Saturday, November 27, 2010


Red, Sid and Jean.

Weaning. I didn't want to do it. How could I take babies away from their moms? I read about weaning and talked to farmers. The books said one thing and the farmers said another.

I hummed and hawed. If I kept them together, feeding and watering would be easier. But then I'd have to separate them just before the moms were about to calve and that could be awkward if the weather's terrible in March. What finally decided me was finding out that the cows teats can split if they're always wet in -20 C temperatures. Since the cows aren't too happy with me rubbing salve on their udders, I decided I better wean.

It turned out to be easy. I lured the cows into the corral with some hay. Just like that. No fuss. So Sid and Red could still hang out with their moms with only fence panels between them. They could even still nurse if they wanted to. No one was upset.

Three days later, I put Sid and Red in a pen about forty feet from their moms' corral. They could see each other but couldn't nurse. After about 12 hours, the calves started mooing, but hay settled them down. No one was frantic. No one was trying to bust through the fences.

After about ten days, when the moms' udders had dried up, I moved the moms to the far pasture where they will stay until they're ready to calve. This move was a little tricky because to get them there, I had to move them through an area where they could break away and get to their calves. With snow on the ground, I couldn't set up any fences that would stop them. So, three of us lured them with hay. The cows were hyper, jumping and leaping around but following the hay. They got to about ten feet from the gate, we were almost there, and then wham, they took off for the calves' pen. I sprinted beside them, hoping to turn them off, waving a big rake and hollering, but they split and went on either side of me and had a little party over by their sons. My helper and I ran after them, got them running again and they ran right back to the hay and scooted through the gate where I wanted them. Phew!

Then Sid and Red had to be moved from their pen to the corral where they'll stay until calving time. This was a little more worrisome, because if they broke loose on us, they'd hit a barbed wire fence and would likely hurt themselves trying to barge through to their moms. So we made a fence out of two trucks, the horse trailer, a car, the tractor, and five people with rakes. It worked! Phew again! Now everyone's settled.

In the next post, I'll show how Red has found a new mommy. (It's Kasper!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Testing for Stage Three

Last week, I did my Stage Three test for Glenn Stewart's Natural Horsemanship program. To test, you have to video all the tasks, send the video in and get marked as "pass" or "resubmit" for each task. The above video shows the highlights from the test video. And I do mean highlights. These are the bits where it's all going smoothly. Now I should put together a video of the Stage Three Bloopers!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Banff Centre

The Banff Centre is a world class facility for artists of all kinds. There are programs for writers, ballerinas, painters, musicians and even circus performers. I've been lucky enough to attend two writing programs there. The most recent one was this September. I was in a six-day workshop on children's writing with the wonderful Tim Wynne-Jones, a Canadian author who has published over thirty books. The above photo was taken from the top of Tunnel Mountain. The Banff Centre is the cluster of buildings at the bottom right, and across the Bow River up and to the left is the Banff Springs Hotel.

Here's most of my group celebrating a great week. Standing from left to right: Sue Farrell Holler, me, Don Cummer, Tim Wynne-Jones, Joanne Jefferson, Karen Spafford-Fitz, Leslie Carmichael, and kneeling is Ann Sutherland. Brenda Johnson was also in our group but she was off writing or something when the picture was taken.

In this workshop, we each brought the first 20-30 pages of a novel, read each other's work, and discussed what was great and what had to go. It was extremely helpful. When you get knee-deep into a manuscript, you often can't see the forest for the trees. With the help of Tim and the group, I was able to tighten up my first chapters and get my novel off to a roaring start. The trick now is to keep that roar going...

The best thing about The Banff Centre is that they set up your environment to allow for the greatest amount of creativity. They teach you, feed you, make your bed, guide you on hikes, invite you to free inspiring performances...and give you lots of space and time to write. Included in all this is the option to work late and sleep in. Could it get any better?

Pole Bending

I trailered Kasper to the arena yesterday for a change. Our trails are frozen solid (slippery) and the corral is frozen mud, so it was good to play around at the arena on some soft footing. In this outdoor arena, there is a busy road on one side and a busy parking lot (gymnastics club) on the other side. Kasper was worried about all the traffic but after about ten minutes he settled right down.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Fall Ride

We swapped horses for this ride. Here's Lena on Kasper.

And me on little Peter.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Stage Three: Task #7

This task in Glenn Stewart's Natural Horsemanship Program states: Send your horse into a trailer while sitting on the fender. Count to ten, bring him back to you, without moving.

I thought this would take weeks of practice. But Kasper surprised me.

I started by sending him into the shelter while I sat on the fence (see the Oct. 3blog entry). I spent two sessions on this. He always stood patiently in the shelter waiting for the signal to come out.

Two weeks ago, I loaded him in the trailer for the first time in about two months. He got in but was nervous and jumpy and I didn't even try to get him far enough in to tie him. I figured I'd work up to that the next day.

Well, the "next day" didn't happen until three days ago. But when I loaded him, he was relaxed and went right up to his hay bag to eat. So after sending him in and out a few times, I let the rope drag to see if he was okay when he stepped on it. He's okay with this on the ground but I haven't tested it in the trailer. I was pretty sure that if I was on the fender, he'd be stepping on the rope, so I wanted to check his reaction out first. He wasn't worried when he stepped on the rope, and moved his foot or waited for me to untrap him.

I gradually moved further away until I was out the door, out of sight and around the corner on the fender. He went in and out as I asked. Wow!

So the next day, I only opened one of the trailer doors. I had tried last year to load him with only one door open and he was nervous and banged his side on the way out and then didn't want to try it again. But this time, in he went. No problem. I sat on the fender and sent him in and called him out and he didn't even step on the rope. And today I got it on video.