Tag Archives: horses

Precious Moments…

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of having a black lab, a kitten and a horse. While I grew up in a house full of hunting dogs, my “bucket list” animals had an address independent of mine…

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My favorite farmer and I met my freshman year of college. Our “first baby” was a black lab that we named Taylor. Taylor went everywhere with Matt and graduated from Thayer Engineering school with a masters in Engineering and Business. She was more than happy to move to the farm in June of 1997 when our address changed to Nebraska, and we quickly got her a black and white kitten to keep her company while we went to work.

My dream of having a horse came true the summer of 2005. My beloved feed yard horse developed navicular problems and could no longer work, so I brought him home to my back yard for his retirement years. Because “horses are like potato chips, and you can’t just have one” — That same summer, I bought a young quarter horse from a friend who ranches in the Sandhills.  A third eventually took up residence when old age claimed the first.

At the time that I brought my first horse home, I was beginning my seven year long battle with Graves Disease. Matt could not fathom why I wanted to add to my list of chores, however, my horses brought me a sense of peace in a time of mental chaos. When my body refused to work and my mind struggled to focus, I could walk out my back door and bury my face in the softness of my horse’s neck. When I got too weak to lift my saddle, I could climb up bare back and Dandy would take me for a walk — somehow he seemed to know that I needed that precious moment of peace to find the strength to face the next day.

megpismile1-jpgLearning to find harmony in that unique human/animal partnership is one of life’s greatest blessings. My girls understand this, and sharing those moments with them puts a sparkle in my eye and a warm glow in my heart.

My favorite blonde cowgirl and I have a regular Sunday date with our beloved equines. It is a time of laughter, and a time of sharing. It refuels my soul and creates many precious moments that we take with us on our life journey. Over the past few years, I have let responsibilities at the feed yard stand in the way of some of our weekly dates. It always left me feeling bereft and ill-prepared to face the challenges of the coming week. I know that Megan felt the void of our missing rides as well.

megpismile2-jpgThis fall, I made a renewed commitment to our weekly dates — allowing myself the time to just be — to enjoy, to renew, and to share those rides once again with Megan. There are times that we let our lives, our responsibilities, and our commitments block out the needed periods of self-renewel. We work ourselves into the ground refusing to admit that we are human and might need a moment to reflect and heal.

This is a recurring challenge for me.

Looking into the future, my crystal ball is still hazy but I know that I am going to take more time to enjoy life’s precious moments. There is balance to be found between sharing your talents and preserving your sanity. There even exists a harmonious place where adequate renewal time actually allows for a greater sharing of talents due to an increase in personal strength.

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I’m looking forward to finding that almost as much as I cherish the related precious moments…

 

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Filed under Chronicles of a Retiring Feed Yard Boss Lady, General

Never a Dull Moment…

I arrived home from the feed yard Saturday morning about 11:00am, hoping to take the dog for a walk before the predicted rain and snow began. I gathered my favorite farmer and our crazy mutt and headed down the gravel road. Shellie loves to go for walks and Matt and I enjoy the peace of the open fields.

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Shellie, the mildly crazy mutt 🙂

A large group of horse trailers and a couple of riders met us on the way home. This time of year there are many mama cows grazing the residue left after harvest on the corn fields. It isn’t unusual to meet up with the riders that periodically move the animals from field to field when the feed runs out.

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A mama cow grazing in a neighboring corn field…

My own horses graze the field adjacent to our house during the winter months. I use a one wire temporary electric fence along the perimeter of the field to keep the horses contained while grazing.  I let them out to eat in the day time and then bring them back into the corral at the house each afternoon before sunset.

"The boys", Dandy and Magnum...

“The boys”, Dandy and Magnum…

The weather Saturday was cold and cloudy, obviously inspiring a spunky attitude in my horses. As Matt, Shellie and I were about a ½ mile from home I noticed that Dandy and Magnum had decided to excitedly run around our corn field — feeding off of the energy of the other horses and riders headed out to move cattle. The next thing I knew, they both tore through the temporary electric fence and headed west at a brisk gallop.

I took off at a run for home trying to get back to gather halters, my favorite blonde cowgirls, and my vehicle in order to intercept the boys before they traveled too far from home. My girls are awesome farm kids — having already figured out the problem by the time that I made it to the driveway — so we headed out picking up my favorite farmer and the dog along the way.

Looking back, it must have been comical – at the time, I wasn’t laughing. We caught up with the horses about a mile and a half west of our house. The boys weren’t really sure that they wanted to give up their freedom, but Dandy decided that the alfalfa in my hand was more interesting than running around. Megan and I got them both haltered and headed back to the house.

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My favorite farmer is a great guy and had the fence fixed shortly after Meg and I arrived home with the horses. It was obvious that the boys had enjoyed their extra “recess”. It was not the way that I had intended to spend my Saturday afternoon, but on a farm there is never a dull moment.

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Filed under Family, General

Small Squares…

I have always loved horses.  As I little girl, I had a typical infatuation with the big beautiful animals.  I dreamed of one day having my own.

Matt and I moved to Nebraska more than 15 years after my first horse ride as a vacationer in the mountains of Montana.  As an adult, I put the dreams of having my own horse on hold for another nine years after changing my address to the Cornhusker State.  I had set my sights on learning how to manage a cattle feed yard, and that was no small task for the East Coast urbanite.

"The Boys" and I...

“The Boys” and I…

My favorite farmer grumbled quite a little bit when I brought “my boys” home the summer of 2006.  He worried that caring for them would add too much to my work load.  In addition, he lamented the amount of feed that was required to keep the boys in good shape.

Over the years, Matt has mellowed toward the horses.  He now affectionately calls them my “knot heads”, and does a great job growing the feed that they need.  I graze them on grass in the summer, and an alfalfa field in the winter.  When the winter weather gets especially cold, I supplement the boys with alfalfa dehy pellets and baled prairie hay.

We put the prairie hay up in small square bales that weigh 50-60 pounds.  Gathering the bales and bringing them home is always an interesting chore!

One of the places that we grow prairie hay grass is on pivot corners where we must grow a dry-land (non-irrigated) crop...

One of the places that we grow prairie hay grass is on pivot corners where we must grow a dry-land (non-irrigated) crop…

8 small square bales of prairie hay waiting to be picked up and placed on a trailer...

8 small square bales of prairie hay waiting to be picked up and placed on a trailer…

The tractor and hay implement picks up the sets of 8 bales and places them on the trailer...

The tractor and hay implement picks up the sets of 8 bales and places them on the trailer…

Megan and Matt helping to place the bales...

Megan and Matt helping to place the bales…

The pile got pretty high!

The pile got pretty high!

The horses will be well fed this winter, and some of this hay will also go to the feed yard...

The horses will be well fed this winter, and some of this hay will also go to the feed yard…

Baling prairie hay (grass hay) that we are unable to graze allows us to make good use of our resources.  Prairie hay is great feed for both horses and cattle.  It also provides a way for our farm to make a sustainable cycle.

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Filed under Farming, General

Flip Flops, Cowboy Boots, Snow Boots?

My favorite farmer loves to downhill snow ski.  He has wonderful memories of childhood family skiing trips to Colorado, and also spent one winter working in Steamboat Springs, CO during college to take advantage of the beautiful mountain slopes.

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I have worked with much more dedication to earn the right to wear cowboy boots than snow boots…

I ski like a Floridian who spent her formative years digging in the sand and swimming in the ocean.  My good friend from college competed on the Dartmouth Alpine team, and taught me to ski my senior year in exchange for a few good laughs…

The Alpine skier and the swimmer...

The Alpine skier and the swimmer…

In the last 16 years, Matt and I have taken five or six ski trips back to Steamboat Springs.  I am proud to say that I not only ski the blue trails, but I try to make use of each and every inch of snow as I diligently make my way down the mountain.  My pride necessitates skiing well enough to do the blue trails, my common sense determines my speed…

Two years ago, skiing the blue trail together...I was the last down back to finish the run :)  My baby was still at ski school, but she might well finish ahead of me this year also...

Two years ago, skiing the blue trail together…I was the last one to finish the run 🙂

My older two daughters will likely ski the black trails with their Dad at some point this weekend.  I can promise you that I will not.  I actually find that I ski much better when I can not see my children and, therefore, do not worry about them breaking their necks as they venture down the slopes.

Two years ago, my baby was still learning how to ski---this year she may well join her older sisters wizzing by me on the slopes...

This year my baby will be able to ski the big mountain and may well join her older sisters wizzing past me on the slopes…

I figure that I have enough to worry about getting myself down the trail and then back up the lift…The truth is that I am afraid of heights.  The highest that I like to get is the back of my favorite black quarter horse.

This is high enough...

This is high enough…

Unfortunately, the ski lift is much higher. It took several trips for me to desensitize myself enough to the ski lift that I wasn’t holding on to my husband’s arm with a death grip as we soared above the slopes.

Simply beautiful...

Simply beautiful…

I can admit that the view is beautiful.  God’s paintbrush is as prevalent in the beautiful Rocky Mountains as it is in my own beloved Great Plains.  My greatest love is to be outdoors, so for that reason I enjoy skiing.

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Now, if only they would let me ride my horse up and down the slopes instead of taking the ski lift…

Perhaps this weekend I will ski with the fearless abandon of my family—but don’t hold your breath 🙂

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Filed under Family, General

It’s Not About the Trailer…

When I bought my quarter horse (Dandy) from Mike Coffman in the spring of 2005, I realized the childhood dream of being a real horse owner.  While I had a couple of work horses at the feed yard, their care was primarily provided by my cowboy and I only rode them sporadically.

He full-filled a dream…

To have my own horse in my own backyard fulfilled a very special and personal dream.  Dandy was a coming four year old when I bought him from Mike.  Lucky for me, God made him a big, gentle creature and we have spent the last seven years learning from each other.

Dandy taught me a lot about communication, feel and intent.  He taught me to be a strong yet compassionate leader.  He taught me that slow and steady is always true, and to never take anything for granted.

Most importantly, he taught me that “It’s not about the trailer”…

One day, a couple of months after I brought him home from Mike’s ranch, I wanted to load him on my horse trailer and take him down to our grass pasture to ride.  I had trouble that day loading him on the trailer.  I got frustrated with myself, I got frustrated with him, and it was not a good experience for either one of us.

In the months that followed, I learned that the more time and effort that I invested into our relationship—the clearer our communication became and the easier it was to get him to be my partner.  You see, that day early on in our relationship, it wasn’t about the trailer—it was about the lack of trust and lack of good communication that made loading him challenging.

Today, it only takes the pointing of my finger and the lifting of the lead rope for Dandy to happily load into the trailer.  In fact, I move him from pasture to pasture around my house with that same point of the finger.  Sometimes it seems as though he reads my mind and offers what I desire almost before I ask for it.  Conversely, I can also provide what he needs and desires at critical times in our partnership —that is the power of a relationship that is based on trust.

What used to challenge us is now easy because I took the time to lay a good foundation and invest in the relationship…

As a blogger and a beef farmer that believes in transparency, I am often asked by other cattlemen how we can reach out to our customers that live far away from the farm to explain ranching practices or products that are used to raise beef.  There is no simple answer because I believe that it is not about the ranching practice or the animal health product any more than my problems loading my young horse were about the trailer.

I do not have a job without someone who wants to purchase my beef…

It is, quite simply, about the relationship between the farmer/rancher and the customer.  Is this relationship based on trust and truth?  Or is it riddled with distrust and inaccuracies?  In short, it is about whether you trust me to offer good care to my animals and use the resources on my farm in the best way.  Equally important, it is also about whether I trust you and value your questions and concerns regarding the way that your beef is raised.

I believe that I offer good care to them, but I need to be open to explaining that care to those that are interested…

It is not about the antibiotic, the growth hormone, the beta agonist, or the feed yard…

It is rather about the quality of our relationship and our ability to have a respectful conversation about all of the things that are listed above.

  •  Can we empathize and have compassion for each other?
  • Can we trust that each one of us can learn from each other and do our own special part to work for the betterment of our country?

    My dream gets better with each day that passes…

I think that we will find that our lives are enriched by the knowledge that we can share with each other, just as my beloved quarter horse has enriched my life and taught me that the best communication skills are the ones that are based on love and respect…

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Filed under General, Natural Horsemanship

Becoming a Believer…

I have a quote down at the very bottom of the home page from football player Drew Brees’ book, Coming Back StrongerWhen I read Drew’s book a couple of years ago, it just plain spoke to me.  In fact, I have many pages of notes where I copied down quotes that I loved from the book.  The one below is my favorite…

“Believing—there are several layers to it. There’s the surface-level type of believing, where you acknowledge that something is true. Then there is a deeper kind of belief–the type that gets inside of you and actually changes you. It’s the kind of belief that changes your behavior, your attitude, and your outlook on life, and the people around you can’t help but notice.”

I am a person of very strong beliefs and faith.  I have always been strong-willed, but the confidence that I have attained as an adult stems from the development of personal beliefs and faith.  My life is centered around love, empathy and hard work because I believe that is what allows me to use my talents to achieve greatness.

I work tenaciously as a parent to teach my girls to be believers

Although there are many different people that have served as mentors for me over the years, learning to be a caregiver for animals has inspired in me a deep level of believing that transcends everything else.  Figuring out what an animal needs and then working tenaciously to provide those needs brings me an inner confidence and a sense of peace.

Both of these animals are actively engaged with me and asking me for guidance…

As I watch my cattle thrive and grow, and then trace their performance all of the way to my own dinner plate I become even more of a believer. I am left with a sense of purpose, and inspired to work harder with each day that passes.  My love for animals is diversified and runs deep. I am happiest when I am surrounded by them.

On top of my trusty equine partner and surrounded by cattle…

My daughter, Megan, and I spent a couple of days recently in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  My husband laughs that even when I go on vacation, I take some of my animals with me.  Megan and I joined some friends at “horse camp” riding and learning how to be better communicators with our equine partners.

Megan (right) practicing her “Miss America” wave while sitting side-saddle on her horse.  She is joined by her two friends and their favorite equines…

My favorite part of the trip was watching my daughter in her own journey to becoming a believer.  Our animals not only teach her a sense of personal responsibility as she learns to provide for them and understand them, but living her dream with them also brings a sense of innate self-confidence.

The above picture makes my heart swell.  The absolute joy and personal pride in her expression is priceless to me as a parent.  At the very moment that I took the picture, Megan became a believer.  She realized what it meant to be a partner to her horse and they achieved a unique harmony that only a lucky few will ever feel.

She caught a glimpse of how wonderful it feels to use empathy and feel to successfully and unselfishly communicate.  Going forward, she will view the world differently—with a sense of confidence and understanding that enables her to successfully use the gifts with which she is blessed.

Is there a pivotal moment in your own life that caused you to become a believer?

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Filed under Family, General, Natural Horsemanship

Realizing a Dream…

My mother is a school teacher with a love of traveling.  I remember in elementary school being loaded up in her suburban to drive across the country.  Normally we headed to Wyoming and Montana (a good long drive from Florida!) because my dad is a devoted fly fisherman and has always had a true love for the area’s trout streams…

My brother and I taking turns fly fishing…

When we arrived after many days of driving, my dad would fly out and meet us.  What followed were days of riding horses to high mountain streams in search of trout.

During those long days of driving, I spent a lot of time daydreaming as I looked out of the car window.  As we approached the mountains of Wyoming, I would sometimes see cowboys moving cattle on horseback.  I would pretend that it was me and dream of the day when I could play cowgirl.

A great teacher who instilled a love of the outdoors and horses deep into my soul…Al, a horse and fly fishing enthusiast, getting ready to take me and my dad deep into the wilds of the Montana mountains.

As I grew older and became a competitive swimmer, the family driving trips ceased due to my swimming meet schedule but we still would fly out to the trout streams of Montana every summer before school started.  By high school, I had moved on from my childhood world of pretend, but the dream of riding horses and learning about cattle lay tucked somewhere deep in my heart.

When I met my farm boy from Nebraska at Dartmouth, little did I know that love would bring me to a farm in rural America where my childhood dreams would literally come true.  I have to admit that there is a lot more hard work involved than I had ever imagined, but the life that I lead in Nebraska is not far from what I dreamed of as a child.

Learning to be a cowgirl is a reality for her—she is lucky enough to live the dream…

Last Sunday, my middle daughter and I moved cattle on horseback down at our grass pasture.  That morning something triggered a sense of deja’ vu and memories of long ago dreams flooded my mind as the two of us moved the cattle.  I remembered that little girl looking out the car window and watching the cowboys, and realized that I had become the heroine of my childhood daydreams…

Trailing the cattle—Megan and Magnum lead the way while Dandy and I encouraged the cattle to follow…

My view of a cowboy has changed over the years.  I will never be exactly like those men moving cattle thirty years ago in the mountains of Montana, but I do spend my days caring for cattle and I have a love of horses that runs deep to my core.  I realized Sunday morning how much I loved what I do, and what a beautiful blessing it is to be able to teach it to my daughter.

Dandy’s ears show that he is alert and doing his job well. In turn, I take a moment to document “the dream” with my IPhone while on his back…

I do not know exactly what my parents had in mind when they took me to those mountains year after year, but those trips planted the idea of doing something different with my life—Something tied to nature in rural America.

Her hair is blonder than mine ever was, but she gets that same spark in her eyes when she gets to be a cowgirl

Today I live in a state where cattle outnumber people 4 to 1.  I spend my days caring for animals and raising my children in God’s Country.

What more could any little girl with big dreams wish for?

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Filed under Foodie Work!, General

Friday Fun With Megan…

“Horses” by Megan Anne Burkholder

Horses

I like them.

Ask me why.

Because they help me rope and ride!

Because they fly like the sky!

Because they take me in and say everything will be OK!

Because they stand on command,

Because they roam a wild prairie, free like wildfire…FREE as can be!

Because they walk slow and steady.

Because they run swiftly through newly fallen snow!

Because they are sleek, light beautiful creatures of Mother Earth!

Because…

Because…

Because…

That’s why I like Horses!

Happy Trails!

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Filed under Family, General