Bug Off!

Zelda wearing her amigo flyrider
Zelda kitted up with bug protection.

Zelda hates bugs. And for the past two weeks, the bugs have been out in force. It’s a conundrum: it’s been too hot and humid to ride in the sun but the deer flies and horse flies have made riding in the shade intolerable. Even riding in the ring — which has worked past summers — has been an exercise in frustration. Zelda spends her whole time focused on the biting bugs. Even when I soaked her in Deep Woods Off, the biting flies were all over her five minutes later.

Medieval horse armor
Zelda looked like she was going into battle.

So, I broke down and ordered an Amigo Flyrider. Suiting her I felt like I was putting on armor, which I guess, in many ways is an accurate description.

The good news is that it worked. We had a very pleasant hack both in the open fields and through the woods. The deer flies hovered over us but they didn’t really bother her. I think I got stung more than she did.

My only complaint about the Flyrider is that it wasn’t quite as large as I’d hoped. Zelda wears an 84 sheet and this was an XL. It fits, but there’s not a lot of room to spare.

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You can Lead a Horse to Water

The tradition of shrimp fishing dates back to the 13th century, but it is an art that almost died out. Not long ago, only three mounted shrimp fisherman remained. That number has grown to 19 as people in the Belgian village of Oostduinkerke work to sustain their cultural heritage.

Mounted shrimp fisherman
Mounted shrimp fisherman in Oostduinkerke. Photo credit: Gigi Embrechts

“The strong Brabant horses walk breast-deep in the surf in Oostduinkerke, parallel to the coastline, pulling funnel-shaped nets held open by two wooden boards. A chain dragged over the sand creates vibrations, causing the shrimp to jump into the net. Shrimpers place the catch (which is later cooked and eaten) in baskets hanging at the horses’ sides.”

— Unesco

Fishing does not come naturally to the horses. The strong Brabant draft horses needed to pull the heavy nets must be trained to enter the ocean, where they are guided by their riders to the areas populated by grey shrimp. Once a horse is found, it stays with the fisherman for life.

“The first time a horse sees the sea and the waves, you can see it running back,” said d’Hulster. “They don’t like it.”

“There is such a love story between the horse and the fisherman,” he said. “Once he has a horse that works, he is married to the horse. Sometimes we say we like our horses more than our wife.”

New York Times – Horseback Shrimp fishing fades in Belgium

Shrimp fishing takes place twice a week during the season, and each horse brings back between 22 and 44 pounds of fish per day. Gone are the days when mounted fisherman used their catch to fertilize their fields; today the gray shrimp they catch are boiled and served up to tourists, sometimes right on the beach.

For a longer video and a profile of another of the fishing families, please watch the video from Unesco, below.

Hobbyhorse Revolution

Imagine an equestrian sport where the horses are, well, hobby horses.  That’s right, stuffed horse heads attached to sticks. The type of toy you might well have “ridden” as a kid and which closely resemble the Quidditch sticks of Harry Potter.

Hobby horse show jumping
Show jumping with a hobby horse requires skill and athleticism.

But Hobbyhorsing is a serious sport in Finland where more than 10,000 athletes (mostly girls) take part. Competition in both dressage and jumping take place. Yes, the dressage looks a bit like a Monty Python skit, but the show jumping takes some real skill. I’m not sure I could ever jump 54″ with or without a Hobbyhorse.

The girls look like they are having a great time and I’m sure their parents are grateful that these horses require no food, no board, and produce no manure.

#kepparitkunniaan2017
Search #kepparitkunniaan on social media to see hobbyhorsing in action.

To learn more about hobbyhorsing, check out the Instagram hashtag #kepparitkunniaan, which translates to “respect the horses” — where the growing popularity of hobbyhorsing is most dramatically revealed

 

Horse survives 6 Weeks in Wyoming Winter

Valentine survives six weeks of Wyoming Winter
Valentine was found 6 weeks after she collapsed on the trail and was left behind.

Valentine, a six year old horse, collapsed on a 16-mile trek off a mountain last fall. Wranglers from Swift Creek Outfitters were leading a train of horses out of a base camp for hunting and fishing excursions, racing against a winter storm. When the mare lay down and couldn’t get up, they left her there in order to get the other horses down. When the owner, B.J. Hill, went back for her the next day, she was gone. They searched for several days but she had vanished. After the snow began to fall there was no way to trace her.

Valentine being led home via snow mobile
Valentine was found by a park worker and led home through the deep snow by her owner, using a snow mobile.

Six weeks later, Valentine was spotted by a worker grooming snow trails in the Bridger-Teton National Forest spotted Valentine and called the U.S. Forest Service. Hill, his son and a park worker were able to lead Valentine home through the deep snow, using a snowmobile — it took 9 hours to bring her out.

Valentine came through the ordeal just fine. She didn’t even need veterinary care. But her story has sparked a lot of debate. Some people feel that not enough was done to find her. Some people think that she should have been humanely destroyed when she collapsed — although Hill said the men leading the horse train had no fire arms — rather than be left to deal with the harsh conditions and the predators. Swift Creek Outfitters is now being investigated for the incident, although there has never been a complaint against them in the past for the care of their horses.

Honestly, I’m not sure what else they could have done. Since there was no obvious cause for the mare’s collapse, euthanizing her (even if they had the means to do so) seems an extreme response. I also understand why they left. Certainly, putting the rest of the horses at risk (and the wranglers) would have been a worse choice.

The fact that Valentine came through the tough winter conditions in such good shape reminds me that horses are pretty good at dealing with winter conditions. Just because my horses are wrapped up in blankets when it snows doesn’t mean that they would freeze to death without one.

What do you think was the right thing to do in this situation?

 

 

 

Don’t Feed the Horses Babies

Don't feed babies to horses
The Onion nailed it on this one! People just don’t understand the risks they take when they let their children feed other people’s horses.

I’ve had to put up a second fence line and signs to keep people away from Zelda and Curly and the owner of my barn has found families standing inside her run-in shed, having climbed over a stone wall and through a wooden fence. Another friend found a toddler standing in her field with their arms around the neck of her pony . . . only to have the pony latch onto the kid’s ear!

 

91st Chincoteague Pony Swim a Success

pony swim3
About 200 ponies and foals made the swim this morning during the 91st Chincoteague Pony Swim. The herd was rounded up on Sunday.

This morning at 10:18 the famous Chincoteague ponies embarked on the annual swim from Assateague Island. The swim always takes place at on the last Wednesday of July at “slack” tide (when there is no current); the annual foal auction will take place tomorrow, starting at 8:00 a.m.

Emerging from the water
I was able to watch some of the swim on a live video feed. None of the horses or foals looked to be in distress.

I’ve always wanted to watch the swim, and this year I managed to come across a live feed of the event. It wasn’t as much fun as being there but I probably got a better view since the event draws tens of thousands of spectators. Not to mention the heat index was 104 when the ponies started their eighth of a mile swim.

This year approximately 200 ponies made the swim and none had any issues, even some of the smaller foals. Once they emerged, there were a few tussles among the stallions and some frantic mares looking for foals, but soon the herd settled down and I saw a few bystanders stroking ponies over the fence.

Chincoteague pony swim
After they’ve rested, the ponies are herded down the main street by the “Salt Water Cowboys” in preparation for tomorrow’s auction.

The annual pony swim became famous in 1947 with the publication of Marguerite Henry’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague. Certainly, it was one of my favorite books as a child and I spent many months dreaming of owning my own Chincoteague pony.

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

Sun on the wall
Riding on a summer evening when the light is magical.

Today is the longest day of the year. In some ways it’s shocking; summer is only just beginning and yet starting tomorrow our days will get (marginally) shorter every day. But this is a special summer solstice because it’s also a full moon. And not just any moon; it’s a strawberry moon, so named by the Algonquin tribes because it occurs right at the height of the season when strawberries are harvested.

Loop ride
This ride kept us cool in the woods and took us down one of the historic colonial-era roads.

What better way to celebrate than by an evening ride? Zelda and I had a lovely, long ride this evening. We took a six mile loop that took us down historic the historic Estabrook Road trail (with a distance marker to the Old North Bridge), through the woods to come out at Hutchins Pond.

It was a warm evening, and yet cool in the woods. Surprisingly, because these trails are usually well used, it was empty tonight. The only people I saw were three mountain bikers, who surprised us deep in the woods but were kind enough to pull over to the side of the trail while Zelda snorted her disapproval.

I made one wrong turn out in the woods. It’s funny how well Zelda knows her way around and she pointed like a dog in the right direction. Honestly, at dusk, most of those wooded trails look the same and if it wasn’t for the touches of history — the old foundations, the lime kilns, and the stone walls — it would be easy to lose your way without the uncanny directional sense of my partner in crime.

Hutchins Pond
A glimpse of Hutchins Pond, which appears at the end of a the East Hubbard Tral

When I arrived back at the barn around 8:15, the sunset still painted the sky orange and it was pleasantly light.

Friends

I understand why some people want their horses in individual turnouts — they are afraid they will get hurt. Freedom is always covered with scrapes, cuts and bite marks. It’s not from meanness. He plays hard. And often. Luckily, Willow seems to enjoy the game as much as he does. And even if he does look scruffy, I’m glad he has so much fun. When I first got him, he didn’t have a lot of experience playing well with others. I think he’s figured it out.

Thanks, Lindsay for catching the two in action!