Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘barn stalls

Horses Endure

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Our horses seemed about as pleased with the monumental April weekend of snow as we were. Despite the weeks of being confined to stalls at the beginning of the year, the relentless onslaught of blowing snow had them eager to get back indoors again.

In the picture above, you can see that Cayenne seems to have stepped up to the front position, which hints at her moving into the leadership void that was left by Legacy’s departure. We’ve noticed several instances lately where this new hierarchy appears to be normalizing. Dezirea, the senior mare, looks to be comfortable maintaining her usual position as the assistant manager, overseeing things from the back of the line.

There was a fair amount of urgency in their attitudes when it came time to bring them in each afternoon. Once inside, out of the wind and wet, the horses calmed significantly.

In the mornings, they willingly step out again for some fresh air, but after a few hours in the storm, they start to look for signs we are preparing to bring them back in.

When we didn’t get to it as quickly as they wished on Sunday when the snow was falling fast and furious, we started to hear a fair amount of vocalizations from them, expressing rather clearly that they felt they had endured enough of the harsh conditions.

It’s going to be a muddy mess out in the paddocks for a while now, but I think the arrival of some sunshine today, and again later in the week, will go a long way toward soothing their recent frustrations.

As it will for us all, I’m sure.

I can’t wait for April weather to actually get here for real.

As for this “Apruary,” we’ve had enough.

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Written by johnwhays

April 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

The Diet

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Not that we want to compound the misery we put our horses through, but the weeks of indoor confinement they just endured have come with the added insult of decreased rations. If protecting them from the ravages of founder (laminitis) means we need to closely control what our horses are consuming, we need to do it regardless of how unhappy they act over the situation.

I am certain that the reason Cayenne was prancing around snorting when I freed her from the confines of her stall on Saturday was because she had grown so agitated over the lack of anything to eat in her “cell.” She had made that clear with the kicking of the wall and pawing at the floor when I showed up to greet the farrier and get Hunter some padded shoes.

The precisely measured portions I had meted out at noon were ancient history and she wanted more. Luckily, she settled down a little bit while Hunter was brought out of his stall to stand between both mares and be fitted.

Later, after the three horses were done thrashing around outside in the paddock, they settled down and took up stations over the hay boxes, where bonus servings had been made available to augment their celebration over the return to the great outdoors.

Now, even though it was a bonus offering, it was still a precisely measured meager portion of a bonus.

It didn’t take them long to show their feelings about the restrictions of this new diet still being in place, even though they have been released from confinement in the barn.

Yesterday, I spotted them grazing on the winter manure pile inside their fence line. It seems there have been a few morsels of hay raked up with the manure.

Cyndie fretted the other day that feeding our animals (and I might add, her family and guests) is one of the ways she shows her love. For the record, she loves me a LOT. It breaks her heart to see the horses stoop to digging through the manure pile for blades of grass.

I’m sure it’s not the first time a restrictive diet has brought on behaviors for which pride gets tossed aside.

In reality, they aren’t really that desperate. They were just checking out the pile for a brief few seconds. I thought it looked funny and snapped the photo. It makes for good story!

The diet is for real, and their adjustment to it is going to take some time, but we are optimistic a new balance will emerge and we will be back on a path to optimal health, soon.

Soon, in a relative sense of the word.

 

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

He’s Out!

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It started back in January with a two-week prescription from the vet for Hunter to be confined to his stall as part of a treatment regimen to address symptoms of laminitis. In the days following Legacy’s death, the three surviving horses were visibly distressed over the abrupt departure of their herd leader. Hunter’s stress manifested in an inflammation in his hooves.

After two weeks of limited improvement, the order was extended another two weeks. After that, a plan to have a farrier see Hunter added more time due to schedule conflicts and our weekend away to Florida. When a new farrier was finally able to come, the result was to take pressure off Hunter’s front hooves with reverse shoes, but keep him in the stall for another two weeks.

Yesterday, it was a relief to hear the farrier, Marcus, report Hunter looked to be moving much better. Hunter is still showing clear tentativeness when turning, but Marcus said the inflammation seems much less, and Hunter’s feet aren’t overly warm.

Marcus added a leather pad to the front hooves and Hunter was granted a chance to step out into the paddock for a much-needed break from confinement.

It was quite a scene to witness. Hunter was so thrilled to be out he even leapt into the air and kicked before heading down the slope to roll in the snow.

I was busy bringing Cayenne and Dezirea out for their own break from the stressful extended weeks indoors keeping Hunter company when Marcus reported Hunter looked good getting back up on his feet with ease after his roll. Every affirmation was so soothing to hear.

The stressful struggles our horses endure become stresses that weigh extremely heavily on us.

Cayenne expressed her huffiness over yesterday’s long day inside (the mares have been granted daily excursions outside while stalls were cleaned) by doing her very best Arabian prance, trotting around in the snow, snorting, with her head held high and tail up.

Their relief was our relief.

Hunter spent the night outside for the first time since the middle of January. Hooraaaay!

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Written by johnwhays

March 11, 2018 at 10:17 am

Hangry Horses

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Cyndie had me laughing on Friday with a message that Hunter and Cayenne had busted one of the 2×8 boards on the shared wall of their stalls.

We have had pretty good luck with minimizing the gnawing of boards on our fences and the stalls in the barn over the first four years with our horses, but in this latest stint of their being forced indoors day after day, while also getting precisely measured reduced rations of hay, the wood is finally taking quite a (b)eating.

Although it has seemed like Hunter was doing the most damage in recent days, Cayenne is not an innocent bystander. She has some history from a couple of years ago, when that board came off when Legacy was in the stall next to her. There wasn’t a lot of chewing going on, so we surmised she had simply pushed it off into Legacy’s stall.

Back then, I was able to reuse the board and put it back up, securing it with longer screws.

This time, they had done enough damage that I needed to get a whole new board.

We decided to add a metal edge to discourage a repeat performance.

The tightly controlled diet they’re on is probably going to last for a long time, if not forever, so “hangry” is something we will need to help them resolve.

It’s been a blissful treat watching them graze our pastures in years past, but the accumulating results of that luxury has not been healthy for them. Wild horses that need to cover a lot of ground to search out food and water while also moving around to manage herd safety, expend a lot more energy than our fenced herd.

Our three don’t get enough exercise to offset the abundant and lush grass that grows in our fields. They are going to need to get used to living on much smaller portions from here on out.

More immediately, I’m just looking forward to Hunter getting free of the hoof pain and being able to stay out of the barn for everything but the worst weather.

From the “hangry” wood chewing we are seeing, I’m confident in saying he is looking forward to it even more than me.

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Written by johnwhays

February 19, 2018 at 7:00 am

Horses In

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Last night we brought the horses inside the barn overnight for the first time this fall. It was a decision we struggled with a couple times, because the conditions weren’t extreme enough to help make it an obvious choice. In the end, we tried giving the horses equal say in the decision, and their timely arrival and behavior at the door of the barn helped to seal the deal.

When Cyndie came back from turning them out this morning, her report cast some doubt over the satisfaction of at least the elder two horses about being confined all night long, regardless the chilly, blowing precipitation that fell.

Yesterday started with us moving the horses inside to their stalls first thing, before even serving them the morning feed, because they had a date with the veterinarian for their annual fall check up. It is a time when their teeth get filed, if needed, and the geldings receive some assistance with personal hygiene. Both procedures involve a bit of sedation to facilitate cooperation from the patients.

After enough time passed for the horses to recover their full senses, we put them back out in the elements. It wasn’t exactly cold out, but the thick grayness of the October sky and periods of rain and wind were enough to put a chill on Cyndie and me. It sapped most of our motivation to do anything constructive outside and tugged on my eyelids all afternoon, begging for a nap.

When darkness fell, it was 50/50 over bringing the horses indoors overnight, but Cyndie felt it was something the horses would want. We puttered in the barn under lights, to prepare for the possibility, and when the horses hustled up to the doorstep out of the damp darkness, we brought ’em in.

DSC06107eCHAt dawn this morning, Cyndie found the two younger chestnuts, Hunter and Cayenne, happy as could be. Legacy and Dezirea were another story.

The elder two showed every sign of wanting to be back outdoors immediately. Cyndie said that Dezirea almost ran her over in her haste to be out of that stall. No surprise though, as it sounded as if she had made a complete mess of her space.

The weather this morning isn’t any more inviting than yesterday was, but the forecast offers hope, and at least the temperature is well above the freezing point at the start.

We’ll be spending some extra time doing barn stall cleaning today, and I (and a couple of horses) will be gladly looking forward to having them stay outdoors overnight again, and hopefully for a long spell before the next dose of cold overnight rain.

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Written by johnwhays

October 24, 2015 at 9:38 am

Making Prototypes

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Despite the time squeeze of trying to be in two places at once, filling in for two different vacationing people, I found a way to occupy Delilah by taking her to the shop for a distraction while I tinkered on prototyping a design for grates that I can use for slow feeder boxes in the barn stalls.

IMG_iP0910eShe seemed to appreciate the chance to be out of the house with me, despite the confines of her leash. I decided that while Cyndie is away, I will only allow Delilah off leash if I am able to give her my undivided attention, like when I am throwing discs for her to make spectacular diving leaps toward, or flinging squeaky tennis balls great distances for her to sprint after.

Before Cyndie left for the coast, she picked up some fence panels from Tractor Supply for me to make my own grates. As nice as the ones are that I had a local welder make for the two full-size boxes I built, they were a bit pricey.

The first challenge I am facing is finding a way to add some weight to the grates. The custom welded ones are made of heavier rod and also have side plates that give it a desirable heft, so it lays firmly against the bale. The horses can pretty much ignore it and concentrate on nibbling the hay between the squares. The weight helps the grate to keep dropping as the hay is consumed.

The fence panel is made of lighter gauge wire and I fear without added weight it wouldn’t tend to fall as naturally, and the horses might become inclined to mess with it when it got hung up. They have a knack for eating down on one side at a time so that the grate can end up tilted dramatically.

One thing I am considering for the stalls is that there will be no sharing. It will be one horse only that will be grazing hay, so there won’t be mixed behavior. Whatever eating tendency each horse has will define how the slow feeder works in each case.

My first shot at adding something akin to the side plates on the welded grates, was to attach a section of an old T-post that I cut to length on the band saw. By snipping off a section of fence panel so there were end wires extending beyond the area that will cover the hay, I was able to bend them over to capture the post.

In terms of weight, I think it will work adequately for what I want it to do, but I didn’t end up with the exact dimensions I had in mind. Turns out the fence panel wasn’t welded to exacting specifications. The dimension between squares varies, so I will cut another one a whole square larger and take a second stab at a method of bending the sides around a section of post.

I want it to cover an area as wide as a bale, to make it easy to fill the box with full flakes and then drop on the grate and secure it. Speaking of easy, the horses will mainly be in the barn when it is below-zero, so I’m trying to design the box so it will be possible to fill it when wearing big mittens.

That is, in case we ever again experience any below-zero days, what with the planet simmering away at a record pace now days.

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2015 at 6:00 am