Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘feeding horses

Food Issues

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How strange it is to have our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd becoming finicky about eating. In our attempts to treat her for what was becoming chronic vomiting, she seems to have lost trust that we are offering nutrition in good faith. We tried hiding her two prescription pills in every possible enticing morsel. She ate the first one or two and ever after has successfully separated the pills from whatever we hid them in.

Now Delilah is refusing the prescribed diet offerings and even turning away from servings of her regular food. The only thing she still gladly chomps are kitty treats left over from our days with Pequenita.

Maybe she misses her kitty sister.

Honestly, I think Delilah won’t get back to normal until Cyndie is back to normal, too.

This morning I heard Cyndie report to someone over the phone that she was off the prescription pain meds, so she is continuing to make good progress. The biggest burden she is struggling with is not that her ankle surgery is only one week old, but the fact that Delilah is not doing well.

I continue refining my technique for serving the horses their three feed sessions. Since half of them are supposed to receive larger portions, I can’t just leave them on their own or the bolder ones will move in and push away the two who should get the larger servings.

When I am successful in splitting them into groups by serving size, I can care less about who is stealing whose portion.

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Light is notorious for wanting to get in Swings’ space, yet Swings is the primarily dominant mare of the herd. Why Swings tolerates the intrusions from Light is beyond me. Is Swings peacefully sharing or is Light perniciously seeking control?

I don’t know, but it doesn’t matter to me since they both receive the same serving size. They both eat together until the servings are gone, so neither is getting short-changed.

Now if Delilah would resume eating until her servings are fully consumed and keep them down long enough to digest them fully, that would be great.

I need to go feed Cyndie. She seems to be having no problems eating food.

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Written by johnwhays

November 19, 2022 at 11:38 am

Who’s Boss

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These days I’m on my own in tending to the horses and we have added a third feeding at mid-day to their routine. As a result, I am singularly tasked with managing two different serving sizes among the four horses. The general routine we have tried to maintain has involved closing the upper gates temporarily to break them into pairings of Light and Mia on the left and Swings and Mix on the right.

Oftentimes, they arrange themselves perfectly after they see us coming, but not always. Although, even if they start in the desired positions, it is pretty common for at least one of them to decide they need to go check on the other pan on their side, just in case it tastes better.

Or something like that. It would not be beyond them to also be flaunting a little dominance when they are feeling it.

The last couple of days I have taken to showing the interlopers that I am the boss of all of them. For example, Mix eats slower and gets served a larger portion than Swings. When Swings decides it’s time to saunter over and nudge Mix off her pan, I have been taking the pan away from Swings and serving it back to Mix, holding it while she tries to finish.

There can be one or two more maneuvers that transpire but it seemed to me yesterday that Swings was starting to recognize my intent and accept it without protest.

When circumstance has allowed, I have also experimented with changing who gets paired or switching to three horses on one side and one horse on the other. Since Mix and Mia both get the same-sized portion of feed, I like having them together on one side. Then I don’t have to care if any of the four try to switch.

We grant these horses so much autonomy that it is refreshing to occasionally brandish my authority with enough clarity that they have no reasons to doubt who the boss is when Cyndie and/or I show up.

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For The Record: Lest there be any confusion resulting from the fact our home is located in Wisconsin, *this* John W. Hays is now and always has been a Minnesota Vikings guy. Sometimes I have been inclined to whisper that fact instead of showing it off proudly. After a performance like the one yesterday against NFL’s second-ranked Buffalo Bills, where the Vikings came from behind and then survived an overtime battle culminating in an endzone interception to win 33–30, I just wanted to make sure nobody was mistaking me for a Green Bay Packer backer. Especially since I couldn’t bear to watch the last drive in overtime by Buffalo and took Delilah for a walk and fed the horses.

[silly grin]

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2022 at 7:00 am

Chugging Along

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Like a freight train chugging along the tracks, we are slowly making our way toward an appointment tomorrow morning with a trauma surgeon for an assessment of Cyndie’s situation. Just about 24 hours to go. Of course, we had to suffer the curse of setting our clocks back one-hour last night to move out of daylight saving time, making this weekend an hour longer. What’s one more hour?

I don’t have as much time to write as I am usually granted, given that I am now thrust into the head cook and chief bottle washer duties in addition to the solo animal feeder. I noticed a shift in allegiance from Delilah. She is normally glued to Cyndie’s side but since I was the one slinging food around the kitchen, Delilah made sure to keep a close eye on my actions, leaving Cyndie alone in the bedroom.

I got the impression there might be a shifting of relationships among the herd of horses this morning, too. It seemed as though Light was making a play to put much more pressure on Swings’ herd-leader position, repeatedly and strongly commanding control of whichever feed pan from which Swings was trying to eat.

In an unusual pairing, this morning Mix easily volunteered to take up a position opposite Swings and Light, on the side with Mia. I was very happy to oblige because those two receive a similar, but larger serving of feed. Mia usually finishes sooner, but she won’t steal from Mix.

On the other side, Light and Swings each get a smaller serving portion so I don’t really care if they keep swapping pans.

Today I must do laundry and make a grocery run.

Chugging along down the tracks.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2022 at 11:16 am

Added Steps

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This morning’s frost was cold enough to create a cover of ice over the horse’s waterer, affirming our suspicion the automatic heaters are no longer up to the task they performed so well in the early years. We have hopes of remedying that before the daytime temperatures no longer climb above freezing this fall.

There was enough frost on the grass this morning that I “skated” along after we popped out of the woods on our way to feed the horses.

At first, we worried that Mix might be suffering some medical issue because her behavior of pawing the ground, snorting, rising up, chasing after others, and kicking seemed to indicate she was in pain. When she settled down enough for feed pans to be served, calm chewing replaced the wild behavior.

I suggested to Cyndie that Mix might have just been trying to rev up her engine in response to the cold morning. While they were all eating, the sun cleared the horizon and instantly began to warm surfaces. The horses all stand sideways to the warming beam, soaking it up as they gobble up their feed.

My projects yesterday included the addition of steps on a path from the driveway that had gotten even steeper than it already was before the resurfacing increased the height of the pavement. Over the last week, we’ve collected a spare wood beam and some rocks for the task.

There weren’t a lot of fill options handy so I attempted to sculpt something minimal and then scrounged the surrounding area for shovel-able dirt.

What I found was so fine it couldn’t be called sand. It was more like dust. On the edge of the woods, a tree had tipped years ago and this was the “soil” around the root bundle that looked solid enough until I dug into it with a shovel.

After that proved marginal for my purposes, I gave up on finding something close and headed down to the small paddock where I needed to re-dig a drainage channel that hoof traffic had obliterated over time. That was a long way to push a heavy wheelbarrow so I chose to finish with a lighter (and closer) load of composted manure.

I’ve got two rocks yet to place but the new steps leading past Cyndie’s strawberry patch have met with her approval thus far. We’ve walked that slope for years without steps so having just a few added breaks to the slant seems like a significant improvement.

We’ll have to see what a few freeze/thaw cycles, some heavy rain, and just passing time will do to the stability of the improvised effort.

I hope it holds because we are both pleased with the rustic look that my crude attempt has produced.

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Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2022 at 10:16 am

Chilly Sunrise

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When the air temperature is below zero (F) and there is a fog of ice crystals in the air of our valley, the rising rays create sun dogs of reflection 180° apart. Those conditions were met yesterday while I was feeding the horses.

When Delilah and I walked to the end of the driveway to put outgoing mail in the mailbox, our vantage changed so the sun was behind the pine trees on our neighbor’s land. I walked across the road to get the telephone pole out of frame, but I didn’t notice the wires were still in the shot. Oh, well.

Still looks pretty cool.

In fact, it was downright COLD! Poor Delilah was hopping along on three legs every so often to give a paw a break. Eventually, she resorted to simply running and pulling me along behind her to get back to the house, and her breakfast, as quickly as possible.

If ever there was a way to feel like a load, trudging along behind a dog that urgently wants to run faster than you can is pretty high on the list. Being a little numb and wearing the equivalence of a spacesuit with lead-weight boots does wonders to enhance the impression.

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Written by johnwhays

December 30, 2021 at 7:00 am

Different Problem

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Well, the horses didn’t eat through the bales in the slow feeder boxes in one day, but they seemed to have a different problem with one of the boxes. This is what I found when I got home from work on Monday:

I wish I could have seen how they went about tipping this onto its side because it isn’t just pulled over forward. It’s too close to the wall. It is possible they pushed it backward after tipping it, except there were no drag marks anywhere. It looked like the box had been picked up, tipped forward, and then set down on its side after moving a little back toward the wall.

I reoriented the box and there’s no evidence either box has been messed with since. The one on the other side had been emptied by the end of the day on Tuesday and this one was empty when I got home from work yesterday. It doesn’t seem as though they are having any difficulty eating through the metal grate as the hay disappears all the way down to the bottom of the boxes.

Speaking of different problems, Light has a very annoying habit of stepping on the side of her feed pan and dumping the contents onto the sandy limestone screenings below. It’s not good for them to eat their feed off the sand. Ingestion of sand can build up in their intestines and cause problems.

We’ve tried putting a mat beneath her pan, but she does a pretty good job of kicking that around, too.

The other day, I sat nearby and kept a hand on her pan when she started feeding, moving it each time she picked up a leg to step onto it. I think she then just started stepping more to make a game of it.

It was a bit of a game actually because the horses are constantly flinching and moving legs in response to irritating flies. Sometimes she was stepping to shoo flies and other times she wanted to stomp on her pan.

I eventually tired of my role and left her on her own after she’d eaten more than half the serving.

As I was scooping poop in the paddock I glanced up to find she had moved over to Mia’s pan and had made quick work of flipping that one completely over.

Of course, she then set about eating any leftover pellets out of the sand.

It’s unfortunate that a little nuisance of bad habits could lead to a different problem that harms their health and well-being later on.

When Cyndie gets home, we may take our mitigation efforts to the next level and mount a feeder for Light that won’t be so easy to spill.

“Just wait until your mother gets home!”

Yeah, I’ve been using that line with all the animals for most of the week.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

September Eleven

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Twenty years later, I’m pausing to remember my trauma of that day, witnessing so many other peoples’ trauma over the unimaginable death and destruction unleashed by fanatical terrorists hijacking commercial jets containing passengers to use them as explosive missiles.

I spent the first moments, and then the unfolding hours, trying to grasp the reality that such things could be happening. We didn’t learn of the events after the fact. We witnessed much of it as it was happening. I’ve never really liked hearing the sound of a commercial jet flying overhead after that day twenty years ago.

This morning, I turned on some of the television coverage of memorial events being held at the three locations where the planes crashed. In Minnesota, they read the names of people from the state who were killed that day, as well as Minnesota members of the military who died in the wars since.

Thinking of John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine there’s no countries…,” how many more names would need to be recited if loved ones from Afghanistan were to read the names of all who died in the twenty years since.

Meanwhile, in the idyllic surroundings of our home on this beautifully warm September day, we are living life in peace. The first hints of color continue to slowly transition in the panorama of trees along the edges of our woods.

On this third day of being the only person feeding our animals, they are all settling into my way of doing things. On Thursday evening, the horses demonstrated a fair amount of uncertainty navigating the feeding routine, but as I have adjusted my methods and they’ve responded willingly, this morning was as serene as ever.

Having watched Swings lose as many pellets out of her mouth as she consumes, I’ve started soaking her servings in a little water first and that seems to be making it easier for her. We had hoped having their teeth floated would help her more than it appears to have done.

This morning I decided to try again to use the hay boxes I built. They were powering through a single bale so fast the last time we tried using these that we switched to providing the net feeders from which they were used to eating.

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If they make it through a bale too fast today, I’ll plot a modification to the grate that might slow it down to something comparable to grass-grazing speed, if I can guess what that actually is.

It seems illogical to me that they would prefer dry hay bales over the two large fields of fresh grass that we provide them full access to day and night, but I’m not a horse. I trust they know why they make the choices about what to eat.

As rescued thoroughbreds, they know about memories of trauma.

Today we are soaking up the peacefulness we have been afforded and adding another day of distance from the source of our past traumas.

We will never forget, but we will always seek that world where we all be as one.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2021 at 10:01 am

Normal Morning

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I’m writing a little late this morning as I have been occupied with solo coverage of the ranch this morning, as Cyndie spent the night at her mother’s house in Edina yesterday. Delilah and I startled a couple of deer in our woods on our morning walk, which then grabbed the attention of the horses who were grazing nearby in the back pasture. Their heads were all on full alert when we popped out of the woods.

I took a picture of some fantastic-looking fungi on the edge of one of our trails as we passed.

The horses were a combination of calm yet mischievous as I set out the pans of feed for their morning rations. They had serenely paraded their way into the paddock from the back pasture alongside Delilah and me as we made our way to the barn. The four horses conveniently avoided being positioned on either side of our serving area under the overhang, so I decided to serve them where they stood for a change.

They quickly set about moving around from one pan to another, snitching bites between rotating to be sure no other horse was getting something they didn’t have.

I finally coaxed Mix to the far side and closed a gate to disrupt their dance. That solved things and they all stopped to finish the pan at their feet in front of them while I rolled the wheelbarrow around the paddock to do the morning housekeeping.

By the time I finished tending to the compost pile and returned to get Delilah in the barn, the four horses we already around the corner in the back pasture again, grazing peacefully.

On our way back to the house, I need to detour to the shop to pick up some tools for a kitchen project Cyndie left for me. She bought new slide-out racks for cabinets that are going to require some customization of the dimensions of the openings. There, I discovered a mousetrap had tripped and the victim was being cannibalized by other vermin. Oops.

My bad.

Back in the house, the dog and cat were served their breakfast and then I fed myself.

Somehow, the early morning hours have vanished, but it was all rather normal except for the fact I was alone with the animals.

I look forward to getting the kitchen enhancements installed. Anything to make Cyndie happier in the kitchen is going to directly benefit my luxury of being exceptionally well-fed.

It only takes one morning of fending for my own food to be reminded of how well I have it every other day.

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Written by johnwhays

August 21, 2021 at 10:26 am

Adding Hay

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Our original local hay source is back. Tom was the first reliable local provider of small bales from whom we purchased hay 3 years ago. At that time, we over-bought and ended up not needing more bales from him the following year. Then there was a wet year where he didn’t have any second-cut grass bales that met our needs.

We ended up shopping around.

This year conditions have been good for hay and he called to see if we were interested. Last night we hustled over to see what he was offering and ended up bringing home a truck-full. His bales include a larger percentage of stemmy content than our most recent supplier who Cyndie found through a local ad, but Tom is located half the distance away.

If our horses don’t reject Tom’s hay outright, we’ll probably put in a reservation for another 160 bales or so from him. We expect to be bringing in hay from three different sources this year, and would like to avoid coming up short before the winter season is over.

I think determining the correct number of bales needed for a year is more of an art than a science. We haven’t quite mastered the craft yet, but each year we seem to be gaining skills. It would help if the horses wouldn’t be so picky about eating what is served.

It doesn’t do a lot of good to have the hay shed filled with bales that the horses won’t eat. I’m told they’ll be less picky if they get hungry enough, but we haven’t seen that happen here yet.

We are offering the horses some test servings of the hay varieties we are putting up this summer to bolster our confidence on the new bales before committing with money and stacking muscle on further truckloads.

It’s a manner of practicing our artistic skills.

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Written by johnwhays

July 18, 2017 at 6:00 am