Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Weekly Wrap Up: Letting horses roam

The pasture grass is all but gone.  With the cooler temps it's  growing very slowly now.  Our winter hay, round bales, haven't arrived yet, and the last time I set up the electric fence the horses broke through it & wandered off on their own.  They stayed on our property out back, just not where we put them. 

We had a trail to cut into the bush from our property to the neighbour's place.  The neighbour's have sold their place to my parents, and we all wanted easy access for snowmobiling this winter.  We cut the trail in through the oats field- the clearing where I've been planning to someday grow my own oats.  I figured as long as we were working right there, we might as well bring Blondie & Rita with us to munch.  Blondie & Rita are our two oldest & calmest mares, and I often leave them loose on the lawn to munch when we're done working with them.  They never go anywhere.  Tori was with them at the gate, so she got to come too.  We took them back to the oats field and strung a rope across the opening.  The area isn't fenced yet, but it's surrounded by trees, so I figured that they'd probably stay put with just the opening blocked off.  I was right.

The second day working on the fence, we added Sugar to our loose herd.  The first three led her down to the oats field, and she was happy to see all the long grass.  We finished cutting the trail through, and left them back there on their own.

Tuesday, day three, Blondie, Rita & Tori were standing by the gate, waiting to be let out.  Sugar was standing back a bit, but keeping an eye on them to see if I was going to let them out.  I sent #2 out to hang a rope across the trail by the ravine, and across our new trail behind the oats field.  That actually gives them access to three clearings- the area that I usually fence off with electric fenceline, the oats field, and the clearing at the back along the creek.  I let the three of them loose, and waited for Sugar to trot over.  I could see Bella out in centre of the pasture.  She looked up as if to say 'Hey, What about me?' and started galloping towards me.  Okay, Bella, you can go too, but you better behave!  She slowed down at the gate, trotted through & I closed it behind her.  When she turned the corner of the fence she was galloping again to catch up with the rest of the girls.

She did behave, too.  They stayed in the oats field all day, happy to have the long grass to munch on.  She was even agreeable to hugs when I went to check on them.  Often when they're out in the pasture they'll turn & walk away as we get close to them, saying 'I don't want to work today'.

The fourth day I let Goliath out with the girls, and just managed to cut Thunder off before he got loose.  He cried and carried on all day long.  Finally he got to go on the fifth day.  By then the pattern was pretty well established amongst the girls, so even though he likes to think he's the boss, they all stayed put.  That worked well for a few days, until the little trouble maker decided to start exploring.  Being smaller than the rest of the crew, he's a bit harder to contain without proper fencing.  He got out on the other side of the ravine, but thankfully the rest of the herd stayed put, so he didn't wander off too far.

It's been a couple of weeks now, and they are exploring further than the oats field now, but still staying in the section.  There's still lots of long grass back there for them, probably enough to last until snow.  If we had started feeding round bales in September when the grass was short, it would have cost us about $800 already.  The savings are huge, with very little work involved!  I still plan to fence the area off properly, but it's nice to know it's not an emergency.

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