not a day too soon

Winter is such a pretty time of year, the snow gives everything a new look. Beautiful frosted trees, sparkling snow, and the colorful contrast winter brings are eye candy for a visual person like me...and then it warms up, and winter shows it's ugly side.

Yesterday some locations in WI hit 50F, the rain polished off road areas of ice into a smooth slick dangerous surface. Today we are left with that slick ice, dirty snow, fog, mist, mud, and piles of poop. Yuck!!

(L-R) Harmony and Koda cautiously walking, lots of heads down today
We fed, scooped what treasures we could find in the near vicinity, emptied the goldmine bucket, freshened up the bedding, and got lots of wet horsey hugs. I am always relieved to see our horses walking carefully in slick area's that can't be avoided, and choosing alternate paths to get around the area's that can.

 Nemo says "It's no fun moving the herd around, when you have to walk so slow"
Besides the bitter cold weather we had for what seems like forever, the endless hunting season, and the hidden chunky worked up soil in the fields - this my friends would be why we haven't ridden at home this winter, the footing.

Nasty Arena
 Tomorrow we head up to Iron Horse, and not a day too soon!!


wild and woolly

The wild and woolly look of winter isn't pretty, but it's the warm outdoor fashion in colder area's. Harmony & Nemo have shorter hair which gets thicker, and Nemo's gets darker, but they don't sport "the look" quite like Koda & Cierra.

Cierra has the longest hair I've ever seen, it's easily 3" long in some areas. Perhaps because she was body clipped for the futurity show in September? She looks kinda scraggly in the picture below, but trust me she is solid and has a hay belly. Don't you think the wood chip bedding adds to the woolly look?

Cierra, 7 month woolly look

Koda really needs a good brushing before he goes to the trainer, and um, the wild man mohawk needs to go. We have messy rain predicted for the next couple days, alas grooming will have to wait. 

Koda, the wild look


getting ready for round two

January 1st we are taking Koda & Nemo back up to Iron Horse for a second round of training. Change comes with mixed emotions, mostly excitement this time. Brad wants to start showing locally again for fun, and me, well...let's just say I am willing to give it a try. I would really rather be out on the trail, or on the sideline taking photos. Regardless, a horse with more quality training is always a good thing. I've only shown once, when I was 12 years old - just a few years ago. Someday I'll write a post about that fond memory...

Koda & Nemo won't be the only one's learning new things, as owner training go hand-in-rein. While we could muddle along and pursue this on our own, or leave the boys the way they are and just put miles on them - we prefer to give them the best training we can. Patty is a master trainer, and the experience she shares is second to none. They are excited to have Koda & Nemo back, and I'm excited for all the horsey interactions it will bring!

However, it will be weird not to have them at home. We'll have to drive much further to see Koda & Nemo. Harmony & Cierra will likely miss them too, but enjoy our undivided attention.  Our boys will once again be living  the plush indoor life (with daily turn out), learning new things, and ridden daily. They'll be so happy to be fed three times a day! I wonder if they'll ever want to come home??


unstuffable stocking stuffers

One of my favorite elf tasks is picking out books of interest. They are unstuffable stocking stuffers, that I take great pleasure, and a very long time, picking out - with the hope the recipients will get great pleasure reading something they can hold in there hand, during this digital age.

My husband, who is a natural with horses: Whole Heart, Whole Horse by Mark Rashid

For the elf, who loves horses and photography: Spirit of the Horse by Bob Langrish & Nicola Jane Swinney

Inspiration for the daughter: Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul 2 by a whole bunch of writers

For the boy who doesn't like horses, and loves football: Football's Greatest Stars by Allan Maki

Did you receive/gift an inspirational horse (or other) book this holiday season?


a growing bond

We continue to observe a sweet bond grow between Harmony and Cierra. I always thought it was just the little one seeking comfort from someone who would put up with her cute persistent ways, and share, until I watched our herd do their playful breakfast dance on Christmas Eve - and observed the bond goes both ways.

Brad & Nemo having a pre-breakfast conversation
Nemo always starts the breakfast shuffle, Harmony typically keeps to herself and circles around the outside of the feeding area, and Koda usually ends up making some type of silly moves while waiting to be fed. Cierra makes a beeline for one of us humans. She really likes her people. But before Cierra got to me, Harmony came out of no where and diverted several of the boys attempts to move her. She either simply pinned her ears, turned Cierra out of the way, or physically placed herself between Cierra and the playful boys - in order to redirect them. Harmony's actions spoke louder then words. She was obviously protecting her, not that she needs it. The herd gets along really well, and Cierra is a smart girl - but it never hurts to have someone older, wiser, and larger on your side!

Fuzzy Cierra, enjoying a peaceful breakfast.
(Nemo in the background)

It's been great to be able to help with am & pm chores during this holiday break. Time just hasn't allowed for much of anything related to horses in the past couple weeks, including blogging. Hoping to catch up with every one's blog soon! 

I miss interacting daily with our horses, and I really miss riding Koda! We haven't ridden since that last great ride in mid-November. At least the days are getting longer. I look forward to the New Year, and all the excitement it brings!


blowing snow for breakfast

This morning we arrived to find thigh high drifts, and blowing snow for breakfast. The drifts are always conveniently located by the entrance gate, making for a comical entrance. Nothing major, but we all could have done without the wind. Just ask Cierra, she stayed inside as long as possible. 

(L-R) Koda, Harmony, and Nemo by the shed.
The horses played musical bowls, and no one ate at their spot - thanks to Mr. Nemo. The wind made everything so chaotic, we didn't even bother correcting them - we fed and fled. 

Nemo decided it was a good day to eat in Koda's spot,
just inside the shed.


between the storms

Winter is in full force in WI, making horse-time (other then chores) almost non-existent. Our fuzzy herd doesn't seem to mind winter, they just play a little more carefully and eat more intently. I'm glad their thick coats keep them warm. Cierra's black coat in particular is a sun magnet. Nothing like cold weather, and warm horses - to fill your heart!

Cierra, getting so big - and yet still so small.
We had such a long wonderful Fall, it doesn't seem right to complain about Winter - after all it is December. Instead we take advantage of the breaks in the cold weather, and try to get outdoor chores done between the storms.

Her royal cuteness, enjoying the hay bunk to herself.
Among other things, we cleaned out the shed, restocked the hay and emptied the sh** bucket. I stayed good and warm in my trusty Rockies boots, bouncing between gate duty, helping with chores, snapping photos, and triple dipping on horsey-hugs.

Harmony and Cierra are buddies.
Harmony pulls enough hay down for both of them.

Nemo didn't make it on the blog today, none of his pictures turned out. Too bad, cuz we love his winter coat! I'll try to get a good photo of him next time. He was very much there today, trying to help and keeping a watchful eye as usual.

Koda is happiest with hay in his hair, today it's highlighted with snowflakes.
We have another hay wearer in our family, Cierra. It doesn't help she stands underneath Harmony, who always pulls hay down to eat. I wonder if she will continue the hay fashion, when she gets older & taller? Pretty sure she's got Koda beat, with the most hay on her head (and back and neck and...)!

Look at my new green coat!
The snow blanket was white and pretty in untraveled areas, making colors pop.  It's interesting to see the paths the horses choose, weaving throughout. Maybe someday we'll hop on the horses and make some paths in the snow together?


forbidden area

The past couple weeks have flown by, riding has come to a screeching halt. Too cold, too dark - and just plain too busy. It's been a challenge for me to get home in time for evening chores during the week, thank god for the weekends!

Just before the weather got really cold, we put our herd together 24/7. We had gradually increased their time to spending full days together, making the transition smooth. We also made some adjustments to our set-up. With winter weather looming, we reduced the size of our feed storage area so they would have a larger covered area to share. It does mean more trips hauling the large bales, but it's worth it to give them the space they need. We also took down a fence, and opened up the back pasture. 

The gang was ready to help when we arrived.
(L-R) Koda, Cierra, Harmony and Nemo

Hasn't the filly gotten big? and she even has a name - Cierra.

Cierra, just shy of 6 months

Everyone learns to adjust to being fed in the same area.

Breakfast is a beautiful thing

Cierra really likes to hang around Harmony, who is such a nice mare - she lets her. She would make a really great mom.

Cierra likes Harmony's grain better then her own,
we gently remind her - that's not her pan.

We feed what is left of the hay, and get ready to haul more...

Nemo investigating the forbidden area

The hay is better on the other side of the fence

...keeping them out of the way can be a challenge...

Harmony and Koda waiting for the hay fairy on wheels to back out

Koda cleaning up after everyone


devastating fire

Send these horse rescue folks help, if you can...what a horrible tragedy....


UPDATED Wednesday, November 24, 2010 -- 4:45 p.m.
By NBC15's Dana Brueck
In Rock County, a barn fire has devastated a horse rescue. The operators say more than two dozen horses died.

Footville firefighters got the call around 8:45 Wednesday morning to the property on Old Highway 11.
"I didn't realize how much it hit me until I walked back in there again, and it's pretty bad." Inside of Jim Bondowski's shell of a barn rest the remains of more than two dozen of his horses that were rescued by Bondowski and his wife.

"I heard a couple of popping sounds ... with deer hunters been hunting out there." "I looked outside... I seen the horses running... and I could see black smoke ... and flames out of corner of building."

Bondowski rushed to save his animals but was overcome by the smoke and flames. "I could not see ... I could hear horses screaming, hollering... to get out ... and I ran to the closest one where the fire was... and I got her out and kept going and going." "As soon as we opened the doors, the flames with the oxygen... the total barn went," he says. The fire consumed everything Bondowski says he needs to operate the horse rescue. He still has more than a dozen horses who were outside when the fire erupted.
"Hay's gone, grain's gone... halters gone... blankets burned ... medicine... dewormers... everything."
Firefighters believe a faulty heater or an electrical problem caused the fire. They do not think it's suspicious.

The Bondowskis need the following supplies: blankets, halters, lead ropes, hay, grain, bedding, grooming equipment, OTC vet supplies, heated and regular water pails, barn shovels, hay forks, 3 electric fencers and materials, dewormers, wheelbarrow for manure, hay bags, wall and corner feeders, saddles, bridles, pads, harnesses, and cat supplies

A fund also is being set up for H.O.R.S.E. That's the name of the organization.
It's at M&I bank in Janesville.
100 North Main Street
Janesville, WI 53545
(608) 754-7771


May the gentle equine souls that lost their life in this horrific fire, rest in peace. The good news is, about 27 horses survived -  and they need our help. Give your horse an extra hug tonight. I will.


got that feeling again

We took a couple days off to spend some time together in celebration of my birthday, and enjoyed the last day in a string of gorgeous weather at Iron Horse. Koda & Nemo were intrigued when they got out of the trailer. This familiar place was active with different horses, puppy, playset, people etc. For any new readers, we had our horses trained there earlier this year. After a short not so focused warm up, we joined Patty and friends in her large outdoor arena. It is always sooo great to go there, we caught up on as many things as we could between riding.

Wasn't too long before we had company...

Four deer grazing by the trees (pony on the left)
...Nemo kept a watchful eye on them, and everything else. He was a little more distracted then Brad would have liked, but kept working with him.

Brad & Nemo backing up
I was pleasantly surprised how well Koda & I did. We had not done any arena riding in a long time, opting instead for trail rides while weather permits. We don't run our young boys on the trail, so faster gaits have pretty much been non-existent. Patty mentioned how good our trot looked, altho Koda could be taking to the bit better (at times he braces against it). Nothing terrible, just in need of reminders. It's easy to feel, the putting it all together part I continue working on. Of course I said thanks, and mentioned "ohhh just wait til we lope, it's been a long time". We all rode around using the bridge, poles, transitioning etc - so many options.

Patty and King Kitty taking a break, on top of her horse Claire.
It was fun to see how a young quarter horse had come around on her final day of departure. Maddie is pictured in the background above. We were at Iron Horse when she arrived with little to no handling, and saw her regularly since our boys were living there at the time. She was a handful, but turned out to be a nice trusting mount. After saying good-bye to Maddie and her owner, we talked about future plans for Koda & Nemo. We are saving our pennies, and plan to take them back to Patty's sometime in January. It's a good time of year for them to advance their learning (and ours) and be where there is an indoor arena. Not much outdoor riding to be done in January, in WI!

Taking a break with my Koda-bear
Break time was over, and we went back to riding. Koda and I started to lope...wow...we earned several sincere compliments! It was our best ride ever!! Koda was listening to everything I asked. Not what I expected at all, after such a long time out of the arena. A testament to his good training. He was sooo smooth and must have somewhat looked how he does when Patty rides him, because he sure felt like it. Since he was listening, I was able to concentrate on other things like my hands/seat - so quiet, no lifting. I LOVE that feeling! It was such a nice controlled pace, he stopped, started and continued when asked. Amazing. We took more breaks, did other things - and more loping. Not too much, but just enough. I was so busy enjoying myself at the time to really think about what was happening, but that night when Brad and I went out to dinner - it hit me. I had to choke back the tears. I never thought I would feel that way again. I had made a hard decision years ago, and said good-bye to that wonderful "we got it together feeling", when I left the lesson barn I used to ride at years ago. The feeling of pure enjoyment. When everything around you stands still, and together, you effortlessly - float.


hold that thought

Friday night I came rushing home after work with hopes of riding, only to realize - it's too late and too cold. Probably a good thing we didn't force a ride, the horses were kinda grumpy (or maybe that was me) and just wanted to be fed.  Altho our Fall weather has been awesome, the reality is - it is getting colder and winter is looming. Add today's "Fall back" daylight savings time and, it's really going to get dark early(er).

Funny husband looked at my blog and said "looks like your still unwinding from Monday", yep it's been one of those weeks. On Saturday we waited for it to warm up to the mid-40's, and saddled up. Headed south, and...there's our sign. Brother-in-law's truck, they are hunting. Sigh. We made a loop, backtracked and headed out to the north. They soil saved the corn fields in that area, which rerouted our outer path making the ride shorter. I have now officially become fond of soybean & hay fields, those are easy to cross and provide good footing. Pretty sure that's not why they plant them, I'm just saying.

There was a cool stiff breeze, adding a little spunk to the ride. Particularly with Koda. One never knows what is going on in his calculated mind, but the last few rides he wants to go - and to that I say whoa. I remind him he doesn't get to pick the pace, and he listens. We intentionally walk most of our rides, not only to savor the moments but to teach them. We do add spurts of trotting, so they can practice the transition. There will be plenty of years to run, right now our young boys need to gain relaxed confidence. I have no doubt they can fly like the wind, and some day we will.

We came upon a sloped area that must have something living in the brush, it separates the soybean/hay field and always raises Koda's ears. On this ride Koda decided to side pass down hill, then added a couple slow motion jump/lope type moves he sometimes does (not sure what to call it, it's not a real gait). It wasn't really a spook, but what was he thinking? It made me laugh. I'm not much into doing side pass pirouette type moves downhill. Hmm...maybe he could do Western Dressage?  Brad and Nemo were behind us, I asked "what was that? did you see anything? did Nemo spook?" Brad's response "no, Koda just wanted to dance with you" lol. Silly boy.

We rounded the bend, and headed towards home. From behind I heard "look Aurora, isn't that a rainbow in the horizon?" and it was! A short strip of colors, peaking out. That's odd. We typically only see rainbows after a rain, when the sun comes out. Wow, there was another one over the farm buildings...

view of the farm in the distance
we are riding in the middle 1/3 of the large north fields
...unfortunately I wasn't able to capture it in my photo. The second rainbow patch was right above where our boys live. Must have had something to do with the cool weather/sun position? or maybe it was simply a colorful addition from a greater power, adding to my birthday ride. I will hold that thought.


unwind a Monday

No time to lose. We met down at the farm tonight, got saddled up and headed out on a familiar route with what daylight was left. We both had a busy Monday, but it didn't take long to unwind. The temps were slowly dropping, and the air was crisp - it felt so good to be outside. We watched a hawk coast away, before we approached the last big tree on our way back home.

sunset ride

the things you get to see

We took advantage of the awesome Fall Halloween weather we had today, and spent the majority of it cleaning up the small woods in the pasture. The recent heavy winds made a mess out of it, cracking a few trees in half...

...and scattering dead/weak branches of various sizes everywhere.

The good news is we had plenty of help...

(L-R) Nemo, Brad, the boy who doesn't like horses, Harmony and Koda.
I started out cleaning up the back pasture, which wasn't nearly as bad.

...even the filly. We would gather wood from right underneath her, she didn't care. She followed us all around, hoping to collect more hugs. And when she wasn't doing that, she was exploring...

All this picking up commotion was exhausting, just ask Nemo. The horses decided to watch from a distance. The bobcat zoomed back-n-forth, chainsaw was buzzing, large tree branches were being dropped - nothing fazed them. Infact they all fell asleep, except for the filly. I was on gate duty while the big branches were being hauled, the bucket got filled too fast to walk back-n-forth. Worked for me, I got to play with my point-in-shoot which is coming in very handy.

Harmony & Nemo

Harmony thought Nemo had a pretty good idea, and joined him to rest on the ground. The filly had other ideas, she thought Harmony should stay awake and give her attention.

Brad rescueing Harmony from the filly.
She had a few secrets to tell Brad...it cracked us up.

The things you get to see when you spend time just hanging out with your horses, are priceless. Here is by far my favorite moment, and picture of the day. Brad and I watched Harmony's head go from resting on the ground (pictured) to slowly bobbing down almost to the ground, before someone woke her up. Gee, I wonder who that was? She was so sound asleep. Such a sweet mare.

Harmony in deep slumber.
We went back to work to finish cleaning up the woods, until the next windy storm. One of our daughter's came down to help for a while, the extra hands made things go faster. Wouldn't be so bad if it was our wood, but it's not. Extended family reaps the benefit of the cut wood, but we gain our horses safety - and active family time spent together. Between loads I snapped a few more pics...

Nemo & Filly hanging out together.
...wasn't long before Koda joined us in the woods again. Only a couple more loads left...

...and we're done! We took care of a few more things down at the farm, and headed home for a short break...

Koda and Nemo, buddies since birth.
...and then...we hit the trail for a well earned Halloween ride! We headed south toward the old windmill, only to find a huge tree had fallen and was blocking the trail - bummer! Luckly the corn had been taken down in the surrounding field. We rode in an area I've never seen, it is really secluded and vast. I couldn't believe how quiet and peaceful it was! I hope we get to explore more of that area again, before the snow flies.

There was eventually a clearing to the other end of the path. We hopped off and led our horses up over a rock pile, through a branchy area, onto the path and out into the open. We rode on for a while, noticing how Fall had changed the area. Now that most trees have dropped their leaves, you can see past them. Eventually we headed back home. What a great way to spend Halloween!

Enjoying the view of the lake, on our way back home.


he really does like horses

My son, aka "the boy who doesn't like horses",  really does like them. Just look at what I caught on camera, when he didn't know I was watching...

Our son resting on the filly, and scratching her favorite spot,
while talking to Brad. Nemo was being so patient.

...horses just love him. Harmony walked right up to him when he arrived (we were doing a warm-up get ready to listen to me lunge, with Koda & Nemo) as if to say "oh, you came to ride me?". She got some love from him too. Then I saw this...
Filly gets a hug from the boy.
Not the best picture of him, but he does like her and thinks she's pretty cool.
The hug got sweeter, then the boy realized I was taking pictures. I got a "really mom" and to that I said "really, and I'm blogging about it too". If only he knew...we think someday he will. He's such a good helpful kid, wouldn't trade him for the world, always helping out with our horse chores.

We finished tacking up, and the boy left. I was hoping to ride on the south side of the farm, where the old windmill is - but...extended family was bow hunting, sigh. So, off to the north we went. It was a nice ride, not sure I would call it peaceful tho. It's not as secluded as the south side of the farm, which is why they hunt there. But anytime I get to ride, is a good day - regardless of where it is. Especially when we haven't ridden in a week. Koda had several spooks that came outta nowhere (as most any of them do) - meaning I didn't see what he saw/felt. Nothing major, just young horses and windy Fall smells/movement. Here is my Koda, munching on some fresh grass after the ride.



her royal sweetness

Brad's filly continues to grow both in size, and sweetness. This girl just wants love ALL the time. She will stand forever for a horsey-hug. Here she is after getting her hooves picked:

She is filling out her halter a little better.
The filly (no, she doesn't have a barn name yet - don't even get me started...) particularly enjoys getting the top of her hip scratched, which can be daunting when she swings her butt towards you! She's never kicked, but there is a first time for everything. Afterwards she always looks at us like "whaaat? I just want you to scratch me!" She's not going to stay little forever, and so we continue working on her swing - or shall I say not swinging.

Fuzzy Filly
We put her out with the girls (Harmony, and resident pony Barbie) while we ride Koda and Nemo, both in the pasture/arena and out on the trail. There is less herd dynamics and we trust Harmony, so far the girls have done fine together. The whole herd always has some time together each day, but the safety of a gate continues to separate the filly for at least a couple more months. So far they all seem to have figured out kicking her is not allowed (at least while we are there) but keeping her out of ones space is okay - they are horses afterall.


crow away

There wasn't enough time to trailer anywhere last weekend but we took advantage of what time we did have, and headed out to explore more of the farm on horseback. I thought the boys did really well as we rode close to a new patch of goose decoy, considering the "windsock" type were swinging around. Shortly after we headed into the woods, and rode the entire length of the existing wooded trail for the first time. I was surprised, the trail was actually pretty clear for not being used much.

Taking a break in the woods.
We came upon an old windmill, I've never seen before. It wasn't running when Brad was a kid, he thinks it's gotta be over 100 years old.

Old Windmill
It's not a State Park, but it's private and convenient. Got me looking forward to clearing/making more trails. The other patch of woods is larger with more mature trees. There used to be a snowmobile path that ran across Brad's family farm and through the woods, so other frameworks already exists.
Nemo & Brad up ahead.

We headed back out into the open. Crows were squaking in the distant woods, and as we rode closer they got louder, and louder, until - WOW - that was the biggest spook our boys have ever done. Not sure what caused it, but all of us scooted a good 8-ish feet in a nano second. We reassured our boys. A bit later it happend again, to a much lesser degree. Koda and Nemo were on alert the rest of the ride. I'm not a fan of crows to begin with. I love birds, but not those disease carrying scavengers. I know they are intellegent, but...they can just crow away somewhere else. Needless to say, we had a bit of everything in this interesting ride.


warm autumn glow

We've enjoy expanding our rides into the lower pasture's. It's a pretty area that is tucked away, secluded and surrounded by other farm property.  We usually head there first.

Up ahead of Brad and Nemo (to the right) is an opening in the trees, an area we've yet to travel. The corn is still up in that field, it's so tall that it blocks the opening.

We continued riding around the farm, past the pasture, and all the way up to our house - for the first time on horseback. Our barking dogs didn't know what to make of it. They have only met the horses a couple times. It's hard for our dogs to understand, when they didn't grow up around them. Of course they wanted to be out of their pen, and with us. Maybe some day?

We ended our ride by heading back down to the pasture, basking in a warm Autumn glow.

My tall shadow horse, Koda.