Trotters, Arabians, Donkeys and Other People - Page 244 - The Horse Forum
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post #2431 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 02:25 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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The day the above photos were taken was an ideal day to set in motion the fixing of a problem that had been developing for three years: The erosion of the main traffic areas of the small utility paddocks near the shed, through which the horses have to pass to get to the shelter, and to get from their 2-hectare "night" paddocks to the "common" where they have access to 12 hectares of pasture and the tracks through 50 hectares of bushland. Also, they are fed in those small paddocks and mill around in them before foodtime.

The soil in these upper areas near the conservation reserve is very sandy, and therefore prone to erosion. High-traffic areas with large hoofed animals walking through it day in, day out get the grass worn off them, and the animals tend to then dig to make sand holes to roll in. Combined with two years of drought blowing sand through the eroded gateways on summer gales, the northern edges of our small utility paddocks were looking very bad.

Really we should have done something about it two years ago - it would have been easier to dump woodchips on top of destabilised areas then, than with two extra years of erosion carving everything out. At one stage two years ago we were trying to get mouldy hay rolls to put over these areas in mid-winter, so that they would buffer the loose soil below and also act as a seed reserve that would grow grass over these areas that winter. That was a great idea, but it fell through when we couldn't get the hay.

Anyway, the problem just kept growing, and because of the soaking rain, I had an ideal window to do the overdue stablisation work. The extra money in the account from our Airbnb hosting also helped - we don't normally have spare cash at that time of year - it's when our insurance bills and rates are due, and each of those are well over $1,000...

So I was able to order 10 cubic metres of bluegum woodchips to come in on a large truck Friday lunchtime, for $450. I spent the morning shifting blown sand down into the holes and walkways, levelling off as well as I could, and when the truck arrived, my afternoon's work was cut out: To spread out the two piles the driver made for me in the most useful spots. And, I actually managed to do it in the one afternoon, but got blisters despite wearing nice new leather gloves. It was a huge workout for me, but I was very happy with the result, and when Brett came home, he was amazed to find everything already done and no need for him to use either wheelbarrow or rake!

After all that, I even managed to go riding, albeit just twilight riding for one lap!

This should arrest the problem in those areas, together with the summer irrigation we do in those two small paddocks. We may get another small truckload of woodchips to go inside the shelter shed, which has been carved out over the years, and into that remaining bare area near the gateway of the shelter paddock... or we may get another large truck, and do the large hole on the other side of the main gate into the first 2-hectare paddock as well, and be done with it.

We've already used woodchips to stablisise the crossover over our driveway and the gateway where the animals go into the common - grass eventually grows back over the woodchips. This was a smaller problem that didn't get more than 2 cubic metres of woodchips on it, but it was successfully solved like this.

The donkeys approved - before-and-after photos below...
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post #2432 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 02:28 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2011
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Great job!!
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post #2433 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 02:42 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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Thank you! It was good for my arm muscles, core and also my legs. When we went on a bushwalk the next day I hardly felt the hills at all!

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post #2434 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 09:45 AM
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Join Date: Dec 2015
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It looks beautiful!
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Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you? - Balaamís Donkey
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post #2435 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 11:10 AM
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Vermont
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My back and shoulders hurt just thinking about moving all that material! But, I'm sure it's very satisfying having it done.
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post #2436 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 11:22 AM
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@SueC may I butt into your journal and ask a question non-related to your homestead? I sparked a bit of an argument with my daughters boyfriend (a young man of 22 that thinks himself very worldly) We were watching the news and a story about the Australian wildfires appeared and he said that the fires being not undercontrol was because the government was declining help from Australian citizens and other countries. I immediately jumped up and said what government would let their country burn and its wildlife be decimated on purpose? His example was a post on some construction blog he subscribers to from a (supposed) Australian construction company that offered use of their large equipment for fire breaks and was turned down because the correct paperwork and training was not filled out, then the blogger posted that they had completed the 4 hour training and filled out the paperwork only to have it broiled down in red tape and not be approved. Have you seen/heard of these type of stories as related to the wild fires? I am just curious? Governments in general love paperwork and red tape so I would not say this is out of the realm of possibility but as I am not Australian I wondered.
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post #2437 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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@carshon , once the fires got this big, there really was no way of bringing them back under control and the best people can do is damp things down a little and try to influence which direction they go it (speaking as bushfire brigade, and most of Australia's emergency bushfire fighting efforts are through volunteer brigades like us). The fires are expected to burn for months yet. Still, the on-the-ground efforts are important in trying to contain the fires, and in buying a little time. Fires won't be able to be properly contained until there is significant rainfall in the affected areas, and this isn't due for months. The whole of the forests are unprecedentedly tinder dry due to changing climate patterns. They always were dry in droughts, but now they're even drier, and even rainforests are burning - and this started over a year ago in Tasmania, where forests that had never burnt and aren't fire adapted burnt to the ground, and are never expected to fully recover. We're losing the Great Barrier Reef (to coral bleaching due to higher ocean temperatures), and rainforests, at the moment, both of which had been present for many millennia.

Re the large equipment for fire breaks, the people pushing that don't seem to understand fire behaviour. With extreme fires, containment through fire breaks becomes impossible, although you still have to put them in to slow fires down, but with fires like this, multiple fires are lit ahead of a main fire front by the embers that are being blown on the wind, ahead of the fire front. These spark many secondary fires that themselves turn into massive unstoppable blazes, and these secondary fires can be sparked kilometres away from the existing fire. Each new fire lit by embers will itself create embers and repeat the scenario.

The current Australian government is culpable with this fire emergency in part because of their pro-pollution, pro-coal policies, and because they cut all the firefighting budgets across the board over the last few years despite of increasing problems with bushfire, and also because the country's fire chiefs have been seeing this coming before this happened (because of the state of the forests over the winter, they'd never been this dry before in recorded history) and had been calling for an urgent meeting with the PM months before these fires started, but the PM refused to meet them. The fire chiefs also emailed the PM to beg for the army to be trained to help with the emergency they saw coming, but were told, I quote, that this was a "stupid idea" in a government reply email, and ignored. And now, of course, belatedly they are calling in the army to help, but it would have been so much more effective had the army been trained in fire management pre-fire, and deployed early in the fires when on-the-ground action is always at its most effective. But now, it's so big it's unstoppable, and these fires won't be out until winter rains set in around April / May (for a lot of areas), if the winter rains set in sufficiently.

Our current government doesn't live in the real world, but in a bubble. Some of the voters live in a bubble with them, but most of us have to live in the real world. I hope this helps to answer your questions.
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Last edited by SueC; 01-06-2020 at 02:31 PM.
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post #2438 of 2455 Old 01-06-2020, 05:31 PM
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Kentucky
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I'm glad to see you got some rain at least in your immediate area... I was thinking about this the other day, wondering how things were going. It sounds like perhaps the current Australian government is living in a similar bubble to the current U.S. government.
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post #2439 of 2455 Old 01-10-2020, 12:59 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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...first of all, my apologies for my relative scarcity at present, I'm very tired from some very busy weeks on the farm! I intend to catch up with all the usual journals, and to continue various interesting conversations that have been on the shelf for a bit, when I'm back to normal instead of, "I really want to lie down on the sofa and read a crime thriller / watch the tennis right now!"

It's Australian tennis season and OMG Team Australia nearly killed me yesterday in their epic quarter-final contest against Great Britain in the ATP Cup (a new thing a bit like the Davis Cup) - nail-biting stuff - a doubles decider and both teams had multiple match points against each other, and after resigning myself multiple times that our boys were going to lose, I nearly fainted when they managed to win the match after all!

I'm not usually a sports enthusiast but I just love the Australian men's tennis team - they're so lovely to watch, both in terms of gutsy play and in terms of camaraderie and mutual support. Huge job by team captain Lleyton Hewitt, singles players Alex de Minaur, Nick Kyrgios and John Millman, and doubles specialists John Peers and Chris Guccione.

They are probably going to play Spain in the semis and I'll be glued to the screen, if anyone wonders where I am...

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post #2440 of 2455 Old 01-21-2020, 12:29 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2014
Location: Australia
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Well, Spain completely obliterated Australia, although our young Alex de Minaur managed to take the first set off Nadal! That was riveting:

Alex de Minaur is still not fully grown yet. He has the determination of a bulldog and fights to the very last breath. Incredible to watch and a great kid. Actually outhitting Nadal for a set - excellent. Give it another couple of years, and he'll be outhitting Nadal for three sets!

Spain got beaten by Serbia in the final, and right now, the Australian Open has begun - later than usual, with the new team-event ATP Cup being played in Australia, for the first time this year. I am not quite as glued to it as usual - will probably only watch the matches with my favourite players.


On Sunday night I went riding - and am going again later today. It was a twilight ride; and on the loop back along the Swamp Track, who was coming in our direction? Don Quixote, gone walkabout!

It was so funny to see his comical big chocolate-brown face with the long ears and the white muzzle coming in our direction. I called out to him and he stopped as we stopped, to exchange pleasantries. Mary Lou and Sparkle were a little behind him, nibbling branches off the side of the track as they walked along. It's lovely to see the other animals using the walk tracks. The donkeys do it regularly; the horses use some of them, but not the long ones to the back of the property, unless I am riding; then they sometimes tag along.

It reminds me - I need to buy a new halter and recommence his saddle training, sadly interrupted by my foot fracture nearly 18 months ago and the wild goose chase trying to catch up with property maintenance ever since.

Airbnb has kept me busy this past six weeks too. It's going well and we have more nice reviews:

Super dinner last night with a lovely French lady and a nice-as-pie Korean couple who helped me feed the yearling steers last night, and oohed and aahed over all the donkeys etc. I had some seafood soup with pumpkin, mountain corn, tomatoes and celery from the garden; also a nice tomato-basil-mozzarella salad with lots of nice ripe salad tomatoes from the garden, and a lentil-beetroot-feta-walnut salad, with freshly picked beetroot and spring onions in it. Home-made rye mix / sunflower bread to go with it, with local olive oil to drizzle on it. For dessert, coconut rice cream, which I had to make a huge vat of because I forgot it was Monday and milk delivery day, and didn't remember to collect the milk from the gate until 4pm - it had been sitting there all day, and on a warm day too, so I immediately used 3L to make rice cream. The other 3L is holding up at the moment, but sooner or later it's going to turn and then I'm going to make cottage cheese, and go get another bottle of milk that will go straight in the fridge like it should...

Last week, we had a really nice young couple stay with us - he was from France, she from the UK - and I saw from their general fitness and flexibility, combined with their excellent attitude to the animals, that they were suitable horse riding candidates, so I offered. Paul had never formally ridden, just had a tourist group ride in India; Imogen had ridden ponies as a child "but never anything this big!" ...Sunsmart is 15.2hh, so about average size for an Australian horse. But, he's built like a barrel!

I walked with them and the horse for an extended trek across the local countryside, through the neighbour's place as well. Paul was first - I showed him how to get on and off properly (I do the click-your-heels-behind-you vault-off dismount as taught in Europe), and he immediately mounted smoothly and correctly first time. I showed him how to hold the reins and then talked about sitting upright but relaxed like in Pilates, heels down and under you, and that you go gently with the horse's movement when riding, and he immediately did exactly that and remained exactly like that for his whole ride. I asked him if he'd had an A at sport in school, and his partner laughed and said yes, and that he always picks things like this up immediately. You really couldn't tell, walking along on the horse, that he's never had lessons. He was riding actively and correctly and not interfering with the horse. Also, he was going, "Oh, I like this! And noone ever showed me how to sit properly before and hold the reins correctly." Also, it turns out, my horse is a lot smoother than the average mount for hire. Well, I explained that he's ex-racing, athletic, takes super-long strides and has very good suspension - nice shoulder angles etc and he's relaxed and swings his back instead of being stiff, because he's used to having a rider who doesn't make him uncomfortable.

Paul did the completely correct thing without needing it explained to him when we went downhill and leaned back in proportion to the gradient. Pilates can teach people a thing or two!

After we'd walked around the neighbour's two farm dams and seen kangaroos in the distance, we headed back to our connecting gate, and then it was Imogen's turn to ride, the long way back, up the hill and along the ridge with the views of the Stirling Ranges (including the mountain on which my husband proposed to me 12 years ago ). She too sat and rode beautifully, so when we got back to the meadow at our north boundary, I asked her if she wanted to trot - having trotted on ponies as a kid - and she replied affirmatively. She was finding out what trotting on a big horse was like - and on a trotting horse at that! So, I ran as fast as I could while Sunsmart casually stretched out his long legs at a floating trot. His medium trot is the standard horse's extended, and as fast as I can personally move without jetpacks to assist me. Imogen remembered how to post, and was super-happy when we pulled up when I could run no further. We then shortened her stirrups a couple of holes (we have the same length legs but I ride long, basically in dressage position, everywhere I go, so we thought we'd give her a bit more perch), and off we went again.

A wonderful time was had by all of us - over an hour of traipsing across the countryside, with a total of five pairs of legs (although only four pairs of legs were in conventional use most of the time, and half of those belonged to the horse!). The smiles all around were resplendent, even the horse was smiling, and lip-flapping too when he saw the carrots on offer afterwards - and the guests told me that this experience had been the highlight of their trip to Australia!

The terrain we rode through was photographed here - although that took in a longer ride than we did with two people on foot:

...and that's where I'm heading again today, when I've got my washing on the line!

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donkeys , free-ranging horses , french trotters , life & the universe , riding standardbreds

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