Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pasture Envy

I have a confession, of sorts, I've discovered I suffer from pasture envy. As I pass by homes with big country yards and lush thick grass I think: "what a waste of space, that would be such great pasture for my horses. If it were mine I'd put up fence and have lots of pasture for my horses. Why do they waste time mowing?"

Then there are the farms with, what seems to me, acres and acres of fenced grass fields. I find myself wistful that my two horses would love that much pasture field and the hours of grass grazing.

My two Spotted Saddle Horses came from a farm where they had probably a hundred acres to roam grassy hillsides. I remember the farm had so much grass I questioned moving the horses to our two small pastures. Granted we have over sixty acres of land, but approximately fifty of it is forested hills and valleys with creeks separating the hills. This area has been called The Foothills to the Smokys. Don't get me wrong, I do love the forests and it makes for great walking/riding trails as we carve them. I've regretted that my horses don't have more grazing area and that I took them away from some awesome pastures. I have no idea how they feel about it but I suspect if they could voice opinions, they'd prefer the awesome pastures.

My older horse was six when I bought him. He was used to roaming a big space and eating all the grass he could in a day. His body showed it. But my younger guy was two and I wonder if he even remembers the lush pastures he came from, I'm thinking, not so much. 

Over the past seven years we've worked at various rotations of the smaller fenced acres, which amounts to about ten acres. We use a portable electric fence in the front yard area of our house during the summer months, for a couple hours of evening grazing. It's more like a field anyway and I'm not a person who gives much credence to what my yard/field looks like out here in the country. God made grass for grazing animals, not so we would have to mow it. 

If I were to actually design, or buy another place, with my horses in mind, I wouldn't build it in a valley, between hills. I also would make sure there was not a tree line near my fence line. Seems we sporadically have to fix broken fence areas due to falling branches or entire trees. With a heavy sigh, I've decided, we'll deal with it all as it is and I'm going to quit complaining about it. I don't foresee us moving any time soon. The place is paid off so unless we were to sell it as a small horse farm and move to Kentucky,I love Kentucky,it is what it is. My youngest son lives in Maysville and when we go down that way to visit, I admire the green rolling pasture land, and feel that pasture envy creeping up on me. 

Hubby and I continue to work it out, for the horses, here on our little plot of the planet as best we can. Eventually, we'll have all the trees out of the back field and more grass will grow there. Realistically, because of the ground composition, we'll never see lush green pastureland back here. When I've brought this subject up to my vet a couple of times, about my lack of good pasture grass, he looked at my guys and said "You're probably better off with less pasture. You don't have to worry about founder and these guys look like really easy keepers."  So, evidently, it's not really as bad as I keep thinking. However, I'll probably continue to have pasture envy. The grass is always greener at the other farm.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exotic Animals Loose In Central Ohio

If you've been listening to, or reading, any form of news this morning you've learned that approximately fifty exotic animals were released from their cages on a private farm and are possibly roaming a rural area of Zanesville, Ohio. Zanesville is about a two hour drive north of where I live in Southern Ohio. Latest report I heard during a TV interview, allegedly, the owner of the farm possibly opened the animal cages before killing himself. While that is tragic in itself, what I find more tragic in this situation is the fact that approximately 50 exotics were being kept by a private citizen, in cages, on his own property. The sheriff's news conference confirmed 30 animals have been put down by law enforcement since last night, most of them were on the outside of the property when law enforcement arrived and the sheriff gave the order shoot to kill. There are suburbs close to the farm where the animals were kept.The sheriff also confirmed that there had been ongoing investigations following up reports of abuse and loose animals since about 2004.

Let me just say right up front there is absolutely no good reason for any private citizen to keep exotics like lions, tigers, bears, giraffes??? whatever, especially in a populated state like Ohio. It's not right. It's cruel to the animals and dangerous for surrounding homeowners. I also learned from another interview, and I haven't checked this information out myself, Ohio is one of the worst offenders when it comes to exotics being kept by private citizens. Ohio?  I was stunned. Evidently there are no strict regulations for owning and keeping exotics in the state of Ohio. 

The Columbus Zoo and The Wilds (an official wildlife preserve near Zanesville) are on the scene hoping to rescue some of the animals alive, although they didn't say what kind of animals they're looking for at this point. They've closed some schools in the area and are advising people to stay indoors. While I realize news media outlets run with this kind of story, I always try to glean what I think is credible and dismiss the hype.The deceased had been in prison for a year and had a jail record including animal abuse as well as possession of illegal firearms. This fact, if true, is troubling at any level.They were aware of the situation and had been concerned something might happen. I suppose they're all tip toeing around much of the law issue because as we all know, you can go down quick with a bad TV interview. This is an ongoing story so the information will change as the day goes on. 

A few years ago someone in the county ten miles north of us kept two lions. One of the lions got loose and was running down the main highway. Now, Southern Ohio can be wild and wooly. We have acres of forests, hills and hollers. Wildlife is abundant. We have seen an increase in coyotes, black bear and wild boar. But for someone to keep a lion, is simply beyond common sense. I never heard what happened to the lion although local news stated the owner was fined. Whoop tee doo!!!

Three times a year, the local fairgrounds, which is five minutes from my house, hosts a gigantic swap meet known as Swap Days or Trade Days. I personally quit attending several years ago because I don't like crowds AND there were people selling all kinds of animals in very confined cages as well as exotic animals. Common to see cages with baby lions or bears. I couldn't understand why they were permitted to sell them. Did the officials look the other way? when I heard about the lack of exotic animal regulations for private citizens in Ohio, it all made sense.

I am not an over-the-top animal activist but I do play by common sense rules. I cannot understand the mentality of someone who would even consider keeping 50 exotics like lions, tigers, bears, etc on a small farm just because they could. I think it's one for the psychologists to figure out.

When I first heard the story my thoughts went to horse and livestock owners. I was thinking if it were in my immediate area my shotgun would be locked and loaded and I'd be out there with my horses until all the animals from the farm were accounted for. While I don't like the idea of having to shoot any animal, I would do it in defense of my own. I suppose we'll get stories from the neighbors in the upcoming hours as news media scour the county to talk to the locals. Unfortunate as it is, it is the story of the day here in Ohio.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dream a dream, but reality is what it is...

The Tevis Cup endurance race, one hundred miles in one day, was held in California this past weekend. Due to weather induced terrain problems they moved the race from mid-summer to October 8. A few days before the race, a snow storm blew in leaving snow in the mountains, on some trails, and in camping areas. But, they carried on. The race was completed and won by a veteran Tevis participant, who's won it previously. In my mind, and I'm sure in the mind of many of those riders, it's not winning, it's finishing. And to those people who even attempt, they have my respect. The prize...a highly prized belt buckle.

I'm in awe of the people who have the opportunity to ride with their horses, as a team, in this event. Realistically, I know it's not something I'll ever do. Yes, we can dream dreams, but more often than not, reality is what it is. So, from  hundreds of miles away, through the magic of technology, I checked the Tevis updates on my Facebook page over the weekend, following the progress of the race, gazing at the posted photos of horses and their riders. You could even check in on a webcam, but unfortunately, my current satellite internet is not conducive to webcam viewing. I found myself sighing heavily, that the experience was out of my reach.

I'll continue to admire those who ride endurance, and particularly The Tevis Cup. I still have a dream, that maybe, one day, I'll get to a Competitive Trail Ride, or a shorter LD (Limited Distance). And the possibility of an ACTHA (American Competivtive Trail Horse Association) event, is within my reach. But The Tevis, ah yes, the top of the line, is an event I will only be following online. That's OK. We need to dream our dreams, but also realize that sometimes reality is what it is, and adjust.

Happy Trails, whatever that may mean to you!

The Tevis Cup


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Get Your Emotions Out of It!

I had one of those AH HA moments recently. Read an article by one of the popular trainers and his words clicked with me. Get the emotions out of your horse training. I realized for the longest time that's been one of my problems. Emotions getting in the way because they're MY horses.

When I worked at a riding stable and was training those horses, well, keeping their abilities up for our young program riders, I was business with them. I didn't feel anything I just did what needed done whether it was working on their starts and stops, getting them use to trail riding vs. arena riding, stand while tying, all the little things that needed attention. I knew the horses had to be rideable, leadable, mountable, accessible to the children we were servicing. The horses had jobs to do and I had to make sure they were ready. 

At home it's been a different story, and I think I just figured it out when I read the words of the trainer. When it comes to my two horses I've worried too much about what and how they do things. I've worried I'll ruin them in some way. This, I decided has been my problem and my handicap with getting my horse-life fulfilled. I think part of it comes from the very fact that I wanted to own my very own horses for so long, when I finally got them (at age 43) I was star struck in many ways. So now, I've decided that the reason my progress with my two guys has been at a stand still has been due to my emotional involvement.There's a place for emotions with our horses but there's also a place for business. I've been too concerned about right and wrong, which is important to a point, instead of just doing what I did with the school horses. 

My new training philosophy is to get to the same mental place I used with the school horses. I really think I'll make more progress that way. Easier said than done, probably, but those light bulb moments can be cause for turning corners, and I want to go there. Plus, I've come to a time in my horse-life where I'm questioning if it's right for me to have my guys since I haven't taken full advantage of what horse ownership could be. But, that's a post for another day....