You know that winter has arrived when Dunrovin’s herd is moved from the pastures around the barn to the leased school land nearby. Ashley and Ryen did an outstanding job of rounding up the horses, taking them individually over to the field, and getting everything in order for their winter vacation away from home.
moving the herd
by SuzAnne Miller
Winter Vacation for the Herd!
Generally this time of year, the horses are completely worn out by a summer of long hours accommodating our ranch guests with endless trips on the trails that cross the Bitterroot River or meander through Lolo National Forest, many riding lessons, and occasional overnight trips into the backcountry. Winter normally means vacation for them and they relish the move to the winter field where they will have at least four months of time to themselves. While the Covid-19 pandemic turned all of our summers upside down and caused Dunrovin Ranch to close to the public this year, the horses still love being off by themselves without having to pay attention to human desires.
This will be the last year that Dunrovin is able to utilize the 20 acres known as the winter field. The land belongs to the Lolo School District. This past spring, the residents of Lolo approved a bond to raise the money for a new school to be built on the property. Construction will begin next spring. While we are sad for the loss of access to the land for our horses, we are happy for the children of Lolo and we are already scheming about ways to involve the school in some of our projects!
James, Ashley, and Ryen have been very busy for several weeks getting everything in place to move the herd. Pallets were laid to keep the hay off the ground. Multiple loads of hay were delivered to both the barn and the winter field (60 tons in total). The hay was tarped to protect it from the weather. Water troughs were cleared and prepared to cope with freezing temperatures. Gravel was delivered to the barn yards and is waiting for a snow free period to spread (this week probably). Fences around the winter field were inspected, fixed, and signs asking people to NOT FEED the horses were printed, laminated, and posted. At last everything was ready and the herd was moved. This fast motion recording condenses several hours of their work into 16 minutes. Everyone is glad to have the big push behind them!
Ashley Explains Dunrovin’s Corrals
Last week Brandon Carpenter took everyone on a tour of the complicated system of steel corrals, chutes, and holding pens he built to help him minimize the hands-on work of sorting, managing, loading, and providing healthcare to his herd of cattle. While Dunrovin does not need such a complicated system for managing our herd, having a flexible arrangement of corrals, stalls, fences and gates helps us to stay organized and maintain our herd. Once they understand our system, the horses know exactly what to do - as long as we stick to their routine! Go along with Ashley as she explains the Dunrovin system which is less the result of a planned process and more a result of trial and error.
Oggy Hurts His Foot and Lewis Eats Sand
Horses are a goldmine in the veterinary world. Domestication has brought them into living conditions for which they have not evolved. They evolved to be walking great distances every day in search of low quality forage that they continually eat. In domestic situations, they are often confined and given high quality food periodically. They also evolved to flee at the first sign of danger. They have the fastest reaction time of any mammal. Spooked, they react first and then assess the situation. This all too often gets them into trouble when confronted with human obstacles like fences, etc.
This week our teenager Oggy somehow acquired an invisible puncture wound in his hind leg that led to a serious infection. No one could see the wound, but the infection was obvious. Meanwhile, our Captain Lewis has gotten in the habit of throwing his hay out of his feeder which keeps the hay off the sand and gravel. This led him to ingest some sand along with his hay. The sand had begun to accumulate in his gut, which led to his having loose stools and dropping some weight.
SuzAnne’s long time trusted veterinarian, Dr. Dick Richardson, who has served Dunrovin since the beginning recently retired, so she followed the advice of a man who had helped her with some hoof problems in several of Dunrovin’s horses and called a new vet, Dr. Matt Witzel. He came right away and duly impressed the Dunrovin staff. He was gentle with the animals, thorough in his assessment, and clear in his instructions regarding their care. What more could you ask? Well, SuzAnne did ask for more. She asked him if he would be agreeable to wearing a microphone during future visits so all of our DaysAtDunrovin members could listen and learn. He agreed - and he even agreed to putting on some special veterinary broadcasts for people who care for dogs and cats. Dunrvoin is delighted to welcome Dr. Witzel to our family of friends and we look forward to having him participate in D@D broadcasts.
Ashley Trains Mystery Instead of Oggy
Oggy’s lameness took him out of the classroom with Ashley for the foreseeable future. It may take several weeks for him to completely recover. Hence, Ashley set her eyes on Mystery instead of Oggy for a Monday training session. Mystery was the perfect horse to use on this particular Monday as the weather had coated the round pen with both snow and ice. It would not be safe for a horse to trot or canter in such conditions; but the very training that Mystery needs is to slow down. Ashley did a great job of keeping Mystery’s attention as she slowly guided him around the pen. It turned out to be a very productive training session.
Fanciful Flagpoles - The Animals Get Involved!
It seemed that our Fanciful Flagpole Program has clearly opened up Paula’s imagination. Last Monday, she turned to our barn animals to “paint” a sheet to serve as flags draped from one of our poles. Bunna, Miss Gerite, Miss Maude, and Captain Lewis and Clark all had their feet painted so they could walk across the white sheet and leave their footprints in a completely random arrangement. All of them fully cooperated with the procedures. It is, in fact, a great training opportunity to involve the animals in such nonsense. The more different activities they encounter, the more they learn to trust their human friends and take new things in their stride.
This entire Faciful Flagpole Project has been yet another Dunrovin experiment. Paula, Ashley, Ryen, and our guest artist Annette Wagner are all figuring out what does and does not work in all kinds of weather. This autumn’s winds have been fierce and have toppled our poles and torn our flags - but this just teaches us what we need to do in the future.
DIVA Parkour Comes to Life
Leave it to Mackenzie and Michal to embrace the concept of Donkey Parkour. They are breaking down the individual behaviors needed to perform complicated parkour runs. The energy of all four involved, Mackenzie, Michal, Miss Gertie, and Miss Maude are always a joy to behold. It seems that nothing the DIVAs dish out ever displeases or dismays Mackenzie and Michal. They personify patient, loving animal trainers and they are a joy to watch. Miss Gertie and Miss Maude alway bray with delight when they see Mackezie coming.
Here is what Mackenzie has to say about their next sesion: “On the next episode of Clicking with the DIVAS, we are taking donkey-parkour (donkour? parkey?) to the next level. Which, admittedly, is still low level, but we are climbing on up! We will circle back to training UP and OFF, keep going with target training and STAYs. Keep your fingers crossed for good parkour weather!”
Winter’s Snow at Sunrise
The early part of last week gave us some gorgeous clear and cold weather that made the new snow glisten and produced some lovely sunrises. Take a look at one in fast-time.
Dunrovin’s Birds Never Fail to Entertain
Ashley and Ryen brought our Monday Social viewers along with them to the nest and bench bird feeding stations to explain all that goes into our luring our wonderful avian friends to spend some quality time in front of the web cameras. Believe us, it's a real job keeping those lovely feathered creatures happy and well fed!
This past week brought several notable avian sightings. First we were treated to not one, but two incidents of seeing migrating ospreys on the Bitterroot River. The first one took a nice long bath in the cold water - burrr! The second one plunged into the river and caught a small fish. We can never get enough of ospreys at Dunrovin. But we are betting that these two may well be the last of their kind until next spring. And the countdown to March begins!
We have yet to figure out Dunrovin’s turkey population. They were around routinely for most of last year, then they just disappeared. Where oh where did they go? This week we found them back at the bench for our viewing enjoyment, just in time for Thanksgiving. Their arrival irritated the local magpie population who tried to herd them away by attacking their tail feathers. We have never before seen such behavior, which goes to show the advantage of having these web cameras to watch wildlife in action.
The beautiful fresh snow was the perfect backdrop for some closeups of a visiting male kestrel. Our volunteer camera operator had a terrible time trying to keep up with the bird as it flitted about the nest. Our nest backup camera told the tale. The kestrel was not resting at the nest. He was actively hunting the sparrows hidden in the nest’s catacombs!
We think we have discovered the mission of that kingfisher that we have seen and heard on the river webcam. Several times the bird had been seen directly on the webcam and recently we were able to follow it to the trees for some great photos. This week, during a routine scan of the river webcam, we spotted the kingfisher exiting the nest box next to the camera tower. In reading about kingfishers, it seems that they are total suckers for a new river perch. Yes! You have it right. Constructing a river kingfisher perch just got added to the to-do-list at Dunrovin.
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