This post is an attempt at an explanation for my lack of recent posts. In addition to my equine pursuits, our farm also includes sheep, cattle, dogs, and a cat on a regular basis plus chickens and pigs at times. February is our biggest lambing season- when we have the most lambs and the most intense time for assistance due to the cold temperatures. We also lamb in June and October but then the weather is pleasant and newborns don't need to be tended to as quickly as on the nights it's 20 below zero!
So I'm including some photos here of what our lambing barn looks like right now. Although I haven't counted recently, I think we have about 90 new lambs which have been born in the last 3 weeks. We're almost done...just about half a dozen ewes left to lamb. It would be nice to think that the hard part is over but now we have to take care of them all and watch them for problems.
As if my mind isn't preoccupied enough, my husband has to go away for job training for 3 weeks in the beginning of March so I will get to do this all by myself. I'm feeling rather whiny these days. I feel like all I do is tell people they can't count on me for the next month. In reality I am very fortunate...just busy at the time being!
I haven't clicker trained any of the sheep, but I have found the principles of Operant Conditioning to be very useful when working with the livestock. I am much more sucessful (and relaxed) when moving the cattle or sheep because I know what I am doing as far as reinforcing or punishing their movements and I can use that to my advantage!
The weather has been deceivingly mild recently- almost 40 degrees today. While the mid-Atlantic states have been getting buried in snow, up here we're not getting any. We still have barely a ground cover from snows that came weeks ago but as far as working horses goes, it's been pretty nice. My hands don't freeze when I take gloves off to treat! I'm still working on my winter projects with each of the ponies- making great progress and now putting refinements on them. Kizzy and I are learning more about cues- distinguishing from one cue and behavior to another. I'm seeing just how insecure she still is. I'm very thankful for learning about cues with her because Percy's "trick" for the winter was learning how to pick things up and he has learned it well. He now offers to pick up just about anything- buckets, gloves, pitchforks, etc. In addition, he found he can zip up my coat for me and tug on my hood string. Needless to say, these last two are not really things I want him doing so I am now working on putting a cue on "take it" so that we can only have him pick up things that I want him to!
Rumer and I continue to work on ground driving without tack. I'm learning as we go- while I've seen others do it, I have no book or video to follow as to HOW to do it so I'm making it up as I go along. In addition, she and Percy are both learning about hopping. I'm hopping; they are learning to deal with it. Ande didn't care at all when I hopped as a prep to mount, but Percy and Rumer both thought I shouldn't be doing that. So I hop and click them for head down and relaxing while I do it. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in my barn!
Stowaway will now pick up his front feet with just a light touch on the back of his knee. I really haven't worked with him much- he and Ande are in the run-in shed and it's a much less fun place to work. Plus no lights so I can't play in the evenings. Ande is being a champ about stationing while I go in with hay. His food manners are miles better and I feel much safer when I go through the gate with an armload of hay in the dark on the ice. Even though he wants to attack Stowaway, he knows there is a routine which will be reinforced and he reliably follows it.
One more photo- a set of triplets napping together (those lambs do know how to pile up to keep warm!).