Summer is here…and soon to be babies!

That pretty much says it all, summer has finally shown up.  With a weird spring it has now gone to high temps and no rain, yellow grass and bugs…ugh.  I got caught up in shows, family health and clients, with trying to sell.  But with all that I now have something better to look forward too, a new foal!  Well, it’s not here yet, but soon.  I decided to breed my mare as she needed to at least have a fourth on the ground for a chance at pref, so a oppurtunity arose last year, although late, to breed her.  Here in MI it is hard to have the early foals they have in CA or other areas, too much, cold, snow, mud and weird springs, May is really the best month, followed by June, so this one is a bit late but I cannot wait none the less.

I probably have about two weeks, though with her being bred late, she will probably go early, such is how it works.  Am I selling?  Hmm, I would love to keep a filly from Lucia, as she is getting older, but selling would be helpful to my finances but…  But I like to think back.  Lucia was the third foal born here on the farm and it was the first year we had foals here at BDF.  Our first foal was one that many know, Lionheart.  We learned a lot really fast and he has turned out to be a wonderful boy.  To see something so small, one would never think he would end up as an over 17h horse.  I have a photo I took of him where all you could see is a part of his head out of the grass pasture we had set up.  No matter how much one can get frustrated over business, life and whatever, watching a new foal truly makes you forget those.  I look forward to hearing the little whinnies again.

So I anxiously await my mares new foal.  We just moved her to another pasture and it is with her dam, who will take great care of them and be a grandmother to the new foal.  It is our only foal this year.  We do our best to be responsible breeders, we have enough to sell, there is no reason to breed too many unless you have a good reason.  Though I would love to have a whole pile each year, hehe.


Tis show season

Well, trying to figure out what shows we can make this year. We will not be doing Grand Nationals this year, that is for sure, as it is back in California. It was supposed to be in the middle I thought this year but for 2 out of 3 yrs it is in CA. We did CA once to say we did that, that was it, not again, lol. It is really a lot on the horses, the people…and the pocket book! =P But it was cool to do something like that once, kind of a big adventure. So without Nationals we are ineligible for any of the big awards, bit of a bummer when you think about it.

Despite that, there are three shows that have Friesian classes at it, the IFSHA ones, two in WI and one in Ohio. We also have two young boys we are trying to promote and hopefully sell, so probably a dressage show or two in there. If we hit all of those I am not sure as of yet. Showing is not easy and is it a lot of work. It can be great and other times when you ask yourself…why am I doing this, lol. Well, we do it to see what we can do, what we are capable of and how far we can go and as always to promote the farm. Course, the fun part are the costume classes, lol. And we always have lots of laughs, in between swearing at each other! I think if we did not show we would miss it well, I know we would. But I know we will not always do it. And even this year I am not sure how much, sigh..we need to sell horses.

My mare will not be showing this year as she is set to have a baby in early July. Am looking forward to a new addition. So without her showing we decided to take a few sales horses in addition to others. Ah well…back to thinking about where we get to go this year, hmm. Europe? la la la…. Guess that is not a show though…grin.

Another Equine Affaire is done…

Well, the title pretty much says it all, another Equine Affaire is finished.  We have been attending the Ohio Equine Affaire since…hmm…I think 1996.  eeep, lol.  With the attempt at Equitana in this country gone, I believe that EA is the biggest horse trade show in the US.  EA actually has three shows, one in MA, one in CA and this one.  They tried doing one in KY, which we attended but it only happened once.  They just decided to put the CA one on hold for a couple of years, so now we just have two.  For those that do not know, it is a four-day event with horses coming in from all over, all types of breeds, demos and clinics galore and the best part….shop til you drop.  We often wait and pick up things we need as there are lots of deals.

We have taken anywhere from 3 – 7 horses, depending on what we are doing there.  We usually do various demos or have been in the nite performance in the past.   This year we had 4 and with my mare going as well, making 5.  There was anywhere from one to two demos a day this year, showing off the Friesian and teaching people about them.  The farm just did one separate demo this time as our numbers were short.  A few years ago we had even done a jousting demo though we are short the jousters to do one now, gets kind of hard to joust against yourself!  So we stuck to various different seats or costume, from medieval and renaissance to our latest venture, steampunk.

I was working on a post before EA but with all of the prep work, it just did not get finished.  I think EA has far more pre-work than regular showing, aside from just the horses and supplies we have the costumes, the stalls, photos, signs, info stuff as well as the embroidery and photos we are now selling.  Pant, pant…  You try to keep up to date and to be ready but it  never really happens, la!

This year went well.  Though no matter what we do there are problems that arise even if we think we are all set.  Guess its the nature of the beast…or the horse?  But you do your best and put on your best.  We love the horses and they make all of it worthwhile.  The best part is hanging next to the stalls with the door open so they can put their heads out.  As they mug everyone for pets and rifle bags for goodies, my mare is exceptionally good at looking for goodies!  I love how much these guys adore attention.  Makes up for the times as you’re getting ready for demos and start freaking out as you’re trying to finish putting all of the costumes on and get to the ring.  Of course you get to the ring in plenty of time but that performance anxiety, lol.

But despite the one day where it decided to rain all day, unfortunately on Sat, it was nice weather, great people and good performances by all.  I look forward to it every year but just as glad when it is done and you get a few days of rest.  Now we have our regular shows and hopefully we can sell some horses from this or get breedings for the boys.  Better get my butt outside, have to take a few photos for the website.

Do horses really snore?

Oh yeah they do.  As we have been rocked with more than just an early spring, ok, more like an early summer, the horses have been enjoying all of it.  Despite the fact they still have their winter coats and I would not want to be wearing a fur in 80 degree weather, at least we have the sun and the mud and extra water have been clearing up fast.  And I see green!

When I was young, long before I had horses, I remember being taught that horses sleep standing up and laying down was not a good thing.  Boy, amazing how much wrong info there is out there.  Our Friesians sleep standing, laying or sprawled flat out.  When we first had the farm and saw the horses sprawled out flat, yea we used to check on them a lot.  As we went up to them we heard the tell-tale signs…zzzzzzz.  I had to laugh, good thing I don’t have to share a bed with that!

Every year we get multiple phone calls or people coming up the drive and wanting us to check our horses out as they are laying flat out.  I do still look out in the pasture, its in my nature to do so but when the weather is nice that is all I hear, the rumbling sound of snoring.  Sometimes we have more horses laying down than standing out in the field and I wish I could be them, laying out in the grass having a nice dream.  Though I admit, sometimes we have layed down with the babies out in the field, I think they thought that was kind of cool, I know we did!

Here come the mares!

Mares.  Well, cannot really have a breeding farm without mares, since stallions were truly not available then.  There was plenty of research that was done and what we wanted or hoped to get to start.  As many breeders thought when they first started and it seemed even more so back then, you wanted a ster mare, the best of the best but at that time, even giving your right arm would not have obtained that.  With so few numbers of Friesians in the US at that time, the amount of ster mares was even fewer and hardly anyone was selling them, well, at least not without giving a small fortune for it.  But we just could not find any.  So on to the next plan, studbook mares.  We really did not want to start out straight with youngsters but thought getting a few mares in foal would be the best.

We started pouring over what mares we could find, examining their papers, looking for specific bloodlines or traits and then went to check out the ones we liked.  It seemed very frustrating at first, many we eliminated quickly.  It was easy to see as a new person coming into the breed, the best were not offered to us, well maybe after we bought these six over here first….eeep!  We finally found a few we liked.  One we knew was not really going to have the potential of being ster, she was a bit to short but was one hell of a horse.  She went under saddle or in harness and had shown and already had multiple foals and was in foal for the following year, we fell in love with her right away.  The other we truly thought had the potential to be ster, though the owners tried to convince us she did not but this other mare they had one.  Eventually, we decided on these two, Popke and Sarinette.

Popke was truly the horse you could do anything with or put anyone on, long as you did not try to cowboy on her, as we called it, then she ignored everything you asked for.  Sarinette could also ride and drive though with a little less experience, she showed us just how sweet Friesians are, loving to be adored for as long as you could stand it.  Both of these mares taught us so much about the Friesian horse.  They tolerated Caesar, thinking a gelding was not as useful but he was ok they thought.  They were both in foal (back to just the mares..) and we were so excited for that to happen the following year.

Over the years we did it all with these two, seeing what a Friesian truly could do.  Popke seemed to really enjoy western, the slow jog was best, why bother moving if you did not have to!  We drove them both, as Ceasar and the girls taught us to do that.  We also tried dressage, saddleseat, some jumping and they were some of the first SCA jousting horses in the US, they helped lay the foundation for what we have now.  Though Popke had a great strategy about that we called the “cheat to win,” which anyone going against her complained about, she liked to lean out of the way so the opposing rider could not get a good lance hit in, did I say Friesians were smart?  =P  Sarinette also did some competing in lower lvl cross country.  We had met up with a woman who did that with her warmblood and wanted to try a Friesian, so why not.  She rode and showed Nette off with us and then took her to some events, which Nette did ok at.  That woman was actually a local doctor and since we were new to the area and she was the only one we knew, she became out doc as well…it is really great to have a doctor who does the horse thing as well, they really understand and no explanations needed!

We got those two mares in 94 with their foals arriving the next year.  We rebred them and concentrated on the possibilities of getting them to ster.  In 96 with foals at their sides they showed off at the keuring, we knew Popke was a bit short but wanted the real answer on that and it was right.  Nette went out their and demanded it though, she ended up with a first premie filly and then came back and got her ster.  We were so excited and thought hey, we must at least be doing something right, lol.  The following day we actually had a phone call from Nette’s previous owner asking how we did that, they told her she would never ster.  Well, we said, she looked in awesome shape and she begged the judges for it, we thought she had a good chance when we bought her.  If anyone ever wants to know the best way and what the judges like the best well…get your horse in shape!  Obviously they have to have a chance, look good, move well, but the judges truly like a horse that has been worked, and all we really did with Nette is lunge work!  We like to say she looked like a brick shithouse by the time she was at the keuring.

Those mares have taught us so much.  It may not have been what we wanted at first but I would not have traded them for anything.

Let it snow! Let it snow!! Let it snow….

Ok, so….its snowing for like the 3rd time this winter, not sure I would call this a winter, especially for Michigan.  By next week it is going to be 45, so will not see that snow for long, all of a couple of inches anyway.  I really wanted to do some more winter shots with the horses but since it is not much of a winter, so far that has been a bust.  To have a nice decent snow makes for some awesome pictures the next day.  Ah well, maybe I will still get lucky before the Michigan spring hits.

It has been a pain of a winter anyway.  Usually it is the farms down time and reboot for the next year, but it is more like trying to heal and be healthy for the upcoming season.  Ugh.  Jo’s shoulder has been messed up for months and trying to figure out what to do and whether or not it leads to surgery and I am lucky I can walk most of the time…sigh.  Oh well, trying to get things working but it’s not making it easy on us.

Always love it when it is snowing and watching the Friesians outside.  The white blanket that coats them and how the flakes lay on their manes and forelocks.  The best part is in their moustaches after they have been rooting underneath the snow!  Yes, some of them have moustaches.  It is actually a rare Friesian trait that I have noticed is being bred out of the breed, I see less and less of Friesians possessing it.  It is really a moustache that is above their upper lip, it will grow thicker with age and though it is smaller in the summer as they get their winter coat it grows out.  One older mare of ours, Jinke has a very long one, which is now white with age but we have often talked about using wax to curl it up, though I do not think she would be amused with us.

It is a shame many of the breeds unique qualities are being bred out, the moustache, the tipped ears and others.  I guess I want to keep a Friesian, a Friesian and if you want a different look, find a different breed, but it’s already changed, the breed has gone in a different direction.  But enough babbling, guess there was no real direction of this days blog, just babbling while it snows but…its already stopped snowing, lol.  So will find something more useful to talk about for the next one and enjoy the snow while it lasts.

Hail Caesar!

So I had made the first blog post from Black Dragon Farms and then I think…ok, now what, where do I go from here.  I am sure no one wants to hear about stall mucking or sweeping or the daily stuff or what I just ate, so now what.  Hmm, the horses, probably a good place to start.  And so who to start with, guess I should start with the first.

When we first started looking for horses to begin a breeding program, finding mares was not easy.  Numbers of Friesians in the US were low, higher quality mares were just not available.  We wanted to buy some ster mares to start with but we couldn’t.  Regardless we visited farms that had various mares.  We went out to Colorado, we had no intention of looking at or especially buying a gelding but as they were introducing us to the breed and took us for carriage rides with this champion driving gelding, that was it….we fell in love.  Not long later, Caesar showed up, this was before the farm even had a place to live.

Caesar was different, at the time he was taller than most, at 16.2h, solid bone and body and a long neck to go with it.  We were told he had been both ridden and driven, we had been in the cart though we didn’t own one currently so we wanted to ride him.  Course after Jo got on him in the ring and the trainer says…well, I think you should get off of him, he has never been ridden…eep.  Guess don’t believe all your told sometimes, eep.

Despite the fact he had never been ridden, we started riding him anyway and he took wonderful care of us.  We were not trainers, but our trainer helped us and Caesar taught us along the way.  We learned not long after that Caesar had allergies, his favorite thing to do of choice was to wipe snots all over you.  We did testing at one point and boy he was allergic to it all and we tried it all to help but I think if he couldn’t wipe snots on your best clothes, what point is there?  lol.

We had gotten some mares and we had our first foals on the way and the fun was about to begin.  We got into driving, we finally got our love for the medieval going and off we went!  The Friesians taught us how kind, gentle and forgiving they were for those of us that were clueless on things and they were willing to try it all.  We wanted to show and see what this incredible breed could do and Caesar tried it all.  He obviously drove, he learned medieval games with the rest of us, did dressage, which don’t think he really liked, lol.  He tried saddleseat and western and it was ok.  He let us people who did not know how to ride, ponyride with him and many of our family and friends did the same.

Many have seen the full set of gothic armor that we have, there is a picture of it above on Lionheart.  It was fitted and made for Caesar by a blacksmith, fellow SCA guy, after we had seen the set he had for his Friesian.  We knew it was what we had to do next.  Mark told us that we would have to get him used to it piece by piece as he came out to measure Caesar and had brought his set out as well.  We would have to try a piece and lunge him and then ride him in it and add the next til eventually he was wearing the whole suit.  Ah, he didn’t know Caesar.  We put one piece on him, than the next and finally all of it.  We were riding him around in the whole suit, 5 min later and for Caesar it showed us what he truly loved.  He puffed up, his neck arched and he pranced in it, showing it off, hail Caesar.  When his set finally arrived he claimed it and it was truly his.  He got upset if we tried pieces on another horse, so we made sure he wasn’t watching when we did.

Though Caesar was an incredible horse he loved to be a…pain, lol.  There are sharp points on the armor, it is patterned after a suit in the tower of London, but…we did leave the spike that is supposed to be on the headpiece off…glad we did.  He would fidget to no end when we were getting the armor on and when you tried to mount afterwards, once you were in the saddle he was all business but he would fuss to be on his way and for you to dress him faster.  He loved to rub the headpiece on you, which you had to avoid to not get a black eye.  You had to stand slightly off to the side when you held him to not get stabbed by the chest piece and also to hold him without getting bonked.  But after he was off to perform in his armor and complete his job he would stand forever.  A small child could come up see him and he would stand perfectly.  He did love to be a snot though, between getting his armor on or bouncing in the shafts of a carriage before a class or rubbing snots on you, he was really the best Friesian I know.

Last year was really one of our worst years here and I truly hope for a better one.  Caesar turned 29 last year and had been in and out of retirement but the past couple years he was truly retired other than a few pony rides and doing his best to look good and mug sugar cubes from everyone.  He had the run of the barn isle and waited for you at the feed room door, I was always waiting for him to walk in.  We had started having more trouble in the year as he started to drop weight and have more health issues.  But he was happy and seemed to enjoy things and we did everything in our power to help him.  I had been in the feed room to drop stuff off one nite and heard him outside as I opened the door I laughed as he was standing right there, waiting.  I gave him his sugar cubes and hugged him, he curled his neck around me and of course I offered him more goodies.  The next day he was laying in the spot he always stood, a slight hill in the front of the property which overlooks the road.  Friesians lay down all the time, so that was not new but this was different, my heart sank.  We went to him on the hill and it did not take long to realize he was telling us, he was done, it was time.  Jo and I sat with him, I had his head in my lap telling him how I loved him.  When the vet arrived I wanted to throw him off the property but no…  We knew it was coming and he took that decision from us and for that I guess I am grateful.

I have so many memories of Caesar I will hold dear.  We never had plans to buy a gelding but I guess it was in his plans and we never regretted it, we learned so much from him.  This was hard to write and I really did not know where to begin or what to put in, there is so much more I could say, I think it would take a few more pages than this.  But for all the times, Thank you Caesar.