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24HoursKendraGale

Winter is not just coming…for those of us in many parts of North America, it is completely, frigidly, and snowily upon us. Any horse person knows that things just get a bit, well, harder when the temp dips below zero. It doesn’t matter what size the manure pile—it all freezes to the ground.

Kendra Gale has been breeding, raising, and training Miniature Horses in Alberta, Canada, for decades, so she’s no stranger to ice in the water trough. Gale is the author of THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES, where she shares sage advice for keeping Miniatures as best suits their equine nature, as well as competing them at the highest levels. Her book is the perfect primer for the horse lover new to Miniatures, or the first-time horse owner, period.

In this segment of TSB’s “Horseworld by the Hour” series, Gale gives us a glimpse of what it’s like to walk a long (but satisfying) day in her winter boots.

***

6:30 am It’s winter in Alberta, so while I usually get up about now, it’s not the “jump out of bed and get going” it might be on a summer day with lessons or workshops or competitions on the schedule. After all, the sun won’t be up for a couple hours yet!

First priority is, of course, to let my Chihuahua, Clara, out to pee. Depending on the amount of snow or degree of Arctic temperatures, sometimes I’m successful in convincing her, sometimes not. In the summer she spends a lot of the day at the barn with me. In the winter, she opts out of the outdoors as much as possible. To be fair, the snow is sometimes deeper than she is tall!

7:00 am Breakfast and I jump onto the computer for a bit. Check emails, Facebook, and any concerns with my online classroom (www.MiniatureHorsemanship.com). Depending on how it goes, I might get some work done, editing videos or building slideshows, or maybe some writing.

8:00 am The sun starts peeking up between now and 8:30 am this time of year, and I usually wait for it before I head out to start chores. I like being able to see my horses in the daylight. They’re Miniature Horses, and lots of them are black…on days when I have to feed in the dark, I’ve been known to literally trip over them.

Before I go outside, I fill my big pail of hay cubes and senior feed with hot water to make a breakfast of mush for my collection of geriatric Miniature Horses. Then it’s time to layer up to head out—the number of layers is directly proportional to the cold. We have a wide range of winter temperatures here, and it could be above freezing, or it could be 40 below, and those two extremes could be in pretty close proximity to each other. Layers are key!

Image, my blind, one-eyed, 28-year-old, is the first to greet me when I get to the barn, with a hungry nicker and a big “downward dog” stretch. Image, along with Robin (age 27, a retired broodmare) and Valdez (age 29, sire of many of the horses on my farm), spend their nights inside in the winter, and their days, too, in nasty weather. Miniature Horses handle the cold really well, but these old folks do better with some extra spoiling.

With warm mush in their bellies, I head outside to feed the rest of the mush to my pen of slightly-less-old geldings (Knight Rider, 26, Spook, 22, and Paco, 21) and dole out some complete feed for some hard-keepers and the two weanlings, eight-month-old Victor and Vodka.

Next, it’s to the hay stack to collect a couple bales onto my calf sled. Currently I’m feeding about a bale and a half, morning and night, except when it’s colder than -20—then I feed more to help the horses stay warm. I distribute hay to the herd, checking everyone as I go to make sure no one is cold, or sick, or losing weight. I touch each horse every day—that’s 32 miniature equines in total.

winterfeeding

The herd. Photo by Kendra Gale.

8:30 am With all the beasties enjoying their breakfast, I love to stop and stand for a moment and enjoy the peace and morning light…unless it’s storming or something.

Next on the list I feed and water my birds. I keep Partridge Chantecler chickens and some mixed-breed ducks that never fail to make me laugh. The birds all do really well in the winter. I check to make sure their heated water dishes are all working and collect any (hopefully not-yet-frozen) eggs.

9:00 am Last week it was -36 and one of my heated, automatic waterers gave up the ghost. Of course, it was the one that the most horses drink from, and with the most run-in sheds in that pasture, I couldn’t move too many horses to other waterers. We got some heated pails to plug in for the herd so they all always had access to that all-important unfrozen water, but it means that next on my to-do list is hauling water: I do about six pails from the hydrant each morning to fill everything up for them.

9:30 am Some days I might head out to teach lessons at a client’s place, or spend the morning working on computer stuff, but today it’s farrier day. I see which horses are due for a trim and bring them into the barn. My farrier comes every two to three weeks and does six Miniatures at a time, which works out to a pretty good rotation. With a little luck, I get them in with enough time to dig the packed snow out of their feet and give them each a quick groom before the farrier arrives.

11:30 am It’s a trickier day for trims—most of the herd is easy, but we’ve got the weanlings on the list today. Victor is perfect, but Vodka used up all his “Good Boy” during treatment for an eye injury earlier this year and is going through a rebellious stage. We’re patient with him and he decides he’ll be a good citizen in the end. The big challenge today is Bentley, my new Miniature Mule: He’s only lived here a few months and is nervous of strangers, especially strangers who want to pick up his feet while holding tools. It takes some time, but it ultimately goes well. The farrier and I are pleased with his progress, and he gets lots of treats for his bravery. Luckily, the other three we trim today are old pros (that’s enough excitement for us for one day). They all get cookies and go back out with their friends to finish their breakfast. At this point, it doesn’t have to be very cold for me to still feel frozen solid—it’s definitely time to get back in the house for a bit!

claravictor

Clara and Victor. Photo by Kendra Gale.

12:00 pm I grab some lunch (and probably some hot tea!) and get back on the computer for a while. Time to get to work on whatever project I’m working on. Currently, I’m organizing a clinic/conference event, preparing for a clinic I’m teaching up north in a few weeks, and building a webinar and a couple promos for my online classroom.

1:30 pm I’m wrapped up in what I’m working on and would love keep at it, but the sun is shining so I head back outside. Time to clean stalls while the old folks are out enjoying some winter sun. Stall cleaning gets more complicated the colder it gets: frozen poop balls bounce away when they fall off the fork, and at times I take the pee spots out in one big frozen chunk, kind of like clumping cat litter. I also haul more water—another six pails midday (I’ll never take my automatic waterers for granted again after this…)

2:00 pm I want to get Rocky’s tail put back up—he’s my breeding stallion (Victor and Vodka’s daddy) and one of my favorite driving horses. I love his long tail and usually keep it up in a sock to protect it. This fall I let it down during fly season, and then I never got it put up again. After the last big snowfall I was laughing at the funny trail it left in the snow, but I’m sure that was pretty hard on it. Now that the weather has improved I’m going to get it up before the next snow and cold snap is scheduled. I set up my video camera so I can make a quick tutorial of the process for my YouTube channel.

2:30 pm Since I have Rocky in, I set up some of the obstacles for the January online Horse Agility competition. Rocky’s been off for a while, so it’s a good refresher for him. I set up the obstacles inside the barn. My barn is a good-sized tent building so I’m able to squeeze in a full agility course if I’m creative. It’s nice to work in out of the wind, and I’m paranoid about my horses slipping on poor footing outside in the winter. I also never drive in the winter, unless there is no snow or ice at all. Luckily, while driving is my favorite discipline, there are lots of other fun things to do with my Miniature Horses, and agility is one of my preferred wintertime activities.

rockyfrost

Rocky with a frosty forelock. Photo by Kendra Gale.

3:00 pm  Now I’ve got the obstacles set up, and I let Johnnie in to play. He does his agility at liberty. Johnnie is coming four, and while he’s one of my tiniest in stature at not quite 31 inches, he’s the biggest personality. I don’t dare practice any obstacle too many times, or he gets bored and invents new ways to do them. We work on standing and waiting until I ask him to come toward me, practice his sidepassing, and then move on to something else. Johnnie has been trained using positive reinforcement. I also want to start him in harness, so today I have a sidepull I’m going to use on him—I’ve driven Rocky bitless some, but I’m really looking forward to starting Johnnie bitless right front the start. We practice giving to pressure on the sidepull, first using a target to help him understand. It’s a fun new game for both of us! I’ve got the video camera running again, as one of my online courses is on starting your Miniature Horse in harness, and I want to add the bitless training process to the content. The toughest part with Johnnie is always convincing him to leave when I’m done playing with him…after demonstrating all kinds of skills at liberty, I actually have to put a halter on him to lead him back out to be with his friends!

3:45 pm I’m cold again, so it’s back in for more tea (Earl Grey with milk and a dribble of maple syrup—my friend named it a “Canadian Fog”) and to download my videos onto the computer. I get started on video editing and laugh at Johnnie’s antics. The bloopers are always my favorite, and if I don’t leave them in, I save them for future amusement.

4:45 pm I haven’t quite warmed up, but it’s getting dark, so I’m back out to start the evening chores. I bring in the old folks and and feed everyone just like in the morning. It’s supposed to extra cold overnight, so I give everybody some additional hay to help them stay warm. I turn on a podcast while I work: I like to listen to Horses In The Morning or Star Trek: The Next Conversation.

5:30 pm The sunset over the mountains is my favorite. I often pause my chores to take photos if it’s particularly spectacular.

I give Robin and Image their medication (Cushings medication for both, and anti-inflammatory for Robin) and haul another six or eight pails of water (I really can’t wait til that waterer is fixed…) before I say goodnight to everyone, close up the coops for the night, and head for the house. I check that the security camera is working in the barn—if anything seems amiss, I can see the stalls from my phone. It’s especially handy during foaling season.

sunset1

Another day done. Photo by Kendra Gale.

6:00 pm It’s back to the house for the evening. A couple times a month I teach a live webinar in the evenings, but most of the time I curl up on the couch with my laptop, enjoying some TV while I keep working away on my current projects. Or I might head over to my grandparents house to watch the game on TV…Go Flames Go!

10:00 pm I let Clara out one last time and we head for bed—a Chihuahua’s favorite time of day!

Kendra Gale’s book THE BIG BOOK OF MINIATURE HORSES is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

JEANNE ABERNETHY

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

 

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont. 

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24hrsfergus

So many of us know Fergus the Horse, the world’s most popular cartoon horse and a bonafide social media celebrity with over 315,000 followers on Facebook and two books about his adventures. But did you know that his creator, the wit behind the Fergus comics that bounce around the globe, isn’t a full-time artist? Every summer Jean Abernethy packs her saddle bags, loads her half-Arabian Willow, and heads to South Algonquin Trails in Harcourt, Ontario, Canada, where she spends several months leading guided trail rides into the Algonquin Provincial Park, 2,955 astoundingly beautiful square miles of Crown Land.

Here Jean shares with us her typical day “on the trail,” with lots of fly spray, ponies who defy grazing muzzles, and plenty to be thankful for.

reckhere

4:30 am  An empty log truck hits its engine brakes out on the paved road less than 300 yards from my cabin. It’s slowing for the turn up Kingscote Road.  They’re logging up there this summer… drift back to asleep…

6:00 am (and a couple of trucks later)  Alarm sounds. Hit two buttons: ”snooze,” and coffee maker.

6:10 am  Dawn is my favorite time. Up, dressed, coffee in hand, I grab my pony’s breakfast bucket from the pump house, and check one water trough on my way to the kitchen house where the cream and sugar is. Loons are calling overhead. I sip my coffee in the quiet dawn while Willow eats. Start breakfast in my skillet on the stove, and start a load of saddle cloths in the washer behind the kitchen house.

Dawn is Jean's favorite time. Here the South Algonquin Trail horses have breakfast in the morning fog.

Dawn is Jean’s favorite time. Here the South Algonquin Trail horses have breakfast in the morning fog.

7:00 am  Juggling chores, filling two water tanks, running the washer, hanging clean saddle cloths on the fence. Open the office, sweep, check the book for today’s trail rides and camp kids.  Check and top up the mineral buckets in the paddocks.  Check big bales in the paddocks and remove strings for safety. Open the tackroom, check the dry erase board (which should match the book), to see which horses are needed for the day. …walking…walking…

7:45 am  Slip a halter on Willow, groom and tack her up. Tie her in the trees to wait until she is needed. I tell her I’m proud of her. She finds validity in the routine here and does this work well. Once tied, she cocks a leg and dozes off. I open the road gate.

Willow, being a good pony, waiting to go to work.

Willow, being a good pony, waiting to go to work.

8:00 am  My friend and employer Tammy arrives with her daughter Jocelyn and an assortment of other help: Jesse, a high school senior and brilliant young equestrian, and there might be others who jump out of the truck…siblings or young teens volunteering for the summer. We gather horses from the paddocks into the yard, grooming and saddling to prepare for the “Camp Kids” and scheduled rides on the trails. Tacked-up horses are tied in the trees until needed.

Rodney & Dwayne arrive.  These young men help out here when they can.  There might be a tree down across the trails out there somewhere. We’ll send them out into the bush on the 4-wheeler with a chainsaw. Or, we might need them to sink a new tie-post in the yard or guide a ride with us.

9:00 am  The “Camp Kids” show up.  There might be 3, or 6, or more…we share up the tasks of getting them started with their grooming tools, instructions, and assigned horses. They will have a riding lesson and trail ride before noon. This also means supervising our young volunteers. Safety and savvy are the biggest lessons. So is stamina. I hand it to Tammy.  She creates opportunity here at SAT, for a lot of kids to learn real stuff!

The "Camp Kids," learning real horse stuff!

The “Camp Kids,” learning real horse stuff!

10:00 am  It’s getting hot. Flies are buzzing, horses stomping.

Guests arrive for the first scheduled trail ride. As they check in with Tammy in the office…payments, waivers, helmets…we, the crew in the yard, prepare the horses. Put their bits into their mouths and tighten girths. And apply fly repellent. Lots of fly repellent. We put our guests on, give them some instruction, and head out. Willow and I go in front, and another guide is in back. For 6 or more riders, it’s nice to have a guide in the middle, too. A ride could be 30 minutes to 4 hours. This one is 2 hours.

11:00 am  The shade of the bush protects us from the sun. First horse gets the worst of the flies. I’ve cut a 5-foot leafy Maple branch to sweep flies off my horse, Willow, ears to tail. After the first hour, I feel “welded” into my saddle. Bliss. I chat with our guests, telling them a little history of our Provincial Park, or just let them enjoy the sights and sounds of the woods.  I watch for tracks and point them out whenever possible. It’s exciting to see fresh moose tracks, but I watch Willow’s ears, and silently pray there will be no moose, only tracks. (I don’t like putting people back on!)

12:00 pm  We ride back into the yard as the “Camp Kids” are finishing up.  Most of our guests have very little riding experience, so we joke with them as they dismount: “You’ll only walk funny for 3 days.” They drive out of the yard happy, with a recommendation for the nearest ice-cream vendor, hiking, or fishing spot.  They’re summer people on holidays, and we do all we can to add to their fun.

12:30 pm  I check with Tammy about the rental cabin. Some folk haul their own horses up here, stay in the cabin on SAT property, and ride the trails out in the Crown Land just beyond SAT’s back fence. The cabin beds need to be fresh, campfire pit tidy and inviting, stalls and turnout pens clean. I’ll do what needs to be done.

Grab my laptop from my cabin for a moment to check emails, and check up on Fergus’s progress on social media.

1:00 pm  Babysitting the horses tied in the yard, making sure that no one is stepping on dangling reins, or chewing his neighbor’s saddle. We’re re-applying fly repellent, offering them drinks at the trough. The guests for the next ride check in. In fact, it’s two families, so we’ll take them out together…bits in, girths tightened, and off to the mounting platform. Oh my goodness! I lead Black Horse (name changed to protect the innocent) to the platform. Guest is wondering which foot to put in the stirrup to mount. So I advise: “Well, do you want to face forward?”

1:20 pm  We ride out. Red Horse, with child aboard, is right behind Willow and me in the line-up. Right beyond the first bridge, Red Horse puts her head into the weeds to eat, despite the muzzle on her face. Rider is helpless. I, and the other guides speak instructions to Rider.  Rider is still helpless. Red Horse eats. Pinto Horse, further back in the line, begins to pee. Rider behind Pinto Horse giggles, then his horse begins to pee, and there is much giggling amid the guests. All 10 horses, given the pause, begin to eat at the edge of the trail. Guest riders do not know how to influence this, nor do they understand how precarious this all is! (Large Mare has a tendency to turn around and go home!)

I sidepass over to Red Horse (thank you, Willow) and hook onto to the halter with a lead line, pony her for a bit , while instructing Rider…who is still helpless. The guides further back speak instructions to all, the horses follow up, and we get the whole procession moving again. Deep sigh. Jocelyn (always smiling) tells a little girl that she must not whine because it upsets her pony. The girl stops whining. The pony is indifferent. Jocelyn is a star!!

Willow and Jean leading a guided trail ride.

Willow and Jean leading a guided trail ride.

2:20 pm  We ride back in. All hands on deck to get these folks safely dismounted and horses made comfortable until the next ride.

2:30 pm  A family drives in, unscheduled, wanting pony rides. We oblige. Quick tack change to swap out for a pony saddle…skee-daddle to the paddock for the wee pony who wasn’t  brought in earlier, and we hand-walk two ponies on the pony trail at the edge of the woods.  One child is utterly charming, parents following and cooing…the other child cries. Ten minutes later there is no crying, photos are taken, memories made, children lifted off…ponies’ girths loosened…

3:00 pm  It’s hot. We’re tired and hungry. As the next holiday folks pull into the yard in expensive cars, we are all on the office porch sucking popsicles, swatting flies, and eating Doritos. Good God! Three people want 3 hours of trail ride, no riding experience, and they’ve showed up in shorts and flip-flops! Is there a Patron Saint of Trail Riders I can pray to?

Tammy’s brilliant! She has various chaps & boots on hand…waivers…helmets…we put them on, and ride out. I like the 3-hour ride. Haven’t been up to Gut Rapids for 3 days. I love this trail! Folk like this seem to be expecting a ride at the fair—you know, where you get in, clasp your hands on something solid, and wait for the whole experience to happen. We make some effort to express to them that they can communicate cues to their mount. Penny does not drop. The horses are stars. They tote these folks out, relying on each other, nose-to-tail, and we even make it through the water crossing without anyone balking or turning around!

At the Gut Rapids tie-up, we dismount them, tie the horses to trees, and take the folks for a 5-minute hike to the rapids. They admire the scenery, take a photo, eat a snack…then we walk them back and put them on, using “mounting rocks.”  Of course all of the horses become 10 years younger when walking home! This is when the guests ask, “Are we going to gallop?”

Dear God…

4:00 pm  Halfway back…folks are quiet, absorbing the magic of the woods…the sun is warm on my face, flies not so bad on this shady trail… an earthy scent drifts past my nose…Willow walks patiently…raven calls…I am reminded how lucky I am do be doing this…zap back to the moment, and turn around to check that everyone is safe.

Willow and Jean both enjoy the beautiful trails at SAT.

Willow and Jean both enjoy the beautiful trails at SAT.

6:15 pm  We arrive back in the yard, get these folks safely off, and send them cheerily on their way.  They’re laughing, walking funny, and have a whole new respect for horse riding, and for our vast forest. Dwayne, Rodney, and volunteers have gone home. Water tanks need topping up. Horses untacked and turned out.  Sweaty saddle cloths have piled up again…fold and stack the clean ones that have been drying on the fence all day… sweep the porch…pick up in the yard…there’s sand in my boots…

7:00 pm  Tammy’s still in the office working, the girls and I are doing chores. We pause to watch two little red foxes playing about the manure pile. I give Willow her evening meal.

7:30 pm  Tammy’s on the tractor, hefting big squares from the hay barn to the paddocks. We look sharp to work the gates and cut strings off bales.

8:30 pm  Tammy and folks drive out. I smile and wave, shut the gate behind them. I don’t remember what I ate today, make some kind of supper in the kitchen, start Willow’s breakfast soaking for morning, and walk to my cabin. Catch up on my journal. The twilight sky over the treetops is breathtaking! A loon calls.

9:00 pm  I walk down to the yard where Willow is munching hay with her friends. I put my arm over her back and thank her for another day’s work. She chews. There are so many stars overhead that the Milky Way is actually “milky.” Here, we are beyond the city’s light pollution. I might see a falling star or satellite. I wish I could watch it all night, but I am exhausted. I hear a wolf howl, far away…walk back to my cabin, fill my coffee maker, and flop into bed.

 

Jean Abernethy’s new book FERGUS: A HORSE TO BE RECKONED WITH, is available now from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

Click below to watch the trailer:

 

For more information about the South Algonquin Trails, CLICK HERE.

 

Be sure to read the other installments in the TSB “Horseworld by the Hour” blog series:

YVONNE BARTEAU

JONATHAN FIELD

EMMA FORD

JOCHEN SCHLEESE

HEATHER SMITH THOMAS

LYNN PALM

DANIEL STEWART

DOUG PAYNE

JANET FOY

CLINTON ANDERSON

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The small town of Winchester, Ontario, Canada, hosted a special screening of Discs 1 & 2 from the 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN DVD series.

The small town of Winchester, Ontario, Canada, hosted a special screening of Discs 1 & 2 from the 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN DVD series.

 

One Sunday in early December, just before the holidays took over but when the cold and dark had long since driven people out of the barns, off the trails, and into their homes, horsewoman Claire Griffiths brought her small, rural community together in the Old Town Hall Theatre on Main Street in Winchester, Ontario. Her goal? To offer a horse-friendly educational opportunity to keep people connected and growing as equestrians during the season when few had the means to or venue in which to ride.

 

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“Most of us don’t have indoor facilities that allow us to ride all year, so the saddles are put away once the freeze hits and we hibernate until things start to thaw out,” admits Claire. “As a result, we typically don’t see our horsey neighbors for many months. My hope was to bring our horse community together to learn, socialize, and entertain during an otherwise long and horseless season. 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN was a perfect way to start.

“And we did it! We opened the Old Town Hall Theatre doors and invited guests to watch the 7 CLINICS Discs 1 & 2 (Groundwork). Thirty people sat together and watched these discs from beginning to end. We also sold raffle tickets that benefitted Transistions Thoroughbreds, a local horse rescue, and gave the lucky winner, Joan Shorter, the complete 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN series…I’m still excited and smiling AND planning the next event!”

 

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If you, like Claire, live in a cold, riding-prohibitive region (or anywhere where there are education-hungry horse people, really!) and would like to host your own not-for-profit, public screening of an approved portion of 7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN in a theater or other public venue, contact Trafalgar Square Books and Cedar Creek Productions with your proposal (rdidier@trafalgarbooks.com).

 

7 CLINICS WITH BUCK BRANNAMAN is available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE TO ORDER NOW

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

CLICK IMAGE TO ORDER

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