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December 8th, 2010

Adventures in Farm Ownership Part III

by Emily Daily

This week, Josh and I will be attending the highly anticipated USEA Annual Meeting and Convention in Scottsdale, Arizona.

However, as I sit here waiting for my flight at Dulles Airport, I can’t help but sense that queasy feeling that I forgot something terribly important. You know that feeling…helpless, nail-biting, and stressful.  When it was just the two of us, leaving for a week-long trip was a piece of cake. Now, when we have to prepare our own agendas, and still make sure the ponies, dogs, kitties are also prepared for our absence…well, it can be a bit intimidating. Here’s how I survive:

A reliable farmsitter…preferably one with a good sense of humor and MacGuyver-esque skills. Luckily, we have two fantastic girls (both riders and pet-lovers) who don’t mind our frantic, last-minute scrambling mess we left behind, nor the often-terrible behavior of our “children.” My novel-length notes I leave for them often include such tidbits as “Keep everything out of reach of Bailey – it will be consumed otherwise. Seriously.” Or “Sorry that our hose froze – hope you don’t mind dragging buckets of water out to the paddocks.” Or “The weanling will bite – don’t turn your back on him!” Luckily, my farmsitters are resourceful and I feel I can leave my little home with peace of mind.

This is what happens when we leave the kitchen door open. Disaster. The farmsitters are forewarned.

High-neck blankets for all the ponies. One of my biggest annoyances about our farm is that we don’t have any run-in sheds, though we do have four lovely stalls. However, wrangling  my wind-blown, spooking ponies back and forth into their stalls in the freezing tundra is a huge pain for one person. Warm high-neck blankets (or blankets with the neck covers) leave everyone dry and cozy out in the elements, and I don’t feel guilty leaving them outside.

Tobey sporting his high-neck blankie during last year’s blizzard.

Buy more dog food/cat food/pony food than you think you’ll need. Of course we bought several bags of feed for everyone before we left, but that didn’t stop us from running out one last time this morning after taking a final peek. There’s nothing worse than your poor farmsitter running out of food for your guys, and having to go out and purchase it herself. Big farm owner faux pas. Be prepared…be over-prepared.

The kitties love it when we pack…lots of crinkly paper for hours of entertainment!

Try and do as much cleaning as humanly possible. I know my farmsitters are horsey folks, but it’s still embarrassing leaving a filthy house behind. Plus, if we put all the chewable items out of the reach of the dogs ahead of time, then there’s less chance things will be destroyed! TV remotes, entire halters, hoof picks, belts…the things that our dogs consume is mind-boggling. And the last thing we’d want is for them to eat something potentially dangerous, warranting an emergency trip to the vet (thank you Sammy, who ate an ornament last year, which ended in a pricey vet visit.)

Bailey looking pleased with himself after gnawing on a hoofpick…now how a hoofpick got in our house is anyone’s guess.

Breathe….everything will be okay. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I’m always worried that I forgot to latch a gate, lock a door, hide the chocolate, take out the trash, etc., etc… But everything has always worked out (*knock on wood*), so without further ado….we’re off to Arizona to try and relax, soak in the Phoenix sunshine, catch up with old eventing buddies, and enjoy the education and entertaining Annual Meeting. Be sure to check out our daily posts on!

Until next time,


November 25th, 2010

Adventures in Farm Ownership Part 2

by Emily Daily

Like I mentioned in my first installment, there’s never a dull moment with farm ownership, and last week proved to be no exception.  My fiancé Josh and I tackled two very important jobs with all the gusto and strength, both emotional and physical, that we could muster.

Even though we only own four acres (a mere tiny parcel to most horse folks), keeping up with the daily maintenance can be exhausting.  Strong gloves and comfy boots are essential! Our latest and greatest venture involved extending a fenceline across the wooded portion of our back pasture–only about a distance of 300 feet or so. We would soon find out it was easier said than done!

After wrangling our Houdini ponies from the neighbors’ yard on numerous occasions during the past year, we scrimped and saved and planned out the new addition. We weighed costs, did some research, made way too many trips to Home Depot and Southern States to poke around, and finally brought home a trailer-full of lumber.

Ah, West Virginia terrain… we knew battling through the rock, clay, and tree roots would be a true test of our endurance and sanity, so we decided to splurge and rent an auger. We quickly found out the drill bit was too small, so Josh trotted back to swap out for a larger (manlier) model.  Yes, in the auger world…bigger is better.

Thankfully, we only wrestled (or ‘rassled’ if you’re our neighbors) through a few monster rocks and mounds of natural clay…and at the end of two days, ten plus hours, and who knows how many failed attempts, we had successfully sunk 35 half-rounds posts. Win! All that’s left is to pick out the type of boards/wire we want. I’ve heard good things about Centaur, but we may just end up going with the usual wooden planks. Either way will hopefully keep our escape artist ponies contained!

photo by Red Horse Media

And speaking of ponies…

This spring we were blessed with a goofy little imp of a colt named Amigo (born right after Rolex Kentucky, no less), who since late April has lived a plush life with Mama Cady, ruling over his itty bitty kingdom. But all good things must come to an end, and last weekend, we decided to finally wean Amigo.

Here’s the Weanling Survival Kit:

Ear plugs:

The shrill whinnying between the two parties is pitiful…should’ve bought a few more pairs for the neighbors!

Creepy Uncle Tobey:

Sweet but curmudgeonly gelding pal for Amigo to bond with.

Amigo (left) and Tobey

Goofy Awkward Marco:

The simpleton who always ends up on the bottom of the totem pole…perfect for Princess Cady to boss around when she’s stressed.

Marco (left) and Cady

Strong fences and sturdy gate latches:

Those nimble ponies will try and wiggle out of anything standing in their path – I “double-locked” everything last weekend…just in case. Our little beasts greet us in the yard at least once a month…no reason to give them an extra excuse for escape.

Bag of carrots:

To temporarily quell the stress for the ponies. And the dogs, who seemed worried about the noisy situation…they’re not picky, they’ll snatch up carrots, hoof clippings, cat food, leftover Halloween candy…


To temporarily quell the stress for the humans.

A hefty glass of wine:

To go with the chocolate, of course.

After a day or two of squalling and pouting, eventually Amigo and Cady gave up their attempts at reuniting and succumbed to their fates. Soon enough, Amigo was snuggling up to Tobey for some tough-love, while Cady had commandeered total control over Marco and was happily asserting her hierarchal role as Queen Bee.  All was well with the pony world…and, thankfully, quiet.

Until next time,


November 17th, 2010

Adventures in Farm Ownership: Part I

by Emily Daily

photo by Emily Daily

As I type this post, staring out the window at my ponies grazing happily in the brisk autumn weather, I realize that it’s been exactly a year since my fiancé, Josh Walker, and I have owned our tiny little farm here in West Virginia. A year filled with snow drifts, immense flooding, weekly trips to Home Depot, long commutes, helpful neighbors, and a bouncing, and often nippy, little imp of a colt.

Let me begin by saying that we had no intentions of buying this farm. None. We were simply hunting for a suitable little place in northern Virginia for us to have fun with our four-footed critters. Flushing a good chunk of change down the toilet every month in rent and board was something we could fathom, but we’d never realized we actually had options…long story short, the whole process was a complete nightmare and it makes me never want to buy another house again!

Of course, I’m glad we made the plunge, and here are a few reasons why:

1.) Nothing beats a real life pony wake-up call.

My Connemara mare Cady, the princess of the farm, is adamant about getting her breakfast on time. No sleeping in for us, or we have to listen to Crabby Cady trumpeting all morning…as do the neighbors! I don’t mind not sleeping in, though – I find getting up and seeing the ponies is more rewarding. Nothing like a good whiff of pony to get your day started–better than coffee (well…almost better).

photo by Emily Daily

2.) No more boarding!

Like most horse folks, I’m picky picky about my ponies and their well-being. Sure I’ve sacrificed certain things like having a ring, great ride-out, and someone on-site to hold for the farrier/vet, etc. But I always know where all my tack is (nothing wanders off, unless one of the dogs start gnawing on a curry comb), I know my horses and their habits better than I ever have, and I can monitor their feeding (Growth-Spurt Adolescent Pony needs one more flake, Fatty Pony needs one less). To me, that’s peace of mind. I know that Cady always poops in the same corner of the stall, Tobey is an alpha and needs his hay in a “special pile,” Marco will shimmy out of his blanket if it’s not fastened “properly,” and Amigo the Terrible will bite your fanny when your back’s turned.

3.) Privacy.

I love my horsey friends, I really do, but after hanging out with people all day, sometimes you just want to share your time with your ponies. It’s the reason we have horses, isn’t it? The good thing about having your own place is that if you want to go on a ride with your buddies, then trailer to their farm…but if you want your peace, it’s all yours.

photo by Emily Daily

Here are a few things that I didn’t expect….

1.) Farmsitters are super-expensive!

When you travel as much as we do, you have to budget quite a bit of money on farmsitters. And while they’re worth every penny, it can add up quickly…when I added up how much we’ve spent paying someone else to take care of our animals this past year, I was shocked.  But then again, we’re pretty frugal folks, and it’s worth it knowing that a trusted horseperson is holding down the fort for us while we’re travelling.

2.) Four acres is claustrophobic.

I knew our place was small, but I guess I didn’t realize HOW small it was until I had to keep horses in “eventing shape” …on a completely flat parcel of land, we had to get pretty creative in our training exercises. And even though we have a cute little riding ring (minus footing), it’s been turned into one of our “sacrifice paddocks” while I saved the footing in my back field.  I miss riding rings and hills!

photo by Emily Daily

3.) Scheduling your own farrier and vet visits is incredibly time-consuming.

Finding a good vet/farrier, getting them to call you back for an appointment, and then taking time off work for the call can take longer than one would think. Like a good farmsitter, a reliable and talented farrier is also worth their weight in gold.

4.) Parents and friends are amazing supporters.

Of course, I’ve always known this, but I had no idea how much help we’d be evoking from them in this new chapter of our lives. Whether it’s pestering my Dad with first-time homeowner woes, “Dad, the hot water heater’s leaking! There’s water squirting all over the place…” to speed-dialing Mom with animal emergencies: “Mom, I went to grab towels for the hot water heater and the dogs got into the Halloween candy! Should I be worried they ate an entire pound of Twizzlers?”

There are so many pros and cons to owning your own little farm, which I’ll explore in the next few weeks, but one thing is for certain… I’ve never been happier with our life here in wild West Virginia. Literally, wild–I discovered a massive flock of vultures likes to roost in the woods behind our back field. It’s a little eerie, I have to admit. But on the flipside, I’ve seen both a red fox and red-tailed hawk hunting back there, too, which is really neat.

photo by Emily Daily

All for now – stay tuned for more adventures! If nothing, there’s never a dull moment when you’re owning your place!

photo by Josh Walker of Red Horse Media

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