Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bad Horse Owner!

One thing about being a farmer: When you screw up on the job, you know about it, because the results of your mistake are right there in front of you, where you can feel bad about them.

I screwed up and, appropriately enough, now I'm feeling really terrible about it.

I left Grace's halter on and didn't take into account that she is growing so much faster than the other three fillies. All the other fillies are fine, but Grace grew so fast that her halter got tight and chafed a big raw patch under her chin.

Poor, poor baby. I feel just sick about it. She has such a beautiful face, and now I let it get sore. It'll heal up and she'll be fine, but I'm not putting a halter on her or doing any more halter breaking work with her until it heals completely. She doesn't deserve to feel like every halter she wears is going to hurt her. Poor thing, no wonder she's been standoffish lately.

She's growing so quickly. She's not even six months old yet, but when I do finally put a halter back on her, I'll have to switch her over to the Yearling size, that's how big she is!

For the record: I know that some people don't agree with keeping halters on their horses in the pasture, for fear that the horse might catch themselves on something and get hurt. But it's a choice I've made here. I'm just one person, taking care of 15 horses. If I had to halter and unhalter that many horses every day, that simple task alone could easily add an extra hour or more to my daily chores.

Plus, if I'm ever gone and my husband needed to do something with the horses in an emergency, it's much easier for him to just snap a lead rope on an already haltered animal than try to, say, catch an escaped horse that wasn't wearing a halter. Ken has learned a lot about handling horses in the past couple of years, but he's still no expert, so when he has to help out, I try to keep things as simple for him as possible.

Anyway, the outgrown halter problem is completely my own fault. I go out and play with the fillies every day, and I just plain didn't notice Grace was having a problem.

I'm the farm "mom." The animals depend on me. It's my job to notice EVERYTHING, and prevent problems before they start.

Damn, I hate when I screw up!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Look to the Future

I've been feeling panicky about the lack of horse sales here. It makes it worse that I know it's the same for everyone trying to sell horses right now, because that means it's not something wrong with my approach, something I can change. With the droughts and hay shortages across the country, the horse market has simply evaporated.

We took a risk, investing as much as we did in the horses. Clearly, that wasn't the wisest time to do that. Clearly, the majority of the horses need to go, if I'm going to get this farm back on track.

I never intended for the farm to be such a huge financial strain. Ken has a good job, and makes a decent living. Or would, if this farm wasn't hemorrhaging money so fast.

I want the farm to pay for itself, to pay me a little bit extra beyond costs, a little extra money that I can use to keep improving the place, bringing the house and grounds back to life from their generations of neglect. But instead, we can't even afford to keep up with the improvements we've made so far.

I need to look to the future, to how I want this farm to be. I don't want it to be so imbalanced, with the horse operation taking over everything. I want the sheep to get their fair share of the pastures. I want to get chickens, to raise our own eggs and meat birds. Maybe raise a small garden again, or grow some fruit trees. I want to live more directly from the fruits of my labor, rather than being a slave to a fickle market I can't control.

I want to be able to go whole days or even months without that sick feeling of worry about how we're going to pay for the next truckload of hay. It's not healthy for me to live this way all the time, and it's not fair to Ken. He works hard at his job, he should be able to relax and feel proud of a job well done, not have to face a mountain of farm bills that aren't bringing in any profit.

I have to find a way to make these horses sell. That's all there is to it.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Fillies at Recess

The rams seem to be feeling a bit better today, so maybe it was just a simple matter of dispensing worm medicine, selenium booster, and supplementing their protein intake. I'm sure it helped that the weather was cooler today.

Leeloo went to the vet for another checkup on her leg today. She was very frightened to have to go there again---bad memories!---but the vet says she's doing great. He removed some of the pins in her leg, so that the bones have to start supporting more of her weight as the brace supports less. In another couple of weeks she has to go in again, and might even be able to get the brace removed completely then.

I spent some time working on the website design I've been hired to do. It's actually a lot of fun. I enjoy doing it: the detailed work of getting the formatting and layout just so, as well as the creative aspects of coming up with ways to improve the customer's experience.

But the most fun part of the day was when I let the fillies out into the back pasture to play for a while. They are so beautiful, galloping around in the sunshine. Here's a video clip.

One of those times that they ran up into the paddock, Grace apparently tried to jump the fence again, because when I went up to pet them all after "recess" was over, Grace had a big scrape on her chest and the fronts of her forelegs (nothing serious, just a big patch of hair removed), and the top of the fence was bent.

Naughty girl! But boy, it sure does seem like she's got the jumping tendencies built in, if I can only teach her to do it safely and only when she's supposed to!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

More Worries

Something weird is going on in my sheep flock, and it has me worried.

Yesterday I discovered that my superstar worm-resistant ram Nicholai has a mild case of bottle jaw. This is an edema that forms underneath the jaw, usually a sign of anemia caused by a worm overload. Since Nicholai has been so worm resistant that he has not needed ANY worming for the past two years, this came as something of a shock to me.

Usually, before the condition gets that serious, you can see other signs: weight loss, paleness of the inner eyelids, apathy. But Nicholai is at a very robust, healthy weight. His eyelids, though paler than his usual bright pink, are not desperately pale. And until yesterday, he acted as if he was in perfect health... then BOOM! Apathy and bottle jaw.

The only thing that has changed for him recently is that he and his sons were separated from the ewes and put into the ram pen to wait for breeding season. The lambs are acting a little apathetic too. Is there something wrong with the ram pen?

Could there be some toxic weed that is making them ill? Unfortunately, there are plenty of weeds on the farm, many of them toxic. But the sheep tend to avoid those, and anyway, I've never heard of weed poisoning mimicking worm anemia before.

Anyway, I wormed all the rams and gave selenium boosters yesterday, but have not seen any improvement yet. I don't even know for sure it's a worm issue. It could be a mineral imbalance, even a copper deficiency (contrary to what most shepherds are taught about copper being highly toxic to sheep, Icelandics seem to need more copper than most other breeds).

The other sheep have been responding differently this year as well, and I have not been able to pinpoint exactly what the pattern is.

One ewe that I KNOW (from past years) has poor worm resistance has done fine all year. Some sheep that had worm problems responded instantly to the vitamin drench I gave them. Another hasn't responded to any treatment I've given her, but despite a persistent case of bottle jaw, doesn't seem to get any worse.

Both the wormers I've used this year seem to work for us, but I started getting worried about one of them when I noticed that every time I used it, exactly one week later, one or two members of my flock would get a wool break. I can't say for sure that this was the cause, but it happened every time I used that wormer and not when I used the other. Strange!

Part of the problem has been that with so many horses taking over all our pastures this year, I have not been able to rotate the sheep pastures as I would have liked.

It is SO frustrating. I know the right thing to do is to decrease my horse herd. Okay, fine. Most of them are now for sale. Even ones that I don't really want to part with. Because I know it's the right choice for the farm.

But then they don't sell! It's agonizing.

Imagine you're running a big corporation. Markets change, and it becomes clear that you need to downsize one whole division of your company. So, you make the painful choice as to which employees you have to fire. Pink slips for everybody!

But wait! That doesn't solve your problem because, unlike a normal corporation, you're running a horse farm, which means you still have to keep paying all those fired employees' salaries and health benefits, and provide them with office space until they find a new job, which in some cases could take months or even years.

It's just the worst of both worlds. I feel sad because I have to sell the horses, but then they don't sell. I can't enjoy them fully while they're here, because they cost too much to feed and we're worrying about money constantly. If I lower their prices to try to sell them faster, am I losing more money than if I waited and paid to feed them another few months? Who knows?

And meanwhile, the sheep are getting the brunt of things because the horses are so much more demanding: more feed, more care, more pasture required.

Yes, some of this is my own fault for expanding the horse side of the farm too quickly. But I really thought I would have sold at least half of my sales list by now. These are really nice quality animals, but the market sucks right now. It just eats me up inside to be able to SEE my mistake, and be trying to fix it, but not be able to.

Ah well. I need to just give it more time, I guess. We'll get through this. We have to. The horses will sell eventually, and the sheep will regain their fair share of the farm facilities.

And presumably, I will have learned some valuable lessons in the meantime. I'm certainly doing my best.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ingleside Icelandics at the Virginia State Fair

Most of today was taken up by driving our four chosen sheep (Salem, Savannah, Theo, and Timber) to the vet for their official health papers, and then to Richmond to the state fairgrounds.

Here they are, enjoying a nice snack of hay in their exhibit pen, right after we unloaded them:

They'll be on display in the "Young MacDonald's Farm" livestock breed exhibit in the Big Red Barn throughout the duration of the state fair. So, if you happen to go to the fair, be sure to stop by the Big Red Barn and say hello to our sheep!

Our "payment" for allowing our animals to be in the exhibit is that we get free passes to the fair. So we'll probably make a day of it sometime next week. It's nice, since with our finances the way they are lately, we wouldn't be spending the money to buy fair tickets otherwise. But this way we still get to go.

Meanwhile, I think things are finally settling down here enough that I can get working on those web sites!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

My Hero

Thanks to my wonderful husband, Ken, my computer is now fixed (We think. So far, so good, anyhow). And the leaky toilet is fixed.

And thanks to me and Ebay, Ken's old broken down 1992 Nissan Sentra (which didn't even run anymore) just sold for $1100. I can't believe we got that much for it. Back when it was still running, we didn't bother to use it as a trade in on the Subaru, because the car dealer said he'd only give us $300 for it!

Now that my computer is working again, I'll be able to put some more things up on Ebay as well as finally get some real work done on those websites I'm doing for people. Plus, I'll be able to get back to writing real entries to this blog. Being two days without my computer seemed like forever!

But first, tomorrow we have to take some sheep to the state fair. Guess I better go to bed and get some sleep. It'll be a busy day tomorrow.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Entropy Reigns

It'll be another short post today, since my computer is not yet fixed. Ken has a couple of ideas of what might be wrong and will try to fix it tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

As if that's not enough, while I was loading up the pickup truck with hay to feed the horses, it suddenly stopped working too. Ken came out and was able to get it going again by jiggling the fuses under the dash.

But now I'm starting to feel like everything I own is succumbing to the forces of entropy. My recently replaced cell phone is only half working. The top-of-the-line toilet we installed when we redid the bathroom is now running constantly. When it rains hard, there's a leak in the roof of my office. Not to mention all the other "fixing up" tasks that this fixer upper farm requires.

I know that we'll muddle through and eventually get all these things fixed. With luck, we'll continue fixing things around the farm faster than entropy can tear them apart again.

It's just that when so many things are not working on the same day, I start to get kind of a complex about it!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Goodbye Sebastian, Hello Ken

Here's what happened on the farm today:

1. My ram Sebastian and my ewe Shakti went to join their new flock. Thanks Natasha, I know you'll give them a great home!

2. My husband Ken and his puppy Leeloo came home from their vacation at our friends' rented beach house. They had a great time, and Leeloo even swam in the ocean!

3. My computer started suffering from random attacks of electronic narcolepsy---just blacking out periodically in the middle of things. Hence, I'm writing this on Ken's computer, while Ken attempts to back up all my files (just in case one of these blackouts becomes permanent). Hopefully, he'll be able to fix whatever's wrong. But that's why there are no photos with the blog tonight... they're all on my computer, where I can't access them right now.

4. A woman I've been in email contact with decided to buy my whole inventory of ram's horns and skulls for an SCA craft project. So, a little more money coming in---Yay! After I finished cleaning up the newest batch of horns for her, I decided to rub them with a little mineral oil. Wow, does that make them look nice!

5. We decided which are the "lucky" sheep who get to go to the state fair later this week. This will be the second year our Icelandics will be on display in The Big Red Barn, which is the fair's most popular attraction. It gets thousands and thousands of visitors every day of the fair, which is fantastic exposure for the breed, but it's also incredibly noisy and the sheep hate it.

Last year, our senior ram Nicholai was one of the two we took there, and he was absolutely miserable. So this year we promised him that he didn't have to go. But our sheep sold so well this year, we don't have any other impressive-looking adult rams left to send, only ram lambs. So we decided we'd send a couple of ewes as well.

Naturally, I'm reluctant to subject any of my most valuable ewes to such a lot of stress so close to the beginning of breeding season. So, if I can't send my biggest ram or my most impressive ewes... what criteria shall I use to pick who goes?

Since I couldn't go with "biggest," I decided to go with "cutest," which means my two leader ewes, Salem and Savannah. They're super cute and sociable, plus they were too small to breed last fall, so they didn't contribute any lambs to the farm this spring. Doing time at the fair can be their offering to the flock for the year. To add a little more color variety, I'll send a couple of the ram lambs with them. We'll have a gray mouflon, a black, a white, and a moorit. That should be a nice mix for people to look at.

We half-jokingly thought about sending Trouble the Runaway Lamb, figuring she deserved a little payback for all the trouble she put us through. But then we were afraid she might escape again, and we'd end up having to chase her all over the fairgrounds... It would be a whole new chapter to her saga here on the blog, but not one we're ready for! :-)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trouble with the Flock

Today, Trouble the Runaway Lamb was released from quarantine. I decided that she only needed a two week quarantine here, since she'd essentially been quarantined---or at least isolated from any other livestock---the whole time she was in Tennessee.

(See Can't Catch a Break... Or a Sheep!, Looking for Trouble, Trouble Ahead, and We've Got Trouble! to read her full story, if you missed it the first time around)

She's bright and perky, without a hint of any health problems, so now she's able to finally become a full-fledged member of our flock.

When I let her out with the others, she ignored every single sheep the entire flock and walked all the way to the far side of the pasture, where she politely approached and introduced herself to Pandora, the boss ewe of the flock. Coincidence? Or part of some sheep etiquette we don't know about?

Did she know Pandora was the boss ewe? Possibly. She's been able to watch the rest of the flock from her quarantine pen, even if she couldn't get near them. It's possible she could have observed enough interactions amongst the other sheep to figure out who's in charge.

After that, the flock mostly ignored her, and she mostly ignored them. They all pretended to be too busy eating grass to notice each other, although you could tell that they were all quite aware of the newcomer.

Sheep are so different from horses that way. If you introduce a new horse to a herd, usually you're going to see fireworks: prancing, snorting, squealing, running around. Horses like to make a big fuss and show off in front of newcomers. Sheep apparently like to play it cool.

Eventually, Trouble did seem to find a friend in Tansy, one of the other lambs. I don't know why she likes Tansy the best, but she followed her around a little, figuring out where everything is (water trough, mineral feeder, gates, etc.).

Trouble's leadersheep tendencies are very apparent. She walked around everywhere, examining everything, extremely watchful and interested in everything the other sheep were doing. She's learning the ropes, memorizing the details of location and routine.

Then came feeding time. Here's a video of Trouble eating her first meal with the flock. It's tough being the new kid in town! The other sheep shoved her away from the feed dishes, and she had to try several times before she found a spot where she could eat her dinner.

Give her a few more days, she'll fit right in as if she'd always been here.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Barter System

Earlier this month, I mentioned that we were trying to work out a deal with my hay supplier to trade him a starter flock of Icelandic sheep for an equivalent value of hay. It seemed to be a perfect trade: I desperately need hay to feed my animals, and he really wanted to get started raising sheep.

Unfortunately the deal didn't go through. He's just not quite ready to have the sheep on his farm yet (fences to build, pastures to reseed... we all know what that's like! Some things just take time). He's still very interested in doing the trade, but will have to wait until next year.

It's just as well, I guess, since except for two ram lambs, I've already sold of all the sheep I want to sell. I even sold a few that I hadn't planned on selling, because I had an interested buyer and we really needed the cash. Thank goodness for these sheep that sell easily at good prices, because they've been paying the bills around here lately!

So anyway, until some of the horses sell, we're still going through hay faster than we are earning money to pay for it. We've been excellent customers for our hay guy, and recently, he's been super understanding about being willing to still bring us a load of hay even if we don't have the all the cash for it quite yet. But with the sheep trade postponed, that still leaves the question of how to bring in more money to pay him.

Out of the blue, today, he brought up the possibility that I could create a website for him. I never even told him that I've JUST started doing this for people. I have the one other sheep website I'm working on for someone, and another person who is a cat breeder who wants me to do a simple site for her soon.

It's kind of amazing to me, the synchronicity of it. I'm in desperate need of a way to make more money while still being able to stay home to take care of the farm work. I love designing my own websites, plus I have tons of professional writing and editing experience. And then all of a sudden, POOF, three people out of the blue ask me to make websites for them.

So, I guess, with three clients lined up, it must be official: I have the beginnings of a new sideline business. Something I enjoy doing and can get paid for---It's a miracle!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Dating Game, For Sheep

(Make sure you read all the way to the end of this post,
because there's an audience
participation segment at the end!)


Sheep breeding season is just around the corner, so today I started working on this year's breeding plan.

I like to weigh my options carefully, and know what I hope to achieve with each breeding. That means considering everything I know about each sheep---bloodlines, conformation, heat and parasite resistance, fleece quality, color genetics, health records, age---before I decide which ewes will be matched with which rams.

It's a complex process, but one that I enjoy. Here's how it goes:

On my computer, I make a chart, with each of the rams' names at the head of a column and each of the ewes' names at the start of a row. Beneath each name I put that sheep's AI %, bloodlines, and color genetics info.

This year, I'll have 5 rams and 22 ewes, so that leaves 110 empty boxes in the chart for me to fill in. First, I put an X in each box that represents a cross that would be inbreeding (father to daughter, mother to son, etc.). Those are crosses I avoid.

Then I mark each of the boxes that represent crosses that would be linebreeding (half-brother to half-sister, or some other more distantly related cross). Used wisely, linebreeding can be a tool to cement certain traits into your flock. I don't use this technique often. But if I'm going to do it, I want to do it intentionally, for a purpose, not by accident. So each of these crosses get noted on the chart, to remind me.

Then I fill all the remaining boxes with the expected outcomes of each particular mating. What percentage of AI blood will the lambs of this cross be? What possible colors and patterns might result?

All those details are just for my reference---things that I might otherwise forget. What doesn't go on the chart is all my detailed knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of each sheep. This one has mediocre shoulders but superb parasite resistance. That one has a fantastic fleece but not such a good meat build. This one has awesome meat conformation, but suffers from occasional heat stress.

Every shepherd knows there's no such thing as a perfect sheep. The trick of intelligent breeding is to organize the breeding groups so that you get the best possible selection of high-quality lambs from the breeding stock you have.

After my chart is all filled in (and five pages long at this point), I print it out and carry it around with me for several days, mulling over the possibilities.

In this country, colored Icelandic sheep---and their fleeces---tend to be easier to sell than white ones (Due to differing markets and breeding goals, the opposite is true in Iceland). Sheep with a higher percentage of AI bloodlines tend to be more valuable than those with a lower percentage. Exceptional meat conformation and exceptional fleece quality go a long way to making a sheep saleable. And here in the mid-Atlantic region with our hot, humid summers and mild winters, parasite resistance is coming to be the most valuable trait of all.

My goal is to produce as many breeding-stock quality lambs as I can, because there's more money in that than in fleece and meat sales alone. Average prices for Icelandic breeding stock tend to be in the $500 to $1000 range, and by the end of the summer, most reputable breeders are nearly sold out. So far, I still sell most of my stock for prices down toward the lower end of that scale, but it's still a good source of income for the farm.

But to continue building my reputation as a quality breeder, I have to make the best possible breeding choices, cull any sheep that are not up to my breeding standards, and educate each customer about the strengths and weaknesses of each animal she is considering, so that she can make the best possible choices for her own flock's needs too.

It's a lot of work, but I adore these sheep, so everything I can do to help others improve their flocks, as well as improving my own, ends up helping the Icelandic breed as a whole. I'm all for that!

Okay, now you've all heard my spiel about the responsibilities of making good breeding decisions. Now comes the audience participation portion of the blog!

I'm going to put up a poll (top of the page, right-hand column), and let you all vote on which ram you think my ewe Moriah should be bred to this fall. I'll leave the poll up until the start of breeding season (late October), and whichever ram gets the most votes will be the sire of Moriah's lambs this year.

Are you ready?

Here's Moriah:

She's a 5-year old black Icelandic ewe with 25% AI bloodlines. She is hardy and healthy, with excellent horn shape. Her fleece is beautifully soft, but tends to be a bit on the sparse side.

She has adequate parasite and heat resistance but only about a 50/50 record of passing that trait on to her offspring (to be fair, the last two rams I bred her to turned out to have very poor parasite resistance, so it's not her fault).

She's an excellent mother who births easily and takes good care of her lambs without making a fuss. She will most likely have twins.

Here are the eligible bachelors:
  • Nicholai: A 4 year old moorit (brown) ram, with massive horns and a calm demeanor. At only 12.5%, his AI percentage is low, but his phenomenal parasite resistance makes him a treasure. I have avoided breeding him to Moriah so far, because they both have rather coarse shoulders. But every year, no matter what ram I put her with, Moriah always ends up standing by the fence absolutely PINING for Nicholai. She's the only ewe I have who has ever expressed any strong preference for a particular ram. Maybe she knows something I don't know? The lambs from this cross would be 18.75% AI blood, and would probably be black.
(To make it even more challenging, the photos I have of the ram lambs were taken when they were quite a bit younger, so they don't show their current level of development.)
  • Tutankhamen: This new moorit ram lamb is not due to arrive on the farm until early October, but I have high hopes for him. He supposedly has excellent meat conformation and good parasite resistance. He has 62.5% AI bloodlines. The lambs from this cross would be 43.75% AI and would probably be black.

  • Taj: Another new ram lamb due to arrive in early October. This one is white, but may carry color. He has excellent meat and fleece bloodlines and a whopping 87.5% AI blood. The lambs from this cross would be 56.25% AI and would probably be white, but might be black or---???

  • Titan: One of Nicholai's sons from this year. He's a big boy with excellent meat conformation and a huge horn spread. Both his parents have terrific parasite resistance, so I have high hope for him too. He is 37.5% AI. The lambs from this cross would be 31.25% AI and would probably be black.

  • Tenor: Another one of Nicholai's sons from this year. Not quite as big as Titan, but similarly built, with lovely, large horns. Both his parents have good parasite resistance, and his mother is a tremendous milk producer. He is 37.5% AI. The lambs from this cross would be 31.25% AI and would probably be black.

OK folks, that's it. Moriah's fate is in your hands. Will she finally get to be with the ram she's wanted for 2 years? Or will one of the handsome young fellows be a better match for her?

It's up to you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Only in Buckingham County!

As I was driving to do an errand today, I couldn't help getting a chuckle out of some of the signs promoting a candidate in the upcoming election. I really wished I had the camera with me so I could have taken a picture to show you the big billboard standing in a grassy pasture, announcing to the world (or to the county, at least):

Billy Kidd
for Sheriff

Now, I'm not making fun of the candidate himself. I've never met the gentleman, and I have no reason to doubt that he's a fine human being. But come on, you know I'm not the only one who gets a kick out of the irony of the name.

Every time I see one of those signs, I can't help thinking, "What's next? Jesse James for Bank Examiner? John Wilkes Booth for President?"

What can I say? I lead a quiet life. It doesn't take much to amuse me!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sitting With Sheep

There was a smell of woodsmoke in the air tonight, and a warm, orange glow to the sky. Our neighbor Bob had been clearing new pasture land for his cattle next door, and tonight he was burning the big brush pile he'd made with his backhoe.

The crickets, cicadas, katydids, and tree frogs shrilled their orchestral harmonies from every tree and bush. Bats, in their mosquito-catching ballets, swooped and quivered overhead. The half-moon was high, and the first few stars were just blossoming into being.

In the midst of this beautiful evening, I sat cross legged on the grass, visiting with my sheep.

Not all my sheep are tame enough to appreciate a good visit. But when the shy ones see how much the tame ones enjoy it, sometimes even they are won over.

The fact that I was sitting down was enough to attract the sheep's attention. The friendlier ones came up right away. There's nothing they like better (well, besides food, that is!) than to be scratched under the chin and rubbed on the chest between the forelegs. It mesmerizes them, and they will stand there forever, enjoying it.

Before long, I was surrounded, with half a dozen sheep crowded close to me on every side. Their plump, plush bodies felt like big, huggable, woolly pillows. Pandora's rhythmic chewing sounded in my right ear. Savannah's warm breath tickled the back of my neck. Persia, Tansy, Phoebe and Poppy clustered around, wagging their tails happily when I scratched their itchy spots.

Salem crowded so close to me that the cool, smooth ivory of her horn rested against my cheek. In her attempts to win the majority of my attention, she climbed right into my lap. Believe me, when a 150 pound sheep stands on your shin bones with her pointy little hooves, she gets your attention pretty quickly!

It always amazes me how peaceful these sheep visits can be. I love my horses, but they don't soothe me the way my sheep do. Sitting with my sheep smooths away all my tangled nerves.

It amazes me too, that the sheep seem to enjoy it as much as I do. After all the times during the year when I have to do something unpleasant to them---shearing, worming, vaccinating, tattooing, ear tagging---you would think that they would hate me altogether.

But they are smart. They know the difference between when I'm working with them and when I'm just visiting. And apparently, they don't hold a grudge. I've even had proof---as good as a sheep can give---that they care about me and consider me part of their flock.

Last winter, right after we'd gotten our Pomeranian puppy Leeloo, she was still very small (about 2 lbs.) and very shy. So to help her build confidence, one of the things we would do to exercise her was to run around the yard a few times with her chasing us, and then "fall" down on the ground and let her hop on us, so she could feel like she won the race. It was a fun game for people and puppy alike.

When my sheep, who were pastured in the yard at the time, first witnessed this game, what they saw was their beloved shepherd being aggressively pursued by a ferocious (albeit small) wolf.

To their shock and horror, their beloved shepherd fell, and the ferocious wolf leaped upon her, clearly ready to rip out her throat. Oh no! Who would bring them their feed if their beloved shepherd was killed?

All the sheep (including some that are normally so shy they won't approach me willingly at all) immediately came to my rescue. They crowded around me, stood protectively over me, and waved their horns threateningly at the "wolf."

It was hilarious! When I got up, brushed myself off, picked up the wolf and began petting it, the sheep were completely shocked.

Nothing like a good laugh to brighten my day. Plus it's nice to know the sheep really do appreciate me!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Cookies by Moonlight

Feeling kind of lonely and melancholy tonight, I took an extra walk around the farm at dusk to say good night to all the animals.

I haven't spent much time with the broodmares lately, so after checking on the sheep and young fillies, I dug the neglected box of horse cookies out of the barn cabinet, and headed out to the big pasture.

The mares were far down at the other side of the pasture. Daylight was fading fast, and the crescent moon was already high overhead. But the lead mare, Char, saw me right away, and lifted her head. In a moment, the others saw me too.

There's nothing like the feeling of walking out into the middle of a field and having an entire herd of horses come galloping up to surround and welcome you. It's all a flurry of thundering hooves and tossing manes, then you're surrounded by the shifting walls of flanks and shoulders crowding around, inquiring muzzles and warm breath brushing your skin.

I hardly ever give treats to the horses---so infrequently, in fact, that a few of them still don't know what horse cookies are for. But tonight I just felt like sharing a happy moment with them, so I handed out all the cookies that were left in the box, while they crowded around eagerly, like gigantic trick-or-treaters.

When the box was empty, they walked with me in the moonlight until I reached the gate, then I left them to their grazing and went back to the house feeling a little wistful, but less alone.

It's difficult to think that at least half of those horses need to be sold. It's harder to know that with the horse market being what it is right now, I'll have to sell them for much less than what they're worth.

I know that life will be so much simpler once I cut down my herd numbers. I'll be able to spend more time with each individual horse, and we won't have to worry quite so much about going broke buying huge quantities of hay.

But I'm still torn about which ones to sell. My heart battles with my head: Do I keep the ones that I love the most, or do I keep the ones that are likely to produce more valuable foals? The choice would be easier if we could have just held out for one more year, so that I could actually see what kind of foals Char, Scylla, and Bonnie produce with Senter.

As it is, without being able to see first how those crosses will turn out, I'm just guessing. I'm also just guessing when I choose which young stock to keep for future breeding. Torchsong, for instance is in her gangly yearling stage. It's hard to judge at this stage of her development whether her future foals with Senter will be higher quality than, say, Scylla's. So who do I sell?

I'm nearly at the point where I have to answer, "Anyone I can," because we are desperate to earn some money to buy hay for the others. But I don't want to strip my herd bare of all my favorites, either. Horse farming is difficult enough, without breaking your heart unnecessarily.

Ah well. Time will tell. Some horses will sell, and some will stay. No matter what, I'll still have the memory of tonight, sharing cookies by moonlight with my girls.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Time of Mourning

For the past two days, I've been restless, anxious, melancholy, and I didn't know why. I pace around the house as if looking for something, but I can't remember what. I fidget. I sigh. I feel on the brink of tears for no apparent reason.

It's a strange sensation. I feel like someone whose heart was broken by the recent death or loss or betrayal of a loved one, only I can't remember who. I want to mourn, but I don't know why.

For two days, I've pondered why I'm feeling so "off."

Is it because I'm still upset about the snobbish horse lady I wrote about yesterday? Is it because I'm lonely with Ken being away? Is it because my little bottle lamb Tiramisu died yesterday? Is it because it's "that time of the month"?

Then it hit me.

It's my annual Fall depression swooping in, right on schedule. I don't know why it always comes as a surprise to me, but every year it always feels like the first time. I guess that's just how heartbreaks work.

I'm not sure exactly how to explain it. I'm just one of those people who is deeply connected to the cycles of the earth and the seasons. Every spring, I fall madly in love---with the earth, with the season, with Life itself. The strengthening sun, the warm nights, the smell of honeysuckle and plum blossoms set me reeling in an ecstasy of seasonal bliss.

In the summer, I confess, I take my love for granted. The land and I do our mutual work like a comfortable married couple, sometimes cooperating, sometimes squabbling---Where is the rain I need? Why must it be so hot today?---but essentially moving in harmony.

Then, every year at about this time, a subtle dread creeps through me, filling me with this inexplicable sense of loss and longing. Even though the cooler temperatures are a relief after the scorching summer heat, the air no longer feels like a caress.
My loved one---the warm, green season---slips away.

Come spring, there will be another green season, and I will fall in love all over again. But THIS beautiful season is gone forever. It will never come again, and there will never be another one exactly like it.

That is why I mourn.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

So Mad, I Could Just Spit!

Some of you may have noticed that I didn't write a blog entry on Thursday. That's because there was a particular issue that was upsetting me that day that I wanted to write about. But I was too angry to write about it coherently before now.

This story could get a little long, so bear with me.

It all started out cheerfully enough. Some woman I'd never heard of before contacted me via email, interested in breeding her mare to my stallion, Senter.

Message from J---- dated 9/6/2007:

Hello, I was given your web site by your sister. Your Oldenburg stallion is a total beauty! I have a nice paint mare that looks very much like your sisters mare. I was wondering what your stud fee will be and do you ship frozen seamon? I live in D----- Maine, which is central Maine. I plan a trip to your sisters farm soon. Thank-you, J----

Sounds promising enough, right?

Here's my reply, the same day:

Hi J----,

Thanks so much for the compliment on Senter. We do love him a lot. Even better than his good looks is his total sweetheart of a personality, which he seems to pass on to his babies.

So far, we have not been offering his services to any outside mares, but we do want to in the future. Our finances are very tight right now, but when we are able, we do want to look into getting him set up to ship frozen semen.

I'm not sure what our stud fee would be. Last I checked, his father's stud fee was $1,000 and his grandfather's stud fees were $1,200 and $2,500.
Obviously, since I don't show Senter, he doesn't have a competition record, so his stud fee would not be that high. Probably somewhere closer to the $750 range... maybe a bit less his first year standing to outside mares.

Would you like me to keep you informed when we do start offering him to outside mares?
If you're going to see Donna's farm soon, you'll get to see two of his babies there.

take care,


At this point, I expected she would ask a bunch more questions about Senter, to see if he would meet whatever her breeding goals are. But instead she just continued to be really enthusiastic. I was a little surprised, but just assumed she knew exactly what she was looking for and had decided that she saw that something in Senter's photos. After all, he IS a really gorgeous animal.

Message from J--- dated 9/7/2007:

Hi Nancy, . YES-YES! Please let me know as soon as you get set up to or are able to ship semen. I own a stable here in D------, Me. I only have paints. I have been looking and looking for the right thing to breed my paint mare, A---- to., and belive your spotted Oldenburg is just what I want. I would like you to please inform me as soon as you do or are able to ship. I am only two miles from our vet's and Dr. R----- has done this kind of breeding for years. A very-very good horse vet. $750.00 or less is totally exceptable. I am trying to get a weekend where both myself and my husband are off from work and can go to Stacyvile to Donna's farm. I saw a picture of a colt on the internet she has for sale out of her mare, BEAUTIFUL!! Looking forward to doing business in the future. Thanks so much. J-----
I really would like to get Senter set up to do AI breedings. It would be a way for him to earn income for the farm. But considering our financial situation right now, I've been putting off even looking into it, because I know we can't afford it right now.

That's a side effect of running a farm, I think. It forces you to narrow your focus to problems that you can attempt to solve RIGHT NOW, because all those other problems will still be there when you eventually get to them.

However, when I mentioned this woman's inquiry with my sister Donna, she reminded me that she and I had been discussing the possibility of shipping Senter up to her farm next summer, to breed some of her mares after my breeding season ended down here. It would be an opportunity for Senter to stand at stud to outside mares in Maine, if we wanted to take the trouble to do it.

My reply, dated 9/12/2007:

Hi J---,

I'll keep you informed then, if we manage to get Senter set up to do AI. I haven't yet looked into what kind of investment it would require---and we're pretty broke right now, so if it's a lot, it may be a while before we can afford it.

Another option that I wanted to mention, is that Donna and I have been discussing the possibility of sending Senter up to her farm next summer, probably around June through October (after our May breeding season is finished down here).

We would need to get at least 3 outside mares lined up to breed to him (at the $750 stud fee), to make it worth shipping him up there and back. But it would give you the chance to have your mare bred by live cover, if you were interested. The advantage to Donna, of course, would be that in exchange for housing him for the summer, she'd be able to breed some of her mares to him as well.

So, if that's something you might be interested in, let me know (and also spread the word to any other mare owners you know who might also be interested). We've still got quite a while to plan, so that's good.

I hope you get the chance to visit Donna's farm and see Senter's colt in person. From what Donna says, he's turning out to be really gorgeous---and really mellow, like his dad.

take care,

Again, my message elicited no questions from the woman, just enthusiasm.

Message from J---, the same day:

Wow, if Donna had him I could take A---- to Stacyville, thats just above Millanocket. My friend Dr, M---- DVD, was very excited about the idea of my breeding A---- to Senter, she has two or three Oldenbergs. I will talk to her Thursday, I will be at her home then, and we will see what we can do, maybe we can "scare up" a few interested people. I will get back to you. Thank-you J----
Whoops... hold on a minute! I use Senter to breed to Spotted Draft mares for crossbred sport horse foals, and this woman said her mare was a Paint. But if she wanted her friends to breed their Oldenburg mares to him, she might have been assuming that Senter had gone through the complicated approval process to earn his "approved for breeding" status in the Oldenburg registry.

Since clearly she was not asking any of the pertinent questions herself, I decided to give her some answers anyway, so there'd be no misunderstanding.

My reply, the same day:

Just to be clear:

Senter is a registered Oldenburg, but never went through the process to be "approved for breeding" in the Oldenburg registry. There are age limits on the process, so by the time I bought him, there was no way for me to try to get him approved other than going through the 100-Day Test.

Since I'm only using him to crossbreed for sport horses, it's not worth it to me to go through such a complicated approval process.

Of course, there are other options for registering his offspring, if that's important to someone. Pinto, American Warmblood, IRC, SHOC are all possibilities.
I just wanted to mention this, since your friend that has the Oldenburgs might care whether or not Senter was approved.

Surprisingly, this didn't seem to cause her even a moment's hesitation.

Message from J----, the same day:

That is totally OK with me Nancy. I already am a member of the APHA and AHA. I could most likely register a foal through one of the registery's mentioned, but I am breeding for a hunter-jumper sport horse and papers are not important to me. I know that Dr. M---- has Oldenburg crosses as well as D---- another friend, they have bred there Hanavarians to an Oldenburg and love the results, neither of them have full bloods. We like dressage & jumping here and we have three large stables w/ arena's that hold shows as well as three fair grounds near by where shows are held. So you see there is a lot of dressage and jumping people in our area. I simply want a colored Oldenburg as I only have paints or horses of color at my farm and am noted for it. I also think G----, I---- Farms, is interested in an Oldenburg. There are many people here that might want to breed to your stud if he was in Maine. I know I'm thrilled about it. J----
Great! This woman was starting to sound like her breeding goals might be fairly similar to mine.

My reply, the same day:


Personally, I agree with you. The registrations are not that important to me. I'd rather look at the qualities of the individual horse. But some people want the official piece of paper, so that's why I thought I'd mention it.

It sounds like you have a terrific, active horse community where you are. That's wonderful!

I know Senter himself would be delighted to have the opportunity to acquire a few new girlfriends next summer. Our broodmare herd is not very big, and he thinks that the "working" segment of his year goes by all too quickly. :-)

At this point, I figured she'd get down to asking all the detailed questions about Senter that a responsible breeder ought to ask, I'd ask more questions about her mare, and we'd have several months to work out whatever details needed to be worked out before we finalized the transaction.

But instead I got this email.

Message from J----,
dated 9/13/2007:

My friend Dr. M---- is a vet. I put DVD, I meant DVM. LOL! I worked at her home this morning, she is having a two day event show the 22nd & 23rd. I talked to her and you are right the 100 day test is important to her, first thing she asked me. I dought very much that anyone here will be interested in Senter because we can't see him, you know see him move, see him ridden, etc. She also advised me that these things are important because I need a horse that is compatable with my mare. I went to Stacyville with a friend, M---- yesterday, M----'s sister lives there. We found your sisters place. She only has two horses and lives in a cellar. I don't think I'm interested , but thank-you anyway. J----

First of all... that was a pretty abrupt reversal of opinion. Clearly the woman didn't have the strength of character to stand by her own previously voiced opinions. But hey, that's fine. Choosing a stallion for your mare is a very personal decision, and she had every right to use whatever criteria she wanted. So, no hard feelings in that regard. Just a slight rolling of the eyes at her fickleness.

But those last two sentences: "She only has two horses and lives in a cellar. I don't think I'm interested, but thank-you anyway."

That's when my blood pressure started to rise. Nobody, but NOBODY disses my sister to me!

First of all, I don't know where the woman was getting her information, but she clearly never even met my sister or visited the farm, or she would know that Donna has a herd of something like sixteen gorgeous horses of all ages and colors.

So apparently she either asked around and heard something third-hand about Donna from someone who doesn't know her well enough to give accurate information. Or else, she and her friend drove to the farm uninvited, spied on the place from the road and drove away without taking the time to get a true impression of the farm or its owner.

And second of all, how do my sister's personal living conditions affect the quality of her horses? I'm sorry, but anyone who raves about how gorgeous someone's horses are from photos they've seen in for sale ads on the web, and then runs off without even seeing those horses because the owner's farm isn't fancy enough, clearly is more concerned about shallow surface appearances than about quality horses.

I mean, I could see if she'd gone there and met Donna and had seen a bunch of sickly, abused horses being beaten and starved---at that point, yeah, time to criticize.

But no matter what hard times have come her way, Donna has always put the welfare of her animals before her own. She has fought her way through years of incredible adversity with her honesty, humor, and appreciation for living intact.

I'm not going to talk in detail about the things she has been through because they are Donna's stories, not my own, and I won't violate her privacy that way. But believe me when I say that there isn't another person I know who could have survived all that and still held onto her dreams despite it all.

She has guts, determination, a superhuman willingness to work her ass off for the things she believes in, and the most uncompromising sense of integrity I have ever encountered.

In short, she is the best person I know. She's my hero.

If you've ever felt that way about someone, you may have some small inkling of the rage that flooded me, to hear this feather-brained snob of a woman pass judgment on Donna BECAUSE of her adversity, without even ever meeting her.

Is this particular woman just an unconscionable snob? Or are we living in such a shallow and prepackaged world that any person---no matter how true and bright of spirit---who doesn't fit society's preconceived mold must necessarily be shunned and ridiculed? Must those of us who value our individuality and hold fast to our "impossible dreams" always be excluded from material success?

Donna and I both have poured our all into our farms---Donna for MANY more years than me. We have worked and planned and sacrificed, we've risked everything we have to build our breeding operations to produce the best, most beautiful horses we can for people who are serious about quality equines.

It's chilling to suddenly be confronted with the possibility that those people might not actually DESERVE those horses that are the fruits of our labor.

Fancy farm facilities are nice; we all wish we had them. Trendy, high-profile bloodlines can be great, if the horse in question inherits the good qualities of its famous sires. But horses are not commodities to be judged, bought, and sold based on nothing more than a registration paper and a pretty presentation.

A true horseman sees the horse, the individual---assesses its conformation, evaluates its movement, and most importantly, looks into its eyes and sees the heart and soul within. A horseman
responds to what IS, not to imagination and paper promises. And a person who can do that with horses, is not likely to do otherwise when dealing with people or situations.

Perhaps there just aren't that many true horsemen left out there in the big world. If that's so, then I fear that I won't last long in this business. I won't have the heart for it.

Of course, there was no point in saying any of this to this woman. I had no interest in having anything further to do with her, and clearly the feeling was mutual. Angry as I was, I don't believe in being rude or confrontational, just for the sake of spite. I struggled really hard to compose a reply that would make my point in a simple way, while still framing the thought in a polite and professional manner. I don't know if I succeeded, but it was the best I could do.

My reply, the same day:

Hi J----,

No problem. Certainly we could make video of Senter's movement if that's all you wanted to see. But if the 100 day test is one of your must-have criteria, then obviously he is not the stallion for you. That's why I mentioned it to you in the first place.

As for my sister, I don't know why you would say she has only two horses. Did you even visit her farm? She has quite a wide variety of sport horses and ponies: foals, young stock, and adults. She's a fantastic natural horsemanship trainer with more than 25 years experience. I don't know anyone better than her at taking a crazy, terrified, abused horse and teaching it to trust again.

Is she rich? No. She started with nothing, worked her butt off to purchase her farm, then had to pay for it all over again when her cheating husband divorced her and demanded half the value of the farm in the divorce settlement. She loves that farm more than anything and works dawn to dusk every day, always putting her animals' needs above her own.

While she's saving up enough money to build the rest of her house, she lives in the cellar. Why? Because she spent her money to build a snug barn for her horses before she would consider spending money on her own comfort. Would you be willing to do that for your horses? Would I? Not likely. To me, that says a lot about Donna's character, but not in the negative way that you seem to imply.

I'm happy for you that you are able to participate in so many great activities at what sound like some truly lovely horse facilities. It sounds like you have a lot of really fun and exciting opportunities with your horses! And certainly, you are absolutely entitled to choose where you want to take your mare for breeding, or from whom you want to buy a horse.

But if you are content to make snap judgments about people based on outward appearances and presumed bank account size, without knowing the circumstances behind their choices, then---in Donna's case at least---you're missing out on knowing a truly exceptional individual.

I wish you the best of luck in your continued stallion search. I hope you find the perfect match for your mare!

take care,

By the way, if any of you are interested in hearing more about Donna and her farm, there is a chapter about her entitled "Siberian Blues" in the book Small World, by award-winning author Brad Herzog. It's a pretty cool book. Check it out!

You can also visit Donna's farm web site. Sorry that it's a bit out of date. She and I are in the process of updating and redesigning it now, but we have so many farm projects keeping us busy that it's taking us a while to get it done.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Leeloo Joins the Lemming Society

One of the blog's readers asked recently how Leeloo has been doing lately. So here's an update: She will still be wearing her leg brace for quite a while yet, but she is starting to use the leg more when she walks and plays.

(See Life Plays Us Like a Game of Jenga and The Dogleg in the Dog Leg, if you missed what happened to her).


Because of Leeloo's tumble down the stairs, she has now earned her place in The Kelley Family Lemming Society. Yesterday, she received her official club shirt.

What, you may ask, is The Kelley Family Lemming Society? I asked the club's founder, my husband Ken, to write an explanation:

Here follows a description of the Kelley Family Lemming Society (TM), and how it came into being.

The first inductee is my sister Co----. About 25 years ago, when she was a new driver, she was taking some friends for a spin in our family's little sporty convertible, an Austin-Healy Sprite. Well, there was a little too much "spin", and she lost control of the car, went off the road and down a fifty foot embankment. Crash. No major injuries, but we never did get that car working again.

The second inductee is my sister Ca----- (of my six sisters, four have names starting with "C"). About 13 years ago, she got married, and went with her new husband on honeymoon, hiking in the woods in New England. While hiking, she fell off a cliff, also about fifty feet. She hit some trees on the way down, which meant the final stop at the bottom wasn't as harsh as it might have been. She got to take a helicopter ride, but I don't think she remembered it. She was more seriously injured, but has recovered well.

The third inductee is my sister Cl----. About a year and a half ago, she was out with her sons on vacation in Iowa, riding 4-wheel ATCs around the countryside. Whee, another fifty foot cliff. She was in traction for a while, and now wears a brace. She is healing, but it'll be a while before she's done with the brace.

A little while after the third incident, I came up with the idea of forming the "Kelley Family Lemming Society". I made up T-shirts for them and presented them to my sisters when we gathered together for my mother's 80th birthday. I was a bit nervous that someone might be offended, but fortunately, they all thought it was hilarious.

While I was making the shirts, Nancy commented that if I did that, family members of mine would get jealous and throw themselves off cliffs in order to join. I laughed, but didn't disagree. Sure enough, since then, one of my nephews fell off a cliff. I haven't sent him his T-shirt yet.

So, it occurred to me that Leeloo fell off the Pomeranian equivalent of a fifty-foot cliff, so she should be in the society, too. So I made her a T-shirt and she is now an Official Member.

Fortunately, I haven't been in the position of awarding a membership to anyone posthumously. But if I die falling off a cliff, I suppose someone should make me up a shirt and bury me in it.

So as part of Leeloo's celebration of her new club membership, she's going on vacation to the beach with Ken this week, while I stay home!

Because someone has to stay home with the animals to do the daily chores, Ken and I took separate vacations this year. That way, we each get a break from the farm without having to pay for a farm sitter.

I already took my vacation in June (camping with friends). Now Ken is going to stay with some friends at their rented beach house all week. Since I can't go with him, he's taking his puppy.

Now that's a true example of the phrase, "lucky dog"!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Up, Up... and Over!

Today I decided to wean Grace, the last of this year's foals. At first, I thought it was going to be easy.

I waited until the herd came up from pasture of their own volition, to drink at the water troughs I'd just refilled. Grace's mother, Char, was easy to catch as usual. I just walked up and snapped a lead rope on her.

Just as I'd hoped, as I led Char away from the herd, Grace followed closely, while all the other horses remained behind, busily scavenging the last few wisps of yesterday's hay out of the hay feeder.

With Grace following close behind, I led Char out of the pasture and into the weaning pen---much to the excitement of the other fillies, who crowded around, eagerly making the submissive, chomping, "baby mouth" gestures towards Char, essentially reminding her, "We are babies, don't hurt us!"

Grace trotted into the group of other fillies, and as soon as she was safely away from the gate and momentarily distracted, I led Char back out of the weaning paddock and returned her to the front pasture with the rest of the herd.

She's had babies before, so I got the impression she understood what was going on. She didn't seem to mind leaving her baby behind. After all, she's worked hard being a mom for the past 5 months. She deserves a break now.

At first, Grace was relatively calm and quiet. She trotted back and forth in the weaning pen, not really making much noise or
seeming too upset.

That's been the pattern with the weanlings this year. They're not too disturbed at first, because they think it's just a momentary inconvenience separating them from their moms. It takes a few minutes for them to realize that this time the separation is more serious.

With Grace, the gradual increase of tension was not obvious right away. One minute, she was just trotting around, looking over the fence and occasionally whinnying. The next...

Up, up, and away... she jumped the fence!

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, Grace IS the daughter of Art Deco, who is famed worldwide for his athletic ability as well as his spectacular good looks. And Grace's mother Char DID jump out of this very same paddock one time, shortly after she arrived on our farm.

Still, it's a four foot tall fence with a slightly uphill takeoff and not much room to get a running start. And even though Grace is exceptionally tall for her age, she is still only 5 months old.

So, yeah, I was just a bit surprised!

Fortunately, not only did she get over the fence without hurting herself, she also happened to choose a spot that led into the back pasture.

So, rather than jumping out into the yard and trying to run back to her mother, which is what she probably intended, she actually just jumped into an empty pasture where she could run around all by herself and not get into any trouble.

At that point, she'd gotten her adrenaline going, so I decided just to let her run it off... and take advantage of the opportunity to take some nice action photos of her moving.

She ran and ran for quite a long time. When it finally looked like she was starting to get tired enough that it didn't look like she would try any more funny stuff (like jumping another fence), I had Ken open the weaning paddock gate and let the other fillies out with her.

They all ran around together for a few minutes, but the other fillies weren't as interested in strenuous exercise on a warm, sunny afternoon, so before long, I had Ken shake the grain bucket and lure them all back into the weaning pen, and I shut the gate behind them.

All in all, it didn't go all that badly. Just a little bit of excitement mixed in to keep things interesting.

Now the four fillies are in the weaning pen together, trying to sort out what the new herd pecking order will be. Glory is determined that she is going to be boss of everyone. Libby and Penny don't really care enough to bother arguing with her about it.

But Grace is at least a hand taller than Glory, so once she adjusts to being without her mother, she could easily take over leadership of the group. Glory knows this, so she's taking every opportunity while Grace is distracted and worried to be as vicious and nasty as she possibly can, hoping that by the time Grace calms down, submitting to Glory will have become a habit.

Grace's mom Char is undisputed boss of the broodmare herd. Glory's mom Bonnie would LIKE to be boss, but just doesn't have what it takes to overthrow Char.

Will Grace inherit her mother's leadership role? Or will Glory achieve the Queenship her mom can only aspire to?

I guess we'll find out as the rest of this horsey soap opera unfolds!


In addition to the photos above, I also got a few video clips.

Unfortunately, I had the camera turned off when Grace jumped the fence, so I didn't capture that moment. But in this clip, taken about a minute before the jump, you can see the place where she's about to jump, right where she's looking over the fence in the first few frames of the video. (Incidentally, if you've been following the saga of Trouble the Runaway Lamb, you can hear her in the background of this video, bleating in reply every time Grace whinnies).

Here's another clip of Grace running around in the pasture just after she jumped the fence. What a pretty girl, even if that was a naughty thing to do!

And here's one of the whole gang of fillies playing in the field together before we shut them back up in the weaning pen.