windance Farm in NY is totally singing to me about this breed:

I'm fretting the coyotes and the idea of having huge canine guardians out there 24/7 makes me happy. Though I know we would have a good year of work to do to help any breed of LSG pups get up to speed to do their jobs.

Any thoughts welcome! 

Monday, January 09, 2017

November Hill farm journal, 25

We had predictions for 5-7 inches of snow this past weekend, along with 3 days of temperatures well below freezing and 3 nights of temperatures in the single digits, and, last night -6, so I spent Friday preparing. We of course stocked up on Timothy balance cubes and the pellets I give Keil Bay with his meals now. With our hay stall well stocked in the barn, that was taken care of, but I added extra bags of shavings so we could top off stalls as needed until their night-time turn out can resume.

Normally these extremely cold days aren't paired with precipitation here, so I decided with all of us recuperating from colds, and with both snow AND extreme cold, I would do something I've never done before. I bought two stock tank heaters and set up water tanks in the barn aisle and under the shelter so that both sides had water with no worries of freezing up. Typically we go out and remove the ice on these cold mornings and tote out buckets of lukewarm water as well, but that gets dicey when the ground is slippery! 

It has worked so well I have a new idea to implement after the barn roof work and additional side shelter are completed. My next barn project was going to be getting the barn re-wired, and now I'll have that done but will add a dedicated outlet on each side, under each shelter. I'm thinking I'll put slightly smaller stock tanks beneath each shelter, with the capacity to use the heaters during winter months as needed. If I do this I can do away with the water buckets in the barn aisles and the individual stalls since we rarely close anyone in anyway. 

I'll keep the stock tanks in each field, obviously, but I think in the long run this will be easier on us and better for the horses as well.

We ended up getting about an inch of mixed sleet and snow and then a little more snow on top of that, which hasn't been too difficult to navigate. The big issue has been the extreme cold and we are all looking forward to tonight being the last of this cold spell. One more night, 13 degrees, and then we start to warm up so that by this weekend we'll be at 70 degrees! 

This is the crazy roller coaster weather we get in North Carolina. The blessing, I suppose, is that we get breaks from the extremes pretty regularly so nothing goes on for too long a time.

I enjoyed the snowy landscape on Saturday and on Sunday until the sun came out - for some reason the sun on snow isn't pretty to me, and the blinding whiteness makes me want to cover my head and not come out until the snow melts away. 

Inside, I'm putting down towels to catch the snow on all the cats and Corgi paws, not to mention boots, and sweeping up firewood debris around the wood stove several times a day. It's a messy kind of weather all around. 

As is usual in North Carolina when it snows like this, we all have snow days today. The university canceled the first day of spring semester classes, my beekeeping school first class is canceled, and husband is home from work. There are a lot of joke memes about this going around on Facebook but I actually love this about our state. We don't get this weather frequently enough to invest in heavy duty equipment to clear the roads and keep things going through the snow, so everything shuts down for a few days until it melts enough to drive. 

These snow days are good times for enjoying family time, making good food, and creating memories. And it impresses me that for those of you living with horses in this kind of weather for months on end you are able to keep things going! 

Friday, January 06, 2017

And finally, the twelfth day of Christmas, December

We have snow approaching so today I had a list of things to get done in the event we get the high end of the range of inches predicted, which is 9. A huge amount for us here in North Carolina, enough to bring things to a standstill here.

This morning before leaving to run some errands, though, I was sitting on the sofa reading when I saw a red-headed woodpecker on our shagbark hickory tree, pecking away. He was big and very handsome and I watched him searching for food wishing I could hear the knocking of his beak against the wood. I always think of knocking when I hear woodpeckers, like someone is building something or else the sound of someone at the door, so symbolically that's what comes to mind when I think about what might be showing up next December.

Later in the day I saw a cardinal, probably the same one I've been seeing all last week and this one, and again, felt his brilliance and cheer.

I spent the afternoon getting the barn set up for horses and snow, but also for a couple of nights of very cold temperatures, 9 tomorrow night, 0 on Sunday. 

Before coming inside I was startled by the coyotes shrieking and yipping in the 11-acre field just next to the barnyard. The horses, pony, and donkeys all flew out of the barn, into the rain, on high alert. I was so annoyed that the coyotes were this close, that they had drawn my herd out of their dry clean stalls with hay into the cold rain. I went out and shrieked and howled and yapped back at them and they stopped. Whether they moved on or just went silent I don't know, but I coaxed Keil Bay back into his stall and the rest followed suit except for Little Man, who stayed out until I got a lead rope and led him into the dry barn.

We've been talking about getting a Great Pyrenees as a herd guardian. I'm not sure how serious we are, as I would want to enclose the property with woven wire if we were going to have a dog living out there, and I can't quite imagine us owning a dog who stayed outside 24/7. But tonight I announced we should get two of them and let them deal with the coyotes.

All of this makes me wonder what the coyotes mean for next December! A lot to think about with these omen days and the year to come.