She and I are just tired of this month of March. It has been wet and cold. Vanille's small pasture is at that “end of winter mud” stage. We were generously offered the enormous sheep pasture which is just horse heaven, but there were some dangerous areas with fencing and barbed wire on the ground. Some of the fencing was partially buried in the earth. It has taken quite a lot of work to pull up all the old fencing but luckily a strong friend did a lot of it, and then a magnificent tractor arrived with huge teeth attached to the front. That did the job in one afternoon. Now Vanille spends part of each day with lots of room to gallop, and wooly friends to keep her company. It has been fun to watch her kick up her heels and run with the sheep and new lambs.
With Jean François' help I have been studying pasture management and proper feeding of these heavy horses. Unlike most horses, the problem with Vanille is that she is easily too fat and that is dangerous. The internet has been an excellent source of information. Since she is not working at the moment, she has grass hay, a salt block, and plenty of fresh water, but she can only stay on the big pasture 4 hours a day. She also gets two big handfuls of Tourteau de Colza or Rapeseed meal in granules each morning, and carrots every day.
Here's a photo of her taken a few days ago. She has gone through the winter with only hay and the minimum grass in her small pasture. As you can see, she has not lost any weight. We have had a mild winter so she has been outside with no shelter. Hot weather is the most difficult for her. She never developed a heavy winter coat and is losing it already.
We had the blacksmith come to trim her hooves. It had been 3 1/2 months since her last trim. This is how they looked when he started.
And here's one nearly finished. Her hooves are in great condition and the walls are very thick and tough. This encouraged me to start studying shoe alternatives for the time we start travelling. Jean François has been doing lots of research and sharing information with me. He will be doing some trials with several new types of glue on shoes, plastic shoes, etc. I am amazed at all the new shoes and boots available. For Vanille, I most like the information on this site http://www.hoofrehab.com/draft.htm
I am hoping to try Easy boots Epic for Vanille, at least on her front feet. They are pretty funny looking, and they are expensive. Since they will only be used when she is working, they will last a long time, much longer than traditional shoes. Using boots would mean that she could be barefoot in the pasture and not have metal shoes nailed to her pretty feet. If Pete Ramey at hoofrehab is correct, a heavy horse like Vanille should be walking on her entire foot and not just on the walls as happens with traditional shoes. This makes sense to me. Her feet are so big, 18 cm wide, that the Epic is the only boot big enough to fit her except for custom made boots. Here's a photo and their website:
As you can see, the miserable weather has been a profitable time. The internet is a huge resource!
I've also been working on editing and compiling the blog posts up to the first trial trip with Toti and putting them into book form. I have sent the PDF off to my daughter and soon there should be a book available.
Once again, thank you to all who take the time to read this blog. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. If you have experience with Easy Boots, please share with me.