Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeding Time

Our animals can tell time. I am sure any other horse-owner would say the same thing. They know when it is feeding time. John does the morning feeding, I do the evening. When I walk outside at 5:30p, they are all standing up at the front of the pasture by the gate -- Zora hangs her big head over the fence, and the goat-boys are usually standing on their back legs with their front feet on the gate. Divna, being a little more reserved, hangs back a bit, but is looking at the house all the same.

As I approach the barn, they all vocalize their impatience. Then the ritual begins....I talk to all of them as I put grain the horses' buckets and goats' bowls. What happens next must be done by strict adherence to the order of the established steps. First, Marco (the black goat) must be hooked with a lead to his spot on the fence. Then Misho (the white goat). Tethering Misho first would be inviting trouble -- Marco, knowing Misho cannot get away, would just terrorize the poor white goat. Generally they get along great, but at feeding time, all bets are off. Plus, Marco is an opportunist.

Then, its back in the barn for the feed buckets/bowls. Zora must be fed first. As the dominant animal in our group, she demands this respect. Her bowl goes into her stall, then I must step outside for Divna's "show." Even though Divna has been up near the front of the pasture with the others awaiting dinnertime, she always ends up way downfield. I believe she does this for a reason. She wants to make her dramatic entrance. I have to step outside and call her. With a toss of her head, she comes running......almost full speed, with her mane flying. She gives a few more tosses of the head, and does some fancy footwork. She practically slides into her stall like a baseball player sliding into home. She starts chewing even before her head is in the bucket. She is quite the character!!!

The goats finish eating grain first, but remain tethered until the horses are finished. Marco will try to steal food from almost everyone -- the other goat and Divna. He knows better than to try it with Zora! The hay goes out into the feeder while they are all busy with grain. Once Zora leaves her stall and heads toward the hay feeder, it is safe to release the goats -- Misho first, then Marco. Sometimes I stand in Divna's stall with her if she has not yet finished her grain to protect her from Zora and Marco. Funny, but even though Zora is dominant, she respects me. If I am in Divna's stall, she will not take her grain....if I am not there, then Divna doesn't get her last few bites!

We developed this system over many chaotic feedings -- this is the method that works. It is nice to have peace in the barnyard! I love feeding them, talking to them, and being around them. Feeding time is my favorite time of day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Brown County

We took our first trip to Brown County with the horses this week. Actually, it was the second trip for Zora -- she had been there when she was about 2 years old with the trainer we hired. Everything we had heard about the trails there is true. The riding is fabulous. We wish we had a couple more days at least, but considering our "adventure" in getting there, we are lucky things worked out as well as they did.

We had planned and prepared for the trip for weeks. I had to work 1/2 day the day we left, and of course you never get going as quickly as you think you will. With the sun setting so early, we were anxious to get there to set up camp in the daylight. So after leaving an hour or so later than expected, we got stopped by a train moving at a snail's pace in LaCrosse that slowed us down even more. Then, just before we got to the park, the truck started to act up. The battery light kept coming on. We saw a small brown sign directing us to the horseman's camp (7 miles, so it said), so we followed it. All the way down that two-lane narrow, winding, hilly road the truck started getting worse and worse -- lights fading, power failing. When we got to a "T" in the road with no directional sign as to which way to go to the camp, we knew we had a problem. Our only choice was to go back out to the main road, find a gas station or someplace where we could ask for directions. We did, and started back down that winding road. Our luck ran out on a particularly winding stretch of the road -- the truck died completely! No lights, no power, nothing. All I could think of was someone crashing into the back of us and killing our horses. So I got out to flag people around us. Luckily, the people down there are very nice and helpful. We had quite a few stop to try to help us. A young couple dressed in camoflauge with their faces marked up with green and brown paint stopped and gave us a jump. I asked them if they were in the Army, and they looked at me like I was from Mars. Then it dawned on me what was going on -- "are you hunters?" I asked, and sure enough that was it. They were kind enough to keep giving us jumps until we got to a school where we could pull the truck over into a grassy area. Then a mechanic stopped and assesed our situation. He felt it was the alternator, which he was capable of replacing. He gave us his phone number, and asked us to call him if we needed him to pick up athe part and come and install it. He helped us get to the campground (which is a right turn at the "T"), which took more jumps. At the campground, a DNR guy helped us get to the campsite, with a few more jumps. It was really stressful.

Needless to say, we did not get to ride that first evening. We did get camp set up, and had something to eat. It was a really cold night in the tent.

The next morning we met some of our neighbors who were really helpful. We called the park office, they recommended a local repair shop. The truck got towed away to be repaired and returned later that day. Our camping neighbors told us that on the way down, the spare tire under their truck caught fire somehow -- they were going down the highway with flames coming out of the bottom of their truck! So it just must have been the time for strange stuff like that to happen. These were really nice people from northeast Indiana, and we really enjoyed their company. We talked quite a bit and had some cold refreshments together. They had 2 beautiful Tennesee Walking Horses -- one of them a champaigne colored gelding, the other could have passed for Zora's brother.

We did some great riding the next day. It is so beautiful there, and the trails are so nice. There is something for everyone -- the big wide, ride side-by-side trails, and the narrow, single file trails with a bit more of a challenge. It was really nice. But, we had to be mindful of the time, because our truck was to be returned that afternoon, so we did not get to explore as many trails as we had hoped. After going back to camp and getting the truck situation finalized, we went out again for another shorter ride before dark.

We did not have to check out unil 2p the next day, so we figured we could take a morning ride. We got everything packed up that evening to make it easier for the next day. The forecast said there was a 50% chance of rain, so we prepared for that as well. We had our coffee and some other things we thought we'd need in the tent with us. We felt we were covered. However, nature had other plans. That night, it started raining -- torrential type raining. All of the stuff in our tent was touching the sides, which is not a good thing. We woke up to a flood in our tent and everything was wet -- shoes, clothes, bedding. Needless to say, we threw everything in the truck and got out of there as fast as possible.

In spite of our semi-bad luck, we really want to go back. It is just so great to be around that many horse people, and I really enjoy looking at all the gorgeous horses. We saw quite a few mules (!!) and there were ponies with carts and even miniature horses. It was also a treat to look at all the great trailers with living quarters! Some people have some pretty impressive set-ups! John and I were the only ones there roughing it in a tent!!!

We do plan to go back -- the riding is so nice that we just have to experience it again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Riding in the Indiana Dunes

Sunday was a beautiful day, so we took "The Girls" (Zora and Divna) to the Indiana Dunes State Park. We are really fortunate, because the park is so close, and the trails are really nice. It is so easy to just pop over there for a ride -- whether you have all day or only a couple of hours to ride, it is worth the short drive.

It was a perfect day. Warm, but not too warm, and with the leaves turning colors it was really pretty. Some of the low spots in the woods were still filled with water from the recent deluge, and there were red leaves floating on the water. The trails were not too wet, though. We had to go through water one time, and there were a couple of muddy spots, but nothing unmanageable.

Of course, Zora really enjoyed herself, as always. She loves to stretch her legs and get her exercise in. This is all just a politically correct way of saying that she likes to run like a bat out of hell. Divna keeps up with her most of the time, but she is lot more calm. Divna does have her quirks, though. She doesn't like to walk on rocks, or in deep sand. So out at the Dunes, she stays pretty close to the side of the trail where the ground is more firm. I have to keep her in the center of the trail when trees are close to the edge, and on Sunday I was a little too lax in one spot and ended up banging my knee on a tree. Just a bruise, no big deal. But something always happens when you are out on the trail, right? As long as no one ends up in surgery, which happened to us one time, but that is a story for another posting.

Anyone who hasn't tried the trails at the Dunes should plan on it. It is really easy to find -- I would be happy to provide directions. It's a great way to spend some time with your horse.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

We're started this blog to chat with horse lovers in NW Indiana. We have two Tennessee Walker mares named Zora and Divna. Those are Serbian names meaning "dawn" and "beautiful." We also have a couple of nitwit goats with Serbian names, but trust us, you don't want to bother with them.

We plan to share our experiences with all horse lovers. We have a few interesting stories to tell in coming blogs, including some serious medical conditions we've had to deal with, both to the horses and the riders who sometimes go a little too fast and fall a little too hard.

Look forward to talking with you.

Riding & living w/Tennessee Walkers in NW Indiana

Zora is the goofball with her lead rope over her head. Divna is the one-eyed horse on the left.