Saturday, January 8, 2022

With Winter Comes Rescue

 It happens with the change of every season, but more so in the late fall and early winter. It’s the time of year all die hard career horse people and farm owners dread, That phone call, or the social media tag, Facebook messenger, (or God forbid the 52 Thoroughbreds in need of rescue), etc. Starving horses, cases of neglect out of sheer ignorance and lack of education on how to care for aging horses. Over the years I have tried to do my part in small ways a horse here a horse there, donations when I personally cannot take a horse. I have many friends who run neglect rescues tirelessly and they are the real hero’s. Day in day out they get phone calls about the disposable horse. Today it was my turn. A super sweet lady called looking for a rescue. She had delivered hay to a farm and noticed an aged mare who was in really poor shape. She explained the situation and the location and before I processed, “I’ll take her came out of my mouth.” Don just grinned and shook his head as he listened to my conversation. It really had not been my intention to take her, really, however I knew that several of the local rescues were busting at the seams with the intake of neglect cases recently and she needed help now. 

Everyone meet Tilly. She is a super sweet 25+ Old little  mare. Tilly hopped right on the trailer and off we went. Seems simple right? What I failed to mention is that Tilly was at the end of a dirt road the was more pig path than road and something straight out of wrong turn. Luckily we were still on Surry county with cell service but man oh man was that little dirt road sketchy. Tilly is a little more special needs than most. She is aged enough that her teeth are worn. So she will be getting many small soaked meals of all inclusive senior grain, alfalfa, beet pulp, and hay stretcher. So far she has slurped up every meal. She is bright and alert. For those of you new to horses or who own horses but never have owned an older one, the pictures below are not how old horses should look, EVER! I get so tired of hearing, “they are just getting old” this does not mean they should walk around like a prisoner of war victim starved to death. It just takes more human effort to keep them healthy. I know for a fact because we have five horses on this farm over the age of 25, and 2 of those 5 take tons of effort with soaking meals, alfalfa and beet pulp soaked, expensive senior feed etc. My point is it can be done but it is not for the faint of heart or for the lazy, cheap, or broke. Most horses cannot live off 7 blades of grass and a bucket of water. Yes with good pasture most can stay in good weight 3 seasons out of the year as long as they can chew grass or hay, but not a dirt lot with no grass or hay.   

Tilly’s hips and backbone

This is not the look of a normal older horse. It is hard to see with her winter coat but if I had to guess she has a body score of 1.5-2 on a scale of 1-10. You can feel and see every rib and her backbone it a good 2” above any flesh. 

Here is a picture of one of our schooling horses at 31 just getting done with a lesson.

Chance at 31

I am not trying to shame anyone only educate those who do not know or understand the commitment it takes with older horses. Chance has been unable to chew hay or grass for several years now. It takes time and effort to pull him out from the group mix and soak his grain to make sure he stays healthy. He has given many people in his life years of pleasure and if Chance can never be ridden again he still deserves to live out his life fat and happy. Tilly deserves this too, and here is where she will get it. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The blog returns….. Horses and Winter a question of Career choice

Back a few years (seems like an eternity) I frequently blogged. There was no real reason other than I wanted to. I looked back and realized that my last real blog was in 2017, hmmmm then it hit me what had changed! I got this crazy idea to turn the farm, my then part time passion, into a full time career. That is when the true crazy began June 2018. The leap of faith to do what I felt I was called to do. Introduce others to my addiction, hmmmm I mean passion, Horses, and all the crazy that it brings.  Since then it has been a whirlwind of growth, change, failures, successes, and everything in between. The struggle is real folks, I’m not kidding. If Mother Nature is kind then I love horses from around March until mid December. From mid December until March I constantly want to have my head examined. I mean really who chooses to leave climate control in the winter to go slog through the mud after two days of cold wet rain?? I’m telling you it’s an addiction, that’s the only real explanation. Sure it’s legal, somewhat healthy for you if you count all the calories you burn chases horses, fixing fence, lugging hay, dumping feed into the bins, let’s not forget mucking stalls. I mean two constants with horses, eating and pooping. I will say my health meter on my phone went from roughly 12k steps to over 30k per day. I think I saw it blip up with a WTH message one day when I reached over 40k. Did I mention I’m in NC where the weather goes from T-shirt’s 70+ degrees to 38 degrees with wind, 4 layers of clothes and your still freezing from one day to the next? I swear if one more horse drags off one more blanket this winter they will all be in time out. Not only did I choose this life I am dragging others into the horse cult with me….. You get a horse, you get a horse, oh you need two horses, you get the idea. I mean for some it is so bad they are buying farms of their own, I mean really they see what me and my JHF crew go through and still think YEAH let’s do that. I want to work 7 days a week and never really go on another vacation. I tell you horses know! Those F’ers know if I am pulling out of the driveway for more than a tractor supply run to pick up their favorite treats. You let me be gone more than 12 hours, “let the games begin.” I promise you I will get a text from the poor unfortunate soul (usually Brooke) that is holding down the fort and the horses spidey senses go into overdrive. “She’s gone boys, time to cause havoc. Tommy you tear down the fence, Bob cut your leg, nothing major but enough so it swells, Nancy B how’s that hoof abscess coming? Are you good and lame? Fred and Spice “just do you” that is good for at least 3 phone calls, ok guys who wants to mildly colic? We need volunteers.”  I swear these horses plan it.  I know there are other farm owners who understand the struggle. It’s a full winter of riding roulette, because the weather fluctuations you never know what horse personality you are getting, hmmm are we getting old faithful steady eddy or are we getting Secretariat ready to relive the good ol days. Horse people really do need their heads examined, but then you have days where:

You drive down the driveway and every horse is grazing contently in the correct pasture.

The young horse you have been working with finally gets what you are asking and in just that moment all your training has paid off.

The riding student that was scared of horses 3 months earlier, but has always wanted to ride is walking out into the pasture full of horses to retrieve her lesson horse for the day. 

The 6 year old finally figures out the posting trot or hell the 60 year old for that matter.

You see a group of teenagers helping the younger kids tack up their horses. 

The teenagers are not being wellll teenagers, I mean it’s as rare as seeing a shooting star but it does happen

You see the 10 year old who has ridden since she could walk, show the adult beginner how to properly groom and pick out feet

You see a group of people from different backgrounds, lifestyles, tax brackets and ages, sharing their love of horses.

You walk through the barn and each horse sticks it’s head out to greet you.

You see the horse that once sold for 180k at the racetrack but retired with knee X-rays so bad they thought he would never recover now teaches students in your lesson program

The group of horses that retired from racing but have started their new journey into a second career

The lesson horse that has taught so many people to ride and has earned a well deserved retirement. 

The child who struggles with every day activities that come easy for most blossoms into a beautiful confident rider on the back of a horse.

The peace of just being near a horse brings to so many. 

Probably my favorite is in the late evening when the busy of the farm fades, their are no cars left in the drive and I am doing final check, this is when I know I have made the right choice. Just me and the horses quietly enjoying the peace of the darkness.  It’s in those moments I know it will all be ok.  The horses will still be plotting their next great calamity and I still REALLY hate winter but it will be ok.