Wednesday, December 21, 2011


     I have been thinking of late, of the amazingness of horses. As a species I've never met one that failed to impress something upon me, but none yet so much as my mare Honey.

     A couple months ago I went riding for 3 days down in Southern Indiana at Harrison-Crawford forest. We rode some 17 miles the first day, and at about mile 18 on day two, my knees gave out. My knees don't like riding, but then they like very little in this life. My knees dictate that I ride English, and they really really hate any rides over 15 miles. So by mile 18 I was in pain. Intense, take-your-breath-away pain as something slowly ground the cartilage out of my joints.

     I stopped riding. I sat on my horse. She immediately stopped dead. I have spent lots of time teaching her to stop off my seat, and she now does it beautifully. She'll stop on a dime if I so much as sit crooked. This is partially because it's harder on her to carry my lard ass if I'm just sitting on her back, not 'riding' and moving along with her. So some of it's training, and a whole lot of it is that I have given her full permission to correct my bad riding by stopping (which in my view is a lot better then correcting it by bucking me off).

     So I sat and wiggled my legs a bit, asked for a soft trot to catch up with my friends again, then returned to walking in agonizing pain. A few minutes later I couldn't take any more, and sat down again. Honey executed a beautiful halt, watched the other horses walking away around the bend, then looked back at me with the calm patient look one may give a slow child.

     After a few minutes we again took up a slow trot to catch up, and resumed walking. We repeated this about three more times, each time my knees getting worse, Honey getting irritated with my silliness, and my friends wondering what on earth was wrong with us, assuming it was something bad Honey was doing. So the fifth time Honey stopped dead, I nudged her on. She turned back with her, "Are you sure?" face, and took about three steps before stopping. I nudged her again, she slowly walked about 30 ft. like she'd never been ridden before, and stopped again. By that time our friends were out of sight, and I simply could not trot again. I couldn't hardly move. I tried to 'ride' along with her, but I ended up grinding my teeth in misery and 'sitting' down.

     I asked for a walk. She took her head and slung it in a huge circle, from nose nearly brushing the ground to straight up to the sky. It's a gesture she used to give me on a daily basis, but it was the first I'd seen of it in probably a year. A full on "Up Yours" (to say it politely). I could get off and walk, or I could ride my horse, but by God she wasn't going to move again until I did one or the other. We weren't going to have any of this sitting, bracing nonsense like I couldn't ride. I damn well did know better, and I was to get with the program.

     This is, in my full opinion, an invaluable horse. This is a horse worth her weight in gold and diamonds. This is a horse I could have so easily destroyed by giving her a good kick and telling her she'd do as I say no matter how stupid it is.

     I laughed good and hard, and slid off. I loosened her girth a few notches, worked my knees a few minutes, and limped along toward my friends. She walked slowly with me, let me throw an arm over her neck and use her as a cane for a bit until the blood returned to my joints,  and took the opportunity given by my slow movement to grab a few mouthfuls of grass as we went along.

     We caught up with everyone, because they had stopped to look for us, and I walked for a good mile or so until I felt workable again and got back on. We rode about 2 miles more then got back to camp. I gave her extra cookies. I really couldn't have been prouder of her if we'd just won the Grand Prix. She is working on teaching me invaluable things you will not learn anywhere else for years of trying. And of course everyone I ride with just thinks I'm insane.

     We were riding through the park Sunday at a trot, and I was leg yielding her around trees, soft and light as air. I will shift my seat, and we pick up a trot, sit and ask, we are in a easy canter. Look and touch with my calf, we slide around a tree like a river around a stone. No more then sit down, and we can slide to a perfect halt. Before any of that, when I hook up the horse trailer, she meets me at the gate. She's ready, soft, and willing before she's even caught.

     This is the horse someone paid me $100 to get off their property. This is the horse who had been severely laminetic for 2 years, and who used to tell me off if I so much as looked at her. This is the horse who meets any resistance with a full on bull-headed stubbornness that would put any donkey to shame. This horse has caused me more irritation, headaches, and cursing fits then any other animal I've worked with, and yet now that I can sit and look back at it, she's also taught me as much as anyone ever has.

     I can work with her. She'll do about anything I ask, though maybe with some forethought. Also in Harrison-Crawford, my two friends horses spooked at a wooden bridge and had to go the long trail around. With the other two horses spooking, refusing, then turning and leaving her, I asked and she calmly walked across that bridge like she did it every day, then stood at the other side and waited for the other two horses. She's never been on a wooden bridge in her life, and anyone who trail rides with a group can tell you the misery of having one horse suddenly by themselves. But as long as I treat her right, she will do this kind of thing all day long. 

     It's the moment I decide we are going to have an argument, I may as well go home because I will lose, and from then on out it's practically war. She is teaching me an obscenely difficult level of patience and self control. Any temper tantrums, stubbornness, or anger out of me will be met head on by ten times the emotion and sheer body weight. Come hell or stubborn Haflinger, I will not get my way. But if I remain calm and soft, offer a logical reason as to why we are doing this, reward her efforts, and treat her as a partner, we have no limit on what we can do. She'll do anything, go anywhere, and jump the moon. She is really one of the most amazing horses, and anything she can't or won't do I must take immediate blame for. I am our only limiting factor. The more I am willing to learn, and behave myself, the more she is willing to work with me. And we are having a lot of fun.



Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sonny's Feet

     I know, it's been ages since I've updated anything. Terrible blogger. I've been out riding too much, no computering.

     But I had to share from when I trimmed Sonny the other day. All of his flared hoof wall has grown out, he has cute feet, and a beautiful white line, that is so exciting to see.



     For some reason my computer is not letting me flip these at the moment, the program is being a brat, so you will just have to tilt your head for the time being.

     I was concerned about the frozen ground with him, since that bothered him so badly last year, but he has been out bucking and farting on it since it got ugly. He's the least bothered of my three! He thinks the colder the better, and if we could get a good blizzard he'd be in  hog heaven. His hair is so rediculously thick and heavy I joke I have 2 horses and yak! He puts the alpaca's to shame with his winter coat!

     And of course he is still totally in love with Honey. She has... we'll call it a tolerant appreciation for him. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Anatomical Turtle

     My friend Xenia has been making resin jewelry, and has become incredibly good at it. She has patience and attention to detail that would make my brain run out my ears.

     Her jewelry is made of flowers and plants from her property, that she presses and dries, then 'traps' in resin. She is always making beautiful, earthy, flowery stuff that I can fully appreciate both in her effort and the plants beauty, but I don't wear jewelry no matter her trying to lure me into femininity. Most of her stuff makes me wish I did, but alas I am a grimmy dirty little urchin and me wearing her gorgeous jewelry brings to mind the expression, "pearls before swine".    

     But low and behold, she pressed this angelface flower (a relative of a snapdragon, which is one of my favorite flowers), and it came out unexpectedly awesome.

     It's a turtle. Not only a turtle, but an anatomical diagram of a turtle. See the lungs? Intestines? Kidneys? Even the wee rectum? It is, to borrow a phrase from a friend, made of win and covered in awesome.

     So at my total gasp and jaw-dropping excitement over the pure coolness of her perfect turtle, she gave it to me as a 5 week early birthday present. Her husband Chad said he was fairly certain I was the only person who would look at her gorgeous work and not only see a turtle, but a turtle's intestinal system; and I was guaranteed to be the only person who would  consider it a selling point.

     I have worn my turtle everywhere ever since, and get many comments. So far my friend Troy is the only one who also immediately saw the intestinal system, but everyone thinks it's awesome and agrees it is the most "me-ish" piece of jewelry ever made.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Fence

     The very first project started when I bought the house was the chainlink fence. Since chainlink is ungodly expensive and this yard is quite large, it's a chunk by chunk prcedure. I have also never put up chainlink before (though I have a lot of experiance with farm fence!). Very very luckily for me, a friend of mine called while I was cementing in the first corner post and came over to help. He doesn't know what he's doing either, but it's working out very nicely. Plus, he's good with a sawzall which turns out to be a vital tool which I am not good with at all.

     So this may not look like a lot of fence, but it was a lot of work. It's about 2 weeks worth of evenings there. Primarily becuase of the steep learning curve, and because we had to dig out 2 large pine trees which were too close for future growing. One was not bad at all, it took about an hour. The second was twice as large, and took about 3 hours, we finished planting it in the dark, and it's not nearly as crooked as we both thought it would be.

     There are 10 posts running from the corner I'm standing at back to the house, which we intend to be running fence on next. Running the fence is actually vey easy, just slow going.

     We also had to take off a day to dig a trench 100 foot long, by 19 inches deep for electric to the chicken coop. Unbenounced to us, we had to dig it right over a driveway which used to be here, and required a pickax to get through the first foot. Under that was a solid rock base, all the size of your fists or bigger, which required digging 1 by 1 by hand. But that was one 50 feet, the other 50 was tree roots. My grandpa came over and the three of us worked on it about 4-5 hours, then he left and we continued for another 3 hours. A full day of pickaxing through solid rock is a full day. I was ready for the weekend to be over so I can go back to work and get a break!
      Oh, and the bun colony is doing great! They are best buds, playing and grooming all day long. Here they are eating breakfast together.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Bun Room

     I have two angora rabbits, Sapphire and Misty. Sapphire has been on the blog before, and Misty is a recent addition. She came this spring to be a buddy for Sapphire. Some bunny's don't like buddies, but I've always found mine do. I've always had a bunny around, and they've always had friends, be they guinea pigs, another bun, cats, or even goats (my rabbit Harvey used to dump his pellets out the door/or push carrots through the wire to feed "his" goats).

     They previously lived in 2 seperate 4 foot by 4 foot pens, Sapphire is a brood bitch cage, and Misty in a NIC cube bunny condo I made. They sat side by side, and the buns usually slept "together" through the wire, and had never cage fought (though I'm not sure bunny's cage fight, thought they will cage hump). I left them "roommates" like this for a long time, hoping that I could eventually put them together and they would not fight, as buns sometimes do.

     In the house there is the mud room, a separate room that does nothing but hold the washer/dryer and occasionally someone who is sick and doesn't want to deal with the dogs. It's got a concrete floor, and no woodwork. Who wants to heat a whole room that basically does nothing?

     So now it's a bunny colony. :) 

      It is not done yet, as I intend to put down non-slip rubber matting. But I have to pick that up custom cut and haven't got that done.

     I put up a dog-proof latch on the mud room door (Zak can and does open it regularly), bunny proofed the room, added litter boxes, food and water bowls, and a bunch of toys and treats.

     Zip-ties and wire squares can bunny-proof anything.

     Sometimes new buns fight. It can be hard to bond them. I did a bunch of research on it, and found many people who talked about the difficulty they had getting two buns to live together. So far so good, Sapphire quickly humped Misty's head (both are girls, buns hump to establish dominance like dogs do), Misty didn't care, and that was basically the end of it. Hopefully it stays that way and they become good buddies quickly. I have spent the last week telling them, "The bad bun stays in a cage", while giving Sapphire the "yes, you" look.  

     Sapphire is a French Angora, they have clean heads/ears and less belly/foot fiber.

     Misty is an English Angora, they have the full furry faces and ears, and long belly/foot fiber. They also tend to be just a bit smaller. Misty is very friendly and sweet. Sapphire is too, she just has a bit of an ornery streak, where Misty only has the sweet streak.

     From the quick hump they pretty much ignored each other and explored, then Misty claimed a litter box...

     And Sapphire decided to join her. It's the box the fan blows on the most, so I assume that is why it's the favorite. I plan to get a under-the-bed storage container to put there for a two-bun sized box.

     So far so good for now. Hopefully I'll get the rubber matting in the next week or two and finish it. And definitely knocking on wood/crossing fingers that they continue to be buddies and get along together. Sapphire's never been aggressive to Misty, but she *loves* to chase my cats (and occasionally the beagle).

     Right now they are laying nose-to-nose stretched out on the cement directly in front of the fan. :)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Latest Dying Projects

      So, testing the new computer with my camera. So far so good, after trying the first 4 programs offered only to be told, "You don't own that program, would you like to?" after fiddling with it for 10 minutes. Anyways, above is, "Thing That Made Xenia Cringe". It came out exactly as I wanted, but while I continued to add neon colors she tried to guide me toward not making it quite so... loud. But I must say I am tickled pink with it, it's slightly darker/brighter then the picture shows.

     Then there is "Lizard Yarn". I think the name is self explanatory.

     And last but not least the terrible picture of, "Giant Purple Cat Thing From Avatar" which wanted desperately to show up blue in all the pictures, but is in fact very deep violet. This was the closest I could get to the actual color.

     The story of "Giant Purple Cat Thing", starts with my head fiber cat Daisy, AKA Dasia the Mountain Lion of Kewanna.

     She is in charge of all fiber related activities, a post she commandeered after a prolonged illness. When she was sick she could barely walk, and couldn't regulate her body temperature, so she would "nest" in my fiber stash 24/7. Now she is healthy, but she still considers all the fleece her property that I am allowed to spin as long as I am spending the majority of the time making something soft for her.

     I was spinning this skein of yarn, and she was on my lap assisting (her phrasing, not mine), while I watched "Avatar". At the moment the Giant Purple Cat Thing (a Sandrythanator? but I may be off by a few letters) came crashing through the bushes, she jumped up, stared at the television, and yelled, "I'm on TV!"

     I told her that thing looked nothing like her at all. She gave me her famous, "my ape-descendant has the intellect of a stick insect" look; and said, "It looks exactly like me. Are you blind? Look at it! Those are definitely my teeth, and very definitely my claws. I did that to a tree just last week. Is it legal for them to steal my image like that? Shouldn't I get money from this? Did this movie sell well?"

     "Yes, I believe it sold a few copies. Maybe you should contact Jame's Cameron about it tomorrow."

     "I probably should. Do you have his phone number?"

     "Oh, yes, we chat weekly. Runs movie ideas past me. Be sure and tell him you want paid in Whiskas."

     She must have sensed my sarcasm because she got up, giving me a bit of claw in the leg in the process, and walked out the room saying, "I'm going to go push something off a high precipice. Possibly something valuable."

     So when I started to dye this yarn I was thinking of that conversation while spinning it, and had to dye it deep violet with gold spots. Can't wait to see how it knits up.

     Spinning would probably get dull if I didn't have so much assistance.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wooly Knob Fiber Mill

     Today me and my friend Xenia drove up to LaOtta (outside Fort Wayne) to the Wooly Knob fiber mill. We took in almost 50 lbs. of clean, washed fleece to be turned into rovings. It was awesome. The big mill was very impressive and made gorgeous roving.

     The whole place was amazing. More fleece and fiber then you could imagine, everywhere. I could have lived there as a small creature darting between shelves, touching things all day long. It was like an amusement park for the totally fiber-mad.

     Since our fleece was skirted, cleaned, and washed before we went up (we made an appointment) we were able to stay for the day, have it all done, and bring it all home that night. Fun fun! The owner, Jamie, is an exceptionally nice guy and even stayed till 7:00 so we could finish our load (note to self- 50 lbs. is more then plenty for one day).

     I had two Romney sheep fleeces processed (socks!!!) and 4 alpaca fleeces. I have... ohhh 1, 2, 3, MANY alpaca fleeces left to skirt/wash but it was a dent in the pile. Xenia got all her fleece from her herd done. So now it's back to tinkering with the raw stuff, then hauling another 50 lbs. up there. That is, in case you are wondering, A LOT of fleece. 50lbs. of roving in trash bags filled the back of my truck. :) Most skeins of yarn are between 2-4 ounces, so 4-8 skeins in a pound. So in the end 200-400 skeins of yarn worth of roving. Should keep me spinning for a week or two...

     Most of the Romney, which is a long, lusterous wool, will be spun then dyed. I like dying bright, vibrant, eye-blistering colors which tend to make Xenia wince as I apply them. It's either natural greys and browns, or something that look like it crawled off the nearest neon sign. But I like it, and that's the point. Nobody else needs to like it, and if they don't they can go make something they like and leave me alone.

     One day I will discover how to hook up my camera to the new computer and post pictures of my latest wild-ness. I have three new designs and I call them "Lizard Yarn", "Giant Purple Cat Thing From Avatar" (there's a story to that one), and "Thing That Made Xenia Cringe".

     But anyways, Wooly Knob was awesome, Jamie was beyond nice, and I will be excited to go back later with another load. Meanwhile I must go drool on the fuzziness...


Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Jacksons Garden Show

     Today Andy, Pocket, Jasper, myself, and my trusty minion Edwin, went to the Jacksons Garden Show. It was only about 5 miles from home, and we set up a 10'x10' pen for the three boys. They talked to strangers, ate grass, and watched the goings ons of the world. I ate 2 quarts of blueberries and a handful of peaches.

     Pocket was actually the friendliest of the group. Andy has done more of these kinds of things, but Pocket had elected himself in charge. He has started loosing a lot of his "but I'm a cute baby" tactics and replaced them with "I'll spit on you!" He is becoming quite a rough tough guy. As long as he knows he can't give people the same crap he can give the other alpacas, he will actually be very easy to get along with and train.

     Jasper did great, he actually wasn't nervous at all. I thought he may be uncomfortable with the people, since he's a bit squirrely sometimes, but he did his usual "chess-player pondering" and decided this was no big deal and he'd like some hay and a nap. He took the whole thing in stride, and calmly talked to many people. I was very proud of him (despite the fact that he rolled in mud the night before).

     The boys are doing great, and I am terribly happy with them.  


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Finally have a Computer Again!

     About three weeks ago my computer bit the dust. Started halfway, then crash. It was ten years old, and ran slower then the average snail, so I suppose it was time.

     So now I have a new computer. I am not a technological person, I shopped via, "I like this keyboard", and my mom shopped by saying, "That is a computer made for small children, you can't have it."

     I picked a second choice via keyboard. That one was apparently quite old and no longer stocked or made. We spent way too long in Best Buy, I typed on way too many awful keyboards with all the buttons in the wrong places, until finally I got this one. It was the least disagreeable. Mostly the buttons are in the proper places (ie. where they were on my old computer).
     It'll take some getting used to mostly because now pages load when I pull them up, I can't cook dinner while I wait. It's a bit irksome, and looks like it may become an enormous waste of time, as I will get researching something and simply continue for hours, instead of getting fed up after learning simply what I need to know and moving on. For instance I sat down to check my email a good 3 hours ago. Though I do now know the history of Santa Claus's pagan roots with Poseidon and how to knit a giant preying mantis. In case you didn't know, the internet is also made of cats. All in all and excellent use of three hours, simply because it's too hot outside to actually accomplish anything.

Monday, June 13, 2011

When I Grow Up I'm Gonna Be a Farrier... or a Mechanic

     I was working on my truck the other day and someone asked me why I would do this when God had provided the world with mechanics for exactly this purpose, and I told them because when my business fails due to lack of metal shoes I'm going to be a mechanic and I needed the practice. They didn't get the joke, but it made me think about how far my business has come since I had that conversation, and how many times I've had it since.

     One day after I had only been trimming professionally for a few months (and had a small number of clients and a large number of rank horses), my truck had gone wonky in a McDonald's parking lot and I was under the hood trying to add transmission fluid or adjust something, and another farrier came over to say hi and yack for a bit.

     We talked for awhile, and he was quite surprised that I was a farrier with no intentions of nailing on metal shoes, and crazier still I was not specializing in a "performance" shoeing style, but I blatantly refused to do any "performance" work at all. I explained most "performance" work was hideously bad for the horses health, shoeing babies small, cutting toes short, putting on ungodly wicked things to change gait, not to mention the ugliness they do to TWH's. I told him I got into this because I am my boss and I can choose what I will, and will not do. And that this doesn't include metal and unhealthy shoeing. He agreed with me on all this, agreed most horses would do much better barefoot, and obviously sacrificing the horse itself for the movement wasn't in the horses best interest.

     But he said, you'll never feed yourself doing trims. You have to shoe. There aren't enough barefoot clients to make a living, you make your money on shoes. Sure shoes have drawbacks, but if a farrier can't make a living he'll quit, the horse will go without hoof care, and so actually shoes are the morally correct way to go for the horse. I maybe could survive on trail horse shoeing, but I wouldn't be in good business unless I was willing to "adjust" hooves on performance horses. He hated to break it to me, being young and idealistic, but I'd never be able to make it without bending my morality.

     I thought about it a minute, glanced over at my gimping truck, and said, "Oh well, I'll just have to be a mechanic."

     He stared at me for a minute, "A mechanic? Like on cars?"


     "Like a grease monkey mechanic?"


     "Why on earth would you do that?"

     "Don't care where the metal goes on them. If I have to start compromising the horse's health to make my living, that's fine, I'll just work on trucks. It's fascinating you know."

     He looked at me like I was completely mad, which I am, and gave me his best wishes toward success. I'm sure he got quite a chuckle out of my craziness, probably told everybody about that silly green girl that thought she could make a living actually only doing what was good for horses. Probably one those tree-hugging fairy people. He was perfectly nice, but he thought I was an idiot.

     At the time I had never given two thoughts toward being a mechanic, but it's my simple answer whenever people get into this debate with me. Most are owners and trainers, not farriers, who tell me I simply can't do it. They tell me how if they weren't willing to "bend" the rules of the horses well being they'd never get anything done. They'd never advance in training, they'd never have clients, they'd never win a ribbon, and certainly because they'd never make any money. They *have* to you see, there's not a choice. And me going about not *having* to is just plain wrong, someone might start feeling bad. 

     Contrary to the lot of them, I'm doing just fine, and have been for 4 years. Business is great, business grows constantly. I don't believe I've been prouder then when one of my clients introduced me to a friend saying, "She's a little crazy tree-hugger of a gal, but she's the only one who can keep my horse sound, so I recommend her highly." 

     It's for the best really because I'm an inept mechanic, I can only fix things on '85 Fords.    

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Casey 5/30/11

     I lost Casey today. He was doing great, full of ornery and feeling good. Sunday he learned to spit properly (straight into my friend Edwin's face). Monday he laid down the in the pasture with the herd for a sunbath/nap and died.

     I let him out that morning and he took up a speeding toddle across the pasture to the gate, wanting out to eat grass. I had to go shear, so told him he had to stay in. He stomped, whined, and gave me evil looks, then finally went to eat hay with Jasper. I wasn't home, but my mom was. She watched everyone playing, then going to a sunny spot and laying in a goat/alpaca pile of sunbathers. After a few hours everyone got up and resumed eating, except Casey. She became worried when she saw the other alpacas out standing around him pushing at him, and still he didn't get up. She called me.

     There were no thrash marks, no signs of a downed animal trying to get up. I think he went in his sleep, I doubt he felt anything or knew. I'm glad he went that way, instead of being in pain or lingering. It makes me wonder if he didn't have a weak/defective heart, which is one of the causes of failure to thrive. It was one of the things I was warned might be wrong with Andy, that he'd either improve or die very suddenly.

     I had him just about a month, and many people loved him. He toddled right up to you, squinted up, and wanted to know who you were, and what you had for him. He wasn't scared of anything or anybody, and wouldn't hesitate to shove Snap or even Pixie out of the hay or grain. His only speed was a toddle, but he expressed himself well with it. He could stomp-toddle, pout-toddle, angrily toddle, happily toddle, proudly toddle, and even trot-toddle which is a gait not even listed as possible.

     He had an incredibly interesting personality, he was at the same time tiny and baby-ish while being stubborn and bossy. Innocent and bossy have rarely gone so well together. I'd have loved to spend more time with him, to know him grown up. He loved his goat family, but he'd become very close with Snap, Andy, and Jasper. He had no herd bound ways at all, and would be seen toddling off somewhere in a far corner, and Andy or Snap would run after and bring him back.

     I was just getting ready to write a post about how well he was doing, his energy was way up, his nose healthy, and he'd abandoned his nest for running about with the herd. I honestly thought he was over the hump, it wouldn't have surprised me at all if he'd gone the first two weeks I had him, but he was doing so well it was a total shock.

    Cody left his hay to come help bury him, to wrap himself around me. As long as I was in the pasture he walked right up against me, letting me throw an arm over his neck and be dragged along. He even gave Edwin kisses to make sure he was ok too. Zak walked on the other side of me, licking my fingers occasionally as he always does when I'm upset. Edwin stayed to help me feed and tell me jokes. Casey was very loved and so am I.

     R.I.P. Casey Coo, sweet little boy, num num num's to you.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Quick Updates

     It's shearing season, madness abounds.

     Between shearing alpacas, llamas, and the occasional sheep, and trimming horses, I am working seven days a week, getting home after dark, and getting nothing done with my animals. Cody is feeling very neglected, he is threatening to remove some vital piece of equipment from my truck so I have to stay home. A good hard stare could drop vital bits off my truck, so I know he can do it.

     Sonny is doing great, running and bucking like a crazy thing. It takes him a bit of steam to get going, but boy can he move when he does. He's keeping Honey in excellent shape for me, she's ripped.

     Snap, Jodi, and Andy have been sheared. It was ungodly hot out, so I rushed to shear them, then it dropped to 40's and 50's. Yes, the weather is my fault.

     Pocket, Jasper, and Pixie were wet the day we sheared thanks to a sudden downpour. Pocket and Jasper stood out in it, and Pixie threw herself in puddle when I haltered her to take her to the table. I made her go anyways, she was Jodi's emotional support. She was so pleased with herself for foiling my plans, she didn't mind hanging out in the barn a bit.

     Poor wee Casey is too cold to shear. I plan to shop for him a small dog coat tomorrow and shear him then. He is cold in his own fiber. Suri's are not known for their weather tolerance.

     During the sudden downpour Friday, Casey was outside. We had a week of solid poo, and no runny nose. He was apparently on the other side of the pasture at the time, and moved through the downpour at his usual toddle. I cam home to a soaking wet, sneezing, suri alpaca. I toweled him off and put him in the stall, but by that night his nose was plugged up and he was hacking and sneezing with diarrhea again.

     I put him on a round of penicillin, which improved him greatly within the next day. I have since learned Casey hates shots. He doesn't have spitting down quite yet, all he does is spit air, no regurgitation. As soon as I begin parting his fiber he spins to begin "spitting" like mad, I give him the quick shot and let him go, and he immedietly "chases" me across the stall (at a speeding toddle) to rapid-fire spit until I am out the door. He then stares at me with a puckered "death to you" face, spins on his heels, and does the toddling-stomp back across the stall to his nest, where he resumes his meal, nap, and show.

     He is improved again, just about back to were he was before the rain. Cody and Zecilly have rain-proof StormShields which they quite love, so I plan to see if I can get one in wee-paca size. He does not seem to have body temperature control down yet, he's young, small, and underweight. Hopefully we get some nice sunny days for him, I think he will be rebounding well again then.

     Everyone else is well and happy. Here is Cody taking a bath on one of our miserably hot days.

Friday, May 13, 2011


     Meet Casey.

     Actually his names is Cassius, but it's well known I'm too lazy to pronounce that long of a name to call him for dinner, so his barn name is Casey.

     Casey is a wee Suri alpaca. You can tell this from the wet-mop look. I have a personal major soft spot for suris, plus the already well known 6-mile soft spot for sickly needy creatures. So Casey was an impossibility amongst my softness.

     He arrived with a major runny nose and diarrhea, so I didn't immediately turn him out. He stayed in a stall were he could see everyone, and the goats where in the next stall over. This didn't seem to phase him a bit, he built a nest for himself in the straw in the corner of the barn and buried his nose in hay. He keeps tabs on the world from this spot, he watches "Days of Our Alpacas" through the stall wall.

     The goats immediately surveyed the newcomer through their stall wall. There was a brief discussion in which the boys voted to ignore him because he was tiny. Zecilly, who is my old mama goat (who also harbors a 6-mile soft spot for sickly things) considered him and then ruled that diminutive though he is, he's also young and will likely grow into something large that will then share his food. It was discussed, the votes were casts, and Casey was made an honorary goat.

     Whether this was done because Zec thought he was cute and was selling it to the boys, or because they recognized in him a genuinely sweet and all-around gullible guy, I don't know. Either way, Casey is a goat.

     Casey is quite delighted to be a goat. I have spent much time trying to convince him to be an alpaca, and he really does love Snap and Andy, but he is also a very happy goat. He has made it perfectly clear, via stamping his tiny feet and giving me the most pitifullest "hhuuummmmmm"s that you have ever heard, that he wants to be with his goats. So despite my prodding, Casey sleeps in the stall with the goats at night, cuddled down in his nest in the corner, face in a flake of hay, contentedly watching the other alpacas outside. Such is the rough life of a 10-month old, 44 lb. suri alpaca-goat.

     To my delight though, Snap has also adopted Casey. If Zec is his new momma, Snap is dad. He is out all day with Snap, who watches over him, eats with him, makes sure everyone is nice to him, and even sleeps with goats so Casey can be with his whole family. Snap is an alpaca saint (and again with the 6-mile soft spot). I couldn't be prouder of that big boy if I tried.

     And yes, that is actually a picture of Cody. :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Easycare Order is IN!

     I came home yesterday to a giant box on the porch. Christmas for a farrier!

     Rasps, epoxys, pads (draft/horse, soft/medium/hard), boots, boots, and boots! I have Gloves, Epics, and Edges (my personal favorite).

     Here are a pair of mini Epics, they are way cute for words. Next to them are #2's which are an average horse size.

     Everything has the new gaiters on them, they are lower cut with thinner velcro, but better padded. They are a new streamlined fit to reduce rubbing.

     And my favorites- Edges. These are such cool boots, I think they should be more popular then they are. They only make them up to #3's, or Sonny would have a pair. They have a padded tongue, and are completely smooth inside, so they slip on and off very easily. They hold pads, and are very low profile to avoid any rubs. They also have the wicked bare-style tread.

      Easyboots Edge's + the new gaiters= super awesome hoof boots.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Updates on Everyone

     Today Sonny was out cantering around the pasture chasing Honey. He has lost his "ditch" down his back and the ridges at his butt. His crest is still big, but now soft like it should be. He canters without a hitch around the pasture, especially when I hook up the trailer and take Honey out. He is pretty sure he will die if she leaves, unless he gets extra hay, then maybe it won't hurt for me to borrow her for a bit.

     I did take him out to play the other day. I have gotten very spoiled on my "clicker-wise" herd, and now find traditional training so boring it makes my brain melt. So we went out and quickly introduced him to targeting and a clicker. Took about 10 clicks to get him chasing the target, reaching up high, or sticking his head between his knees. He took to it very quickly and enthusiastically.

     I consider traditional negative-reinforcement based training a bit like starting a fire with two sticks. Sure it can be done, and was done for a very long time, but really who wants to do it that way now? Treat training is like involving a match. Now your cooking in no time, fire starting is easy. From there, clicker training is a bit like involving lighter fluid. Now you have to keep up with your fire.

     Pocket and Jasper are doing great as well. Today I opened the stall and they came bouncing out, running laps around the pasture then play fighting with Snap. I am very proud of Snap, he has really grown into such a good guy. He is almost 3 times the size of these boys, and yet is out there 'fighting' with them as gentle as if they were made of glass, and letting them win!

     They have both turned a healthy warm shade of pink. Jasper really worried me, as he was almost white when he arrived. They've been on Red Cell for a little over 2 weeks, so they've had a quick recovery, which is a good sign.

     They spend all their time up and moving now, following the herd and playing with everyone. They no longer just lay and watch the 'hill games'. Plus they have both taken to running up to me to say hello, and giving 'paca kisses (they learned that from Jodi).

     Honey and me have been riding in the park quite a bit. It's been a beautiful spring for it. She has been full of energy (not something often said about her), trotting out easily, even offering to canter! She is in very good shape, thanks to Sonny's exercise program.


     And for the daily dose of cute, this is what I found when I went to bed the other night.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grooming the Giant Bunny

     The Giant Bunny is loosing her fur. Spring is here.

     Sapphire is a French Angora. French Angoras (along with English) shed their fiber about every three months. The fiber then needs "plucked" from the rabbit.

     When I first brought her home, someone asked how I could possibly, being an animal lover, pluck an angora rabbit. A common misconception is that the fiber needs "ripped" off the bunny, that the hair is pulled out by the roots. This is not true at all, the fiber naturally sheds 3-4 times a year, with new hair growing in behind it.

     If you've ever groomed a dog, especially a long haired dog like a Collie or Siberian, you've dealt with undercoat. That fluffy (usually white) stuff that falls out in clumps every spring all over your furniture. Angoras have been bred for years to produce massive amounts of undercoat, and shed it out all at once. They produce minimal guard hair (dogs produce relatively small amounts of undercoat, compared to their guard hair). Some breeds like English, will shed out almost bald! There is one breed, Germans (and their crosses), that don't shed their fiber, but need sheared. 

     When Angoras begin to shed, the fiber needs removed. If not it will matt and tangle, and the rabbit will try to remove it by grooming himself. If the rabbit eats the hair, it can cause a deadly condition known as wool block, because rabbits can't vomit. So plucking is not only for fiber production, but very necessary for the health of the rabbit.

     Sapphire enjoys grooming. I handle her every day, and brush her weekly (daily while she is shedding!). Usually I put in a movie and she sits on my bed with a movie and treat (carrot or broccoli) and gets her hair done. She thinks it's a great time.

     I groom her with a cat slicker brush, and my fingers. Plucking is gently teasing out the loose fiber from the guard hair (like removing hay from your own hair). You can easily pluck a handful in moments, because almost all the hair is falling out!

     Here you can see a plucked area with the guard hair pulled back. The white is new undercoat already growing in. After I pluck an area, I use the cat brush to brush all the guard hair back down and remove any loose fibers. Sapphire loses the most hair around her rump, and loses very little around her face and belly. This is common of French Angoras, who require less grooming then English who loose hair all over their bellies and chests too.

     Sapphire sniffing her bag of fiber. All that in one day off one bunny! You can clearly see the "line" where she has been groomed above, and the rest of her "skirt" below. She'll produce another bag that size in the next grooming.

     Angora fiber, about 4-5" long and sooooofffffttt.

     Right now I am spinning Angora laceweight. That is 2-ply across the dime. The black is regular worsted weight alpaca yarn.

     A better picture showing the color, which is a light grey. This is all spun on a drop spindle, my beautiful turquoise spindle I got from Etsy. It is very lightweight, great for spinning lace.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pocket and Jasper- 2 weeks

     Today Pocket and Jasper have been here two weeks. So far they are doing great, they are happy members of the herd. Uncle Andy is basically in charge of them, they follow him around and do whatever he says. He eats with them their extra meals a day, I estimate he'll weigh roughly 200 lbs. by the time they are healthy. He was a bit on the porky side to begin with, so he'll have to be cut off soon.

     Today was weight day. I don't have a livestock scale, so I pick them up and stand on a bathroom scale. The only hard part of this is actually reading the dial, which is not only way down below, but also obscured by an alpaca. This is also why I tend to stop tracking weight after they hit 100 lbs. 

     So first up was wee Pocket, who weighed 60 lbs. two weeks ago. Last time they both lay limply to be picked up and weighed, then walked off when they were done.

     This time Pocket was way more interested in the scale then anything else. It took quite some doing to get him balanced and both of us onto the scale. He was hanging his head down, twisted as far as he could and wiggling against me, to see this cool white square. 

     "What is that?"
     "Move your head I can't read the dial."
     "I'll read it for you, put me closer."
     "You can't read it, move your head."
     "Of course I can, I used to do this all the time," he pushed against me so he could touch it with his nose and about sent up both tumbling over.
     "You've never seen one before, you don't know what it is, move your head." I leaned back enough to pull him around.
     "It's a dial, duh, put me closer," he pushed forward off me again.
     "It's a scale you liar, you don't know. Stop this, you're going to knock us over."
     "I was being specific, and you are obviously our problem. Lean me closer."
     Thus our conversation went until I managed to wrangle an arm around his head and hold him that way. In the end Pocket weighs between 63-65 lbs. depending where in the wiggle he was so I'm calling it 64 lbs. and being happy.

     Jasper weighed 65 lbs. two weeks ago. He calmly let me lead him to the scale, and pick him up, then began howling and whining in the high-pitched alpaca wail. I quickly jumped on the scale, looked down, and he weighed 95 lbs. I got off the scale, and found Pocket standing proudly behind us. I pushed Pocket off the scale, picked up Jasper, who immediately resumed his screeching, and got back on the scale. I contorted myself to look down, and saw the top of Pockets head, where he began swearing to me who knew exactly how to work one of these things. Added my own screeching at that point.

     Got Pocket off the scale and out the door, picked up Jasper, who continued to wail, and turned to find Jodi and Pixie now standing on the scale. Have I mentioned alpacas are curious to a fault and love novel objects?

     Put all the alpacas in the stall, tracked down Jasper who is now avoiding me and refusing to be led. So I picked him up and carried him across the stall, wailing all the way, and got back on the scale. 71 lbs. 

     Coming next week- How to train alpacas to stand on a bathroom scale.  


Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Article on Website

     I am adding an articles section to my website, to hopefully answer some of the really common questions I get.

     One of the most common questions I get asked is, "What is the best way to trim a horse?" The answer to this is a book, and there are many books on the subject. So I wrote an article recently basically on why this is a book-length subject and how to understand it better.

Why Can’t We All Agree?

            Why does one farrier say to rarely trim bars, another says always trim bars, and another says dig our bars aggressively? Why does one say your horse has no thrush, the next say he has touch of it, and the third have a hysterical fit over the horror that is your horses thrush eaten frog? One says a mild roll, one says a bevel, and one says a wicked full-wall roll. To trim sole? Frogs? Proper heel height? What about founder? Navicular? And which boots are the best?

            For a beginner wading through the massive amounts of information available, it is enough to give a major headache. It is no wonder people often read one website or book, and react as though it is the bible and refuse to look farther. Looking farther is confusing! All the contradictions make no sense, they make your brain want to run for cover.

            So in this article I’d like to try and explain why there are 101 Ways to Trim (or Not Trim) a Hoof. I’m not going into the theories behind each, or why they are done, or to which horse, but simply explain why there are 101 of them and why your farrier is using #65 when you’ve read a great magazine article about #31.

            First off, hooves are forged by the terrain they live on. A horse on sand has a different hoof with different needs then a horse on rocks. They both have different needs then a horse on clay, or hard dry dirt. A horse in the desert has vastly different needs then one living in a swamp. A horse in a stall, worked in an arena, is going to need a completely different trim then a horse living on 100 acres and working on rocks. Even horses living on the same style terrain, but one of 2 acres, another on 20, and yet other on 200 will have very different needs.  

            Next, most horse breeds have different feet. Drafts, ponies, Quarter horses, Arabs, Thoroughbreds, all have an anatomical consistency but tend to have basic differences in shape and need. None are better or worse then the others, but often different. What you watch for and work to support in teacup Quarter horse feet, you likely don’t worry about in a Percheron. But what you aggressively work on with the Percheron, you many not worry a bit about in an Arabian.

            To add even more possibilities there are conformational issues, diet, health, age, body condition, and even rider abilities and preferences. 

            So a farrier from Arizona who specializes in endurance Arabians can tell you exactly how to trim endurance Arabians in Arizona with great success, but the same trim is probably not going to help your foundering pony in Kentucky. All the farriers who say, “This is the only trim in the world that works” tend to simply mean their world.

            It’s all confusing and takes a lot of practice and learning to get it straight. Being a farrier means being fully prepared to discover that this horse in this situation has just proven you completely and utterly wrong. Especially once you know you have seen it all and know everything, that horse is going to come along and make you say, “Who’d of ever thought that” and away you go realizing you actually know so little and that’s maddeningly irritating. There is really only one rule in this work, “The horse is always right.” If that horse says he’s happiest with a method you don’t agree with, it is time to change your beliefs, not bang on them harder to make them fit that horse, and certainly not time to make the horse sore to fit your ideas.           

            Everyone wants one trim standard. It would be wonderful, and so easy, to have one trim, one method, that worked for every horse everywhere. That is what everyone is working for, trying to find, is that one magic trim, or shoe, or boot (and then patent it, write the book, start the school, and become a millionaire). But in reality there are 101 methods for a reason, and we actually need many more then that. Each horse, each situation, each problem, is likely going to require something different.

            So reading the website from the farrier in Arizona who does brilliant work with Arabian endurance horses is great, but take it as method #68, not “The One”, no matter who claims what. Understand that asking suggestions from a group of farriers is always educational, and usually very entertaining, but it’s not that 14 are wrong and 1 is right. They are all, from their viewpoint, right; and they are usually arguing so venomously because they have seen great success with their methods and want what is best for the horse, which to them means their method.

            So your farrier is using method #43 and you read in “The Best Guide to Horsey Everything” that trim method #51 was the one and only true way to trim hooves. Before you go beating your idiot farrier with the magazine, think about it a second. Where does trim method #51 come from? What horses are responding so well? Why is it supposed to be the best? Understand your farrier has likely put good thought into how he works your horses hooves, thinking of your terrain, your horse, your uses, your problems. You are getting a specialized custom job, not just a ‘this works the highest percentage of the time’ style trim. Would you rather have a custom made saddle to fit you and your horse, or one that fits the majority of horses and people the majority of the time? Ask your farrier, but do it with the understanding that they are trying to do what is best for your horse. Ask them for education, don’t ask them to defend themselves.

            In the end, deciding who to listen to and who to work with is complicated. It does take a lot of research and understanding. But do it all with an open mind and listing ideas as possibilities, not absolutes. Above all, listen to your horse. He should be, after all, the most important voice in the matter. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Trimming Sonny 3/15/11

     Yesterday was Sonny's first trim since coming to my house. He was his usual most perfectly behaved self. He'd been in casts a little over 4 weeks, and the day before had removed one himself. The right cast had come loose in the back, and popped off very easily.

     As is very common with laminetic horses, and usual of him, he'd grown much more heel then toe. This is not an actual slowed rate of growth of the hoof wall at the toe, but because those tubules are not growing straight down and well connected like the heel is. Most of the time once a laminetic horse starts growing well-connected growth, his toes grow like crazy.

     In this picture you can see the lack of connection between the sole at the toe and the hoof wall itself.

     The toe shows some built up sole that I *could* remove. There is a very good chance that would make him sore, but it would also allow me to remove a bit more wall and take the lever forces off his toe, which would make him more comfortable and encourage better growth at the top. Instead I aggressively rolled the wall, and I'll check it again in a week. That's the beauty of having him at home, I can do that.

     Had he not been with me, I would have likely removed it, trimmed the wall, and cast him again. That would have giving him the support and protection to keep him comfortable, while setting him up for good hoof form for 4-6 weeks.

     But since he's with me, I can tweak my trim every week or two and do more good in a shorter period of time. He likes his heels low, and that toe rolled. Right now he is trotting around the pasture, chasing Honey barefoot. Him feeling good is more important then having that *slightly* better looking foot. Especially since as soon as he is ready to loose that 'pad' of sole, I can remove it the same day.

     Here is that picture mapped. The green line is the end of his sole, and the blue line is the hoof wall. There should be no gap between these lines, as you can see the closer to the heels you go the closer they get together. That there is a gap means the hoof wall has disconnected from the internal structures of the foot. The next picture shows the angle change this makes. As the new angle reaches the ground the blue/green lines will get closer and closer together.

     Here you can see better the angle changes he is setting up for. About half way up the hoof wall there is a "crease". Above that is a healthier, better connected wall, while below is a stretched disconnected wall. Right below the hairline, where you can barely see it, is another angle change. This is the best connected growth on his foot, what we want to support and get to the ground. This is why, even though angles are important, they are relative to the hoof, not an absolute measurement. If I tried to trim his foot to that lower, unhealthy angle, I'd have to raise his heels to get a "correct angle". But I'd be basing that "correct angle" on a pathological hoof wall measurement. Sonny likes his low heels, if I jacked those up to "fix his angle", he'd be much more sore then he is now.

     I know from the disconnected wall at the bottom of his hoof, that wall is junk. So I ignore his "low angle" because that's not his true angle, it's just the one I can see. His "correct" angle is now coming in at the top, and will take some time to hit the ground.  

     To better show how this works, here are some of Honey's old pictures.

     She was much worse then Sonny, and someone thought her lameness was apparently from a "low angle" and jacked up her heels for a year before I got her.

     At this point she couldn't stand for more then about 10 minutes. But 'angle' wise she wasn't bad.

     I trimmed Honey while she laid in the pasture over a course for 2-3 days. She responded very well, very quickly to having those heels removed. In one trim she went from laying down all day, to standing most the day. In 4 weeks she was walking and standing all day, in 8 she was trotting in the pasture. This is the same foot about 8 weeks after I got her. You can see the extreme angle change at the top of her hoof. Today I would probably take a straight cut and take the end of that toe off, but this was from a couple years ago.

     To show the angle changes better, here they are mapped. The blue line shows the angle she will have once all the "junk" grows out. If you don't look at anything past the blue line, this would look like a normal foot, because that's what it wants to be. The red line was the change before that, as she was getting better, but wasn't great yet. The rest of the toe is ugly junk, disconnected wall.