I know it's hot where you live. Hopefully your summer doesn't last as long as ours. It can be 100℉ on Halloween. Maybe we can all don spiked tails and wave pitchforks. Enjoy your weekend!
I hate to even write about the heat. It's summer. It's hot. Get over it.
It's been so hot that as of today, we've had 63 triple digit days this summer. Here in Bakersfield, we're breaking weather records almost daily. Some of those records have stood for a hundred years or more.
The record for triple digit days is 76. Given the weather prediction for the next ten days, we are very likely to break that record as well. It's been so excessively hot that our school principal is encouraging the kids to stay inside at lunch recess which means I get a shortened lunch break. It's been a long week to say the least.
Obviously I haven't ridden. My upper limit is right around 101℉. Above that, and I just can't do it. And 114℉, yeah ... not gonna happen. I am hoping to get on Speedy this weekend, but Izzy will likely get another week off as he's getting his hocks injected this afternoon. I know the vet will recommend a day or two off.
I know it's hot where you live. Hopefully your summer doesn't last as long as ours. It can be 100℉ on Halloween. Maybe we can all don spiked tails and wave pitchforks. Enjoy your weekend!
Unless you just arrived to this country, you probably know that California has been battling a severe drought for half a decade. Even last year's much anticipated El Niño couldn't help us out. The Pineapple Express, combined with some atmospheric rivers, has finally brought enough water to California to remove nearly all of the drought designations from most of the state.
For those who aren't familiar with California's weather patterns, the winter rain and snow are what hydrate us through our rainless spring, summer, and fall. The California State Water Project redistributes the water from the wet, northern part of the state to the much drier south via a system of reservoirs, aqueducts, and canals.
When it doesn't rain in the north, or anywhere for that matter, the water stored in our reservoirs gets used up with nothing to replace it. This year, the winter rain and soon to be melting snow are causing many of our reservoirs to overflow, which is mostly a good thing.
Having lots of water is great, except when it's not. You might have seen or heard about the issues plaguing the Oroville Dam, the nation's tallest. It's a mess up there. Here in Kern County, we have dam troubles of our own. A an earthenware dam was built across the Kern River in 1953, creating the Isabella Reservoir.
In 2006, cracks were found in the dam which means that it can only safely hold approximately 60% of it's intended capacity. For many years this hasn't been too much of a problem because it never rained. This year, it's starting to be an issue.
As of right now, 4,000 cubic feet per second (CFS) of water are being released from the reservoir. The ranch where my boys live is on the Kern River. Here's what that volume of water looks like from the pastures.
All of the homes built along the Kern River are required to be positioned above the 100 year flood mark. While the river is close, something catastrophic would have to happen to flood any of the houses, including my ranch owner's home. They're safe.
While it's frustrating to see so much water being let out of visual storage, the good news is that this water will be allowed to flow out to the Kern River's alluvial fan where it will seep back into the ground to be "banked" as ground water.
Sometimes, when it rains, it pours. Literally.
Another blog hop is making its rounds. I first saw it on the $900 Facebook Pony, but I think it started with Spotted Dressage. I don't usually do blog hops, and not because there's anything wrong with them, I just have plenty to say on my own with two horses. Especially since one of them thinks the universe revolves around him, and the other thinks he's large and in charge. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.
In any case, the recent topic of discussion is feed; specifically, what is fed and why? This is a timely topic as I always re-evaluate my feeding strategy as the seasons change. Bakersfield has eight months of summer, three months of winter, and a few weeks each of spring and fall. I don't usually need to make too many adjustments outside of winter and summer.
This winter was a bit different though as I moved my boys to the new ranch at the end of summer. Speedy has a covered paddock along with nightly turnout, but Izzy has only trees for cover. This is great for our lengthy summers, but I did worry about him in this year's rainy weather. He was fine in the weather though; the ranch owner made sure that both boys had hay in front of them 24 hours a day.
So what do my boys eat and why?
The bulk of their diet is of course made up of hay. I used to weigh the hay at my last barn, but since moving to the ranch, no one cares how much hay is fed unless it's clearly being wasted. Both horses get a good quality alfalfa (relatively cheap and abundant here in California) as well as orchard grass (brought in from Oregon).
Speedy can live on straight alfalfa, but I've found that Izzy does better with less alfalfa and more grass hay. Alfalfa gives him too much energy. The ratio that the ranch owner feeds suits both boys fine. Izzy gets more grass than alfalfa, and Speedy gets more alfalfa than grass.
I find it interesting that Speedy never leaves a blade of the grass hay, while Izzy polishes off the alfalfa first. This is Izzy's feeder about an hour before dinner. He's never without hay.
This is Speedy's feeder at the same time of day. There is no grass hay left, but there are some alfalfa stems that he chose to leave behind.
Along with what is essentially free choice hay, both boys get a daily bucket of beet pulp and rice bran. Through the winter, both boys needed some denser calories to keep the weight on. They filled up on hay, but it wasn't quite meeting their nutritional requirements.
Throughout the colder, wetter months, Izzy ate 3 pounds of soaked beet pulp and about 1/2 pound of rice bran. The beet pulp is simply more calorie dense than hay while the rice bran gave him just a bit more fat calories to keep him looking rounder.
Speedy started to look a bit lean over the winter so he got 1 1/2 pounds of beet pulp with a full pound of rice bran. He's looking rounder now. As it begins to warm up, I'll probably reduce the beet pulp both boys are eating by as much as 50%, and I might be able to cut out the rice bran completely.
I am not a big fan of supplements as none of them actually seem to do what they're supposed to do. I've had horses on SmartCalm and Quiessence, and I never noticed a change.
After conferring with my vet though, he convinced me that horses in my area do a need a little help, especially with selenium and vitamin E. So even even though there were less expensive options, including the product that my vet formulated, I decided to go with a more comprehensive product, Platinum Performance. Both horses get the recommended dosage of two scoops daily.
Both boys like the combination and happily consume every last drop.
Along with their Platinum, both boys always have a salt source as well. Speedy has a Himalayan salt wheel as well as a small salt block in his feeder. As I was writing this, I realized that Izzy's salt block is currently missing. I don't think he ate the whole thing, so it's probably buried in the mud somewhere. It looks like I'll be rounding him up a new one.
The Final Picture
With regular dental work, vaccinations, trims, and chiropractic work as needed, both boys look pretty good. It doesn't look like anything needs to be adjusted today.
So what do you feed and why?
I don't know why it surprises me year after year, but my horses have already started shedding. Why do they always seem to pick the weirdest times to start their annual hair loss? Of course I know why they start to shed, but it's always so startling to see hairs all over my coat before the ground hog has even made his ruling.
My boys began losing their first winter hairs a week or two ago. Speedy went first, but Izzy was right behind him. It always worries me a little since it could could still get cold and wet, especially with the winter we've had this year. On the other hand, I rode in a t-shirt the other day, so I don't want them roasting inside their unremovable coats either.
After good rides over the weekend, I gave both boys Monday off and turned it into a grooming day. I dragged out my clippers, some hair products, my thinning comb, and a pair of scissors. I figured if they're going to start looking better, I should probably help out.
While I don't do manes and tails every time I ride, I do keep them relatively free of knots and tangles. I am not a total slouch. It was actually quite relaxing to just focus on detangling and thinning.
I don't thin or trim Speedy's mane of course, but his tail needed a little off the top and bottom. Those bushy hairs at his tail head don't need to be there this time of year. I was happy to see them go.
Izzy's like a pubescent teenaged boy - he has hair sprouting everywhere! And it grows faster than I can keep up with it. I raked off his tail head hairs, banged his tail, and then spent quite a bit of time thinning his unruly mane. I've given up trying to get it to lay to one side. It now officially hangs to the right on the top and to the left at the bottom. Sue me.
Both boys are bow a bit smoother around the edges and look less like ranch horses out on the range. Anyone else going through shedding season yet?
I actually think we should be called the sunshine state, but Florida called dibs so we one-upped them and went for Golden. Given that California was home to a massive gold rush, I guess the moniker suits us.
Besides sunny days and gold nuggets, California also produces a sizable chunk of the U.S.'s citrus crop including lemons, tangerines (Cuties/Halos), and of course, oranges.
One of the neighboring properties had oranges falling to the ground, so my ranch owner went and harvested a number of bags. On Friday afternoon, I peeled one open and split it with Speedy. And then we had another. I could have just stuck a straw in the orange and drank it; it was that juicy.
Speedy has grabbed at fallen oranges in the past, but the skin was always too bitter for him. He curiously watched me suck on half an orange before reaching out and mouthing the other half. As long as I held it, he was happy to suck and slurp up the juice leaving most of the pulp behind.
Izzy watched both of us intently and lipped at a piece of orange, but he wasn't quite sold on it. I could tell he wanted to like it, but his palate is not as mature as Speedy's. He did lick the juice from my hands though.
Just in case the snack bothered Speedy, I left a note on my calendar to remind myself of which day he had eaten the fruit. If he colics or gets some weird worm, I'll be able to pinpoint the exact day!
It's now been a few days since Speedy ate his oranges, and he's still kicking. While I am sure my vet would be horrified at the non-traditional snack, Speedy liked it and seems no worse for wear.
So what do your guys like to eat?
I know that those of you who live in Minnesota, Maine, and the Pacific Northwest are laughing at us here in California, but man, oh man, are we doing the happy dance. One-third of our state has been re-designated as drought free!
I live in Kern County. It's the large rectangle with the staircase on the left side (bottom third of the state). We've been downgraded from "exceptional drought" to the more positive "extreme drought." We've had more than 2.5 inches of rain this month which is more than we had in December which was the third wettest December in history. I know it doesn't seem like much, but we're at over 200% of our normal rain for this time of the year. Throughout this drought, we've been lucky to get 2.5 inches per year!
While all of us are celebrating the rain, we're also secretly frustrated by it as well. We've had to reschedule our clinic with Chemane Hurtado, owner and trainer of Symphony Dressage Stables, three times!
While my boys aren't living in mud up to their hocks (yet), Speedy's paddock is now over fetlock deep. My muck boot got sucked off on Saturday causing a near splash down in serious grossness. I caught my balance though and was able to shove my foot back in the boot before anything bad happened. Yuck!
Izzy's paddock is so large that while it has soft spots, he still has plenty of firm ground on which to hang out.
There's one spot on the road out to the barn that floods each time we get a heavy rain. Most of the time a crew is there to pump the water into the canal as soon as the rain lets up. On Friday, it rained for so many hours that I knew the road would still be flooded by the time I got there after work. There's only one road I can take. While it loops around the mountain, it would be more than an hour's drive to go that way, and it can have problems on the back side. I didn't bother going to the barn.
While I've driven through the flooded section before, I am super glad I didn't try it Friday afternoon. Underneath the flooded water, a large sinkhole had formed. When I got to the barn on Saturday, most of the water had been pumped off the road and the sinkhole had been filled. I can't even imagine how disastrous it would have been to drive over that hole in my little car!
Even though we had a nearly record amount of rain on Friday, I was still able to ride in my arena the next day. With a base of river sand and added decomposed granite (DG) on top, the footing was rock solid. There were several large puddles, but they weren't slippery at all. In fact, the footing was so firm that I felt safe cantering Izzy.
Yet another storm system hit Kern County on Sunday with wind gusts approaching 90 miles per hour in some places. It poured off and on throughout the day, especially last night. To my disappointment, no riding happened, but peanut butter cookies and homemade clam chowder got made. A win?
After today, we're supposed to see dry weather until the second week of February. While we still need more rain, a break would be nice. Chemaine is supposed to be here February 4th and 5th. I wish the weather gods would either let it pour non-stop and end this drought completely or give us a break and let us get some rides in.
It's been so long since we've had a real winter that I've forgotten what they look like. Last years's El Niño, a much anticipated event, turned out to be a loser. Yes, it rained a few times, but we barely reached our annual amount of precipitation. According to Bakersfieldnow.com, we've had 17 rain days for this rain season. For us, that's huge.
Meadows Field in Bakersfield only picked up .26”. It was the 17th rain day for the rainfall year, for which Bakersfield is now at 145% of normal. For the first time this year, the statewide snowpack water content averages more than 100% (at 103% for the state and 120% for the southern Sierra). All good news, but the weekly Drought Monitor still shows that the incredible rainfall has not affected our Exceptional Drought at all. That seems hard to believe. Our ground water tables are going up and, with more rain on the docket for next week, this historic drought will indeed be gradually mitigated.
It's hard to believe that our status on the drought monitor hasn't been upgraded yet, but after this next week, it can't do anything but change. There's even more rain predicted. For most of you reading this, if you even got this far, rain must be the least exciting topic on your list of morning reads. For us in California, this drought has changed our lives. Seeing it go would be a good thing.
On my way to the barn yesterday, the ranch owner left me a voicemail telling me to come check out the river. The Kern River, under normal circumstances, is barely more than a small creek. Most of the water is directed to irrigation canals before it reaches town. It does have a good flow, but I can (usually) throw a rock across it without really trying. Not yesterday.
It's several feet higher than normal and about 50 yards wider than it was the day before. Here's another view as the water approaches the back side of the horses' paddocks.
My plan is to ride this morning. It will be only the third or fourth time I've ridden all Christmas vacation. Given that I've ridden all I've wanted for the past five or six winters, I guess it's okay to sit one winter out.
Have a great weekend!
If you live anywhere in the west, you've probably been following the drought's "remission." In the north, the drought label has been lifted. Here in the central part of California, we're still branded with the most intense label of Exceptional Drought.
Last year's El Niño weather pattern, which was supposed to put a dent in the ongoing drought, turned out to be a bust for the southern half of the state. Its counter part, La Niña, is proving much kinder to us especially with the Pineapple Express pattern heading our way (moist air from Hawaii).
Bakersfield just had its third wettest December on record. January is shaping up to do the same. We have a big storm rolling in sometime today and three more storms forecasted for next week. For equestrians living in much of the country, that news would illicit moans and groans. Here in California, we're practically dancing in the streets to see our horses standing in mud.
I haven't done as much riding over this Christmas break as I had intended, but it's okay as I am taking the opportunity to work on one of my New Year's resolutions - demonstrating patience with a good attitude. I did get a short ride in yesterday but it might be the last of the week. It's okay. I'd rather be able to give my horses showers this summer than ride in teh cold anyway.
Come on, rain, you are more than welcome in Kern County!
I've mentioned Reggie's daughter here already. Reggie's the live-in caretaker at the ranch, and Evelynn is his young daughter.
I could just kick myself for not getting some photos from this weekend, but I didn't, so you'll just have to believe me when I say that little girl has horses in her blood.
She's the best "natural" I've ever personally come across. She's so naturally talented that she's the kind you'd be resentful of if she wasn't so darned sweet.
When she visits her dad, she keeps an eye out for me and eagerly greets me in the tack room. After only a few afternoons spent hanging out with me, the girl knows the routine. She knows how many scoops of beet pulp and Platinum Performance each horse gets, and she knows which bucket belongs to each horse.
She knows where the brush bag goes and which brush each horse preferes. After only one or two lessons, she knows how to pick up Speedy's feet and clean them. She's now cleaning his feet on her own without waiting for me to stand by her. On Saturday, she proudly exclaimed, "Speedy's being such a good boy. He's lifting his feet all by himself!"
She then went on to explain how she can see him shift his weight to the other foot in preparation for her. She's in the fouth grade! I quickly explained that it's not him, but her good work in communicating what she wants from him.
But of course, we all know it is Speedy. The dude is just a saint. I've known for a while that he was going to be perfect for kids. He's kind and gentle with her, but he doesn't just behave because she has a nice smile. He makes her work for it. She has to ask just right before he'll do what she says, but when she squares her little shoulders, he snaps to and follows her commands.
While we waited for the backhoe to be finished on Saturday, we dragged out both horses' bridles and cleaned them. Evelyn didn't hesitate. I handed her a pair of reins and showed her how to wet the sponge, squirt on some leather cleaner, and then scrub off the grime. She worked at it diligently until they were cleaner than I would have gotten them.
I then gave her a can of lederbalsam and watched as she gently conditioned the reins and then Speedy's bridle. After a while, she gave a satisfied sigh and said how nice and soft they had become. I kid you not. That was the first time she's ever cleaned tack before. How did she know that the leather finally felt soft and pliable? She has the bug, no doubt about it.
When she didn't come out on Sunday, I was quite disappointed. She's already turned into a legitimate help. She hands me the right pair of spurs, grabs my whip, and even has my gloves ready for me. She delights in toting feed buckets and then carefully pouring the feed into the feeders.
If I am not careful, the girl is going to have both Izzy and Speedy eating out of the palm of her hand as she motors right past me up the dressage levels.
Actually, that would be just fine with me!
There's a lot of "littles" going on with me right now; a little of this and a little of that. None of it's worth its own blog post, but jam three of them together, and you got yourself something to read.
First up - poop. A few days ago, I was worrying about the ploppiness of Izzy's poop while being tacked up. After just one day of being back on the Platinum Performance, he pooped a delightfully solid "thunk" of a pile as I tacked up. It was so wonderfully firm that I thought long and hard about taking photographic evidence of its robustness. Common sense won out - who wants to see pictures of poop? Instead, you get a picture of equine butts.
Knowing that you're going to be doing a bridle adjustment forces you to more closely examine what you think is a relatively clean bridle. Holy heck. In the light of day, Izzy's bridle revealed itself to be a crusty, hot mess. I have never had a horse that was so hard on his tack.
I brought it home to clean and then decided to measure it to see what size I will need to order for the double. Riding Warehouse provides a link to a Bobby's Tack image that shows the measurements for every single piece of their bridles. Pure genius. My current bridle is almost an exact match for Bobby's full sized bridles. My cheek pieces are slightly longer, but otherwise, a perfect match. If anyone wants to get me the double bridle early, I'll take it in horse size, please.
And then there was a kid. Reggie, the ranch's live-in caretaker, has several children who come out now and then to help or just hang out. Reggie has been telling me how much his youngest daughter admires Izzy. She's been a bit shy and hasn't wanted to approach me, so I told Reggie to tell her that it wouldn't bother me if she said hi.
He must have delivered the message because on Tuesday, she marched her ten year old self up and boldly proclaimed that she wanted to ride the white one. Smart girl. Even I don't usually want to ride the brown one - just kidding (sort of).
After conferring with her dad, we put Izzy away and gave Miss Evelyn a quick lesson in horse grooming and tacking up. This was Evelyn's first real encounter with a horse, and she was plenty nervous. The girl must have the bug though because after I showed her how to pick up Speedy's feet, she bravely motored around cleaning all four, twice!
We threw on the ranch owner's western saddle, and Reggie helped his daughter climb up. She was very nervous and insisted that her dad hold on to her which made Speedy quite nervous. After a few minutes of walking in a small circle, Evelyn let out a breath and Speedy followed suit.
Before long, we were tooling around the ranch. I led Speedy with his lead rope, but I attached a set of endurance reins to his rope halter that Evelyn finally found the courage to pick up. We eventually made it into the arena where she learned to pull right to go right and pull left to go left. She learned how to pull back to stop and thump her legs to go.
It was truly the most fun that Speedy has had in quite a while. Evelyn even had a look at my riding calendar and quite firmly announced that she'd be back on the 23rd (she was) and hoped that I'd be there because she wanted to ride again (she did).
I am a little worried about Reggie; I see a pony in Evelyn's future, and I am not sure dad is ready for that!