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Tag: travel

The grass is greener on the other side

The grass is greener on the other side

Broken fenceIn the past couple of weeks we’ve been traveling quite a bit. At one point there was no one home for about 7 days. During that time our horse friend Shari kept an eye on the place and fed our outside animals (the dogs were at a kennel). Several days into our vacation, we got a voice message from an older neighbor saying our horses were out and were roaming the neighborhood and highway and they didn’t know what to do since they weren’t horse people. In fact I think they thought we were still home because we often arrange to have cars in our driveway so it doesn’t appear as though the house is empty. We immediately began dialing through our list of horse rescue contacts to ask for help. We were about 2,000 miles away from home at this point. Unfortunately, almost all of our horse contacts were off doing weekend things, far from home. We finally reached a vet friend and the girl we bought Romeo from (thanks guys!) and they quickly led the horses back into the pasture. The fence was down in one section. To make a long story short, although the fence was repaired each time, this has happened a total of four times in the past two weeks. Our horses have learned two lessons:

  1. There is an abundance of yummy green grass on the other side of our fence.
  2. It doesn’t take much for a 1,000+ pound horse to knock down a wooden fence.

As soon as we got home, I bought a bunch of new fence boards and have been replacing weak boards. Each time, they find a new section to push on. Often it’s Cash, scratching his bottom on the fence. Sometimes it’s Valentine, giraffing over the top to get to the grass just beyond. Whoever the culprit, it needs to stop! The most recent time was last night and fortunately we were home to resolve it. When you see headlights in your driveway at 11:30 PM, you have to know something is wrong. It was feeding time so rounding them up was easy but these escaping episodes are at best annoying and at worst dangerous. We spoke about the need for an electric fence last year but when the grass stopped growing, the horses stopped pushing the fence down. This time we’re going to do it. We’ve got some rough measurements and I’m calling Electrobraid to place my order. We spent hours today (60 holes drilled, 60 screws) adding inside boards to the top row so each section has two rails on top. We’ll run a strand of electric fence along the top to keep them off of the fence. Unfortunately it looks like it takes 10 days or so for shipping. We’re paranoid every time we hear a car nearby and are afraid to leave the house for fear they’ll get out while we gone!

I need to verify this with Electrobraid but the price for the rope and accessories, plus shipping, comes to a reasonable $900 or so (1,200 foot section). With this system, not only will we be able to help fix this wooden fence issue, we’ll also have a system we can use to replace our barbed wire sections, something we’ve been meaning to do since we got here. It looks like this project doesn’t want to wait anymore.

Any of you had trouble keeping your horses on the right side of the fence?

What to do with all of this extra oxygen

What to do with all of this extra oxygen

I didn’t realize how much I took it for granted but I learned this week that east Tennessee has a luxurious amount of oxygen. Business took me to Denver last week and since Colorado is a long way from Tennessee, I had to fly in the day before to be there in time for a morning meeting Wednesday. As luck would have it, frequent readers Laura and Rich live in Denver and it just so happened there was a window of opportunity for me to meet up with them for a quick ride, barn tour and dinner. So I left home in my barn jeans and favorite riding boots, hoping that the smell of the farm on my boots wasn’t too strong. I’m not sure I notice it as much anymore but surely my fellow passengers would. Surprisingly, going through security was easier in my boots. No untying of shoes; just slip off and back on at the other side.

Now we live what’s called the western lifestyle on our farm but everything is definitely more western out west. Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona…it’s easier feeling western out there and that heritage is reflected all over the place. The Denver airport had western-styled shops, the entrance to the airport had a giant blue bronco, reared up and angrily staring at travelers entering the airport grounds. It’s eyes even glowed red. The local magazines spoke of rodeos and even my hotel had a western theme. I had been to Denver before but that was before horses were a part of our lives and this time I felt more welcome.

Colorado ridingLaura met me at the barn and introduced me to my borrowed ride “Socks”, a gelding who was calm enough to use in a youth equine program. Many thanks to his owner, whose name escapes me but who interestingly visits east Tennessee once a year not 30 minutes from where we live. I hope to reciprocate with a Tennessee ride with her next summer. Laura lent me her 16 inch saddle which fit me perfectly. We tacked up and headed out. We tested the horses in a large outdoor arena and once we were satisfied with their disposition that day, we headed out past the barn. I lucked out again with the weather. Laura and Rich tell me the weather can fluctuate a lot this time of year and on this day it just happened to be 75 and very pleasant. Perfect riding weather. Laura and I toured the countryside, avoiding prairie dog holes (which are quite large). Only two scary things attacked us: man hole covers (why do they use suck threatening devices?) and a jogger, if you can believe it. I saw her in the distance and warned Laura but once the horses realized something was sneaking up on us, they became unnerved. I didn’t mind and was expecting it. With horses, no matter how experienced the horse is, the rider must be prepared for reactions to things the horse perceives as a threat. And Laura is far more experienced than I am so this was no big deal. In fact Laura suggested the right response, which was for us to turn the horses so they could see what was coming up behind us. The jogger even came over gently so the horses could sniff her.

The beautiful sun set over the Rockies so we put the horses up and headed out for dinner. Rich wasn’t able to join us for the ride (darn work getting in the way of recreation!) but we met up for dinner at a restaurant serving tapas called The 9th Door in downtown Denver. Tapas is an appetizer style meal where you order a bunch of items and then share. It’s a lot fancier than any meal I’ve had where I live and I appreciated the unusual dining experience.

I love it when I can combine my love of horses with a business trip and this was one of those rare opportunities to do so. Thanks to Laura and Rich for an afternoon of fun and fellowship and I hope Mikki and the kid can come out to meet you both on a future visit. We’d love to reciprocate if you’re ever in east Tennessee.

Horse Carriages

Horse Carriages

Handmade Horse Carriages

A few Saturdays ago, the three of us headed to Dollywood to see it all decked out for Christmas. It was a sunny and warm (in the ’60s) and we live only about an hour or so away. One of my favorite parts about Dollywood was a visit to the carriage maker. The park has real craftsmen on staff doing things (mostly) the old-fashioned way. It’s part theme park attraction and part craft preservation. I’ve never before seen someone build a carriage. What struck me the most is how reasonably priced the carriages were. You can get yourself a fancy brand new one or two-horse carriage, complete with a hydraulic brake system for around $2,500. Now that’s a lot of money but you get a hand-built horse carriage made from high-quality parts that can be used for pleasure riding, parades, weddings…whatever. If we find ourselves with $2,500 too much one year, I’d love to buy one of these. I can’t even imagine one of our spirited horses pulling a carriage but I’m sure they’d be fine with training. Of course, Moonshine and Valentine probably couldn’t be paired due to their size differences so I guess we’d need a one-horse carriage. Mikki wants a doctor’s carriage like the one in the picture above. I think it would be fun to have a wagon that seats four. And I could probably justify spending that much money by saying we’d use it to make money giving rides at parades, fairs, and other events. It would be an investment! Riiiiight.

Here’s a picture of an unpainted carriage up close:

Horse carriage with unfinished wood

And here’s a picture of the carriage shop inside:

Dollywood carriage shop

Do any of you have a carriage for your horse(s)?

2019 Update: unfortunately, the Dollywood carriage/wagon shop seems to have closed down some time between 2017 and 2019. I’m going to miss watching them build these! 

How to Travel When You Own Horses

How to Travel When You Own Horses

California or bust cartoonI was out of town for twelve days and left poor Bill to take care of the horses while I was gone. I returned with my dad (my mom arrived when I left), so we wanted to take our company to places around our cool new hometown. Some of those places are a “fer piece” from our homestead, so it brought up a question we’ve been skirting around since the arrival of our equine adoptees: What to do with the horses if we’re gone overnight?

The simplest thing to do is to leave them in the pasture with plenty of food and water and let them fend for themselves. I know people who do this, but I can’t. I know they have been fine out there every single day, but I couldn’t live with myself if something happened and no one was around to take care of it. But it is an option.

What I’d prefer to do, because it’s the least complicated and least stressful for the horses, is have a friend or neighbor come by while we’re gone. We’re still cultivating friends here, and while there are some mighty fine people here, and we like them a lot, we’re just not comfortable imposing on anyone that way yet. In a lot of places, there are companies you can pay to do the same thing…kind of like horse-sitting.

Another option is to board your horses. If we were to be gone for any length of time – say, a week – this is probably what we would do. That is, if we found a place close by our house. And if we actually owned a horse trailer, which we don’t. But that’s another option for those of you in a sizeable town who do own a trailer.

The most fun option and the most complicated is to take your horses with you. There are many “horse destination” vacations across the country. Some are simple campsites where you drive your horse trailer in, ride off on a trail in the morning and stake your horses next to the campfire at night. Kinda like the wild west. Others are ritzier – nice hotel, fancy barn, and paddock for the horses. A riding vacation sounds wonderful to me, but again we’re missing the all-important horse transportation device – the trailer. Sigh. Someday, though.

Our travel plans are further complicated by the fact that we have three dogs, a cat, a goat, and a lizard. So when we took Mom and Dad to Shiloh Battlefield on Saturday, we were obliged to rush halfway across the state in the morning and return, yawning, at 3:00 a.m. to let the sleepy horses into the barn and let the dogs, whose eyes were floating and legs were crossed, out. Ah, the glamorous life of the pet owner.