Friday, May 28, 2010

Tucker and I go schooling at Longwood Farms !

Jennie Jarnstrom, our trainer, invited me to come along for a schooling at the famed Longwood Farm in Ocala last weekend. It was the second time she had invited me this month, but unfortunately, I had to decline the first time, due to not having a traveling companion for Tucker.

Yes, you heard right. You see, Tucker is not the most patient traveler when it comes to hauling. He is ok for about the first 45 minutes, which is the time it takes to go across town from our barn to Jennie's. But anything longer, and he gets impatient. Very impatient. Not really a problem if he was not such a moose. But in my bumper pull, which by the way was built for Tucker...7'6 tall, extra wide and extra long, once he gets rockin' and rollin', the next thing I know, my trailer is not only rocking side to side, but to and fro! At 65 mph on the back roads to Rocking Horse, this is not fun. And, it is not safe either.

But give him a friend to pass the time with, and he is (knock on wood) the perfect traveler! Perhaps he just needs a buddy to chat with:

"Hey, where do you think we're going this time?"

"Last trip we went to that cool farm with all the cross country jumps"!

"Hey, I wonder if that cute little bay mare will be there this time"?

"Gosh, I hope she avoids that road with all those bumps and sharp curves this time"!

I always wondered if on trips that we made regularly, such as taking Imp to Rocking Horse, do they know where they are going? Can they tell by the turns we make, the bumpy roads or even the smells?

Anyhow, I invited my daughter Jen to go on the first outing, but she regretfully declined. Bates was not in condition and she was in Tampa anyhow. Somehow, despite being the best eventing mom there is, the only cross country schoolings I missed with Jen were her outings to Longwood Farm. She, like everyone else who goes there, raves about the beauty of it. She was really bummed not to be able to go. Nor could she go on this last outing, so I invited my friend, Pam Fore, who jumped at the invitation!

4:30 arrived very early last Sunday! My daughter Amanda was also accompaning me, as Jennie was bringing Bella, a sale horse, for Amanda to ride. We arrived at the barn, fed, wrapped Tucker and actually arrived at Pam's at just a little after 6am! This would be a first for Tucker, loading another horse into the trailer after he had already been loaded, but he was a good boy and was very excited to have Copper, Pam's Thoroughbred gelding along for the ride!

We made it to Longwood Farm in Ocala right on schedule, arriving at 8:00. We pulled up behind Jennie's entourage of trailers, which were waiting for the massive gates to be opened. Just from the road, what I could see was jaw dropping!

Longwood Farm is legendary among eventers. It is the site of USEA training sessions and was the home of eventing great, Ralph Hill.

Driving down the tree lined driveway, sweeping fields on either side are full of many cross country jumps of all levels, from beginner novice up to the upper levels. Water complexes, banks, ditches, sunken roads, logs and more. There is even a life-size metal sculpture of a horse and rider, jumping a fence, downwards towards a pond!

The driveway stretches forever, passing the cross country fields, 2 barns, and manicured turn out pastures, before arriving at the main barn, with its stained glass windows and water fountain. Past the main barn, are 2 dressage arenas, a covered ring, maintenance buildings and all along the way, there are several bungalows. We never did see the main residence, which I understand has it's own private entrance.

We pulled our trailers up a hill (yes, a hill!) under the canopy of a pine forest, being careful to manuever around the trees. There were vast pastures to our one side. I never did get to see the view from the top or other side.

We unloaded, Amanda found Bella to groom and tack, and we were all quickly mounted and heading back down the hill, past the barns and out to the cross country fields. The morning was still cool and there was a slight breeze. Thankfully, there were grandfather oaks everywhere to provide shade for when we were stopped to watch the other riders have a turn.

We warmed up, and began popping over little logs, which Tucker usually trips over, as they aren't really big enough to give him an excuse to pick up his legs.

Muscles warmed up, horses and riders both eager and fresh, we were ready to progress in height and difficulty. Our last outing on the cross country course was a year ago, I am sad to say, so I was not interested in over facing him or giving him any reason to have a bad experience. Fun was the name of the day!

And fun we had! We jumped so many different obstacles. I really have a problem with jumping up banks. I can jump down them all day long, but for some reason, going up freaks me out. Maybe because I once saw someone fall and break their shoulder! So of course, on our first attempt at going up the bank, my mind went blank and I shut down. Tucker decided that if I was going to be a sack of potatoes on his back, he wasn't going anywhere, and slid to a stop just in front of the bank. I don't blame him one bit! We circled around, I got tough with myself, looked up and across the bank, and up we went, 2 strides across, down the other side, and then I quickly gathered up the loose reins for the log which was 3 strides after the bank. We repeated it a few times, and I am glad to say, had no more stops.

The other jump I was nervous about, turned out to be my favorite! It was a sunken road, with logs at the top of the hills on either side. The object is to jump a log, landing downhill, going across the sunken road, then up the hill and jumping a log at the top of the next hill. No matter which side you jump, you are landing going downhill. The more I watched the others ride this, the more fun it looked and I could not wait to give it a try! Landing a jump where you cannot see the footing is like being on a roller coaster! It was actually exhillerating!

Our outing lasted 4 hours! Four, butt sore hours, but oh! What fun they were! We went through the water complex (never an issue for Tucker), up and down more banks, over more logs, post and rails, benches, chairs and rolltops.

Amanda had a blast on Bella, too! It has been a year since she took Dolly to Rocking Horse, and months since she last rode. Bella, a former prelim mount, took good care of her and they both looked to be having a good time!

It may not be until the fall until we do another horse trial, but honestly, if all I do are cross country schoolings like these, who cares? Isn't this what eventing is all about anyhow? I mean, no dressage, no stadium. What could be better! I cannot wait for our next outing!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

My horse apologized to me (and other equine emotions)

Just listen, I have so much to tell you!
Tucker letting me know his opinion!

So the other evening, Tucker did something that he has never done before...not ever in the 6 and a half years of owning him. Not even when he was a baby going through his, well, his baby phase of tasting everything. He BIT me!
Now it wasn't intentional..I don't think! I had come into the barn in a whirlwind. It was my OPRC (Old People Riding Club...stop smirking, please) meeting that evening and I wanted to arrive in time to hear the guest lecturer, Dr. Fowinkle. So I raced to the barn after work and rushed into the barn, grabbing feed buckets. It was a stark contrast to my normal sedate easy going entrance, where I say hello to everyone and pat the barn cats. So I think the horses instantly reacted to my body language.
I had dumped everyone's feed except for Bates and Tucker. As I was standing in front of Bates stall, about to dump his feed, Tucker reached over from his door opening, which is open with only a stall guard across the front, and BIT me! HARD! On my hip! I have to say, the pain was a bit of a shock, just as much as the fact that he had just bitten me for the first time. My first instinct was to throw an empty feed bucket at him. It made contact with his big ole head and he quickly retreated to the back of the stall. After standing there, getting pissed and thinking, "wow, this really hurts", I finally entered his stall, giving him a good slap on his side for good measure. I dumped his feed but refused to allow him near it..not that he tried. He knew he was in the doghouse and stood his ground, waiting for me to grant him permission to eat. I finally allowed him, admonishing him as he made his way to the feed tub and telling him how much he had hurt me.
Well, I proceeded with my chores, making breakfast, putting the evening hay out in the pastures and turning the mares out front and turning the other geldings out. All I had left was Tucker. But as I approached his stall, he was not in his usual spot, which is standing in the doorway, waiting with his head over the stall guard. No, he was standing with his head in the back corner! Seriously! He had put himself in the corner!

I tried to stifle a laugh as I realized what he had done. I tapped him on his butt, told him he was forgiven, and to come on around.

Well, he turned around and then, proceeded to apologize to me!

How does a horse apologize? Well, he schnuffled me (I think that is a term only horse people use!). I mean, he took his soft muzzle and started, well, you know, schnuffling me! He was running his muzzle up and down my arms. Then he started to lick me! And don't you know, he was very, very careful not to even let me feel his teeth!
He had this genuine look of remorse as he was doing this, and I think if he could have spoken, he would have apologized a hundred times.
Now this is the horse that has broken dozens of fence boards, knocked over jumps for fun during turnout, loses his fly mask in under 2 minutes, and once stepped on my foot, all 1400 pounds on 2 toes which he pivoted on before moving off it, breaking them in the process. Not once did he ever, ever apologize! But here he was, showing me an emotion that I had never seen from him before! It was very touching!

I have witnessed other enduring emotions from my horses. Most notably, humor and scolding.

Have you ever been scolded by a horse? I have!

It was a couple of years ago. Imp is the Queen of the barn. She is very prim and proper and she knows the barn rules. She obeys the rules 99% of the time, except for when she gets into a rare funny mood. She does not tolerate other horses not abiding by the rules either and will pin her ears back and let them know that their behavior is childish and unacceptable.
This one particular morning, I pulled up to the barn, bright and early, as usual. My boarder had fed the night before. She had let Imp into her stall from the back pasture, using the gate in her run, instead of the stall door in the barn aisle. She did not know that the stall door, which was covered with winter blankets, was not locked, just shut tight.
Well, when I pulled up, my heart skipped a beat, because I saw her door wide open and no sign of Imp, who usually hangs her head over the door when I arrive. I thought for sure she must have left her stall and since I had not seen her as I drove up the driveway, I was convinced she had wondered off the property.
But as soon as I opened my car door, Imp's head suddenly appeared over the opening of her stall. I was so relieved! I couldn't believe that she was in her stall and didn't escape!
As soon as I entered the barn, that is when the scolding began. She started shaking her head at me, up and down, left and right. And she verbally blasted me, making all kinds of deep nickers and grunts. Her ears were pinned back as she did this. Her little charade continued for a few minutes, and I realized, wow, I am being scolded by a horse! I knew that if she could have talked, she would have said "Hey, humans screwed up! You left my door open and I could have escaped. I could have gotten into the feed room and had my fill. I could have wandered off the property and gotten into who knows what kind of trouble. But I at least have some common sense and know better, even if you don't. So I stayed where I know I should be, safe and secure in my stall. Now, hurry up and feed me, and you better be giving me extra treats". Yes, that is exactly what she said to me that morning!
Now this same horse, does have a sense of humor. It is not displayed often, unlike her barn mate, Bates, who is the barn clown. So when she does get a humorous side, it makes it all the more amusing.
Just last week, she got such a wild hair. I had turned her and Dolly out in the front pasture, for their evening turnout. I had 3 piles of hay, and had returned to the barn to retrieve GiGi. I left the gate slightly open, because, unlike the geldings who would not hesitate to take advantage of such an offer, Imp would not dare, and Dolly, who would normally not wait to take advantage of such a situation, was not about to leave hay. As I am walking GiGi to the pasture, I see Imp suddenly spy the open gate. She looks at me, looks at the gate, and starts walking for it. I see what she is up to and increase my pace. So does Imp. I break into a trot. So does Imp. She reaches the gate just before I do, breaks into a canter, and out she goes, right past me. I swear she laughed at me as she went by!
I quickly got Gi-Gi in the pasture, removed her halter, and took off after Imp, who was cantering around the barn yard.
Experience has taught me that food is absolutely useless in reining Imp back in. Unlike the other horses who will do anything for a bucket of feed, Imp will not resort to being bribed. She does have principles. Such things as bribes are beneath her.
So around and around the yard she goes, finally making a beeline up the driveway, me in hot pursuit, pleading with her to stop. Thank God we are on a private dirt road and our biggest worries are the teens on ATV's. She made a left out the driveway, went about 40 feet, stopped across the road at my neighbors pasture and then turned and watched me coming. As I approached, she of course turned around, laughed in my face and trotted back down the driveway, into the barnyard.

Did I mention she laughed in my face?

I was able to get Imp into the back pasture, where she did what she normally does when she doesn't want to be caught..she did perfect 20 meter trot circles around me. Laughing all the while.
So I ignored her and went about my barn chores, knowing she was safe. Once I gave up the game, she did too. It was no longer fun for her and when I was ready to turn the boys out in the pasture, she came in willingly.
Obviously there is no fun if I am no longer in a sheer panic.

Humor is probably the emotion I have seen the most expressed in horses. Bates likes to remove his halter and lead from the hook outside his stall door and twirl it around. And if there is something that can be knocked over, he'll gladly go out of his way to do so.
My old jumper, Sir Tally, was an escape artist. Only, after he had let himself out of the stall, he would then proceed to let everyone else out. This usually occured between the hours of 2:00 and 5:00 AM, when the barn owner was rudely awaken to the sound of galloping hoof beats outside her bedroom window.

I feel sorry for people who say animals don't have emotions. Animals have a wide range of emotions, you just have to remove your head from the cell phone or ipod. They have so much to tell us, and all you have to do is just listen! Try it, you'll be amazed what your horse tells you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What makes a champion?

Jen and Imp sharing peppermints
At Poplar Place HT, Training level

At Rocking Horse...I hate this table! I have seen Imp leave out a stride
and stretch her way across it!

One question many horsemen have debated for generations, is, what exactly, makes a champion?
Is it genetics? The breed? Size? Talent? Is it the training? What about the partnership? Is it the size of their heart, both literally and figurativly?
Secretariat's heart was 22 pounds...the normal Thoroughbred's heart weighs in at about 8-9 pounds! Was it his heart that made him so great? His breeding? There is no doubt that he is one of the greatest champions of all time! Yet amazingly, he was not considered an immediate success in the breeding shed. However, his bloodlines can be found in 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones; and he is considered a broodmare sire, with such notable offspring as grandson AP Indy, sire of 2007 Belmont winner Rags to Riches (the first filly to win the race since 1905), and Storm Cat. I even own a grandson of Secretariat, Bates, by the legendary Bates Motel. Although Bates looks similar to the big chestnut stallion, he does not come close to being in the same league!
In her book Saddled, author Susan Richards describes having heart as meaning "gusto, pizzazz, a willingness to go anywhere or try anything. Not blindly, but with an expansiveness of spirit and intelligence that are visible in a horse's posture and eye. Heart is confidence" She goes on to say that it is the biggest difference between a good horse and an extraordinary one.
I agree! But does having such heart mean that a horse will be a champion? I think so! But what is a champion? Certainly horses like Rachel Alexandra, Affirmed, Theodore O'Connor and Gifted are all champions, having attained the highest level of their chosen sport, and doing it incredibly well! But does being a champion mean you have to be a 14.2 hand pony competing at Rolex or to be undefeated on the race track?
If you were to ask any student at a therapuetic riding school, such as Orlando's Freedom Ride, I am sure they would declare every horse and pony in their barn a champion! I had the chance to visit there today. I didn't see any blue ribbons hanging from stall doors, but these horses were spoken of so highly, so affectionately. No, they may not have blue ribbons, but they have achieved something much more important in the lives of so many!
I know that in my own barn, of my 4 current horses, I have 1 definite champion, 1 in the making, and 1 definitely not! And Bates, the grandson of Secretariat? Well, lets just say that the jury is still out on him!
But Impulsive, our 20 year old retired Thoroughbred mare? She has the heart, just as Susan Richards describes. She also has the talent, the breeding and in my opinion, the breed..she is a Thoroughbred after all. And a mare at that! I was not a fan of mares, not having owned one for 20 years. Then Imp came along and a wise dressage judge told my daughter and I that a bond between a mare and her rider will be stronger than any between a gelding and his rider. And after watching the way Imp looked after my daughter Jen out on the cross country course, I have to agree! She is talented and had the training to boot..all traits that when combined, make a champion. With her former owner, she evented at the advanced levels..pretty impressive in the eventing world. She was not thrilled competing at the lower levels with Jen, she loved the higher heights and faster speeds. But she taught Jen the ropes of eventing, taking care of her like nothing I have ever witnessed before, keeping her out of trouble and if they did get into trouble, I saw this horse execute the most daunting manuevers, that only a true champion could muster. That alone, in my eyes, makes a champion! When they schooled at the prelim and intermediate levels, you could see a look in her eye that she just could not get enough. When a bad knee forced her into early retirement 2 years ago, the surgeon could not believe that just a month earlier, she had been schooling at these levels with no indication of any pain whatsoever. Now that makes a champion! That is heart!
My beloved Tucker, has not the breeding, but he has heart and a partnership, that I think will make him a champion..maybe, definitely not at Rolex, but whatever level we do eventually settle on, I know he will excel at! People are shocked when they see him and find out he is only a premarin baby! Ok, he is no longer a baby, I really gotta stop referring his as such! To his sire's credit, he does have a famous the Percheron world. But for a sport horse? His poor dam doesn't even rate a name or description, only known as a "15.1 hand Quarter Horse." Nice, huh? But having owned him since he was a big bouncing baby of 6 months old, about to turn 7 years in less than 2 weeks, I think we have a pretty good partnership...I have been his only trainer, only letting a handful of other people on his back...3 to be exact...and I can pretty much read him like a book, as he can read my thoughts. And that definitely goes into the stir pot of ingredients for the making of a champion! And, he is showing talent. And a love of the sport...and a love of the sport is definitely an important ingredient! After all, I can't really see a dressage horse such as Gifted, performing well at say, reining, although a good number of Thoroughbred racers have gone on to excel at many other careers...hunters, dressage, jumpers and eventing in particular.
It is an interesting debate, one which will continue to be discussed in the barns, over a cup of hot tea (or coffee) at the show grounds, or at the backstretch, for many generations to come.
How about you? What makes a champion in your book?

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Tucker's first horse trial, Rocking Horse, April 2009

Tucker at the age of 4

I had never heard of a PMU or Premarin horse, until I was shown a brochure from an adoption group in the 1990's. I was absolutely horrified that such a practice exsisted: mares kept in straight stalls, unable to lie down for the most part of their pregnancy, hooked up to catheters to collect urine, and then the babies, sent to auction houses before they were 6 months of age, with the majority being sold to slaughter houses, so Europeans could eat them. All of this cruelty in the name of a drug to keep women from suffering through menopause. I was horrified that such a barbaric practice was going on, and had been going on for decades! Only in recent years had this practice come to light, and adoption groups were forming and were working with the ranchers, most in Canada and in the northern United States, to breed decent quality sport horses, that might actually have a chance of ending up somewhere other than on somebodies dinner plate.

It wasn't until 2003, nearly 10 years after seeing that brochure, that I had the opportunity to adopt a Premarin foal. I was so excited! I scoured rescue group websites, looking at prospects. Most foals were draft crosses: Percherons or Clydesdales crossed with Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. The perfect sport horse! I ended up with a black Percheron/QH colt. He had been originally picked out by someone else, but they decided they didn't need another horse and offered him to me!
The black colt was much larger than any of the other foals that were delivered with him to a drop off point in Winter Garden, about an hour from my house. We loaded him and another, a Fjord cross for a friend, into the trailer, and off we went! We quarantined the two together for several months. I was never able to get more than a quick pat while offering food to this wild fellow...he was so wild, I might as well have adopted a mustang! Twice during his quarantine, he jumped over the 4 foot fence. Well, I wanted a horse that could jump, I told myself, all the while, wondering just what the hell I was getting my self in to.

After 2 months and not making any progress, mainly because he was being kept so far from my home and I was lucky if I saw him twice a week, I moved him to be closer to my horses. I took him to a friend who halter broke him for me. Using the clicker method and food as a reward, he was halter broke in just a few days! Once he was halter broke, the rest of the training was so easy! After a few weeks, I then moved him to the farm where I kept my daughter's horses. I went slow and easy with Tucker. Eventually, I was able to pony him off the back of Dolly, my youngest daughter's aged Quarter Horse mare. A couple more times, Tucker demonstrated his jumping ability, jumping out of the pasture. He was also good at breaking boards. Hot wire soon became my best friend: I may as well be using toothpicks to keep him in otherwise! Tucker grew and grew, sometimes showing how stunning of a horse he would eventually become, other times looking gangly and darnright ugly! His sire had been a famous Percheron by the name of Johnny's Showtime, who stood 17.3 hands, and looked more like a Friesian than a Percheron. The mare, who did not rate a name, despite the abuse she endured, was a 15.3 hand Quarter Horse. I have pictures of Johnny's Showtime, none of his poor dam. I had hoped that the 2 extreme heights would mean he would top out somewhere around 16.2 or 16.3 hands..a good size for a tall gal like me. But Tucker kept growing, and now just 2 weeks shy of turning 7, he is 17.1 hands tall.

I named him Tucker...well, not for any really good reason. It just sounded right for him! His show name is Patronus. If you are a fan of Harry Potter, you will know what it means. If you aren't a fan, its definition is to protect, to defend. In the Harry Potter series, Harry uses the Patronus charm to conjure up protection from the dementors and other various vile villians!
I waited to break Tucker until he was 3 years old. With his height, I didn't want any unnecessary stress on his joints. When I did sit on him for the first time, he looked around at me, as if asking just what was I doing up there on his back? He didn't buck, he didn't bolt. He just stood there, and then took some hesitant first steps when I asked him too.

The next few years were spent at a turtles pace compared to how other horses are broken. I didn't canter him until he was 4. I didn't jump him until he was 5. At the age of 5 1/2, I introduced him to his first cross country jumps.

In the fall of 2008, we attended an intro to eventing clinic with Jonathan Holling. It was Tucker's first time looking at cross country. He loved it, I loved it, Jonathan loved him! He told me Tucker could go to any level of eventing..I didn't tell him I aspired only to do novice...I knew what crazy jumps my daughter Jen jumped on her mare, Impulsive at training and above, and no thank you, I am not interested!

Last April of 2009, we finally did our first schooling horse trial. We finished on our dressage score of 38, taking 4th place out of 26 in beginner novice. Tucker was a blast to ride on the cross country course. We quickly settled into a rythmn and I think he would have jumped some of those crazy training and prelim jumps had I asked him to! He was having fun..we were having fun! I had done jumpers and hunters all my life, converting to eventing because Jen had gotten involved with eventing and pony club. It was one thing to be an eventing mom and groom, to watch from the sidelines. But to finally ride it? This was a blast!

I wish I could say we have done more events since then. But summer came, and I tend to hibernate in our is just too dam hot. Fall came and went before I had a chance to realize it had already left and I missed some shows. Winter was a busy time. But I had a wake up and made some adjustments in my life, so that eventing Tucker is now a priority. I missed the winter season and summer is here, thereby limiting my cross country, but fall will be here before anyone knows it and you bet we will be out there!

In the meantime, Tucker and I continue to get ready, working on conditioning and jumping.

I have owned many horses in my life, mainly Thoroughbreds. And I will always have a special place in my heart for each and everyone of those horses. Tucker comes at a time in my life when my kids are leaving home. As I approach the big 5-0 in a few years, I don't want to think about slowing down..who says you have to? I want to conquer the cross country course, who knows, maybe we will go beyond novice? I do know that age is not going to slow me down!

I have owned Tucker since he was 6 months old...I know him inside and out. And he is pretty dam comfortable with me, and he knows what Iam thinking and does it before I ask.

He is one cool horse, and I have been privledged to be a part of his life.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Calypso Farm

So just who, or what, is Calypso Farm?

I grew up on farms in West Virginia and just outside of Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, I now reside in Winter Park, a charming city just north of Orlando, Florida. I really, really long to be on a farm though. Preferably north of the the Florida/Georgia border, but really, I would settle for some acreage anywhere!

After going through boarding hell, which I will have to blog about another time, I found a little slice of heaven which will have to satisfy my appetite for my own farm for now. Nearly 6 years ago (wow, that long?), I was able to lease a farm in the rural community of Chuluota.

Sitting on 5 acres, I can pretend that the land and small barn belong to me. The owners of the property live there and are absolutely wonderful about letting me do my own thing. They really have put up with alot, from rescued horses to pony club meetings.

I came up with the name because my horse, Tucker, who I adopted at the age of 6 months from a PMU farm, was originally going to be called Calypso. You see, my absolute all time favorite singer is John Denver. And one of my favorite songs of his is Calypso, which is about Jacques Custeau's famous ship. It is such an upbeat melody, I just love to play it over and over, singing it at the top of my voice! And since my husband is into boating, I thought it would be a great way to integrate his love with mine, should the day come that we finally buy our own farm!

Calypso Farm is home to my 4 horses and 2 boarders, as well as 2 utterly useless barn cats. The horses include Tucker, now going on 7 years on May 25; Impulsive, my oldest daughter Jen's retired TB eventer; her new eventer, Bates, a grandson of Secretariat, and Hello, Dolly, the retired QH mare of my youngest daughter, Amanda. Tyke, a Dutch/TB and GG, a Swedish Warmblood, make up the 2 boarders. Gizmo and Hobbs are the charming but useless felines.

Everybody gets along, maybe a bit too much and there is alot of good vibes and harmony on the farm. My favorite thing, when not riding, is to just watch!

I love watching the horses play, groom each other and graze. The farm is a bird lovers birds come splash and bathe every evening when I overflow the troughs; sandhill cranes, ibis, bald eagles and swallow tail kites are regulars; and the deer! The other morning, there were 9 does in the front pasture, oblivious to the 3 mares and myself as we went through our morning chores. It really doesn't get any better than this...unless it is my own property!