Summer Pasture, Sheriff turns 37

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by LynneP, Apr 26, 2008.

  1. … ickenspeak

    I've decided to keep my stories in a rolling file on this page, editing and upgrading all the time. This is a follow-up to the recent rooster/pheasant fight.

    The link has a pic, which I don't think I'll include in this first draft:

    Summer Pasture April 25, 2008

    After the battle with Bluster the pheasant, Snowflake kept his distance. The rooster continued to approach the property to woo the red barn, but he danced for it behind the cattle fencing in an open space where Bluster could not stalk him. His owner, Murray, gave him his usual freedom despite the minor wounds and I promised to let the elder-gelding out of his winter pasture so he could guard Snowflake. Sheriff has always liked white birds and black cats for reasons unclear to me, since I rescued him when he was twelve.

    The horse was to have an encounter with Bluster before leaving his winter quarters, a 100x 80 ft paddock with cattle fencing that kept him near the open barn all winter and allowed him to socialize the cats and to gain shelter, which he seldom did, but choices matter. In that paddock he could run and roll, prove that his cutting horse instincts are hard-wired and that he is master of all he surveys. I know he is lonely without the mare, but after turning 37 on April 11, he has proved he has a little more vigor than I expected.

    David and I had decided that the ground was dry enough to open the large spread of land the gelding loves, but we needed to mend some rails and tighten up some posts that were leaning after snowplow season. While we were doing this, Bluster came up through the field and began to cross the small paddock on his way to the wild bird feeders. He does this on a schedule to which you could set your watch, but Sheriff, who seems to believe he is responsible for the feral cats and for Snowflake, threatened the pheasant with a crooked neck and exposed incisors. The old boy doesn't have many molars left, but he showed what 'long of tooth' real means and broke into a trot with the teeth snapping at Bluster until the pheasant realized that puffing and gleaming and engorging one's comb would not quite do. We watched chuckling until Sheriff nearly snapped a tail feather as Bluster turned, broke into a velociraptor run, and went to wing with a high-pitched Rackkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk! I believe that the old horse would nave nailed him if the fence had not been in the way. Incredulous, the iridescent bully sailed downhill to the shelter of the forest corridor, embarrassed perhaps, or furious to be exposed to his harem retreating.

    The moment was at land for Sheriff, we opened the gate to his summer pasture, giving him full access to the pheasant as Snowflake watched from the perimeter. I swear he was cackling even if he is a rooster. Sheriff galloped up the rise past the entry chute, spun to the left in true cutting-horse fashion and chased the bully into the woods. The he stood, huffing and puffing, as though he were still six and not yet gelded. I always thought they must have missed a bit of testicle when they did him, because when he goes stud, he is serious about his enemies. Yet the same beast is gentle with little girls and adults alike and allows kittens to drape his shoulder as night like a living stole.

    Then, standing in the first petals of clover he reared slightly, then bucked and spun on his way to Snowflake, who evidently understands that Sheriff will guard him, though he was not so foolish as to get under the hooves of a spring-infused quarter horse. Sheriff was born black with a white star and gradually turned white over the years. When I found him, in bad circumstances, he was in-between, a blue roan. To this day his skin is a bluish black that shines under the white overcoat. I did not expect to have him this long, we lost our younger horse, a mare, last fall. He astonishes me, he's a tough old nut and loads of fun still. Oh he has a wobble in his left hip and he's stiff when the farrier trims his hooves which are textbook black and as pliable as latex. His muzzle is sweet to scent and he nickers like a lover.

    A long time ago our vet asked if he could have the feet when Sheriff dies. He's waited a long time and I can't imagine disfiguring a creature of such beauty. No, not yet, summer is coming and he has sweet clover to masticate and spit out because he can't crush it properly any more. But he sucks on it and it stains the corner of his mouth with chlorophyll. Not yet. Baby has summer pasture to roam.




  2. sweetshoplady

    sweetshoplady Songster

    Feb 4, 2008
    Venice, Florida
    Very nice story. What a handsome old gentleman you have there. [​IMG]
  3. He's a sweetie and still has fire in his belly. I worry most about his teeth (hardly any molars) so I've been giving bran mash/oil/molasses/carrot/apple nightly and carrot/apple in addition with his grain twice a day. He's staying at about 945 pounds, for now.

    Another story to share! [​IMG]
    Pics in the link.

    A Weary Tale of Post and Rail April 27, 2008

    Until now our sole reason for fencing pasture was the presence of two horses, a Morgan mare and a Quarter Horse gelding. The mare was a particular challenge, and we had realized during her brief stay at a boarding stable before we bought this land that 'She' or 'Herself' as we often called her, considered fencing her particular life challenge. As a long yearling she had broken through a new 2x6, and she considered butt-rubbing and post-snapping a hobby. Well, we knew that cattle fencing would not work because she could uproot posts and push the netting, so we decided on old-style post and rail, of the serious kind.

    At that time, over twenty years ago, there were free-ranging chickens in the neighborhood who would gladly pick your pasture clean of bugs, following the horses as their hooves stirred up this and that. The foxes and coyotes changed that as their interest in quick snacks escalated. The feral cats could easily traverse the boundaries too, and we had heard that a certain feed store manufactured their own post and rail out of delivered saplings, so we went to check. It wasn't as though we were without basic fencing at any rate, the pasture and paddocks were newly mended and the posts look good. Back then you could get a peeled pole for $2 and a rail for $1.75. Things have certainly changed.

    Installing a snapped pole is a grunting task, requiring a long steel prybar to strike the earth before winding it in circular motions. Assuming the ground is damp you can usually get a hole big enough to deposit the point of the pole, grab a sledge hammer and slug the shaft deep enough that most horses can't charge through them or lift them up using a rail. Most horses. Such taskes are traditionally carried out in April or late October in our climate, when the earth will seal around the post and keep it firm. On those annoying occasions when a pole must be dug in dry earth, the air fills with many expletives, though not as many as when a big rock gets in the way.

    Rails are installed using a steel spike and a strong man. This is the kind of work that vibrates from wrist to shoulder and should be done in small installments. Always account for every nail, nothing on the planet can be injured by a spike as quickly or permanently as a horse, and the rails are installed on the inside both for strength and so that is a rail is dislodged, the sharp end of the nail points away from the horse, in theory.

    Don't rely on appearance with post and rail, though. We learned that the average post lasted three years in our climate and that a chewing, leaning, rubbing mare could shorten that time. Rails could make it six years if you were lucky, but fence-mending became a second job for us, as we were still teaching full-time in a faraway community.

    The best post and rail I ever saw was in Pennsylvania, at Valley Forge. Not only did they use posts, but the interwoven rails were supported by rocks gathered to clear the fields. It must have taken an army to construct and come to think of it, this version may have been a make-work before that cold winter that nearly did them in.

    Post and rail is a good highway for cats, though, and our horses have adored them. From the cat's point of view it's probably a good way to keep dry and to hunt at the same time, because little moles seems to like the base of posts for nests. We used to have a lot of them, but now we have a lot of cats.

    By the time she had been on the farm three years, Koosa the mare had become an expert at destroying post and rail. Sometimes she grabbed the top rail in her teeth and flexed her massive neck to lift, other times she eased her head and neck under the rail and pressed up. Her favorite technique was easing back against a pole for a little nap, the wiggling her ample quarters for a scratch. If the post seemed fragile, as they often are in spring, just a little rot at the soil line, she would grin, watch to see if we were watching, then SNAP! and the rails hung on a suspended post. We never found a way to break her of this, and yet now that she's gone, I miss the off sense of humour she displayed. She was always looking for a challenge and she had a bold way about her, and yet a toddler's sense of play.

    These days we use wolmanized posts and cattle wire, because the gray gelding is polite at the field perimeter and at 37, is unlikely to display escape behaviors. He misses her too, he paws the edge of her grave daily, nickers and heads off to tend the cats and any other life forms straying into his world. The neat thing about cattle wire is that it's suitable for pigs, goats and even geese and Muscovies.

    If we had it to do over again we'd have used solar electric fencing. But it wasn't out when we needed it, so our days of backbreaking fence labor are drawing to a close. Chickens are more malleable when it comes to fencing. Today we spent a few hours pre-measuring and manufacturing posts of another kind to protect our chicks, which arrive May 16. There is melancholy in giving up a tradition, but it's time has passed, and I look forward to a new set of biosecurities, of the avian kind.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2008

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