Vanille's shelter is a vaulted ceiling “cave” built in the 1800's for storing root vegetables. She just fits through the door!
Spring has kept me busy. After a very quiet and extremely grey winter, the grass and weeds are wildly growing. So many jobs that waited through all the months of winter suddenly become possible. However, this spring is wet, wet, wet so a bit of frustration sets in. Tòti Bleu has damp problems on the exterior that must be repaired, nothing serious. However Vanille came through the winter in top condition. Bravo for the Comtois breed!
However, although Vanille is what is referred to as “an easy keeper”, I'll take a minute to explain just what that means to us and our love of Vanille. She puts on weight by breathing, it seems, so her hay has to be weighed out and she is fed small amounts 4 to 5 times a day in winter. If not, she will eat it all at one time and then be hungry. An overweight horse is a dangerous predicament. I won't explain all the problems but if you're interested, look it up on the internet. We are surrounded by acres and acres of gorgeous pasture but her pasture must be limited, especially in spring. I have devised a way of extending her pasture metre by metre as needed. In the winter she has more to eat than in the spring or summer as she needs the food for heat. I read an interesting article on the fact that hay ferments in the intestines of the horse producing heat in the winter. So the seasons are another consideration. It seems every day or so we are talking about just how much food she should have. Weather permitting, I take her out every day on a lead line to graze and walk about. If I have the time, I turn her free and we just spend some time together in freedom. Believe it or not, I will say that she tells me when she's really hungry by telepathy. Also when she is hungry she is in an agitated and lousy mood so there is a balance to maintain.
Aside from food, she is checked for any problems every day, several times a day, carrots are always in our pockets and lots of scratches and hugs. Her upper lip extends and she shows bliss when I scratch just the perfect spot. She also shows me where to scratch. Spring, of course, with shedding, means grooming every day to aide shedding and rub off dead skin.
Then, the hooves…this is mostly Jean Francois' job. He is constantly studying hoof care, trimming, boots, etc. We made the decision to never put iron shoes on her hooves but although her rear hooves are like rock, the front hooves are very sensitive. So, with regular trimming, walking her on hard surfaces and gravel a short time every day, never confining her to a stall, and putting boots on her front feet when working, slowly her front hooves are becoming strong and tough.
So there it is, life with an easy keeper, one who is totally loved and who works for us with calm and eagerness when asked.
Here are a few photos I took yesterday after she had a sudsy spring bath. Notice her friend Bella who is always with her even though sometimes far too bossy. Bella the Border Collie has taught me so much about love, mostly about loving no matter how difficult. It has been a life lesson for me!
This photo shows me that she is not too fat, not too much stomach extending on either side. I also love her big strong butt and pretty tail. Looks like Bella is admiring her, doesn't it!
We are working Vanille slowly at the moment. We try to go out at least once a week and usually for 3 hours or so at a walk with a short period of trotting. She is pulling the small wagon only for now. When we feel she is muscled up sufficiently we will begin short trips with Tòti. Here is a photo of Vanille taking Jean Francois and me down the lane to the neighbor's farm delivering two cartons of excellent organic wine. We are in France, after all!
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Be happy! Enjoy! Love!