Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Reprieve

Sovina's Zorita

The past string of days have put a skip back in my step. The temperatures have been very cold, especially right at dawn, but there has been no wind to speak of and lots of radiant sunshine. We've been able to feed the horses near the house and with no shoveling duties, chores have been a snap (well almost).

One snafu that has caused no small amount of irritation is that it seems one of the huge tarps we had covering a carefully stacked pyramid of round hay bales developed a rip just under one of the cedar poles Kevin used this year to keep the upper sides snugged in tight. This must have happened shortly after the hay was stored up because every bale that the pole was resting on has been compromised with deeply penetrated rotted spots. These spots are as frozen as ice making it impossible to peel off the layers as usual. Out came the pick axes again as both Kevin and I discovered how much warmth the body can generate when trying to pick through frozen, rotted hay! Then came the task of sorting through what remained of the hay that was edible. A tedious job that in the end Kevin pulled away the frozen mass (it was so large and heavy that it required the tractor) and we put it out in the field for the herd to sort through. They seemed to enjoy returning throughout various times of day to pluck the hay that was still good (but stuck to the frozen rotty part) and disdainfully shaking off or pawing and kicking away the dark rotted clumps. After several days we were able to hoist the remaining rotted, rock hard clump into a toboggan, sled it back out of the field and roll it on to the mulch pile at the side of the yard. You can imagine how pleased we were to not have to perform these extra duties in stormy winter weather. We will have to buy extra hay before the grass comes on. With the early, hard winter we've been feeding more than expected, and now, these rotted portions set us back a bit too. Thankfully it was a good year for hay-making last year, and hopefully Bill Fogal will have a few yet that he can set aside for us.

It has been so incredibly serene and surreal going out these past few mornings to take care of breakfast chores. Our first full moon of the new year has been allowed to show itself and not been hidden by thick cloud cover or snow fall. We can manage to see very well, and the only light we turn on is inside the shed. I always find moonlight to be magical, but even more so when it is falling on a snow covered landscape.

This morning there was a film of thin clouds that the moon would dip into and out of as it continued its journey across the sky. After laying out the last hay pile and picking up the oat pans to store in the shed until tomorrow's breakfast, I went into the house to fetch my camera. It was so well illuminated outside I wanted to take some photos to share. Before heading out, I turned the focus dial on the camera to the "night scene" setting and then the pups and I walked way out to the east so I could get a photo of the horses eating their hay, with the house and its cheery warm interior lights with that big moon hanging up overhead. It was still quite high in the sky, with about an hour yet to go before sunrise and I had to get quite a ways out from the house to capture all that I wanted in the photo. I took quite a few shots, rewarming my fingers in between (it was about +9°F), and eagerly looked forward to see how they turned out. Well...they didn't turn out, as you can see below. The moon was captured, a wee bit of the house light, but all else is dark--as if that moon wasn't illuminating anything. Phooey! I wish I had tried the automatic focus setting, because the night scene setting sure didn't show things right.
I'm sure this never happens to Leslie Town, and that's why she's the pro and I'm the novice! :-) (Of course Leslie, if you were trying to go for a moonlight scene I'm betting you'd be trying while it was still in the east part of the sky during reasonable evening hours and rather than in the world of the predawn.)

Just as dawn arrived things got frosty and the horses were all eating with white fringe everywhere on their bodies. By the time I went back out an hour or so later, things were warming up a little and it appeared the thing to do was settle in for a nice nap.
On the left is Interessado, then Fada and Belina. Dee is nibbling hay in the background.


Animado is on the left and Altamiro is on the right. Mistral is nibbling in the background.



I decided to sit down next to Interessado. This little colt was so warm and snoozy that he only briefly opened his eyes as I snugged in next to him. I was far too close for a decent photo, but I took one anyway.
Interessado, dozing while laying down in the snow.



I was far enough away from Fada that I could fit her into the frame easily and so took a photo of how her nap was progressing.
After a bit, I got up, went over to where Altamiro was dozing and proceeded to free his tail, mane and forelock from the grip of the many opportunistic Burdock seeds that had been part of Altamiro's attire for weeks. I was also able to free up Belina's tresses as well as Animado. While working on Animado's forelock, Jerry came over and made it known he wanted to be next. While I was working on Jerry, Kevin came out to tell me he was heading off to fetch some timbers from the forest. I asked him if he would take a few photos of me and Jerry. When I am pulling out burrs and de-tangling tails in the winter, I like to get in as close as I can to the horse (or mule) because their body temperature helps keep the numbness away from my fingers. It's always especially pleasant when working on Jerry's tail--he has such a nice big warm rearend!

When I was a participant in the Nevzorov Haute Ecole forum, there was quite a bit of discussion on how awful it was for horses to live in cold climates. Lydia Nevzorov had definite opinions about this, one of which was to say that horses who are live outside in the winter do not get enough sleep because they will not lay down in the snow. I just haven't found that to be the case here at Ravenseyrie, as you can see:
Animado


Zeus


Altamiro

Altamiro and Zorita

After nap-time, it was play time! Well, Animado wanted to play, but Fada wanted me to itch her bum. It was difficult to do both at the same time, especially when Animado's antics kept making me want to stop and take photos:


I'm going to end this entry with some video footage I pasted together showing a new game Altamiro has devised for himself and Jerry. It seemed to me that Jerry wasn't in quite the same playful mode as Altamiro and frequently he tried to politely walk away, but Altamiro wouldn't let Jerry quit so easily. He kept pestering the poor mule for over fifteen minutes with this crazy game. I happened to be washing dishes at the time as filmed it from the window over the kitchen sink. Enjoy!
video

6 comments:

Kris McCormack said...

Hello Lynne,
I expect by now your reprieve is over, or almost over. We've got some bitter cold heading our way, so I imagine you've just had or are having it now, more intensely.

What was Animado's game with the leather thingy? Did he want you (or Fada) to pull it away from him? Was he just enjoying picking up and shaking it?

Jerry gives us all a lesson in patience, doesn't he?

Stay warm!

eva said...

Lynne,
I, too, am worried about you and your herd in this deep freeze. Part of it is that i have never experienced temps below -10 F (that was in the midwest 20 years ago) and the house would not warm up above 45 F even though the ancient furnace was going non-stop. It hurt to breathe outside, and any skin exposed to the cold air would bite.

How the animals are managing to stay sane is beyond me. Lying down? Won't the freeze to the ground?

I really hope this will pass soon, and none of teh mares will be giving birth. I can see with how much joy and delight you all will greet the spring. May it come soon!

Lynne Gerard said...

Kevin and I are just in from completing our breakfast chores outdoors. We both are over-heated. We've been dressed the past three days for predawn temperatures that read in the -30°F. When I checked the thermometer just now it read +11°F. I never would have imagined this temperature to feel SO balmy. :-)

The herd can handle these deep freeze temperatures because they have the most exquisite hair coat to regulate their comfort and it works extremely well for them if they have a place to get out of any winds and have enough to eat. And no, they don't freeze to the ground while laying down. When I'm all bundled up, I often will sit on the snow covered ground with them and just don't feel the chill at all. They with their double-ply winter hair and me with my layers of wool, against the insulating effects of the snow find it to be quite comfortable to lay down for a rest. It would be an altogether different situation if I were sitting there with a bare bum!

When it is extremely cold, they certainly don't frolic about as normal, but still these past several days they have roamed all over their environment and even spent time in the areas with less snow, pawing through and grazing at the old grass lying underneath.

I now wear a rabbit fur lined "mad bomber" hat--which for a vegan is quite a compromise. (I have a particular personal meditation of thanksgiving for the rabbits which have become part this hat.) I have never before found such a superior warmth as animal fur. No matter how wickedly the winter wind blows, when I have all the fur flaps of this amazing hat lowered surrounding my face, all those finer hairs fluff out and disrupt the force of the wind, what filters through it minimal and warmed by the heat coming off my face. The horses have similar hair totally covering their faces, so their warmth is more comprehensive, I should think--it must be so, or how else could they stand out in -30°F temps and placidly munch hay?

In a word, they are: Inspiring

I also think, Eva, that one does become acclimated to extremes. I find it much easier to cope with the cold than the heat, for example. And I no longer feel that pain breathing in frigid air that I might have years ago. One extra thing I do when the air is exceptionally biting is liberally apply body lotion to my exposed skin, which provides added protection.

Kris asked:
"What was Animado's game with the leather thingy? Did he want you (or Fada) to pull it away from him? Was he just enjoying picking up and shaking it?"

Animado (and the other foals, too) are often "pests" when I am trying to have some one on one time with another herd member. I have found that if I drape my makeshift cordeo over his head, he amuses himself in trying to grab it with his mouth. Only one time did another foal engage in this game with him in a little tug of war.

If he manages to pull it off himself and it falls to the ground, it ceases to hold interest for him and I'm obliged to drape it over him again, where upon he is once again absorbed in lipping at it.

When we have opportunity to play in the manege, I should be able to develop this into a real game which will transform itself into many interesting training exercises, don't you think?

eva said...

Lynne,

it makes me laugh to think that 11 degrees feels warm, but I believe it. Do you feel you need to eat more in this cold as well,like your equines? And how many pounds of hay per equine do yo haul out. Do you notice the increased consumption?

The food digestion is the engine that keeps the organism warm, and of course that fur is marvelous. The way it puffs up to create insulation. And people messing with what nature provided by putting rugs on their horses....always trying to improve on nature and messing things up.

We have the opposite extreme this winter her in california that after a two week period of constant rain everything has dried up and temps are in the 7o's. The poor horses are stressing in heir long fur coats, and the even poorer ones that wear blankets 24/7 are unable to dissipate the heat.

I see Shadow's hair all curled up from the sweating during the day. I think he would do very well in a colder environment.

Do you see signs of spring yet? Or is it too early to tell?

Judy Martin said...

Hello Lynne
What a beautiful blog you have made here with photos of your horses and environs. Congratulations.

Lynne Gerard said...

Eva asked: "Do you feel you need to eat more in this cold as well,like your equines?"

Yes, and I need more sleep too.

"And how many pounds of hay per equine do yo haul out. Do you notice the increased consumption?"

This is something Jean has asked of me, too, and I feel a awkward answering because we've never weighed hay portions or kept track of feedings in this way. Here is how I explained to Jean in an email how we determine what amount of hay to feed to meet the needs of the horses: "I observe each horse's (or mule's) state of being each time I am with them. What is his mood? How does it feel to touch him? How does he respond to my presence? How does she comport herself while I am preparing the meals? How long does it take her to finish what I've put out to eat? What type of weather do we have this morning? What type of weather is predicted for later in the day? What is tomorrow supposed to be like? Is it windy? Cold? Damp? Snow? Rain?" and also this: "One fail-safe measure of the horses' needs is Mistral. When he wants food, he paces at the gate. He never paces at the gate after hay times, instead will either take up a dozing position or move off to forage."

Having said this we have been feeding much more heavily due to the lower temperatures. This morning, however, it was +21°F when we fed breakfast, and we put out the same as when it was -37°F a few days ago. The horses left the hay after about an hour and a half and went out to paw through the snow for grass, then went over to the Cedar trees to nibble on them, and then took in some playtime followed by a nap. They were just coming back to their hay when I left for work just before 11am. We had fed them at 6:30am.

Eva wrote: "We have the opposite extreme this winter her in california that after a two week period of constant rain everything has dried up and temps are in the 7o's. The poor horses are stressing in heir long fur coats, and the even poorer ones that wear blankets 24/7 are unable to dissipate the heat. I see Shadow's hair all curled up from the sweating during the day. I think he would do very well in a colder environment."

It is much more difficult for horses to handle the heat (especially when blanketed or still in winter hair) than to cope with the cold. Hopefully your temperatures will moderate, if not...we have room for Shadow here. :-)


Judy Martin wrote: "What a beautiful blog you have made here with photos of your horses and environs. Congratulations."

Judy, how nice of you to stop by to peruse the Journal of Ravenseyrie. Being a Manitoulin gal, maybe some day you will stop by and visit the horses in person, consider this an open invitation.