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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for December 29th, 2018

Dangerous Formula

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Take one part 3-inch snow burst, follow it with a day-long steady rain, and then finish it off with a quick drop in temperature to produce a solid freeze. What could go wrong?

We are currently enduring some of the worst footing since we moved to this property. It has us genuinely concerned about how to best protect our horses from critical injury.

Rain saturated the new snow on Thursday, creating an amazing amount of soupy slush. The snow on the ground absorbed as much water as possible while still being considered snow. It was basically thick water. After an overnight hard freeze, the conditions on Friday morning morphed into an uneven, rock-hard maze of slipperiness.

The splattered wake of tire tracks in Thursday’s slush are now locked solid in a bumpy, slippery, frozen echo of that rainy day.

The ground just beyond the barn overhang in the paddocks slopes down quickly enough that we sometimes worry about the horses staying safe on it on good days.

They were inside for the night when everything froze up, after getting miserably cold and wet the day before. We feared how they would handle the insane slipperiness if we put them outside without warning. The grassy footing of the back pasture seemed like a much better place to start.

They would still need access to the automatic waterer, so we opened a gate that would allow them to walk the flatter ground into the paddock as needed.

All good, in theory, but there would need to be a trick to the execution that we totally failed to consider.

Our plan was to take them out the back door and walk across the grass, past the chicken coop, to a double gate that they probably have never used. The catch was, with three horses, and only two of us, we wouldn’t be moving them all at once.

Without anticipating the consequences, we took Cayenne first. I walked her, while Cyndie managed the gate. Cayenne was expectedly cautious about the odd scene we were leading her through, so we took our time. Back in the barn, Hunter immediately voiced his dissatisfaction with our strange departure with one of the herd.

This also was to be expected, so we weren’t concerned. We would be back to get him and Dezirea soon enough.

Once inside the back pasture with Cayenne, I removed her halter.

Can you guess the next part?

She immediately headed back to familiar territory and Hunter’s call, and not as carefully as we wished. Since we had already opened the gate to allow them access to water, Cayenne trotted quickly back into the icy paddock, running right up that slippery slope to get under the overhang.

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To avoid further running, we decided to bring the other two out under the overhang to join Cayenne like normal. Unfortunately, just as we feared, Hunter lost footing on the icy slope right away. A back hoof slid out from under him, and in an athletic reaction to catch himself, he stomped on Cyndie’s foot with the opposite front hoof.

She yelped, he pulled off instantly, and calm was restored. Nothing broken, but definitely bruised.

This morning, when Cyndie went down to open the barn and let them out, she reported the horses showed no interest. They appeared quite satisfied with the safe footing in their stalls, despite the cramped quarters.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2018 at 9:51 am