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 .

Monday, 26 May 2014

And...BAM! its green! and a bit of guilt

Spring has been slow to get here this year.It has of course been warming up,but the grass wasn't coming on fast and the leaves were only starting to bud as late as last week. But with some warm sun and a bit of rain , all of a sudden its here! And we are loving it . 
Pretty busy around here these days, with yard clean up, and such. My brother in law Marc and I spent a bunch of time  yesterday loading tires to go to recycle (2 truckloads !!! we need to do this more often ) and also hauling garbage to the dump. Seems that after the long  winter and all the cleanup we did at the old farm we are on a mission to get this place ship shape! 
I then whipped in to Stony to attend my great niece Abby's 5th birthday party ! (how did she grow up so fast?)
I am pretty thrilled  for her to have the playhouse my dad built for my sister and I all those years ago, they have big plans to fix it up. Abby and her mom collected treasures from the old farm to use and it will have new life  at their place , filled with memories from Horricks Dairy. Just perfect

Got home in time to grab a quick bite then Deb and I went out to work with the  yearlings . Most of the time was spent with Deb  working Sprite,but I did also spend some time with Maks and Tango, they are coming along , and I will get some focused time on them, and Casey  in the next while and hopefully get the boys sold . 

Today was farrier day , and I am happy to report it went very well! We did Phoenix first, and actually did his trim in the barn. He is good but it is spring and with all the rest around it is sometimes a challenge to keep his attention focused ,um well closer to the front end so to speak. In the barn there are less distractions and he can concentrate on being a good boy . Then down to Stryker, who has become a bit arthritic. I gave him a dose of Bute before Charlie got here, and he was much more comfortable for the trim.  The mares were good as gold as always , then down to see Johnnie Handsome and his little harem 

 Here is the part about the guilt
 I have mentioned before that Johnnie can be quite fractious when having his left hind trimmed, over the years we have tried several things ,including. body work, herbal calming , riding him first to settle his energy,and even  the use of a scotch hobble with only mild success that really didn't seem consistent . Now when he was young he did have a poor  experience with a farrier  walking away after a  fairly minor refusal, for the next while Johnnie seemed to up the ante as if he figured it would eventually let him off the hook. He did get much better to trim, but still that hind lag would  start a fight. I have also written about  Johnnie birth and the fact that he had a very contracted hind leg at birth that took over 4 days to even touch the ground. So that has been in the back of my mind all through this, but he has never been lame  or acted out in any other situation ,just trimming.
The only time he was actually good to trim was when my other farrier Ernie was here( I will get back to this)
Anyhow last trim , it was still bugging me that he has learned every other thing I ever tried to teach him but this so I asked Angela if she thought maybe it was pain,the suggestion was to try him with a gram of bute before his trim and see. Guess what? he stood like a prince. Again today, a dose of bute , and he was very good .
I am one lucky lady that I have such a forgiving little horse! I put him through years of this before clueing in and following my instinct that it was a pain issue! And yet no matter what  we did, he still runs to the fence,eager to be haltered and come out! Don't I feel like a big  fat jerk!  I looked at things today , and I don't think Charlie is doing anything  particularly wrong ,but he does hold the leg slightly more rotated than Ernie does(Ernie is a bigger guy that Charlie and seems to get right in close nearly under the horse, and I think that is why Johnnie tolerated his trimming better) it is a subtle  difference in position and seems not to bother most horses, but I think whatever is going on in Johnnies hip it is more rotation than he is comfortable with for any length of time. So I am going to mention this next time and see if we can change that, and continue with that one dose of bute the day of his trim. Sorry buddy! We will do better from here!
Wrapped up my day over at my cousins house ,holding his little mare who can also be a little challenging,but she was quite a lot better today (her issue is youth and lack of handling before she came to them ) Had supper with Kirk, Amber and the kids .

Then the sky opened up and it POURED!!! it all good we needed the rain ,and if it hadn't I  was going home to mow the lawn. Thank you Mother Nature , the lawn is long but I needed a break. I am one pooped gal!
The grass will grow whether I  mow it or not so whatever . Tomorrow is another day.

Hope everyone had a good and productive weekend !
Stay safe my friends!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

just this

Stay safe  friends will try to post something more soon

Sunday, 18 May 2014

A post with no name

No idea what to call this post, seems to me it is about too many things to give it just one title . Maybe I need to get back to posting more often...
 We had a busy week  and the "signs post " remains on the back burner. Before I knew it the weekend was upon us!
Friday was trip to the city for me to see the doc(rheumatologist) . Seems overall I am doing well . He laughed at me a bit because while I was waiting I was reading a chart on arthritis in your hands ( which I have to some degree) on the back side showed a set of exercises to do to keep the finger joints mobile so was practicing those when he walked in. Doctor Skieth said that was the first time he had ever interrupted a patient  doing them! (oh well they cant hurt right?) As I said ,he feels I am doing well overall, but is concerned with my elbow, decided to try a cortisone shot again to see if we can postpone a surgical intervention. Now I don't like the shot ,but the idea of surgery doesn't really appeal either so I agreed to give it a try. a moment of "suck it up sunshine and take deep breaths " then the freezing kicked in. Hope it works , feels pretty good today so maybe...

Friday evening we had to haul one yearling heifer  down the road to a friends and bring back our yearling steer.Dad and Deb were here to help load, and Deb traveled with us as well . A little hiccup in loading the heifer had me getting boosted up and knocked into a panel, but no major issues , just a couple sore muscles. Loading the steer went much better, and i was barely involved ,spending time instead talking to the parents of my friend , who had  raised Appaloosas many years ago, and are getting back into it and may breed 2 of their mares to Cactus.
Saturday was time to immunize and process our little herd and turn them out on to grass. Our crew consisted of Martin and I,Kyle,(cousin Alie's sweetie) Sister in law Connie , nephew Cory, and little Miss Abby to cheer lead. just a few to do so we were done in no time and had a great lunch and visit . Kyle did have his dog along a farm raised Blue heeler Husky cross ( I teased him she was the perfect cross, could herd cattle straight to the BBQ! ) We did let her try and overall she did well,but got a little too enthusiastic, so we called her back and let Skeeter do his magic!I don't know a whole lot about training dogs but what I do know is you MUST be able to call them back  and you can with Rosie so it was all good. I did notice Skeeter hung back until we called her out. He seems to know too many cooks spoil the broth so to speak.
NO pics of the process,but I did get a few of the colts. Didn't get to watch the Preakness either till later on you tube,but we did have a little race run here !

Not California ,but we got Chrome! 

Today was all about my yard  to star, I mowed the lawn ,trimmed the roses, did the edging, weeded a bit in the flower beds,then with the help of Deb and Brian ,set up my fountain I got from moms yard . Will add pics later,It looks very pretty. Also have a Ogo Pogo, or sea monster ornament  made out of concrete  from mom and dads  garden here at least for now until my niece has a yard to put it in. Set it up as well .

Then with some encouragement from Deb and Brian  Martin and I went with them in our Gators(ATV) out to the fields to check fences and see how much  damage the beaver have done (we are really struggling with them damming  watercourses in the county, we and several others have had  roads wash out over the past few years, and nearly lost access to our stock. The County has been  pretty good about helping clear  culverts but its a never ending battle . Hers is what they have done in the far north east quarter .
 Alll the water is covering where there is usually only a small dugout and  grass, in the center if you enlage the pic you can see the trail leading straight into the water
 Where Brian is is the second  road/trail that led to the area I was standing , impassable as the  road is totally eroded along the edges and covered with trees , a person could pick their way across ,but I would be hesitant to even try with a horse .
 Skeeter is horrified that he may need to get his feet wet to get across!
 The view  to the north heading into "No Outlet Lake "  I believe I see a small beaver house there but not positive
 Winston and Autumn , taking advantage of the new "pool"
This is not such a bad situation as there are several other ways to get around this quarter and it has a great deal of high ground ,but still the amount of water there is startling! 
After all that ,shared supper with Deb and Brian and called it a day . It has been busy  but a really good weekend overall. Will be sad to take Martin back to the bus tomorrow .
Stay safe my friends 

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Resistance is futile

Well not totally futile, but it’s a catchy title! LOL
The "signs” post is coming, but first I have yet another ramble that I am going to throw at you.
About?  Energy and resistance. And how by using less of one, you get less of the other. And also the opposite, more energy can equal more resistance.
What am I talking about?
The example I will use is halter breaking young horses. Not going to get into a total "how to as I do it " but the long and short of it is we teach horses to give to pressure and respect a halter and lead. But first we have to get the halter on them!
This is not how everyone does it, it’s how I do it and it works for me. Usually before they are yearlings, but this year is different, and while they are well used to being touched and groomed, they are not in fact halter broke. So time to get at it.

Whether they are weanlings and in a stall or yearlings in a larger pen, it makes little difference other than size. And strength? Not really, I don't out muscle a weanling, nor am I going to try when they are bigger and stronger, that is when the energy and resistance equation comes in.
We start out just moving around ,giving to my  pressure in a pen (usually not round ,I like corners they can  work for you if you let them ) the pressure can be a whip waved or a rope , or just me crowding their space until they move off, but the key is how much pressure, not enough and they  don't  move , too much and they  resist and can become very  reactive. I don’t want a baby panicking and running Willy nilly around the pen any more than I want them backing into me and firing off a round so to speak. Both those options are a case of me using too much energy, and the horse resisting/reacting at the same level.
Maybe it is my  lazy nature ,but I don't feel any great need to break a sweat  doing this , I use enough pressure to  move them away  and keep them  moving. Steady and constant but using only what energy is necessary. Once we get them settled and responsive to that we apply pressure in a different way, asking for the whoa, this is a more obvious show of energy and resistance, I position myself quietly in their eyeline and ask for whoa, too directly in front can cause one of two things, they will either wheel around and take off the other way, or blow right over you. By getting into the view of the horse they perceive you to be in front and will often stop, or if they do turn, you are in a good position to take control of their trajectory and direct them back the way you want.
Eventually when you see  the signs(I will get into this in the signs post )  they are  ready to  have a  rope and or halter , you move  forward with this. This is where  the energy  you expend is  very important , even the smallest  foal is a strong  creature and can  drag you around .If it how you want to do things  fine fill your  boots, but as I said I am  lazy and I don't  want to , also I have  enough physical issues with my RA and Lupus, it just hurts too darn much to fight.
Often  when I first put  my rope (usually a soft  cotton  lead ) the horse will try to leave , fine  do that, but I am coming with you , steady  firm contact on the rope but not holding hard and fast . I am only using enough energy to hold on and remind them I am there, not enough to try to stop them. Do they get away on me from time to time at this stage? Yup, so I start over, no harm no foul.

Then we get to the halter, assuming we have it on and have attached the lead rope to it now we want to walk forward. Again , energy vs resistance is  key here , if you set back and pull on the rope the horse is likely to set back and pull too (and who do you think wins there? )Instead, ask, putting pressure on the rope and wait, the horse will very likely set back a bit and try to resist , so let them . Just hold firm , again not hard and fast and not yanking and pulling with all you have , if you do that, so will they, just set your tension and let the horse  put all the energy into the resistance , it usually doesn't take too for them to decide to use less energy and move  towards the release  . Steady ask, and release.
Similar in riding, contact on the bit, contact with your seat etc. More setting s flexible hold on the bit and let the horse find  the "sweet spot" than constant pull release  with the rider expending more energy  resisting the horse (if that makes sense )
Clear as mud?
I will sum up with the old fable of the sun and west wind arguing about who could get a man to take his coat off faster. The wind was sure it was he, and he blew stronger and colder, and the man simply pulled his coat tighter around himself. When the sun took a turn she warmed the man gently with her rays until he stopped holding his coat tightly and took it off.

When it comes to horses, be the sun.

Stay safe my friends

Friday, 9 May 2014

Signs, sense and sensibilities

This post or series of post has been swimming around in my mind for some time. Prompted in part by some conversation and experiences at the
 Mane event and furthered by conversations I have had with family recently and in my work, both as a mental Health Aid and in my work with horses and cattle.
My biggest dilemma has been where to start. So instead of 1 long winded ramble, I have decided to do a series of several, long winded rambles lol .


Signs signs everywhere are signs
Long winded ramble #1 coming soon

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Duck, Duck goose(OK geese)

Just a few pics  from this weeks  walkabouts ,Things are greening up and  some of our fair "feathered" friends have  returned and set up camp for the spring and summer

And  speaking of "fine  feathers" the horse are  starting to she out and show their summer  glory ,

The babies are a little slower, I spend  some time grooming them , and wound up with a horse hair  carpet in the pen! But its coming 

That's it for now, stay safe  friends