Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Tigger, A Dear Friend"



Howdy Folks,
 
We lost a dear friend and avid Coffee Clutcher yesterday ... Our sweet little Tigger crossed the rainbow bridge to frolic with her pal Sweetness.
 
Tigger and Sweetness loved laying on our bed together ...

Tigger loved the Coffee Clutch! Most mornings she'd beat me to the barn and either march about telling me it's time to sit with Kessy, or hop into my chair ahead of me and anxiously demand, with her squeaky meow, I sit. Once I'd settled she'd curl up tight on my lap. Only the coldest mornings found her unwilling to join us for our morning routine … For about the past month she'd been too weak to be part of the Coffee Clutch most mornings, then last week she began scarcely leaving the house. She did wander out on the warmest afternoons to lay with Kessy at her hay, she loved doing that, and Kessy loved it too.
Tigger was a Charter Member of The Coffee Clutch ...
Our daughter, Abbie, found Tigger roaming the streets of State College, PA a few days before graduating Penn State in '98. Knowing the tiny kitten had nowhere to go, she brought her along home. Abbie moved on to her first big gig pretty quickly, Tigger stayed with Ravishin' Robbie and me. I named her Tigger, because we almost always name our cats after Winnie The Pooh … and because she surely could bounce! And if you're a Pooh fan too, you know, "That's what Tiggers do!"

Ravishin' Robbie and Tigger were particularly close, and for many years Tigger seemed glued to her. Didn't matter much what Robbie was doing, Tigger would be there snuggling and supervising, either laying on her keyboard in the office, or on her kneepad in the garden. Ravishin' Robbie loves her walks in the woods, and Tigger never missed one of them. Some days they'd be gone for hours.

Over the years Tigger helped welcome and make feel at home several cats, dogs and horses. Her best friend for over ten years was Sweetness; who also came to us homeless. To some degree Sweetness stole Tigger from Robbie! Those two ate together, slept together and surely roamed the world together. Sometimes watching Tigger and Sweetness trot off into the woods made me think of the movie, "Homeward Bound." … The day we laid Sweetness to rest, Tigger came and sat with us as we wept.
Saturday and Tigger sunning together - just outside of this picture is Kessy, sunning with them ..
Tigger, like Saturday, adopted Kessy too. The three of them made quite the "2 acre wood roaming team." And Tigger not only loved our Coffee Clutch, but loved hanging out with Kessy. She'd lie on Kessy's hay inviting Kessy to eat around her. She'd rub on Kessy's face as Kessy munched her hay, and rub on her legs too. That bond got increasingly tight after Sweetness crossed the Rainbow Bridge last year. If we wanted to find Tigger, we looked for Kessy!
Kessy and Tigger taking in the sun together ...
Tigger loved evening TV time as much as I do, too. But for this Ravishin' Robbie was her first choice – whenever Robbie sat still enough for Tigger to settle in ... You know Robbie, always doing something!
 
Tigger always had a flare for adventure ... Here we are, (a lot of years ago,) when Tigger was first learning to ride, River, my strawberry roan TWH, who carried me the last years of my endurance riding adventures. Tigger did manage to master the saddle seat on the lunge line. I thought she sat River better than me!

We laid Tigger with Sweetness last evening, together they will romp the fields and woods again.

Ah, Tigger, you've been a great friend, brought us many smiles, warm laps – and leave us with sad hearts, but buckets of memories, too. Kessy will think of you as she munches hay and basks in the sun. Saturday and Miss Kitty will do their best to fill in taking care of Kessy and managing Coffee Clutch … Robbie will miss your gardening advice and walks ... It will be a long time before Coffee Clutch feels normal again ... Bless you, Tigger and say howdy to Sweetness for us.


Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry


Friday, April 11, 2014

"The Last Wild Horse In America Died Today - Feature Friday"


Howdy Folks,
We looked up and they were no more … Just as this year the Black Rhino in Africa was poached to wild extinction, our own Federal Government will, with reckless abandon and determination, do the same for America's wild horses.

Proud horses, families and bands yanked apart and driven mercilessly by helicopter and other violent means, to greatly overcrowded corrals where they stand, broken hearted and bewildered, awaiting their uncertain future ... Often that future is years in those filthy, overcrowded corrals while their health and spirits deteriorate. Their future dims. 
Accustomed to wide open spaces to run and live free, suddenly they have a mere few square feet in those concentration camps, with little or no protection from driving snow, or blistering heat, and too often a gross shortage of water to drink. Out of reach are their familiar sheltering valleys and watering holes. Hooves that are used to traveling tens of miles a day grow long with neglect … confused foals try to understand. Confined band leaders search for their families. Fights occur regularly because separation is not possible. Crowded as they are, sickness is a constant.

Once the wild horse was one of our proudest and most magnificent symbols of the great American Spirit. Even the United States Congress declared it to be true in 1971 when they recognized them as, "Living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people." Today that same Congress considers them, "Feral nuisances" that need to be gathered and removed, often sent to slaughter.

Shallow, transparent excuses like, "overgrazing, and land management," are the most sited excuses for this race to annihilation. In many cases cattle and sheep roaming those BLM managed grasslands outnumber the horses 100 to 1 ... Causes one to wonder who's actually doing the over grazing.

Many wonderful and concerned folks have been working hard and politely to defend and protect our wild horses. I've written about some of those fine people. Thousands more have contributed donations to help those folks defend the noble wild horses. In response those government employees and departments, "charged with managing millions upon millions of acres grazing rights and other management practices," continues to run hell-bent toward the extinction of our wild horses, in a most disgusting, brutal and underhanded way.
On any given day there are over 30,000 wild horses in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) long term holding pens, and another 11,000 in temporary holding pens. These 40,000 wild horses, burros and Mustangs outnumber those running free today; the BLM estimates the number of still wild horses at about 20,000. A number so low it virtually guarantees extinction. Many of the herds now clinging to freedom are too small to continue viable genetic bases. The BLM does not own the wild horses, they are charged with managing the grasslands. The American people own the wild horses.

From Laura Leigh founder Wild Horse Education - "Very little of what happens to our wild horses and burros on public land actually has to do with wild horses and burros. Livestock interests and extractive industry drive our public land policy. In the 12% of public land occupied by our last American herds it is no different. If we are not careful the industrialization of public land will not only change the physical landscape, but will extinguish our American spirit in the form of the wild horse." 
I weep in fretful fear of the day headlines scream, "The Last Wild Horse In America Died Today."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry 

Photos courtesy of Laura Leigh and Wild Horse Education -

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Springtime



Howdy Folks,
 I wrote this story about Springtime for our friend Jessica Lynn of Earth Song Ranch  for her newsletter. If you want excellent herbal blends for your pets and horses, be sure to check with Jessica.
Springtime

For most of us, Springtime took its good old time drifting in, but it appears to have stopped by for a visit almost right on schedule. Here in Appomattox, VA the past few days have brought closer to summer than spring temperatures. We've already touched the mid-eighties! Completely dashing my hopes for a white Easter. We missed a white Christmas, even though we had just about the most snow ever recorded, so I was looking for a white Easter.
I'm fond of all seasons, love to see the changes. Each season has its gifts and promises. No single season do I hold favorite and my joy comes in the changes of the beauties of nature. 

Summer brings the full blooms of flowers, wild and domestic. Busy birds feeding fledglings, hummingbirds buzzing at the feeders, beautiful full foliaged trees, half grown deer bouncing with their mommas – lightning bugs and thunderstorms too. Rides through the woods taking in the beauty, the birds, and the sounds. The evening call of the Whippoorwill. Fall changes the landscape and scenery, painting the forests and mountains with colors so spectacular I must stop my mare as we ride and take in the view. Pumpkins and squash from Ravishin' Robbie's garden. Flocks of birds gathering in preparation of the coming winter. Winter brings a quietness, a resting time. Rides along sparkling snow covered trails, winter birds, and animal tracks in the snow. Birds at the feeders putting on shows to delight. Evenings snuggled inside with my Ravishin' Robbie. Oh yes, and Christmas too.

Springtime brings a gentle awakening. Riding trails lined with dozens of delicate wildflowers, birds in their most magnificent plumage courting and building nests. My favorite, Bluebirds checking out nest boxes, by middle spring Ravishin' Robbie's hummingbirds are back buzzing her feeders. Courting songs of birds of all species filling the air, especially during Coffee Clutch in the mornings. Trees sporting brand new bright green leaves, spring peepers singing into the darkness. And Robbie's strawberry rhubarb pie.
Springtime is here and rebirth is in full bloom. Treat yourself to some time on the trail, in the gardens or on the porch to take it all in.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, April 7, 2014

"Choices, Ours or Our Horse's?"



Howdy Folks,
 
So much of what is done to, with and around horses is for the person's benefit, ease and perspective. It's natural and certainly correct for the person to choose the discipline, sport and activity they engage in with their equine partner. That is after all why we have horses. To do stuff. And to do stuff we need to make choices. Many choices.

Choices about housing, feeding, health care, training, saddles, tack and much more. Almost every day there is a choice to be made about something.
Kessy chomping away at her hay in a slow feed net I tie to a tree along her path in the woods. I like the ground level position because it is the natural grazing position, and tugging at the hay through the net in this posture engages the teeth, jaw, neck and spine in the way they were designed to function. I'm opposed to hanging nets because in addition to miss-aligning all those functions they also allow for hay particles and dust to enter the nasal passageways. 

Everyone is busy with life; families, living and jobs take lots of time. There is never enough money. Never enough time. So, many times the choices made by equine caregivers are made for reasons of human convenience, ease and dollars.

It most often takes no more time, or money, to make choices from the horse's perspective than from the human perspective. It requires only simple a paradigm shift. A brief pause to ask, "Am I doing this for my benefit, or my horse's?"

Housing is a big one that can easily be redirected to the horse's perspective. Instead of a claustrophobic stall or boring paddock consider a "Paddock Paradise." These need not be overly large, but think about a playground of sorts, with trees, rocks, varied water and hay stations, fenced paths and rustic-run-ins, to encourage walking about and engaging the horses' minds. Jamie Jackson wrote the best ever how-to book titled "Pasture Paradise," on bringing real nature into your horse's life. I highly recommend his easy to read and follow book. There's also an excellent facebook page (HERE) based on his book, where folks can interact and learn more from folks who've done it.

Feeding is another easy change, and money saver too! A total forage diet is best. And most natural to a horse. In fact loving grain is an acquired taste and habit for a horse, much like smoking is for humans. It is becoming increasingly understood that many of the health issues horses face stem from feeding processed feeds and grains. In the paddock paradise using slow hay feed nets, secured at ground level, and in several different locations encourages movement and keeps the teeth, gut and mind busy all day. This one may add a bit of time to your day, but from your horse's perspective it's well worth it. Of course hay should always be tested. Horses will require more hay on an all forage diet, but in the slow hay feed nets waste is negligible. Kessy weighs about 950 pounds and consumes about 25 pounds a day, more on cold days, for example. But I buy no grain so really it's less expensive.

How can I feed supplements with no grain? Easy, I use one pound high quality orchard grass cubes soaked, and I mix in Kessy's enzymes, and limited vitamins. Kessy hasn't had any grain in years. She will get a sprinkling of fresh vegetables. Minerals are fed free choice.
Kessy has about an acre and a half to roam among trees and brush (just took this picture yesterday and the trees have not sprouted their summer foliage yet) - There is very little grass, but hard packed clay and stoney earth helps maintain her beautiful bare hooves. Kessy is IR and is easily managed with her all forage diet of low sugar hay.
Supplements should be fed sparingly, I think. There are a lot of things out there to take your money, and might have no benefit to your horse, and may build up a toxicity, be careful. If all the hay, and water, is tested, you'll know what your horse needs. And blood work is not hard to do if in doubt. I believe a horse's carriage, attitude, hair coat and hoof growth tell us a lot. Oh, and manure talks a lot too.

Everyone knows about my thoughts on going barefoot, (you can read a previous post "Why Barefoot" HERE) so the only thing I'll say here is, not only is it best, but it'll save you money as well ... And maintaining a horse's hooves is something you can learn to do yourself.

There so many more choices equine caregivers must make: schooling, vaccinations, worming, tack (would a horse ever chose to nail iron on their feet, have bits in their mouths, be prodded with spurs, contorted with tie-downs, martingales, tail sets and so many other tack related choices?) and saddles, activity choices and on and on ... If we chose to make them more from the horse's perspective than our own desires I think we can be great stewards. In the long run it costs less too.

"It's For The Horses."

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry