We joke that our horses “go feral” in the fall. It starts when the ancient apple trees on the edges of the big field ripen. The horses choose to hang there, munching on snacks. Let me point out that these are three senior horses – all 30 years of age or older. Their work requirements are minimal – I hop on Cinnamon, my Appaloosa mare, bareback periodically and ride around the 40 acre field but mostly they are just enjoying life.
As fall deepens, the bugs start to disappear. Now the horses have even less reason to hike up the lane to the barn. Who needs to come in when you don’t need bug spray, you can drink from the creek as easily as the water trough and you have more grass than 3 horses could eat in a year at your feet?
Now throw in a visit from the farrier. That requires a grain bucket and a long hike out to round up the wild ones. Luckily greed overcomes caution and I can usually get them all caught up with minimal trouble. However, for about four days afterwards, there is no hope of catching them. Our blacksmith is excellent and Crispy, the Quarter Horse, in particular walks much better right after a trim, but old joints hate to be manipulated.
With the short days I do call them in if they will come. I bang on the metal gate and holler. Some times they lift their heads, glance my way and go back to grazing. If one decides to come, the three of them will stroll back to the culvert, troop across and then trot or gallop up the lane.
Now as we near the end of October the days are shorter. The horses generally come at least once a day on their own initiative. They drop in, get fed and immediately bang on their stall doors to go back out. I prefer to see them up close and personal at least once a day. I can pull those stick tight burrs and burdocks from their manes and tails. I can do a quick once over, checking for any injuries, swollen limbs, etc. I run a curry and a brush over them while they eat but they are always eager to head back out.
As the forecast moves into possible wintry mix or light snow showers, I make more of an effort to convince the horses to come in. Still, they sometimes choose to remain out even in light snow. When real cold weather arrives, they will choose to come and stay in for the night but for now, they are wild horses – at least in their minds.
The donkey and the miniature horse who are in sort of a dry lot in a barnyard are always willing to come in for a daily treat. It may be an apple or an alfalfa cube but they are always interested. Spice the donkey is very particular about what weather she feels she should be out in. No rain, no really hot days, no really cold days, no snow, etc. She feels donkeys deserve temperatures of 50 to 75 degrees with no precipitation. Frodo the miniature horse would like to be out with the “real” horses and try going feral.
How do your horses feel about fall and late fall weather?