Moose River Farm Blog

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Challenging Winter....So Far

       Good Morning,
     Winter is in full bi-polar swing this year.  No sooner have we barely survived a fierce battle with blowing snow and temperatures plunging below 0, then next we are engaged in a test of wills with flooding conditions.  We have yet to experience a single day of crisp, bright uncomplicated winter.  I am hopeful that since there is plenty of winter left on the calendar, someday, we will wake up to sunny white conditions that beckon the animals and me to come outside and rejoice.  Until that time I have no choice but to get through one day at a time.  From what I gather in the media, the rest of the country is experiencing similar weather extremes. 
      I miss my quality time in the barn with my horses, goats and donkeys.  Interactions with them at the moment are brief and rather terse.  In the bitter cold I can only afford to observe that they are eating, drinking water, warm and safe from the elements.  The rest of my time in the barn requires a deep focus on necessary chores that allow me to meet their primary needs before my fingers, face and toes freeze.
     People often ask me how I am able to care for the animals in these extreme conditions.  I have no choice.  Regardless of the weather, they depend on me to keep them clean and fed.  It is a responsibility that can not be avoided during the harsh seasons.  A feeling of warm comfort is derived from knowing that their bellies are full and their bodies are warm.  Despite -35 degrees this week, they still greet me with charismatic, (not to mention hungry), welcomes; a whinny, bleat, cluck or a bray.  Frustration melts my icy demeanor replacing it with appreciation.  What a way to start the day! 
Despite -35 degrees, Easau and Zambi greet me with warm nickers at 6:00 a.m.
Joshua's muzzle is typical of a well below 0 morning.
Gatsby wears Lady Gaga styled eyelashes on a -35 degree morning.
After showing signs of illness a few weeks ago, this hen avoided the bitter cold by moving into the heated tackroom. 
Lacey, (age 12), did not develop much insulating cashmere this year.  Two blankets help keep her warm in the brutal cold weather.
Lilly, in the background, is afluff with cashmere....She almost resembles a sheep!

The rest of the flock is relatively toasty warm in their heated coop...

....eating well and producing LOTS of eggs!






Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mayhem Returns...2014

     Good Evening,
    Mayhem returned to Moose River Farm this week.  Thanks to the brains, brawn, and commitment of many people it was resolved with a favorable outcome.  The victim?  My 24 year old Thoroughbred gelding, Zambi who, along with his companion, Easau found themselves stranded on a sheet of ice in the field adjacent to their stalls.  At some point Zambi must have fallen and was unable to establish the necessary traction between hoof and ice to push himself back up onto his feet.  No telling how long he laid there.  What was clear, when I discovered him upon my arrival home, was that he was already exhausted from several futile attempts to rise.  
     After a few phone calls it wasn't long before people began to arrive in my driveway eager to assist the prone animal.  Efforts to raise Zambi failed over and over.  Each time his 1200 pound physique collided sickeningly with the ice.  Just how much punishment could his body take before he simply broke apart?  The thought choked me as my mind scrambled for the solution to end the drama.  
     Despite spreading sand around Zambi and hoisting him with the strength of several men, the gelding was unable to support his own weight once his hind feet made contact with the slippery surface.  I began to wonder if an injury was preventing this.  Immediately, my neighbor, Pam, alerted our veterinarian, who in turn made preparations to come to the farm.  Rex, our school superintendent, an EMT, and experienced horseman from youth, never left the horse's side, providing me with calm support and advice through the whole ordeal.  Shivering in the cold under layers of wet blankets, Zambi appeared to be giving up from time to time.  A solution needed to come swiftly.  
     The next plan included dragging the horse on a tarp with the backhoe to an area where the footing was more snow than ice.  Preparations sprang into action.  In the flurry of activity I tried to reassure Zambi by caressing his head, talking softly, and blowing gently into his muzzle.  From my location I became aware of all the individuals who had left other obligations to tend to my horse in need.  I saw three rowdy young boys from my sixth grade class long ago, now grown up into kind and compassionate men, (two with children of their own), wanting nothing more than a happy ending to this scene they had stepped into.  I saw my neighbors, John, Dave and Tim, who have helped many times when Mayhem comes knocking.  I saw local citizens who volunteer as emergency first responders, rigging up the apparatus that might free Zambi from his icy trap. 
     After 2 and a half hours of crashing failures, Zambi was successfully dragged closer to the barn.  Positioned on a pair of rubber mats and affixed with a pair of  'Old Mac' sport boots strapped to his hind feet, Zambi prepared to heave himself up one more time.  In the sitting position he coiled his hocks under his haunches and then mustered the energy to launch his bulk.  A roaring cheer from the crowd affirmed that Zambi had indeed found his footing.  Rex triumphantly led Zambi into the barn where damage from his ordeal could be assessed under fluorescent lights.  
     Although Zambi was free from the treacherous ice, his buddy, Easau, still needed to be coaxed across the frozen monster to the safety of the barn.  Pam and I had returned to him several times during the afternoon crisis hoping we could persuade him to follow us.  But as soon as Easau suspected ice was underfoot, he flat-out refused to take another step.  Once Zambi had disappeared into the barn, Easau became agitated, screaming desperately for his herd-mate.  Eventually, the fear of being left in the field alone did persuade Easau to follow me along a path that had been generously sanded by one of the loyal volunteers.  Once both horses were safe and secure in the barn, I breathed a sigh of appreciative relief. 
     When Dr. Nightingale arrived 30 minutes later, Zambi, bundled in dry warm blankets, was eating hay in his stall.  Miraculously, his injuries were limited to minor bruises and stiffness.  There wasn't a single abrasion on his legs.  A protocol of IV fluids and pain-killers was administered before Zambi was left to rest and recuperate.  
     The gate between the stalls and the field has been latched and chained until conditions create more friction under hoof.  I on the other hand, have been curious about how to use the greasy conditions to my advantage.  Today, I dug out my ice-skates and demonstrated for the boys how the correct equipment and a little bit of balance can actually make icy conditions a pleasurable pastime while waiting for riding conditions to return to the Adirondacks.  Not so sure I have convinced them.  However, I do believe they got a kick out of watching from the safety of the sidelines.  

Easau, (right), talks Zambi into coming out to see what is going on in their field.
Easau, (right), is fascinated by any activity on the farm.

Finally, Zambi's attention is captured too.

Although ice and horses are not a good mix...I am taking full advantage of the conditions that almost cost Zambi his life...

...and can only imagine what he must be thinking.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Great Mares Part 1; Rocher

     Good Evening,
    I was one of those people who emphatically proclaimed that I didn't want any female horses at Moose River Farm.  Since I planned to teach riding lessons, I was only interested in employing the easy going, non-cyclical temperaments of geldings who could reliably handle the realities of beginner riding lessons.  Although, my first horse, Summer's Promise, was female, she had been the exception to the 'witchy mare' rule.  Of course since 2006 when we acquired Lowtchee, a laid back Friesian mare, and 2011 when Makia, a wonderful Thoroughbred mare arrived, I have not only changed my mind about mares, I have also had a change of heart.  Both of these girls, particularly Makia, have prompted me to sing praises of mares in general.  I have also become a fan of many famous athlete mares including racehorses Zenyatta, Rachel Alexandra and Dressage horse, Rocher. 
     In 2005 I had the great pleasure of watching Rocher perform and win an unforgettable Grand Prix Freestyle with her rider, George Williams at Dressage at Devon.  She was at the peak of fitness and at the top of her game displaying the agility of her athletic abilities behind her signature long and floppy ears.  The crowd fell in love with Rocher that night as she danced to a medley of Madonna music, so fitting to the mare's superstar image.  The affection that her rider felt for her was evident in the exuberant praise he lavished on Rocher after their final halt and salute. 
     While attending Dressage at Devon this past September a rumor swept the show grounds that a famous horse was to be retired in an official ceremony just before the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday evening.  While touring the schooling area and barns with my sister, Sue, we came upon a group of people primping and polishing a large black horse.  In an instant I recognized the floppy, almost donkey length, ears anchored to a lovely equine expression below.  There we stood, only a few feet away from female athlete greatness.  Immediately, a crowd swelled around the mare as word spread that it was indeed Rocher who was to retire in the Dixon Oval, (main ring at Devon) that evening.  Sue and I stood transfixed by Rocher who appeared ultra relaxed under the flurry of activity taking place to polish her up for one more parade under the limelight.  Eventually, George Williams, Rocher's rider appeared on the scene in a coat and tie to take hold of the reins and lead the mare up to the ring.  
     An official looking man from the mare's entourage began to issue orders to get the mare moving.
     "Can you stand next to her George, please?" I asked, trying to get my camera ready quickly so as not to hold them up.
     "Let's go!" Ordered the man urgently.
     Graciously, George stepped close to Rocher and put his arm around her jowl.  The crowd clicked away as he stood patiently and appreciatively for those who had supported their partnership for so many years.  
     There wasn't a dry eye in the crowd that evening while the highlights of Rocher's incredible contribution to the sport of Dressage were recapped over the loud speaker.  When her saddle was removed for the last time and she exited the ring, a fleeting emotion of loss came over me.  Seconds later it was replaced with a sense of gratitude for the mares in my life,...both past and present. 





Thanks for the memories, Rocher and George Williams.

Rocher brought the crowd to their feet in 2005!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Of Happiness and Health in the New Year!

    Happy New Year!
    A lot is circulating social media today for hope and good wishes as a new year ignites.  There exists a feeling of potential for achievement that comes from hard work and determination.  However, if my friends, family and I maintain nothing but our health and happiness, the year will be deemed a success.  Although the former has more to do with good luck, happiness is a choice.  
    Over the next 12 months let's seek contentment in everything we do.  Let's participate in activities that bring us joy, surround ourselves with people, (and animals), who make us laugh and let's go out of our way to help others.  Its a resolution I know we can keep and the lasting effects just might make us healthier too.  Let me know if you are going to choose to be happy so that we can be there for each other should we hit a few stumbling blocks along the way.  With that said, may the new year bring peace, good health and an abundance of joy your way.
Happy New Year!