Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Time is It?

Zip and Duke are oblivious to
the wonders of fall clean-up

 Fall is upon us!

For one thing, it's time to take a look around the horses' home and see what needs fixing before winter.  I was more than a little surprised to discover that my place is in far better shape than expected at this juncture.  Better than most years, which is a very Good Thing.  But that didn't stop me from ordering two pairs of terribly stylish PVC jump standards and buying an entire set of official pole-bending poles.  And there's the ring footing additive which will appear as soon as I get around to placing the order.

In case you're also in shopping mode, I can tell you that the least expensive PVC jump stuff is available from Jumps USA.  It's not that their ojets de jump are cheap, but if you've got a ring full of wooden things that were supposed to be impervious yet have perved quite successfully with feet missing and standards warped into artistic forms, PVC might just be the way to go.  Besides, they look so shiny.  And though you can get similar bits and pieces from other catalogs (Dover Saddlery comes to mind as that's where I priced them out), the no-shipping-charge rule at Jumps USA trumps lower per-item price.  The four, plain-Jane starter standards from that site cost me just a few dollars more than the same 4' wooden ones at Dover after the Dover shipping cost and tax were added in.

The footing is going to be something called "Airfoot" from Footings Unlimited.  Ground up athletic shoes!  Who'd have thought?  I suppose the real surprise is that we horse folks will pay big bucks for someone else's ground up useless stuff, but we all know that if you put a horse picture on it, we'll fork over the mortgage payment.  Anyway, the nice lady at FU said that Airfoot would be just the thing to mix with the top inch-and-a-half of my sand/road grit/dirt base that's so inconsistent that a sudden downpour can turn it from lovely, soft sand to something like Silly Putty.  Consistency is key.  Softness when I involuntarily dismount is also a consideration.

So, I've fixed fence posts and ordered all the high-end goodies, and my horses are just thrilled.  Actually they couldn't care less.  They were more interested in the diet feed I switched the two chubs to.  Lack of work due to inclement climate change has not been kind to any of our behinds.

I'd love to pretend I've got a whole lot of major projects afoot that will turn my backyard into something worthy of a photo spread in Horse Illustrated,  but that isn't happening, so I'll move on.

State of the Industry

Autumn is the time when things tend to get hinky.  Winter is coming (really....it may be 113F where you are now, but it will be cold soon, I promise).  What's coming this year is a hay shortage in many areas of the country.  Either too much rain precluded effective haying (cows are happy; horses not so much) or drought killed off the crop.  This is a good time to 1) downsize, getting rid of animals you can do without and won't be able to feed during the winter, and 2) find alternative feed sources.  Hay replacers are likely to be a better bet than bagged forage simply because bagged forage is still hay, which means it will be at a premium.  Lower-quality hay is an option as long as you bolster the horses' nutrient intake to make up for the lack.

If you're a member of your local Farm Bureau or Horse Council (if you're not, you need to join now), you should watch the news coming down the pipeline.  In my New Jersey, the biggest standardbred breeding farm in the state, Perretti Farms of Upper Freehold, has announced that they will be phasing out of business over the next two years.  Our Governor, The Christie, says the racing industry is in transition.  That's a kind way of saying that there just isn't money out there for gambling either on the owner end or the patron side of the track.  One can see the handwriting on the tack room wall as this will affect more than just one breeding farm.

Ironically, while some areas of regulation can be blamed for the changes in the industry--tighter regulation of gambling, for instance, which is keeping slots out of tracks here--the budget-driven cutbacks in environmental oversight will offer slight loosening in other areas.  Be aware so you can avoid the worst and take advantage of the best of the chaos in your jurisdiction. 

Paintings of my Horses

Art by Sharin Barber...awesomeness in oil!

Another thing I did during my fall reassessment was indulge my artsy spirit by not painting pictures of my horses.  Sharin Barber does a far better job.  If these paintings aren't the absolute best things hanging on my walls right now, then I'm George Morris (and we all know how much I'd just love to be George Morris, right?  Blech.).  Sorry the background is so busy, but I hadn't hung them yet, and the paintings just cried out for photographing in natural light.  The painting of my grandson, Dillon, with "baby neigh" Duke is eventually destined for Dillon's new bedroom after his parents drag him from my arms to the far-off realm of Indiana.  But for now it's on my wall looking lovely and garnering compliments from every delivery man I can lure into the house.  I don't get many other visitors, and someone has to look at these at least daily to make me happy.

Sharin is a pro and will paint your animals if you ask nicely, send photos, and pay her reasonable fee.  You can check out her blog linked here under the blogs I personally favor.  She's also on Facebook and might allow a friending if you're nice.

Don't forget the horses!

Some of you have shown an interest in the ongoing sagas in my barn.  For those of you who wonder what ever happened to the  nice Paint mare with the squamous cell carcinoma on her nethers, she's still with us and so is it.  It's not growing apace, possibly because we've scared it with all of the chemo and surgery and possibly because of the herbal supplement, 2-Mor Saver, she's on that is supposed to keep it under control.  Whatever the reason, her status is quo.  The cisplatin bead implants didn't really faze the cancer, but were worth the effort as an experimental gesture.

And for those who've been wondering whether Zip ever got his wild brain hair under control, the answer is a resounding yes!  After several years of gradually worsening attitude and increasing balkiness, my Aha! moment thanks to Cherry Hill and Michael Johnson led to a new approach that has been amazingly successful.  It's taken only two months--and I say "only" because, given the weather, riding time has been minimal, so that two months equates to about eight under-saddle experiences--to turn him back around....hence the new jump standards and pole-bending poles, which would have been unnecessary without a horse willing to put them to good use.  Oh, Leo and Dakota, my other riding horses, take a merry stab at both, but Leo's age (25) and arthritis (considerable, but under control thanks to Recovery Extra Strength) and Dakota's basic western trail horse conformation make their efforts more endearing than exciting.  Only the Zipster can make my version of combined training (the above-mentioned Montana Keyhole and two two-foot jumps in a pattern not found in any manual) feel like the Olympic Trials.   

So that's what time it is.  If there's a good side to climate change, it's the ample time during the hot, rainy, unrideable summer for tack cleaning and tack-room sorting and minor repairs of plumbing and electrical systems.  If fall bestows upon us a nice run of pretty days, then my horses and I will be ready to take advantage of them.  If you have the same opportunity, getting everyone in good shape, fine flesh, excellent fettle and so on will serve well over this coming winter.  The weather is predicted to be warmer overall, which means healthier horses come spring.  That can't be bad.

Onward, riders!  Mount up and do what comes naturally (and have the Airfoot footing handy for when it does).  


Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Joanne Friedman, Freelance Writer, ASEA Certified Equine Appraiser, Owner Gallant Hope Farm said...

Thanks! I hope my daughter sees this. "Cool" has never been a word she'd use to describe me or my writing. LOL