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Farmette1769's Blog

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Tag Archives: pony

What I want this year is to get back up on my horse.

The Big Man Dakota sporting his shaggy winter coat

The Big Man Dakota sporting his shaggy winter coat

“The Big Man Dakota” (I call him “Bigs”) is officially a pony, measuring 14 hands even. The standard for a horse starts at a height of 14.2 HH (at the withers).

While the weather is nasty and cold, I am slowly beginning stretching exercises, attempting to get my bad, upper spine to be more flexible and less painful.

This is quite the uphill battle, since progress can be non-existent at times. It seems that every day I am back to square one (I know – everyone is tired of hearing me whine). If I were a horse I could whinny instead, which is a much more pleasant sound.

Pony Stallion Yell Plus Bonus Duck Quacks

My Quarter pony’s yell is much more about getting food than his attachment to me. Yet, Bigs does trust me. That took quite some time. He arrived here as a blind, 5-year old stallion, and the blindness due to the frustration of his original owner.

Bigs3

Yes, Bigs is a stallion aka intact male. There are two mares across the way, yet Bigs has never attempted to visit them. Blind or not, 90% of stallions would try. Due to his calm demeanor, it seemed pointless to take anything else away from him.

Rocky the pony is already inside, taking advantage of the run-in with its new weather-proofing  (readied for the Arctic blast of Jan. 6, 2014).

Rocky the pony is already inside, taking advantage of the run-in with its new weather-proofing
(readied for the Arctic blast of Jan. 6, 2014).

Bigs's tendency towards claustrophobia leaves him hesitant of the change, but grain coaxes him in shortly after sunset.

Bigs’s tendency towards claustrophobia leaves him hesitant of the change, but grain coaxes him in shortly after sunset.

Although sightless, Bigs functions well and sometimes acts as if he can see things coming. It has taken me up to 45 minutes to get his bridle and bit on. He tosses his head about with a total lack of cooperation (even with a Hackamore). I have a feeling this is why the former owner got so upset with him.

Blind Pony Navigates Pasture

Bigs can’t see, so he has the fields memorized by feel, getting around quite well. He no longer breaks through fences in a panic. He no longer flees from being patted. Bigs’s overall behavior is actually quite good. I can get easily get on his back and could likely lay down to take a nap too.

CCsaddle

I purchased a very cool, used, close-contact training saddle this past fall of 2013. My aches and pains, enhanced by stress and aggravation got the better of me this season, so I only completed a parked test drive. It fits well and will work for both Bigs and I splendidly, once my hurdles ahead are cleared. In the meantime, Bigs and his companion Shetland pony “Rocky” will keep themselves busy doing what they do best – eating.

Bigs1

Being already run down from physical unrest, my hair-trigger temper has lately become long-term negativity. It has me wrapped up in my own mind, unable to break free of disparity in the human world. There are 7 billion people on the planet. Half of them live without running water or electricity. Therefore they have little or no access to health care, education, law enforcement, transportation, etc.

As one who attempts to follow Buddhist teachings, I must continue to practice not only patience, but also perseverance – and with this new year of 2014, get back up on that horse (pony).

nota bene: I am not looking for a Pep Rally. There is no need for anyone to cheer me on. If I get back up on that pony, that is what the future will bring. If I don’t, something else will happen next.

Chinese New Year 2014 begins January 31, 2014

Bigs2

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It is my favorite time of the day. It is quiet. The dew drenches the grass so much that my travels through it leave an obvious path. The smaller birds are flitting about in the bushes near the front door.

That door opens to a view of the pasture. Most days are so busy, that it is difficult to take a moment to soak in the view. I need to just stop. It is right here. It is the time to just look and listen and smell and breathe.

I always loved the city in the morning too. The sounds of construction overriding the chatter of office workers as they scurried into tall office buildings. Steam rising as the sun starts to shine on the asphalt. Late night leftovers stumbling back home, manage to gift a passing smile. But it is a different kind of love out here on the country roads. It was silently overwhelming at first.

When it is too quiet, the sound of the roosters’s calls comfort me. They are voicing their presence, calling to their hens. They are telling them, that when the dawn comes, they will be protected. Their crows start just before the light changes in the sky. The vulnerability of the darkness will be over soon.

And then I wake fully, and walk outside, and do stop to take in that view. “Bigs” is usually waiting. He is blind, but he can feel the vibrations of my footsteps through the ground. He perks his ears – listening, smelling, breathing.

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This blog has been neglected for a few months. I am now getting back in the saddle again. I thought I might have to give up on the Farmette as pain took hold of my life here. But, after many types of treatments, medications, therapies and a lot of different doctor’s offices, I found a Neurosurgeon that was willing to help repair my damaged neck.

Our Chiropractor, Dr Robert Floyd, had helped as much as possible and the most of anyone in my 2+ years of constant pain. But, in my case, alternative medicine could only do so much. The problem was not one that would ever heal.

My Neurosurgeon, Dr. Gudeman, is not known for his bedside manners, but for being very good at his job. I myself found him pleasant, interesting and happy to answer all of my very particular questions. He was the only doctor in this specialty (that I had met) that had respect for Chiropractic work and other alternative approaches to health care – not reacting to them as a threat. When I found that he also wore Birkenstocks in his free time, I knew I had the right guy. Someone with a sharp mind with an earthy twist was the one to trust to replace a badly worn disc (only 5% left) and fuse two vertebrae together (C5 & C6).

I am still recovering and sometimes have some bad days, but the brunt of the healing is done, just in time for pre-Winter preparations here. We are trying to quickly finish a new equine run-in barn before the really bad weather hits.

Framework for new run-in barn

We will be re-using the siding wood from the old run-in. The original was built in a hurry and has a structural design flaw that is making it slowly bend in half. The new framing is staged next to the garage. We have one more wall and another door skeleton to build. Then we will move the new structure out to the pasture and transfer the covering from the old structure. There will be new roofing material and paint comparable to our top bar bee hive which has a fairly clean (but not manicured) appearance.

Old run-in - in the distance

Since we have a 10 hand high Shetland pony and a 14 hand high large quarter pony/small horse (his proportions are that of a horse), we don’t need to think big on the first stage of this project. It is 8′ x 8′ x 8′ with about 1.5′ extra to the peak of the roof.

Our two equine - Bigs & Rocky

The back wall will be solid and the front wall will be covered to 4′ or 5′ high so that, from the front of our house, we can see the horses inside. Both sides will have a 2/3  door and a 1/3 wall. When snow and ice storms come in, we can close it up. We will also be adding 3 flip up doors on the front wall that will act as shade canopies when open and weather shields when closed.

Run-in Diagram/Sketch

This is the first of, hopefully, many modules that will make up the horse barn area. It will not be too hard to add on to this starter piece. We will eventually have a place for hay and tack/equipment storage, a covered grooming station with cross-tie posts and some individual stalls.

Our lovely & beautiful blind quarter pony - "The Big Man Dakota"

Even though our quarter stallion is blind, he is claustrophobic and knows when he is closed up. On his trip here, I thought he would kick his way out of the trailer. This is the main reason that we will have several different ways to enter and close up the new shelter in the event of nasty weather.

Big Man is very calm in comparison to his arrival here at the Farmette, but we still need to introduce him to some things slowly. We’ll leave the doors open until necessity forces us to keep the freezing precipitation out. Hopefully, by then, he will understand the boundaries of this barn and adjust to the closed space without panic setting in.

Both the Shetland pony (Rocky) and “Bigs” have nice winter coats. Rocky is made for the seasonal changes being that his fur is short & shiny in the Summer and long & thick in the Winter.

Rocky - Head Shot

Big Man has a good coat too, but as much as he likes to stay out pastured day and night, I still worry about him getting cold. North Carolina Winters have days that start off warm and wet before turning to cold and icy. This is the crucial time to keep equine in blankets or in their shelter. Other than this time of year, leaving a barn open and available is a good way to keep your horses happy.

Happy Trails

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It is official. Big Man is a pony. His actual height is 56 1/2 inches which is 14 hands (and a few hairs) – under the 14.2 hand horse height minimum. However, he lacks the short and thick proportions of a pony. Big Man actually seems to fit well into Quarter Pony requirements (maybe we’ll join the International Quarter Pony Association). They state that known quarter horse bloodlines are encouraged but not required.

Big Man has no papers. This blind boy came from an unofficial adoption. After his “blinding”, he was kept in a small pen and seldom fed. A kind gentleman that knew of this situation offered to take him off the owners hands. Three months later, the new owner needed to downsize his mini farm. And so, “The Big Man Dakota” came to live here.

His name was Dakota, but for some unknown reason, we kept referring to him as Big Man. It stuck. He seems to like it. When I go out front in the morning, I call his name. He repositions himself to face the direction of the sound and yells back loudly with his big, pony voice.

The vertical red line indicates measurement positioning

For Reference: One Hand = Four Inches

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We are in our 4th year here in NC and on this property. Every year, we get more snow. Being from the North East, I am happy about this, even though it presents some challenges for our slowly emerging Farmette.

"Rocky" the Grumpy Shetland Pony

Rocky loves his grain...

The Shetland pony is well adapted for snow. He gets a Winter coat like that of a woolly mammoth. But even though our little horse/large pony, Big Man, gets an adequate Winter coat, his personality becomes an issue when the weather gets really bad.

He is a blind yet claustrophobic guy. When we first brought him here, he nearly came out the escape door in the trailer, kicking and yelling most of the way here. It took over a year to get him used to being hooked up to that trailer and the fence posts.

Big Man likes to be out in the open. Maybe it is because he can see a little shadow of movement in the distance through his glazed eyes. He also seems to be able to feel your vibrations in the ground as you approach.

So, it will be nasty outside and instead of staying in the shelter of the run-in shed, he’ll stand out in the middle of the field. Convincing him that the run-in is dryer and warmer with grain bribes helps a bit, but I still worry about the wet in combination with cold weather considering his behavior.

"The Big Man Dakota" also loves grain.

Now, the Big Man Dakota sports a bright orange turn-out blanket. Being a bit concerned about keeping his Winter coat intact, I purchased a 420/70 denier breathable jacket.

In the slippery, cold eye of the storm, I slowly and carefully made my way out to the pasture to check on how it was working in the snow. It looked wet in some places, but when I ran my hand under it next to Big Man’s body, he was completely dry and warm. Water was trapped between the double layers, ready to evaporate – awesome!

Big Man wearing his new jacket

After the ice accumulation overnight, I checked again. The moisture between the layers was gone and our little horse was still cozy and content. He was even showing off a bit, dancing around in the snow. It is hard to tell, but I think that he knows that the jacket provides comfort and that he is making a jazzy, fashion statement.

It was a load of fun to get it on him for the first time – a bit like waving a red cape at a bull. He reacted to the sound of the nylon friction like that of impending doom and got quite spooked. All that I can say is – soft words, praise and treats. These work like miracles in the equine world. Even the grumpy pony that takes great pleasure in kicking and biting his blind buddy appreciates these.

Now that Big Man has developed some trust in us, I think that we may be able to close him in a stall barn/shed without panic setting in. I am working on a plan that could be built with doors or without. Hopefully, we will have the funds for the supplies in the Spring. A scaled down version of what we really want should help it materialize.

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