Welcome to Fern Valley

Here in central Alberta prime farm country,my husband Martin and I work together raising beef cattle and Appaloosa horses. Fern valley appaloosas have long been known for their quality of temperament conformation and color.I have recently rediscovered a love of writing and have published 2 collections of poetry. "Telling Tails" and Tails Trails and Campfire stories" . I look forward to a future spreading my wings as an author and as a horse woman .

Thursday, 31 January 2013

the ones that hit ya , right in the heart

Sometimes  you can go along thinking everything is  fine , and it  probably is , then all of a sudden you will see something , and it reduces you to a sobbing snotty nose mass of humanity. Or maybe that's  just me.
The following video is very sweet and well made and I am sure  destined to be another fan favorite if it isn't already in the long  line of Budweiser Clydesdale commercials, but I swear it took me right out at the knees!

Maybe,  because Harley is an only and I am spending more time with him, or because we had a little breakthrough in his ground manners today, or I am tired, or I am the softie my nieces and nephews know me to be . Whatever the reason , I loved it , but it took me 3 tries to watch it dry eyed. 

Not much more going on here, eat sleep chores work repeat , all in snappy cold weather the first part of the week .It was well best described by what I had to say on FB on Tues
 "-28 C feels like -41 C . Actually should read holycrapitscoldcan'tfeelmyfeetand actuallybelieveImayhavefrozenwhatsleftofmyassoff!!!! And that is in both Fahrenheit and Celsius my friends"

Only marginally warmer yesterday and today was a lovely sunny  much warmer morning , continued to warm up all day and we are expected to be above 0 C  by the weekend ! Weird ? yup .But that's Alberta for you , don't like the weather? give it a minute.
Anyhow that's it for me for now , gotta get out and take some pictures and find something to write about soon! 
Stay safe and warm my friends

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Update on FV Sparks Image


What I had t say on FB pretty much sums it up on this pair 
"Sometimes when you raise a horse and sell it it goes to someone truly special. I have been lucky/blessed in that many of mine have gone to some truly spectacular folks, and even better when they are kind enough to let me follow the horse through life in pictures and in person. FV Sparks Image is just such a horse . Her owner Kat , is a terrific little lady and continues to do wonderfully well with her . And she shares their progress with me ! She is now working on liberty training , and bowing . what next? whatever she wants!"

And I believe that last  part wholeheartedly . Maggie was/is Kats first horse, clearly not her first ride, but still first horse, and I would say also her first raging training SUCCESS!!! What a pair these two are ! 
Kat and Maggie also attended their first horse show in the fall, and I don't recall the placings , but I do believe they did place and also Kat placed well in equitation (or if she didn't the judge was blind , that little lady has a very pretty and correct seat !
Looking forward to seeing what more they can accomplish! 

Stay safe and warm my friends 

Friday, 25 January 2013

Run for it?


Two in a row thinking posts! maybe you better run!
I have been  known in conversation so  say I don't run. I wont even run from a fight !
That said , under the right circumstances , I can and do run, pretty darn fast too . But it is a rare occurrence.(too old too arthritic, too lazy)
Especially with horses, if you run to them or after them ,it ends badly ,if you run from them?
it ends badly.
First thing  to remember , you will never  no matter how good you are or how hard you train you will never be able to run faster than a horse. That's  just the plain hard truth .

With horses in general, they run we walk. Or we stand still . When we  want hem to come to us , we should not chase them , a hard to catch horse is a lot harder once he has you running after him. rather keep him moving till he wants to stop, then move him some more , and then stand and release pressure . Does it always  work? yes and no sometimes it seems to take more than we have to give ,but does running after them work???

And then there is colts running at or after you , as counter intuitive as it may seem DO NOT RUN ,if you run, you are doing  two very dangerous things, 1) you are  turning your back on something that can hurt you  2) you are responding the way a submissive herd mate or playmate would , and they will give chase. which leads me back to the " I don't  care how good you are or how fit YOU CANNOT OUTRUN A HORSE"

What brings this train of thought? Harley, who thought it might be fun to give chase to Martin this morning. Martin stopped and put up a hand and Harley veered away and stopped, but if he had run from him...
You ever raised an only colt?? They can be wonderful , and a lot of fun. But they don't learn  herd dynamics without a herd. You become the herd and being a herd mate if you run they chase.Stay  ahead of this , be the herd boss and stand your  ground . Teaching an only is not the end of the world but it takes a bit of  doing , and some extra management.But i can be done and done well with patience time and consistency .
Harley is doing well, living outside full time now with his little shed and a larger paddock . Also has daily turnout to rip and tear in a larger area, close to the girls , who are at least over the fence  giving him some stern lessons in manners. It looks like Andee will make a good babysitter and as things progress he may have her in with him for  company  in time. Meanwhile he is doing OK, and actually standing nicely to be haltered and returned to his  pen at night.
So are there reasons to run when dealing with horses? yup but not many . emergencies  happen , run for the phone to call the vet , or to the gate you forgot to close. Or as I said a long time ago, to the house if you are in a hurry . "If you are in a hurry , hurry home YOU ARE DONE"

That is all for now , hope to get out and take a few pics soon . And for those who are not on Facebook, I have an update on Maggie!
meanwhile, stay warm and safe my friends

Monday, 21 January 2013

Sense and desensitize


Thinking post again gang , and all of this is simply my opinion and  my experiences. I am not here to tell you I am the next  best thing in training . I am just here to share my thoughts and insights, take it,leave it  as you wish .
I have been thinking about this for quite some time. The idea of "desensitizing" horses to certain items. Temple Grandin  touched on this briefly in her talk to say ,(more or less) that a blue tarp at home on the barn may become familiar and safe to a horse, but that an Orange tarp flapping off the pack on the trail is a whole different thing .Another prime example is here, my horses are raise around and even at times in with cattle  Beef cattle so all should be well right? Well try the neighbors yearling holstein  getting loose a few years ago and wandering onto the farm a little rattled and"  heads up" You would have thought the Circus had come to town . Jazz and co took out 2 fences in their  panic! Even Unflappable Johnnie ,steady Eddie Blue and Stryker were a bit bug eyed!
 So if that is the case why do we desensitize? If it is impossible to  think of every possible  thing that may or may not spook a horse . And I know from experience,NOTHING prepares you for a frying pan  bouncing  along beside a panicked horse in a shale wash in the mountains !!!

So what is  this about ?I see and read a lot of  folks talking about "desensitizing" to this and that , and they seem to have the how down , but I am not sure if they have the why. And without the why ,in my opinion the how doesn't really work or matter . As I said above  you are never going to think of every possible scenario, so the why is  paramount !I believe a limited amount of desensitizing is a good thing in that it is a TOOL to teach your horse , teach them what?Quite simply to  FOCUS on you . So that when your horse is startled , spooked,panics which they all invariably will do at some point the skills you have built into their training will help you to focus them on you and less on the object of fear. The one rein stop does  what? slows them, brings their attention back to you , as do several other tools .
So when I am working a horse, same as halter breaking ,I use small steps and don't  hold the horse hard and fast rather I let them  move but I move with them in a circle , so that I am encouraging them to stop.when they do I stop, and then start again until they are calmly accepting whatever I am doing .Now during this process I do ask a little harder each time for them to stop or to at least face up, because running in circles doesn't actually accomplish much  unless there is an end point , once they focus on me even briefly I ease the pressure , then add a little and so on . Does it matter what I desensitize to? well yes and no, a rope around a leg  can and does happen so I guess you could do that, and the girth /cinch is a good thing to introduce (I actually prefer that than desensitize ) same as eventually  pad saddle etc but mostly what I am about when I am introducing things is getting them to react to it and bring back focus to me.And I am not saying  never practice new things, if you are going on a trails ride and your horse has never seen water? show it to him if you can . And practice trail obstacle etc , I am just saying , you can show a horse 50 flags and  one day it will be a different color and size and it wont be a flag to them , so what do you do then if you cannot get him to  focus on you ? That is paramount to safety, the horse should be focused on you , or able to be brought back to focus  easily. And that is what I think "desensitizing" exercises are about .which when taken that way its not at all about desensitizing , it actually makes your horse more sensitive and therefore more responsive.And that horse "when the Circus comes to town" , will keep you safe .

Clear as mud? As I said in the beginning it is my opinion and based on my experience . All are welcome to their own opinion. A desensitized horse  to me is a slab sided deadhead who wouldn't know a circus from a circle .
So maybe its is about terminology and I am totally off base or ...

Anyhow  stay safe my friends

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Staying warm Saturday (and hopefully Sunday)

After a week of balmy above zero (as high as 10 C! 50 F)  temps, we are headed (at least temporarily) back into the  deep freeze.
As my post for yesterday  said, the old North Wind was bringing some weather. today wasn't too bad a lightly falling snow , not a lot of wind , but as the day went on  the temps did begin to fall came in tonight and the wind was picking up in a big way! the temp is expected to fall to -26 C (-14 F)
So how to stay warm? Well the obvious choice is stay inside curled up in flannel jammies  with a couple warm fuzzy dogs by the wood stove.Yup that does sound like the best option, however there are critters to feed here and things to do , that have to happen outside . 
I have a terrible time with hats, my head is just oddly shaped I guess, I can wear a ball cap just fine ,but tend to look like a female  "Hoss Cartwright" from Big Valley, in a cowboy hat , and in cold weather my toque tends to pop right off my pointed little head ! So I bought a crochet hat a while back , and it seems to work well, but gets wet easily with the falling snow .at least it stays on .
(taken during the last snow storm ) 
So before I went out today I looked at my options . Found my Granddad's old  Harris Tweed cap. Somewhere in the world there is a photo of a  3 yr old me riding a toy duck wearing  a hat just like this! 
anyhow it is a lined wool  cap, so I though I would give it a try. Warmest hat EVER! doesn't cover my ears well, so I just put on a headband with it  and viola! perfection! Actually got a little too warm today but I will be  fine tomorrow! dry  warm, and well, kinda stylish! 

 Found a neat little tool on Piccassa  for photo editing called "soften " I like it makes my laugh lines look much happier ! 

Best part is, it  warms my head and my heart !
so that , with my good old Carharrt , my woollies, and good boots, I should  just about make it ! 
Stay safe and warm my friends 

Friday, 18 January 2013

Winters lament


The north wind is picking up here ,and changing our balmy warm January into Old man winter's finest over the next day or so. Prompted me to write this ;


Bright red ears and windblown hair
Yup it’s getting fresh out there
The north wind blows in with its might
And temperatures drop over night
And out we go to frozen noses
Cheeks as red as summers roses
As winter give its bitter nip
Makes me want to take a trip
To places where the sun is shining
Tropical drinks and outdoor dining
I love it here, don’t get me wrong
But some days the winter seems so long
As I come in at end of day
And get my dinner underway
I get a good warm fire burning
While for the spring my heart is yearning
But I can take it this I know
Its 3 more weeks till Mexico!


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Playing with pictures

 I have  joined a group on FB  called "Photoshop a day" where several folks are  working on honing their  editing skills. Now most of the pictures I post are  straight out of the camera, with  very little done to them save cropping. But it is always good to learn new skills and if I can improve ,why not ?

 Here is a picture of my niece Deanna in Mexico last year 

 Now, cropped, highlights added, filled  light,added tint and a soft focus


Winston in the snow 
Brightened cropped and highlights added, also added a graduated tint to the snow 
Harley saying "I is too little  to be in Jail!! 
retouched the eye, cropped softened and added shadow 

 A favorite older pic of Badger 

added highlight and shadow cropped , tried to adjust the color tones 
Finally , the Phoenix has his eye on you 
 Brightened a little and cropped
that's it for now
Stay safe everyone 

Monday, 14 January 2013

When Opportunity emails

Hey all, glad to be home, I noted there were lots of comments on my last post asking for a recap of the weekend and more specifically of Temple Grandin's  presentation. I am not withholding, there was  just so much to digest and it is hard to figure out  just what points I can coherently share.
First and foremost it was awesome!!!!
I did not have an opportunity to speak to her at length or ,better said maybe did not take that opportunity. There were 200+ people there vying for attention, and her time was limited. Also I have to admit to being quite starstruck and shy , taking only a moment to thank her and tell her how very pleased I was to be there . Some folks were very able to approach her and speak freely and at length  about what they wanted ,but for me ,I tend to feel that the presenters are there for all, not just me and would be overstepping somehow to do so(I guess my old shyness still creeps out ) . Had she had a booth there , as in other cases, I might have tried to find a moment to talk with her quietly, so many things I would have liked to ask!
That all said, I did get this !

On to her presentation;
What I got out of it first and foremost is ,anything you can lay your hands on be it papers ,books, or videos by this lady ,GET THEM!! She is wise beyond measure and serious in her research and studies. She quotes scientific data, to back up all of her findings that she can, and reminds us that those she is unable to back up scientifically  would require her to do awful things to animals and she WILL NOT  so her info then becomes anecdotal.
The presentation was on animal welfare and equine behavior specifically but she references several different animals and issues of human behavior as well .
Memorably the fact that she thinks in pictures and often as Alzheimer patients progress and lose language they are  better able to communicate through art .What does this have to do with equine behavior??
I give you this excerpt;"
*A horse trainer once said to me "animals don't think they make associations " I responded by saying "if making associations is not thinking  then I would have to conclude that I do not think" People with Autism and animals both think by making visual associations . These associations  like snapshots tend to be very specific .

This statement and others pertaining to how  a visual thinker might see things does certainly make sense with  dementia and Alzheimer's  in my experience pictures, albums, and simple drawings, as well as tactile items have been a far more helpful way of communicating  with those who have lost or are losing language skills .

Back to the animal behavior though she discussed a few cases where she was able to help a horse owner with a difficult behavior ,by tracking back to the root of the issue , fear or seeking behavior, and how we must look at the whole picture . Not just "my horse freaks out" but my horse freaks out here in this situation with these variable s. Be specific! to see the actual issue.
Because of how she sees and thinks , she is better able to see the small detail that might cause an issue . a situation where a  whole building was proposed to be moved due to  cattle balking , she identified a simple flagpole as the issue suggested it be moved and the problem was solved . I could go on and on  but as I said earlier , read any and all of the literature  you can of hers!
The only other thing I  will mention, from her presentation  was a simple but powerful statement regarding animal welfare laws and guidelines . REMOVE VAGUENESS, have specific measurable guidelines to care . Remove words like SUITABLE and ADEQUATE , and  replace with clear specific terminology and measurable outcomes.

As I said there is so much more from the talk I could touch on, but I suspect each person there took away some different info, not to say she wasn't clear, but there was so much  info in a short time, I think each persons specific needs were different and if you spoke to 10 that attended each would have taken some  thing  different in depending on their  current needs, level of expertise , past and personal experiences .
Excepting of course (forgive my little rant ) those who were there to challenge the professor and boost themselves by trying to talk down to her (yup had one of those) or others who felt it was a good time to chat . Sigh . That really irritates me ! visit over coffee, I am there to learn so please  kindly hush up and let us hear the presentation. If you are bored or uninterested LEAVE.

 I also attended a presentation by Dan James of Double Dan Horsemanship , but I guess that will have to be the next post . I hope I did  this  recap  justice so far, there is just so much to say but...
Anyhow if Opportunity ever emails  you  something like this , go !!!!
Stay safe my friends

Friday, 11 January 2013

Opportunity knocks?

Well sometimes it just sends you an email!
I have been attending the Horse industry  breeders and owners conference on and off the last several years. Did  not go last year because it is in January and often a very cold time here, the year previous it was a horrible weekend with  poor roads ,cold and blowing snow. While I  did get there and enjoyed it , I was quite  distracted with the weather, so last year I gave it a pass.
This year I was planning to skip it as well,I got the email with the news of it , a couple times but had not paid it a lot of attention. The seminars are often interesting and enlightening, but last time I went I found it was a bit more duplication of info than I wanted . about a month ago though , I got another email update and a name caught my eye. Dr Temple Grandin !!!! I did a real live double take  and yup! I read it right , she is presenting on Sunday at the conference.

(image  courtesy of google images ) 
Well it didn't take much I ordered my pass immediately!
Also going to hopefully get there in time to see Dan James of  Double Dan horsemanship .


Hope to see some old friends there as well. Deb and I are heading out tomorrow , so have a great weekend everyone and stay warm and SAFE

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Little Mr Routine, expand his horizons. A long winded ramble, grab a coffee

I have a bit of a ramble going here, thinking post ?maybe but definitely wordy
Also  my friend Amy asked me once to describe  my routine with haltering , (She asked when Dandy was a foal, so sorry Amy , better late than never?)
I haven't talked much about Harley and his halter training etc ,not because it didn't go well, but more because it wasn't changing much.
Everyone has a different routine and style when it comes to handling foals. I,as a general rule don't mess with them a whole lot before weaning, call it a lack of time or motivation,but it is what it is. I am around them  lots,and am lucky enough to have good minded horses and foals ,who in the event of an emergency I could and have gotten a hold of  to deal with injuries etc. But here the real work of haltering happens once they are weaned .
As with all of them I work in the stall , teaching them boundaries, and to give to pressure, be mindful of my space and then I get out  my soft cotton rope and begin,first rubbing them all over then drop it over their neck and  hooking it . I never (when they are really  young ) set back and hold hard and fast , rather I keep pressure on and move with them , asking them to give until they do .I then either make a makeshift halter out of the rope or actually put a halter on them and begin the process again, never holding hard and fast , just keeping gentle pressure, always letting them feel they have somewhere to go ,but not letting them run over or drag me . I do this as often as I can , and then ,in Harley case  halter him to move him to a clean stall  while I clean his. We had a bit of a delay getting Harley out of the barn for turnout due to weather and some concerns about  feral dogs ,but eventually we got it done. His first trip out of the barn went  quite well, similar to  his work indoors I kept  gentle pressure to  control him but rarely set back on the rope . He was nervous and a bit "up " but all in all it went well. Every day he is out for several hours and he is getting to be a great fellow leading in and out of the barn ,had a couple of silly moments and tried to take off, there is when I  do hold on and set back a bit . Martin was worried about my arm (left ) and wanted  2 ropes on him, but I prefer to do my own stunts LOL ,I just used my good arm, and when he really  tried hard I put my"back into it a bit " still not hard and fast or  dallied onto a solid object  and Harley  found his little red self on his side in a snow drift! Totally unhurt, but he did need to find out there was an end to that rope. Since then he has been much more mindful of pressure.
So to the title of the post . Harley is like many a creature of  habit, that is why consistency and repetition works with horses, they  do seem to like boundaries and routine . Harley  more so than others,he is very like his grand sire in that. Chips seems to have an internal clock and if you were 5 min early or late He let you know ! Did not like change in routine AT ALL .
Every time I haltered Harley till today , I would drop the rope over his neck and then halter him. I have tried for several days now to  just go ahead and put the halter on, he is not fearful of it , just seems to want to stick to the program. But I need him to be OK with  just being haltered with out the rope, (if he is sold the new owner might not always do every little thing the same , and here is one way where you can develop a "hard to catch" horse. If they have always only been caught and haltered one way , it can take them off  guard when you  just come at them with a halter, and they may shy back , and be at the very least resistant  to this.)
So every day I have tried to "broaden his horizons and offered  just the halter first, he has until today turned away and tried to evade, but as soon as I drop the rope over his neck he is fine. Today , I went in , same routine talked to him, rubbed his neck and slipped the halter over his nose,he popped his head up, but I just sweet talked him and stayed with him,and he relaxed , so I took it off. and tried again... SUCCESS!!
Also walked out of the barn just like a wise old school horse! Good Boy Harley
Not sure if my descriptions make good sense , and I am not here to tell anyone how to handle colts, its how I do things and it works for me , also when I have been asked to help other folk halter unhandled yearlings , the same routine has been effective FOR ME. Bottom line is  give the horse time to understand  you and while you  are applying pressure, I never make a young horse feel like they have nowhere to go, I just encourage them to go the way I want them to.
Anyhow , young Harley is growing up, smart as a whip, and  sweet tempered as I have come to expect from these critters of mine
And tough enough to wear pink! 
Stay safe and warm my friends

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Playing with pictures


 So I have been participating in "a photo a day " on FB . Mostly I post  my pics as is ,or Straight out of the camera ,never been much good at editing other that to crop . But I have been trying a few things . Some I like, some I prefer as they were and some ,well...







(trying to cover some stains,didn't really work, but I like the effect)



 no edit on this other than cropping 

kind of liked the effect here 

And this one is unedited as well, because , well "That Richie mare, doesn't ever take a bad pic

Some goings on around here to write about ,but for now
Stay safe and warm my friends

Thursday, 3 January 2013

2012 Year in Review July to Dec

July was, well summer time in Alberta, hot and cold rainy and sunny and everything in between "dog  Days of summer "LOL






 We weathered some storms



And we celebrated as well




 August brougt more of the same , with the hay finally getting done , and we had a  few special visitors




Also the Phoenix returned home! How I had missed my blue eyed boy! 
Cat (Catch a Dream), And Andee went into training 
Then along came the fall,the girls returned home  well started and I got more time in the saddle in Sept and October than I had all summer! 


We took a little day trip to the Mountains

Then we  began to "Gather Nuts "  for winter ,but not before Martin and I took a little getaway to Vancouver  where we visited some wonderful folks and I saw Barbara Streisand in concert.
Then as it does every year winter came to Fern Valley 




Nothing to do but enjoy the good days , stay safe and warm and be ready for Santa Paws! 
We celebrated a wonderful family Christmas and wrapped up the last few days of 2012 sleigh riding , seeing friends and family and pretty much having a wonderful time .

So there it is , in a nutshell. 2012 , was a good year overall, and I have high hopes for 2013!
Stay safe and warm my friends!