New Horizons!

Cassie and Emilie do the celebratory gallop all along the fence, with everyone else joining in on the fun.
Cassie and Emilie do the celebratory gallop all along the fence, with everyone else joining in on the fun.

I have wanted to move Emilie to a barn with more pasture for a while and now things have finally come into place. Her and her mate, Cassie, have moved to Vestfyns Rideklub on Funen where she will be sharing roughly 14 hectares, or 34 acres, of pasture with fifteen other horses and ponies.

Emilie and Cassie are both horses that require a lot of all-round exercise. Welsh Mountain ponies are inclined towards getting tubby, and Jutland Drafts tend to develop arthritis and leg problems if they stand still a lot. They don’t need to follow a sadistic fitness routine, but walking around at their own pace on enough land all day will have a large impact on their health regimen. Cassie has been struggling with her weight and Emilie needs to build up muscle mass after her vacation year after surgery. There’s enough grass that it’s worth plodding around to find, but not enough to influence their weight and diet much.

Wheeeeeeeee!
Wheeeeeeeee!

Mud has been a severe challenge in Denmark this winter. Even barns that usually don’t particularly struggle with wetness, have been literally swamped. I went to look at several farmsteads and barns closer to where we live than Vestfyns, and the one challenge they all faced? Mud. Horses standing in knee deep slush everywhere. Most farms are desperately trying to save their pastures from the extreme amount of moisture this winter, which means that the horses also get cooped up in smaller areas in order to not churn the fields into mud beyond repair.

This is how it went on the first day:

Draft horses such as Emilie, with their heavily feathered legs, are particularly prone to fungal infections due to dampness. We have managed to fend it off so far this winter with a healthy dosage of zink in her food, but finding a 14 ha pasture that’s decently dry (except the muddy area by the barn door) is fantastic. Having both indoors and outdoors arena, as well as good options for hacking out in the area, well, that turns it into a godsend.

Day Two Challenge: Luring ponies with carrots. It worked — more so on the barn’s oldest pony, Sally (29).
They heard us, and they are approaching, one mouthful of grass at a time.
They heard us, and they are approaching, one mouthful of grass at a time.
The pony is white. In theory.
The pony is white. In theory.
The pasture isn't bone dry -- nowhere is, with the warm, wet winter we've had. But the mud is not knee deep, there's still a bit of green, and of course Emilie managed to find somewhere to roll around until she's properly camouflaged.
The pasture isn’t bone dry — nowhere is, with the warm, wet winter we’ve had. But the mud is not knee deep, there’s still a bit of green, and of course Emilie managed to find somewhere to roll around until she’s properly camouflaged.
Both horses seem to integrate well into the new herd. Cassie leads, Emilie gets between her and anyone that looks vaguely grumpy.
Both horses seem to integrate well into the new herd. Cassie leads, Emilie gets between her and anyone that looks vaguely grumpy.
So much space.
So much space.
Sleep tight, girls.
Sleep tight, girls.

As a bonus twist of fate: Vestfyns Rideklub is where we used to board my Arabian, Kvik, and my mother’s Knapstrupper/Thoroughbred cross, Silverfox, back in the early 1990s. My longest lived cat (18 years!) was born there. It’s a bit like coming home.

 

Hospital Visit Survived!

Hospital visit survived!

This is Emilie the Stoic, wearing diodes on her head, rump and right front hoof. She stayed a night at Andsager Animal Hospital to use their lameness locating system to find out why the heck she keeps being randomly lame and insecure on her feet.

The verdict? Well, first she had surgery and did nothing for six months. Then she got kicked hard and did nothing for another five months. She basically is fine, but she has no muscle and no balance. We’re going to gently start her on easy work and get her into shape, then revisit the situation in 12 weeks (or earlier if she develops an express lameness instead of just randomly sorefooting around).

So, good news!

Also, it’s wonderful to own that horse who’s afraid of nufink. Trailers, new places, people prodding you with things, Emilie dun care none.

Zipping Around on an Autumn Day

Just another quick series of running red horse. We’re more or less moved now, although there’s still a lot of unpacking to do, so we haven’t had much time to do fun things in the barn. Well, except if you count running around like crazy in the sun as a fun thing. Emilie counts that as a fun thing.

Granted, she's not a gracious little ballerina butterfly, but she's so powerful!
Granted, she’s not a gracious little ballerina butterfly, but she’s so powerful!
Emilie absolutely loves to run.
Emilie absolutely loves to run.
Whoever said draft horses move slow haven't met mine.
Whoever said draft horses move slow haven’t met mine.
This is probably the best picture Alvin has taken to date. Yes, there is a horse in it, look closer.
This is probably the best picture Alvin has taken to date. Yes, there is a horse in it, look closer.

Playing on a Windy Day

Windy autumn is here again and how I wish more of these fall days would be sunny and pleasant like this one. Rushed to grab the camera while the horse and husband rushed to play tag all over the place.

Gotta start with a hug.
Gotta start with a hug.
Meanwhile, the paddock neighbours sneak up for cheap entertainment.
Meanwhile, the paddock neighbours sneak up for cheap entertainment.
If you think you can hear the thunder of those hooves approaching, you're spot on.
If you think you can hear the thunder of those hooves approaching, you’re spot on.
On a day like this, Emilie totally ignores her lameness to sprint around like a crazy 800 kilo spring rabbit.
On a day like this, Emilie totally ignores her lameness to sprint around like a crazy 800 kilo spring rabbit.
You chase me, I chase you ... Actually, Emilie does most of the chasing.
You chase me, I chase you … Actually, Emilie does most of the chasing.
Trot past the photographer, invite her to come chase you ...
Trot past the photographer, invite her to come chase you …
I'm coming for youuuu!
I’m coming for youuuu!
And finally, when we're tired, take a bow.
And finally, when we’re tired, take a bow.

Autumn Photos of Pretty Redheads (And the Occasional Grey)

Just another series of random pictures of Emilie and friends. It’s been a hectic fall for us, selling one house and buying another, but never too busy to pack that camera.

Cassie and Emilie enjoying a rare sunny afternoon in an autumn that's otherwise been wet and icky.
Cassie and Emilie enjoying a rare sunny afternoon in an autumn that’s otherwise been wet and icky.
Pretty blonde girl is pretty.
Pretty blonde girl is pretty.
Light weight rider Cecilie tested Emilie's gait, but she's not quite done being lame yet. Here's to hoping chiropracty and acupuncture will do their jobs.
Light weight rider Cecilie tested Emilie’s gait, but she’s not quite done being lame yet. Here’s to hoping chiropracty and acupuncture will do their jobs.

 

Feets and Cuddles!

Mostly cuddles.
Mostly cuddles.

Emilie is usually cool-headed but there is one thing that used to reduce her to a sweating, shaking wreck: The dreaded hoofpick. We’ve been training, patiently, for two months now, and with the help of our brave barefoot trimmer, Kimmie, cleaning feet is no longer a highly traumatic experience.

I don’t know what caused this anxiety. When we purchased Emilie we were warned that she had not yet learned to lift her feet properly. We were going to train it, but then she had her colic surgery and we had to wait for that 60 cm incision to be properly healed before we started doing difficult work that requires standing on three legs for a while.

Once we did get started it became very obvious that her refusal was not obstinacy or annoyance: She was afraid of being held and losing her balance, causing her to fall. She actually fell. Twice.

We’ve got a working arrangement now. Using positive reinforcement training, patience, and observing her reactions, we have now reached a point where a tap on the front of the knee means that she will lift her hoof — and then we’re allowed to do whatever we want to it as long as we don’t take hold of it. She holds the leg. No feeling of being trapped or restrained.

Moreover she needs regular breaks — a minute at a time with a foot up, tops. Again, not out of obstinacy but due to hip trouble that she likely acquired during surgery (turn a horse over, haul it up in chains around the legs, no wonder …). We’re calling in a chiropractor to sort those issues out, and I expect that once they’re dealt with, she’ll cease demanding breaks.

It’s amazing what patience, grass pills, and lots of praise can do.

Bonus: Positive reinforcement works both ways. As the picture shows, she’s taught me how to give the best chest and neck rubs. And my reward is that she returns them.