Thursday, January 21, 2010

Windy, With Sights, Sounds and Textures

This morning it's very windy - gusts to 30mph. Temperatures are supposed to just get up to freezing. A couple of posts ago, some questions were asked about blanketing, and there were some good answers in the comments. To me, blanketing is a question of wind and wet - horses don't do well in either without shelter, which we don't have in our pastures, since their coats lose their insulating value. And it's also a question of individual horses - some grow good coats, some don't, and some are just more or less sensitive to cold and wind. All horses need protection from getting wet to the skin, if temperatures are below 55-60F, in my opinion.

So this morning, due to the wind and a chance of freezing rain in the forecast, the horses got some light protection. I blanket all the horses (8) but mine as soon as I feed hay and make up the beet pulp, which soaks for 20 minutes, for Blackjack and Noble. I blanket my three horses when I turn them out, as I usually give them a quick grooming. We almost always take blankets off when the horses are stalled at night, to give them a rest from the pressure of the blanket and to give their coats a chance to refluff. It also gives us a chance to look over each horse to be sure they don't have an injury under the blanket or a skin condition starting, and to assess their weight and body condition. Although our barn is unheated and uninsulated, it does stay warmer than outside with the horses' body heat. The coldest it's ever gotten inside the barn in my experience was 8F, but that was with minus 20F temperatures with even colder wind chills outside. A couple of the horses wear fleece coolers overnight if it's bitterly cold. A horse is on the verge of being chilled if its coat is erect, and if the horse is shivering it's definitely chilled.

I've been working a lot lately at trying to be "in the moment", and to be fully present with whatever it is that I am doing - not thinking about something else. This morning was one of those delightful mornings when everything flowed, and I was really enjoying noticing all the sights, sounds and textures that surround me while I work. Even blanketing was delightful. I use the exact same sequence of movements to blanket every horse, and as I tossed every blanket up, it landed in exactly the correct place, and every bit of strapping was smooth and effortless. Sometimes I have other types of days - you know those ones where everything gets tangled and snarled and you trip, and drop things. But today was one of the good days.

Some things I noticed: Every horse's coat, in addition to having a different color and length, has a different texture, and they vary dramatically. Scout almost has a wiry coat, although it's not that thick or long. Fred and Blackjack are soft and fluffy. Dawn almost has peach fuzz. Maisie has almost a double coat, with long guard hairs. I almost think that if you put me in front of a horse, without colors and without any other way to identify the horse, I would be able to tell them apart just from the texture of their coats. It's sort of like the horses drinking yesterday - they are such individuals.

And each type of grain makes a completely different sound as you pour it into the feed buckets. And even draining the beet pulp was effortless - this is the hardest/worst feeding job next to rinsing out the beet pulp containers - I actually was enjoying the feeling of the warm water over my hand and the soft texture of the beet pulp/senior mix as I drained it, and it has a delicious smell. I love the different sounds each horse makes as it walks over the concrete floor on the way to turnout - many of them I could identify by sound. Dawn, for example, almost slaps her front feet down - it's very determined. I also like listening to the sequence of the footfalls, and noticing anything that is different in terms of rhythm or emphasis - this is one of the first ways I notice that a horse is slightly off before I even look.

And outside, I was quite taken by the textures and appearance of the ground. Our snow has packed down and compressed, and there are areas with ice showing through underneath, particularly in the walkways. It was as if there were different depths - snow on top and partially visible layers of ice, with an amazing textured look in different shades of gray. And on top of the snow layer, and mixed in all over, were bits of tan bedding from the horses' hooves and shreds of hay. It was like a composition in white, grey and tan - very beautiful!

I could go on and on - but that's enough! Please have a wonderful day!


  1. How do you handle the beet pulp? I know a couple of endurance bloggers (Mel and Karen) who put the dry pulp in a wire wastebasket, then drop the basket into a bucket of water. When the pulp is read, you can just pull the wire basket of soaked pulp out of the water. I don't feed BP regularly, but that sounds like a really nice system for keeping your hands dry!

  2. Funder - we make it up in large plastic tubs - the same ones that are used for corner feeders. When it's done soaking, we tip the tubs (their shape works well as they have corners) and use a hand to keep the contents in the tub as the water drains through a mesh sieve that's set in a colander (so that if any pulp or feed slips through we can put it back in the tub. After draining, any supplements are mixed in. The tubs are set on the floor of the stall and then rinsed out when the horse is finished. Actually, getting my hands wet isn't too bad - we use hot water to soak and sometimes it's the only thing that warms my hands up!

  3. Regarding beet pulp...all six of the horses here get beet pulp every morning and night. I use beet pulp pellets with no molasses. I put two heaping cups in a small bucket and cover it with about 3 inches of warm water. I let it set for at least an hour and all the water is absorbed creating enough to give 6 horses two heaping ladles each. Then, I just stir it into whatever grain/supplement combination they are getting. They all love it and it serves a great purpose. I never have to deal with too much water. (5 out of the 6 horses are between 20 and 30).

    Yes, some days just flow beautifully. We have no wind today...bright blue skies and spring like feeling in the air. Low 30s. Love it.

  4. Kate, I'll bet you recognize each horse's individual whinnies, too. Panama's I can recognize anywhere, as he has the most unique one I've ever heard -- he starts really high and ends really low. It sounds like a young horse's whinny in the beginning and a stud's at the end. So cute! Another horse at the barn has a very unique whinny, too -- he always hits the high ends of the range twice, one right after the other. The result is that he sounds very excited and demanding. :o)

  5. Some days flow so perfectly from the moment you get out of bed. I love those days when everything is so right with the world and I am in the right frame of mind to truly appreciate it all. I am lucky to have a lot of those days!

  6. It seems to me a few of us have had these amazing days lately, I know I have. The day's wehre nothing particularly fantastic happens, but you're inexplicably joyful.
    Yesterday was a pretty mundane day of feeding out, harrowing paddocks and burning ragwort and brush, along with spending some time with my horse, just hanging out in his paddock. And yet somehow I couldn't stop myself grinning and singing and being generally exeedingly happy! I wish we all had more of these days!

    I love your knack of describing all these things you see. It makes me appreciate the small things in my life all the more. How is it that some people can walk blindly by, while something so beautiful is right infront of them?

  7. I love days when everything just goes well from the first instant. And when your senses are keen enough to enjoy every second of a perfect morning, what could be better?

  8. Wow, Kate! Sounds like an amazing day, perfect!
    All of our snow has melted and it's raining now, don't know what will be next.
    Great post!

  9. Sounds like an amazing day. Please keep all the cold. If my horses are to be believed, we are done with the worst of it. They are already dropping winter fuzz like crazy. I hope they're right.


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