Wednesday 26 October 2022

Welcome, Wet Coast Fall

 We had a bit of an endless summer this year, for which I'm very grateful. The unprecedented dry spell until well into last week meant were able to get so much done on the property. I was able to plant grass over all the excavated areas last week and get a good start on new pasture and hedging for next year. I was even staining fences a couple of days ago!

Sophie having a good roll in the sun last week

When the forecast finally changed, it really changed - we went straight from sunny t-shirt weather to 'atmospheric rivers' and nothing but rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future.

It's crazy to think last week my work projects were mostly composed of drought mitigation efforts ( the regional area I work for came within days of turning on the taps and having no water). This week I am getting a head start on the flooding and road closure data I'm thinking we'll need soon enough.

On the pony front, the sudden and dramatic weather change means 7am and 7pm are both equally dark and dreary times to feed, and there are days where I don't see them in the daylight anymore. I'm back to researching outdoor lighting for the arena and having second thoughts whether solar will do the trick. My solar fence charger hasn't been working the last couple of days - I guess it needs more daylight to operate with than we've been getting.

Sunrise fencing picture making me look so productive. Really it's the time of year where it's about 7:30 am and I was just getting done feeding ponies breakfast. The construction part of the fence is done, I just need to hang gates. The wood stain is still random like the picture shows and is driving me nuts. Fingers crossed for a dry day soon so I can finish!

In the meantime - This thing has been a lifesaver! It powers my barn lights for about 20 hours and then it recharges itself in about an hour plugged in at home. It also connects to my phone so in theory once I have wifi there I could turn lights off and on from home.

This weather is putting our new drainage and barn set up to the test, and fingers crossed, we are mostly winning. While I trusted the plan, I couldn't help but be nervous to see what the reality would be once the rain came! It wasn't so long ago there used to be water running through the barn in a big storm. There are a couple of minor gutter fixes needed at the barn, and the shared paddock is going to need more sand added eventually. Other than that, it's working as expected. Yay!

 I feel more than a little guilty that B doesn't have a barn space at night, but when I show up in the morning she's been warm and dry under the covered area in front. I leave the stall door open for her in the day, so I'm hopeful she's going inside then to have a proper break from the weather (plus I leave Sophie's leftover dinner in there to tempt her so I'm sure she's there long enough to clean up that, at least.)

B's current part time shelter accommodations under the front 'porch'. She's not large and prefers to be out in the rain most of the time anyway, so it's working until we build another stall. Unfortunately she can't share 24/7 with Sophie because I need to separate them at least part of the day to make sure Sophie gets enough hay (and B doesn't get too much!)

The one really excellent thing all this water is good for is getting the arena base to compact. I tried riding on it a while ago and it basically had zero traction at anything over a walk. It was a weird feeling. B probably felt like she was in one of these things:

I think we both quickly decided riding in it before it compacted wasn't a good idea (then I had to spend an hour harrowing and leveling to hide the evidence of my impatience). Hoping it firms up a bit this week and I can start sneaking a few quick after work rides in. I do have a line on an industrial compactor the road crews use, but I'd like to wait and see how it wants to settle before I do that.

We did go look at sand for the footing (and rocks for another project you'll be hearing more about - I feel like I am becoming a semi-expert on our local quarries) this past weekend. It turns out that only one of our local sand products is suited to riding arena footing, so that made the choice easy. I've ruled out adding wood fibre (dusty, decomposes) or rubber or manufactured fibre (responsibly containing it to the arena, then properly disposing of it after it's life span makes me nervous). I'm leaning towards using the very minimum amount of sand for now and then going from there as far as adding other (likely sand or pea gravel like) things.


Monday 17 October 2022

Slowing Down

Good morning, Sophie!

Objectively, quite a bit was accomplished this week, but come Saturday morning I was just feeling like I needed a time out. So, off I went to sit in the sunshine and watch some lessons at our local equestrian grounds. I was expecting to feel a bit regretful I didn’t get Sophie home sooner and book a lesson myself with the clinician, but no, mostly I was just relieved to have a few hours with no real responsibilities or pressure. 

The horses have party lights now. That’s fun, right? :)

Aside from doing the horse chores and giving the arena base another quick harrow/level, I was pretty much a couch potato Sunday. Given I hadn’t had a day off since I went away at the beginning of August, I’m giving myself a pass on that.

Levelling and watering ongoing. Lest you think I was lazy all week, look!- all the fence posts are installed and stained and the hedge is planted.

Sophie’s also been practicing slowing down a little this week. The unfortunate side effect of her summer off at the ranch where she had no expectations on her and she could do what she wanted when she wanted - little demands of her focus and slowing her feet and brain down are quite hard for her emotionally right now. She's also become very herd bound to Bridget and generally needs to revisit being content in her own space and not worrying about what's going on around her so much. The weather has been incredible, but it's finally starting to get a bit chilly in the mornings and that's got the girls feeling a bit silly too.

Been tying Bridget here all summer, did not think it through because it took about half a second for S to drag one of those poles out of the rack and scare herself.

So now she has her own special tree :)

We're currently revisiting groundwork and finding reward and relaxation in slowing things down. I hope to start scheduling short rides back in this week. I know there are different schools of thought as to how to manage the busy/distractible pony, but I like the idea of teaching them to find comfort in just being quiet and managing their own emotions. I think for some horses moving their feet and directing the energy works, but for S she’s basically a bottomless pit of energy and has no quit, so it's not my go to. That method only encourages her to act without thinking and she can get herself into quite a mentally checked out type of state once she gets going. It does nothing to teach her patience or confidence. 

I'm excited to get back at it with her, she feels and looks a lot more mature and I think we'll have a fun winter ahead of us.


Tuesday 11 October 2022

We Progress

Unfortunately Bridget didn’t accept Sophie back into her life as seamlessly as I’d hoped. She really is that odd pony who prefers to live alone if she can. On arrival at the barn last week, I was met with a very grumpy Bridget and a brand new section of fence destroyed, with 2 posts sheared off at the ground. I have no idea what really happened but the evidence suggests B ran into the fence pretty hard, likely threatening Sophie on the other side. I was having a few issues myself with B being very pushy and in our space and generally questioning the rules.

Cursing myself for cementing the posts in, apparently I just created a lever that makes them easier to snap at ground level (and a giant rock to dig out before I replace the post)

I know it's just horses doing horse things, and B was likely just feeling like her resources were being threatened. It sure made me worry things weren’t going to work…so funny as going into this I had wondered if Sophie would fit to our little barn and she’s been completely unproblematic - the drama was all B!

Luckily, it seems to have settled down now. I’ve been able to leave them sharing a paddock for longer and longer periods and I saw B sharing a hay pile with S this morning, a sure sign things are going to be OK.
This seems better

The dry weather here is holding, we haven’t had much rain at all since June. Completely unheard of, but excellent for me because we got the ring base finished this week! 

Sophie's been entertained by all the activity - proving me wrong yet again. She was zero percent stressed about dump trucks and excavators working and spent her afternoons in the barn quietly watching the goings on.

It looks huge from this angle, but it's really about 75 x120 and evenly splits the area behind the barn between ring and grass paddock.

Bad at picture angles, you'll just have to trust me there is a nice paddock space left above the ring-to-be.

Next up, I take a big time out on that project. While it’s tempting to add the footing and call it done, for now we’re going to continue to harrow/level it and just let it settle and compact as long as I can stand it. I think the time taken now to make sure it’s going to hold up well in winter rains will pay off in the long run. I’m probably worrying too much, but our club arena ended up with the sand migrating and water pooling the first winter and I wonder if that could have been prevented if we had waited even a week or two and seen where the water flowed and collected on the base and adjusted accordingly. 

Moving on, we started the back fence line this past weekend and it’s a project and a half. It’s along a lane way and it seems that 50 plus years of road crews grading towards the low side (our property) means the road eventually came onto our property line. So, I get about 2’ deep of compacted ground and rock to dig through. We rented an auger, but it’s mostly a case of needing shovels and pry bars and getting 2 or 3 posts in a day. I voted to move the fence line in off the old road, but G’s determined not to give up our space (and that’s a valid enough argument when you only own a little over an acre lol)

4 days of digging up rocks. RIP to my favorite shovel.

Posts are happening though. I'm planting the shrubs as I go as a reward, because that's the fun part. Plan is for a 6' post and rail fence with wire mesh, and an eventual hedge inside. We've made the fence a foot higher than originally planned because you wouldn't believe the amount of nosy people, sometimes even stopping their vehicles to sit and stare at me working or riding. I don't know if that's a 'thing' elsewhere,  I find it really uncomfortable.

I finally organized a replacement for our missing farrier and got Sophie a saddle that fits her newly bigger self better, so the hope is to get back to work this week. She’s got plenty of energy needing some direction. Enough that I think we’ll start with longeing and groundwork for a week or two ;) This break to focus on property improvements was always the plan, but it’s been a bit of a tough slog this summer (even this entire year, in fact) without much riding progress (hacking B is fun, but I get bored), so I’m looking forward to getting back at it. 

Speaking of nosy...these two creeping me everywhere I go;)


Monday 3 October 2022

The Return of The Sophie (And The Construction Work)

When I last let off, I think property progress was going pretty smoothly, except the machine leveling the back of the property for a new fence and ring had broken. Plus it seemed I had a new pet bear. Things were interesting, to say the least.

So we waited for a week for new parts. Then the machine operator broke his hand, and it turns out he's is booming and there are no other neighbors who just happen to be semi retired machine operators willing to work small jobs.

I was left with open ditching and piles of sand and gravel, plus no fence to keep bears out and horses in. While disappointing, is just how it is, I can't be mad that the poor guy squished his hand! Having my horse trailer left on the wrong side of all those obstacles made me a little twitchy, though.. The thought of needing to move Sophie home when the property was actually more of a disaster than in the beginning of Sept didn't give me the warm fuzzies either.

Yay, drainage...but no bueno for getting a horse trailer through.

So, imagine my surprise when I pulled in one morning this weekend and there was my favorite neighbor running the machine like the past two weeks weren't a thing. Turns out even with a broken hand, the guy is bored and liked looking at all those open ditches even less than I did, so there he was, testing to see if he could run the controls with his newly casted hand. He built me a 'bridge' to get the trailer out and I was beyond excited for that - I had resigned myself to spending the day doing that by hand.

With the trailer accessible, off I went to pick up Sophie. She actually seemed super excited to see us and hop on the trailer which was pretty cute. She had regrets when we got home though, because Bridget was about 0% impressed to have her as a friend again. She's not aggressive or mean about it, just extra clingy to me and she ignores Sophie's existence completely. Which...I'm not sure is a viable plan because Sophie is the life of any party. She's not easy to ignore. Since construction around the place got so delayed they do have to share a space I had intended for one of them, but it seems to be working that Sophie stays in the barn at night and out in one of the paddocks in the day, while Bridget gets the paddock and covered area off the front of the barn. B will thaw eventually and I suspect she'll be resigned to sharing 'her' space sooner rather than later.

Wants her stall back, please and thank you.

"Don't mind me, not back here following you out the gate or anything"

Spent her first afternoon at home lonely and whinnying to other horse friends in the neighborhood. Bridget showed no mercy.

To start October on a high note, the neighbor has been coming back for a couple of hours a day and as of today, we have the remainder of the drainage installed, a driveway in, and are ready to get the ring base delivered and start auguring in the back fence posts. Sophie seems fine with all the construction, so I was worried about that for no reason - she's much more concerned with her missing friends at the moment.

As is my luck, the last ditch we dug..about 3' down there was nothing but glass. There were two buried barrels of glass bottles/broken glass mostly from the 1940's. Apparently that was a thing back in the days before recycling so unlucky in the fact we disturbed so much broken glass/the old dump site, but interesting because I salvaged a few of the old bottles that were dug up and they're kind of says Absorbine Jr so I guess it was a thing even back then!

All the machine work and landscaped dirt has made it obvious I still have a Yogi problem because his little tracks are everywhere. Once the back fence is done I'll go around the top of the perimeter fence with some electric wire and that will hopefully be enough to deter them when they come back in the spring.