Sunday Evening By the Pond

It was a very nice evening.  The weather cooled down to a nice 87 degrees with a cool breeze that made sitting on the porch watching the animals quite nice.

My wife is recovering from surgery and finally felt like sitting outside.  Every once in a while, we let the horses graze the backyard with us while we watch enjoy watching them “horse around.”

I am reminded of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words, “Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.”

Memorial day weekend has been really nice thus far.  I am grateful for all those who gave their lives, spilled their blood and sacrificed family and home so that I have the freedom to sit on my porch and contemplate the blessings of life.

IMG_0685

Nothing like grazing on fresh bermuda grass in the back yard. . .

 

IMG_0689

Even the Koi were happy to see the horses . . .

 

IMG_0702

If you look carefully, you can see the ducks in the pond swimming with the Koi . . . It is amazing how peaceful nature feels with all of God’s creatures in view.  Said Emerson, “Nature, in its ministry to man, is not only the material, but is also the process and the result. All the parts incessantly work into each other’s hands for the profit of man. The wind sows the seed; the sun evaporates the sea; the wind blows the vapor to the field; the ice, on the other side of the planet, condenses rain on this; the rain feeds the plant; the plant feeds the animal; and thus the endless circulations of the Divine charity nourish man.”

Another thought from Emerson, “The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.”

IMG_0704

Even the rooster enjoyed the evening. . . while eating a few bugs out of the pond growbeds.

There is something amazing about sitting on your back porch with your animals and feeling the breeze on your face as the sun sets in the background.

I hope that your Memorial Day weekend is as  tranquil and beautiful as mine. And, if you or your family have served in the Armed Forces, from the bottom of our hearts, the Nally family salutes you!

Happy Memorial Day!

Sonoran Desert Decorations

I live in the Sonoran Desert. It’s the only place in the world that gets hot enough to feed the chickens ice cubes for pre-boiled eggs. It is a true desert, and the summer time can be very hot (up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit).  However, I find it to be a very beautiful place to live throughout the year.  Much of this beauty can only be seen on horseback.

The Maricopa Trail, a horse trail that circles Maricopa County, skirts along the base of the White Tank Mountains on the West side of the Phoenix Valley, here in Arizona.  There is a part of the trail that is decorated with some of the most beautiful Saguaro Cactus in the world.  These cacti are between 100-200 years old and are some of the most majestic desert plants you will ever see.  I had a chance to snap a couple of photos while on horseback this evening.

Cactus 2

It takes over 10 years for a Saguaro Cactus to get over 2 inches tall and takes up to 75 years for them to reach 14-16 feet in height.  These cacti are probably 150-200 years old.  The amazing thing is that their root system is only 4-6 inches below the surface, yet spans out a radial distance equal to the height all the way around the base of the cactus.

Cactus 1It amazes me that the desert seems to share a different story with you each time you venture into it.  The old settlers of Arizona, many of my ancestors, told it like it was, rough and rocky. They named their towns Rimrock, Rough Rock, Round Rock, and Wide Ruins, Skull Valley, Bitter Springs, Wolf Hole, Tombstone. It’s a tough country. The names of Arizona towns tell you much of what you need to know.

But what really makes this desert beautiful, is that this rough and rocky exterior hides a number of beautiful wells. It is a land of extremes, a land of contrasts, a land of surprises and a land of contradictions….  That is the Sonoran Desert and that is what decorates Arizona.

Something About Being On Horseback . . .

It has been a nice quite weekend.  I was under the weather and left work early Thursday . . . slept most of Friday. Woke this morning feeling a bit better.  The fresh rain-washed air this morning was very helpful.  We’ve had scattered showers of rain over the last few days.  We had a nice drizzle this morning, and this after noon, the clouds broke.

It was a perfect chance to take the horses for a walk.  Riding a horse somehow makes you feel like you are riding the clouds in the sky.

IMG_1338

It’s amazing how beautiful the clouds can be when they scatter the sunshine.  The new rule in our house . . . when your feeling down, saddle up.

IMG_1324

We got a little sprinkle while on our walk.  But there’s nothing like a horseback ride framed by a rainbow.

IMG_1337

Lord forbid, that when I go to heaven there aren’t any horses there. . . No hour of the day is ever wasted in the saddle.

I have found that most of the good sense in the world is found in children and horses.

In the words of Rudyard Kipling, “Four things greater than all things are, Women, Horses, Power and War.”

Beginning the Sport of Endurance Riding . . .

Trail Ride White Tanks

The Girls on the Trail in the White Tank Mountains

For many years we have talked about participating with a number of family members and friends in the Sport of Equine Endurance Riding.  My wife, daughter and I have been training for an entry level ride over the last few months. We have been riding 7-10 miles two to three times per week over the last few months getting our horses (and our backsides) prepared for a 25 mile ride in Bumble Bee, Arizona.

We live close enough to the White Tank Mountains that riding the trails is as easy as saddling up and riding out the front driveway.  It has been quite fun and enjoyable.

It has been great to learn the sport from some very good friends and family members.  I’ve come to learn that a happy horse is one that has a job and loves to do it.

Unfortunately, my horse caught a cold and has had a mild cough over the few weeks. We bent the axle on our horse trailer and went through three tires before we were able to diagnose the problem.

We were able to locate a replacement trailer, but not until the last minute.  We decided that my wife and daughter would race this weekend and I would leave my horse home to mend. There was a simple 12.5 mile “Fun Ride” that they figured they would enter, since we arrived late in the evening due to the trailer issues the day before.

Northern Trail Training

The Trail Back Home

So, we loaded up and headed North to Bumble Bee, Arizona.  It really is a beautiful place.  Quite remote, and off the beaten path, but a very beautiful set of trails hidden in the mountains between Crown King and Sunset Point.

Trail Selfie

The Token Helmet Selfie

Oh, did I tell you how much I despise how these helmets make you look?  But, you gotta protect your noggin!!

Anyway, overall, it was a great experience and one that I look forward to again. Hopefully, my horse, Baily, will be feeling better for the next ride.

Bumble Bee Horse Camp

Bumble Bee Horse Camp from Atop Sunset Point

The horse-camp is set just below Sunset point.  You can just make out the trailers and trucks in the camp in the picture. This was taken atop of Sunset Point at the rest stop on the way back home.

Leanna at Bumble Bee Horse Camp

Happy Horseback Riders

As you can see, the girls were very happy about their first experience with Endurance Riding.  I have to say, as well, I have never experience nature in such a wonderful and more natural way than on horse back.  We look forward to many years of fun in the saddle.

Barefoot Horses and Pasture

Horses in Pasture

Newly aerated pasture

I’ve been meaning to document our experiences as we’ve begun living the ranch/farm life.  Our little piece of property has be wonderful.  We’ve done a great deal of work to get the barn and pasture functional over the last year and a half for our 4 horses, 16 chickens, 6 ducks, 6 dogs and innumerable number of gophers.  We decided to leave the city for a number of reasons, but being closer to our horses, giving our children opportunity to experience the out doors, and beginning to live off the land are a number of them.  To be perfectly honest, the tipping point for me was being able to leave a home owners association behind. But, I digress . . .

We were very excited by the prospect of having almost two acres of Bermuda pasture to graze our horses on.  Lots of time and effort was placed into greening up the back pasture for the horses. However, we came to learn a hard lesson. . . barefoot horses don’t do well on green pasture.  One of our horses is insulin resistant and doesn’t do  well on higher carbohydrate containing feeds.  We thought we had solved this problem with the Bermuda pasture.

To our dismay, three of our horses began showing signs of laminitis in the last month.   And, according to our vet, one of them, was near foundering.

Horses grazing on dropped Mesquite pods and Bermuda grass in pasture

Much reading, some very interesting new treatment approaches, a number of vet calls, and training with some barefoot experts ensued. We had a chance to visit with Dr. Tomas Teskey up in Mayer, Arizona, and found some wonderful information on his Facebook page.  We learned that because of Arizona’s arid climate, a swing in temperature can cause a spike in the carbohydrate content of any type of grass.  Between cutting the grass, recent temperature spikes and the horses grazing on the Mesquite pods that fell from the trees in the back pasture, their feet have become very tender.   We added pea gravel to the stalls in hopes that the abrasive surface in the stalls would compensate for the soft lush pasture.  It firmed up the soles but it didn’t help stop the laminitis.

IMG_1057

Dr. Teskey documenting Bailey’s rear hooves

Paddock Paradise Track

Hot wire track added to outer pasture creating a square track

Come to realize that the only way a barefoot horse is going to improve his hooves is movement, and lots of it.  The average horse on a pasture walks less than half a mile per day.  That means that standing all day and grazing one spot in the pasture or the stall can’t happen.

So, over the last few weeks, our lush green pasture has been converted into a Paddock Paradise.  Using hot wire fencing, we created a 15 foot track around the perimeter of our one acre pasture.  Feed is placed at the back end of the paddock and water is at the front end.  Within the last two weeks we have noticed the horses have increased their movement by 3-6 times and there is a dramatic change taking place in the hoof wall and soles of all of the horses.

Now, the second thing was ensuring that the diet changed.  The horses have been placed on a diet that is strictly Bermuda and Timothy grasses with the only supplement of a non-molasses bound Bermuda pellet.  The Mesquite trees have been trimmed up dramatically and all the pods have been removed.

In doing some additional reading, the content of Non-structural Carbohydrate (NSC) can be found in the following equine foods [http://www.chronicleforums.com/Forum/showthread.php?t=168925&highlight=Non-structural (this link appears to no longer be available)]:

  • Alfalfa Cubes 10.2%IMG_1096
  • Alfalfa Hay 11.3%
  • Alfalfa Pellets 9.3%
  • Barley 61.7%
  • Barley Hay 20.4%
  • Beet Pulp 12.3%
  • Bermuda grass Hay 13.6%
  • Corn 73.3%
  • Grass Hay 13.8%
  • Grass Pasture 12.1%
  • Oat Hay 22.1%
  • Oats 54.1%IMG_1086
  • Rice Bran 21.2%
  • Soybean Hulls 6.3%
  • Soybean Meal 16.2%
  • Wheat Bran 30.8%
  • Wheat Middlings 32.0%
  • Molasses 60%
  • Timothy Hay 15%

IMG_1087 IMG_1089 IMG_1093

The pasture grass has been scalped  with the mower and will take a few more runs with the tractor gannon to remove the grass.  The goal, now is to bring in some different surfaces around the paddock including sand, pea gravel, dirt, and a watering hole.  All in good time . . .