Monday, March 30, 2009

signs of spring

Now that the sun is back, and we're not inundated with rain, it's easy to see the signs of spring.

Dandelion flowers, the yellow primrose blooming by the front porch, the dogwoods and redbuds, and the big tulip poplar bursting forth, which usually means pollen is soon to come.

The carpenter bees are doing their kamikaze flight patterns around the barn, the fire ants have put up a few new mounds, and butterflies are beginning to appear. In the past two days I've seen a number of black ones, and one especially lovely one - white with golden tipped wings.

Keil Bay got this year's First Tick Award.

The main color when you look outside is GREEN, and that has prompted a true, sure sign of spring on a horse farm. Thoughts of ESCAPE.

Redford has suddenly decided the grass is greener on the other side of the grass paddock fence, and has climbed through 3 times in the past 3 days. He comes back when Salina and Rafer Johnson get a very specific number of feet away from him, but we've moved Cody to the grass paddock side of the barn until we can make some adjustments.

Horse hair is everywhere. Brushes become inoperable after a few swipes, because the bristles are so coated with horse hair.

And yesterday, in what seems to be my annual succumbing to spring fever, I decided on the spur of a very windy moment to offer the first taste of the front field to the herd.

Salina and the donkey boys had first dibs. 30 minutes of GREEN grazing! The donkey boys went all the way down, as they seemed to know this was a time-limited event, and the further down they were, the longer it would take me to get them back in again. Even removing Salina did not bring them up the hill. And when we went down to get them, they RAN! Bucking and kicking up their little donkey heels.

The geldings were up at the fence, annoyed that they were not being given a turn. But then the magic gate opened, and Keil Bay, authority on how to get the most green possible, went all the way down just as the donkeys had.

The poor, poor pony - it was his turn for a ride, so he was allowed some time with the round bale but didn't get the green stuff. Unfortunately he will have to have the muzzle on when he goes out there, so it's a mixed blessing for him.

By the end of April they'll be ready to move to night-time turn-out, and will be acclimated to the green. For now they're transitioning, one of my favorite times of the year because they are so clearly ready for the fresh forage.

And while spring brings a lot of things we have to protect the horses against, namely flies, ticks, fire ants, etc., I think we're ALL ready for the sunshine, the warmth, and the next season in the cycle of the year.


Grey Horse Matters said...

You're right about all of us being ready for a new cycle of green. It's so refreshing when things finally start to sprout and the winter's dreariness is just a memory.
We've had a first tick of the season but not on the horses. Maggie our little Aussie had one under her collar. I can't say I look forward to the ticks, flies and other insects of the warmer months, but I guess every season has a few problems, all in all I'll take some sun and green.

Victoria Cummings said...

You're a few weeks ahead of us. I love seeing all the buds but the air up north is still chilly. What kind of grazing muzzle did you get for the pony? I need to buy one for Siete. She's not going to be happy, but there's no option.

billie said...

Arlene, I'd be happy if I never saw another tick. Every year this time I consider getting guinea hens and then think twice about it.

Too bad the flock of guineas nesting in our woods have moved on. I'd love hosting a flock that just arrived on their own, ate ticks, and moved on when there were no more to be found.

billie said...

Victoria, we got the "My Best Friend" grazing muzzle/halter combo.

The name is sort of a joke, from the pony's perspective, but it does help.

He generally has more trouble with fall grass than spring, and now that his diet is balanced I'm hoping he doesn't need the muzzle to the degree we had to use it last year.

He's back in full work now, so that will help too.

Good luck with Siete. It took about three days for Apache Moon to acclimate to the muzzle. The first day he looked so horrified we brought him in and took it off. Then we realized we had to let him get used to it, so we put it back on.

Once we knew he could drink with it on, we relaxed some.

By the end of autumn he was using it as a battering ram on the Big Bay, which was VERY annoying. We had to separate him when he got bored because that was his default "liven things up" exercise.

Never a dull moment!

jme said...

i'd love to see those donkeys kicking up their heels!

after we let our herd out in the big field, i turned them out as usual the next day and they all made a break for the back gate, only to discover it closed. oh well, maybe this weekend...

i love this time of year, even if it does mean being buried under clean-up projects and a mound of horsehair and mud... it always seems like the herd breathes a collective sigh of relief when the green returns - and i do too, for that matter :-)

i always feel a little guilty putting the horses' grazing muzzles on though, even if it is for their own good! in our herd everyone wears one because they're all easy keepers anyway, and this way no one has an unfair advantage in herd mock-warfare (and i'm hoping it will put and end to the huge chunks of flesh and hair missing from the herd since little sami moved out there - he's a monster!)

but they are all masters of removing them, so i've got to come up with a better strategy for keeping them on - i've tried everything short of duct tape. i just found one in the field lost since last summer... ugh.

billie said...

At the barn where both my children went to pony school, there was a small gelding who had to wear a grazing muzzle. The staff would put it on him every evening before turn-out and they'd always find it the next morning in the exact same spot in the upper part of the field - behind some trees up near the gate.

Finally they decided to put it on and spy on him to see how he was getting it off every day.

They turned the horses out, and another gelding, turned out before the muzzle wearer, went over behind the trees and just waited there for his buddy. When the muzzle wearing bud went through the gate, he too dodged over behind those trees.

The staff snuck out to see what they were doing - turned out the muzzle wearer would lower his head and the other one would take the crown of the halter in his teeth and pull it over his ears for him!!

I'm not sure what they ended up doing, but I loved the idea that the buddy was so helpful and would literally postpone his own grazing to wait and free his friend from the Evil Thing.


jme said...

ha! that is one of the best stories i have ever heard! who ever said horse were stupid - isn't one of the signs of intelligence the ability not only to problem solve, but to plan for the future? sad to say, but i actually researched and found a model of muzzle that still allows the horses to groom each other because watching them try with the big clunky 'best friend' kind was painful... so, maybe those horses were grooming buddies ;-)

billie said...

I think I might write a post called "best horse stories" and see if people will share their favorites.

I love that one. It illustrates the level of intelligence and degree of bonding that horses have.

I'm curious about these special muzzles you found!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I am just smiling at the image of Rafer and Redford kicking up their heels in Springtime grass joy!

I've never seen any ticks around here, nor mosquitos. But we did get about 2 months of terrible flies and no-see-ums. That reminds me that I need to order Baby Doll a new fly mask.

We're still in winter mode here, though. It snowed again today and the wind is gusting at 50-60 mph.
It'll be like this for another 2 months...and the True Spring (or maybe Summer) arrives. hah!


billie said...

You truly DO live in the land of enchantment with no ticks or mosquitoes!!

I can do without the 60 mph winds though - stay very safe, and I hope spring comes soon!